You've heard of a banana republic. Now, welcome to Malaysia's Durian Democracy. The author takes on the thorny ( and occasionally horny) realities of Malaysian politics and its woes; and tries to show that behind that sharp image, Malaysia, still has some succulent, touching, and very genuine goodness in it. Not an easy task indeed, but then again, Malaysia has always been a hard nut ( or durian?) to crack.
REFSA Rojak is our weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia. We trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.
Special Feature: The ROJAK Awards for 2012
As the year draws to a close, and Christmas looms ever nearer, gifts, company dinners, bonuses (and, no doubt, bribes!) are being dished out left, right and centre. In honour of that grand tradition, and to recognise those who have left significant marks on society, be they imprimatur-spots or unpleasant stains, REFSA presents its own ROJAK* awards to Malaysia’s top newsmakers of 2012.
9. Starting off, the Sour Mangoes Merit Prize goes to the sourpusses and turncoats we’ve seen these past few years. From dear Hassan Ali, to the Terrific Turncoat Trio who handed over the reins of Perak to the opposing side via defections, there’s been no end to the puckering and posturing from these ‘frogs’. What a bunch of sour grapes mangoes!
8. Sweet notes are heightened following sour sensations; and theCool Cucumbers Award goes to the new political leaders that we see emerging today. From Saifuddin Abdullah to Nurul Izzah Anwar to Tony Pua, these individuals not only keep cool, fact-based minds in fiery debates, but also exhibit a willingness to engage in all platforms, be they public forums or social media. Politics is the new cool.
7. The Crunchy Jambu Trophy belongs to the alternative media, who give airtime to our Cool Cucumbers, whistle-blowers such as Rafizi Ramli of cows-and-condos fame and extensive coverage of events such as BERSIH which are peripheral in the world of the mainstream media. For bringing to the forefront the news that matters, this award goes to alternative media outlets like Malaysiakini.
6. When it comes to the Limp Kangkung Gift, there is none more deserving than the mainstream media. In fact, the mainstream media wins hands down (or should we say butts up?). Censoring the British Broadcasting Corporation (another worldwide first for Malaysia, we believe), deviously and deliberately mixing up the words Islam and Scientology in Australian Senator Xenophon’s speech, calling crime a perception problem, … there seems to be no limit to their ability to bend to their masters’ wills.
5. In stark contrast, the Crispy Crackers Cup is awarded to the various bodies who have made us laugh in spite of, and sometimes because of, all the daft comments, scandals, disappointments, and atrocities. From the brave political cartoonists of the likes of Zunar and Johnny Ong, to the netizen-run memes of pages like Curi-curi Wang Malaysia, thank you for cracking us up, and subtly ‘cracking’ irresponsible politicians’ heads with wit and humour derived from their (all too many) foibles.
4. Coming up, by unanimous vote (alright, maybe just 5 people), is the Styrofoam Box Bonanzawhich goes to LYNAS for all its environmental nastiness and suspicious secretiveness. I mean, it’s not the Cold War; it’s not like they are building some radioactive facility for some oppressive, authoritarian government….
3. On the other side of the Styrofoam fence, is the Satay Stick Honour, and this is bestowed upon the Anti-Lynas movement, for, literally and figuratively, walking the talk. These ordinary but gutsy people banded together and walked 300km in 2 weeks on their Green March for a healthy and safe environment. India had its Salt March, Mao Ze Dong had the Long March, now Malaysia has its own Green March. The walk to freedom is long indeed.
2. The Rojak Sauce Salutation goes to the BERSIH movement, for bringing all the disparate flavours of Malaysia together. From old to young, from Malay to Chinese to Kadazan, BERSIH united Malaysians all over the country, in fact, the world, for a just cause. Honourable mention goes to organisations like Tenaganita, the Bar Council and Tindak Malaysia, who advocate, fight for, and defend our rights as citizens of Malaysia and turn the spotlight on incidents of repression and abuse. Working tirelessly, while being paragons of humility, they ensure the weak and oppressed do not stand alone.
1. Last but not least, we have the Order of the Rubber Band. You can have the best rojak sauce in the world, you can have all the freshest fruits of the rainforest, you can have the sticks ready and the box closed, but without a rubber band, that box of rojak may be all for naught. So this award goes to you, the Malaysian voter. We know you are flexible, we know you are adaptable, and we know you recognize that everything has a limit. So make your choice judiciously, cast your election vote wisely, and take responsibility in protecting and preserving our wonderful, mixed-up, diverse country.
And that’s a wrap.
*ROJAK Awards has neither international accreditation nor the endorsement of local authorities; it is a purely home-grown, cottage industry to give due recognition to all deserving awardees, worthy, or unworthy, of mention. We await an ‘entrepreneurship’ award for our efforts.