BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID 

Veteran oppositionist, Lim Kit Siang, has called on the Cabinet to freeze all increases in salaries and allowances in government-linked companies (GLCs) until the economy recovers.

This comes after FGV Holdings,, which is 80% owned by the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), agreed to increase its chairman’s annual allowance from RM300,000 to RM480,000 at its annual general meeting yesterday.

The hike came into effect yesterday. Meanwhile, the six board directors’ also saw their allowances increase from RM120,000 to RM150,000 a year. 

Most people would not even know of these proposals were it not for a social media post that went viral. The commentator, who wrote the post in Bahasa Malaysia, was grimly sarcastic about these pay increases at a time of   economic uncertainty amid steeply rising living costs. 

It appears that Lim was following up on the apparently popular rant.  

Even so, the government seems oblivious to the situation because no one, least of all in Putrajaya, has uttered a word about GLC salaries or anything connected to the economic situation.

Actually, our leaders  have said very little about anything meaningful which, given the economic climate, makes me believe that things will get a lot worse before it gets worse.

Indeed, I suspect  that’s the main fear of people: they worry that their leaders don’t  know what’s going on, and they believe they wouldn’t know what to do even if they did.

What are they all thinking  about anyway?

Messrs Najib and Zahid aren’t worried about the cost of living; they note that despite its increasing cost, it remains popular. 

They both think an early general election, preferably sometime around now,  will see a resounding victory by the National Front. This will somehow get them off  their respective  legal hooks. The exactly how is unclear but whoever is the premier after the election will presumably provide the answer.

For that reason, it appears that the current incumbent is quite happy with the status quo and sees no reason for an early general election. Dr M and most of the country is happy with this proposition. 

All the Finance Minister seems interested in is to be a candidate in said general election. It’s a wish that he telegraphs with increasing urgency to Umno and to the general public which, quite frankly, doesn’t give a hoot.  

All the Islamic Party, or Pas,  cares about is an electoral pact with Umno, without which, it will be soundly  thrashed in the election. It also worries about increasing national immorality which it defines as the morality of anyone having fun.

Tajudin, the boorish MP for Pasir Salak is so mightily chuffed with his ambassadorial appointment to Jakarta that he’s graciously forgiven his critics. They haven’t though and continue to assert his only credentials are idiocy veering on buffoonery.

Meanwhile, Nazri still hankers for a posting in Paris while sulkily insisting that floods in Malaysia could be the next big thing for tourism in the country. In fairness, no one’s ever accused him of sound reasoning in any shape or form.  

Now you know why everyone should worry.

ENDS

WHO EVER SAID PRIDE GOES BEFORE A FALL SHOULD HAVE HIS HEAD EXAMINED. 

If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe,  then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little – Comedian George Carlin

Just when you think things could not get more absurd in this fantastic country of ours, it does. 

Hours after a march for “judicial independence” got thwarted by the police, an Umno Supreme Councillor wondered if the same lawyers would march to demand “justice for Najib.” 

Najib is the nation’s First Felon, a former premier who has been convicted by two concurrent courts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in relation to 42  million ringgit of money that belonged to the government. He only awaits one more appeal and if that fails, he has to serve time.

But these first charges are chicken feed, the lull before the storm. He is also accused of the largest theft in human history and awaits two more trials, one of which involves the theft of billions from lMDB, a government agency he created ostensibly to help develop Malaysia.  

In one sense, Dr Puad Zakashi, the Umno personage calling for justice for Najib is right. We also think that justice should be  expedited for the former premier. 

Instead, here we have the spectacle of the courts, and well-nigh everybody else, giving him the maximum leeway, stretching the adage of “presumed innocent until proven guilty” to its breaking point. 

In countries like Japan, a nation which highly values  honour, bail isn’t a right but a privilege. 

And yet, in this country, Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy premier, was denied bail for six years for a crime that isn’t even criminal in developed countries. 

But consider the following where Najib is concerned: having been convicted by two concurrent courts, he still enjoys police protection, outriders and all the trappings of power; he is allowed to lead political campaigns and isn’t shy about splashing his wealth around; he is encouraged  to address political gatherings like the recent National Front convention where he declared, to rousing  applause, “I’m not a thief, I was only accused of laundering funds that I did not employ.”

