Tag Archives: BBC

Monkey Business

Sorry, I’ve been away for so long.  There’s a lot going on in my life of late that has been occupying my time.  Medical emergencies and treatments involving members of the family has been a major issue; then there was the visit of my out-of town in-laws; then there was some work related issues; then there was expanded responsibilities at church; then there was …….and so the list goes on and on.

Astute as ever, Mago and Joyce inquired if my absence has been in part due to recent street protests in Kuala Lumpur.  I was not directly involved in those protests or the clashes between the police and the protesters and it was not the reason for my absence but like for all Malaysians, those events have a great impact on me.  And provides the fodder for this post which I have called “Monkey Business”.

How it all started:

Monkeys are attracted by bananas. In this case, an estimated 150,000 yellow clad Malaysians (hence the bananas but I mean this with deepest respect) tried to march to Merdeka Square (or Independence Square) in central Kuala Lumpur on the 28th of April 2012 as part of the BERSIH 3 rally.  BERSIH 3 is a movement pressing for fair and just elections through electoral reform and action against abuse of the voting process.  Participants included Malaysians of every level of society, every profession, religion and race.


Monkey Business 1

After initially a mostly peaceful protest, the organizers declared the protest a success and ordered the crowd to disperse. At this point, some protesters broke through the police barricades but the police response has been reported as being heavy handed with use of water cannons, teargas, widespread beating of protesters, arrested prisoners and reporters.  Some of the allegations are really quite disturbing including reports that policemen took off name tags so that they could not be identified when carrying out the beatings.  The video below is of the news report by Al-Jazeera which highlighted that cameras were smashed and reporters attacked.

Monkey Business 2

Shortly after the incident, news agencies rushed to cover the event but it soon became known that the local pay-tv provider, Astro, which carries the BBC news channel had censured parts of the BBC news coverage and this during the week of World Press FreedomDay.  Specifically, interviews with protestors and scenes showing some of the police action were removed.  The BBC made a formal protest as censorship or editing of BBC news reports by the pay-tv provider was in breach of the agreement between the two parties.  In response, the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture praised Astro for providing “quality” news by only airing the “best parts” of the rally.

Monkey Business 3

A couple of weeks after BERSIH 3, a couple of groups, apparently from the Army Veterans and the Petty Traders Association decided to protest against the rally by targeting the home of the main organizer of BERSIH 3, lawyer Datuk S. Ambiga.  Claiming that they were upset at the loss of income incurred due to the rally, the Petty Traders Association set up a road stall outside Datuk Ambiga’s home to give away free beefburgers.  On another occasion, a group of army veterans assembled outside her house to do calisthenic exercises which seem to involve a lot of sticking their bums in the direction of her house.  When complains were made to the police, a senior police officer said that they were not breaking any law.  In response, another group of traders threatened to set up a road side stall outside the police officer’s home which promptly resulted in the police changing their tune claiming it would cause a nuisance to traffic.  The whole thing has been dubbed the “butt & burger” protest.

Monkey Business 4

Oh, yes they did.   The government has made amendments to the Malaysian Evidence Act 1950.  The amendments seem to mean that if a post or comment that appears in a website, blog, Facebook or Tweet account is deemed to be potentially offensive or deemed seditious, the authorities can now take the owner of the site to court even if it was written by someone else.

“According to theSun, changes to the passed Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 would hold Internet users liable for any content posted through their registered networks or data processing devices.

The amended law will have serious implications on Internet use as the owner of a site or device is presumed guilty and has to fight to prove his innocence, the daily noted, citing the concerns of civil society groups.

“What this means is, if an anonymous person posts content said to be offensive on your Facebook wall, or if someone piggybacks your WiFi account and uploads a controversial document, you will be immediately deemed the publisher of the content and subject to prosecution under the relevant laws such as the Sedition Act,” the Sun noted in its May 21 report.”  (Full article in Digital News Asia)

This seems ludicrous to me but I hope that will not be construed as an offensive remark.  I also have to hope that none of you readers leave any offensive comments on this blog.  Don’t want to run foul of the law after all.

Now doesn’t that make you think of all kinds of offensive remarks?  Just make sure you post it on the blog of someone who deserves it.

Inti Illimani with Moving Pictures

I first posted about Inti Illimani in 2007.  Recently, secret agent woman followed a link on this blog and went to that original post.  Unfortunately, the video links on that post no longer worked and she was rather disappointed.  So this one is for you, secret agent woman – a re-post with working video links.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I present to you, Inti Illimani, a group of Chilean engineering students and part-time musicians who became their country’s de facto musical ambassadors and spokespersons when their country entered a dark period of its history. The group was established in 1967, consisting of students from Universidad Técnica del Estado in Santiago, Chile and will celebrate 40 amazing years in 2007. They were on tour in Europe in 1973 when President Allende was deposed by General Pinochet. In the subsequent chaos, many of the members had friends and relatives who were arrested and some were never seen again including their friend and national musical icon Victor Jara. (It is reported that Victor Jara was executed in the stadium that today bears his name. He was machine-gunned and had over 70 bullets in his body).

In fear of their own lives, they lived in exile in Italy but continued to develop their music and to rally for a return to democracy in Chile. They rapidly gained recognition for both. To this end, Horacio Salinas was the group’s musical director while the political compass was provided by Jorge Coulon. Sadly, after all these years, the group split in 2001, Salinas and two others left and started another band while the two Coulon brothers remained and rebuild their band. Unfortunately, both continue to call themselves Inti Illimani but most fans recognise Salinas’ band as the historical band.

