Monday, January 30, 2012

All a-Twitter over hostage girl

One Man's Meat


In quiet KL, tweets went flying in Twitterjaya as a hostage drama unfolded when a naked man grabbed a 10-year-old girl from her family home in Kampung Baru.

HOSTAGE drama at Kampung Baru in KL. Mentally ill man has threatened to kill 10-year-old girl.

That was what I tweeted at 1pm on Monday while stabbing into a medium tenderloin steak at Cafe Barbera in Bangsar.

It was the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Water Dragon and I was at the cafe to check whether it was suitable for a tweetup (an organised or impromptu gathering of people who use Twitter).

I was doing a favour for Twitter sensation @tankengliang (Tan Keng Liang, Kedah Gera­kan Youth chief) who was organising a tweetup on Feb 25.

“KL is so dead,” I thought as the only patron in Cafe Barbera was me.

Then my colleague Austin Cameons SMS-ed about an ongoing hostage drama.

I drove to Kampung Baru, a Malay enclave in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the scene of the crime was to take photographs with my Nokia N8 so that I can tweet them.

Fifi Ramadani was held at knife-point in a single-story wooden house with the Petronas Twin Towers in the backdrop. In front of the house were two ambulances, paramedics and policemen (in uniform and “mufti” – slang for civilian attire) who were watched by members of the media and curious onlookers.

Austin interviewed the girl’s 47-year-old father, Shafrudin Marlis, a one-legged Indonesian with Malaysian PR.

“The man, his wife and three children were watching television at about 11am, when a naked man stormed into their home,” he briefed me.

“The man, who might be mentally ill, grabbed a knife from the kitchen and in a matter of seconds took the girl and threatened to kill her if the family approached him.”

At 1.32pm, I tweeted: “Kg Baru hostage drama: Looks like police ready to neutralise mentally ill man who threatened to kill 10-year-old girl. Ambulance waiting.”

Nothing happened.

At 2.06pm, I tweeted: “Waiting game at hostage drama at Kg Baru.”

2.29pm: “Heard at hostage drama scene. Baik juga polis ni. Tak tembak-tembak (The police are being very nice. They have not shot the hostage-taker)”.

In terms of police action, the only thing exciting, which I tweeted, was “Kg Baru hostage drama: Police have sent in 4 packets of iced tea.”

3.04pm: “If this was a movie, Bruce Willis would have saved the day by now. 5 hours long hostage drama.”

3.06pm: “Looks like a female hostage negotiator has arrived at hostage scene. And she ain’t no Jodie Foster.”

3.13pm: “A doctor in white uniform just arrived to give psychiatric help to hostage taker.”

By then my tweets on the hostage drama had generated interest in TwitterJaya (the moniker of the Malaysian Twittersphere).

@JohariTeh tweeted: “Society should have seen this (coming). Why let such unstable person roam the streets. Could have been anyone’s child. Learn, man, learn.”

Twitterers were asking for updates. My answers were: “ongoing”, “very calm here” and “still negotiating”.

I received some tweets that cracked me up. For example, @saroki19: “Got female hostage negotiator, send in nasi lemak with sedative.”

And those on TwitterJaya discovered that a real life hostage drama was so unlike that in Hollywood.

@abamjoni tweeted: “Jack Bauer needs 24 hours” in response to SidneyNg: @aliamaricar’s “Bruce Willis/Keanu Reaves would have settled it in 2 hours tops.”

@maketab: “Hancock would also save the day in a few seconds.:-)”

At 3.32pm, in reply to @hajarshamsudin who tweeted: “Will the police just shoot the guy. I can’t stand the thought of the girl harmed! It’s almost 5 hours already!”, I wrote: “I don’t think police will shoot him.”

3.38pm: “Looks like something will happen. We’ve been kicked to yellow line.”

3.46pm: “A woman arrived at the scene. Probably connected to naked hostage taker.”

3.47pm: “No sniper. Not necessary” in reply to @throngz’s query, “Is the sniper there yet?”

4pm: “The official language at hostage scene in kg baru is Indonesian. I hear murmurs of Javanese or Bugis.”

Many people retweeted it. Some even politicised it.

4.08pm: Gun shots.

At 4.09pm, my hands shaking, I tweeted: “Three gun shots and girl rushed out.”

