Sometimes something-someone may matter more than ourselves

AND I THOUGHT THAT through 20 YEARS IN POLITICS I HAD SEEN & HEARD IT ALL! Evidently not… I didn’t think that someone would-could actually PLAY POLITICS and VILIFY – “speak or write about in an abusively disparaging manner… belittle, diminish, deprecate, cast aspersions on, decry, criticize unfairly, attack, speak ill of, speak badly of, blacken the character of, blacken the name of, give someone a bad name, sully the reputation of…” A NOBLE DEED of a 12 year old boy wanting to donate his savings (for a drum set) towards Tabung Harapan Malaysia instead. The person who publicly denounced this accusing Lim Kit Siang and Hannah Yeoh (who were present at the ceremony) calling it a “gimmick and a pretty cheap stunt” is to my own shame and disgust from my own party (which we formed after 1998 when – thankfully – such a person was not with us!). You can fight and say all you want among politicians BUT NOT WHEN IT INVOLVES A TEENAGER WHO WISHES TO BE PATRIOTIC! What a horrific SHAME you have brought to our party which was born out of the REFOMASI movement. (Please sue me; I would love to meet you in court: adult versus adult!)

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said (in MKini) after receiving criticism for overseeing a 12-year-old boy donating his piggy bank to Tabung Harapan Malaysia that the young should be allowed to express themselves. “For everyone who is criticising this move to allow Ervin (Devadasan) to donate to Tabung Harapan Malaysia – I have this to say: It is time we allow our young to express themselves freely and we support them when their desire is noble. “He wants to help his country. He spoke with conviction. I am proud of Ervin, and I am certain we have many similar stories across Malaysia. Keep doing what is right,” she said in a Facebook posting. “I am not ashamed to witness the handover of his piggy bank. The people who should be ashamed are those who have stolen from the taxpayers and is the reason for the existence of such a fund,” she added. INDEED!

And as for you dear BRAVE DRUMMER BOY, thank you for showing us – young and old – that SOMETIMES, SOMETHINGS, SOMEONE else may matter more than ourselves! GOD BLESS YOU!

Looking at the big picture is wise politics

Yes, the NEW GOVERNMENT can do things quickly and overturn wrong and many undesirable things… But your words and even your perfectly right actions should be undertaken prudently and wisely. You don’t just send messages to those who support you; for every message you send to your supporters, you thereby also send a message to those who don’t support you. You don’t want to unnecessarily widen the gap between those who support you and those who don’t.

Matthew 5. 25 “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”

Prudence, thinking ahead, looking at the big picture… is doing WISE POLITICS. I am of course overjoyed that at this time of writing, the issue of the nominee as new Attorney-General is more or less about to be settled to sufficient satisfaction… But I remind myself that politics is in Otto von Bismarck’s thinking the “art of the possible.” There is not just one way of accomplishing our objectives or policy. For the short term, impatient politicians and their voters alike, want things their way and with least delay. But “their way” would sometimes make unnecessary enemies and/or make existing enemies dig deeper trenches to fight on. Wasn’t it JESUS Who said,

” 38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”?

It would be preposterous for me to suggest here that we treat our political “enemies” to such an extent. I CAN’T. Yet as CHRIST’s ambassador in the political arena, dare I summarily dismiss this call of my CHRIST? At the very least, in these days and times when a change of government has indeed come about, irrespective of my low standard as a much flawed disciple, I am nevertheless duty-bound to CHRIST’s command and calling.

So utterly beyond imagination

Talk about being SMALL as I actually am and have always been – be it in pangkat/social stature, or physical stature (all 5 feet, 2 inches of me) or even the size of my pockets – these weeks after the general elections with the change of government and the discovery of what the previous government had been up to… the descriptive word is not small but BIGGGG! HUMONGOUS in fact! The BIGGEST swindle is the 1MDB with debts of RM 42 billion; the payment of interest for 1MDB borrowings alone amounts to RM143.75 million which is due to be paid by 1MDB on this May 30 (and yes to be footed by our new government with the people’s money!).

