28 July 2004

Victim broke off with suspect months ago

KAJANG: An economics graduate under investigation for the murder of medical researcher Norzi Ayu Md Noor, had told the victim's father that he had been intimate with her.

The 23-year-old suspect, who works in a bank in Serdang, had visited Norzi Ayu at her family home in Taman Maznah in Klang two weeks ago where he had "vowed" to marry her, despite her refusal to have anything to do with him.

This was revealed to The Malay Mail yesterday by Norzi Ayu's father, Md Noor Dahari, 52, as he waited to claim her remains at the Kajang Hospital mortuary.

Md Noor, a sea traffic controller attached to North Port, said the suspect, believed to be a Kelantanese, was adamant about marrying Norzi Ayu.

"He even had the gall to tell me that he slept with my daughter on several occasions and that gave him the right to marry her," the father said.

"Of course, I did not believe him.

I asked my daughter and she vehemently denied the allegations." Md Noor said he knew the suspect had a crush on his daughter but she broke off the relationship several months ago.

"She was seeing someone else, one of her colleagues and they had planned to get engaged soon," Md Noor said.

Norzi Ayu, 27, is the eldest of five children.

She was pursuing her Masters in genetic research at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

She was also an officer with the Insitute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur.

She had been renting a unit at the Sri Tanjung Apartments in Section 7, Bandar Baru Bangi with three housemates.

Norzi Ayu was attacked while she was alone in her flat on Monday afternoon.

She is believed to have been stabbed twice in the abdomen.

She died several hours later at the Kajang Hospital.

Selangor CID chief Senior Assistant Commissioner II Abu Bakar Mustafa confirmed that a suspect was in custody and that he was arrested at 8.30pm on Monday when he went to the Kajang Hospital to visit Norzi Ayu.

He said the suspect will be remanded for two weeks to help in investigations.

The Malay Mail learnt that the suspect entered Norzi Ayu's apartment about 3pm and that there was a loud argument before she was stabbed.

Norzi Ayu is believed to have put up a struggle.

She even managed to send an SMS to her silat instructor, to whom she was close.

Investigations also showed that the victim had scribbled a note on a piece of paper, saying that she was in danger.

She also urged the reader to contact the silat instructor whose cell phone number was written in the note.

The note was thrown out of a window on her first floor unit.

It is also learnt that someone picked up the note and immediately contacted the silat instructor.

It is further learnt that the silat instructor had confronted the assailant, who was holding Norzi Ayu hostage (see accompanying story).

But despite the silat instructor's efforts to "calm" him, the assailant stabbed Norzi Ayu twice in the abdomen before escaping on foot.

The silat instructor took her to the hospital.

Yesterday, the silat instructor was at the Kajang Hospital morgue with Norzi Ayu's family members.

He was seen accompanying Norzi Ayu's remains to the Klang Muslim cemetery where she was buried.

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Norzi Ayu and attacker were both silat exponents

KAJANG: Despite being a silat gayung (martial arts) exponent, murder victim Norzi Ayu Md Noor was no match for her assailant who was bigger.

Her silat instructor, identified only as Man, who rushed to her apartment after hearing that she was in trouble, saw the assailant grab Norzi Ayu from behind, holding a knife to her side.

"I tried to talk him into releasing her but he would not listen.

He was shouting and kept warning me not to come any closer," he said.

"He then pulled her into a room and that was when she was stabbed.

He then walked out and I rushed in to see if she was allright." Man, a silat gayung instructor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, refused to say anything more except that he was close to her and he knew her family as well.

It is learnt that the suspect and Norzi Ayu were Man's students.

Norzi Ayu's neighbour at the Sri Tanjung apartments, Ibrahim Rifqi, in his 30s, said he was at home taking a nap when he was awakened by shouts from Norzi's unit.

"I got curious when the argument went on for almost 30 minutes," Ibrahim said.

When he opened his front door, he saw the victim sitting at her doorway and she was being attended by a man who told him that she had been stabbed.

"He pointed out the assailant to me.

The assailant was wearing a white shirt and a crash helmet.

He was walking down the corridor," he said.

Ibrahim gave a chase but the suspect managed to escape.

It is learnt that the suspect went to a stream 2km away where he was believed to have disposed of the murder weapon.

Yesterday, the suspect led police to the river where he had allegedly thrown the murder weapon.

Scuba divers from the Putrajaya Fire and Rescue Department searched the river for almost two hours for the murder weapon but could not find it.

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25 July 2004

The potent flower

A drama academic returns from Latvia, exposing a gathering of international theatre people to the use of silat in the contemporary stage, and HIMANSHU BHATT, who visits him, leaves knowing a few more things about the ancient Malay art of self defence.

A VISIT to Dr Zainal Abdul Latiff at his office at the Performing Arts Centre in Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang will see you in a room crammed with piles of books, manuscripts and old play posters.

One hardcover sticks out, lying in the middle of his table, as if undaunted by the academic clutter. It is titled The Art of Stillness. "It is about the animal energy in the actor," Zainal explains, leafing through its pages. "Even though an actor does not have any lines, he is alive. In the stillness there is movement." The book deals with a revolutionary dramatic technique of Tadashi Suzuki who took elements from the old noh and kabuki theatres of Japan to put together a performance methodology for the contemporary stage.

