Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who's Morality?

Come and support the court case of two young people that are charged for “indecent behavior”, all because they allegedly hugged and kissed in a public park.

Day: Thursday, 1st June 2006
Time: 9:00am
Place: DBKL Magistrates Court, Jalan Tun Razak (near the Pekeliling Flats, behind Tawakal Hospital. Nearest LRT Stop: Titiwangsa)
Map: |

On 2 August 2003, Ooi Kean Thong (24) and Siow Ai Wei (22) were accused of “indecent behaviour” at the KLCC park.

They lodged a report against the two DBKL officers who allegedly issued them with a summons after they refused to bribe them. Not only that, the challenged the city council’s authority to enact such “morality laws”.

On 4 April 2006, the Federal Court ruled that the KL City Hall had the authority to enact bylaws to prosecute people for indecent public behaviour.

Worried that tourists will stop visiting our country because of such openly ridiculous policing of private behavior, the Mayor of KL hastily reassured the BBC on the very next day, that this will not apply to tourists.

Meanwhile, Ooi and Siow will have to defend themselves against the charge of indecent behaviour.

Where do you stand?

Come to the hearing and show your support to Siow and Ooi’s courageous stance. KataGender ( is organising a visual statement on the day. Join us as we hold hands and state your thoughts.

Please wear a white or plain coloured t-shirt and bring marker pens, cardboard, and your friends.

For more information, contact:

We will be meeting at the Masjid Jamek LRT station at 8:15am – 8:30am to go the courts together via the LRT. Alternatively, you can meet us directly at the DBKL Magistrates Court.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Letter to Sep Galeva (Lake Murray's Che Guevera)

Dear Sep,
Thank you very much for welcoming us in Lake Murray. It was indeed a priceless oppurtunity of a lifetime. The struggle of your people inspires me immensely, so much so that any attempt to retell your story would result in tears creeping out the corners of my eyes.

I was indeed sad to leave your community. I lament the fact that we had to leave Lake Murray... I'd do anything to stay, I'd even buy your joke that I've been expedited from my country and that I am welcomed to live in exile in Lake Murray. If only.

The plane carried us away with meloncholy in our hearts. The weather was clear but our hearts were turbulent. But then, as we rise above the clouds, I see a silver lining. I told myself that instead of feeling overtly sad at leaving, I should learn to be happy for being so extremely fortunate as to have experienced your wonderful community.

The latter seems difficult to do but was unfortunately necessary... life must go on. Goodbye Sep, I must go now... I can't promise you I'll return, but I can promise you that I'll try my level best to work towards returning to Lake Murray. Thanks for being a wonderful host, friend, provider, and most importantly of all... for being an inspiration.

There you have it, I usually don't write sappy letters, but fortunately (or unfortunately, I'm confused between the two) the beautiful people of your community deserves one from me. May our paths cross again. In the mean time, may the good Lord provide you and your community the strength and wisdom to further your cause to greater heights.

With much love and solidarity,
chi too.

I Went To The Zoo... (a recollection of a dream)

I had trouble sleeping last night so I decided that I'll go to the zoo today. What does my amnesiac state have to do with me going to the zoo? Well, it really has nothing to do with each other... but i reckon that I'll need to be in such a state of disillusionment (one that is induced by my state of sleeplessness) to want to go to the zoo. Truth be told, I really like animals; but to see them trapped in a cage breaks my heart into a million pieces which inevitably results in my having to put them all back together again. Very often I'll lose a few pieces and whatever I have left I'll usually end up putting them all back in the wrong places. Guess I'm in the mood today for jigsaw puzzles then.

I paid the price for my ticket, 10 ringgit. For a zoo it seems like alot of money, but i paid the sum anyway; secretly hoping that I can pass off as a child under 12 years of age. That way I can pay a mere 5 ringgit (which i believe is also still a lot of money for a zoo). But then again, trying to pass myself off as a 12 year old seems far fetched, I probably stand a better chance passing off as a 55 year old and try to obtain a senior citizen's discount.

