Monday, September 26, 2011

All quiet on the border front


Malaysians flocking to the Thai town of Golok for cheap food and shopping are as much victims of bomb blasts that target sleazy entertainment joints that supporters of a militant movement frown upon.

So how’s Golok? I asked a supervisor at a parking lot in Rantau Panjang next to the Golok River that separates Kelantan and Thailand’s Narathiwat province.

“Look at the car park. It is practically empty. Usually it is filled with cars,” said Mie of the RM5 a day parking lot, about 100m from the Malaysian immigration check point.

Four days after the triple bombings at Golok in Narathiwat province that killed four Malaysians (including a three-year-old boy) and a Thai national, and injured 50 people, Malaysians are staying clear of the border town in Thailand’s restive deep south.

“Are you going in without a passport?” Mie asked as I negotiated for a motorcycle ride into Golok town about 2km away.

I raised my eyebrows.

“There are men who don’t use their passport so that their wives won’t know they’ve been to Golok,” he said.

I asked him if it was safe to venture into Thailand without using a passport.

“Actually can. It is just a matter of whether in your heart, you feel safe,” said Mie.

“If you want to be safe, the hotel to stay in Golok is Genting Hotel (which has no relation to the famous resort in Pahang).

“It (the hotel) is closer to the Malaysian border – therefore clearer Malaysian mobile phone reception – and further from central Golok,” my colleague Syed Azhar told me.

“Don’t stay in Marina (in central Golok). It is located next to the entertainment centres, and can be a target.”

Room 904 in Genting Hotel has stained carpets and the smell of stale cigarette smoke permeated the air.

It was as if the room represented Golok.

“Where did the bombs go off?” I asked the bellboy in Malay.

The bellboy, a Thai Malay Muslim, pointed towards central Golok, about 2km away.

“Toom toom there at Marina Hotel and Merlin Hotel,” he said. “Now Malaysians are afraid to come to Golok.”

Once I had unpacked and hidden my iPad and passport under the bed, I went to look for a motorcycle taxi.

Pai toom toom,” I told the driver in the little Thai that I knew (in Thai, pai means “go”).

He smiled and nodded his head. And he drove me to YB Karaoke, a greenish-coloured joint. Seated outside were smiling female GROs (guest relations officers) with brownish tinted hair and slender bodies.

There was no sign of “toom toom”.

Oops, I realised it was a classic case of “lost in translation”. He thought I wanted “boom boom”.

Boom boom, I was told, is the main reason Malaysian men visit Golok.

But that night there weren’t any. There were no Malaysian men with sweet, young Thais hanging on to them in Sin City.

The other Malaysians drawn to the border town are families on the lookout for cheap food and shopping.

“Boom! boom!” I told the driver with a tone that sounded like a bomb blast. And he understood that he had taken me to the wrong place.

The three bombs hidden in two motorcycles and a car set off a few minutes apart on Sept 16 night targeted two karaoke joints and a popular eatery near the Merlin and Marina hotels.

The bomb that killed the Malaysians was hidden in a car parked near the eatery. The place had an eerie, abandoned atmosphere to it.

Across the eatery, in Merlin hotel, a shattered glass pane has still not been replaced.

The day before I visited Golok, I was in Universiti Utara Malaysia in Kedah to interview Duncan McCargo, an expert on Thailand’s Deep South conflict.

I asked him why Golok was targeted.

“I don’t know who did it. Or what their particular motive was,” he said.

“But clearly this kind of incident is very effective in harming trade, in reducing the income that these communities receive from people coming from Malaysia.

“Many of the people who sympathise with the militant movement don’t like the entertainment industry.

“They don’t like bars, they don’t like prostitution and they don’t like a lot of the things that they see as symbols of the activities in Sungai Golok.

“And they don’t like the tourists going across the border to patronise those kinds of services, which they can’t necessarily access in Malaysia.”

In case you’re curious, no, I did not have the time for an ancient Thai massage with a happy ending.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A new spin on the conflict


Thai police and the military are saying that drug dealers had a hand in orchestrating the deadly coordinated bombings in Golok last Friday.

ON Sunday morning, Thai expert Duncan McCargo was “slightly surprised” when he read in a Malaysian newspaper about the triple bombings in Golok, Thailand.

“What was very striking is the paper (not The Star) was quoting Thai security officials suggesting that it had something to do with drugs, (thus) giving credence to that line of argument,” McCargo, a University of Leeds professor specialising in Thailand, related in an interview at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) campus in Kedah.

