Thursday, November 02, 2006

People Power

(Adam the method actor beefed up for his impression of a fat cat Malaysian local councillor.)
The most popular topic of conversation these days whenever I get together with my friends in pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or just sitting around under a coconut tree tokking kok is the state of the nation. How we are being screwed by the politicians, the ineffective administration, the rising costs of living. All the usual things that Malaysians love to talk about so much la. And as usual all we do is pretty much just talk. Then we go back to our mundane lives and try to deal with all the problems we talked about. Until the next time things become too much to bear. Then we gather round the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or under the coconut trees and talk some more.

Then a few days ago I got to thinking about how maybe we Malaysians can do something about taking charge of our own lives and to effect change. Huh? Can meh? Sure can one. How?

(Just so you don’t lose track of things. I just said we can do but of course we won’t la.)

Remember back a few years ago, the people in the Philippines used something called People Power and overthrew their dictatorial administration that was headed by the husband of a shoe crazy woman? When that happened we all thought, “Wah! People Power really good man.” Happening la. Syabas people of the Philippines. People Power became the catch phrase for a long time. People can make change. People hold the power of their lives in their own hands. Those Philippines flers really did something great man.

Actually, People Power isn’t endemic to the Philippines. Never has been. We first practised People Power in the march towards gaining independence from the British. We all were passionate about Merdeka. We got together as one people we appointed a spokesman in the person of the Tunku and we won our independence. Without bloodshed.

Then we sat back and enjoyed the fruits of our first People Power success. But life became so good after that that we began to relax. A little too much.

And then we lost our sense of People Power altogether. We became dependent again. We were colonised again. This time by the people that we chose to govern us and to continue the work which we started using People Power. Life became so good that all we wanted to do was sit back, relax and enjoy.

“Okay la. You do it for me la. I pay (elect) you. You do it.”

Things came to such a state that eventually when things got bad again and we began to suffer a little bit of this and that we began to ask, “Eh! What happened? How can this be happening one?” Then, the people whom we had asked to ‘take care’ of things for us, things that we should have done ourselves, said, “Well, you gave us the mandate to do things for you what? So let us do la. You just sit under the coconut tree and enjoy lor.” We knew something was not right. We did not like it. But sadly, we realised that we had been sleeping under the coconut tree for so long that we had lost the ability to think, to do things for ourselves. So we replied, “Oh yeah hor. We elected you to do things for us hor? Okay, okay. Sorry ah.” And we went back to talking and grumbling in pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or under coconut trees. Only this time we added to our tokkok sessions the phrase, “Hiyah! What to do?”, just before we ordered another jug of beer or glass of teh tarik. And we happily returned to our anesthetized state.

Fortunately, in recent times it has been proven that not ALL Malaysians have lost the ability to use People Power to make their lives better. I can almost hear you thinking, “Where got?” Got, I’m telling you. Think about it.

Those flers in the newly created city of Petaling Jaya flexed their People Power muscles and got things done to their satisfaction. They all felt strongly about something and got together as a single unit and affected changes that improved their lives. The fought, using People Power, illegal billboards excessive spending on city status celebrations, cutting down hills for highways.

And I really tabik those police flers. They knew the potency of People Power and used it. How? I am sure you have read all about the IPMC? Everybody say the police corrupt la. Inefficient la. Needs to be watched la. So some big fler said okay let’s set up this commission and that commission to whip the police flers into shape. So what did the police flers do? They were faced with something that would affect their lives in ways that they thought less than desirable. So they got together as one unit and used their People Power to effective say to all of us, “F**K you! We are not going to take this shit from you. So there.” And what did we (read you and me and the administration we elected) do? We were stunned. “Sorry ah, boss. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Then we retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok. “Wah! Those police flers damn terror la.”

Of course, there are some of you reading this who will say, “Hiyah they all police what. Sure can do la. You try and see they sure hantam you one.” Really?