Being my own pedantic self, upon entering the entrance to the zoo (this sentence may seem nonsensical, but on more than a few occasions I have actually entered at an exit, and exited at an entrance. Therefore 'entering the entrance' in my book is fine for me and says alot about the content within its context), I merely let the attendant see my ticket. I then carefully tore the ticket along the perforated line with much care and perfection. One part I kept for myself, the other I gave to the attendant whom then allowed me to pass through the creaking turnstiles...
creaaaaaaakkkkkkkkk! BANG!.
the errie silence was smashed by the turnstile... one that was greatly in need of some serious lubrication work.

Going to the zoo has always been a quandry for me. While I detest animals being confined, I really enjoy looking at them. Everytime I see an animal, I'll look at it for a really long time, inspecting its every move and nuances. The nimble moves of the civet cat, the strong muscular limbs of a tiger, the gaping mouth of a hippopotamus, the bright gazing eyes of the lemur, and how can i forget, the babbon who flaunts his pink ass so gallantly... so unashamed (but then again, I reckon it would be the right thing to do... if thou hast an ass so fine, thou shalt flaunt it). Did I also mention that I once saw a babbon with an ass whose painted by a phletora of colours in the Taiping Zoo. It was supposed to be some rare species found in some strange corner of the world (How the Taiping Zoo obtained it, I don't know).

Please excuse me... I'm not here to talk about baboon and their asses, neither am I here to talk about asses (though there were a few on display at the zoo too... by that I mean donkeys, ironically their asses weren't too flattering); I'm here to tell you about a dream... a dream about me going to the zoo.

And so I gazed... I gazed at one, and moved to another, gazed at one... and moved to another....

A Ziraffe,
who'll pass out if it bends its neck lower than its heart.

A Kangaroo,
who was walking... Which I thought are jumpers, and was wearing a cardigan instead of jumpers.

A Gazelle,
which I first thought was a deer... which jumped much more than the kangaroo did.

A Porcupine,
Whom as opposed to popular belief does not shoot thorny spines from it's ass... it merely switches into reverse gear and ass-butts its predators and then dislodges the spines on them. Still, I reckon that would be quite nasty.

A Panda,
Who have always wondered how he'll look like in a colour photo.

A Tortoise,
Whose legend deeply embedded in Vietnamese folklore... this one has a face that almost looks like Ho Chi Minh.

I gazed... and moved to another... I gazed.. and moved to another...

I become tired, but yet I am still not sleepy... In fact, my eyes become brighter.

I gazed... and I gazed.

Cockatoo, Crocodile, Giant Sloth...

Rabbit, Mousedeer, Mountain Goat...

Reticulated Python, Green Iguana, Reticulated Python...

Reticulated Python, Reticulated Python, Reticulated Python, Reticulated Python.

I'm fixed on the sight of this beautiful python... all 30 feet of it. I want to take a closer look at it, but the enclosure was sealed. I banged on the glass despite warnings of 'Do Not Knock Glass'... I want to take a closer look.

In my attempt to look closer, I fixed my faced onto the glass enclosure and knocked the glass even harder in hopes that the python will come to me. It doesn't, but I can see that its eyes are staring deep into mine.

I wasn't too happy... I still want to take a closer look.

I went looking for the zookeeper...

I gave him a 50 Ringgit bribe and he unlocked the enclosure for me.

I entered and came close to the python.

It's beautiful, the motifs on the body a work of art, the shape and form a massive mass.

I still want to look closer...much much closer...

I went up to its face and looked into its eyes... It shines like diamonds in the rough.

I tapped its opened up gloriously for me to view.

I still wanted to look closer.

I took a closer look and put my head into its gaping mouth into darkness...

I can't see anything, but a sense of peace overwhelms...

I still want to look closer... I crawled deeper and deeper into the python.

The python's belly streches to accomodate me... The acidic digestive juices covers me like a thin layer of film.

It is dark... very dark.

I can't hear anything.

I can't see anything.

I can't feel anything.

My mind ceases to think...

In that compact void, I found peace... I yawned.

I fell asleep.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm Quite Sure That's Not The Intended Title

Ever since I returned from Papua New Guinea... everyone has been asking me about Lake Murray.
"How's it like?"
"How's it like?"
"How's it like?"...

My usual answer would be...
"Errr...It was... Errr... It was fucking amazing."
and then I'll resort to changing the subject.