It’s not even a good try. 

This is the legal definition of criminal breach of trust, for which he was found  guilty by two courts. 

“Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, either solely or jointly with any other person, dishonestly misappropriates, or converts to his own use, that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in …”

How much clearer does he want it to get?

There is more. 

He gets invited to the palace for dinner with our King and Queen. 

Everywhere he goes, he is lauded as “our boss who need not feel any shame.”

When he tweets that he loves trains, MRT Corp immediately invites him and his family on the maiden journey of its  Putrajaya line.

What gives? Are these the values we are asked to pass on to our children? 

And what’s with the silence from the religious right, the same ones who see red over Bon Odori, who wax  apoplectic  over the attire of our airline stewardesses? 

What, no comment on Bossku? 

By all means, let’s march to demand justice for Malaysians.

Now.

ENDS 

BETWEEN THE MIRAGE AND THE REALITY 

We were in Langkawi over the weekend and there’s something about the island that the rest of Malaysia might do well to emulate. 

We saw little, or no,  migrant labour, with locals doing everything from manning the hotels and waiting the tables to driving taxis – lots of female drivers, too – and working as guides. They were polite and, if you could speak reasonable Bahasa, were a lovely lot, always eager to help.   

There isn’t a trace of Pas’ influence on the island and thank Heaven for that. By way of explanation, the chief minister of Kedah state, where Langkawi is located, is  from the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, which frowns on anything that’s remotely connected to joy or feelings of good cheer.  

We went to Bon Ton for dinner one night to hear Joy Victor front a jazz band so smoking that  the appreciative  crowd of wall-to-wall Caucasians were besides themselves in rapture. But Norelle, the beanpole Aussie owner of the establishment, told me they were all “locals.” Norelle herself had  been in the country for over twenty seven years. 

In our party that night was a South American  Ambassador who’d taken up his assignment two years ago and seemed fascinated with all things Malaysian. 

But it was a comment he  made that struck, and quietened, us.  

He said before he arrived, the picture he’d envisaged of Malaysia was that of a Third World Southeast Asian developing economy. Not quite Singapore but not Somalia either. Which, if you think about it, isn’t far off the mark. 

Then he landed and as his embassy’s car rolled towards Kuala Lumpur, he began asking the same question: “Where are the shanty towns?”

These were the unmistakable  signs of urban blight, the slums indelibly associated with developing economies the world over, from Rio to Delhi, from Manila to Jakarta. 

“My mother came down recently,” he told us. “And she asked the same question. Your country is fantastic and I don’t see what all the Malaysians I meet are constantly bitching about?” 

I do because I’m in my sixties and I remember. 

I remember having a leader like Hussein Onn who set great store on honesty which struck me as very impressive then. Yet I remember later assessments  of his tenure being denigrated as slow and indecisive. Would that we still had that, rather than the grandiose megaprojects, the massive debt and the corruption that would characterise later leaders. 

In the 70s, I remember attending a local university that was ranked higher in quality than its peer in Singapore, a time when our educational excellence was right up there with the best of them, a period when standards mattered, when English was taken matter-of- factly and not treated as some dirty word.  

“Patriotism,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” That is self- evident in today’s Malaysia. In the name of nationalism, merit is shunned, corruption is tolerated if not quite extolled and smart people migrate the first chance they get. They don’t want to because what’s not to love about this country, but they see a future where they are not wanted. But most don’t have a choice. 

If we are honest with ourselves, the signs of decay are everywhere. Potholes aren’t fixed, the water supply keeps breaking down. It’s scary the way the local colleges turn out graduates that are unemployable. It’s what happens when you drop standards and ignore merit. 

Meanwhile, a resigned population accepts everything thrown at them because we have learned to live with third-best. 

That’s what we’re bitching about Mr Ambassador. 