Remember the taxi drivers in Penang? They used People Power also. The blaardy garmen asked them to use their fare meters. The taxi flers got together, used their People Power and told the authorities and all of us, “F**K you. Georgetown to Tanjung Tokong RM20. So there!” We were stunned. “Sorry ah, boss. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Then we retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom of some sort up there in the sky. Those flers drank out of giant tea pots and sat under coconut trees a lot. But some people didn’t think much of it so they got together, exercised their People Power and burned the whole sky kingdom to the ground. We were stunned. But instead of using our People Power to right a wrong we chose to retreat to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tok some more kok.

Coffee shops increase the price of a cuppa by 10 sen because the price of sugar increased by 10 sen a kilogram or a ton or whatever. They all got together and used People Power. We retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok. And paid the 10 sen more.

Toll highway operators ask for and get to increase toll charges. They all got together and used People Power. We retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok.

The government implements policies and projects that we do not like or want. They used the People Power that elected them into office to subjugate their flock of ‘sheep’. Okay la, ‘kambing’ as we’re in Malaysia. What do we do? I think you got the picture.

Just days ago I attended a public forum that was to discuss what Malaysians can do to set Pak Lah “free”. Meaning that Pak Lah is ineffective as Prime Minister because he is shackled by people or circumstances beyond his control and that we as citizens should do something to free him so that he can do the things he promised when we gave him the biggest mandate in history.

The panelists were high profile bloggers with readerships that surpass the newspapers and included the patriarch of an opposition party. (That the forum was organised by this opposition party should have told me to stay home.) The panelists/speakers did nothing to set anything free except that they freely expounded on their mostly new found fame on the Internet. One good thing did result at the end of the forum that night. During the question and answer session it was proven conclusively that most Malaysians are indeed well cushioned by the success that their forefathers won for them. It was all about… “Err…yes this is MY problem. What are YOU going to do about it? What can YOU do for ME?”

Shockingly, members of the panel proceeded to actually answer. Propagating the disease of apathy.

People Power. For good or evil. A most powerful force that most Malaysians continue to ignore. Why?

The Malays – Never mind la. Whatever happens the kerajaan, which will always be our majority what, will take care for us la. We are of the soil.

The Chinese – Never mind la. Can make money enough lor. My family in Perth la. Yours?

The Indians – You only go to see them when you are sick or need legal advice, right? Yes. THEY will do for YOU.

(The above article was first published in the November issue of Off The Edge)


mott said...

Eh..don't say like that la.

My MIL got people power!! She protested the Toll charges at the Cheras Toll, which stayed at RM0.50 for a very long time. Of course, now abolished already la! So..still got hope la..just need more of my MIL's type of fightercock spirit!

Trashed said...

Ai seh man,

Malaysia got too much middle class flers la. That's why we all so tidapathy.

See the Phillppines too many poor people, so where got anything to lose ? Kena stamped on left, right and center, so mogok and People Power la.

See Indonesia also the same, millions of poor or underclass people. Even Thailand can get rid of unpopular PM.

Malaysia ? First thing to get more people to surf Internet so that they can Tokkok with you and maybe a light bulb will be switched on.

Anonymous said...

Teoh my man.

Of course we should have the power to speak up yet...the system doesnt allow.

Other than electing them. The country should actually implement a system where we have control of whatthe elected party could do for us and have a voting system once every 6 months for issues they are dealing with and get the response from us how it could be done.

By doing so...a lot of things could still be control yet it will not be out of control and changes take place slowly.

aiyah yah. Things just doesnt work any more in this country. I go back to my coconut tree.


Better than Ghana said...

You know lah, we get in groups go meet menteri, komplen, you know la what he reply?

"Apa komplen-komplen? We are better than Ghana you know!
You should be on your kness and kiss your lucky stars that we are your leaders you tau tak?! Ini orang jenis Malaysians sudah lupa punya orang. Ceh!"

kua kua kua

cheese with a spoon said...

