Monday, June 06, 2005

BAJU MELAYU DIPLOMACY

Why, a second post today, eh?

As my tongue slithers through the gaps of my teeth checking for remains of a delicious sashimi lunch today, an elderly woman approached me with a leaflet at a busy junction.

She appeared permanently bent by about 30 degrees at the waist.

Through my well-used Rayban, I looked at the leaflet.

Why does the prefectural government refuse to discuss the construction of the Kankakei dam publicly?

Apparently, she and a group of Shodoshima (a tourist infested island in the Japan Inland Sea) residents are questioning the Kagawa Prefectural government on the wisdom of constructing an expensive dam that does not seem to benefit the locals.

Sounds familiar?

Over in Malaysia, PAS elects a progressive new face.

Some prominent guys are of my generation.

I am quite pleased to read new deputy president Nasharudin talking about re-branding the party's extremist image to appeal to all Malaysians.

For a start, the Baju Melayu appearance is one step forward albeit in form.

Dr. Asma Abdullah asked me if I have any ideas on how to foster unity in Malaysia.

I have not replied to her email yet but let me note some off-the-head views here.

1. Super-ordinate goals. There should be goals that transcend the narrow aspirations of the respective constituents. Our destiny should be shared. As in, we are in this boat, together. We sink as one or we move forward as one.

2. Inclusive, not exclusive principles. Why 'Bahasa Melayu' when it should be 'Bahasa Malaysia'?

3. Unbolt the gate for dialogue and keep an open mind for voices from the people. As in the perennially bent lady at the junction.

4. Equal 'power' (for lack of a better word) in the sense that each of us count as much as the guy next door. Unequal 'power' means that voices will be ignored. So will 'unity'.

5. Use bridges; mine, yours, and a third party's. Talk of commonalities in cultures, in food, dress, whatever... In Malaysia, I believe we have tons of it. For example, Baju Melayu, Baju Kebaya, nasi lemak, koew teow kerang, kongsi raya... durian... And exploit English as a third party bridge to bridge our differences.

Ooooh... easy to say, difficult to implement?

I for one have pretty much given up hope on the present crop of inepts in the administration.

Now if PAS can promise and demonstrate slowly but surely their determination to carve out a truly democratic Malaysia based on universal principles, which I believe are often consistent with Islamic principles, I am willing to give them a shot.

Re-branding alone will not enhance the product.

They (or, we?) have a mountain to move...

Why not start the game by playing down the religious issues and get on with how much a plate of mee rebus is going to cost me in 5 years' time.

By the way, I wear a sarong to sleep and I love the Baju Melayu...

(Note: shooting off to Tokyo by ANA tomorrow, and staying at the 'romantic' Taisho era Gingko-nut Villa... )