20 May 2009

Detainees' poetry launched in Kuala Lumpur

A book of poetry and prose by Singaporeans detained without trial or in exile had its Malaysian launch last weekend. Unfortunately, they didn't make much political capital of it. Someone also forgot to update them about Singapore's national flower. Full essay.


alfian said...

I'm one of those enamoured by the idea of a bygone Malaya, Alex. : )

And I thought that the gesture by Francis Khoo to speak in Malay was a nice touch. It spoke of a time when immigrants to the region knew that the native language here is, and still is, Malay. The Barisan Sosialis, even as most of its members consisted of the Chinese left, chose a name in Malay for their political party. Even Kuo Pao Kun, while he was in detention, studied the Malay language.

I don't think it was Khoo's attempt to prove his patriotism, but to signal to a time when Singapore wasn't Sinopore. There was a Malayan consciousness at that time, which people like Tay Kheng Soon often allude to--a (self-?)conscious process of acculturation that sought to graft a transplanted culture onto an indigenous one, one that celebrated hybridity.

A Malayan consciousness, a Malayan aesthetic, a Malayan nationalism.

Alfian. : )

Anonymous said...

Hi Alfian,

I have to agree with Alex and say that the view which you express is irrelevant. I would even say that it is to a degree alienating.

Are present-day Malaysians able to conceptualise "[a] Malayan consciousness, a Malayan aesthetic, a Malayan nationalism"? What do these things mean anyway?

Anonymous said...

Hello again Alfian,

You wrote: "Even Kuo Pao Kun, while he was in detention, studied the Malay language."

The sixty-four thousand dollar question: so what? Said Zahari learnt Mandarin while in detention himself. So what?

Anonymous said...

our national anthem is still sung in malay. and not many remember what is the english or mandarin translation. heck. many might not even know what they are singing except that the rough idea is about an emergence of a new young nation. but the hibiscus part is a bit too far fetched.

Teo Soh Lung said...

Hi Alex

I take your points and agree with what you say to a large extent. There is much to say about openness in Singapore and the ISA. The launch was perhaps not a good place or time to delve into the topic.

As for the symbolism of the past, I think you have to understand a bit of the minds of ex detainees and exiles of the 50s, 60s and 70s. They do live in the past to a certain extent but not without a reason. The sufferings they and their families went through is difficult to imagine. Many of them are not able to speak of their experiences even today. It is hoped that the anthology will help to a limited extent to explain what happened in the past.

To the question that you did not have the opportunity to ask, my response is that yes, the ISA should be abolished. Singapore has too many laws and we don't need the ISA.

Anonymous said...

i disagree. the ISA is good law. it is just unfortunate that Singapore, like Malaysia, uses it to detain political dissidents rather than true terrorists. but i admit there is a dilemma when it comes to whether to give a terrorist a fair trial, detain to obtain more info (since the peopl ecaught in the act are often not the key figures in the network, also run the risk of compromising undergoing undercover intelligence collection), or to give a trial.

alfian said...

Hi anonymous @ 21 May 12:45 and @12:48

It's possibly alienating to you, but let's bear in mind that the launch was held in Malaysia, where it is likely the majoirty, both Malay and non-Malay alike, are conversant in Bahasa Malaysia.

A ssomeone who is Malay, and indigenous to the region, I did not find Khoo's gesture of speaking in Malay alienating at all. : )