4.11pm: “Frenzy at scene. But girl whisked away in ambulance.”

4.14pm: “Crowd in hostage scene cheers police effort. It is all over.”

4.16pm: “Four shots fired and hostage taker is believed to be alive. He was rushed away in an ambulance.”

Austin reported a police spokesman as saying: “All our attempts failed. We then had to shoot the suspect after he became more aggressive. We fired four shots, which hit him in the rib area.”

At 8pm, @staronline tweeted: “Hostage drama: The mentally ill man who held a 10-yr-old girl hostage and was shot by police has died in hospital.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Enter the ‘Emperor of Indonesia’


A Tanjung Malim-born Dutch citizen claims he is a descendent of the Emperor of China and that his bloodline is linked to royal families in India, Java and Siam.

IT is not every day that you get to meet a trillionaire. So when I was invited to interview Kamal Ashnawi, a person I've never heard of, I said yes.

On Saturday morning, at a Kuala Lumpur hotel coffee house together with two of Kamal's aides, I waited for the so-called trillionaire.

Wearing a baseball cap, long-sleeved shirt and jeans, he sauntered over to our table. The two aides bowed, pressed their palms together to their forehead as if greeting royalty and kissed his hands.

“We call him Tuanku as he is a sultan from Indonesia,” one of the aides whispered to me.

According to Kamal, he is a Dutch citizen born in Tanjung Malim, Perak, on Jan 1, 1964.

“I'm a descendent of the Emperor of China and in a history that went haywire, my family fled from China to Kedah. I traced my bloodline to the royal families of China, India, Java and Siam,” claimed the man who is also known as Raden Mas Prabhu Gusti Agung Ki Asmoro Wijoyo.

“I grew up in Tanjung Malim and my family here is very simple and ordinary. Nobody in my family talks about our royal blood and wealth. But my grandmother once told me: “You are special and, when the time comes, you will know.”

It was in Holland in the late 1980s that Kamal “found out who he really was”. A member of an Indonesian royal family, kicked out of the country by president Sukarno, told him he was of royal blood.

In London in the early 1990s, a lawyer told Kamal about his royal family's massive wealth. Unconvinced, he told the lawyer to prove his claims.

He and the lawyer flew from London to Hong Kong to meet the “keeper of the royal treasure”. From there, Kamal and the keeper travelled to Kunming in China.

They hiked up a mountain for four hours and reached a cave guarded by an old couple who, Kamal says, are immortals.

“If you tried to pass them without their blessing, you would cough blood and die,” he said.

Inside the three-metre-high cave, Kamal saw gold bars stacked like a pagoda, US$15mil (RM46mil) in jade and US$10mil (RM31mil) in diamonds and stacks of US dollars.

“I took a gold bar and knocked it on a rock. It was really gold. The treasure is the wealth of the dynasties that ruled China. Their wealth was also kept in other mountains and in vaults all over the world,” he said.

About three years ago, when Kamal watched Nicholas Cage's movie National Treasure, he laughed.

“The treasure in the movie was small compared to the wealth I saw in the mountain,” he said.

Next, Kamal told of his meeting two years ago in Kuala Lumpur with Dr Wong Eng Po, a royal physician from China.

Dr Wong placed his hand on Kamal's bald head, then immediately bowed in front of Kamal and ordered his five followers to do the same.

“He said I was the reincarnation of Emperor Nurhaci (1661-1626) of China. He felt an energy on my head which was superhuman because an emperor, unlike an ordinary human, has to think more.

“I'm the reincarnation of two emperors of China,” Kamal added.

He elaborated that a few years ago, the royal family decided he would be the sole administrator of the royal wealth kept in secret accounts in about 1,000 banks worldwide.

“This means that 86.7% of the world's money belongs to me,” he said.

Taking out several folders, Kamal said: “You're lucky, I brought documents.”

He produced an A4-sized paper with the photographs of the national treasure, the immortal couple and several “official-looking” letters allegedly from HSBC certifying he has an account of five trillion euros (RM20tril).

“That is a small amount. I have more money in other banks and institutions,” he added.

I wondered why his name has not appeared in the Forbes' list of world's richest people. And a suspicion lingered about his claims.

However, I could not authenticate his documents since the bank was closed for Chinese New Year.