And this is just 1MDB. I suspect other shocks of the financial kind may yet surface.., etc., etc… Being an English Language & Literature major followed by training in Education at university and the rather small pockets in my trousers, I have no preparation in all my life for these dimension of statistics I am almost daily reading about pertaining to how my country had hitherto been governed money-wise (unwise, I should say!). Each month – as and when my expenditure nears RM625 (which reminds me of my monthly salary in my first full-time Christian work), my small trousers would be about to hoist its RED WARNING SIGNS!

THUS to be so rudely confronted by millions and billions of ringgit been spent dengan begitu sahaja/SO NONCHALANTLY quite honestly is SO UTTERLY BEYOND my imagination; nothing has hitherto prepared me for this size of expenditure. Small though I have always been, I did not know until now – after the general elections which spilled the beans at us citizens – how really small I actually am… And even my LOUDEST SCREAMS and my most RIGHTEOUS ANGER and my heart-breaking SORROW would not match the SIN which the previous GOVERNMENT had committed against US the PEOPLE… And this is just in monetary terms.

(NB. In rereading what I have just written here, my small heart is breaking ever which way. As national director of World Vision East Timor ages back, for the smallest of smallest fraction of the wastage we are daily confronted with here, so much permanent good could have been done for the poorest in the community who did not have running water nor sufficient food crops nor better homes… nor education… for the poor in Timor Leste, not to mention the poor here at home. Tears are not eloquent enough to get the right thing done…)

Gentle and considerate; angry, frustrated, impatient, grieved …

(Eulogy delivered at the wake of Rev. PETER YOUNG)

The Reverend PETER YOUNG was indeed gentle and considerate as many here would testify. But he was not just gentle but ANGRY, frustrated, impatient, grieved. There is of course nothing wrong with that. The SAVIOUR he served was at times angry and frustrated. CHRIST had and spoke angry words to those who exploited their ‘religious’ position to exploit common people. CHRIST overturned the tables of the merchants in front of the Temple. Peter’s CHRIST called Scribes and Pharisees of His day, “… whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” CHRIST told them, “So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23.27,28) PETER YOUNG was angry along these lines. He wept as his JESUS wept. His English Language was of course pristine, elegant and learned but, at times in life and service, he did call a spade, a spade. But anger, frustration, impatience and tears brought on initiative, creativity, and inventiveness. Numerous times when I had been with him, I could literally sense and feel that thoughts and ideas were formulating in his mind and heart! PETER YOUNG did not just keep ideas and inspirations in his head; he did something with them! He served in many ministries and also help put in place numerous avenues of service to GOD and human beings – New Village ministry, school, church, Grady Wilson Evangelistic Campaign at Stadium Negara, Scripture Union, Christian Federation of Malaysia, Malaysian Care, Dignity & Services, United Voice, The Micah Mandate – all of which was testimony to the fact that his anger, frustration, impatience and tears, blending with his grace, gentleness, kindness and very big compassionate heart, opened many doors and took the GOSPEL OF CHRIST to countless others outside of the church walls. PETER YOUNG asked what must be done for the weak, poor and marginalised in society and was unfazed about what it would take to get it done. He ate like a bird (that was the one thing where he was not truly Malaysian) but then he also like the bird soared high and wide, way up into the sky with his ideas and deeds leaving us lesser mortals earth-bound and rooted to the ground. That was PETER YOUNG’s vision and mission! As big and comprehensive and far as it could humanly possibly get.

