Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mahi Ramakrishnan & Child Prostitution In Malaysia

I interview a documentary maker who made a film on child prostitution in Malaysia . The story appeared in theSun  newspaper on May 20 

Headline : Agent For Change 
By Bissme s

MAHI Ramakrishnan worked as a journalist for 18 years before venturing into making documentaries in recent years.She has worked with media organisations such as the ­prestigious ­American weekly Time magazine and ­international news ­network Al Jazeera, and is ­currently a ­freelance foreign ­correspondent for USA Today, a daily that has a readership of more than three million.
She also freelances for Arise News Network, a 24-hour international TV news network with stations in London and New York.Recently, Mahi held a private screening of her ­latest completed ­documentary (her sixth), this time on the ­issue of child ­prostitution in ­Malaysia, to a selected group of ­Malaysians who then ­participated in an interesting discussion after the screening.
The 45-year-old Perak-born filmmaker spent more than two years working on the 30-minute documentary, Trapped: The Underage Sex Trade in Malaysia. She had previously tackled such sensitive issues as baby trafficking.
"Sometimes, I feel that change is not taking place," Mahi laments. "Those who watched my ­documentary were animated and had intense discussions after the ­screening. Then they went home and forgot about the issue.
"Whenever I tell people that child prostitution exists in ­Malaysia, they refuse to believe me. But when they watched my film, they were stunned. Child prostitution is more subtle over here."
She adds that it took her over two years to get the story as it is not easy to get people to talk about a sensitive subject like child prostitution.
"I met with pimps. But they refused to help," she says. ­"Instead, they tried to convince me that child prostitution does not ­exist here."
But Mahi did not give up. ­Finally, her persistence paid off when a pimp introduced her to three underage female sex workers.
The first girl came from a poor family in India. The girl's mother was told that her child could earn good money ­working as a maid in Malaysia.
"The moment she landed in Malaysia, they made her work as a child prostitute. She was only 13 then. When I met her, she was 15.
"I recall asking her why she was willing to talk to me and she said she had hoped that I would be able to rescue her."
Although Mahi attempted to save the girl, it was not to be as the girl ­disappeared soon after that. "The girl was my ­daughter's age and I felt so devastated that I could not help her."
The other two underage prostitutes she interviewed were from Indonesia and ­Thailand. Both were 16 and came over to work as sex workers on their own ­accord.
In the documentary, the Thai girl claimed she didn't have any difficulty getting across the border.
Mahi suggests that our ­Immigration Department look into that girl's claims.
"We should not take this matter lightly as we are talking about child sex here and child sex is illegal. It is the duty of every country to provide a safe environment for every child."
Why did the pimp ­allow Mahi to interview these ­underage prostitutes?
"I asked myself the same question. I'm still wondering about the answer," she says. "I was only given 10 minutes to talk to each girl. Maybe, the pimp knew he was safe and business would go on as usual."
Mahi wants her film to bring public awareness on the ­tragedy of child ­prostitution.
"I want society to organise itself and lobby for changes, without waiting for lawmakers to initiate such campaigns.
"As a documentary ­filmmaker, I want my movies to help bring change to society and for the better."
In the meantime, Mahi is just wrapping up her latest documentary – Seeds of Hatred – on the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya community and the discrimination faced by the people in Myanmar.
She made several trips to Myanmar last year to shoot the documentary.
"I hope my ­documentary will enable the people in ­Myanmar to understand that everyone had suffered ­tremendously during the ­military rule," she says.
"I hope they can reach out to one another. I hope they will become a stronger force and their voices will be heard."
When asked what she thought about opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's response to the plight of the Rohingya, Mahi did not mince her words.
"I used to be a big fan of her," she says. "I thought she would be great for Myanmar.
"I had expected her to speak up about the persecution of the Rohingya. These people were being murdered and burned alive.
"But she said nothing. She has turned out to be a huge disappointment."
Mahi hopes to screen Seeds of Hatred in Myanmar ­sometime later this year.