Then came Matt... bossman at Camp Kewe who decides if I get my turn at the charger and the computer; and of course whether I get my chicken crackers or not; who came along and wrote this excellent piece on the GFRS weblog.

Bossman! I take my hats off to you for the ability to describe something that is almost impossible to match with words. I salute you and the star that rests upon your commie cap.

Here's his post on the GFRS blog...and I'm quite sure that it wasn't his title.

"Words just aren't enough"

Posted by Matt, GFRS co-ordinator

The wind shifted to a South Easterly today, signalling the start of the dry season in Lake Murray. Yesterday the water level dropped one meter in front of the Global Forest Rescue Station (GFRS). This means we are going to have to carry the Banana boat over logs and drag it through the shallows on our way to the airstrip this weekend.

We’re packing down the GFRS. The change in the wind and the twinge of sadness in everyone seem to fit.

The people of Lake Murray have said goodbye to most of the international guests. Everyone went out to visit the Kuni people, who fought off industrial logging. Together, we saw the first load of eco-timber milled and shipped out from Lake Murray.

Volunteers had come from Japan, China, Italy, Finland, Thailand, Malaysia, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Germany, Indonesia, West Papua and other provinces of Papua New Guinea.

It is hard to communicate what that means here. It is hard to communicate how remote Lake Murray is. One of the most isolated places on the planet. There are no roads here, no cars, no Internet, no television, no telephones, nothing.

Travel is via light aircraft, and supplies are dropped off after a 200km boat trip through crocodile infested waters.

So for these people to come to the Lake and share experiences with the locals – knowing they will most likely not return – is hard to deal with. It was heart-wrenching to see the men of the Catfish, Dog and Turtle clans hide their faces and cry as their friends returned to the other side of the planet. These are men who get up in the morning, kill a deer in the forest and carry it 10km on their shoulders, back to feed their families.

Each village along the way to the airstrip was out waving goodbye.

The foresters will return to the Lake to continue training and working after a holiday at home, in their highland provinces. They have been camping in the bush for three months. Away from their wives and children and away from their staple foods which are very different to Sago (the staple at the lake). Not to mention travelling by dugout canoe, which is as foreign to them as it is to someone from New York. A few of the foresters have learnt to swim during their three months at the lake.

Around 25, 000 hectares have been demarcated and15 clans have mapped out their land for the first time. Ancestral stories have been transformed into GPS points on maps.

Logging and mining companies have created a culture of ‘cargo’ in PNG. Local landowners are dazzled by displays of wealth then tricked into poverty.

It is difficult for tribal leaders to match this culture of cargo but eco-forestry is challenging it. Slowly but surely communities are taking their land, their lives and their future back into their own hands.

I think everyone who has come to Lake Murray during the GFRS has been empowered. Words cannot describe how effective eco-forestry is for community development, and for protecting the planet’s last forests. Words cannot describe the beauty of Lake Murray, of the people, of the forest.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Taboobey! (a GFRS unblog)

A revelation... over the past 3 weeks I've been stuffing myself with thousands of dollars worth of exotic fish. Bustar (Indonesian forest campaigner) told me that the Saratoga's commercial name is actually 'Arowana'...

Gaspppp! (moment of silence)

still more silence as the reality of the moment sinks in.

Here's a low down on the Arowana. Back in Malaysia (or anywhere else for that matter), the Arowana is a prized exotic aquarium fish that can fetch prices of up to a thousand dollars. It is highly revered among the Chinese people as a bringer of good luck; but in reality, it is really a tool to impress others that screams "look at me... I can afford an Arowana. Isn't it beautiful".

Before this, I was actually doing alot of pondering myself. I've seen the Saratoga and noticed its striking similarity to the Arowana. I told myself that it can't be an Arowana... It just doesn't make sense to me that such an expensive ornamental fish would be served so frequently (when I was at Awekaim, we had it every other day... honestly, I'm getting really sick of Saratoga already... it's not very tasty. Instead, Baramundi is my fish of choice). I chose to ignore the fact that it could be the Arowana... Of course, until this morning.

(insert dramatic orchestral crescendo here)

Fact: I really should not write about the consumption of endangered fauna here in the blog as it may freak the living hell out of fellow environmentalists reading this blog, we were told. "Gasp... but they're endangered and you're environmentalists. Shouldn't you be protecting these creatures instead. How unbecoming."

