Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just by chance

"Oi...Get your filthy hands off my desert!"
"What 'e say?"
Brezhnev took Afghanistan.
Begin took Beirut.
Galtieri took the Union Jack.
And Maggie, over lunch one day,
Took a cruiser with all hands.

Apparently, to make him give it back.

(Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert. Pink Floyd / Roger Waters 1985)

In the movie, Forest Gump, the character played by Tom Hank by sheer stroke of luck appeared at the defining moments of history, influencing some important event in popular culture; among them, the origin of Elvis’s gyrating pelvis, the Nixon’s ping-pong diplomacy and Lennon’s Imagine.

Just by chance or pure coincidence though unlike Gump, it seems that all my overseas visit coincided with some important event or other.

My first Sydney visit in 98 was on the day Anwar Ibrahim was arrested, Australian diplomatic opposition almost led to a diplomatic scuffle with Malaysia. That event led to the infamous black-eye incidence. My Jakarta 2005 visit was during the Ambalat Incidence, with street protest against Malaysia on the street of Jakarta. Sometimes earlier, some few months after the visit to the Hadyai’s Kre Sek Mosque, came the bloodbath that marked the beginning of the end of peace in Southern Thai.

My visit to (actually my return from) Singapore 23.5.08 was on the day International Court Of Justice delivered the verdict. It was the day Pulau Batu Puteh legally became Singapore’s Pedra Branca. I was at the Changi departure lounge when all homecoming Malaysian eyes were fixed on the TV screen. I could not bother as I was exhausted. After all that piece of rock is to me nothing more than a piece of rock.

At KLIA’s arrival hall, someone concerned Malaysian broke the news. It was confirmed by some breaking news on the electronic media later.

The International Court of Justice has decided in favour of Singapore in a 28-year sovereignty dispute with Malaysia over Pulau Batu Puteh - a tiny but strategic uninhabited island the size of half a football field.

[Malaysiakini 23.5.08]

I don’t know Batu Puteh more than a picture of rock with some Singaporean’s helipad and communication tower on it. That’s all. People, the patriotic kind would nevertheless lecture me on matter of national pride and sovereignty. To them I would say ‘why wait a hundred over years to react? It would be a non-issue had we cleverly persisted and retain the southern island some decades ago. A read into Lee Kuan Yew’s memoir of the last decisive moments in the 1963 separation brokering doesn’t help quell the sense of betrayal at all. Never mind the apologetic later written ‘Duri Dalam Daging’.

For now, let’s just let the issue dies down. A lost is a lost and can never be a win, much less a win-win. (Sorry Dato’ Seri Rais, I don’t agree with you) A sense of winning however will satiate some quarters and no one I hope would be raising any keris, tombak or lembing.

Roger Waters wrote the Final Cut after the Falkland War, as a personal protest against Margaret Thatcher’s senseless war venture thousands of miles away in South America. But Falkland was (and is still claimed as) British land and the Union Jack must be defended by all means necessary.

Pedra Branca was lost in the court room. We certainly need not now raise arm and inadvertently go south the same Thatcher’s way.
I pray.

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