Kamal has not made any withdrawal from the account as “it is not money that you can move just like that”.

“The money is under the control of Indonesia, Germany, Britain, the US and the Euro Central Bank and I've got to go smooth with them,” he said.

“I can't use the money directly but I will invest in certain projects. Like three trillion euros (RM12tril) to green a desert in China.”

Curious, I asked what was the difference between a billionaire and a trillionaire.

He replied: “A billionaire needs to show he has the money. But for me, I don't need to show that I got money. I can travel in a bus. I can wear slippers.”

Born in the year of the dragon, Kamal believes 2012 is his year. In March, he says he will negotiate with institutions such as the IMF to be recognised as the Emperor of Indonesia.

He says he's rich. But his story could just be as rich.

Let's hope he is not another Elie Youssef Najem, the so-called Lebanese billionaire who made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Monday, January 23, 2012

And words are all it takes...


Two wrong words by Ceylyn Tay in a speech that appeared on YouTube led to a barrage of personal attacks that has left the novice politician devastated. But she is confident that she will overcome the experience.

IT is about 7pm on a Sunday and Ipoh City councillor Ceylyn Tay checks the comments on a YouTube video linked to her Facebook page.

In the video, Tay, a virtually unknown Gerakan politician, was giving a 20-minute speech in Cantonese to about 3,000 people at a 1Malaysia function in Ipoh on Jan 7.

The comments included “Ham ka chan” (a Cantonese proverb which means to curse someone’s family an entire generation to death), “This stupid woman is selling off the Chinese”, “kepala cacat” (mentally handicapped), “I’m ashamed of you and I’m ashamed of your mother” and “we’ll get a bunch of guys to #$%& you”.

Some of the vulgar words, according to Tay, are Chinese phrases which are too hard to translate into English.

The 36-year-old mother of two daughters felt her temperature rising.

“Wow! What’s this? I was very, very upset. I blanked out for a moment,” Tay recalled in an interview in Ipoh on Thursday, four days after her YouTube video went viral.

“When I watched my speech again, I felt that I did not say anything that could have hurt anyone.”

“And I realised that I was attacked because I was speaking at a Barisan Nasional function.

“If I spoke at a Pakatan Rakyat function, that would be another story.”

She cried. And she did not want anyone around her.

“Even later (that night) when my husband (a 44-year-old businessman) returned home, he asked what had happened and I told him ‘Don’t ask’.

“He wanted to comfort me but I said: ‘Don’t touch me!’”she said.

The novice politician added: “Even now I am still upset that my friends have joked that they want to send me to Tanjung Rambutan.”

The next day the YouTube video was taken down after about 16,000 views. But then – in Tay’s words – “all sorts of edited versions” were uploaded to the video-sharing website.

The statement, according to Tay, which riled the viewers, was: “Malaysia is a multi-racial country and we can’t have a two-party system, unlike the US and England as these two countries have a single race.”

“I used the wrong words ‘single race’. What I meant was the US and England have homogeneous societies,” explained the Malacca-born woman who grew up in Ipoh.

“Some viewers commented ‘Are you saying that (US President) Barack Obama is not black? That he is bleached!’

“What I actually meant was Americans share the same language, religion and culture.”

During the interview at the office of Gerakan deputy president Datuk Chang Ko Youn, Tay was accompanied by four “bodyguards” (Gerakan members).

They were there to give her morale support and to answer her phone calls.

Her iPhone has been ringing non-stop as her phone number was posted on her Facebook page. And she has received so many prank calls and text messages asking for a date.

“Does it help that you have a pretty face?” I asked.

“I don’t think I have a pretty face,” said Tay, who is a singer and emcees events.

“Then why are some men excited over you that they want to date you?” I asked.

“Maybe because that night I was wearing a red top,” she said.

“Maybe because in Barisan there is no other lady from the Chinese community who can speak quite steadily.

“Unlike other politicians who are quite conservative, I am very open in my speech.”

“And I say things in quite a funny way. For example, (Perak DAP) Nga Kor Ming has mentioned several times that if Pakatan ruled it would waive the bumiputra quota and I said: ‘Nik Aziz (Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat) might not agree and he would buy RM5 worth of kerosene and burn the DAP’.”

“Do you think you’ve become a national figure?” I asked.