Great, great post! I'm a Malaysian who fled. Yah I know, no shame osso, got problem run away onni, but back then I was young and angry, what to do? If I had known then what I know now, I might have stayed and fought. If I'd had any hope that fighting would make any difference, I might have stayed and fought. But back then, I had no hope. One thing, though: I've still got my Malaysian passport, and I'm still determined to do what I can for People Power everywhere in the world but most especially in Malaysia.

And now, thanks to the Internet, I'm seeing a real Malaysian opposition, not like the opposition-in-name-but-never-do-anything parties. I think that if Malaysia has any hope at all for reform through civil disobedience, it will come through the internet, thanks to people like you, PT. I've got old, old memories of you, of your voice on the radio, and I'm happy to see you here, tokking what is not really kok at all.

One question, though: do you really think we came together as one people to get the British out of our country? Do you think that ordinary Chinese and Indians (I don't mean the political leaders, but just the Ah Mengs and the Ramasamys out there) really wanted the British out? I'm asking honestly here, not just to be controversial -- I myself have got no memories of the era and I learned the official version from my Sejarah textbooks of course heheh BUT from talking to my own parents and grandparents etc. I get the impression not everyone was so convinced getting the British out was such a good idea for us non-Malays. Wrong ah?

That is neither here nor there -- like I said, I'm only asking because I'm curious. The point is that there is work to be done and we can and should make a difference now. Somebody just tell me how (and no I don't want to start a blog of my own because I don't think I have the authority or the insight to speak for contemporary Malaysians, as someone who no longer lives in Malaysia)!

Anonymous said...

People are juz too afraid to speak up la. Or more precisely, too lazy to do that. People power doesnt exists in Malaysia. We're too comfortable wiv the "peace" in Malaysia. Look at our slogan, Keranamu Malaysia. We're are trained to be grateful and not to speak our mind. Thats the propaganda of our country.

It's in our mentality now. Shut up and enjoy the "peaceful" state. Dun worry bout corruption as long as it doesnt harm you. Dun worry bout price rise, u can still afford to pay the extra 10 sen for your kopi-o and toll althought we didnt increase ur salary. Dun worry.... Everything "tak apa"..

Thats how i see it nowadays. This is all a big conspiracy... wahahahahahaha.. *evil laugh*

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 1.41pm: spot on. I'd say more, but I'm being watched.

cheese with a spoon: heh. I've asked that question myself many times. Being in Britain now, I see that this place really isn't bad. Minority rights are taken care of, political correctness is so out of hand as to actually benefit minorities sometimes, and no one can offend anyone else. Then again, the British now are very different from the British then. The Empire no longer exists. Here in Cambridge though, one of the oldest and previously most biased centers of upper-class rule, once in a while you get a glimpse of what it used to be like. How non-whites were looked upon. And I shudder.

Patrick: As usual you're right on the money. Uncyclopedia's entry onMalaysia is cynical to the point of being sharp, and its version of the Malaysian motto echoes your final words in this post. Look at the section "Corruption in Malaysia", also reminiscent of your post.

And blardy funny, might I add.

tedungS said...

spot on patrick, couldn't agree more. i'm sick and tired of all these tyrants farts. i'm a malay, and i dont give a f**k with the politicians propaganda 'looking after the race' while some wavering that kris whatsoever. they're just looking after their bloody smelly arses. they farts big time, and so many stupid ugly looking corrupted malpractice politicians (majority malays) can just get away with it. just dont vote them, vote anybody but them. will it work? i wonder... then peeps will ask 'what'll happen then?' and as u said, they'll go back to the pubs, mamak stalls, bla bla bla

Cuddly Family said...

Unrepentant wrong doers.....No need to knock the place down, reuse for public, no, no they still get to keep the mansion etc.. No apologies, no resignations. barely a slap on the wrist..

what is wrong with things now..

ampraxius said...

