I had earlier joked about how a tough year this was going to be with the evil Rabbits in charge (Beware the Year of the Rabbit). But the humor seems very flat as the year has indeed turned out to be a tumultuous one thus far and it’s not even the end of February yet. In an earlier post, “Feeling Flat“, I wondered about the unprecedented floods in Queensland, the uber powerful cyclone Yasi, the drought in New South Wales, the flooding in Victoria and the forest fires around Perth. Australia was reeling under the combination punches. There was also the political turmoil, starting with the ouster of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and then the “who would have thought possible” ouster of President Mubarak of Egypt by popular uprisings. That chain of events is not over yet with the on-going protests in Libya, Yeman, Bahrain, Iran etc. There was also the issue of religious freedom and oppression which I covered in “Say no to Intolerance“. Did I say that it isn’t even the end of February yet?
In Malaysia too, the news has been less than encouraging and upbeat. In no particular order, here are a few. First, there has been a rash of very public suicides and murder-suicides (mother kills child and then commits suicide). This was followed by a recognition that Malaysian suicide rate per 1000 pax is at least as high as that of the USA and is most likely under-reported. Then, there is the continuing saga of the inquiry into the suspicious death of a political aide, Teoh Beng Hock, where justice still seems to be wanting. The latest is that the family and the state of Selangor has withdrawn from participating in a Commission of Inquiry after there objection to the fact that there is a conflict of interest had been rejected. The conflict arises as the officers of the commission were also officers of the Attorney General’s office and the AG’s office is currently making a court appeal to have Teoh’s death declared a suicide. How can officers of an organisation which is pursuing a particular judgment be also the impartial officers of a supposedly “independent” commission of inquiry? It is just the latest of a series of things that Teoh’s family has had to suffer. Meanwhile, there has been a rash of deaths of young people taking part in National Service Camps. In each case, the deaths were reported as sudden and mysterious onset of illnesses. I think it warrants an “independent inquiry” but I don’t have much faith in that either. This morning, I read that an “anti-establishment” student political group had all 33 of their student council delegates (both those who won and those who lost in recent student council elections) disqualified immediately after the election. This was based on one un-investigated complaint. After, student protests, the decision was rescinded. But instead of taking the University officials to task for trying to tamper with an election and for breach of protocol and procedure, the authorities are trying to appear magnanimous by saying that they do not intend to “punish their naughty children”, i.e. the students, for their protests. Well, now that I think about it, this sort of news in Malaysia isn’t unique to 2011. No, it’s same ol’, same old. It’s tiring and life sapping though.
But, the latest earth-shaking incident (literally), was the earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand and the surrounding area at around 1 pm on Tuesday 22nd February. My condolences to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand. Every loss of life is a tragedy and there have been many lives lost in this incident. With the rest of the world, I await news of the rescue operations going on and celebrate with each news of someone pulled out alive. For many, their lives will have forever changed by injury or by loss of loved ones. I am glad to report that Marja of Dutchcorner is well as is her immediate family.
For now, the most important thing is still the on-going search for survivors but after that will come the task of cleaning and re-building. It will be a long and difficult task. I have heard that some survivors are experiencing severe mental stress especially as strong aftershocks are still occurring regularly but the trauma may extend deeper than that. Christchurch has always been a charming and small close-knit community. If I were to volunteer a couple of words of description, I would say “tranquil” and “safe”. Now something big and ugly has appeared to shatter that cocoon of safety and tranquility and the scars of fallen and damaged buildings will be around for a long time to remind them of this threat and vulnerability.
Still, New Zealanders are definitely tough and resolute people and I am sure that they will rise from this despite the difficulties. I had wanted for a long time to post on New Zealand and Christchurch which I had visited twice before, but I had procrastinated. Here below is a picture of Christchurch which typically exemplifies the safety and tranquility of the city. Here is a salute to a wonderful city and an inspiration to rebuild and to regain what has been damaged.
Oh, and the year so far? It sucks.