Reality: Here in Lake Murray, Anything that walks, crawls, swims, or flys is edible. Anything that can be boiled, fried, grilled, smoked, roasted, or steamed is edible. Unfortunately for those of us who lives in the "civilised" world, endangered animals qualify for both the former and latter list.

I reckon its only natural for us greenies to critisize such palates. The truth is, I think it's important for us to realize that we should not make blanket assumptions. I'm not saying that we are to make exceptions, but we need to understand that the 'endangered' animals hunted here are hunted in a sustainable manner. A single clan here owns hundreds of acres of forest area and they hunt only in an area that is less than 1% of their total forest cover... leaving a whole lot of space for the animals to regenerate. What we should freak out at is the illegal wildlife trade where poachers hunt to satisfy an unsustainable worldwide demand. Here, the demand is local... most importantly, the people respect and manage their resources.

In the same way, eco-forestry does the same thing too. Cutting down trees may sound horrible, but if done the right way... it does more good than bad.

There I've said it... it's almost dinner time and there's a tasty cassowary cooking in the pot. Bon apetit'.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In Retrospect... Sawmill Training (a GFRS unblog)

Today is the last day of the sawmill training here at camp Awekaim, Ogia. For the past 2 weeks, Amele have been drilling the 15 participants really hard... filling their heads with mathematical formulas, secret key numbers, computing (calculating I mean) skills, and of course sawmill handling skills.

Being the end of the training, I decided that I must interview Amele today... otherwise it'll never be done and my film will be denied the awe-inspiring wisdom of Amele.

The interview lasted more than an hour, but one question burns in me.

"At the beginning of the training, you told the participants that there's 380,000,000 kinas (120 mil USD) that could be made from the forest in the next 25 years. Don't you think that by saying this you might raise the expectations of the participants?"

"I'm not here to raise their expectations... what I'm trying to do is to teach them how to value their forests. Because, if the community allows industrial logging, that would be how much they will be robbed by the logging industry... leaving them with 3 kinas per cubic meter of timber and no forest left. But if they learn how much the value of their forest is, they can do the work themselves in a sustainable manner, have more money for their community and at the end of it still have their
forest with them... once again, i'm teaching them to take timber out of their forests, while keeping their forests in their forests."

Amele was also rather upset at Camp Awekaim's landowners who have chopped up way too many trees to set up the milling camp here... especially since the camp is located within the forest management area of the clan. Well frankly speaking, it really does look like hell here (Luke codenamed this place 'camp hell', and I do agree with him)... trees are felled, with no shade the sun burns every inch of my skin, mozzies thrive like mad (and so does flies in the morning)... it's not a pretty sight. It looks like a smaller version of a clear felled land. When I first arrived 2 weeks ago, I had serious doubts. "Is this the future of eco-forestry? gasps!", I exclaimed secretly in my heart.

One may think that the above paragraph is not gonna do much good for the campaign... but one need to realize that as noble an idea or a campaign might be, mistakes will be made. The trees felled for this camp is one mistake, and fortunately the clan's landowners are sorry for what they've done and have learnt their lessons... the landowners from the other clans have also learnt their lessons from this too.

I asked Amele what do we do about this. He told me that he'll get the participants to take a seed each from the forests and replant them in the camp. I follow Jaime (a participant from catfish clan) into the forest and he picked a seed and took it to the camp. Amele insisted that the kids from the clan come along and see the seed being planted. Once that was done, he told the kids...

"This tree will be your responsibility. You'll need to look after this tree until it becomes big because all this forest will one day belong to you."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cable Schmable (a GFRS unblog)

Usukof village is buzzing (both with activity and mosquitoes). The projection system is being setup and the air is thick with excitement. Everything seems to be in place. Tonight, we are updating the community on the clan boundry demarcation work in the paradise forest with a little slideshow.

Laptop computer... check.
LCD projector... check.
Power generator... check.
Presentation CD-ROM... check.
Projection sheet... check.
Proper connections between computer and projector...

Alas, the VGA cable we bought along refuses to insert itself into both the computer and the projector. We scratch our heads.

