July is a birthday month for me. Nothing really spectacular happened this time around except for the experience of my first gout attack. As I ponder on the addition of another year that the Almighty has extended me, I cannot help but reflect on other events that happened in our country this month.
While birth is the beginning of one's journey in this world, death signifies the end. The deaths of two personalities brought about controversies, albeit for different reasons. I wasn't intending to post about something sombre but the following are my observations on this, and other issues.
1. Will be missing those sentimental TV ads
The talented film director/producer Yasmin Ahmad, passed away on 25 July 2009. She collapsed during a business meeting at Sri Pentas (TV3) and slipped into a coma. Although surgery was done at Damansara Specialist Hospital, Yasmin did not make it.
It is not necessary for me to list out her achievements in film-making. Her movies won international awards but failed to gain the recognition of her peers in the local film industry. Why is this so? We can only speculate.
Her movies touched on subject matters that most other local producers dare not explore. Things like inter-racial romance and religious understanding. Some consider her movies to be controversial but to me, she's simply telling the true face of our society... the prejudices, the mistrust, the differences, the cooperation and the understanding. It is a pity that there are some among us who cannot see beyond our narrow self-interest.
Even in death, allahyarham Yasmin is tailed by controversy. A local Malay daily newspaper published stories of her in an apparently distasteful manner and this has prompted journalists from other publications to launch a protest to that paper's publisher. What surprised me was that it took the demise of a talented individual for the journalistic circle in Malaysia to realise the lousy reporting standards some journalists and editors have practiced. If something good can come out of this, then the nation owes Yasmin a lot more. May Allah swt bless her soul.
Yasmin's death reminded me of what happened to my cousin a few years ago. The way my cousin died is very similar. She was a lecturer at UiTM and was having dinner with some friends at a restaurant in Subang Jaya. During the after-dinner chat, she felt a sharp pain in her head and then collapsed. Her friends rushed her to the nearby SJMC. The doctors said a blood vessel in her brain had burst. She went into a coma and two days later, left us forever. She was in her late 40's.
2. Death under interrogation?
On the 16th of the month, the nation was shocked to read of the death of Teoh Beng Hock, the political aide of a Selangor Exco. Teoh's body was found on the fifth floor podium roof of a building that housed the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission's Selangor headquarters.
Teoh had been summoned by MACC to answer questions relating to an investigation of purported misuse of the state assemblymen's allocations. The circumstances of his death are most mysterious. Did he fall? Was he pushed? Was he killed first and then thrown out of a higher window? Is is suicide?
The general public were told not to speculate and not to make it a political issue. Under these conditions, how not to speculate? You tell me. And of course it's a political issue because the deceased was a political aide and the MACC investigation involves politicians!
An inquest is presently in progress, although some parties had pressured for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. I'm not sure if that would make any difference because, as I recall, the last RCI conducted on a top lawyer (who said that a video recording of a person, looked and sounded like him, but was not him) doesn't seem to be getting anywhere.
Nonetheless, I do hope the authorities get to the truth of the matter. Whoever caused Teoh Beng Hock's death must be brought to book.
3. The necessity of recycling
Still on the subject of death. Around two weeks ago, my mother told me that the grave of my youngest brother who died at birth, would be unearthed and his remains be repacked and shifted elsewhere. He is buried at a very small plot in the Muslim cemetery of Pusara Aman in Singapore.
Due to scarcity of land, the Singaporean authorities have decided that the graves of Muslims who have been dead for more than twenty years, would be unearthed. The remains from eight graves would be grouped and re-buried together in a presumably much smaller plot. This would free the original cemetery to be re-used for future `occupants'.
You have to hand it to the Singaporeans to come up with ideas on recyling. They are already experts on recycling sewage water. They are now doing the same for burial plots. Muslims in Malaysia should count their blessings.
The exhumation was carried out on a working day and my mother informed me too late for me to take leave. Otherwise I would have liked to be there. I've been to my brother's grave only two or three times. I didn't get to see him when he was born... I was studying in the UK at the time. If he is alive today, he would be 29-years old.
To Mohd Taufik, the little brother that I have not met... if by the grace of Allah swt, we cross paths in the hereafter, do say hello to your eldest brother, will you?
4. No escape from the taxman
The two things in life that you cannot run away from are death and taxes. And it seems that the taxman is not giving me a break at all.
When I completed my income tax returns at the end of April, I calculated that my total monthly tax deductions is more than the tax payable. I was therefore, expecting a refund from the Inland Revenue Board. However, in early May, I received a letter from IRB saying that my account does not show any credit that can be refunded. But the letter does not give any details on how much I owe them.
Last week, IRB sent me another letter saying that they have instructed my employer to further deduct from my salary, a total of RM4,986.01 spread over the next 7 months. How they arrived at this amount, they didn't say. No calculations, no details, no explanation. Nothing. Just the instruction to cut.
The folks at IRB must be so heartless. The language in their letters is so dry. They should include an explanation or two on why they are taking away more of our money. At the very least, they should include the name of the person in charge of our account so that we can call for clarification. So much for the new administration's `Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan' approach.
5. Art and charity
One way to reduce the amount of tax you pay to the government is to donate to charity. But this applies only to charities that have obtained the approval of IRB. The charity that I want to talk about next is not on IRB's approved list... maybe not yet, I do hope sometime in future (actually I'm just making a feeble attempt to link the previous thread with this one).
I was most heartened to read that blogger-friend Pak Zawi is helping to organize a sort of online bidding process for a piece of drawing done by En. Mazeri Othman aka Deen. The objective of the bidding is to set up a benevolent fund known as Tabung Kebajikan Tok Sangkut. The first piece on offer is an oil painting named Grandma's Mangosteen.
Do pop over to Pak Zawi's blog to learn more about the charity. Alternatively Pak Zawi has set up a special blog to handle the online bidding here -> Tok Sangkut Benevolent Fund. Your's truly has made the second bid.
The artist Deen also has his own blog that can be accessed here -> Exploring and relaxing the countryside.
It's nice to end this post with the story of an honourable effort. Let us see what the month of August, our merdeka month, has in store for us.