Saturday, December 22, 2012

ROJAK Awards 2012

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.
As published by REFSA.

5 Things Worth Celebrating for Merdeka

 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.

Malaysia turns 55 this year, and a generation is retiring – a generation for whom a mouse was definitely not something you wanted in the house, a generation for whom Emergency was when communists came knocking on your door and not when you lost your smartphone, a generation where “tweets” were only for twits.
As that generation passes the mantle to the next, it is time for reflection upon our yesteryear. Though our beloved nation has seen its fair share of controversy and angst over the years, there are certainly things for which we can be happy about. And so today, REFSA Rojak puts aside its usual cynical self, and celebrates those things that give us hope, things that unite us as a nation and as one people. Five things stand out as we turn 55…
5. Exorcising the ghosts of May 13, 1969
May 1969 no longer conjures the same feeling of dread it used to. It has become like the bogeyman in fairytales of yore – used only by people who think they know what is best for us, to scare ‘ghoul-able’ souls! This spectre of fear tried to rear its ugly head after the 2008 political tsunami. However, the attempts to stoke ethnic tension – cow heads in Shah Alam, church arson, pig heads in mosques, JAIS raids on church dinners, bible-stamping – fizzled out when ordinary Malaysians rose above the fray. With Bersih being the most ‘muhibbah’ event of recent years, and inflammatory film trailer Tanda Putera receiving a red light sabre of dislikes on youtube, it looks like this May 13 ghost has truly been busted.
4. A new breed of young political leaders
With the dead having been taken care of, let’s focus on those who are breathing new life into the nation. From the ever purr-fect and CAT-chy Lim Guan Eng and latest clean-and-lean analytical machine Dr Ong Kian Ming, to the Rambo-brave Rafizi Ramli, the blossoming Nurul Izzah and the far-sighted Saifuddin Abdullah, to name a few, a new breed of political leaders have emerged, leaders who stand up for what they believe in and kneeling only in service of the rakyat!
3. The blooming of grassroots movements
While young politicians at the top are spreading the spirit of nationhood down, grassroots movements from the rakyat are also spreading their roots all the way up! Civil society movements have burst forth these past few years. Many, such as UndiMsia, Loyarburok, Bersih, Stop Lynas and Tindak Malaysia have received overwhelming support from ordinary Malaysians. They are truly organisations by the people for the people!
2. ‘Jalan-jalan cari makan’
At the end of the day there is one thing in Malaysia that can stop FRU units mid-charge, blow away placards and banners, and unite the entire country against ‘Singaporean culinary culture thieves’- FOOD. From the divine balance of spice and fragrance in that Mak Cik’s nasi lemak, to the joys of chomping on a dhal-flooded roti canai from that machaar down the road – Malaysia is truly the land of Makanmania. All things point to the possibility of eating our way to inter-cultural harmony, and this may well be the foundation to restore inter-ethnic interaction and understanding.
1. The freedom fighters
No, we’re referring to not just the soldiers who fought in the Emergency, not just the leaders who claimed independence from the British, not just the entrepreneurs who made it big on the world stage, but people like you and me. We celebrate the parents who lay for us the foundations of freedom that shape our character and sense of right and wrong, the teachers who give us the beginnings of the freedom of thought, and the friends who teach us the meaning of freedom to be who we are. Today, as we remember our day of Merdeka, that fight for freedom continues.
Fifty-five years on, let’s recognise that there is much to celebrate. The things that really matter are really right before us.
“A great nation is not one which, like Russia, has an enormous territory; or, like China, has an enormous population. It is the nation which gives mankind new modes of thought, new ideals of life, new hopes, new aspirations; which lifts the world out of the rut, and sets it going on a cleaner and brighter road.”
                                                            L.E. Blaze, Lecture at the D. B. U. Hall, November 26, 1926
As published on REFSA.

Monday, December 3, 2012


She treads lightly with hands open,
Soft skin brushing soft grass.
Her touch banishing frosty dew;
Her warmth, a spell is cast.

Like a blossom past a winter,
Red rose on bed of snow;
Clad in scarlet and white colors,
She walks with the river flow.

The old azalea sun did rise,
A gentle light setting life free.
Yet one more sun that day was seen,
Amaterasu, blinding to see.
Its warmth too warm, its light too bright;
Outshone, the bloodied sun did flee. 

Surrounded in unnatural fire,
She closes her blinded eyes, hands unfurled.
Color fading from her cloth,
Lips and cheeks graying like a moth
“I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”

Grass in blazes, black from green,
Rivers dry, dew turned to steam,
Kimono burned off soft skin,
A wrath like never before seen.

Now, body charred, color gone, there she lies.
Once a beauty, now less than food for flies.


Kami= Japanese for deity
Amaterasu= Japanese goddess of the sun

Author's note: 
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has always disturbed me. I took some liberties with the season:: August 1945 was in fact in the midst of summer. I made such a choice to portray the power of life, its touch and beauty manifested in the magical walk of a kimono-clad woman. 

The poem may be a mix of fact and fiction, but I hope that the poem successfully conveys a sense of loss and grief. More than a rail against just nuclear weapons, I wrote it with the intent of reexamining the justifications humans often give at acts of aggression: be it in the name of ending a war, avenging a war, or defending a country. 

Such immense powers of destruction at the hands of reckless man may one day be the deaths of us all.