The changing face of Malaysian politics
By Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur
Recently the daughter of a former prime minister of Malaysia compared the fate of Muslim women to black South Africans under apartheid. And senior police officers received a public dressing-down by their chief for a lack of awareness of human rights. But Jonathan Kent is keen to put on record that, behind the headlines, lurks another, different, Malaysia.
Burnt in hellHe [Nik Aziz] may believe that I am going to burn in hell but he is always charming and welcoming, and there is always a mischievous sparkle in his eye
Belacan and durian
In Pulau Tikus on Penang Island there is a coffee shop - I forget its name - what locals call a kopitiam, in the hokkien Chinese dialect.
It is old and not particularly clean, its tables and chairs are plastic and the food is extraordinary only in the way that much of the food in Malaysia is extraordinary.
They do a few dishes and they do them well. This is the kind of place I meet up with friend or interviewees and where they ask the key Malaysian questions.
"Can you take spicy ah?" They push small bowls of hot chillies towards me and look coy.
"Spicy, no problem," I'll say and pop a chilli padi in my mouth.
"You can take belacan [dried shrimp paste]?" they ask.
"Belecan oso," I reply, "and petai."
"What about durian?" Durian is a fruit the taste of which has been described as like eating cheese off a dead body.
"Aiyoh," I say "durian cannot," and screw up my face.
These last two years the quiet Malaysians have started to speak up
Recently I recorded five from very different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds debating police reform, something I think they may have been too scared to do under the old premier, Mahathir Mohamad.
But these last two years the quiet Malaysians have started to speak up.
Animals in the Rumah Barlimen
And though the braying benches of parliamentarians who call one another monkeys or racists warn that public debate will lead to race war, disorder and strife, the Malaysians I meet can thrash out the issues and get along with one another just fine.
And with a quiet Malaysian like Abdullah Badawi at the helm perhaps their time has come.
Listen to the podcast on how Jonathan Kent speaks Manglish like 'lar' and 'kennot' here. (Fast forward to towards the end.)
Yeah rite. Has he seen the bigger picture yet? Who is controlling the largest media conglomerate in Malaysia? And need not look far; just yesterday, see what happened if we broke the silence?
Yes, we are starting to speak up pseudo-artificially, but yet most of us are suffering in silence.
So let me pose this question to my readers out there:
Is the deafening silence of The Wise Man a 'blessing in disguise' or a 'wolf in a sheep skin'?