Archive for September, 2013


(William Boyd, left, the author of the new James Bond novel “Solo” poses for photographers with flight attendants during a launch photocall).

007 James Bond is back, much as we remember him but also subtly different. To the latest Bond author, the dashing secret agent looks a bit like Daniel Day-Lewis.

British writer William Boyd, who has written a new official James Bond novel authorised by creator Ian Fleming’s family, says Day-Lewis would be perfect to play the 007 he has created in Solo. Boyd says Fleming once described Bond as “looking like the American singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.

Daniel Day-Lewis looks like Hoagy Carmichael.” So readers are advised to banish images of Sean Connery or Daniel Craig when they read Solo.

The novel, set in 1969, takes the suave British spy 45 years old and feeling his age from London’s plush Dorchester Hotel to a war-ravaged West African country and onto Washington on a perilous lone mission. Boyd, 61, who has won the Whitbread and Costa book prizes, follows writers including Kingsley Amis and Sebastian Faulks as a successor to Fleming, who died in 1964.

Espionage is familiar ground for the author, whose books include the spy thrillers Restless and Waiting for Sunrise. Boyd has been a Bond fan since he read From Russia With Love as “an illicit thrill” after lights-out at his 1960s boarding school. His novel stays faithful to Fleming’s character, from his meticulous approach to clothes to his fondness for cigarettes and whiskey to his love for attractive women.

“There’s a lot of eating and drinking. There’s a lot of interest in clothes. Bond is a sensualist,” Boyd said on Wednesday.

Although the novel includes two women for 007, Boyd is not keen on the expression “Bond girl.” “Bond has relationships with women,” he said. “It seems to me he wants a relationship it’s not just casual sex.”

Solo was launched on Wednesday with a suitably glamorous photo call at the Dorchester, naturally involving vintage Jensen sports cars and flight attendants. Seven copies of the books were driven in a Jensen convoy to Heathrow Airport, destined for seven cities around the world with ties to Boyd or Bond Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Zurich, New Delhi, Los Angeles, Cape Town and Sydney.

The book hits British bookstores on Thursday and will be published on October 8, 2013 in the United States and Canada.


Looks like Malaysia cannot be trusted. Yes, it reflects most adversely on the credibility and international standing of Malaysia for reneging on its commitments and undertakings in the Hatyai Agreement signed some 20 years ago.

The Hatyai Peace Agreement was signed at 8pm on November 30th 1989 in the Lee Gardens Hotel in Hatyai between the Malaysian Government the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and the Thai Government. Malaysia’s long standing conflict with communism ended when Malaysia, Thailand government and the CPM finally signed the Peace Accord after a long-drawn conflict which was fought for 41 long years before finally laying down their arms.

The Malaysian Government was represented by Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Haji Wan Sidek Wan Abdul Rahman, Chief of the Defence Forces Jen Tan Sri Hashim Mohd Ali and Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar.

Thai Armed Forces Chief General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Police-General Sawaeng Therasawat, Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Anek Sithiprasasana and Regional Internal Security Operations Command Director Lt Gen Yodhana Yamphundu signed on behalf of the Thai government.

The CPM side were represented by Chin Peng aka Ong Boon Hwa, Abdullah and Rashid Maydin.

During the signing of the Peace Accord Chin Peng in his speech even pledged his allegiance to the Yang diPertuan Agong and the country and said the accord was in line with CPM’s intention to make peace with the Malaysian government.

Then, why was not this agreement honoured by the Malaysian side? The Malaysian side didn’t even allow the CPM leader Chin Peng to come back to Malaysia to visit his hometown to pay respects to his parents’ graves in Sitiawan, when he requested. Now, after death, even Chin Peng’s ashes cannot be brought home. Why? Even Former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor is saying that Malaysia will become a laughing stock if the government adamantly refuses to allow Chin Peng’s remains to be brought into the country. I agree fully with the Former IGP.

Maybe the Malaysian side should go back and study history all over again, they should visit Imperial War Museum London or maybe just watch “Test Nationhood” a brilliant 35-minute propaganda film on Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960, by the Imperial War Museum.

Below is Chin Peng’s farewell letter obtained by Malaysiakini’s correspondent in Bangkok:

“My dear Comrades, my dear Compatriots,

When you read this letter, I am no more in this world.

It was my original intention to pass away quietly and let my relatives handle the funeral matters in private. However, the repercussions of erroneous media reports of me in critical condition during October 2011, had persuaded me that leaving behind such a letter is desirable.

Ever since I joined the Communist Party of Malaya and eventually became its secretary-general, I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals. Now with my passing away, it is time that my body be returned to my family.

I draw immense comfort in the fact that my two children are willing to take care of me, a father who could not give them family love, warmth and protection ever since their birth. I could only return my love to them after I had relinquished my political and public duties, ironically only at a time when I have no more life left to give to them as a father.

It was regrettable that I had to be introduced to them well advanced in their adulthood as a stranger. I have no right to ask them to understand, nor to forgive. They have no choice but to face this harsh reality. Like families of many martyrs and comrades, they too have to endure hardship and suffering not out of their own doing, but out of a consequence of our decision to challenge the cruel forces in the society which we sought to change.

It is most unfortunate that I couldn’t, after all, pay my last respects to my parents buried in hometown of Sitiawan (in Perak), nor could I set foot on the beloved motherland that my comrades and I had fought so hard for against the aggressors and colonialists.