“Kind of,” Tay said. “I can see that there are people, not only from Perak, but Johor, Penang and Sin­gapore who want to add me to their FB.

“That’s how I know the video is spreading.”

“Is this negative publicity good for you?” I asked.

“I think this is a very good experience. Not everyone has this chance that within a few days everyone knows about you,” she said.

“Many people want to make me weak but I feel if I can overcome this, in the future I can overcome anything.”

“Now the attacks I’ve received are from Facebook. It will get worse if the Opposition politicians start attacking me.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

The ‘what-ifs’ in Sabah politics


The reality in Sabah is that if elections were called today, BN will retain the state. However, that does not stop the Opposition from dreaming because anything can happen politically in Malaysia’s Wild Wild East.

“INI kali lah! (This is the time!)” is the Opposition’s battle cry in Sabah.

During my five-week Christmas holiday in my home state the mood among opposition-minded Sabahans is that this time the Barisan Nasional government which has ruled Sabah since 1994 will fall.

“In 1999, 2004 and 2008 we had the feeling that the winds of change would sweep Sabah but it did not happen. But this time the winds are blowing stronger,” said an opposition leader, referring to the state polls in 1999, 2004 and 2008 which Barisan National won convincingly.

Ini kali lah!” interjected a 40-something Kadazandusun man wearing a T-shirt with Datuk Dr Jeffery Kitingan’s United Borneo Front logo.

But the political reality in Sabah is that if elections were called today, Barisan will retain the state. However, that does not stop the Opposition from dreaming that it will form the next government as anything can happen politically in Malaysia’s Wild Wild East.

You can’t blame the Opposition from thinking that the political ground in the Land Below the Wind is shifting. There are so many what-ifs in the Wild Wild East.

Top on my list is what if an Umno warlord ditched his party, which is the backbone of Sabah BN (controlling 32 state seats out of 60).

“Yes, he is going to form a party. There are flags and T-shirts of his new party in his house,” an Umno mini warlord and assemblyman told me with confidence.

He listed the names of Umno leaders who would join the new opposition party – three incumbent MPs (one with a glamourous wife), a former chief minister, a former federal minister, a state minister and half a dozen warlords and former lawmakers.

The speculated list is impressive. It is as if the Manchester United reserve team plus Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes had ditched the Red Devils to form a club to contest against United in the FA Cup.

“Why do they want to be ABU (“Anything But Umno” or its original meaning “Anything But United”)?” I asked the politician.

“They’ve being sidelined or they think they are going to be sidelined. Most of them are (political) gamblers.

“They have nothing to lose. They think this is their last chance to throw the dice,” explained the mini warlord, who is speculated to turn ABU if he was dropped as a candidate.

If these dissenters do indeed leave Umno, they would enhance the stereotype that Sabah politicians are “Sdn Bhd (private limited)” individuals who are in politics for their own interest.

My top second favourite what-if is that a Sabah-based party will do what Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) did in 1990.

On the eve of the 1990 election, PBS led by Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan pulled out of BN to join the opposition Gagasan Rakyat (including Semangat 46 and DAP) alliance.

Speculation is rife – even among party diehards – that it is just a matter of time that the party will join forces with Datuk Yong Teck Lee’s Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), which left the BN on Sept 15, 2008.

There are other wilder what-ifs in Sabah politics.

“It is a poker game. Someone is bluffing,” explained a seasoned political analyst.

The only sure thing for the Opposition if elections were to be called today is DAP is assured of winning some seats in Sabah. The party’s result in 2008 (winning the Kota Kinabalu MP’s seat and the Sri Tanjung state seat) is an indication of its strength.

The “Ini kali lah!” mood is also fanned by the belief there is a curse that a Sabah government will fall every nine years. Usno (United Sabah National Party) ruled from 1967 to 1976, Berjaya from 1976 to 1985 and PBS from 1985 to 1994.

There’s some truth in this “curse” except that BN has ruled the state for 18 years since 1994.

But the political analyst has an explanation to “prove” that the nine-year curse happened in 2003.

“From 1994 to 2003, Sabah was ruled by rotation Chief Ministers,” he said, referring to Umno’s Tun Sakaran Dandai, Umno’s Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, SAPP’s Yong, Upko’s Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, Umno’s Datuk Seri Osu Sukam and LDP’s Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.