Believe it or not we are the most ignorant nation in the world. It is hard to find anyone my age that is well verse on domestic and foreign issues let alone when it comes to religions in Malaysia. Malaysians need to read more, yes READ. The youths of Malaysia is not educated into being able to think critically and cognitively but educated into being facts and numbers reciter.

Malaysians find it hard to relate what is happening in Malaysia affects others outside the border and vice versa and thus apathy towards their environment grows as they continue to be ignorant.

Mnuts said...

Pat your tokking-kok column is the only one I read thr' whenever I've a chance while my wife not here to kok me. Like my wife said, why read Malaysian news while we were out of the country and there is no coconut trees anywhere to be seen aaa......but but but, I was born in Malaysia and somehow in my blood I think I still have that kokking love for the boleh land. The last time I visit Malaysia, it's actually not that bad, everybody 'seem' very wealthy ler. If not for the internet I will never know there are so many BAD-THING in my beloved country. How can that be? My growing up years Dr. M is the PM, and he is all I know about POLITICS......sorry lah

cr_x said...


You used to end your radio show by saying "blue skies and everything nice". Bet you can't say the same now even with tongue in cheek. More approppriate would be "grey skies and everything but nice"
I will vote for anything other than BN in the coming election.

Calv said...

well said. malaysians these days are getting more and more out of control. in a way, look at the cops, no doubt out of the bad eggs, there's always a couple of good ones. in malaysia?'s too corrupted to the extent we cant even see the good ones anymore.

goverments these days are nto like the older times where they live to serve the country and the people (note that people, i meant every race as 1) now the goverment is fighting only to maintain their positions and continue to make benefits out of it, to hell with the people, janji i make enough! haha

but when come to election, they will only say ya ya we'll do this and do that. empty promises flying all over the sky that yet to be materialized.

I still remember a year or so ago the front page of the papers showing that there's an old man patching up the road with cement. then government say WA!!! good one...

money from the citizen had been pledged into the government's hands and this is how to serve us? petrol subsidy reduction? ya rite! wanna improve public transport. i didnt see any difference also, well maybe a couple new bus companies around but then? that's it?

our governement had been given too much luxury already. we should start to do soemthing soon before it gets too late.

I am samy said...

Wahh..this comment box one helluva big coconut tree ah. All tokkok big time oni ah.

Before you all attack this government with your keyboards... go google "failure"...then see if our country is worse off.

You all think our govt is anti-bloggers? Go live in China la...their govt denies access to beta blogspot logins.

You all think we so farked? Think again.

MALAYSIA BOLEH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

patrickteoh said...

Hi samy, congratulations on your optimism. You're absolutely right. No matter how bad things get here in Bolehland we will always be better off than some other people. So do you want to live in a country that is "not as bad as..." or in a great country which does not have to compare itself to anyone? Malaysia Boleh? Of course we can. But I think we have had this conversation before.
Hi Calv. You're right. There was a time when it seemed that we all pulled in the same direction but politicians have changed all that. Perhaps permanently. But we can make them keep their promises. If we care enough to make our voices heard and do something for ourselves. And speaking of cops I honestly think that there has been some improvement since the WOMAN took over the reins in the traffic department. At least that seems to be true in the city of KL la. It takes a woman to do a man's job.
cr_x, blue skies and everything nice belonged to another era that seems so distant now.
mnuts, Malaysia is a great place to visit but would you want to live here? Without any options? I guess you've already answered that by not living here. Yeah, I agree. It will always be in the blood. Being Malaysian by birth. You always feel a tie. And you always can help to make things better in Bolehland even from there. I don't know how la. But you can try and think up ways.
ampraxius, a lot of young Malaysians I meet are apolitical. They just don't seem to worry or care about Malaysia's politics and how it affects them. I find this very strange. Perhaps it results from exposure to this MTV lifestyle. Enjoy. Right now. Right here.
cuddly, it's been a long standing tradition in Bolehland to practise a dual system. One for the "empowered" class and one for plebs like you and me. Slap on the wrist for them. Punch in the face for you and me.
Azahari, exercise your vote to make a difference. We must believe that still works or we are really F**KED big time. So next time vote intelligently after researching the facts and understanding them lor.Then follow up by being vocal about the rights and wrongs.
angry medic, i suppose discrimination exists in every society. You're just lucky to be in a place where you can at least try to do something about it without fearing for your life or liberty.
Yes, cheese I do honestly believe that back then we acted as one people to throw the colonists out. We all thought we were building a future for ourselves. After all the Chinese and the Indians all came and put down roots and called this their home together with their Malay breathren. Didn't we?
better than ghana? Eh they made it to the World Cup you know.
trashed, you're absolutely right. Too many of us middle class tidakapathy flers too comfortable in their double storey terrace houses and their BMW 3 series la.
mott, give your mother in law a hug from us.