My comrades and I had dedicated out lives to a political cause that we believed in and had to pay whatever price there was as a result. Whatever consequences on ourselves, our family and the society, we would accept with serenity.

In the final analysis, I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.

It is irrelevant whether I succeeded or failed, at least I did what I did. Hopefully the path I had walked on would be followed and improved upon by the young after me. It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die.

Farewell, my dear Comrades!

Farewell, my dear Compatriots!

Farewell, my dear Motherland!”


The Third Rail of Malaysian Politics: True Leadership.


For many years now, MANY in Malaysia have had an uneasy feeling that democracy, as generally understood, sits uneasily among the people of this country. Malaysia has large and sometimes articulate political parties and it has had leaders totally committed to the concept of democracy, which is also true. There was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Hussein Onn, John Aloysius Thivy, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, Tun Fuad Donald Stephens, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, Peter Mojuntin, Tun Mustapha, O K K Sedomon, Ahmad Boestaman,  and others who believed in the concept of democracy as the only one that would keep Malaysia together and take it forward.

Like true democrats they believed that dissent was an essential part of democracy, and that the country would only be enriched by debate and discussion, even by agitation if that became necessary. Their belief was complemented by their direct contact with the people; the trust that people had in them made it possible for them to persuade them to accept, enthusiastically, the beliefs and ideas they gave them.

But when such leaders and people are not there any more, what happens to the parties and institutions they have built and nurtured? One facile answer is that political argument gets stronger and power shifts from one group to another when elections are held. In other words, the people decide who will have the responsibility to manage the state, removing those whom they consider incapable and bringing in those they think can do the job. This is very convenient and comforting. It is also totally fictitious.

It is true that political argument does get stronger, more so because of the increasingly watchful media both print and electronic, of which most political groups have become wary, even fearful, and not without reason. The fiction lies in the belief that the “people” remove those who do not perform and bring in those who they think can perform.

First, the concept of “people” is simplistic; the vast numbers of individuals in the state are an infinitely complex entity consisting of a vast number of groups and sub-groups. This enormous mass of individuals does not come together and decide anything; that is not what happens, not at all. What happens is that a strategy aimed at finding acceptance with groups of individuals, in some cases possibly fortuitously, works or works better than the strategy of another group.

In the 2008 general elections, the strategy of what was called the Third Front did not work; most individuals did not trust it. In a muddle of strategies, five states fell to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat but not because it had planned to do so. It had, of course, tried to win the Federal Government, but its plans were wide off the mark. When it won 5 states and 82 parliamentary seats it must have been as surprised as anyone else.

On the other hand, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman had a strategy that he had worked on for years since 2003 – to give people the kind of development and security they had been yearning for – and his many victories till 2013 May 5th was no surprise, except perhaps to his opponents, and their surprise was more at the magnitude of his success than at the victory itself. It made their strategies and plans look comic in comparison. Musa Aman is an exception, and a phenomenon confined to Sabah.

At the national level, and in most other States, the structure of democracy is being subjected to forces that may well change it completely over time. To understand that one has, perhaps, to take a step back and look at what the process is about today.  It is not about representing the “people’s” will. It is about control and power.

Our so-called democracy is defined not by the existence of dissent and opposition activity but by the nature of the power wielded. It is monarchical and meant to secure the interests, political and economic, of the ruling group, whichever it is. And this is done by ensuring that power remains with an elite group – preferably the family, but also those who are close to it and share the same backgrounds.

One can see it today in what many refer to as the First Family in the Umno Baru; Dr Mahathir Mohamad is clearly grooming his son, Mukhriz, to be the next Prime Minister. But they are not by any means the only family. Look at the number of sons and daughters and son-in-law now who are inducted into the corridors of power:  Najib Tun Razak, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein Onn, Khairy Jamaluddin, even Mukhriz Mahathir in Kedah who is what he is because he is Dr Mahathir’s son, and a whole host of others whom media naively call the Young Turks. The original Young Turks were not just young; they had come to prominence because of their abilities, not because of who their father or mother or father-in-law was. A number of sons and daughters whom the media naively call Young Turks have been inducted into the corridors of power.

Inevitably, the elements of power are being chivied towards specific families, which will then determine who will stand for elections for their parties, and thus consolidate their own position, securing it for their generation and the generations to follow. Increasingly, their contact with the people has become more and more distant; the people get to be called the “rakyat” who have to be maneuvered by race, religion, money and promises. But this is not a phenomenon confined to the Umno party; it is as much in evidence in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat parties such as the DAP, PKR and PAS. Look at Lim Guan Eng, Nurul Izzah, Karpal’s sons, Ustaz Din Tok Guru the son-in-law of PAS President Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, so many more.

And where the factor of unease comes in is in what appears to be an inevitable slide towards oligarchy, where an elite takes over power – political and economic. It is economic, too, of course. All the big corporate giants are busy grooming their sons and daughters to take their place among the power elite; Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary is only one instance of this. Even the much-revered Al Bukhary group is reportedly looking for a Syed to head it once Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary leaves; Vincent Tan has already inducted his son into his Berjaya empire, so has Kuok Brothers, so has Ananda Krishnan.

One can only hope that this is not what we have in store for us, that we do produce some leaders from outside the elite families who, like Musa Aman in Sabah, will lead with clear concepts of development.