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Lat - Malaysia's Cartoonist

A few weeks ago (been meaning to blog about this before, but am busy) I got the chance to attend a talk by Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid , or as most people know him, Lat. A national icon, he articulates the many facets of Malaysian society through his evocative cartoons.

He gave an interesting talk, going over his own life story, and making a few comments on the development of cartoons as an art and Malaysian society. Listening to Lat was almost like reading one of his comics, I felt myself slipping into a warm, cosy, other place, where hearts are bared on sleeveless arms and friends meet after school to play into the evening. It reflects the power of art, and Lat’s artistic skill, that I could feel the nostalgia even though I am not Malaysian. His rendering of scenes of his early life, evoked that sentiment of cosiness which in me is associated with winter afternoons in a warm room, playing board games or reading a favourite adventure story.

I was introduced to Lat's cartoons in 1987, the first time I came to Malaysia, and it helped me to understand many of the subtleties of Malaysian life. One cartoon I remember is where you see a news reader looking serious, with shirt and ties and reading the news; in the next picture, you see he has finished and is walking away from the desk, revealing his sarong. Maybe this is the essence of what Lat represents in his cartoons, reminding many Malaysians of their roots in kampungs and the chaotic developing cities of the sixties and seventies.

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Saya berpelajar Bahasa Malaysia

I'm doing BM classes, and this is my homework - my first more-or-less lengthy piece in BM! Any comments are welcome :-)

Diri Saya

Nama saya Julian, saya dilahirkan di bandar Ennis, negara Ireland. Tetapi, bila saya empat tahun, keluarga saya berpindah ke Luxembourg kerana ibu kami pegawai kerajaan Eropah. Selepas, saya pelajar di Luxembourg, England dan Scotland. Selepas ijazah yang pertama saya bekerja di Belgium untuk lima tahun. Selapas itu, pergi pelajar untuk ijaza yang kedua di London, dan semasa itu bertemu isteri saya – tetapi, pada waktu itu dia bukan isteri saya, kawan perempuan sahaja! Selepas London, saya bekerja di Nigeria untuk enam bulan, selepas ketika itu saya pergi ke Malaysia. Sekarang, saya tinggal di Malaysia untuk enam tahun. Saya suka Malaysia, tetapi ada selalu masalah dengan imigresen.
Di Malaysia, saya lalu bekerja sebagai guru empat tahun di satu kolej. Selepas itu, saya terima biasiswa dari Monash Universiti untuk ijaza PhD, oleh kerana itu saya sudah berkerja di kolej, dan menjadi pelajar lagi. Saya nasib baik.

Bloggers censoring the government??

Well it’s the world upside down really :/ I’m sure some of you noticed this article in the Sunday Star, or heard about it.

The Higher Education Minister complaining that they had sent in replies to “inaccurate statements and false allegations” on blogs, but they were “removed by the bloggers.”

I wonder what happened. The ‘removed by bloggers’ bit suggests that comments were left – rather than a direct email to the blogger, which may be more effective in trying to ask for some ‘air time’, so to speak.

Were the comments left by the ‘government’ in the official capacity, or by people asked to leave comments that appear to be from a normal reader? I do think that it would be more effective to do it transparently and formally.

It may be that BN did not want to be seen to be legitimising blogs, which would be one result of leaving official comments on blogs. So it seems like they were caught in a bit of a bind: on the one hand blogs were being dismissed as the puerile bleatings of disaffected and unemployable miscreants – so they could not be engaged with directly; whereas on the other hand an ‘undercover’ operation (i.e. the infamous ‘cybertroopers’) was functioning to put over their point of view on the blogs – but they were perhaps being ignored as mercenary propagandists.

Now the government wants to engage, and even Khir Toyo has jumped on the bandwagon! I think that their challenge now is to understand what makes bloggers tick – it’s more than just opening a blog…

It’s at moments like this that I really regret not knowing more BM :-( But I guess cherwith, who is also researching blogs, will be looking at his blog with great interest :-)

Election Rituals

It’s election time in Malaysia and voters will make their choice on the 8th March. One of the features of elections in Malaysia is an inordinate amount of bunting and flags, everywhere – for example at an overpass near my house…


The flags and bunting are for the Barisan Nasional and Keadilan .

Barisan Nasional (‘National Front’) is an umbrella group of three main parties that represent the main ethnic groups in Malaysia (Malay, Chinese, Indian) as well as some smaller parties – some of which purport to be multiracial, but they tend to get support from one ethnic group or the other (the situation in East Malaysia is a bit more complicated, but follows the same pattern). Keadilan (‘Justice’) was founded by the Wan Azizah Ismail, the wife of ex-Deputy PM, Anwar Ibrahim , who was removed in 1998 following a power struggle with the PM, Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1998. It’s a long story, but after mass protests Anwar ended up in jail on charges of sodomy (later overturned) and corruption. Due to his prison time, he is barred from engaging in politics until April this year.

Just up the road there is an UMNO division building. UMNO is the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional (BN), and has been so for the last 50 years (technically, it was the Alliance before 1973).
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Domestic Hell…

I went to the Fiesta Feminista last week – it was well worth the time and I saw a number of interesting speeches, though I was also helping out so I wasn’t able to see them all. I was also rapporteur for a National Media Monitoring Survey (organised by AWAM) workshop project that also provided gender awareness training for media practitioners.

I attended a talk about migrant workers – seemed interesting, and being a life-long immigrant myself, something I feel some resonance with, though I have always been on the privileged edge of it…

As part of the talk there was a testimony by a brave lady (whose name I didn’t get though, sorry – her talk was being translated). She has no, or very little, education, but her intelligence and integrity shone through as, choking back tears, she told how she had lived through virtual slavery for about three years, in order to provide for better education for her children.

She came to Malaysia with the promise of a job paying RM400/month; once she got here she was told it was reduced to RM370. She swallowed that, and began her gruelling work: up at 6am every day she worked until 12pm for a family of 15 people – cooking, cleaning, and washing all the clothes by hand, being forbidden from using the washing machine. In the afternoon she had to help her employer’s sister make kuih for the market. On Saturdays she had to wash the 3-5 cars the family owned, and on Sundays she had to get up at 4am so as to be able to do her usual tasks, and go to clean her employer’s mother’s house in the afternoon.

Tenaganita leaflet
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