The name means “Sun of the Mountain” or “Sun God” and is actually a Bolivian name. This was an early indication that they musically were not going to be bound by Chilean music traditions only. Indeed these engineer-musicians, have combined their different disciplines and experimented with the physics of sound and were even awarded honorary degrees in music for their efforts. They also sought to combine instruments from different traditions to create new sounds. For example, in one of their pieces, they combine a Persian instrument with the African colimba and an antique Andean flute. They were the forerunners of World Music before it became fashionable.

I was first exposed to the group when they recorded the soundtrack for a BBC documentary entitled the “Flight of the Condor” way back in 1982. That was the first time I had listened to the use of Andean pan flutes in an haunting and evocative orchestral arrangement. Over the years, I occasionally got to hear one or other of their projects but for the most part, I had little access to their music.

Then in 1992, they came to Ottawa while I was a student there. I was ecstatic. Future wife and I went to see them in concert. It was a cold winter’s night and the journey to the venue was far but it was entirely worth it. Seeing them in person made me realize that they were more than musicians but musical scholars. We were treated not just to a concert but a laboratory of sound. There was one song performed entirely out of the beating of ordinary packing crates. There was another in which the band faded off by a deliberate and measured drop in sound level carried out in unison. Sure, fade outs are done all the time with the help of electronic equipment but when you hear it done manually, you know you are in the presence of extraordinary musicians. They also dazzled us with an array of over 30 wind, string and percussion instruments from around the world.

Once again, I have used too many words when I should let the music speak for itself. Enjoy the videos and the music tracks. Illi Intimani, congratulations on 40 years and may your tradition of music scholarship continue to another generation.”

Vodpod videos no longer available. Vodpod videos no longer available.


Fallen Knights

Who will stand for the weak, the powerless and the downtrodden?
Who will stand against  injustice but for the rights of the minorities?
And who will weep for them who gave it all for others?
These modern-day knights slained by the dragon of intolerance,
Sacrificed on the altar of bigotry and hatred.
Will you weep?  Will you light a candle for them?
Will we keep the light burning bright.
For the poor, the downtrodden and the fallen knights.
(Fallen Knights by LGS)
Wasif Ali Khan Weeps for His Friend, Shahbaz Bhatti (Photo by Anjum Naveed / AP)

Two days ago, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistan Government Minister for Religious Minorities, was ambushed by three gunmen as he was on his way to attend a cabinet meeting after visiting with some poor constituents.  The only Christian minister in the Pakistan Cabinet, his car was stopped by the gunmen who then opened the passenger door and sprayed the interior with bullets. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Just a month earlier, Salmaan Taseer, the Muslim Governor of Pakistani Punjab and a co-supporter of his views, was killed by one of his own bodyguards.   Sadly, Taseer’s killer, although under arrest,  has been feted by many as a hero; even by some of the police.  Both Bhatti and Taseer were singled out for punishment  because they were pushing for a reform of  Pakistan’s blasphemy law, reform in the application of Syariah law and because of their support for the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five  who is under death sentence under the Blasphemy law.

The Blasphemy Law makes it a capital offence to insult the Prophet Muhammad.  Some may argue that this is against the principle of free speech but of greater concern is that Human Rights observers report that it is often invoked by one party to settle rivalries, feuds and disputes.  In the case of Aasia Bibi, there was already a long standing feud between Bibi and a neighbor over some property damage.  Then in June 2009, Bibi, who worked as a farm hand, was asked to fetch water for her fellow workers to drink.  When she came back, some of her Muslim co-workers refused to drink claiming that being a Christian, she had made the water “unclean”.  Some arguments ensue.  Later a mob descended on her home and started beating her and her family.  The police came to her rescue but after listening to the villagers, arrested and charged her under the Blasphemy Law.  Bhatti and Taseer believed that the law had been misused to settle a score.  Taseer had indicated that as Governor, he would likely pardon Bibi.  Then he was assassinated.

Bhatti knew that he was a target.  In fact, after Taseer’s assassination,  he considered himself to be “the highest target right now”.  Some of the country’s religious leaders had even publicly called for his death. He insisted on keeping to his work schedule and refused bodyguards, noting that it had done Taseer no good.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country.  I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.” Bhatti said at the time.“

When informed by  security officers that there was a plot to assassinate him,  he did ask for a bulletproof car but strangely, he was never given one.  He must have felt increasingly alone and exposed.  He even made a video recording with instructions that it be sent to the BBC if he should be killed.  He made a telephone call to a BBC correspondent before his death saying,  ” They say there’s a terrorist plot to assassinate me. They’ve told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me anything else. I haven’t been given any extra security. It’s just the same as it has been since I became a minister. I have struggled for a long time for justice and equality. If I change my stance today, who will speak out? I am mindful that I can be assassinated any time, but I want to live in history as a courageous man.”

And so he gave his life for the cause of others.  (“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13).  Join me in remembering these brave men of principle and humanity, Shahbaz Bhatti and Saleem Taseer.  One a Christian and another a Muslim, but both united in serving for the greater good of their community and especially for the disenfranchised and oppressed.  Join me also in praying for their family and loved ones in this time of loss.

Post Script: Unfortunately, the move to reform the Blasphemy Laws seems to have been mortally wounded by Bhatti’s death. The government has reintegrated on the promise to push for reform.  Without party support, member of parliament,  Sherry Rehman, had to drop her reform bill and now she has had to disappeared from view due to concerns for her safety.