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Would Jesus want the Makkal Osai suspended?

This evening, I received an SMS with the intriguing question: “So u think Makal Osai shld b suspended?”

Makai Osai of course refers to the Tamil daily that published an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can four days ago. It was slapped with a suspension from today to 24 September.

It was interesting to see the Islamic Party, Pas, coming out to express displeasure against the depiction of Jesus in the paper. Archbishop Murphy has found himself an unlikely ally, I thought!

Since then, the paper has apologised and Archbishop Murphy has accepted the apology.

Quite appropriately, the quote next to the picture that was deemed offensive read: “If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them.”

End of matter? No, the paper was nonetheless hit with a suspension order.

West Bank: Checkpoints, teargas and other daily oppressions

Here’s a riveting account of what life is like in the West Bank. Making a guest appearance today is political scientist John Hilley, who has just returned to Scotland from a trip to Palestine with the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign. He describes his time there “between getting tear-gassed and shot at in Bil’in to being around our wonderful projects and friends in the West Bank refugee camps”.

I thought it was particularly courageous of John to engage with the IDF soldiers manning checkpoints and to point out their role in the crushing Occupation. In doing this, he puts into practice the powerful moral force of non-violent resistance.

This piece deserves a wider audience; so here it is, reproduced in full with kind permission from John. It’s a longish piece, but it’s worth the read to catch a glimpse of life beyond the checkpoints.

Checkpoints, tear gas and other daily oppressions:

10 days in the West Bank

With the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign

July-August 2007

by John Hilley

“What is the purpose of your visit?” I want to tell this young, abrasive soldier at the passport terminal on the Israeli side of the Jordanian border crossing that I’m here to witness her state’s illegal, apartheid treatment of the Palestinians. “Tourism.” Aware of the many people around being subject to intense interrogation, and likely refusal, it seems, for the moment, the more practical reply.Across the hall, a more lengthy queue of Palestinians waits to enter, their treatment, as I will witness these next days, part of the humiliating ritual of life under Israeli occupation. Boarding the bus for Al Quds/Jerusalem, one feels an immediate sense of imposing militarism.

PR firm soliciting NGO views on Penang mega project

I’ve just heard from a reliable source that a PR firm, Fox Communication, is going around meeting NGO representatives to find out their views on the Penang Global City Centre project. The project is located on that vast plot of prime land used by the Penang Turf Club, which will be relocated to the mainland.

The PGCC is being developed by Equine Capital. Isn’t that a Patrick Lim company?

I hate to think what the traffic will be like along Scotland Road, already congested during peak hours, if they go ahead with the PGCC and build, what, 40 tower blocks on the Turf Club land.

This project will in all likelihood spell the deathknell for Komtar, that mega project of the 1970s. The 65-storey tower block is fast turning into a white elephant even before all the planned phases are completed.

As one veteran activist said, the PGCC project “looks like a mega monster of a development, totally incompatible with the site and context…empty more of Komtar? kill more existing shopping place? add crazily to excess office space and luxury housing? create traffic mess? and an ecological nightmare!”

Penangites should instead lobby for the Turf Club land to be turned into a Penang State Park along with model social housing on the fringes. After all, KL is going to have a “Central Park” – what about Penang? The Turf Club is the last huge plot of accessible land on Penang Island that could be turned into a spacious state park.

Penang badly needs a new park. Just look at the Botanical Gardens and the Youth Park: they are both so congested that people are practically walking into one another.

At one time, I had hoped that the Penang state government would use the large empty plot of land along Jalan Udini for a state park. No such luck; the state government obviously has other (business) priorities. When our planners see any green space, you can almost see $$$$ in their eyes. So Tesco set up shop there – and that was the end of that, as winding access roads and large commercial complexes rapidly filled up the green lung.

Then there was Pulau Jerejak. Large parts of that too have been slated for commercial development when it could have been left untouched and used as a park along the lines of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

The developers of any mega project these days usually appoint PR agencies not only to promote the project to potential investors but to deal with possible protests from ordinary people or civil society.

PR firms are paid to come up with strategies to overcome NGO or public resistance to huge controversial projects.

My friend, an experienced marketing and communications professional with extensive experience in the PR industry, had this to say:

There really ain’t any point (for the NGOs to give) Fox any input — this will only be fed into their PR strategy and they will just come up with ideas and strategies to HANDLE THESE NGOs AND THEIR VIEWS – which determines their (PR) fee. Sigh… NGOs talking to them are just being used by them. NGOs should just gang up and put their views across via their own ‘PR vehicles’.