hint said...

hi. i agree with you on the people power thingy. i m not sure i m still a youngster or not but i was borned in early 80's. i could see most of my friends still care about their country. it is only that they are not sure on what they could do. personally, i follow-up alot about everyday's happenings in our country. i will use my vote to show my concern which i think is the last peaceful resort to all this bs.

Calv said...

vote? haha this comes to another question. who can take over our country to lead us in to a better glory?

Barisan? hmm, i think it's gonna be the same ol thing again if they win, fulfilling empty promises and caeing for their own benefits and not serving the people.

PAS? hmm we'll have a major racial problem if these guys get on the stage.

Keadilan? seems not so bad but would they be like barisan we they're top the chart?

DAP? speechless. they cant do anything if they win but when they win, the whole 13th may 1965 (cant remember exact date) kicks in.

what else? we create a new one la, MBA - Malaysian Blogger Association. cheers

Cuddly Family said...

reading the papers each day can raise your bp if u let it I guess. all the excuses they give, esp for Abang Z, his tau keh Toyo man is spouting such.. **** sigh..

Samy, yes I can compare my country to other places and it could have good and also bad comparisions. Does it mean we have to stand for murky water, hazy skies, unrepentant "PUBLIC" servants? Most people want a decent life for themselves and their family, wherever u r.

Reading what others have said, it's true I've found over the years, the racial/religion card have cropped up sOOOO often nowadays.. like must play this card or kenot be politician/policy maker?

Can someone explain to me what the big deal is with the "wet food" incident at a school? What exactly is "wet food" and why haram? I missed the article..

the Johorean MB needs to...get a life.. sigh.. Like you've often said, Pat, the people themselves generally get along just great.. its them up there..

patrickteoh said...

Cuddly, what is this wet food incident??? Please, please, please. Tell me more. Where can I read about it?

Trashed said...

Tai kor, you try read this letter

Calv, May 13 is in 1969. Please don forget cos it is a watershed period in Malaysian history. A lot of the current gamen policies are a result of this incident.

Osso, the opposition might not be perfect but what harm is there for someone else to try to do the job ? After all, same thing happened in India and Japan where the bog brother political party thought they cannot be displaced but history shows otherwise. Country still moves along (but lets osso keep religion out of politics)

So, brudder, lets think of our country and the Ahmad, Ah Chong and Ramasamys.

Calv said...

thanks trashed for the correction. :) i'm never good with history but these current politic status i couldnt just ignore. they're really pushing us to the corner sometimes.

whichever it is, if we have more people like patrick here, the goverment in time to come will be overthrown off their positions. haha

Cuddly Family said...

... but but.. if one group can bring wet food, why not the others? Apalah.. so let's encourage the other groups to eat unhealthy food so we can all die off early? (ok thats a bit extreme lol)... Back in my day, we had a canteen (got pork lagi etc).. they were all in the same canteen, the muslims just didnt eat lah (they werent next to each other or anything).. sedapnya!!!! No one complained, everyone main-main together.. Dont you think it HAS gotten worse (judging from the letters in today's papers-I will admit I only read star hehe), everyone seems to be saying hello? what's going on? Why are we backpedalling, 50 years independence macam tak ada?

trashed, thanks for the letter, that explains things a bit more for me, I had briefly read the responses in the regular papers but not the original article.. goodness me...

