Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yay for Irene

I'm very pleased to share the news that Irene Fernandez has scored a victory in her fight for justice - after 11 years. She has won her case against Utusan Malaysia (interestingly, it used to be called Utusan Melayu) for publishing lies about her when she was arrested for publishing her report on the abuse suffered by migrant workers in Malaysia.

She gets RM200,000 in damages. IMO, stretch that to 11 years and it really doesn't amount to that much. Still, I am happy that the judge condemned Utusan for irresponsible journalism - take note, all ye journos and would-be journos!

Despite this win, Fernandez still hasn't completely cleared her name. She is still considered by the government to be a traitor for supposedly writing lies about our country and, after her 1-year imprisonment, has limited civil liberties - which means she may or may not be able to contest in the upcoming elections.

I tell you arrr, if elections happens while I'm in Malaysia this year, you can count on me lining up to pencil my X in the right box.

Marilah mari / mari mengundi / jangan lupa kewajipan / pada negara...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The following is a black comedy based on true events

My 2005 article in relation to Malaysia's leaky national art gallery has been quoted in this week's Kakiseni feature. It makes me happy to know that it is still remembered.

Credit is due to the then-editor Pang who saw it fit to publish my enraged letter wherein I ranted about the disgusting conditions of the gallery.

Reading it again, with the encouraging reader comments, has made me reflect on what's happened since then.

Let's see... Last year, they discovered that there was a termite infestation in the parquet floors, so they closed down the gallery for 10 months for a much-needed refurbishment. The sculptures were even aired out on the lawns because it was not safe for them indoors! When Hoy Cheong told me that, I wanted to cry.

Then, in this year's January issue, Off The Edge published a frank interview with art collector Pakhruddin Sulaiman who was very damning about the NAG.

The NAG opened its doors again in time for Merdeka, and The Star ended its report with this comment, "
Now that the gallery is without a director – Dr Saharudin Ismail recently left the position – there is a chance again to appoint someone who knows about art." (Ouch! But - but - this guy's a "doctor" lah, how can dunno about art right...)

Meanwhile, DIY events like notthatbalai and LAMU keep happening only as a result of sheer determination, muhibbah spirit and passion. To quote my favourite fighting fish:

I sincerely believe that the Malaysian art scene has become stronger and more self-sufficient now that we realize that Balai is utterly incompetent. It has been MIA for close to a year - and you know what, it hasn't been missed. Galleries, collectors, artists, institutions and collectives have forged ahead, having shows left, right and center, and some damn good ones at that. I always intone that we get the government we deserve, but in this case, I maintain (with few reservations) that Balai doesn't deserve the artists the nation has. This Merdeka, it has embarrassed itself beyond redemption by its discreditable showing.

I officially declare Balai-bashing out-of-vogue. It just isn't worth the 2 seconds anymore. We are doing just fine without it.

For the first time, without irony, Malaysia boleh lah!