“I was slightly surprised that the commentary in the newspaper did not in any way critique this sort of line of explanation.”

McCargo was referring to the three bomb blasts in Golok in Narathiwat province that killed four Malaysians (including a three-year-old boy) and a Thai national and injured 50 others on Sept 16.

In a statement, Thai authorities alleged that drug dealers had a hand in the deadly coordinated bombings in the Thai town about two kilometres from the Kelantan border.

“I don’t know what caused this particular incident because it has not been investigated yet. But the fact that it has not been investigated yet does not stop the Thai authorities from immediately speculating along a particular line,” noted the author of several books on Thailand including Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand and Rethinking Thailand’s Southern Violence.

Research by McCargo and Srisompob Jitpiromsri of Prince of Songkla University, Pattani in Thailand’s Deep South (Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani) has shown otherwise.

“We are very, very critical of a recent trend which is actually a revisitation of an earlier trend by authorities in Thailand to claim that a lot of the violence in the Deep South are basically crime-related incidents,” said the Briton who is also a distinguished professor at the School of International Studies in UUM.

Thai authorities, according to McCargo, talk about these attackers not as “terrorists” or “militants” but as “perpetrators of violence”.

“This generic phrase has crept into news reports because it has been fed to journalists by police and the military who have decided to keep on talking about ‘perpetrator of violence’. Srisompob and I are deeply sceptical that this is a very useful way of explaining most of these incidents,” he said.

“It is perfectly possible that people could be killed in relation to drug smuggling and other (crime-related) stories. But with the scale of the (Golok) incident – three bombs going off in a tourist area – the idea that it was to get revenge on the Thai police seems pretty far-fetched for me.”

According to the Bangkok Post, the first of three explosions went off at 6.40pm opposite the Teochew Association.

The blast, which came from a parked motorcycle, wounded a large number of passersby, both tourists and locals, and killed a Thai. About 15 minutes later, another motorcycle bomb went off in front of a bar about 300m from the first explosion. Several Thais and Malaysian tourists sustained shrapnel wounds. At about 7.20pm, a third bomb exploded from a car parked near a food stall opposite the Merlin Hotel.

There are undoubtedly, admitted McCargo, some incidents in the Deep South where there aren’t any political incidents.      

“Some of them are your normal tit-for-tat killings. Southern Thailand, and Thailand as a whole, is a very violent society. It has the second highest murder rate in Asia,” he explained.

“Thais don’t like to be reminded of this fact but actually, they’ve got a very, very serious violence problem all over the country.”

But with 4,700 people killed since 2004, the Deep South conflict is the third-most intensive insurgency in the world after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not a normal crime

This figure, argued McCargo, did not commensurate with normal crime.

“Some of them may be normal crime but something else is going on which is much bigger. When people are shooting at military vehicles, attacking army bases, you can’t explain these incidents by reference to ordinary crimes,” he said.

“But the Thai authorities are doing the very best to claim that everything is normal, everything is all right, that Thailand is safe, everything is okay.”

It is quite dangerous, according to McCargo, to keep on talking that way as the logical assumption when you have a large bomb going off is that it is in some ways related to a political motive – some kind of separatist ethnic conflict.

The Thai authorities are in denial of the nature of the conflict. They refuse to admit that it is politically motivated and are more interested in inventing other explanations.

“They don’t want the outside world to think of the conflict as a civil war. Once you admit that, then you admit you’ve got a real legitimacy problem inside the Thai state,” he explained.

“They don’t want to admit that some kind of political problem exists. They want to believe that everybody loves Thailand, all Thais are happy to be Thai, everybody in Thailand is happy, everybody who goes to Thailand loves it, Thais are smiling, and so on. Bits of those things are true. But not all the time and not everywhere.”      

What’s happening in the Deep South, according to McCargo, is the 64 million dollar question.

“That is what we are trying to get to the bottom of. This is a multi-casual conflict. There’s no one simple explanation,” said the professor who in 2005/2006 – driving mostly by himself in an old Mercedes Benz – visited all the red zones in the three Thai Muslim-majority provinces to research the Deep South conflict.

“My belief is – while this does not account for every violent incident – at the core of the problem is the crisis of legitimacy. You have 1.3 million Malay Muslims within these three provinces who have the potential to not fully embrace a Thai identity,” he explained.

“Undoubtedly some of these people will say, ‘we are Thai, we are happy with the label of Thai’. But a large majority of them are less than 100% happy with the label Thai and would tell you that they are Malay or talk about their identity in some other way.

