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Wet and weary Christmas December 24, 2006

Posted by elizabethwong in Columns, Current Affairs, Malaysia, Politics, Writings.

– Graffiti found in Newtown, Sydney; circa late 20th Century

banjir82.JPG(NST Pix by Shahrizal Md Noor) My box of dusty Christmas lights and weathered decorations lie unopened, the gifts unwrapped. Every fifth person I know is frantically sending out Christmas e-cards and SMS greetings before the phone networks overload with messages of peace and giving.

I’ve never been terribly fond of Christmas, barring the occasional Bing Crosby songs. I confess I do like relatively painless family gatherings, the quirky gifts and the company of close and old friends.

But the fates have decided to make this occasion pricklier than in the past.

The great deluge has taken at least half a dozen lives (and counting), and has all but drowned any holiday joy for close to a hundred thousand people in West Malaysia, unveiling the crassness of Christmas in all its glory.

The Klang valley has been miraculously spared – for now.

Hence, witness the frenzied shopping. Fake trees which sprouted 30, 40 feet tall overnight in the heart of our ever-growing malls.

And all we can gripe about this year is the removal of turkey – this gross imported tasteless monstrosity, symbol of all excesses associated with Christmas – from the menus of hotels, while our people down south are crying out for a loaf of bread?

We haven’t seen or heard from three-quarters of the Cabinet since this disaster occurred, who, presumably were still on their holiday break. It took three days before any real help arrived to the worst-hit areas, even though it was a case of national emergency.

In the meantime, if not for regular folks who did whatever they could, from organising convoys of aid to finding passable routes, more lives could have been lost.

I feel ill when I hear of opposition parties who had attempted to dispense aid, were turned away by the ruling party – Umno. The country’s leadership can’t even comprehend bi-/multi-partisanship at a time of a national crisis.

I feel even more ill looking photographs in the papers today, of Umno leaders and their photo-ops, as if they were the only ones who care.

Three days too late.

I feel ill, looking at the two volumes of the Auditor-General’s report in my study, remembering how millions were siphoned away from the tsunami relief funds to decorate government offices, buy badges and caps, and organise the welcome party for the Prime Minister’s visit to areas affected by the 2004 killer waves.

I feel even more ill, wondering how much more would be wasted on the frivolous this time round. To hear the Prime Minister warn off ‘looters’ is laughable.

I couldn’t believe my ears when the television blared out the government line, through the lips of the Deputy Prime Minister, who informed the wet and weary, “We will give you aid but there will be no compensation.” Almost as if he heard my thoughts, he repeated the message for good measure.

I’ll end this before turning all green and grinch. While the government remains in denial, downplaying what’s happened and what’s to come, there are people who need help; not just short-term relief in the form of water, food and clothes, but rehabilitation and reconstruction.

And the Christmas gift we should be giving, isn’t a tin of meat, chocolates or tinsel, but the will to fight for those who need to be compensated for the misery caused perhaps by nature, but made much worse by man.

(Oh – the accompanying graffiti in Newtown was “Shoot Santa”.)


Update 1 January 2007: See TVSmith’s remarkable photo-documentation here.



1. sam - December 25, 2006

a sad christmas indeed…

2. Mario - December 27, 2006

Maybe capitalism is our disease, especially during these days!
Weary is the right word to tell what physically means the christmas shopping..

but for families, this time is still a moment of union here..

3. john - December 28, 2006

hey, I agree, we can only grinch it up – I see plenty of reasons. Why do people get so merry? Eventually we realise that the tat is there to make us forget – a pattern set down very early on, as your epigram notes – but, to be accurate, that first graffito was not in Newtown, it was in Enmore, near the Cat Protections Society Opportunity Shop! 1992. XJ


4. elizabethwong - December 28, 2006

Am getting old. Am (still) sure it was in Newtown. Or am I confusing Felix the Cat with Santa now?
When are we going to have our fruit and yogurt @ Enmore?
Still have a craving. xx

5. john - December 28, 2006

Shoot Santa was Kill Santa as well… but that was indeed in Newtown.

Fruit and yoghurt, yes, and a game of chess… I recall.


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