Freedom of Expression

Speaking out for peace, justice and liberty can be a dangerous thing. Just speaking out against oppression of the authorities can mean jail, banishment or even death but this has not discouraged many individuals from doing so.

In 1948, on December 10, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There are now 192 member states in the United Nations. All member states have to comply with the declaration but many countries continue to violate it.

The Nobel Peace award this December is a reminder of the importance of the 62-year-old document on human rights. This year it was awarded to Liu Xiaobo from China but he was not able to receive the honour personally.

He is serving a 12-year prison sentence in a Chinese prison. His crime is freedom of expression. He spoke out for a more open and democratic form of government for the Chinese people. China, of course, is an economic giant today but there are many voices of dissent there.

Last Saturday, December 11, for the third consecutive year, The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur had an awards ceremony for the Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards 2010.

This is also another commemoration of the existence of the Human Rights declaration. It was a modest event compared to the internationally renowned Nobel award ceremony. But it was just as significant.

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The Business of Art

The Malaysian art scene has been opening up to many new vistas in the last few years. There are many more art galleries in Kuala Lumpur and in other towns, especially in Malacca and Penang.

One of the big stories in Kuala Lumpur was auctioneer Henry Butcher’s first art auction in August. Then there is the fourth International Art Expo Malaysia 2010. This art fair is on at the Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre till tomorrow.
Sim Tiak Choo is the organising chairman, and his son, Sim Pojinn, is the project director of this art sale. The Sim family and their associates are the prime mover behind these two art marketing events (of course with the support of the National Art Gallery and other related agencies).
He is no stranger to the local art market. He and his wife, Mary Tang, have been buying and selling art for over 38 years and they operate through their City Art Gallery, in Kuala Lumpur. Their main area of interest is in dealing with older Chinese brush paintings from China and some from Malaysian artists. However, they are now into a wider range of art products and other commercial opportunities from the region.

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A chance to see another world

The Orang Asli’s customs and way of doing things may seem “strange” and often given the derogatory label “primitive or uncivilized” by many even today.

This is simply because many of us are not familiar with their cultures. The Orang Asli too, in return, would look at city folks and wonder why we go about doing things the way we do.

However, if we were to take the effort to get to know some Orang Asli, as friends and fellow citizens, we might perhaps see that their way makes perfectly good sense in terms of their own culture and environment.

There are three main tribal groups found in peninsular Malaysia – Negrito, Senoi, and Aboriginal Malay. They are divided into 18 sub-ethnic groups all with their own languages and customs.

Their communities of about 148,000 people make up about five per cent of the total population in Malaysia (compared this to the sizable 17 per cent of the Indigenous population of Sabah and Sarawak).  Most of them prefer to live in the forested areas but many younger ones are making their way into the cities.

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Summer holidays with Hua Hin’s artist

Hua Hin, Pattaya and Phuket are three major seaside towns in Thailand. Pattaya and Phuket are by far more popular with visitors who enjoy more than just the beaches and sun but also can’t do without the nightlife of the go-go bars, which the Thais do so well.

However, there are a growing number of both Thais and foreigners who prefer a quieter tropical seaside atmosphere, especially the elite and those of retirement age, and they choose to be in Hua Hin.

This fishing village was abandoned about 250 years ago during the fall of the Ayutthaya period and in 1845 it gradually came back to life. This may be because it’s near to Bangkok, just 281 kilometres south. The scenic location and its climate are ideal for Bangkokians to get away for the summer from heat in the city.

By the 1920s, the elites descended into this province. A specially built gingerbread style railway station was built to welcome the Thai royalties. The Thai King, Rama VI, in 1923, was the first King to build what is now known as “the longest golden teak palace in the world” the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, on stilts, by the sea not far from Hua Hin.

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