“There’s a historical explanation to it. Like most countries which are not an island, Thailand has a problem with borders. Thailand’s borders are extremely messy as most of them – with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia – have changed over time. You’ve got people inside Thailand who might not necessarily think of themselves as 100% Thai.”

But that is not how the Thai state sees it.

“The Thai state believes that everybody is loyal to the basic principles – nation, religion and king. And everybody sees themselves as Thai,” McCargo noted.

In summary, the professor said there was violence in the Deep South because there was a militant movement.

“People leading this movement are radicalising mostly kids from 18 to 25 to carry out these attacks. They are able to do the radicalisation as there is an underlying legitimacy deficit and underlying political problem,” he said.

The Deep South conflict can be solved. But it needs to be solved with a political solution.

“That is the difficulty. The Thais don’t want to admit that it is a political problem, which is why they are talking about drugs and ‘perpetrator of violence’. If they can just admit that it is a political problem, that they have less legitimacy in that part of the country, then they can start to address it,” McCargo explained.

“Thais are in denial. This latest incident (in Golok) to me is an illustration of that. They are burying their head in the sand and they have been talking in this way for the last seven years.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Malaysia's history all about semantics?


The debate over when is Malaysia Day, Aug 31 or Sept 16, will continue as there are still differing views. But one thing is certain – there are Malaysians who are very passionate about our history. 

Last week I had my Zainal Kling moment. In case there are those who are clueless on the recent big issue concerning Malaysia, here’s a summary.

Datuk Prof Dr Zainal Kling of the National Professors Council stirred a historical controversy when he declared that Malaya was never a British colony but only a “protectorate”.

Last week, in this column, I wrote an article titled “A lesson on Sept 16”.

It was a history lesson that the Federation of Malaya, not Malaysia, was created in 1957. And that Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia – they formed the country together with the then Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.

That was that, I thought. Until I received brickbats mostly from my fellow Sabahans. Though most comments were good-hearted ribbing, I felt as if I was a snake that bit its own tail.

There were jocular warnings that Sabah will use its special immigration power to bar me from entering my state.

There were also warnings that went for the jugular. I was accused of living in Kuala Lumpur too long.
Factually correct, as I’ve been living in Greater Kuala Lumpur for more than 25 years. But parochially incorrect as you can take Philip out of Sabah, but you can’t take Sabah out of Philip.

And it was as if I did not live through Parti Bersatu Sabah’s ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ political era.

Factually, there was nothing incorrect about my article. It is just that I neglected to mention something that is close to the heart of many Sabahans.

The first brickbat was from a reader who may or may not be a Sabahan or a Sarawakian.

Sonny68mak emailed: “If I recall correctly my history lessons, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore declared independence on Aug 31, 1963.

“They could not form Malaysia on that day because they were waiting for the official referendum results to be declared by the United Nations which was delayed by Jakarta and Manila’s protests at the UN,” wrote the reader, who could even be a Singaporean.

“So therefore the Borneo states independence was effective Aug 31, 1963. They formed Malaysia on Sept 16 as two-weeks-old independent sovereign states.”

“Please ask your Prof friend to recheck the facts so that the public is not confused.”

Fair comment, I thought. As if I was debating the issue, I would have taken a similar stand.

However, just to show him that I was not a hack, I replied: “Yes, I did check that fact with the Prof.”

“I told him for example, North Borneo gained independence on Aug 31, 1963 so it must have been an independent country,” I wrote.

“He said ‘no’ as even though the British granted independence to North Borneo on that day, it still administrated Sabah.”

As soon as I sent that email, I received an SMS from a Sabahan who is a veteran journalist. Though the timing of his SMS was coincidental, it was as if he sensed my “betrayal” in cyberspace.

The 40-something journalist SMS-ed: “I beg to differ. On Aug 31, 1963, the Union Jack came down and the Sabah flag went up. Sabah and Sarawak were independent nations until Sept 16, 1963. You’re selling propaganda. Ha ha”.

Immediately I called him. And after 30 minutes we agreed that history is about semantics. And, quoting Winston Churchill, “History is written by the victors”.

Then I received a call from a Penangite who is more Sabahan than me. Well, he has lived in Sabah for more than 20 years.

“We can buang negeri (kick you out of Sabah) you!” he said.

“Your article missed the point. You should have written that Sabah was a country before it formed Malaysia! And you should have written that 1/3 of Sabahans wanted to form Malaysia, 1/3 did not want to and 1/3 were undecided.”