Drawing on strengths of traditional disciplines is something very close to Zainal's heart. And he has tried for the last 25 years, using the very martial arts training of his own culture and childhood, for the great love of theatre.

Zainal, an associate professor at USM, was recently in Latvia as the only Asian participant at a festival on theatre methods organised by the International University "Global Theatre Experience".

He trained 50 theatre specialists from Europe and America in a special programme called Pencak Silat in the Training of Theatre Practitioners. The trip was sponsored by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and USM.

For three days, participants were acquainted with the philosophy and techniques of silat - the old Malay-world art of self-defence - and how they can be adopted for preparation towards acting.

Zainal has been using silat in his classes since 1979 when he returned from Hawaii where he was pursuing a master's degree in drama and Asian theatre.

"One of the lecturers at the University of Hawaii was doing Shakespeare when he saw me practising silat," Zainal remembers. "He made his actors go through my movements for agility and concentration - it turned out to be very good for them." Properly guided, the sudden moves, the reflexes, the intense body focus of silat, can become highly acute tools in training the actor for any role - conservative or radical, realistic or avant garde.

There is an enormous awareness of the self, a mastery of physical alignment and a sense of confidence that silat imbues in its devout practitioner.

"Actors like Ahmad Yatim and Rahim Razali have taken up silat themselves. Look at their stage presence - they are very strong." Pencak means "systematic, trained body movements" and silat connotes "the application of systematically-trained body movements in a fighting situation".

But Zainal regrets that the original philosophy, way of life and the fluid body-mind movements of silat have been lost to youngsters only interested in fighting.

"Silat is as old as the race," he says. The youths, however, have missed the beauty and relevance of the bunga (flower) in the old Malay saying: In the move, lies the dance In the dance, lies the flower In the flower, lies the fruit In the fruit, lies the punch In the punch, lies the crunch Zainal was first acquainted with this potent, beautiful flower in silat as a child in his kampung in Malacca. "At one time, to be an adult you had to learn this art. We would train from eleven at night till one in the morning." Now he allows himself to be exposed to other martial art forms being adapted for theatre. The experience has helped him modulate the tenets and principles of silat for a similar purpose.

He talks keenly of Prof A.C. Scott who in 1954 introduced tai chi for his acting classes at the University of Wisconsin, and reads the works of Phillip Zarilli who uses the ancient Indian martial art of the kalaripayattu for actor training.

He also studied kabuki for a year, acting in the classic tragedy Chusingura or The 47 Royal Retainers - a story about a chieftain's warriors who are not supposed to take revenge on another lord, but do so anyway and commit suicide in the end.

And two years ago, he participated with John Knobbs of the Brisbane- based Franks Theatre Company - a devout follower of the Suzuki technique - taking the role of Macbeth's conscience, using minimal movement packed with powerful stage presence, and speaking only Malay.

In Malaysia, silat has been done before, though very infrequently, for the contemporary stage. Zainal remembers Belgian academic Tone Brulin directing the improvised play Naga-Naga Dimana Kau? Naga-Naga Siapa Kau? (Dragons, where are you? Dragons, who are you?), composed by Salleh Joned and Kishen Jit in the 70s.

"Salleh cycled from KL to Penang to see it!" The great challenge of silat, Zainal says, is how the actor personalises the ancient practice for his own characterisation work.

"An actor must drown himself into it; then he is able to absorb the audience, to pull them in. And only after the show is over is the audience released." "It is an internal thing. Only the actor who practices properly knows. In the end, silat is you. You become the silat."

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08 July 2004

2006 Asian Games shun pencak silat

Hopes for pencak silat, a martial art originating here, to be among sports contested at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar were dashed, after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) decided against its inclusion.

The news was announced by Djohar Arifin, the secretary-general of the National Sports Council (KONI), here on Wednesday.

Djohar said at a recent OCA board meeting in Doha that pencak silat did not meet the council's criteria for inclusion at the games.

While, according to the OCA, the sport must be recognized by four of five Asian regions in Asia: East Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

Currently, Djohar asserted, pencak silat is popular only in Southeast Asia and West Asia.

Pencak silat associations only exist in 15 countries, one less than the minimum number set by the OCA.

"Besides, the sport is not represented by an Asian body. The only (continental) existing body is merged with another region under the name of the Asia-Pacific federation," Djohar said.

The decision dampens recent optimism that followed a demonstration of pencak silat at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.

"We had already discussed the issue informally with the OCA. They said they would accept the sport," Djohar said.

He added that Indonesian team's leader Eddie M. Nalapraya -- who is also president of the International Pencak Silat Federation (Persilat) -- had already discussed possible venues, participants and the schedule of events with the OCA.

"We can only hope that pencak silat will be competed at the next Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in 2010," Djohar said.

The choice of Guangzhou as the next host, over Malaysian capital city Kuala Lumpur, was also taken during the forum.

The 2006 Asian Games will include 40 sports and comprise 411 events. Six of the sports will debut at the quadrennial sporting event: bodybuilding, baseball, softball, rugby, rowing and canoeing.

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