The website Lexico defines “power crazed” as a person having an “extremely strong desire for power, or irrational on account of having had power.”

Sound familiar?

When it comes to opinions on how Malaysia might presently be governed, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 95, has more opinions than a Rudy Giuliani on steroids.

Malaysians found out yesterday that the physician tried his luck yet again, suggesting to the King that the best way forward for the country was a 1969-style National Operations Council (NOC) to run the show.

The NOC was a small council led by Abdul Razak Hussein, then a deputy premier, that led the country in autocratic fashion in the wake of racial riots after a general election in 1969. Essentially, it worked as a dictatorship, albeit in “benevolent” fashion.

And why does the good doctor feel compelled to float such a drastic proposal in the first place? Well, apparently, his team in Pejuang – a breakaway party with 5 MPs – have “some ideas” about the economy and controlling the current pandemic but cannot get them implemented as they aren’t in government.

Asked if he had suggested to the King a possible candidate that might lead the NOC, Dr Mahathir said that there was no specific person named but he did “offer his services”.

It was not unlike the old saying about cattle horns: “A point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.”

Here’s my translation of the physician’s message: he has some ideas, no one’s listening so it’s a good time for him to return as Paramount Leader who will Brook No Dissent.

For that is what an NOC essentially implies.

This is the same politician who was against any extension of the Emergency. Now he proposes a new, and stronger, Emergency with fizz, bang and wallop.

This was the same politician who wanted Parliament to reconvene and allow the citizenry its voice. Not any more, not if he can come back as a new-look Tun Razak!

And, finally, this is the same fellow who resignedly told Bernama only two months ago that he “was too old to become Prime Minister again.”

“If I were younger, I could become Prime Minister again, but I am 95 now and I can still function and hope to advise people on what they should do … I feel I shouldn’t be the prime minister for the third time,” he said.

Our hearts bleed but you won’t hear us disagree.

Dr Mahathir talks about “giving advice” but even that harmlessly-benign-Mr. Rogers-stuff has its sinister downside: Abdullah Badawi was hounded out of office because he “did not take” the doctor’s advice and chose his own way instead.

That is the problem with Dr Mahathir right there. He thinks he has all the answers but we, Malaysians, over 24 years and a bit, know that he does not.

Good leaders leave the stage when the applause is loudest. For Dr Mahathir that moment came a long time ago, in 2003.

It’s all but gone now: you can’t reheat a souffle.



A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case.” Finlay Donne, 19th century American writer

Finally, a leader from the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) who makes sense.

No, it isn’t an oxymoron. You heard right. Nur Jazlan Mohamad, the party’s deputy head in Johor, has called for Umno to reconsider its ties with Islamist party Pas, in a pact first proposed in 2019. The pact was proposed after the then ruling BN coalition lost the 2018 general election to the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition. An Umno-Pas coalition was then proposed as a sure-fire winning formula.

Now the cracks are showing. “Umno has always been suspicious of PAS leaders as they now seem to be more interested in power and position and, in some cases, money, too. And in the current episode involving the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB), there are some serious allegations,” said Mr Nur.

The latest episode involves the planned sale of prime property belonging to cash-rich MRB, currently under the jurisdiction of PAS minister Khairuddin Aman Razali. The board’s former chairman Umno MP Ahmad Nazlan Idris alleged recently that Mr Khairuddin was attempting to influence the sale’s outcome.

Pointing at the episode., Mr Nur said PAS was likely to be a liability in the next general election if the parties cooperated.

Be that as it may, the matter is now under investigation. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has reportedly called up Mr Nazlan for a statement in connection with the MRB allegations.

That is as it should be.

But back to Pas. All those who think they’re squarely to the right of Attila, raise your hands. Just ask yourself: what have they done for this country in terms of direction: in terms of sound policy, in terms of adding to the gross national good?

The party has ruled Kelantan for over three decades and what have they got to show for it? It’s a state with a lower life expectancy than other states, except Terengganu (ruled by Pas, unsurprisingly). It also reports the highest number of AIDS cases in the country and has the dubious distinction of being the most dirty.

