Friday, December 04, 2015

Kuantan, Darul Bauxite?


by Azly Rahman



Why is Kuantan, Pahang looking like the planet Mars these days? Why is it now a red planet with a Red Sea with the Kuantan folk living in fear of a red scare of dying en masse from contamination if not from cancer? Who are the culprits responsible for turning the town into a red river valley with red streets producing red dust, as if the city is a place for the next shooting of a sequel to Hollywood’s ‘Interstellar’?

I love the town. ‘Kuatagh’ as it is called by the folks. A slangish way to call this now reddening town which does not even have a single brunette/redhead walking around Jalan Alor Akar, for example. Yes, part of my teenage years were spent there. I went to school there. It was a lovely place with lovely people and back in the mid-70s, only kids like me and my friends were responsible for painting the town red.

Now I will call it Kuatagh, Darul Bauxite. A town with red alert flashing daily. A town that is strip-mining bauxite and those big gins and big guys with big profits to make will earn from the production of aluminium.

So, now Kuatagh will be the Capital of Heavy Metal with the CEOs of those mining companies and the politicians producing Kuatagh’s death metal music playing in the streets and the rivers and the valleys of the town, and filling the airwaves for Kuatagh folk to breathe the satanic metal air.
Filthy business of progress isn’t it?

But who cares? Do the leaders and the rulers care? Money rules, OK? That’s the game. The key word is profit. The goal is to make those quick bucks, those Ringgit Ke Syurga - that money paving the stairway to heaven for the Kuatagh folk.

Who cares about the lives of the Kuatagh residents? Who cares about those environmental impact analyses, those protests by environmental groups, those folks breathing poison that will go into their lungs and they die still wanting to vote for the government.

I love the town. A place where I mastered the art and science of speaking like a ‘Kuatagh’ person. A place that taught me about life in exile at a tender age of 13. I learned a lot from the kampong folk, the shopkeepers, my teachers, from escaping the dormitory and spending nights in town, watching Kung Fu, Yankee, and some Hindustani movies. Those nights include roaming around Telok Chempedak.

No - I was not trying to measure the length of the beach. Just appreciating the fresh breeze of the South China Sea and hoping that mermaids would appear, if not the great dragon of the South China Sea coming out of the ocean to play. Or simply to stare at the site of sunken battleship Prince of Wales and wonder if there are hidden treasures inside. I was just curious.

Rainbow colour of my experience

Yes, the town of Kuatagh was not red then. It was green and the skies were blue. It was the colour of my experience - rainbow. As beautiful as the music of the rock group Rainbow.

Now it is simply red. It is the colour of communism. Of totalitarianism. Of exploitation. Of not letting the Kuatagh folk speak up against the deadly pollution and to stop the filthy rich allegedly poisoning the poor. To stop the town of Kuatagh from turning its nights into Nights of the Living Dead.

Who cares? But if the people yell and shout and protest, we’ll charge them with illegal assembly. We’ll use the newer Acts and call them environmental terrorists. We’ll stop them from stopping us from making profits.

Because when it comes to money, we will make sure we are unstoppable. We eat caviar and drink champagne and breathe the fresh air of the Mediterranean Sea for our holidays and let the Kuatagh folk eat red ikan patin all day, breath poisonous air and let their children listen to Death Music all their lives.

Who cares what the warriors Mat Kilau and Datuk Bahaman would say about Kuatagh folk. They are dead anyway. They don’t know what capitalism, neo-liberalism and the Pahang developmental agenda mean anyway. They don’t even know about the coming of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, do they?

But who cares? Who cares!?

I do. I grew up in Kuantan. As a Kuatagh. Now I am turning red. With anger!

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