Wednesday, February 9, 2011


 By Howl Murale

I’ll be honest. Of late I have not been well, in my head mostly. Often times I feel confused,  I feel let down,  see no future and  hope hangs by the proverbial thread. 

The only time I feel good is when I feel funny about things and events happening in this country, especially the paradoxes.

The satirical content in almost everything I see and hear in the news keeps me going,  yes,  I must also confess  I have not given my best on the job these past months and years and  Can you blame me ?

I feel listless, my appetite is poor, recently I have been struggling to digest a large corporate disaster, how do you  contend with the fact that a corporate big-wig went overboard without being above board with the Board? 

It eventually gets resolved in my mind as  I figure out  that ‘board’ can refer to a piece of flat wood, and a board translated into Bahasa is a “kayu”. 

Everyone was a kayu and that's why it happened, millions of ringgit gone up in expensive Cuban cigar smoke ! and so amidst events and happenings like this I have taken to frequenting the coffee shops of my neighbourhood  morning, day and night.

I find a measure of comfort sitting down alone pretending to read the papers while sipping  coffee, I must say that pretending to read our papers is an easy thing because it is the same as actually reading it. The national dailies pretend to publish news and as loyal citizens we pretend to read it. But in the nation’s coffee shops it is a different matter. 

You can overhear all the news that is fit to be heard,  so in the coffee shops it is not my eyes that rove and read,it is my ears! I can overhear everything within earshot and a little beyond,  my trained ears are multi-lingual, and what folks say in coffee shops make a lot more sense than the news on TV or the stories in the papers. 

The news on TV, you will agree, is full of ‘ Minister did this and he wants you to do that ‘ or of horrific express bus accidents and other vehicular crashes, sometimes they also report vernacular clashes, it  makes me wonder what will be news if we improve on road safety and all of us become fluent in English,  maybe then, minister’s wives went shopping or Minister got new wife from outside “1 Malaysia “ will be reported as news.  

If you haven't  noticed topics and issues raging in the Internet for days and weeks on end are eventually and agonisingly reported as fresh news in our papers, ah ! Stale internet news is passed off to those without connections as ‘berita hangat’. In my country if you have no connections it is hard to do business and if you are unconnected you remain ignorant, recently an old friend dropped by, we spoke of many things, before parting he said very quietly : “we must continue to read the papers, at least we can keep abreast of our own ignorance”.

In the coffee shops it is a different proposition altogether, people in coffee shops try so hard to steer our country in the right direction, I envy their enthusiasm, I envy their energy and their animation, one hundred percent for effort. 

Me? I am an old man, well beyond ISA age and merely living in a neurotic state, all I can do for King and country is report what they say,  I must report accurately what I overhear in  coffee shops,  I take this new endeavour seriously,  do it in the national interests and that is  important to me personally, you know,  it helps me keep my sanity, after all, in countries that are dysfunctional,real and important issues of the day are not debated or discussed in Parliament, fortunately these important  issues and matters are taken up by this alternative and honest ‘Parliament of the Coffee Shops ‘. 

Three outstanding features of this ‘Parliament’ are equal opportunity, unlimited talk time without Speaker’s biased involvement and any motion can be coffeetabled and debated by all and sundry without having to toe the party line, so what does this ‘Parliament’ say of the most recent open verdict in ‘le affair Teoh Beng Hock’ ? The overheard ‘Parliamentary’ debate  centers on a few core issues.

Let me start by saying there is unanimity in calling this open verdict the “ngor imchee lor” verdict. From the Cantonese tongue it loosely translates in Bahasa to “Gua ta tau “. 