Scratch, scratch, scratch... (out here in mozzie central, I find myself scratching more than my head... I resist)

Unfortunately, the only solution we have is to come back another day. Well, We can also simply play back the slide show from the laptop screen, but I reckon having 200 people looking into a tiny 15" computer screen is not so bright an idea.

At this point, I can't help but think of how technology can be so absurd. It's unbelievable how a small little cable is able to stop a show from going on. I reckon if the tables are turned and the locals were to give us a presentation, they'll be able to fix whatever glitches in a matter of minutes. All that needs to be done is a quick walk into the forest and the missing part would be readily available.

There was a slight air of disappointment... the slideshow is suppposed to be a highlight for the community tonight. Fortunately, in true Lake Murray style, things lighten up soon enough; our attempt to setup the projector was a spectacle in itself. Goodbyes are exchanged and hands are shaken as we depart from Usukof. Secretly, I'm glad that the presentation didn't happen tonight, that means we'll have to come back to Usukof again (which I really like).

We are scheduled to return next Wednesday. In the mean time I think I'll go into the bush with a bow and arrow and go hunting for a VGA cable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Here's A Thousand Words (a GFRS blog)

I want to write alot of things about the logging industry here in Papua
New Guinea. Especially about how so many Malaysian companies are
involved in the destruction of the paradise forest.

About 80% of the logging companies occupying Papua New Guinea are from
Malaysia. Very often, despite having permits to log in PNG, most of the
operations are conducted illegally; where massive blocks of forest are
cleared and the rights of the local community gravely violated...
leaving landowners with 3 kinas (about 1 USD) for every cubic meter of
timber logged when it fetches 1000 times more in the foreign
marketplace, and no forest to fend their livelihoods with.

It pains me that my fellow countryfolks are conducting such atrocities
to the people of PNG. Today, when we were at the school for a small
presentation, I hung my head low and apologized to the children for what
Malaysia is doing to PNG.

"Hi, I'm Chi from Malaysia... don't worry, I'm not here to take your
forests, I'm here to help you save it"

I looked at them, I see the future of Lake Murray and PNG in their
eyes... I became more ashamed... I hung my head lower.

There are alot more that I want to write about, but unfortunately can't.
I asked the good doctor, Reza to take a photo of me. As cliched as it
may might sound, but they say a picture says a thousand words... here's
a thousand words.

pix description : breaking the silence, courtesy of Reza Hossain (the
good doctor).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Here's Your Calculator and Measuring Tape (a GFRS blog)

The midnight oil burnt incessantly at camp Ogia last night, because Amele had given the sawmill training participants a little homework. With their newfound skills, many of the students were diligently keying numbers into their calculators - working out the volume of standing trees and logs, which had been cut exclusively for the mathematical training session.

It's all part of FPCD’s eco-forestry programme, where selected members of participating clans learn how to use a walkabout sawmill. On top of that, they are trained in calculating and estimating timber output volume from trees and, most importantly, how to appreciate and value their forest.

Tap tap tap… tap tap tap… numbers, numbers, numbers multiplied by more numbers multiplied by Amele’s secret formula key number.

The students returned to class today, armed with their answers for yesterday’s homework. Unfortunately, despite all the hard work invested, everyone got all of the questions wrong.
We were puzzled. Upon further investigation, we found that the students did not know how to use the measuring tape. Some recorded their measurements in centimetres, some in millimetres, and some in inches. Amele slapped his forehead, realizing that he had forgotten to teach the students an important aspect in the procedure.

“Lik lik tasol,” Amele said. Yet, all is not lost and he remained as optimistic as ever. “If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t ask questions. So it is good for us to make mistakes so we will ask questions to find a solution.”

Soon after, all the students mastered the measuring tape and began producing accurate answers in no time.

I reckon the eco-forestry initiative came about in the same manner. Mistakes were made in the past, people began to ask questions. Fortunately, the answers came and the Kunis found a solution in eco-forestry.

The sun has set now and the students are drawn to the kerosene lamp under our hut. It looks like Amele has given them more homework. It is really encouraging to see how keen the students are to learn about the sawmill and managing the forest.

On top of all that, it soothes my heart to know their backyard will be preserved for the benefit of future generations. As Amele said, “I am teaching you how to take the logs out of the forest without taking the forest out of your land.”