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Volume3 Number 4
THE ELECTORAL PROCESS: (An Editorial)
Your Vote and Its Meaning
Living in a democratic society makes us complacent about our right to vote. We often take that right for granted. And even those of us who do appreciate this privilege often misunderstand the extent of the power of that vote.
There are two aspects to that power. First, we must recognize that our vote does count, no matter how insignificant we may think it is. Secondly, there are limitations to this significance.
The significance of our vote must be understood on two levels. On the one level, it is a vital part of the decision-making process, and, on the other, it marks our commitment as participants of the electoral process. For the process to work it is contingent on us to make the right choices when we cast our ballots. This is easier said than done.
Most of us do not take the time to do the necessary homework and research on our candidates before we make our choices, and, more often than not, we are disappointed with those choices because, once in office, they seldom seem to represent all our wishes and needs. Which is perhaps why the more cynical amongst us do not even bother to vote, because, after all, all politicians are just a bunch of crooks!
But if we do this, we must then also accept that in non-participation we forfeit our right to comment on any of the consequences of that process.
Now, I can hear those amongst us who will argue that abdication is participation because it represents a protest against the system, and, with the lack of any "good" candidates, we do not want to be forced to pick the lesser of several evils.
Even if all this was true, arenít these the same kinds of choices and decisions we make all the time, in our work, in our daily lives? Do we not have to make difficult decisons everyday and hope that we have made the right ones each time?
Taking part in the electoral process is no different. The choice of non-participation is nothing but a lazy way out.
In our own Casa, we adhere, more or less, to the same process as our larger electoral system, federal, provincial, or municipal. We elect candidates that presumably speak for us and voice our needs and concerns. And once a committee is elected, we are also saying we give them the power to make decisions on our behalf.
This is where I see the most misunderstanding of the process. Committees will often make decisions that we may not like and, as a result, may prompt us to want to have more of a say on some of those decisions. We may even demand a referendum to settle the issue. This is certainly part of a democratic system, and the American model of voting on "initiatives" is a good example, but we do not belong to this type of electoral process, nor do we really want to, simply because it is not a particularly expedient way of getting things done.
To call for a referendum everytime an issue arises defeats the purpose of electing a committee or a parliament. Issues get bogged down with layers of processes. Unsettled debates drag on.
Consider the still unresolved Quebec separation issue. We suffered through two costly referendums and the Meech Lake/Charlottetown Accords and still we are at square one. If you recall, there wasnít even agreement as to how to formulate the question!
And even on our own home front, we have referendums, proposed by our provincial Liberal government to settle native land claims, looming in the future.
So what do we do? Simple. If we donít like who we elected, vote them out the next time around. But letís do our homework first before we cast our ballots. Letís be informed as to who we really want to represent us.
That is the process.
Following the events of the terrorist attacks in September (see page 5), it has become even more acute and significant that we actively participate and defend this democratic process in the face of such threats to our way of life.
of a POW
The power of history lies in its potential to teach us to be better human beings and to be more understanding of each other and allow for the possibility of peaceful coexistence. But such lofty and commendable aspirations are only attainable if we are willing to learn from the good and the bad of our past experiences, if we are willing to change the world for the better, if we are willing to make some personal sacrifices.
But history has also taught us we often repeat the same mistakes and we continue to do harm to each other despite the fact that we should know better, that we are not as vigilant as we can be, and that the world can be a very ugly place.
That is why I believe the personal histories, experiences and hardships of our parents and relatives are important testaments, first, to our resiliency in the face of adversity and change, and, secondly, that in that resilience, we are capable of surviving seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That being the case, I believe it is our obligation and duty, as children of that history, to learn from those experiences and turn them into positive contributions to our lives.
The following is the first installment of the memoirs of Cicero Rozarioís experiences as a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. It is part of our Macanese heritage and adds to the already well-documented POW memoirs of Luigi Ribeiro published by our sister Casa in California.
THE SILENT MARCH
It took us twelve hours to get to Shumshuipo. They could only fit so many on the Star Ferry at one time, two ferries for 10,000 men, and we had to walk the rest of the way from Jeem Saar Jui loaded with our belongings, a twelve-hour march.
Nathan Road was eerily silent. People were lined up on the right side of the road while we walked on the left - friends, relatives and curious gawkers, all as uncertain of their future as we were. You could say nothing if you recognized anyone for fear of receiving the butt end of a rifle or the sharp point of a bayonet. Guards were posted every twenty ot thirty yards. I saw Irene Tavares. We made eye contact, that was all. I was dating her before the war.
When we finally arrived at the Camp, an hour later, tired and weary from our march, I discovered I was part of fifty men allotted and housed in each quonset hut.
No. 6 Company had their own hut next to No.5 Company and Field Ambulance of the Hong Kong Vounteer Defence Force. As it happened, all the Volunteers were housed in a row under the command of the same Sargeant Major.
