Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Winds of Change

It has been an exhilarating month for Malaysia as we prepare for the General Elections, which fell on 8th March 2008. Those of us who have been watching the political development of the country for the last 20 years or so are tired of the cronyism, corruption and positive discrimination that have been plaguing the country and crippling the economy, and want the ruling coalition to be denied their two-thirds majority and be subject to greater check-and-balance. We want peace, but we also need meritocracy, integrity and transparency for the country to become strong.

I have spent almost all my weeknights attending the opposition parties’ election campaigns and public speeches, known locally as “ceramah” sessions. The opposition parties here are not permitted any airtime over TV or radio, or any positive reporting in the local papers (except ‘alternative’ newsletters), but have managed to build up quite a strong supporter base thanks to their hard work, perseverance and response for critical issues such as consumer rights, environmental protection and human rights.

Many of my confederates have been tirelessly campaigning and volunteering for the opposition parties since the day the election date was announced. The Democratic Action Party (DAP) seems to be held in a position of especial favour and esteem by lawyers, as we believe the Party to be a better protector of human rights and justice than the ruling coalition.

Polling Day was a day for justice and People Power indeed, as despite the lack of an equal playing field, the Opposition managed to defeat many of the incumbents from the ruling coalition and deny them their two-thirds majority in Parliament. The people have spoken. What a great step forward for Malaysian democracy! We, the electorate, are ready to work together with our new leaders to reclaim Malaysia for all Malaysians.

Staying up until daybreak to listen to the General Election results did not affect my energy level on Sunday, as I cheerfully went on my way to the SPCA. There were, of course, no shortage of weeping prophets who predicted civil unrest and riots, but the streets were calm, people were genial and the transfer of power has been peaceful.

My good spirits died out when I arrived at the SPCA to be informed that my good friend, the shelter Admin Officer Chelvy, had been hospitalised following illness exacerbated by her grief over her beloved father’s untimely demise. I felt horrible. Nobody from the shelter had called or texted me to inform me of Chelvy’s Dad’s demise. I would have sent flowers or made a cash contribution if I had known. I would have taken the rest of the afternoon off work to pay my last respects.

Maybe the vets and staff didn’t tell me because they too were worried, sad and preoccupied over their colleague. I just wish I had arrived at the shelter sooner so I could have gone in Rajes’ van to the hospital, but I couldn’t leave the parental home sooner because my mother was down with a nasty throat infection and needed medical care.

After a brief discussion with Dr. Pushpa, I took the dogs from the Pound and the ‘E’ Kennels out for walks. I put the sweet-natured but mammoth-sized bull mastiff in the Dog’s Playground to exercise while I took another dog, a Spitz-cross, for a run. Bad choice. The Spitz-cross had a mean streak and attacked all the other dogs, and bit me when I tried to separate him from the other dogs. He bit me again when I returned him to his kennel, and yet again when I removed the choke chain. I have decided to name the dog Mr. Personality, out of irony.

I took the other dogs out for walks and they were duly bathed, groomed and doused with Tactick solution without much incident. It started drizzling around 1630 hours, so I couldn’t walk as many of them as I would have liked. I put away the leashes and shampoo bottles and started cleaning the shelter. I swept and mopped the Office and washed and disinfected the reception/office area, ‘E’ Kennels, Puppy Kennels No. 1, Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Hospital and the bathroom.

It was while I was cleaning the ‘E’ Kennels and Linda was cleaning the Puppy Kennels No. 2 that I heard something eerie and quite possibly paranormal. I haven’t been privy to any unusual incidents since the last animal shelter haunting (reported in an earlier entry) and had believed that the ‘issue’ had been resolved after Alan and the shelter officers brought a church group in to perform prayers for the deceased animals and other restless spirits.

Now there was the unmistakable sound of a baby crying, and it was coming from the storeroom behind the Sick Bay. “Do you hear a baby crying?” I asked Linda in a hushed voice so as not to anger whatever it was lurking in the storeroom. “Has Maran or Muniandy brought their children over today?”

Linda shuddered and replied: “Let’s get on with our work and get out of here. I don’t want to have to meet ‘It’ again.” We worked like our asses were on fire and then got out of the kennels adjacent to Sick Bay as quickly as we could. Still, I felt a tinge of regret that I wasn’t able to help the dogs deal with this mysterious crying entity that visits the kennels at the back. I had earlier believed that the entity meant no harm, but Linda and Muniandy told me otherwise.

What is the nature of this entity and is there a way we can discover the shelter’s history? Was this once the site of a tragedy? When the shelter is forced to relocate in a few years, will we then be free of such supernatural visits, or is the entity drawn to the animals? Does it feed on pain, sorrow, suffering or loneliness, all of which are in abundance in a shelter full of unwanted strays and abandoned pets?

Ours not to make reply, Ours not to reason why, Ours but to finish the cleaning and say goodbye. Linda and I did a thorough job of cleaning the rest of the shelter. I cleaned myself up, bade the animals goodnight and went on home to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, stopping only for junk food at the night market on the way home.

Tomorrow I will wake up to a better Malaysia. Tomorrow, I can expect the police force to aid and protect the people, not harass and oppress us. Tomorrow, I will have as good an opportunity as any Malaysian of any ethnic group to be awarded a government contract or a scholarship. Tomorrow, we can expect our green lungs and primary rainforests to be gazetted and accorded protected forest reserve status. Tomorrow, the taxes I pay will not be used to finance the elected representatives’ luxury cars and mansions. Tomorrow, the voices of consumers, women and environmentalists will no longer be silenced or dismissed by the government. I hope my joy and optimism isn’t premature or ill founded.

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