Moreover, they assert claims that are downright stupid. Last year, Mr Khairuddin – the same MRB chap – led a three day mission to Turkey to drum up foreign investment. In his words it was very “successful.”

How successful? In the words of another bona fide rocket scientist, Abdul Azzez, the MP from Baling, it was so successful, it brought in RM82 billion in FDI!

What’s wrong with these people? They can’t even lie convincingly. Turkey isn’t doing very well at all. Its lira is half the value of the ringgit and the total amount of FDI Turkey got for the whole of 2019 was a paltry RM32 odd billion. Meanwhile, Mr Azeez is awaiting trial on corruption charges himself. #Justsaying.

From my observations of Pas over 30 years of journalism, a few consistent themes have emerged.

One is an obsessive preoccupation with the attire of Mas stewardesses. Indeed, it appears behavioural, frequently manifesting in distasteful parliamentary questions that demean women and insult the intelligence of male listeners.

Others include frowning upon anything that might, in moderation, improve the quality of the human spirit, to wit, wine, beer or tuak.

Finally, there is Pas’ long- standing desire to impose sharia law over the country, the better that we rapidly harken back to a medieval future.

But, why, oh why, don’t they denounce corruption? Better still, issue a fatwa against it.



Towards the end of my first year in university, in 1975, an interesting announcement appeared on the notice board of University Malaya’s Science Faculty.

It asked for volunteers for a project in Terengganu. But it had a caveat: you had to be able to swim.

I could. There was no reason for this except dumb luck. When I entered Form 1 in King George V in Seremban, the school was in the midst of building a functional pool, egged on by an energetic Headmaster and public donations.

By the time I was in Form Three, swimming was an integral part of Physical Education and by the time we finished Form 6, most of us could swim reasonably decently.

It was Akbar who said we should go. He was my roommate and, like me, aimed to major in Biochemistry. He argued that there would be only few swimmers among the Science undergrads. As such, we would almost certainly be chosen if we volunteered.

He was right. The project headed by Professor Jonathan Green, an American expert on marine biology, called for the first ever marine survey of the reefs off an island situated off Kuala Terengganu.

It was called Pulau Redang. Neither Akbar nor I had heard of it.

I was a callow 20 at the time and thought I knew the sea because, like all kids from Seremban, I’d swum off Port Dickson.

But the South China Sea is an ocean, full of enormous, foam-flecked waves that crash and heave. All the braggadocio drained out of us when we saw the waves and we listened soberly to Dr Green’s advice, and warning, about handling ourselves in the water.

We were ferried over to Redang by trawler on a sunny April day and were ordered to jump in when we were still 200 yards offshore. I guess it was Dr Green’s way of ensuring that we could, indeed, all hack it.

The government wanted to know what exactly was down there and Dr Green, and the other lecturers, made us do an actual survey using precise areas. We all were assigned an area and, using snorkels, we tried to identify the fauna on the seabed. It was a coral reef so it was shallow and you rarely had to dive over 10 feet. With flippers, it was pretty easy.

That was a very long time ago. But I still remember the absolute beauty of the reef, its blue-green waters, the colours of its creatures: sea horses, the thousands of sea cucumbers, tossed about carelessly; the brilliant anemones.

And I learnt to be careful. Once it was rough, and I was over-confident until a wave just picked me up and tossed me on to the coral. It was sharp and it hurt like hell but I learnt my lesson.

We befriended Mohd, then 8, who was from the only fishing village on the island. He’d been drawn by the smells of our dinner and Akbar and I fed him chicken rice which must have been a treat for him as he came most nights.

Mohd and his brother Hassan – 15, I’d guess – were endlessly fascinated by our snorkels and flippers. We let them try it out but, truth be told, they didn’t need them. They could free-dive 20 feet with ease and once showed us where we might find giant clams. That earned us serious brownie points with Dr Green.