There were also prisoners from other regiments - the Royal Scots, Middlesex, Indian Artillery, Chinese Field Ambulance, Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. For unexplained reasons, the Chinese and Indians were released shortly after their arrival and it was rumoured that the Portuguese were also slotted for release. But it was only a rumour and our hopes faded quickly when it didnít happen.
The winter of 1941 felt harsher and colder than we could remember. Partly because we were prisoners of war full of uncertainty as to what would happen to us, or that we even had a future, but mostly because there were no windows or doors to our hut!
They had all been stolen.
KEEPING THE FAITH
With the help of the Royal Engineers, we were resourceful enough to successfully scrounge (an euphemism for stealing) for pieces of wood and corrugated metal sheets and made our own doors and shutters.
We were allowed one letter a month to the outside world and, because it was closely scrutinized and censored, we could only send small-talk messages like:
"Dear Mom. How are you? I am fine. Your loving son."
At least it was a way to let our families know we were still alive.
Father Green said Mass every morning in one of the huts. NadoSilva was also at the Camp and his son Leonel was Father Greenís aide. The Engineers built a brick altar and our makeshift chapel was quite impressive.
One day the Japanese beat up Father Green badly. Nobody knew why.
OUR SURREAL MICROCOSM
Our mortuary had no windows or doors and on our walks we could look right in and see the doctors doing their business - a constant reminder of our tenuous existence and our own possible fate like those corpses laying there under inspection.
A pig farm and a vegetable garden the size of a football field added to the strange and surreal microcosm of our existence. The tomatoes. melons and greens were only for the hospital patients with no chance for us to "scrounge" being so heavily guarded by the Japanese and even by our own men. The pigs on the pig farm were as large as cows and the Engineers were delegated the duty of slaughtering them, first by hitting them on the head with a wooden mallet.
Once we watched a pig turn on the Engineeers and chase them around the field! Reinforcements were brought in to take control of this pig who was smart enough to sense his impending doom and would not go down without a good fight!
We were put to work at Kai Tak Airport. We cleaned nullahs. We were also assigned the chore of shoveling down a whole hill to enlarge the airport. Some soldiers died from landslides despite out futile efforts to dig them out.
The First Aid Station under a nearby tree was where we would get some rest by feigning illness. But the Japanese sentries caught on to us pretty fast when the sick grew from two or three to ten from one day to the next. They chased us back to work with fixed bayonets. Nonetheless we were able to sneak in some sleep time unnoticed in the tall grasses around Kai Tak.
Our other big job was at Aberdeen where we had to take oil and kerosene drums down to the pier and load them onto barges for transport to Lai Chi Kok Socony Installation. There were so many drums that it took us six months to clear the godowns. We would be up at 5am for breakfast and then assembled in the parade ground to be counted. Then we were put on a barge for the hour trip to Aberdeen. Most of us napped on the barge, some chatted while others read books. The Japanese supplied us with quite a good library of books.
Every morning while we were working on the drums an Allied spotter plane would fly over us. And when the air raid siren went off the Japanese guards ran up the hill as far away from the drums as they could. But we just sat quietly on the drums because our own spies had informed us about the spotter plane and the American bombers never bombed the prison camp and seemed to know and avoid the area of our work duty.
...THE YANKS ARE COMING
One day, shortly after we had taken all the drums to Lai Chi Kok, we were watching for our spotter plane when we heard the sirens go off and we knew this had to be "it" and sure enough as we looked towards Lai Chi Kok we saw the gigantic explosions and the huge billows of black mushroom clouds of smoke and we watched in awe as the drums that we had moved with our muscle and sweat burst and scatter like shrapnel. And, almost simultaneously, the fighter planes followed strafing the godowns till there was nothing left.
The ensuing fire lasted a week. And everyday as we took our bowl of rice at dinner and headed out to the field to watch the fire, we sang "Over there, everywhere, the Yanks are coming..." On one occasion the Japanese guards starting singing with us, not knowing what we were really singing about. If they did we would have had surely met the deadly sharp ends of their bayonets!
We were assigned the clean up of Lai Chi Kok once the fire subsided. It was like entering a wasteland. The trees were gone. Charred remains spread over a one mile. There was nothing left of the godown but a burnt out shell. We were told to gather up what was left of the bullet-riddled drums and move them to the camp to be used for storage. What a strange set of circumstances and events we found ourselves in. The same drums we moved from Aberdeen to Lai Chi Kok and watched explode now ended up in our camp, symbols of our sweat and toil but also symbols of our victory, at least a setback for our enemies and captors.
The Americans continued bombing. The main targets were Kai Tak and the Japanese ships in the harbour. And in that bombing we hoped that our liberation would soon be at hand and we would be back with our families once again. But that would not be for a long while yet...
(...to be continued)
BITS, BYTES, & ANNOUNCEMENTS
NEW YEARíS EVE BASH
Tickets still available! Remember to book ahead.
Here is a reminder of the details:
It will be held in the Viscount Ballroom of the Delta Airport Hotel & Marina. No Host Bar 7pm
Ring on the new year with Champagne.