PS: Below are the pictures from her latest documentary Seeds of Hatred 
Mahi went to Mymanmar several times to shoot her documentary Seeds of Hatred 

Mahi hopes to show Seeds of Hatred in Mymanmar end of the year

Seeds of Hatred is documentary that touches on the political landscape of Mymanmar
Another interesting scene from the documentary Seeds of Hatred

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Faisal Tehrani & Penans

Today theSun published an interview with author Faisal Tehrani who spoke about his 23rd novel Bagaimana Anyss Naik Ke Langit? that highlights the plight of Penan woman being  violated. Read the full article below 

Suggested Headline: A Voice for the Voiceless 
By Bissme S

Author Faisal Tehrani (below) bravely tackles the issue of timber company workers raping Penan women in Sarawak in Bagaimana Anyss Naik Ke Langit?, his latest novel. 
“I’m always interested in giving voice to the voiceless in my work,” says the 40-year-old. 
“My novels have always dealt with human rights issues.”
He adds that he has always been moved by the marginalised and their struggles to be recognised and be heard.
“I have been researching on this issue for more than five years,” Faisal says. 
“Logging companies want to chase the indigenous Penans from the forest as they want to log the trees. 
“These companies resort to harsh tactics to achieve this aim, which includes the rape of the Penan women. Initially, the authorities denied such rapes took place. But now, they have acknowledged it.” 
In Bagaimana Anyss Naik Ke Langit?, his 23rd novel, a female Malay professor exposes the rape of the Penan women and this indirectly puts her life in danger. Faisal finds that there are very few Malays like lawyer Siti Kassim who dare speak up for the indigenous people in the country. 
“I find Malays here eager to help the Palestinians who are 
oppressed by the Israeli government,” says Faisal. 
“They believe that helping fellow Muslims is noble.But the rape of Penan women is happening in our backyard and we should not shut our eyes to this injustice. 
"The Penans may not be Muslims but they are still human. Everyone deserves our attention.
“Look at the late (human rights activist) Irene Fernandez. 
She helped the Bangladeshi foreign workers who are Muslims when they were treated unfairly. She put their humanity first before their race or religion. We should emulate her spirit of fair play.” 
In his novel, Faisal has one of the characters asked: “Why do we feel it’s more ‘heavenly’ to help victims in Palestine rather than the Penans over here?” 
Some have complained that the rape incidents in the book were too graphic and difficult to digest. 
“My intention was not to sensationalise rape,” Faisal says. 
“I want to show how truly disgusting and terrifying rape can be.”
Others said that the ‘book was too thin’ and that he had written it in a hurry and that the ending was too abrupt as well. 
“I do not mind if they do not like my book,” Faisal says. 
“I am open to criticism. For instance, if I am an actor, I cannot be producing an Oscar-winning performance all the time. 
“However, they should know that I did not finish the book in a hurry. I wanted the story to end abruptly. I wanted it to be just this length, too. I am using a different writing style to tell the story here.”
Faisal’s next book will deal with another controversial subject:the lead character is a Malay Muslim lesbian in her 60s. 
“It will be the female version of Brokeback Mountain,” he says with a laugh.
As a registered human rights defender with Front Line Defenders (FLD), an NGO linked with the United Nations, Faisal says: “Like Penans, gays and lesbians are also marginalised people. They 
have to face cultural and religious challenges to be accepted.” 
Faisal is also a research fellow at the Institute of Malay World and Civilisation (Atma) in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Last year, the authorities had banned his novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta as it is seen to be promoting Shia Islam that is not practice here. However some publishers in Indonesia are keen to translate this book into Bahasa Indonesia. But Faisal has not given his consent yet.  
“I do not want people to read the book just because it is controversial or it got banned here,” he says.  
“I want them to treat my book as a work of art.”   
Some people have accused him of purposely selecting controversial topics for his books so he could be in limelight and win awards. Laughingly he answers: “I have won awards before. My only aim to choose such topics is because I want to stimulate the mind of my readers. I like writing about oppressed people who have been sidelined by the mainstream. Like I said earlier, I want to 
be an author who is not afraid to talk human rights." 

Faisal Tehrani with his latest  novel  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother's Day Story

Sunday will be mother's day where everyone in the world will pay special tribute to their moms. Today theSun carries an interview with four celebrities who talks about their mom who shaped them to be who they are today... 

