It looked like a nice town. Hills that folded into themselves, lush valleys and a peak that jutted into the skies, a real cloud catcher. Those clouds swirled, mist enshrouded the town. It felt safe, cocooned in mountains and blanketed by clouds.
Little industrious Chinese ran around the town. They were a proud race. The town was theirs.
The afternoons clouds swarm around the little former tin mining town, and by late evening thunder is clapping and lightning is darting across in horizontal bolts. Mc Donald’s at the end of the main road, under the foothills, is a Malay sanctuary, where you might spot the rare breed in this majority Chinese town.
The former open tin mines are lakes now – four of them form the Taping Park. A meter long monitor lizard is floating, dead, on it’s back, in one of these lakes. Flies are buzzing around it.
Nearby a lion roars. A hippopotamus joins in the chorus. Luckily neither are on the run this time. Taiping Zoo has a rich history of its inmates escaping.
This will be the last walk into town from the rented house near the Chinese cemetery. I can feel it.
A gang of Indians on motorbikes hug very closely to the side of the road, nearly bowling me over. ‘No purse snatching today,’ I say to myself, as I give them the middle finger and a big ‘fuck you.’
The fat Indian gang don’t return but another, a woman, is concerned about some of her cattle who have bolted from the Chinese cemetery onto the road. Cows are being rounded up in the cemetery by her husband on a motorbike.
A new condominium is in its last stages of building, and a Chinese restaurant adjacent to the cemetery turns on its flashing fairy lights. It apparently sells the best seafood in town.
The grass growing in the cemetery is a lush green color and the white headstones cover the sloping hills that lead up to Maxwell Hill, the crowning peak of this small and insignificant huddle of Heritage buildings that constitutes the ‘city’.
Some Malays are fishing in one of the three lakes dotted around the park. Abdul is out of work. He blames it on the high petrol prices and the monopolization of the economy by the Chinese. He catches a little fish and throws it back. ‘Too much lead and cyanide in it, and at that size- too concentrated,’ he says. He’s just been laid off work. ‘The company couldn’t afford to keep me on.’
He blames the high fuel costs and the Chinese for manipulating the economy. But he also hates the current prime minister.
I tell him that the ‘Bersih 4.0’, a sophisticated street demonstration funded by the Chinese that was active last year and wasn’t that ‘clean’ after all.
‘See?’ I added, ‘they’re even monopolizing your language.’
‘I know,’ says an Indian accent. ‘Bersih means clean.’
Raj has appeared with his fishing rod. He’s wearing a turban. He’s a spitting image of the seditious Sikh I met in Garuda’s Travels.
‘The main aim of the ‘Bersih 4.0′ is to overthrow the current PM,’ he says. ‘And to add prestige and valor to the opposition party.’
He doesn’t need any priming for this conversation.
He casts his line lazily, and continues.
‘They want to overthrow your current PM, who is 100 percent Malay. And the former PM who looks more Indian than Malay has banded with the opposition and this Yellow shirted ‘Bersih 4.0′ movement.’
He pulls in a little fish and lets it go.
‘Is this all making sense yet?’ he asks.
He continues. He could well have been talking to the lake.
‘Do you really want a Chinese funded and backed Malay, Indian or Chinese PM?’
He was talking to the lake as he reeled in another lead laden fish. ‘Can’t you see that the Malays are being manipulated by the Chinese to rally against the government.’ He was speaking to me now. ‘But even most of them don’t know what they really are rallying against.’
‘But the Chinese do,’ I said. I even raised my eyebrows for effect.
The government recently back flipped on a new bill to bring in one million Bangladeshis foreign workers into the country after the usually subdued Malays voiced their outrage to it.
Raj says it was a turning point when the Malays decided to stop being passive. ‘The country is flooded with illegal migrant workers already. As it is now, it’s hard enough for us to get jobs.’
He said Najib’s government was expecting a windfall of new votes and an increase in the Haj quota to Mecca if the bill was pushed through.’The Chinese would have gained from it too,’ he said. ‘They won’t employ Malays or Indians, typically arguing that we are lazy. And having fresh batch of Bangladeshis to work into the ground for peanuts was something they were very much looking forward too.’
Did you notice how the Bersih movement didn’t voice disagreement to more foreign workers?
He scratched his head. ‘It’s pretty fucking obvious, isn’t it?
It must be for an insider, I said.
Raj reckons the Chinese ‘Yellow’ movement is being used to discredited Najib abroad and at home. ‘And it’s an opening salvo for the government to fund their own ‘Red’ movement.’
‘Do your remember it?’ he asked. ‘It was 1969. The ‘Bersih 4.0′ have set back the Chinese thirty years. All the good will of racial harmony has been blown to pieces by a few rich selfish Chinese with their own agenda. The Chinese are playing a very dangerous card.’
‘You really need to think this one through,’ says Raj to Abdul who isn’t catching any fish now. ‘If the Chinese hate Najib, there must be a very good reason for it. Once they get their puppet in, you’ll be worse off.’
‘Manipulating swines,’ I cuss under my breath, as Abdul casts his line yet again. Nothing’s biting.
I look around the lake. Abdul is nowhere in sight. A few Malays are flying kites. Maybe he was getting bored with the seditious Sikh He’s vanished, just like the ‘Bersih 4.0’ movement.
‘He’s probably returned home,’ says Raj. ‘He is squatting in one of the run down heritage buildings.’
He has fallen on hard times.
‘What will the Chinese do next I?’ I ask Raj.
‘They will back Mahathir to form his own party and discredit Najib’s government. They’re banking on lots of defections from the ruling party. Only way to save their hide from jail is to join the opposition.’
‘Then once they get in power, the Chinese will demand the whole cabinet jailed,’ I said.
‘Yes, and then they’ll get on with their dirty work of making money.’
‘Sedition, sedition. That law has just been passed.’
And what about that mysterious $700 million donation from the Middle East?
‘The Singaporeans froze most of it,’ says Raj, who seems to be on the pulse of the ‘rumor-monger’ machine. ‘It’s their money now. Najib couldn’t touch it even he wanted to. But I’m sure the next Prime Minister, friendly to Singapore, will have access to it. ‘
Are you talking about the ex- Prime Minister?
‘You join the dots.’
The rain comes on hard and strong again. I can smell and see shades of rebellion, lead and cyanide from another age. A dark fog rises from the depths of the lake.
Raj is long gone. Starting his own rebellion with Abdul, no doubt.