PETER was certainly not sedentary or laid back. He did function from home in his later years (and many of us here could picture him in his arm chair at home). But in earlier years, he was very much a hands-on operator. As SU general secretary, when I was finishing university he invited me to consider joining SU as the Inter-School Christian Fellowship (ISCF) staff worker. But the plan was to allow me to go on to teaching for a few years to gain experience which was agreeable to me. When I was only in my second year at Anglo-Chinese School Sitiawan (and second year in my marriage with Grace) – happy beyond description with my students and fellow teachers – one fine morning I was sent for by the headmaster! Upon entering the principal’s office, sitting with his legendary straight back posture was Peter Young! He had driven all the way to Sitiawan to deliver the message that I was immediately needed by SU! Daphne Roberts, OMF missionary from Australia, the ISCF staff worker had had her visa extension turned down by the Malaysian authorities. That afternoon, Peter even showed up at the Sitiawan Club tennis courts just to catch Moses Tay, Malaysia’s best tennis player and senior assistant at ACS Sitiawan, to convey the news that I would have to move away from Sitiawan because I had a prior commitment with SU! On that occasion, he got me into a lot of trouble with my headmaster, senior assistant, teachers and students and plunged my pleasant life into very serious turmoil! (Subsequent discussions permitted me to stay but only till the end of that school year.) Many more years later, when my Methodist bishop, Bishop Denis Dutton, requested my application to be the first CFM (Christian Federation of Malaysia) executive secretary, I appeared before the interview panel and there was Peter Young! He spoke first and said to me, “So Keat Peng, we have no other candidate!”, when in actual fact I was the last of nine candidates every one of whom I had shaken hands and spoken with when we waited to appear before the panel (and each one of them my senior and far more experienced and much better known in ecumenical circle than me!). Whereupon, the bishop stood up and shook my hands in welcome! My point here is that PETER YOUNG did not only serve his CHRIST himself but he identified and provided impetus, encouragement and avenues of CHRISTian service to a great number of us. Because of the kind of person and missionary he was, many of us were brought into CHRISTian service and learned the hard way often under his tutelage to become CHRIST’s servants too in a variety of ministries.

Regardless of what I actually thought of his methods and views at the material time, I had PETER YOUNG to thank for the path my life had taken in CHRISTian service – for better or worse. In our long walk together, we had times of much laughter but also times when we disagreed vehemently, argued heartily and fought each other fiercely, as was inevitable, since he was many many years ahead in ministry and I was of course but a L-licence driver! But like his dogs he loved so much, PETER was as faithful to us who served with him and were guided by him – in agreement or disagreement. He really cared for us and earnestly prayed for us and those he served. Because PETER YOUNG’s entire person and being was oriented to the cause and ministry of CHRIST’s GOSPEL. And he made the way for others of us to be involved. The ministries he helped found and served in opened up numerous avenues whereby those outside of the church had the opportunity to know the Grace of CHRIST. I think of our dear PETER YOUNG’s life of life-long ministry as an example of what it meant and caused to fulfil the words of our Lord JESUS: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10.16) PETER’s life was also in accord with what the Apostle Paul said and lived: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 1:21-26) PETER’s life of ministry became the social conscience for many of us and many churches.

I myself don’t quite know yet what life will now be like without PETER YOUNG. Although we were seldom physically together these past several years, he was frequently messaging me from his not-so-smart phone. He took the trouble keying in each letter to make a long message. NOW you and I shan’t have him: no more questions from him; no more promptings from him; no more nudging from him. JO (his daughter), you and your family shall miss him terribly. But this one thing we know: your dearest father, PETER YOUNG, belongs where he is now – IN THE ARMS of his LORD JESUS CHRIST and the HEAVENLY FATHER in Whose House “there are many rooms…” And I can just picture him – hand-in-hand with your mom, his dearest BETTY. THEY belong together. And we must let them be reunited for all eternity.

THANK YOU, FATHER for taking BETTY & PETER into YOUR ETERNAL HOME and there to never suffer or ever be troubled again. In fact, BETTY & PETER are now in the midst of the heavenly chorus as described in Revelation 7.9-12: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues (how PETER will love that!), standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.”

Henceforth, this will be how I picture my boss, my guide, my friend PETER YOUNG. And – in my own mind and my own imagination – I am sure our LORD GOD will let him stand in his trademark batik shirt (though it must now be a white-coloured one!) in the midst of the heavenly congregation unceasingly worshipping the LORD! Amen.

Change for the better

The country’s longest serving PM is ill. I would have kept quiet if not for the ill-will I have been reading in comments posted in blogosphere. I want to see desirable and necessary CHANGE for the greater good of the country. But such change will not come (but in fact is disproved) if those who wish for such change heap coal on a sick person’s head.

So I share here a conversation between a family member and me two nights ago: “Praying with you…” “Thank you Mr … Really appreciate it.” “Is he alright?” “Yes he is, has a … infection that requires … antibiotics and lots of rest.”

