I was away for 5 days. I missed out the Merdeka celebration and I had my early fasting days abroad, in a blogger-friendly nation about 5-hrs flight from Kuala Lumpur. However, few hundred Malaysians in the capital city brought me some cheers on the eve of Aug 31.
Owing my gratitude to an ambassador, I was there to attend a reunion. I was one of the 30 Asian journalists on a fellowship study in the mid 90s.
Meeting old friends (some already retired) made me wonder how short life can be. In a country like Malaysia, where life expectancy for males is around 72, we dont many more years to go.
I met few dignitaries of whom 2 are ministers and 5 formers. A topic over a dinner session really drew my fullest attention - bloggers!
"We know many bloggers in the country. Some are pro-government while the rest are not. They are free to write anything, from criticising the President to calling members of the Cabinet names and other things.
"No action has been taken because we know they have reasons to do so. However, 2 bloggers were arrested earlier this month for trying to spread communism in their blogs," according to an ex-minister of information.
"There are also pro and anti-government publications. If we need to take action, then we'll have to put to jail some 200,000 anti-government bloggers! The government dont heed to unscrupulous writings... the people know their leaders and government better.
"If we need them to clarify something, they Home Ministry, the Information Ministry or special representatives of the President will call respective bloggers to office."
The President, too, got a blog which carries comments, answers and counter-statements to what were posted by bloggers.
"Its good, you know. We have a special task force that enlists top 30 pro and 30 anti-government bloggers. We call them for a monthly chat. We share ideas over tea or coffee.
"Some inputs on the blogs are very good and constructive. This people are journalists, ex-government officials and other professionals who, at times, would like to be heard, too. And so, the pen down their opinions and suggestions for the government to consider.
"Some are really hardcores but we chose those whom we consider can give and take in our monthly discussion. This is democratic... very, very democratic. But of course this is a one race-nation, unlike Malaysia," he added.
Even the minister said there was no way for the government to monitor, control and block all bad blogs.
"No way! The moment you block one, another 1,000 will come up. So, live with it. As long as they dont try to run down the government in an undemocratic manner, dont incite hatred among the citizens and dont put our diplomatic relations with other countries at stake, then its ok."