ENDS

MORE HOOD THAN NEIGHBOUR

Did you know that the United Nations actually has a disarmament conference that meets regularly. That’s a bad enough oxymoron but it gets worse. Its current chair is North Korea which has more nuclear weapons than it has food to feed its people. 

Much like  most things in life, it occurred through happenstance; the chair goes by alphabetical rotation and the N’s had been coming up.

Needless to say, Pyongyang took to its new role with its usual tact. “My country is still at war with the United States,” declared Pyongyang’s ambassador, Han Tae-Song with the characteristic belligerence all North Korean diplomats are trained to display at multilateral meetings. 

The country is ruled by Kim Jong-un, a rotund rascal who routinely suffered bad hair days which he blamed on the US because its sanctions were making it impossible for his people to get good shampoo. In fact, the dumpy despot was sick and tired of shampoo and insisted that the United Nations get  him the real poo. 

The people of North Korea were so poor they couldn’t even pay attention but they admired the fortitude with which the moneyed Kim tolerated the disadvantages of his wealth.

The ample autocrat adored the good things in life and his larder was full of the good stuff,  groaning under the weight of delectable Parmar hams, wheels of robust Roquefort’s, enough sweet Persian figs and the choicest French wines. “Nothing succeeds like excess,” he told himself cheerfully while prescribing his people patience with kimchi on the side. 

Kim felt he had governed his country with skill and great leadership not seen in Asia since Hideki Tojo, a Japanese politician who’d urged his country into the Second World War and a true visionary in Kim’s eyes. 

In Tojo-like fashion, the tubby tyrant had built up his country’s military might into Herculean proportions. Its arsenals bulged with nukes, missiles, ICBMs and enough guns to force the President of the National Rifle Association to take a knee in covetous admiration. 

North Korea  was armed to the teeth and continually reminded its neighbours that it was by carrying out various weapon tests on every which weapon but the pea-shooter. 

It isn’t even clear why.

After all, it was North Korea, then under Kim’s grandfather,  which began the Korean War of l950 when it invaded its southern neighbour although it was clear that the war was principally directed from Moscow and Beijing.  

UN troops supported South Korea and backed by US air power, finally drove the invasion back to the borders we see today.

Seventy years after the war, South Korea has grown, according to Wikipedia, more than 55 times richer than its northern neighbour in terms of nominal gross domestic product. Meanwhile, almost a thousand North Koreans defect to the South every year while the numbers of those who die trying are  unknown. 

These statistics alone should give the tubby totalitarian pause but the grandson of the man who started the Korean War still seems more interested in beefing up his military than in making life better for his people. 

Meanwhile, North Korea is now being  tasked with chairing the world’s foremost multilateral disarmament forum. 

There goes the neighbourhood. 

ENDS

GETTING THE TRAVEL BUG LATER IN LIFE 

When I turned 30, I had an epiphany: I realised that this was it and going forward, it was to be downhill all the way. I suddenly understood that I would never have more energy, or enthusiasm, hair, or brain cells than I had at the time. It was a sobering thought and enough to drive a man to drink. 

You can imagine what the thought does to said person now, 36 years later. But one cheers up any which way one can, and George Burns is generally recommended: “It’s good to be here….but at 98, it’s good to be anywhere.”  

In my late 40s, Rebecca was promoted to a senior government position and began travelling the world as the country’s trade negotiator. As was my wont then, I thought it would look unseemly if I accompanied her. Indeed, I never, even once went to her office. Happily, Raisa had no such compunctions and accompanied my wife on numerous overseas trips.

In 2013, Becca’s alma mater in the US announced that it would present her a “Professional Achievement” award and she asked me to accompany her. But she had to stop by Japan first for some work and she decided that we’d fly to Atlanta from Tokyo.

And so I accompanied my wife on an official trip for the first, and last, time.  

For some reason, it was on SQ and I remember being seated in F99, in the middle of a 5-seat aisle row, flanked by two Filipino gentlemen who looked as perplexed as Little Bo-Peep.  Becca was, of course, in B1 or some such, but the good news was that we were near the toilets. 

I’m sure of it because there was, shall we say, the whiff. 