No wonder these politicians are never repentant(sp?) never really get reprimanded but anything.. sigh..what a way to round off the year..

tedungS said...

yeah, i'll exercise my vote and they ain't gonna get any single shit from me this time

Sick & Tired said...

People Power in Malaysia?? Bolehkah?? If I were to say I will stand up and do some bising-ness, will you people do the same with me? Or will you people just sit down in a corner and pretend dunno and say "er.. government still not that bad oso wat, we still can survive"

I bet almost 99% will just keep their butts safe. Seriously, we've to do something to show them we are not idiots 'parasiting' their country.

Calvin's Girl said...

(=_=)" now i dont even know to vote for which party, I seriously wished that Tun Mahathir was still our PM. Our country was better then. Now he pulak kena heart attack, huh...kesian him. Must be too much stressed from our current PM...

Anang said...

Dear Patrick,

nice write-up... I do believe people power is an effective tool.. however, usually people power works out when there is an urgency... the need to change something drastically... e.g., the level of poverty, war, etc. But in malaysia, we are living in peace and harmony... nobody cares, and if somebody do care about it... well what we want more? we have plenty of foods to eat, house(s) to live, car(s) to drive... unlike filipinos who live in such terrible condition. I can say that we are in the state of being complacent..

nor'aini said...

mr patrick..

in malaysia where got people power....bussiness and politician power got la...

kris said...

MBA - Malaysian Blogger Association, pun jadilah!

seriously we need fresh party by the next election!

Anonymous said...

I sit here in my studio in Malaysia’s Kinta Valley, mug of hot black Chinese tea in my pink Chinese mug, having just read Patrick Teoh’s thought provoking article – ‘Sorry ah boss’ in Off the Edge magazine.

Firstly it strikes me what a comfortable writer Patrick Teoh is, then how observant and articulate this writer is, but most of all – damn I wish I had written that.

One of the issues Mr Teoh addresses is the laissez faire attitude of the general populace when it comes to putting into action complaints against government and its servants. Mr Teoh writes about People Power, the lack of and its collective misuse by people such as taxi drivers to put up cab fares.

This subject will not be new to many readers, and certainly isn’t new to this reader.

Any evening I can pull up a plastic stall, order Tea Tarik (sweet tea) in my father-in-law’s corner shop and listen to the men-folk put the world to rights, then listen to them again the next evening doing the self same thing again.

This need to articulate grievances is a phenomenon I have witnessed throughout the world I have travelled, from the ale houses of England’s East Anglia to the tea rooms of Turkey’s Istanbul and bars of Bangkok.

It appears to be human nature to want to let off stream, to air grievances, to have your say. One only has to look at the massive expansion of Blog (or web log) sites on the internet, including this one, to understand that people in general want to have their say.

Taking action, however, is a wholly different basket of ikan bilis.

Patrick Teoh’s article brought to mind one particular scene in the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian. A dissident group gathers to disparage the Roman occupation of their lands; the now infamous scene asks ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’. The answer - medicine, education, and wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, public health, and, says Xerxes “Brought peace”.

Ponder on that……….

mob1900 said...

Good article, haven't read your article for sometime and you came back with 'Oomph!' Manyak Kick ini article!

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should get Chin Peng (for those who remember)and his surviving kakis to give some elderly advice re what's happening?

Anonymous said...

people power? who should lead? tdm? he cant fight alone, must have sapot 1 ma, + bloggers power la, more hi-tech than our neighbours. if tdm lead, mesti power.

Anonymous said...

people power?u must be kidding.i guess its time we admit that we are been surpress by ISA.what is the differents between guantanamo and ISA?

Anonymous said...

Great article. So true...