Be scared. Be very scared. We are a haunted nation. There are spirits everywhere.
Take our highways, for instance. Over the last few years, many hundreds of people have died on the North-South Expressway and the Karak Highway.
The Ops Sikap and Ops Selamat statistics tell the story. For Chinese New Year 2013, there were 129 fatal accidents. A year earlier, it was 145.
And it’s all the work of evil spirits. Or so says our Raja Bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin.
He should know. He has done his “research” at the spot where the late Karpal Singh was involved in an accident.
It seems the jungles through which the highways run are where these evil spirits reside. Every now and then, they come out and endanger the lives of drivers.
He has offered to take a helicopter ride from Johor to Perlis to cleanse the highway of these spirits so we can all have a safe ride home.
For someone who often drives home to Penang, that sounds like a good idea. Maybe we should just let him do it – providing of course that he pays for the helicopter ride himself. I will even throw in a coconut or two. Imagine the savings to the taxpayers if we don’t have to pay overtime to traffic policemen and station them all along the highway every festive season.
The policemen could even be with their families for Hari Raya – and Chinese New Year, too, now that the force is on a campaign to hire more Chinese.
Those spirits are really everywhere.
In Penang, they have started a “haunted tour” at the new state museum. You go to the toilet and get a couple of companions back to bed with you, companions you can’t see. So they tell you. It’s scary stuff.
I must have passed that part of Macalister Road a thousand times and never knew of the spirits. The building stands just off where second-hand bookstores – now housed in Chowrasta Market – used to be. You could get mystery, horror, romance, philosophy and even some kinky stuff.
The back of the building led to more kinky stuff, at the seedy part of Jalan Datuk Keramat.
The only spirits we could find there were more hard stuff than scary stuff. And it certainly was more sex than hex.
Talking of hex, the Malacca Chief Minister and his team of bomoh-types are still trying to convince some spirits to give up some the state’s rich – apparently, very rich – heritage.
Treasure worth billions in little Pulau Nangka is set to be unearthed, as soon as workers dig into a cave and get their hands on them.
The treasure is part of what Sultan Mahmud was said to have spirited away when he fled south to set up the Johor sultanate after the “white Bengali” Portuguese arrived in 1511.
But there are guardians on the island, spirits that have been tasked with protecting the treasure. Those who have tried get in have been unable to leave, and those who did come out were in a daze or a trance.
It’s a bit like the curse of Tutankhamen. Until now, the spirits have refused to let anyone in.
Pulau Nangka isn’t the only ghostly story out of Malacca. Nearby Pulau Besar is actually more famous. Here, there are huge graves, testimony of a race of giants who used to live there. And it seems they still come out and roam the island.
Many people still go there in search of fortune. And there are stories of visitors who go amok, speak in strange languages and run into the sea to try and drown themselves.
There are many other stories like that around the country. Like Kellie’s Castle in Perak, where it is said that William Kellie Smith, the man who built it – the castle was never finished – can still be seen walking on the verandah and looking out sadly at the grounds. His daughter Helen is said to be walking around in her old bedroom, although neither of them died anywhere near the castle. They died in Europe.
But like most dead people, they do the living no harm. We do not have to fear them.
The real fear, for me, is not from the spirits but from the living – from those who go around spewing hatred and divisiveness, those who threaten violence and scream bloody murder over every little thing.
We have to fear those who would segment us by race, by religion and try to subjugate everyone into obeying them and their beliefs.
Now, that is really scary. And even the raja bomoh can do little about it. That spectre of violence haunts me.
The writer, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org remembers this line from Charlie Chaplin’s spirited Great Dictator speech. Let us fight to free the world. To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. The STAR Home News Opinion 04 May 2014