To compound matters, the Filipinos’ perplexity vanished after lunch only to be replaced by an extreme drowsiness and both ended up sleeping on my shoulders until Narita.

There are some experiences in life that should not be demanded twice from any man and one of them is, definitely, F99.

Time marches on and I retired followed by my wife, two years later. But a stint as executive director of APEC drew her back to work and subsequent travel, after nearly two years of Covid-induced lockdown. 

And that was how I came to accompany her to Bangkok three weeks ago.

It takes slightly under two hours to fly from Singapore to Bangkok and the Thai capital felt warm and muggy when we stepped out of its airport. 

Our hotel was located by the river and the wind lifting off the brown, and indolent, Chao Phraya felt cool and comfortable against our skin. Unlike the last time I’d been in Bangkok – over 20 years ago – the river didn’t smell at all. 

It seemed the Thais had cleaned it up. Indeed, everything about the capital appeared clean with little evidence of paper or plastic trash. We later learnt that single-use plastic bags had long been banned. 

Even so, there is little “green” to be had in the city of 10.7 million spreading out all about us in a vast concrete and glass jungle. There are attempts at greening everywhere but it still falls far short of Singapore or, for that matter, Kuala Lumpur. 

Unlike KL, however, there is little trace of migrant labour about although our friend Kavi, a Bangkok Post columnist, told us over lunch that there were at least 5 million people from Myanmar seeking refuge here. 

We found the food great and relatively inexpensive; and learnt that places like Phuket are easily 30% cheaper. And coups or not, the government does not impede the private sector at all – an exhibition in our hotel, featuring agricultural innovation, part of the APEC meet, showed clearly that the Thai sector was not just flourishing but streets ahead of its Malaysian competition. 

Apart from being polite, the Thais are extremely patriotic. They are very proud of their singularity (never having been colonised, for example), their food and culture, even their royalty.  Deep down, they think they are the best in ASEAN.  

Who’s to say they’re wrong? As Kavi might have said, I think therefore I Siam. 

ENDS

CHASING A LITTLE SLICE OF HEAVEN IN SINGAPORE

Fiber: edible wood-pulp said to aid digestion and prolong life, so that we might live for another six or eight years in which to consume more wood-pulp –  Writer and humorist Robert Benchley 

“It ain’t the heat,” baseball player Yogi “Malaprop” Berra used to fret, “it’s the humility I can’t stand.”

Raisa knows the feeling. 

She came to Singapore two weeks ago and, for someone born and brought up in equatorial Malaysia, began seriously perspiring the minute she stepped out of the airport. Being an island, the city-state is far more humid than Kuala Lumpur and almost three years of life in Europe had caught my daughter off-guard. 

But she became accustomed to the weather in short order and wanted to eat the stuff of her childhood, generally unattainable in Amsterdam but easily available in Singapore, give or take some differences. 

We sampled durian and mangosteens along the roadside in Geylang, tried chili and pepper crab in a restaurant on the East Coast, munched roti-chanai (called, rather grandly, paratha here) and chicken rice near Orchard, and tasted what the island tries to pass off as Hokkien mee in Tanglin.  

Meanwhile, I found out there is no such thing as Singapore fried meehoon in Singapore.  Go figure.

But Raisa had heard that the city boasted a certain famous restaurant and wanted to eat at Spago because she never had. Neither Rebecca nor I knew of its existence in Singapore. Apparently, we didn’t move in those circles! We Googled the place and finally secured a reservation ten days later. 

It was certainly grand enough, located as it was on the 57th floor of one of the towers of the Marina Bay Sands. Raisa asked Das, a knowledgeable waiter from Johor Baru, what was good, and he replied: “Everything.”

But Das let it slip that English chef Gordon Ramsey had come in some months ago and, having ordered the laksa with bream, had subsequently raved about it to anyone who would listen. 

Of course, Raisa had to have the laksa. Becky had duck breast, which smelt heavenly, and I ordered the wasabi-infused black cod.

My fish was melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous and good enough to convert the vegetarian. Becca reported that the duck was similarly divine. 