Here is the full article 
Headline: The Queen of Their Hearts 
By Bissme S

This Sunday, May 11, is Mother’s Day, a day dedicated to mothers everywhere. In conjunction with this special day, four celebrities pay special tribute to their own mother and reveal how their mother have inspired them to be better parents to their own children.

Daphne Iking, 35, TV personality and actress, honours her mum, Naili Juliah Ganahong, 60: 
“I became a single mum when my daughter Isobel Danniella was barely a year old. It was a tough time for me but my mum held my hand and showered me with love and encouragement.One piece of advice she gave me is to love unconditionally and to not allow hate or bitterness to control my life. My mother is nonjudgmental,always kind, fair and very forgiving.She holds the fort whenever someone in my family falls apart. She will not tell her children when she is not well and when she is unhappy, as she doesn’t want to worry us. I dislike this habit of hers.My mother stays in Sabah so she really misses her grandchildren (Daphne’s daughter Isobel  Daniella, six, and Daphne’s son Iman Daniella, two).So when she sees her grandchildren, she really makes the best of the time with them. She is definitely more hands on with her grandchildren than she was with her four children.This is probably because she is now retired from her job as a tutor in nursing and has more time on her hands.”

Daphne: Her mother told her not allow hate and bitterness to control her life 

From left : Shalina ( family friend), Mozes Jr ( Daphne's brother), Daphne mum carrying Isobel ( Daphne's eldest child , Michelle Ann ( Daphne's sister) and Michelle husband Kishore Suppiah, Georgianne and Her son Tristan , Daphne and her husband Azmi Abdul Rahman 
Fauziah Nawi, 60, actress and theatre director, honours her late mum, Hajjah Salmiah Sidek: 
“My mother passed away 20 years ago. But there has never been a day I never think of her. My  mother was illiterate but she was smart. My father worked in the optical firm but his income was not enough to sustain the family. To earn extra cash, my mother cooked and sold food items. She never believed in giving up and always wanted a better life for her five children. She was open minded and I could discuss anything with my mother – from love to marriage. I seem to have inherited that trait when it comes to my two children. They can talk to me openly about any topic under the sun.I had modelled one of my characters after her in Sayang Salmah. That role won me the best supporting actress award. One of my dream projects is to direct a movie based on my mother’s life as a tribute to her.”

Fauziah: Her mom always believe in giving better life to her children

Vanidah Imran, 40, actress, honours her mum, Sharifah Bee, 60+:
“All teenagers think their mothers are too strict and I was no different. It is only when I became a mother myself, that I understood my mum better and realised that her intentions
were noble. Whatever rules she imposed was intended to help me grow up into a responsible adult.My mother was a housewife but believe me, being a housewife is not an easy job. Your work never ends! I can never emulate the way my mother had brought me up. Each parent has a set of parental skills. I am more open with my children (son Mikail, 13 and daughter Maryam, 10) compared to my
mother. But one thing I have learnt from my mother is to teach my children to show respect to elders. My mom also made it a point to be there for her children at crucial moments such as sports
day and report card day and I try to do the same for my children.
“My mother was very supportive when I decided to be an actress. She took time to cut out articles that had been written about me and put the articles in a scrap book. She attends every one of my theatre shows and watches every one of my movies.”

Vanidah: Her mom taught her to respect the eldest and she also teaching the same thing to her children
Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, 55, film producer, honours her mum, Laliah Abdullah, 74:
“What impressed me most about my mum is the way she loved my father. My dad was in the army and had to spend months in the jungle. My mum would wait patiently for his return. When my dad died in 2004 of a heart attack, for months after his death, my mother still went to sleep clutching onto one of his shirts. Mum was very good in her studies and wanted to be a teacher. But in those days, women were not encouraged to have a career, so my grandmother arranged for my mother to get married early.She imbued religious and traditional values in her children and I do the same thing with my three children. My mother loves my children very much. She wanted my children to stay with her and to raise them.But I told her that I wanted to raise my children on my own.
Now, that I am a grandmother of two grandchildren, I do not allow my daughter and my son-in-law to move out. I want my grandchildren to stay with me. In some ways, I have become exactly like my mother.” 

Raja Azmi ( from right) with her eldest daughter Puteri Suraya and her mom ( left)
Raja Azmi with her children
Raja Azmi is impressed the way her mother has loved her late father.