“And when the rotation was stopped in 2003, Sabah has been ruled by one Chief Minister who is Datuk Musa Aman.”

An interesting theory. Notice that the last number of the year each subsequent government rose to power is reduced by one — 1967, 1976, 1985, 1994, 2003 ... and 2012?

Monday, January 09, 2012

All abuzz over Lajim’s next game plan


The main players are all coy about the issue although talk is rampant that Sabah political bigwig Datuk Lajim Ukin wants to leave Umno to head a party.

IS Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister and Umno Supreme Council member Datuk Lajim Ukin forming a political party or staying put in Umno?

That’s the top coffeeshop topic in Sabah. And the talk is that the Beaufort MP will take over a mosquito Sabah-based party called Sabah People’s Front (SPF).

And it is not only the public who are talking about it but politicians, too.

“For one year, psychologically, Lajim has been ready to leave Umno,” a Sabah-based Opposition party president told me while he was with several of his supporters at a coffeeshop near Kota Kinabalu.

The faces of his supporters lit up. Like multi-level marketing downliners, their political optimism needs to be boosted constantly.

At a private event, a Barisan political party president asked me rhetorically: “Do you think Lajim will do it?”

Another Opposition party leader, whom I spoke to in his office in Kota Kinabalu, said he gave a 20% probability that Lajim would leave Umno to lead an Opposition party.

On record, Lajim, one of the first Parti Bersatu Sabah assemblymen to ditch the party in 1994, causing its Sabah government to collapse, is keeping mum about his political future.

I called him on Friday and the politician, who was then in Kuala Lumpur, said: “Let’s not talk about that matter.”

Since I could not get a denial or a confirmation from the Umno warlord from Beaufort, I decided to meet the man who is supposed to “sell” his party to Lajim.

“What do you mean when you say that the talk is I want to sell my party?” asked SPF president Berman Angkap at a hotel coffee house in Kota Kinabalu.

The virtually unknown 54-year-old politician was holding court with three of his Supreme Council members.

On Aug 9, 2000, Berman became acting president of Bersekutu, a mosquito party until it was taken over by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh as his comeback vehicle in the 1999 Sabah polls.

In December 2010, Bersekutu, which had never won a seat, changed its name to SPF because, according to Berman, it was an “old name” and it had been led by many presidents.

“Is there a regulation that allows a party to be bought?” Berman asked in Malay. “We will go to jail if we sell the party.”

His party leaders nodded their heads in unison. And their eyes gleamed whenever I used the word “buy”.

“I am number 3 in this party. Number 2 is the Supreme Council members and Number 1 is the delegates,” continued the Rungus politician.

“Based on our constitution, we have to call for an EGM before we can have a transition of power. And we need two-thirds of the 350-odd delegates to agree to the move.

“It is not a simple matter of me handing the party to another person.”

This is not the first time that talk had surfaced that Berman would give up his party. It happened prior to the 2004 and 2008 general elections. But the wooing never materialised into a “marriage”.

“I did not take the speculation that certain politicians wanted to take over my party as serious as I knew that they were not serious about it,” he said of his 2004 and 2008 experiences.

Asked about Lajim, Berman said: “What I read in the newspapers is that there is a suspicion that he is going to join our party. But until now I’ve not seen his application.

“And, if I am not mistaken, he is still an Umno Supreme Council member and a Deputy Minister. So how can he be with us?” he asked rather sarcastically.

However, Berman admitted that he had met Lajim twice last year, but during their encounters, they spoke only about Sabah politics.

“But he is a man with a position, title and big name. I don’t think he would simply say: ‘Berman, I want to take over your party’.”

I asked whether Datuk Dr Jeffery Kitingan had approached him with regards to taking over SPF. He said he had met the Opposition politician but they only spoke about Dr Jeffery’s pet project – United Borneo Front.

But Dr Jeffery’s right-hand man swears that the maverick politician had sent someone to negotiate with Berman, but the asking price was too high.

“Will you be SPF president when General Election 13 is called?” I asked Berman.

He replied: “Today I am still the president of SPF, but I don’t know tomorrow because it is not me who will make that decision.”

Monday, January 02, 2012

And Asian of the Year is ...

One Man's Meat

Newspaper network group ANN shortlists personalities who have left their mark in 2011.