Spago, it appeared, was the creation of one Wolfgang Puck, an Austrian American who was, after Julia Child, the first, genuine celebrity-chef. Like Child, he was a television personality but, unlike her, was also an entrepreneur with a brand of frozen pizza and, at one point, 63 restaurants spanning the US and extending from Shanghai and Tokyo to Singapore and Sydney.  

Before Wolfgang, American cuisine was humdrum, non-existent and boasted Chinese takeaway at its zenith.

Haute cuisine’s philosophy at the time might be distilled into a solitary sentence: if it looked like a duck, sounded like a duck and smelt like a duck, it probably needed a little more time in the microwave.

Wolfgang changed all that. He made cooking a sought after, even glamorous, profession and brought respectability and better pay to a job long regarded as a necessary, if thankless, one. It brought with it a certain grandeur to the experience of dining out.  

And we probably have him, now 70-plus, to thank for the ever-present cooking show – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, for example – we now catch on television. 

Raisa flies back tonight. But she goes home happy.  

ENDS

INSTANT KARMA CAN, AND WILL, GET YOU

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. – Benjamin Franklin

There are reasons why people come up with sayings like “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Dr Afifi al-Akiti might be contemplating life somewhat ruefully right now. A video of the religious adviser to the Perak Sultan being present in a Kuala Lumpur nightspot surfaced on Twitter recently and it’s sparked a buzz over social media, with phrases like “forbidden fun” among the more charitable descriptions being bandied about.

The gentleman, wearing a baseball cap, is seen air-drumming along to a rock tune being played by a band on-stage. Meanwhile, a lady seated next to him is seen nodding her head in time to the music.

That’s about it and nothing much to shout about otherwise. Unless, of course, you want to quibble and mention that such places are generally the ones frowned upon by Malaysia’s Moral Majority, those holier-than-thou purveyors of piety who routinely vilify such nightspots as “immoral” where Muslims are concerned.

And this is exactly where the situation begins to turn ridiculous. Reason: one Ustaz Husam has rushed to the adviser’s defence, claiming that the good doctor was merely there to distribute pamphlets about Islam.

In short, would you believe he was proselytising in a nightclub? In a home where the buffalo roam, and the beer and the loud rock bands play?

Maybe it’s not as weak as the old “the dog ate my homework” ploy but methinks many people would beg to differ.

Ridiculous excuses have been going on for millennia. Take, for example, the reasons sportsmen come up with when they are caught for doping.

Czech lefty Petr Korda, once ranked number two in the tennis world, attributed his fondness for veal, especially those injected with steroids, as the reason for his failure in a 1998 dope test.

But dope, or its measure at least, is an exact science. To match the amount of steroid in his system, the science showed that he would have had to eat 40 calves every day for 20 years!

Then there was US sprinter Dennis Mitchell’s “too much sex” explanation. Caught in 1998 for high levels of testosterone, Mitchell explained he’d had sex “four times” with his wife the night before the test.

The US athletic body accepted his explanation but the international association wasn’t buying. While sex does increase the hormone’s levels, it would not reach the dizzying levels it actually did in Mitchell’s system.

He got banned for two years.

And this, from Michael Blodkin, a New Yorker pulled over for recklessness: “I wasn’t driving dangerously. I was just swerving to the music.”

And, finally, this ironic blow to hypocrisy. Former Republican Senator Larry Craig – who has a history of supporting stridently anti-gay policies – was arrested by a plain-clothes policeman for attempting to solicit sex in an airport toilet. After initially pleading guilty, Craig quickly backtracked when the story gained public traction and claimed he merely adopted “a wide stance when going to the bathroom.”
Now, would that have sounded reasonable to Ustaz Husam?

ENDS

s

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CONNECTED

The very rich have no need of character – Hebrew proverb

Jho “Felonious” Low thought character was overrated anyway so he concentrated on keeping the police in Macao happy so everybody there could continue to live happily ever after.

His wife, the low-profile, Mrs Felonious didn’t want too much out of life either. All she’d wanted was a husband who was kind and understanding which she didn’t think was asking too much of a billionaire.

