By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The success of the recently-concluded South East Asian (SEA) Games 2017 has certainly raised many eyebrows. Claims of cheating and bias are aplenty, especially from our contending neighbours namely, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. Obviously, coming second or third best is not what they anticipated in events where they are the hot favourites.
Contact sports such as taekwondo, silat, wushu, boxing, and to a lesser extent, diving, where judging is based on sight, the inclination for judges to favour participants from the host nation is great. And having been a judge and an umpire I can vouch for their actions. It is no joy sitting with your back facing a vociferous home crowd who could turn ugly if their countryman loses. The tendency to go soft on your host nation is only expected, as your body and limbs are at risk of being maimed at a drop of a hat. I have seen this happen and, therefore, am not surprised if the judgment becomes a wee bit off-tangent.
Malaysia’s eventual haul of 145 gold, 92 silver and 86 bronze, a total of 323 medals overall, is by far the largest in the history of the regional games. The games was inaugurated in 1959 with Bangkok being the first host city. It was then known as South East Asia Peninsular Games or SEAP Games. The participating nations were Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Malaya (Malaysia). Timor Leste was inducted into the games federation in 2003 and participated in the games hosted by Vietnam. From the original six it has increased to 11 nations. At the 29th edition of the games in Kuala Lumpur, a total of 4646 athletes partook in 404 events in 38 sports spread over a two-week period.
And being the host nation we are never short of controversies, the most glaring being the upside-down Indonesian flag printed in the souvenir programme. The outcome of the boxing match between Carlo Paalam of Philippines and Muhamad Fuad of Malaysia was roundly criticised when the latter was declared the winner despite being out-boxed by the Filipino boxer.
Indonesia accused Malaysia of cheating in pencak silat when its exponent won the gold. The Malaysian women walker ran the last few metres to the finish line to win gold and two Malaysian gymnasts were awarded gold for the same event.
Transportation was problematic too. A bus driver ferrying the Myanmar women’s football team was caught stealing and not having a valid driving licence. These glitches, however, did little to hamper the smooth flow of the games. On the whole it was wonderfully executed and I credit Khairy Jamaluddin, the Sports Minister, for being the prime mover. Age definitely has its advantages. Hopefully, our aging leaders learn a thing or two from this and make a timely exit when it matters.
The downside of the games is that host nations are permitted to introduce locally-conceived sports into the programme thus they stand to gain over their rivals. Philippines will play host in 2019 in Manila. I wonder what indigenous sports they will introduce. The cheating streak is in every participating nation, and this is a fact.
On Friday, September 1, an elderly man was gored to death by a cow that was prepared for the annual Hari Raya Haji (Aidladha) sacrifice in a village near Kuala Krai, Kelantan. Hari Raya Haji is also known as Hari Raya Korban. Cows, goats, sheep and camels are slaughtered to commemorate the auspicious day as part of a ritualistic belief. The deceased, Kamaruddin Mamat, owned five cows and 10 goats. The cattle that was chosen for the slaughter was aggressive and had ran loose before. Kamaruddin was stomped on the chest and succumbed to his injuries while on the way to the village clinic. The unfortunate animal, undoubtedly, ended as fodder for the hungry villagers. Could this be karma?
I am among the few Muslims who abhor the slaughter of animals purely on religious grounds. I don’t see the logic of snuffing a life to appease God. I believe many share my concern and, being what I am, I don’t particularly enjoy being a party to the Hari Raya Korban “frenzy” when cows and goats are being killed (slaughter is a better word). These poor animals deserve to live like we do. Have them for food by all means but do it in a more humane way. After all cows and goats are God’s gifts to humankind aren’t they?
And to rub salt into the wound, over in KL someone donated a camel, convinced that he would gain extra brownie points in the hereafter. The poor camel was in poor health. It would have made better sense to have it treated and rehabilitated rather than be killed to satisfy the believers.
Out of curiosity I attended the Fruit, Flower and Food Fiesta at the Regional Transformation Centre (RTC) in Gopeng recently. It was the tail end of the four-day event which was touted as a fitting tribute to Visit Perak Year 2017. I came expecting to see something more than the usual stuff but I was terribly disappointed. It was another Sunday market look-alike you so often see around the country. The absence of non-Malay traders was simply baffling. I wonder why FAMA (Federal Agricultural and Marketing Authority), the organiser, had allowed this to happen when the hype about oneness is so deafening.
Twittering-crazy Khalid Abu Bakar, the former Inspector General of Police, retired on September 4 upon reaching the age of 60. He planned on taking cooking classes to satisfy his pet love but got something better in exchange. Khalid was appointed chairman of Prasarana Malaysia Berhad barely a day after his retirement. It caught Malaysians by surprise. Many questioned his appointment citing the many human rights violations allegedly perpetrated during his tenure as the nation’s top cop.
The propensity of the government to appoint retiring civil servants and politicians to head GLCs (Government-linked Companies) is fast becoming a joke. We have yet to recover from the evils committed by Isa Samad, the disgraced chairman of Felda Global Ventures Holdings and now this. Where is this bountiful nation heading to? To Timbuktu, perhaps.
By Fathol Zaman Bukhari