SO who’s my Asian of the Year? Clue: She is the most beautiful Prime Minister in the world.

Last year, @asianewsnetwork (Asia News Network) tweeted: “Who do you think stood out in the region this year? #AsianoftheYear”

And I tweeted: Yingluck Shina­watra.

In June 2011, I was in Bangkok to cover the Thai general election and I witnessed how the 44-year-old businesswoman, against all odds, became the first Thai woman Prime Minister within 49 days of her political debut.

On second thought, I tweeted: Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, the former prime minister who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and the brother of Yingluck, is Asia’s comeback kid. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, Thak­sin is indestructible, politically.

And behind the scenes, the fugitive (he fled Thailand to escape a jail sentence) engineered the electoral victory of his younger sister’s political party.

So, who did Asia News Network, which is a network of national daily newspapers (including The Star) published in Asian cities, select as Asian of the Year?

I e-mailed the question to Yasmin Lee Arpon, an ANN editor. She is a former colleague as I was attached with ANN in Bangkok from 2006 to 2010.

Yingluck, according to Yasmin, received the most tweet nominations for ANN’s Asian of the Year. And Thaksin received the most unexpected tweet nominations.

So is Yingluck ANN’s Asian of the Year?

Before I reveal who, allow me to introduce ANN’s 2011 Blacklist. And the dishonour (drum rolls) went to Nuon Chea and Gloria Arroyo.

Nuon Chea, @ Brother Number Two, is the man behind the most grim, bloodiest episode in Cambodian history.

“After Pol Pot died in 1998, he became the most important surviving Khmer Rouge leader and now stands trial before a Cambodia-UN court for crimes against h umanity, genocide, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949,” wrote Nguon Serath of The Cambodia Herald.

Arroyo, according to Yasmin, is on the blacklist as “her rise and fall from power hopefully serves as a lesson to other leaders”.

The former Philippine president is in jail (a hospital suite at a government hospital in Manila) facing charges of electoral sabotage.

Here’s the shortlist for ANN’s Asian of the Year:

> Anna Hazare, India’s 74-year-old anti-corruption activist. “A modern day hero in fighting corruption in India,” explained Yasmin.

> Burmese president Thein Sein. “Some analysts compare Burmese President Thein Sein to former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev for introducing the Burmese version of perestroika and glasnost (reconstruction and openness) to the military-dominated country,” wrote Supalak Ganjanakhundee of The Nation (Thailand).

“But many others doubt whether he is a real reformer.”

> Queen Jetsun Pema, the 21-year-old lady who captured the hearts of Bhutan and its monarch King Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

“She is referred to as the Kate Middleton of Bhutan/Asia, capturing the heart of one of the region’s most eligible bachelors,” Yasmin explained.

> Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the boss of AirAsia. “For changing the course of travel in the region through AirAsia, which celebrates its 10th year,” said the ANN editor.

> Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, who took the reigns as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2008 after its figure head, ex-president Chen Shui-bian, chairman of the Democratic Progressive, was jailed for corruption.

“Whether opposition leader Tsai wins the presidential election, she will be credited for changing Taiwanese politics famous for its personal cult building, smear campaign and distracting fanfare,” explained Alan Fong of The China Post.

> And Yingluck. “Because she is the first female PM in Thailand,” Yasmin said.

ANN’s Asian Heroes are Japan’s Fukushima 50.

“They symbolise the faceless and nameless victims of the nuclear meltdown following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami,” the ANN editor explained.

And ANN’s 2011 Asian of the Year is Ai Weiwei.

“After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he raised the issue on the real number of schoolchildren killed and solicited information from netizens on their names, publishing them daily on his blog. The figures/information did not match the official ones,” Yasmin explained.

Ai Weiwei has been provoking the government through his art and blog posts/tweets. In April last year, he was arrested on charges of tax evasion on his way to Hong Kong/Taiwan to discuss a coming art exhibition.

For 81 days he was detained, not allowed to talk to lawyers and family. His supporters raised the money so he can pay the tax in part.

“He ‘educates’ people, particularly the Chinese with no exposure to the outside world thanks to the Great Firewall of China, through his art and tweets (his blog has been closed down),” noted Yasmin.

I wonder who will be ANN’s 2012 Asian of the Year?