Felonious thought The Way Forward lay in living as quietly and as low-profile as possible which is Evading Capture 101 for all criminal masterminds on the run.

That was why he was now scanning the papers with a furrowed brow. Even his cigar remained in hand, unlit.

The object of the stout scalawag’s consternation was a report that the Malaysian King had invited Fearless Leader, a former co-worker and helpmate of Felonious, to break the Ramadan fast at the Palace. It seemed as appropriate as inviting Tim Leisner to address the World Economic Forum.

Even so, there they all were, cheerfully breaking the fast together. The pictures have since been posted on the Net. And there has been no lack of comment!

Fearless seems oblivious to public perception which is strange and uncharacteristic of the veteran politician that he obviously is. Or perhaps he’s cynical enough to understand the truth behind the Phyllis Diller quip: “Those who have money to burn are often surrounded by people with matches.”

But there is another quote that seems more germane to this issue: “The poor and ignorant will continue to lie and steal so long as the rich and educated show them how.” Alas, I can’t remember its author, but it does seem to fit.

Fearless was found guilty by two consecutive courts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and faces a 12-year sentence pending a final appeal to the Federal Court. Meanwhile, he faces other, equally daunting, charges including one for evading taxes of over RM1 billion. We should also keep in mind the media’s description of the fraud at 1MDB as the “greatest theft in human history.”

But he remains free on bail, enjoys all the perks of an ex-premier including outriders, and traipses all over the country, campaigning, speaking, and having dinners. This is in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim: he was denied bail at the outset for a crime many other countries do not even recognise.

Meanwhile, the Fearless precedent is already taking root. A Kelantan farmer facing jail time for committing grievous bodily harm was given bail after he cited Fearless’ precedent of remaining free despite convictions by two courts.

Viewed in its broader context, the Dinner at the Palace is perplexing to say the least. The signal it sends out is downright appalling as it seems to suggest that criminality can be condoned in certain circumstance.

Felonious sat up with a jerk as he pondered these significant portents. There was a moral to this story somewhere and he thought he knew the answer.

Life was just a breathing spell, and it was better to live rich than die rich.

ENDS

OF EPIPHANIES, SALAD DAYS AND EELS

It’s not well known but some famous dishes are a result of epiphanies, or moments of sudden revelation that lead to profundity.

Example: most people know about Julius Caesar. That he was a Roman Emperor, and that he was the first gynaecologist (the Caesarean), etc.

But not many know the salad that still bears his name, arose from an epiphany JC experienced around 54 BC.

He was striding angrily across the parade grounds to berate a recumbent Cicero when he stopped, transfixed: he’d just spotted a hen gazing at some lettuce and a tomato.

A lesser, more superstitious man – “something fowl this way comes” – might have screamed for salt to toss over his left shoulder. A religious man – “lettuce pray” – might have been moved to piety.

Not JC, he immediately grasped the significance implicit in a Chicken Sees A Salad.

Some additions later – cheese, fruit and capers – and a now-awake Cicero recorded history’s first Caesar salad.

Similarly, when Emperor Sujin occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne, eels were a menace. There were simply too many of the yucky pests around. It was, to be sure, an eel wind that made no one eel-ated.

“Will no one rid me of this troublesome beast?” mused the Emperor. It was a question that had some relevance in 16th Century England but More of that later.

Surrounded by mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce in his kitchen, the failed chef Matsumo Unagi was smoking a moody cigarette and contemplating suicide when a moray eel suddenly flopped out of the pond behind him.

A weaker man might have swigged the wine, the better to calm his nerves. A vengeful man would have stabbed the beast in rage.

But Matsumo was made of sterner stuff so he did both. He sipped the wine and sliced and diced the creature. In mounting rage, he then grilled it to perfection in a concentrated marinade of the spirits, sugar and soy sauce.

The resulting transcendence pleased Emperor Sujin no end and the chef was declared a National Treasure before lending his name to a dish forever synonymous with Dean Martin’s version of love (“That’s Amore”).

Unfortunately, it’s become a victim of its own success: eels are fast diminishing in Asia.

Enter desperate remedies.

