Wednesday January 16, 2013
Party of party poopers
Along The Watchtower
By M. VEERA PANDIYAN
ONE of the earliest Malay sayings that I learnt while growing up in my old kampung in Malacca was “Jangan jaga tepi kain orang”.
My next-door neighbour, a partially blind elderly woman who had a habit of chewing tobacco and wiping a compacted ball of the stuff across her front teeth, often used it.
I don’t remember her name but Nenek was a fount of spine-chilling ghost stories about pontianak (vampires), penanggalan (ghosts with entrails) and hantu galah (bamboo spirit) which supposedly roamed the neighbourhood in the 60s.
She lived mostly alone because the rest of her family was in Singapore where her eldest son was a policeman. They were only back during the school holidays.
Nenek was really scared of ghosts and my late eldest sister and I often volunteered to sleep overnight in her house to keep her company, especially after being enticed with mouth-watering sambal.
Anyway, the rough meaning of the phrase “Jangan jaga tepi kain orang” is: Don’t be a busybody or as the English of old would put it, a Nosy Parker.
It probably came into use after Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker, a meddling cleric in 16th Century England.
But in the case of PAS, it is the literal English translation – watching the hem of people’s clothes – that comes to mind.
Time and again, it has predictably played its role of killjoy.
The latest barmy example, the Kedah Government’s moral guidelines for stage shows, attests that the party won’t tolerate even a bit of partying, during festive occasions.
Under a directive issued by the state exco member for Health, Youth and Sports, Culture, Art and Heritage Datuk Dr Hamdan Mohamed Khalib, shows can be stopped midway if organisers breach rules.
For starters, it said there couldn’t be any shows with female artistes but would allow secondary schoolgirls instead.
(But in an about-turn yesterday, the Kedah Government rescinded the ban on adult female artistes.)
The rules call for performers and organisers to be “decently” dressed.
There is no ban on male artistes but they must not be a part of any live bands.
If they want to sing or dance on stage, they would have to make do with minus-one recordings.
Shopping centres have been told to submit the names of artistes and their repertoire to the local council for approval.
It would be no-go for songs which can mesmerise the audience or make the performers go overboard.
Only songs with “religious themes” and those promoting “positive values” would be permitted.
One wonders if the DAP’s Gangnam Style-inspired Ubah Rocket Style song would make the list.
The newest rules infringing the rights of non-Muslims have stunned its Pakatan Rakyat allies and its Chinese believers, including PAS Supporters Congress chairman Hu Pang Chaw.
“Deep thought must be given when formulating policies that befit Malaysia’s multi-ethnic diversity and not selfish policies which do not take other races into account,” he said.
The DAP’s big guns have remained silent so far but its MP for Serdang and assistant national publicity secretary Teo Nie Ching has described them as “ridiculous, unacceptable and unwise.”
But should Hu, Teo and Pakatan leaders really be surprised, going by PAS’ track record on moral policing and preoccupation with what women can or cannot wear?
Five years ago, Muslim women in Kelantan were barred from using heavy make-up and bright-coloured lipstick.
Also banned were high-heeled shoes “that made a tapping sound.”
As for tudung (headscarf), the directive was that it should cover the chest and not be made of transparent material.
The directive was issued to “prevent incidents like rape and illicit sex as well as to safeguard the morals and dignity of Muslim women in Kelantan”.
Among the more recent issues that made the headlines for the party were the dress code imposed on both Muslim and non-Muslim models for billboards in Kedah and fines for hair salon operators who cut the hair of customers of the opposite sex in Kelantan.
Let’s not forget PAS’ vocal protest against a planned bikini show by an international modelling agency in Kuala Lumpur, which was even-tually cancelled.
The party’s new slogan may be “PAS for All” but underneath the rebranding little appears to have changed.
But in Kedah, which the PAS-dominated Pakatan won in 2008, dress rules could have been stricter if the party had wrested the state four years earlier.
In the 2004 polls, the party pledged to enforce the wearing of headscarves and prohibit non-Muslim women from wearing miniskirts and low-necked and tight-fitting clothes in the state.
Just like in the case of Kelantan, Wan Tom Wan Mohamad Noor, who led Kedah PAS women’s wing then, said the rules were meant to help root out crimes committed against women, like rape and incest.
It looks like some things are unlikely to change for a party focused on moral policing above the more important issues.
> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes to share this piece of advice from Isaac Asimov: Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org