Friday, October 26, 2012

Patrick Teoh's Niamah

If you want an honest opinion about anything, Patrick Teoh is the man who can give it to you. Many have called him candidly callous. Others say he is frightfully frank. And the rest think he is brazenly bold. Tell Patrick this and, in his distinctive voice, he will give you this reply: "No lah, where got one?"

What most people don't see is that he is unusually uncomplicated for all that he writes on his blog, Niamah!!!, which loosely translates to "Your Mother". Enough said.
Patrick's blog is about his thoughts on hot issues in Malaysia in relation to politics and education, among other things. It comes with a warning: "This Blog Contains Strong Language. Reader Discretion Is Advised."

"When I started the blog eight years ago, I never worried about it being censored or that I would receive surprise visits in the middle of the night," he says. "I just looked at it as an avenue to express what almost every other Malaysian was thinking. This is my country, I was born here, and I have roots here. Why can't I have an opinion about it? Whatever I write about is already in the public domain and I'm only commenting on what I see."

To those who say he is fearless in expressing the things he sees, Patrick shakes his head in vehement disagreement and says he doesn't deserve the accolade, adding that people shouldn't be afraid to speak their minds.

"But people aren't doing it because, for the past 50 years, we have been told not to do it. Speak your mind, yes. But never insult someone else's culture and don't shove yours down their throats."

Say what you mean

Speaking his mind is something Patrick is very comfortable with. And he is all for others doing the same. Some of you might remember an incident in 1996 that occurred while he was with Radio 4 RTM.

A listener related his experience with a member of the police force. At a roadblock, a policeman stopped him for allegedly drinking and driving and asked for a bribe. When he said that he did not have money with him, the policeman allegedly told him that he could call someone to bring him the money. When he said that he did not have a phone, the policeman allegedly offered him the use of his mobile phone.

After the show, SAC Supian Amat lodged a police report against Patrick under the instruction of the then Inspector-General of Police, Rahim Noor, resulting in Patrick being called to the police station for various interviews.

Lat drew a cartoon about this incident, as did Reggie Lee. Controversial or not, any Malaysian will tell you that you've made it when Lat draws a caricature of you. Speaking of humour, there was also the April Fools' Day duck hoax that occurred 15 years to the day of this interview.

During his radio show, Patrick took a call from an advertising agency chap (who was in fact his friend) looking for ducks to be featured in a commercial for a new snack. The concept of the commercial was to place ducks on hot plates so they would jump about. Other listeners called in the radio show to blast the ad agency, and the SPCA lodged a police report.

When it was discovered that "dancing ducks" was a hoax, the press accused Patrick of being irresponsible, and some even called for his resignation. Patrick's response to the issue was, "Can't you take a joke? Lighten up a little bit, you know."

To the question of whether Malaysians have lightened up 15 years later, Patrick bluntly says, "Quite on the contrary, actually. And I deduce this from reading the news and other online portals. In fact, Malaysians are more serious than ever.

"Years ago, I could joke with my friends and call each other derogatory names relating to our respective races. Can we do that now? How are we celebrating our diversity? As a 64-year-old Malaysian who has seen enough about what goes on in this country, I guess I just don't want to tolerate it anymore."

What does he think has gone wrong with Malaysia? He blames people who have power but have lost sight of the objective of power and got greedy.
This of course steers the conversation towards the coming general election, which Patrick says is a 50-50 thing.

"To be honest, I am disappointed in us as a nation," he says. "With Malaysians, there is a lot of apathy which has happened over the past 50 years.
"There are many who think, 'It's not so bad. We are safe from typhoons and I still get to eat nasi lemak at three o'clock in the morning. '

"Is this what we base selecting our government on? I get very angry when I hear people say this. If you know what's going on, don't seclude and delude yourself. Things will never change that way."

The ideal Malaysia

What is Patrick's idea of an ideal Malaysia? He says it would be a nation that realised everyone could share in its rich resources.

He offers the imagery of a cake, saying, "Instead of cutting thinner slices, why not bake a bigger cake? And we know we can do it. It will take a lot, but it can happen.
"We need new leadership, the kind that knows if we could get rid of the old one, they had better do a damn good job or they will find themselves on their butts."
Just as he finishes this statement, some magazines arrive and one of them has Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the cover. Patrick is on the phone. With a grin, he cheekily points to the cover.

Visitors of Niamah!!! know how Patrick feels about the ex-prime minister and will be tickled to find out that Patrick has bumped into him before.
"I was at a supermarket at the old Yow Chuan Plaza in KL when I saw a bunch of thuggish-looking men with handle-bar moustaches. As I pushed my cart, I thought to myself that there must be some VIP in the premises. As I turned the corner into the next aisle, who do I bump into but the man himself! I of course apologised, and he said, 'Yes, hello Patrick. How are you? Still reading the news?' I replied I wasn't and went on my way.

"I met him again when Marina his daughter invited me to a Hari Raya do at their house which was at Seri Perdana at the time. I was sitting at my table, when I spied Mahathir walking to the entrance of the house. And there he stood alone. I decided to go up to him and wish him. Once again, he said, 'Well hello, Patrick. How are you? Still reading the news?'"

Patrick didn't quite get to have conversation with Mahathir because when the rest of the guests spotted the good doctor, they ran up to him and shoved Patrick out of the way, resulting in him being pushed down the stairs.

To go back to the question of Patrick still reading the news, it happened also with Sultan Azlan Shah when he was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"I attended a function where he was the guest of honour. When it was time for him to leave, we all had to line up outside and see him off. When he saw me, he said, 'Hello Patrick. Still reading the news? With RTM right?' I replied no I wasn't but I was once with TV3. The King then said, 'RTM or TV3, they are all the same.'"

Patrick has just released a book entitled Teoh-logy.

He says he might already have the title of his next book – "Eh Patrick, You Still Reading The News?"

Earlier in the conversation, Patrick was asked what he thought about being considered a Malaysian icon by some people. He said he would react very badly to it, the same way he would if he were offered a datukship.
"I do not think I have done anything worthy of a title award."

But with the recognition he gets from Mahathir and the former king, plus the cartoons by Lat and Reggie Lee, some might beg to differ, and say "No lah, Patrick. Sure got one."

No comments:

Post a Comment