“You’ve also missed the point that it was four equal nations (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore) forming the Federation of Malaysia.”

“But, but, but,” I replied. “The point of my article is just to discuss Sept 16.” “No, you missed the point!” he said.

“Do you know that Sept 16 is also Lee Kuan Yew’s birthday?” I said, just to change the topic.

However sharp the comments I received throughout the day, it was delightful to know that 48 years after the fact, Sabahans are still passionate about their history.

Still, it made me feel as if I had sold Labuan to the Feds. Wonder where’s Zainal Kling? I need a hug. And some historical semantics.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ibans find niche in Johor


A large number of Ibans have settled down in Johor, driven by economic necessity.

ABOUT 15 years ago, M.M. Samy noticed an unfamiliar chattering among a group of people in a coffee shop in Masai town, Johor.

“They were not speaking Malay or English. It sounded different. It was not a language that I’ve ever heard,” recalled Samy, MIC assemblyman for Permas Jaya in Masai, about 25km east of Johor Baru.

Later, when Samy stumbled on more of these “strange sounding” people, he found that they were Ibans from Sarawak.

“At that time, there were not many of them in the Pasir Gudang area. You could see one or two of them in coffee shops. Then I saw more of them in Masai town,” said Samy, whose state seat is part of the Pasir Gudang parliament constituency. “Now there are so many of them.”

What Samy probably did not realise at that time was that he was witnessing the gradual migration of Ibans across the South China Sea from Sarawak to Johor.              

Arguably, Johor has the largest number of Ibans living outside of Sarawak. The number ranges from 10,000 (according to Samy) to 40,000 (Dr John Brian Anthony of www.

One of the early Ibans to live and work in Masai is Gong Anak Sandah, who hails from Engkilili, about 156km from Kuching.

In 1990, Gong left Sarawak’s capital to look for greener pastures. In Kuching, he earned about RM7 a day fixing bulldozer engines, while in Pasir Gudang, he made about RM20 a day working in the electrical department of a shipyard.

“I felt it was rugi (a waste) to leave my hometown. But I had to do so as it was difficult to find a high-paying job in Sarawak,” recalled Gong, 52, his voice almost drowned out by Iban songs at a karaoke session at the coffee shop next door.

“When I found a job in Pasir Gudang, I could breathe easier as I was able to feed my family,” said Gong, who has 12 children aged seven to 30.

When Gong first moved to Masai, he felt like a foreigner. At that time, there were not many Ibans living in Masai.

“Back then, when you walked around Masai town at 6pm, you could spot about 10 Ibans. Now there are hundreds of them. If you want to see more Ibans, just go to the supermarkets,” smiled Gong.

Better economic opportunities in Johor drove hundreds of Ibans to abandon their home state.

According to John Brian of, his kinsmen started to migrate to Johor in big numbers in the late 1990s, when major construction in the booming oil and gas town of Bintulu in Sarawak was completed.

“We have a tradition called berjelai (an Iban word for journey). The purpose of berjelai is to seek knowledge and fortune,” he explained.

“When there were no jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers in Bintulu, many headed for Pasir Gudang, a booming oil and gas town, and shipyard.”

These Ibans, noted John Brian, had no choice but to leave Sarawak as “there was nothing for them back home.”

The Ibans have made themselves felt in their adopted state. There are several Iban-owned shops in Taman Megah Ria in Masai. There you can find several Iban coffee shops selling kolo mee (a famous Sarawakian noodle dish), Apai Jamming Studio, Gereja Methodist Iban Johor, Gagasan Dayak Iban Malaysia Bersatu (GAIU or Iban Dayak United Malaysian Organisation) office and a shop selling CDs of singers from Sarawak.

On Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, there is a Tamu Dayak (some call it Pasar Borneo) where popular Sarawakian products – fresh and salted terubok, live sago worms, midin (wild jungle fern) and wild boar – are sold.

Some of the churches in Johor have masses conducted in the Iban language.

The Ibans studying in Johor schools, according to Samy, contribute to national integration as they have introduced their culture to the other students.

“I’ve attended school functions where students danced the ngajat (a traditional Iban dance),” he related.

For these Ibans, Johor has become their home. Transplanted Sarawakians such as Gong have become Johorean. If before Gong spoke Malay like a Sarawakian, now he could pass off as a native speaker from Johor.

“I consider this place as my kampung halaman (village). We have made the surrounding jungle our own. We hunt for wildlife such as monitor lizard, anteater, wild boar and porcupine in the nearby jungle. We also look for vegetables which many locals are not aware are edible,” said Gong.