Dutch border police arrested three Malaysians Thursday for attempting to smuggle thousands of baby eels through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The police got suspicious after the rocket scientists tried to take eight large suitcases through airport security. No one, it seems, told them anything about X-ray scanners,

“Inside the cases were bags with water and baby eels,” the Dutch food and goods watchdog said. Indeed, the inspectors discovered 105 kilograms of glass eels. That’s around 300,000 eels, enough unagi to keep three score and ten Japanese restaurants busy for three days.

Maybe they were following set examples. Many a Malaysian leader had been found wallowing in corruption like a rhinoceros in an African pool so, mindful of precedent, the three may have simply tried Dutch rivers.

Over the last four decades, critically endangered European eel populations have been devastated, falling by as much as 99% in some areas, according to EU figures.

Young transparent eels, known as “glass eels,” are particularly prized in Asia, where they are fattened in farms before being sold at prices in excess of caviar’s.

It would have brought a tear to Matsumo’s eyes.

And, on that note, Happy Easter everyone.

ENDS

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING PAS

I’m an atheist…thank God – Comedian Dave Allen

Who knew that Malaysia’s counter-terrorism chief Normah Ishak had a dry sense of humour?

Take this statement for instance: “The recognition by an Islamic party for the Taliban’s struggle augurs well for fans of terrorism in Malaysia,” Normah was quoted as saying in a recent webinar on Afghanistan.

The counter-terrorism chief was talking about that group of people who know an awful lot about very little – the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas. More specifically, she was referring to Pas’ admiration for, and recognition of, the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

The party was, apparently, banking on the Taliban to improve its Islamic image. Its head of International Affairs Abdul Khalil Hadi had tweeted his party’s congratulations to the Taliban after the hard-line group had taken over Kabul in August.

Khalil is PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s son, which reinforces the notion of the apple not falling far from the tree.

True enough, the father echoed the son’s sentiments two weeks later. In a statement published in the party’s organ Harakah on August 25, Hadi claimed that the Taliban’s leaders had “changed” and were heading in the right direction.

He also urged Muslims not to be influenced by the coverage of the Taliban by the Western media, which he described as “evil”.

Normah explained the method behind Pas’ madness. “They are creating narratives to the party’s advantage, forming opinions and perceptions among Muslims in Malaysia, so that they will think the Taliban are okay now,” Normah said.

To paraphrase her, “fans of terrorism” will undoubtedly be dancing in the aisles. People who think that the danger of terrorism in Malaysia is much exaggerated should think again.

Three years ago, I was invited to a briefing by a very senior cop to the senior management of a listed company. The briefing was about terrorism.

In the beginning, we were shown slides of training camps, young people using guns and other weapons to, essentially, learn how to kill.

Most of the camps were in the Middle East, while I supposed the last two to be camps in the Philippines or Indonesia because their backdrops were “green.”

I was half-right. The last slide, we were told, was in a camp somewhere in “the vicinity” of Kuala Kangsar that “we’ve been watching for some time.”

God bless our Special Branch: they’re ahead of the curve.

That’s why the Islamic Party’s narrative is confounding. It flies in the face of the Malaysian government’s refusal to recognise the Taliban. It’s yet another reason to kick it out of the government.

Pas is still a part of the federal government although its contributions are generally in the “Less is More” category.

It’s safe to say that Messrs Hadi and Hadi don’t read widely because they were clearly unaware of the Kandahar commander who ordered all the women employed in a bank there to go home while their jobs were filled by men whose only ideas of banking or finance were previously gleaned from the business end of a Kalashnikov.

It isn’t clear if the same order applied to all the female doctors at Kandahar General.

“I’m sorry, I’m unable to do your hernia op right now, Commander,” says Dr Ayesha as she divests herself of mask and surgical gown. “But here’s my cousin, Ali, who’s got lots of experience with sheep.”

Who says I’m kidding?

Thus far the Taliban have grimly forbidden all things Gillette, quietly encouraged opium cultivation, and continued to discriminate against women and minorities.

And this is the model Pas holds up as its exemplar?

It’s got to be kidding!

ENDS