Image: 7 Cash is King, copyright by Niranjan Rajah. Preparatory image for photographic work developed from an original illustration by Gord Hill.
With the 150th birthday of Canada approaching this weekend and with the various recent Department of Justice filings of charges in the United States implicating Malaysian crown business practices, it seems apt to reflect on the relations of my two nations. The cogent event here is the looming but contested arrival of Malaysian Oil and Gas giant PETRONAS on Lelu island in the Canadian province of British Columbia. This meeting of hegemonies takes place on land that is technically unceded and therefore under the authority of traditional Chieftains of the indigenous peoples of the land in Question. Two such groups , the Gitanyow of the Gitxsan nation and the Gitwilgyoots of the Tshimshian nation, have filed lawsuits and are seeking a judicial review of the Federal Government’s approval of the Petronas led LNG project on the basis of inadequate consultation with their respective authorities. Lelu island lies within traditional Gitwilgyoots territory.
In a counter measure the elected Lax Kw’alaams Band band council in northern British Columbia, and PETRONAS subsidiary, Pacific NorthWest LNG, made representations at the Federal court earlier in the present month of June 2017, seeking to deny the ancestral authority of Simogyet Yahaan, of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe of the Tsimshian peoples. In other words the purported hereditary chief’s standing is being questioned by the elected chiefs. In my historical imagination, this law suit, somehow echoes the forcible yet legal removal native children under the auspices of residential schools policy. Only this time it is an attempt to take away the hereditary Chief!. As an immigrant to these shores from Malaysia, a nation that is embroiled in the mother of all financial and political controversies, I find it both tragic and ironic that this attempted usurpation is being carried out by the natives themselves, under the auspices of the exemplar of Malaysian corporate prowess.
The preparatory image above is a sketch for a photographic image I am in the process of developing as a part of the 6th series of the Koboi Project. It combines a meme (visual) form Gord Hill and a Trope (verbal) from Mahathir Mohammed. Gord Hill is a Warrior with a pen. His is an image that address the nexus economic and legal realities of native Canada. He addresses what he claims is the systematized complicity of band and tribal governance that constitutes the state hegemomy of Canada. The ultimate goal he suggests is to assimilate Indigenous peoples, via the conversion of reserve lands to private property under the pretext of creating economic self-sufficiency. ‘Self-government’ agreements come with development contracts and treaty agreements remove the natives from the ambit of the Indian Act and change their reserve lands to private property. His original image is captioned “All Hail the New Chief! The Chief executive officer, that is!
Meanwhile, Malaysian social media has been disseminating former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed ’s claim that for the present Prime Minister, ‘Cash is King!’ Indeed, the temptations of money are deep regardless of the identities and the ethnicities and the nationalities of the parties involved. Today, it seems that what’s true for Malaysians operating at home, may also be true for Malaysian operations abroad! Putting any insinuations of criminality aside, in Malaysia or here in the province of British Columbia, it seems that, Malaysian Cash, may indeed, be King!’