On Being Malaysian Tamil 1

I am a Malaysian of Jaffna Tamil extraction. My late father was a Seremban born Malaysian but my Mother, also now deceased, was a Jaffna girl. Just as the Malays of the peninsular index the notion of a homeland with the term Tanah Melayu, the Tamils of Jaffna use the term Elam. Unlike the Indians and Chinese populations of Malaysia, the majority of whom came under the auspices of the British, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are the descendants of the subjects of ancient Tamil Kingdoms. As such, they have a sense of attachment and entitlement to the land commonly found in those who have occupied and ruled for centuries. Neither the majority Sinhalese nor the minority Tamils are beholden to any compromise or ‘social contract’ that colours the way minorities belong in Malaysia. I have observed the consequent violent Elam struggle from afar. I have experienced it vicariously through news of grandparents and aunties caught in the crossfire between the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam)and the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force), teenage cousins in being sent away to India and Canada as they reached their teenage years for fear of being killed by the SLA (Sri Lankan Army) or Forcibly recruited by the Tigers …. and there are many other such family situations that I have experienced vicariously, scenarios whose trauma I have felt through my mother’s emotional responses.

My father was a pragmatist and a dove, “Minority Tamils need to compromise with the Sinhala majority! Given the demographics of post-colonial Sri Lanka, armed struggle is futile ,” I can imagine him encapsulating his position. My mother however, was a Tigress at heart! Metaphorically speaking,that is! “They have taken away our language and now they will push us into to the sea!” She could not stand the injustices, indignities and the cruelties experienced by the Tamils and once the war had begun she was emotionally behind “our boys and girls” fighting with the LTTE! You have to recall that the LTTE was not designated as a terrorist organization in Malaysia at the time of this war of independence. (It is much later in 2014 that the designation was given, long after the war had been lost and the LTTE decimated in 2009). And my mother’s openly emotional allegiance meant serious arguments with my father. Although, I was more interested in questions of race, nationality and justice in my own Malaysian milieu, I absorbed all the contrasting positions and sentiments … more in On Being a Malaysian Tamil 2

My Country

8 My Country, Dendang Koboi Gelap Series, 2016

It is the morning of the 31st of August 2019 and I am posting this image from my home in Vancouver (16 hrs behind in seeing the Sun), thinking of Malaysia and Malaysians on this day of our Independence ! This image is part of the Dendang Koboi Gelap series (https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/koboigelap ) of the Koboi Project which was shot in December 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, and Vancouver as well as at the National Gallery of Singapore which had just opened in November 2015 and Vancouver . The photography is by Tan Sei Hon, Durga Rajah and various stewards and visitors at the National Gallery of Singapore. It is a set of 12 Archival Silver-Halide Dye Prints issued in an Edition of 9 and 1 Artist’s Proof. The series consists of 9 landscape images at 20″ X 30″ and 3 portrait images at 13.33″ X 20″.

Mahathir’s Error on the Jews

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s reputation for being ‘antisemitic’, was recently brought to mind by the problems experienced by his family in the movie business (in the context of investments made in the production of the film Dr Strange). In the interest of the truth, of his legacy, and perhaps even of his family’s business interests, I urge him to make one specific correction in his world Jewry rhetoric. As evidenced by the Senator Ilhan Omar affair, there is an urgent need to cleave in two the confused referent/s of these signifiers  –  ‘Jew’ and ‘Zionist.’  In fact, as explained by Rabbi Dovid Weiss in the Al Jazeera interview above, the conflation of these signs serves the cause of Zionism. Haderim (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews are amongst the firmest and truest defenders of Palestine and Palestinians. Many Muslim nations, communities and leaders have been fair weather friends of the Palestinians, but not these gentle, archaic and God fearing Jews. Just listen to the humility, clarity, love and courage expressed by the Rabbi, bearing in mind that his people resist Zionism from communities across the world and even, at great risk, from the within the heart of Israel (Haderim Jews constituted over 12% of Israel’s population in 2017). While I am tickled by the reflexive candour of Mahathir’s taxonomy of noses and comprehend the political expediency revealed in his explanation that ‘the people’  will understand better if he says ‘Yahudi‘ (Jews) instead of ‘Zionist’, I am nevertheless perplexed by, even ashamed of, his  perpetuation of this Zionist conflation, not least because it obscures the diversity of  positions held by the Jewish peoples, amongst whom are these staunch allies of Palestine! I hope that the good Dr. will be more nuanced in his use of the terms ‘Jewish’, ‘Zionist’ and even ‘Israeli’ before he ends his time on the world’s stage.

Maksud saya Yahudi bukan semestinya Zionis. Sila rujuk kepada – Yahudi yang Anti-Zionis, Yahudi yang Pro-Palestina)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUppu2OHVTY&feature=youtu.be&t=98

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-politics-mahathir-jews/back-to-old-habits-malaysias-mahathir-calls-jews-hook-nosed-idUSKCN1MC15T

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/468898

https://intpolicydigest.org/2019/03/15/on-ilhan-omar-and-anti-semitism/

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/240041

https://youtu.be/IDfpOdu8Bdc?t=171

https://tirto.id/yahudi-yang-anti-zionis-yahudi-yang-pro-palestina-cAYY