However, his heart belongs to Sarawak. “One day I will go back and live in Sarawak. I’m worried that if I don’t take care of the paddy fields and rubber plantation in Engkilili, someone will grab it,” he said.

According to GAIU Johor president Sai Malaka, the Ibans here can be divided into two categories.

Some like Gong plan to work in Johor (or Singapore) and save enough money (about RM100,000 to RM150,000) so that they can return home and invest in a business.

Others plan to live permanently in the adopted state as life in Johor can be pretty comfortable.

“Just take transportation; the journey from one Johor town to another is superfast because of the highway. In Sarawak, such journey may take a day,” explained Sai, 45, owner of Panggau Libau Paradise restaurant in Taman Megah Ria.

Back in Sarawak, it takes Sai nine hours to travel from his longhouse in Katibas to Sibu town. This includes a six-hour boat journey to Song, a small river station. From Song, it is another three hours on an express boat to Sibu.

“Unlike my house in Masai, my longhouse in Katibas has no piped water or electricity. The closest hospital is nine hours by boat,” said Sai.

However, there is no denying that Sai misses his longhouse.

“What I miss most is the community bond in the longhouse. Here (in Johor) it is difficult to trust anyone. Even though you think someone is your friend, he might steal your motorcycle. True friends – that’s what most Sarawakians living here miss most,” Sai lamented.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A lesson on Sept 16


The federation of Malaya, not Malaysia, was created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia – they formed the country together with the then Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.

ON AUG 31, I spent my Merdeka Day holiday tweeting history lessons. I found certain historical inaccuracies on my Twitter timeline as annoying as – to misquote a tweet from @ATM2U – seeing a straight man eat cupcake.

For example, one of Malaysia’s tycoons tweeted: “Independence day for Malaysia today.”

As a Sabahan, I just had to correct him even though he is worth a billion times more than me. So @PhilipGolingai admonished: “Sir, independence day for Malaya. Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963.”

Then someone – not the billionaire – tweeted: “Why Singapore not celebrating Malaya’s Indepen-dence day?”

History was definitely not her favourite subject.

I replied: “When Malaya declared Merdeka, Singapore was under the British. On Sept 16, 1963, Singapore, Malaya, Sabah & Sarawak formed Malaysia.”

My colleague @ChiaYingTheStar (Lim Chia Ying) tweeted: “How can a tv station say Happy Birthday to M’sia on Aug 31?? My gosh, no wonder kids can never learn real facts?”

On Merdeka Day, Faridah Stephens, daughter of one of Malaysia’s founding fathers, Tun Fuad Stephens (Sabah Chief Minister), reminded her Peninsu­lar Malaysian friends of our country’s history.

“(Some of) my friends wished Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia. They always say Malaysia. But it is not Malaysia’s independence but Malaya’s,” she lamented.

On Facebook, Faridah watched a video clip of Negaraku sung in Chinese. The rendition was “beautiful” but the ending of the video was a “dampener”.

“Alamak, I thought, when I saw ‘Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia’ at the end,” she said.

How did her friends’ respond to her reminder?

“Some people went quiet,” she said, laughing heartily.      

Some Malaysians mistake Aug 31 for Malaysia’s birthday, according to Faridah, because “we tend to be West (Peninsular) Malaysia-centric”.

“Many forget that Malaysia did not exist until 1963. Malaysia was not created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia, they formed the country,” she said, adding that “I’m just stating a historical fact.”

To get my historical facts right, I called my old classmate, then a history buff, at La Salle secondary school in Tanjung Aru, Sabah.

“Why are there Malaysians who confuse Hari Merdeka as Malay-sia’s birthday?” I asked Danny Wong Tze Ken, a history professor in Universiti Malaya.

Wong lectured me on the birth of Malaysia. Here’s a summary: On Aug 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya was established. It was expanded into the Federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. The country became larger with the inclusion of Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. And in 1965, Singapore left.

“If you think of the day for independence for Malaysia, then Sept 16, is logical for Sabahans and Sarawakians as that was when both states achieved independence, in 1963. But for the people of Peninsular Malaysia clearly it was Aug 31, 1957, as that was when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Merdeka,” Wong explained.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked.

“The best answer is to take the case of the United States. Their independence day is July 4, 1776, even though at that time there were only 13 colonies. Although the rest of the United States was incorporated only later, all the 50 states observe July 4 as Indepen-dence Day,” he said.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked again.

