Minding my language.

Since my previous column appeared in Malaysiakini in somewhat altered form, largely on the grounds that the term “Babisan Nasional” was overly offensive, I’m watching my words more carefully this week.

But the more I think about exercising verbal restraint, the more it strikes me as somewhat unfair. After all, I’m pretty well restricted to English when it comes to choosing my words, as I’ve long forgotten most of the French and Latin I learned in school. And when I do use a word from my pathetically small store of Malay expressions I tend to get in trouble, as above.

Whereas most of you lucky Malaysiakini readers, like many members and supporters of the BN regime I’m so dedicated to criticising, have the facility to communicate in two, three or even more languages.

So as a monoglot I naturally feel totally out-gunned, and even worse out-punned, in the war of words I’ve so long been trying to wage against the forces of evil in Malaysia.

I do have one factor in my favour, however. While I strive to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, albeit only in English, BN politicians and their mouth-pieces in the ‘mainstream’ media are incapable of telling anything even remotely resembling the truth in any of their languages.

And their practise of speaking in forked tongues is starting to work against them to a most telling extent.

For example, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been misleading Malaysians for so long that every weasel word he says or writes these days excites far more rebuttal than belief.

A typical example this week of his utter loss of credibility was the chorus of scorn that greeted his statement that the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) “poses no danger whatever to human life.”

“To say that Lynas is dangerous to human life is sheer nonsense,” Malaysiakini quoted him as telling a Perdana Leadership Foundation forum, and going on to argue that “rare earths are used to make the lithium-ion batteries that are in our phones, which we put to our ears. If it is dangerous, then we would all be without brains.”

But the public response to this demonstrated that, however much they might use their phones, most Malaysians are no longer so brainless as to accept such a typical Mahathir non-sequitur (pardon my Latin) as this attempt to prove the non-toxicity of radioactive production waste through the safety of finished products.

Just as illogical and incredible would be the argument that Mahathir may well have used in the past, for all I know, to justify the notoriously destructive Raub mining operation, that since gold is safe to wear as jewellery, the cyanide used in its extraction must be harmless.

Of course Mahathir is by no means alone in his ability to lie in any or all of the languages in which he’s fluent. So many lies have been told about the Lynas operation by now by parliamentarians, ‘experts’ and others that nobody has the faintest idea as the truth of the matter.

But the lie that has possibly done the most damage to the proponents and supporters of the Lamp plant, and by extension to the BN regime, has been the one told by Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob about the Himpunan Hijau walk in protest against the project.

Yaakob contemptuously claimed that participants in last month’s 300-km walk had really only walked 200 metres and completed the rest of their journey “in luxury and in motorcars.”

Such an arrogant falsehood in the face of the dozens of people who completed the entire walk, not to mention the estimated 20,000 who completed the last stage in KL was a big mistake.

As he discovered last week when Tuw Yin Lan, the 71-year-old activist popularly known as Aunty Mei, confronted him outside his office and demanded an apology.

Far from being abashed at being confronted in his pathetic lie, Yaakob foolishly exchanged angry words with his accuser, then peeled some notes from a roll he produced from his pocket in a time-honoured BN-style attempt to make his problem go away by throwing money at it.

But Aunty Mei was not so easily deterred, and so threatening was her body-language, apparently, that she had to be restrained and was later charged along with two of her friends with “obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions and threat of injury to a public servant.”

The lady was unrepentant, however, later speaking not only for herself but a great many of us with the comment that “his action has disgraced himself. I don’t feel insulted at all (by Yaakob’s offer of money to buy food). Instead I despise him more. It has shown his personality and the true colours of the government.”

These were fighting words in anybody’s language. And it is high time that more Malaysians took a leaf out of Aunty Mei’s book and just as vocally rejected the barrage of verbal bull that BN operatives expect them to swallow.

The most distasteful of which this week, with all due disrespect to the efforts of Mahathir and Yaakob, was the contention by Deputy Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar that the family of A Kugan, a suspect who died in police custody, may have tampered with his body before a second post-mortem was performed.

The former Selangor police chief was giving evidence in the Kuala Lumpur High Court in a RM100-million suit brought by Kugan’s family against him personally as well as the police force and the BN government.

The court heard that the first post-mortem on Kugan’s corpse listed 22 injuries and gave the cause of death as “fluid on the lungs,” while the second catalogued 45 injuries and adjudged the cause of death to be “the failure of the vital organs as a result of beatings.”

Given this kind of brutality to police detainees, the feelings of their families and the truth, not to mention the outrageous financial crimes the BN regime routinely commits, it’s no wonder some of us have trouble minding our language.

But never mind. Whatever languages we speak, and however politely or otherwise, most of us can’t wait for Malaysian voters to have the last word on the unspeakable BN regime in the looming general election.




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