I continue to pray. My own political philosophy and practice is premised on this belief: The good does not absolve the bad; the bad does not entirely cancel out the good.

My prayer is founded on this belief: GOD’s Love and Grace is for all human beings and GOD answers prayer for those who are in need. Thus, I am praying for a man who is sick in hospital and for his family who is anxious.

The people is the nation

“A nation is not just some inorganic, impersonal concept or mere political vocabulary. It is from the original Greek, ethnos, commonly translated as ‘peoples’. So, ‘Kerana mu, Malaysia’ (a worthy previous theme for National Day celebration), in fact should be taken to mean ‘because of you, Malaysians’ or ‘for you, Malaysians’. The emphasis is on the people, rather than the symbolic flag or name of a nation.

Symbols are surely not nearly as important as what they symbolise.

We fuss over and are meticulous about symbols – that they be understandably treated with much reverence and respect – but neglect and do not show the same reverence and respect for the people that a national flag and name represent. To love a nation and respect its flag is to love and respect its people. Mere homage and reverence toward the symbols are no comfort to the people of the nation.

Frequently, the powers that be seek to rally citizens around the national flag but flagrantly ride slip-shod over these same people. What good does it do?

The people are the nation. The nation is its people. Its people as a whole must thrive, and be cared for.”


Religion can be relevant only if …

  1. it teaches and makes us value and respect all human beings regardless of race, creed and class
  2. it teaches us not to ridicule the beliefs and practices of others but instead to learn why others believe, practice and conduct their religious life the way they do so as to understand others better and extend effective help to others in a way that will be more readily acceptable to them
  3. it teaches us the wisdom to deal with life on this earth and to live moderately and considerately and not let the materialistic philosophy and pursuits destroy oneself as well as one’s family, colleagues and neighbours
  4. it teaches wrong from right and right from wrong and provides us with the strength, courage and will to favour right but reject wrong
  5. it inspires and emboldens us to vehemently reject injustice and to courageously insist that justice be done no matter what consequences we ourselves may have to face
  6. it provides us freedom to explore, to learn, to ponder and to make decisions for each of our own self and extend the freedom for others to make decisions for themselves
  7. it prepares us to face suffering be it economic reversal, medical illness or death as well as to wisely manage economic prosperity, good health and long life as the case may be
  8. it frees us from slavery to wrongful customs, burdens and entrapments of every kind so that we can hold true to what is just, righteous and good for oneself and others
  9. it saves me from my self importance and enables me to regard others better than myself:

Philippians 2. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (The Holy Bible)

In conclusion, speaking from the standpoint of my own religious community, if only I and others who claim we follow CHRIST will truly and faithfully study, understand and practice our Faith and be more like CHRIST, we would have more substantially contributed towards making this country and this world a better, fairer and considerate place. True religious practice is not to blame and fault others but our own selves. If my religious faith is not relevant to today’s world and the next generation, it is me who is at fault and I need not look further than myself to take the blame. It isn’t science or materialism which renders my religious faith irrelevant; it is my failure to fully comprehend the essence of my faith and the lack of real practice of it which puts people off it. When I read the Holy Bible, my attitude must be to let the Holy Bible speak to me and to judge and change me rather than my propensity in rushing to apply it to others.

Religion that is relevant is truth, values and principles that have been internalised in those who profess faith and belief so that the genuine and authentic outward expression of it will attract rather than put people off.

(Sharing at the Inter-Religious Forum commemorating the seventh anniversary of the passing of the Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda at Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Friday 23.08.2013)

The great pretenders

I would have thought that if you yourself had something to hide, you should be better served by saying less about other people. Like many today in Malaysia, I support and campaign for free speech and a much freer press. So in no way am I challenging the right of expression from any quarter. But my (and anybody else’s) right of expression does not in any way mean that others who disagree with me cannot say so to my face.