Job materialises above my desktop

Sometimes its hard to understand the meaning of suffering and misfortune.

I spent most of today running around taking the first step towards getting all my cards replaced. And discovered that it is an expensive affair to get burgled. The fee for replacing each card (whether bank ATM card, identity card, driver’s licence) ranges from RM12 to RM50.

It’s back to my old desktop PC now after the laptop was stolen. My Samsung monitor, for some reason, looks blur. Maybe because it is past its prime.

Yesterday, I discovered a book that I thought had gone missing. It was on wisdom spirituality based largely on material from the Old Testament. I found it lying strategically on the CPU of my desktop.

I flipped the book open to where I had left a book-mark inside to indicate where I had last stopped.

The next chapter was all about Job. How apt, I thought. I mean, I couldn’t help identifying with Job at this point in terms of the things he had lost.

Burgled! They even took the poor mouse

3

Today was not a great day.

I woke up this morning to find that my home had been broken into while I was asleep.

Here’s what they took:

  • A laptop (yes, they took the power adapter, the modem… and even the poor mouse, but no, they weren’t interested in my older desktop PC, which was next to it);
  • Wallet with around RM600 in cash (of which RM500 was actually donations passed to me to hand over to Aliran for its 30th anniversary dinner), identity card, driving licence, bank cards (not just mine but family members’ as well);
  • Computer case with thumbdrive and bank pass books inside;
  • Handphone.

Total loss: close to RM4,000. And, oh, what a hassle, all those cards gone.

Whoever it was must have been pretty desperate to break into my home as there really wasn’t much else to take.

It wasn’t a great feeling to be stripped bare, so to speak. Almost state-less and identity-less. But suddenly, I felt a lot lighter too. It was strange not feeling a wallet and handphone in my pocket – at the same time, it felt inexplicably liberating too.

But I was stranded. Not a single sen on myself. I couldn’t even go to the bank to withdraw any money as it was a weekend. Moreover, my ATM card had been stolen. Even if the banks were open, I didn’t have any IC either to show the teller staff for identity verification.

Here, I must thank those two guardian angels who materialised while I was in a daze and thrust cash into my hands to tide me over the next few days without my having to ask. You know who you are. Thanks again.

I trudged to the nearest police neighbourhood beat base, which was built a couple of years ago. But I rarely see anyone staffing it of late, and today was no different.

So I headed for the nearest police station to lodge a report, feeling very sorry for myself. Quite a few people were already there waiting for their turn to make a report. In the time I was there, I heard them making reports for:

  • a snatch theft
  • harassment by an “Ah Long” (loan shark). Apparently the Ah Long had demanded RM900 a day in interest, failing which he would “kerjakan” the hapless victim.
  • an assault by unknown people.

I thought I was having a dreadful day – until I saw him. The snatch thief suspect, who had been apprehended, crouched behind bars in the police lock-up, largely hidden from public view. I gazed at him and he looked back, a gaunt pitiful look. With his moustache, he looked around 40, perhaps older than his real age, and weary, a lost look in his eyes.

I wondered who his family was and what had happened to his parents and his siblings. Surely, when he was a child, he must have had parents who had dreams for his future. How would they feel if they could see him now in this state, I wondered. What had he gone through in his life for him to land up in this predicament. Suddenly I realised I did not know what “going through a rough time” meant.

I heard the couple, who had complained about the harassment from the Ah Long, telling the cop, “This has been a bad time for us.”

They say God acts in mysterious ways and, sometimes, speaks through the most unexpected channels. The cop replied philosophically, “Sometimes God sends us these things as trials to test us and draw us closer to him.”

He had a point – though coming from a cop, it sounded somewhat surreal.

Musa Hassan stared at me from a portrait on the wall.

I asked a friendly looking cop whether house break-ins were a common occurrence.”Well,” he replied, “today, we have had three cases so far in this area.”

That set me thinking about the crime rate, which appears to be rising by most anecdotal accounts. Could it have something to do with the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor in Malaysia is among the widest in the region – prompting some people to take short cuts, even if illegal, to narrow the gap in the only way they know how?

Or are people just taking the cue from the lack of integrity and accountability at the highest levels, when they see all those financial scandals and the crony capitalism around them? You know, the attitude that says, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

Or is it some combination of both?