Speaker after speaker in this ‘Parliament’ felt aggrieved that the coroner had resorted to this old Chinese stratagem. Clearly they felt he was feigning ignorance. He was, they felt, playing the ‘Great Pretender’. I distinctly heard one night a voice two tables away from where I was pretending to read the business section of the national daily say :”Ya lor ! If you bump into your wife when you are out shopping with your new girlfriend  then you have no choice but to pretend you cannot recognise your wife lor. So it is important to know who is the po-ten-tial new life partner of the coroner. Is it the Government or the money ? You tell lor.” Then another voice said in agitation: “ This coloner or whatever you call him is part of the Judiciary system. His  job is to determine the cause of death of this poor innocent fella. Instead the coloner or whatever you call him got the cheek to say “ I dunno la “. Like dat I also can be coloner mah !x@$%#&*^"

Then one afternoon I heard a   sober voice: “Peng Yaw, listen la ! a  coroner’s job is to dig and dig and dig until they find the truth ma, whats the problem ? 

Money is not the problem, government where got broke wan, no money take more from us lor, Time aso not the problem, where got  other job  to do ? Coroner is full time job mah,  not like us,  three contracts at the same time you think easy orh ? So maybe this coroner is a che-kai one and dunno how to dig wan. Not the best wan. Maybe he know how to dig but he dunno what he is looking for, Hai Mai ? Yes or not ?”

“No”, said another voice late one evening.” You got it all wrong la. Let me tell you, friends. In this country now everybody behave like he is the government. They say one thing and do another.  Hai Mai?  Also remember my friends, in this country now, the people who are asked to dig are also told to car-ver the hole.If they cannot car-ver the hole, tomorrow they have no job lor, don’t pray pray with the powerful people, you never kena you can talk, you kena then everything and your life can become  kan-toi,. then you know. 

Actually now uh, everybody very clever to car-ver up lor, everybody ! government, business, judiciary,press ,ordinary people, everybody ! What you get by being honest?. You think you get a datuk for that uh, only my stupid dog clever to dig a hole but bodoh to cover up, actually it is my wife’s dog, what  to do, hai mai ? “

“Talk only easy” said yet another late one night.” nyiamah ! the whole bloody thing is just a show la, for your entertainment,you think I dunno wan,  you think we are all soh- chye ah ,they make a show to tell you got rule of law in this country. 

I ask you, this law is for whom ? Come-on brother ! Lets use our head. We are old a-ready. We have seen poor people hang for less evidence than this. I tell you the truth today. I am convinced. To hang a gardener or a mee-soup seller you only need , say thousand ringgit worth of evidence, but when big short minister go to court you need to show one million ringgit worth of evidence lor, how to show ? All the money the bugger keep in Switzerland or Singapore. The poor mee-seller, where he know how to open foreign account, open his mouth and eat, he know la. Nyiamah “

“Of course la”,said another voice one evening. It came from a table full of empty beer bottles being watched over by a few heads. “ What is the use saying you are powerful if you have no connections to help you out when you are in all sorts of trouble ? Hai Mai ? Connection is only part of the story, you see . When a powerful man fall, the force of the fall is so great that it will also harm people close to him. So people in power are practical and clever. They don’t let powerful people fall lor. That also cannot understand ! Why so difficult to think ? 

But Teoh Beng Hock case, the paper and the news all bull shit wan. This Teoh Beng Hock  case is not about falling. Hai Mai ? His case is about pushing not falling ! What nonsen they are talking. The coroner and all the witness talk so much about falling. Nobody ask who push him. Stupid la. Who was with him that can push him ? Hai Mai ? Nyiamah ! 

Coroner himself open his mouth and say Teoh Beng Hock never push himself out of the window. So who is it ? Tell me ? Whoa ! Today myself very angry lor. The coroner dare open his mouth and say open verdict. If I see him, I say to him, please brother at least open your two big eyes if you cannot open your small little heart. Aiyah ! Kek Sum lor ! Lets go back “

Then this morning amidst steaming cups of freshly brewed coffee, loh mai kai and hot pows I overhead an authoritarian voice say purposefully : “What to talk some more. The coroner give new meaning to the term ‘open and shut case’. It is so obvious. He takes seventeen months to not come to the obvious conclusion. He thinks ‘open and shut case’  means he keep it open and  the public shut the case ! Never mind. Election just around the corner. We know what to do. Come, lets go. Work mah !”

I did not even look up from pretending to read this morning’s paper. I continued pretending.

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