“As a newly formed Federation of Malaysia the birthday of Malaysia will be Sept 16 whereas the Independence Day of the country remains on Aug 31,” he said.

Wong said over the years, Sept 16 was no longer celebrated as Malaysia Day.

“In Sabah it was celebrated as the TYT’s (Governor’s) birthday. And Sabahans wondered why that day was then celebrated as the TYT’s birthday and not as Malaysia Day,” he added.

“It was only last year that Sept 16 was declared a public holiday to commemorate the formation of Malaysia,” the historian said.

So, on Friday, if you are on Twitter, don’t forget to tweet “Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!”

Monday, September 05, 2011

Ha! Ha! and Malaysian hrumph

One Man's Meat
By Philip Golingai

We used to be able to make racist jokes and laugh at them because they were so shamelessly funny. But now people have become so sensitive that many things need to be taken into consideration before making a joke.

“WAIT! You don’t like hamburgers! Don’t you? You like ice cream! Ice-cream!” a woman shouted at a man about to take his first bite into a hamburger at a fast food joint.

“But I’m lactose intolerant,” the man protested.

“But it is Summertime!” the woman said in a sing-song manner and the camera focused on her exaggerated look – wide eyes and a gaping mouth.

Introducing “Summertime” (the Hamburger episode), a two-minute plus video clip that pokes fun at the controversial television advertisements which caused a public uproar last month.

It is a series of three video clips which you can view by searching for “Summertime 1tv” on YouTube.

The production of the video clips, according to Davina Goh who played the food police, was “a very casual thing”.

They were shot in about three hours in Petaling Jaya last month.

“My friend Colin Shafer (a Canadian social science lecturer based in Petaling Jaya) felt strongly about the TV advertisements.

“We (together with two actors) wanted a very abstract approach to responding to the controversy,” said the 28-year-old actor, who is currently rehearsing for Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina’s contemporary spy caper The Secret Life Of Nora.

The video clips – with over-the-top acting – were too abstract for some viewers.

“A few of my friends told me ‘I don’t get it’.

“Most found the video clips just funny, but I don’t know whether they understand it or not,” she said.

Here are some of the comments she received on Twitter and Facebook: “love ur cross-eye pose on 1TV. Hahaha!”, “I like your insane twitching eyeball at around 0:58” and “wow ... that’s mean hahaha”.

In making the videos, Goh realised that Malaysia was a complex country.

“There was a scene where I wore a towel over my head, and I questioned myself whether it was appropriate to wear a towel over my head,” she explained.

“That made me realise how Malaysians have become so sensitive that we have lost our sense of humour.”

“No,” the actor corrected herself.

“We have not lost our sense of humour. We have just lost the concept of what is our humour. We don’t know what to laugh at anymore. We don’t know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”

“Everyone is just so highly strung that when we think it is appropriate to laugh at something, it is actually not.”

So what is the state of Ha Ha Ha in Malaysia?

“I find it fascinating,” she observed.

“We’re in a country which is a melting pot of everything – culture, race and religion. We used to be able to laugh at ourselves. We used to make racist jokes and laugh at it because it was so shameless (funny).”

“But now Malaysian humour has so much baggage.

“There are so many things you need to take into consideration before you make a joke.”

Here’s a “racist” joke Davina made. “An Indian, a Chinese and a Malay were stuck in a magical room where they could only escape by telling a lie about themselves.”

I’d better not publish the joke. Never know who I might offend. Anyway the punch line is “I think”.

Goh is a TV commercial model (such as for Dynamo, Whisper and DiGi). The Peranakan Chinese has also been on several “most gorgeous Malaysian” lists.

I asked her: “How come you are on FHM (one of 12 finalists for FHM Magazine’s ‘Girl Next Door’ Competition, 2009) as you are more wacky than sexy?”

“Many people have told me that. Why did you do it, you are too intelligent for FHM?” she said.

“I just like dipping my toes into everything.

“Yes, I’m wacky but strangely enough men find that sexy.

“The fact that I am really funny and cooky, men find that really attractive as not many girls know how to let their hair loose.”

One of the tweets on Goh’s “Summertime” video is: “if only I could let myself go like you! Master show me the way”.

Indeed, she’s the master of letting herself loose.

“People like hanging out with me as they say I am one of a kind. I don’t know what that means.

“But I know that I do a lot of things my friends will probably not do because there is a lot of social restraint about handling yourself in public and doing things on impulse,” she explained.

Too bad when it comes to racy jokes about Malaysians, Goh has to tie a bun and be prim and proper.