Dancing 9pm - 1am
Minchee Dinner a Great Success
The atmosphere was friendly and inviting, like a gathering of family members who havenít seen each other for a long time. Laughter, hugs, and greetings filled the hall and the warmth of the early evening blended with the warmth of the exchange of good wishes amongst our Casa members.
Kudos to the social committee for their tireless efforts and dedication in organizing this event. It is this kind of unselfish energy that makes our Casa stand out from the rest.
The more than abundant food was enjoyed by all. For myself, it was the minchee that was particularly meaningful.
It brought back childhood memories of my Avo on Caine Road giving me minchee on rice for lunch when I stayed over in that old brown house by the Cathedral. It has been that long since I had Macanese minchee. I had three helpings!
On another personal note, I was extremely pleased I convinced my Auntie Connie and Uncle Cyril Neves to come to this fete. It was Uncleís first extended outing since his ongoing road to recovery from his illness. It was particularly gratifying to see how well he was received. I know for sure he enjoyed all the attention he got from the ladies giving him hugs and kisses!
The evening was capped off with music and dancing.
Then and now; a brief history of our Casa
Casa de Macau Club (Vancouver) was registered on 3rd April, 1995, and from thereon we have advanced from a small group of Founding Members to what we are today - an active club under the umbrella of Casa de Macau closely associated with our Sister Clubs in America, Australia, Brazil, Portugal and Canada, and also have members in Redmond, San Leandro, Rockport, Reno, USA, as well as in Hongkong, England , and Scotland.
Our first President was John de Carvalho, and although he had to step down after 2 years of service in accordance with our Bylaw, he is once again at the helm, by a majority vote for the years 2001 - 2003. At the very first General Meeting in 1995, he said " Let me assure all Casas de Macau around the world that the focus of our association is "Unity" and not to fracture any of our communities". Since then, we have been most successful in bringing in more members and holding many Ďfestasí and family gatherings.
With the change of Executive Committees over the years, we have been fortunate in adding news ideas and continue our strive for unity, not only within our own club but also with other clubs.
On January 22, 1995, the group of Ďfounding membersí met at the home of John and Monica de Carvalho, united in our wish to form a Club. Among other topics we discussed ideas for a logo. Marizinha Rozario Duguay approached Patricia Adams to create a design which she graciously accepted, and in developing the logo her comments were "In designing the emblem for Casa de Macau, Iíve taken into consideration various significant symbols which I thought would be a fitting image for your group. The main feature is the Facade of St. Paul. This indicates the clubs cultural affiliation with Macau. Next, in importance, is the connection with Canada. The Maple Leaf is included by placing the leaves in the border, forming an integral part of the overall design, yet donít intrude upon the main image - the Facade. The final element is the unique square cross which symbolizes the Portuguese heritage of the membership. I feel it works best when it is positioned in the background, and other elements laid over it."
This logo was proudly accepted and has received many compliments.
We thank Fundacao for their past financial assistance when we needed it most. Although we now have to make some adjustments and cutbacks, in true Macaense spirit, we are undaunted and still aim for the best. We have participated in past Encontros and look forward to the 4th Encontro das Comunidades Macaenses do Novo Milenio (Macau 2001).
September 11, 2001:
Our lives will never be the same.
The terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001will forever change the world as we know it. In our once seemingly secure corner of North America we can no longer count on the relative safety we once took for granted, nor can we any longer isolate ourselves and think we need not be involved with world events. If we learn nothing from this tragedy we must now at least realize we are intricately connected to all world activities, political, economic, and cultural.
It is unfortunate that it takes a disaster of this magnitude to open our eyes to this connectedness and vulnerability. And even those of us who may not have had any friends or relatives directly affected by this tragedy must now also accept that it impacts us in more profound emotional ways than we may realize. To deny this impact is to deny our own humanity.
Needless to say, it is difficult to find any good out of such devastating circumstances. However, I would like to share an observation I made in the wake of this disaster.
Amongst other things that I do for a living, I run an eighty-seat restaurant in Kitsilano. And the restaurant business is where one can always see and sense the general feelings and mood of consumers. In all economic upswings and downturns, restaurants are the first to feel the changes in consumer spending. So too one can gauge the emotions and behaviours of consumers after such catastrophes.
On the weekend following the terrorist attacks, I noticed a larger amount of customers coming in family groups of fathers, mothers, children and grandchildren, in various combinations of ages from babies to octogenarians. It seemed to confirm news reports from other observers that the events of September 11 have brought families closer together and the reassurance and reaffirmation of the importance of our loved ones.
I believe it is important for the members of our Casa to voice their feelings and emotions about these horrific events as much as it is important for me to write this article as a way of dealing with the undeniable emotional toll these events have on our lives.
I would like to offer this forum for our members to send in their thoughts and commentaries and I will publish them in the next newsletter.
Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or fax them to (604) 737-2266 to my attention.
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