Bunga Tanjung, once lofty, now fallen

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I refer to the Malaysiakini report Resolve Bunga Tanjung issue amicably .

Honestly speaking, I have been a Penangite for forty years but I have never heard of any organisation by the name of Bunga Tanjung, let alone the good deeds that they have done for the poor and desolate of Penang. That is of course until the news of their dissolution and distribution of their wealth came to light in the news media lately.

Pardon me for my ignorance.

Perhaps I am not much of a socialite, unlike the kebaya -clad ladies who helm this lofty group of state assembly person's spouses, to know about their existence. Or perhaps their organisation's activities were so covert that it escaped the social radar screen of this little island.

Whatever it is, the hasty disbandment of the group and dubious transaction of funds following their husbands' hefty losses in the March 8 general election, reeks of notoriety that even the sweet fragrance of the bunga tanjung ( mimusops elengi ) cannot disguise. I am sure these ladies had good intentions when they set the organisation up in 1992. And I am sure many people have benefitted from their charitable work.

However, I am deeply unsure of their need to dissolve this legitimate organisation so hastily, such as to raise suspicion later on. As we can see now, alarm bells are being rung and thousands of questions are being asked by the people.

It seems rather peculiar that a charitable organisation should hang on to such a large amount of money (RM590,665) when in fact it should have been distributed regularly to needy people and voluntary societies throughout the year. I am sure these organisations are consistently in need of help and not just on a single particular month of the year.

Another disturbing question that begs to be answered is why almost 60 percent of the fund (RM350,000) was transferred to Bakti, the organisation of wives and spouses of the leaders in Parliament instead of being channeled to local charities. Was Bakti in such dire straits that it needed donation from the now defunct Bunga Tanjung? Or was the transfer another attempt by the Federal Government to divert the money to Bakti as wang ehsan ?

Persatuan Bunga Tanjung should be an organisation for all assembly person's spouses. I do not know the actual content of its constitution, but in my opinion, this sort of charitable organisation should be open to everyone, and not only those from the ruling party of the day.

The spirit of altruism should not be confined to any particular race, religion, gender and most of all, political affiliation. Unless of course the real purpose of the organisation was to serve as a vehicle to promote the advancement of their husbands' and wives' political aim. In which case, Bunga Tanjung was not a real charitable organisation in the first place, but an advertisement for the previous ruling party.

As Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said, it is not the amount of money that matters, but the principle behind it that counts. Indeed, the amount left over by Bunga Tanjung pales in comparison to Balkis's transaction in Selangor. Nevertheless, both need to be investigated thoroughly, to elucidate the legality of these transactions and if not, then to prove the innocence of the ladies and gentlemen in these two organisations.

I can't help but compare the predicament of Bunga Tanjung to that of the flower in the famous keroncong song with the same title. This song describes the fragrant white flower as being beautiful and pure, yet difficult to obtain because of the height of the tree. Unlike the jasmine and lotus which are easily plucked and enjoyed by many young ladies, the bunga tanjung dances high up in the tree and in the end wilts and falls to the ground.

I shall end this letter by presenting to you the complete lyrics to the song ‘Bunga Tanjung’. I leave it to your good self to interpret the song and catch the similarities.

Bunga Tanjung

Bunga tanjung putih berseri

Kembang jelita harum baunya

Gagah sungguh pohonmu berdiri

Tegap rimbun gagah perkasa

Harum jelita si bunga suci

Idaman dara gadis rupawan

Sangat sombongnya bungamu menari

Melenggang-lenggok dihujung dahan

Walaupun engkau si bunga tanjung

Hiasan sanggul gadis rupawan

Tiadalah kamu sangat beruntung

Bagai melati

Bagai melati dilembah sana

Lihatlah senyuman kembang melati

Disunting kelana hati...

Di lembah sunyi

Lihatlah pula bunga teratai

Dijunjung musafir lambai melambai

Sungguh nasibmu si bunga tanjung

Bagai cahaya ditutup mendung

Tiadalah tangan menyunting kamu

Menunggu gugur di angin lalu

Malang dudukmu di dahan tinggi

Kini bertabur di atas bumi

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