In current news, the USA does not like the fact that Russia has given temporary asylum to a high profile whistle-blower, never minding that the USA has very frequently been granting asylum (albeit called by a variety of more sanitised terms) to dissidents from other countries (particularly China). This is a blatant case of “What I do is always right (or can be justified)” whereas others doing the exact thing is always wrong. And so the USA president says, “I will go to an international conference hosted by Russia but I shan’t have a formal sit-down meeting with their president”. This is a syndrome which we Malaysians are given almost a daily dose of, also known as, “When we do it, there is nothing wrong; when you do it you face the music” (of the rockier kind).

Nearer home, south of the border, a certain personage seems periodically to have something to say and actually said so about other people’s country (particularly the country north of his own border). Never mind the fact that his country is as different as ours as the east is from the west- population, demography, religion, geography-wise. Notwithstanding the stark differences, such personages seem to have no less propensity to just “let go” any thinking or saying they have as though their own experiences in presiding over their own respective countries much bigger or much smaller as the case may be than the ones they presume they understand and will know how to very much better run another country were they the leader/s.

It takes very special intellect, competence and skills to run a city-state and due credit to them for not just surviving but achieving huge results, some of which other countries should and can see for themselves and apply with adaptation to their own countries. But being successful and effective at home does not automatically make them adequate and proficient to run a neighbouring country of not just thirteen cities but thirteen states (that is, thirteen cities each with a vast hinterlands of their own). Boleh ka? I think not. I have no issue taking criticisms from outside our own borders since our own sitting government (and we the people) could do with quite a few criticisms for our own use. But regardless of which country you may be -bigger or smaller, older or newer, please do not think that in criticising and commenting on others you may escape looking at the shortcomings of your own country.

Here at home, we don’t like it when our own leaders take pot-shots at other countries and pretend all’s well within our own borders.


This one I must attend

Memorial by the River
Date: July 16, 2013
Time: 7pm
Place: Bar Council car park (behind Annexe Gallery), Leboh Pasar Besar, KL

As a person who seldom attend such public gatherings and over the years has become professionally adept at finding a whole host of reasons why I shouldn’t, I WILL BE THERE ON TUESDAY EVENING. Regardless of the inconvenience of a weekday evening outing into the very heart of the city and the practical logistics of how to get there and even more so how to get home after that, this one I must attend. WHY SO? Because through by my attendance, I shall attest to the following:

  1. I wish to condole with the bereaved families whose loss of loved ones under the most tragic circumstances are inconsolable, unfathomable and unconscionable. Not only to them but the nation as a whole. I wish to say how sorry I am that they have suffered so.
  2. I wish to say to the only country in the world I have since birth without any hesitation or ambiguity whatsoever that deaths under custody of the state is not acceptable and unbecoming and is disgraceful to any nation wherever in the world such occurrences have taken place. Instead of making excuses for such occurrences, we as a country must find the wherewithal to STOP THEM from recurring to foul up our national conscience and reputation.
  3. I wish to say to our elected members of parliament, state assemblies as well as appointed local councillors, irrespective of political party affiliations, that they must not look upon this issue in any partisan manner. Wrong is wrong, right is right. RIGHT THE WRONG.
  4. I wish to say to all loyal citizens of our country that this issue is neither pertaining to ethnic nor religious association. It is a human issue- pure and plain. No human being should ever be taken into state custody only to emerge DEAD. If charges have been proffered and if these charges have been proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, he or she as a human being should only be punishable according to the prescriptions established by the law.
  5. I wish especially to say to police or MACC or any other public service personnel that your sincere and truthful services to GOD and country is very much appreciated. YOU are not being accused. But whenever wrong is committed by the odd numbers amongst your colleagues (as is the case in any workplace- public or private), it will be the right thing on your part to do whatever is necessary to save the state institutions you serve with honour in from being unduly tainted and subjected to public distrust and question. A very few individuals may act irresponsibly but the institutions of state should be safeguarded and salvaged because of the very key roles they play in the country.
  6. I wish to say to myself that this is a matter of moral responsibility and a failure of this moral responsibility has resulted in indescribable grief on the part of families so cruelly affected. I myself am in some way responsible for what happened.
  7. Ultimately, I wish to say to GOD ALMIGHTY, have mercy. By accompanying the bereaved families in their grief and by bringing about moral responsibility on the part of us all.