I am delighted to note that according to Malaysiakini the Malaysian Attorney General has discontinued proceedings against the 12 Indians on trial for alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with immediate effect.In his statement he reveals the poverty of reasoning behind the charges as follows, ” the common thread among all of them was that they simply had photos of slain LTTE leaders such as Velupillai Prabhakaran in their phones or Facebook accounts”, and quite rightly, if belatedly, he acknowledges that “If such conduct can constitute a criminal offence, it would bring the law into disrepute.” He has saved the nation’s legal system from the absurdity that was arising in the context of these charges against Indians for celebrating the cause of Tamil Elam and the defunkt Tamil Tigers! The Attorney General’s full statement is available here and is definitely worth a read!
As an aside, I can not help but speculate on the implications of the timing of this withdrawal of charges against the 12 Indians, which comes on the heels of the announcement of the transfer of the policeman responsible for these arrests, Malaysian counterterrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, to a new position as head the police force in Johor state.
Congratulations to the inimitable Zainub Verjee on being conferred the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts 2020. Eight laureates were honoured in recognition of their exceptional careers and their remarkable contributions to the visual arts, media arts and fine craft in Canada.
I signed the petition put forward by the families of the 12 Malaysian Indians arrested in 2019, charged and detained for supporting LTTE. The petition appeals to Malaysian parliamentarians and senators to call for a withdrawal of the charges against these 12 individuals. It also calls on the Home Ministry to annul the listing of the LTTE as a terror organization under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (ALMA ).
The LTTE, which many Tamils throughout the world see as a liberation force, lost their war with the Sri Lankan state in 2009 and there have been no tangible signs of a re-emergence since. Incredulously, it is as if a mere entry of an organization on the ALMA proscription list, no doubt a definition ‘in law’, has established the existence of the entity ‘in fact’. While the PDRM ( Malaysian police) had, at the time of the arrests, made intimations that large financial movements were involved, no such charges have as yet been brought.
The petition states that the ALMA listing of LTTE as a terrorist organization in 2014 was done without making the public aware and, as such, that the arrests of the 12 individuals were made without notice. Regardless of the question of notice, or lack there of, the perversity of the arrest of these Indians under ALMA, without attendant finance related charges, is highlighted by the 3rd consecutive dismissal of a related bail application by the High Court on Friday Feb 14. It is reported in the Star Newspaper that Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah dismissed the application by Suresh Kumar on grounds that a terrorism offence under Section 130J of the Penal Code is non-bailable as provided under Section 13 of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
To understand the escalating pipeline conflict between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation land defenders and Coastal GasLink, it is necessary to trace the line of financial interests behind this CAD $6.2-billion investment. According to CTV News on December 26, 2019 TC Energy announced the sale of a 65% share of this pipeline project to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (on behalf a number of its clients). In the oil and gas industry, pipeline infrastructure, which is located between extraction facilities and refineries/ export terminals, are referred to as the the ‘midstream’. Coastal GasLink is, in fact, the 3rd Oil ‘midstream’ Canadian infrastructure project that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) has invested in. You could say that the Canadian oil and gas industry has delegated the most contentious aspect of the industry, the aspect that involves traversing First Nations territory, to KKR. So who are they?
Well, as Joyce Nelson informs us, KKR is a Wall Street ‘private equity’ firm with Canadian headquarters in Calgary. It is a massive financial entity that is in the business of investing in companies that are facing difficult scenarios, eventually re-selling the equity, to make large profits. In Western Canada KKR now owns the Encana Corp. natural gas pipeline and also has a stake in SemCams Midstream, which owns and operates 700 miles of natural gas pipelines in partnership with Energy Transfer. Energy Transfer is the company that, notoriously, subdued indigenous protesters from at the Standing Rock reservation in the U.S. in 2016 by marshalling effective state-supported repression.
In short, as nelson notes,“KKR not only has a primary position in the midstream natural gas industry of Western Canada, it also has scandalously partnered with a company well-versed in stopping indigenous protests”. Further, as if to underscore its access to the apparatus of the state, KKR has appointed retired four-star U.S. general and former director of the CIA, General David Petraeus as chair of KKR Global Initiative, its own in house intelligence agency.
The High Court dismissed an application for bail by B. Subramaniam on a charge, under Section 130J (1)(a) of the Penal Code, of giving support to the LTTE terrorist group. According to a report in the Malay Mail, the judge held that the offence under that section, which provides for a life sentence or a maximum 30 years, is not bailable. This is the second bail application from the group of 12 detainees charged with LTTE related offences to be brought forward. Both applications have been denied.
Tonight is Oscar Night! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts will be handing out their coveted awards amongst their ever expanding fraternity … expanding in the sense of both local and global diversity! But has this community really moved on from the gratuitous whiteness of D W Griffith’s seminal Birth of a Nation?
This year Quentin Tarantino’sOnce Upon A Time in Hollywood is up for 10 awards including, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing and Best Original Screenplay. Unlike the rest which one could say are more self-contained or technical, these awards go to the heart or ethos of the film, of its author and of its financiers. Tarantino broke new ground in the cinematic arts with his brand of relentless pastiche, irreverent parody and fanboy reference. His films have always seemed to be racially offensive, misogynist and even misanthropic … and yet he has managed to negotiate a place for himself in the pantheon of American movie directors. I suggest that he has done this because he has convinced his audience, myself included, that his was a meta-cinema, a cinema about cinema itself. When he has had his magnificently African American lead Samuel L Jackson say his N words with panache, and his leading ladies doing his sado-masochistic bidding with apparent ease, I have given him licence as I have believed that Quentin’s art, if not his heart, was in the right place.
Yes, I believed that Quentin was true to his cinema, which is afterall, the art of making an ‘afterimage’ of cinema itself. As I have said before, I have forgiven Tarantino many a pretentious flic on the basis of my faith in his art and in his humanity. With his gratuitously degrading portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,however, I have lost my faith. Instead of giving us a reference to the old hollywood stereotype of the ‘Chinaman’, he seems to have produced an unnecessary one all by himself. The deep irony of this scenario is that Tarantino’s earlier homage to martial arts films, the Kill Bill diptych, has David Carradine indexing his own role in the iconic TV series Kung Fu. Carradine got the role, in an era in which a Chinese actor could not play the lead on American screens. A further irony is that there is a suggestion that Kung Fu was plagiarized from a scenario that Bruce Lee had developed and presented to studios as a vehicle for himself. In any event, it was Bruce Lee who, very soon after the launch of Kung Fu, smashed the ‘Chinaman’ type with his blockbuster Hollywood production, Enter the Dragon.
The ‘quality’ of the directing and screenwriting of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and the ethos of the work are exemplified in its ‘gratuitous’ Bruce Lee segment. I, for one, can not see it as art. I can not give this film either the grace of irony or the respect of commentary, and must now review all racial slurs, misogyny and violence in Tarantino’s oeuvre in this new light. An Academy Award in any one of these three categories – Best Picture, Best Director or Best Original Screenplay, would, for me at least, index an institutional ethos that aggrandizes the gratuitous self expression of its auteurs, regardless of their ethics or of their art. The Golden Globes have already fallen in my esteem (oddly the film won in the category of Best Musical or Comedy – NOT FUNNY!), let’s hope the Academy survives!