They invited us back to their kampung and so, one night, we went. Hassan must have said something because the whole kampung turned out in our honour.

Once you got past the thick Terengganu dialect, they were lovely people, humble and down to earth.

They invited us to participate in what seemed to be the village youth’s favourite pastime – stick fighting. We were hopelessly inept and they were mercifully kind.

But I sensed a certain seriousness to the whole thing and, over thick, black coffee, I asked Mohd’s mother, the village matriarch, why they seemed so intent on the “game” (the word I used).

She looked nonplussed by my question but answered so matter-of-factly that it was chilling.

“Sooner or later, we have to fight them so we might as well be prepared,” she replied. She was referring to the Chinese, the irony of half our university group being Chinese, notwithstanding. The spectre of May 13 still hung in the air, it seemed.

As I said, it was a long time ago.


Note: Dr Green’s work on the island through the 70’s ultimately led to the creation of Pulau Redang Marine Park, a gazetted area protected by law.


Many years ago, I was at a World Economic Forum session in Kuala Lumpur listening to the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia detail his country’s plans for the region.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, he was asked why the Chinese felt compelled to view much of the South China Sea as “theirs.”

The reply was so fast it seemed rehearsed: “There is a reason for the sea to be called such.”

This was swiftly followed by a comment from the back, in an American accent: “The Indian Ocean stretches down to Australia and parts of West Africa but you don’t see India claiming those waters.”

When nations begin using history to legitimise their claims – to territory or anything else – the results are generally fraught with peril because the rationale is spurious to begin with. Henry Ford is the one credited with saying: “History is bunk” and while he said a great many egregious things, I think he got that one right.

One is reminded of the cartoon, in which the first box features Donald Trump fretting about the “dangers of unchecked immigration into the US.”

And, in the next, a seriously unhappy Geronimo is agreeing, “Amen to that.”

Whether it’s the Chinese or the US, these claims are unending. When the British first proposed the creation of the state of Malaysia through the union of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, both the Philippines and Indonesia objected on the grounds, yet again, of “history.” Manila claimed “ownership” of Sabah while Jakarta insisted that Sarawak had always been part of the republic.

But the British and the Malayan leadership pit the matter directly to the people of the regions themselves and, in a referendum supervised by the United Nations, the notion of Malaysia was overwhelmingly accepted.

Despite the popular snub, Jakarta took it badly and declared a campaign of “ganyang Malaysia” (Hang Malaysia).

It took another two years of foolishness – and a coup that unseated Indonesia’s then President Sukarno – to restore amity to Southeast Asia. Even so, every eight years or so, Manila threatens to dust off its ancient claim to Sabah which leads to another fruitless round of sabre rattling from both sides.

If one takes history too seriously, you might end up with some utterly strange conclusions.

For example, did you know that present-day England was once ruled by the Romans in an unbroken stretch that lasted for 366 years (43AD to 409AD).

To put it in a modern context, that’s roughly 55 years longer than the current duration of the modern superpower known as the United States of America.

Taking that a step further, how would the people of England feel if Rome were to declare that, because of its ancient claim to England by virtue of historical antiquity, that, henceforth, all Romans and their descendants had a right to become automatic citizens of England. Sorry and all that, and I know it’s hard cheese for you chaps, but it’s history, what?

It would just about sum up the feelings of the Palestinians currently.

And don’t forget the clincher, all ye who treasure history: that the Jewish claim was rooted in no less than divinity, that the land in question was promised to them by God!


Between a bout of feeling out of sorts and the impending paranoia of a soon-to-be imposed lockdown, my blog will be halted until it resumes. I mean, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.



Things may be crashing around our heads soon – sometime between May 8-10, although the chances of that happening, while “statistically significant” are still “significantly unclear.”

These are the bromides the scientific community dishes out to reassure the great washed masses like you and me.

The plot is deathly simple. Parts of a Chinese rocket used to propel the country’s first permanent space station into orbit are now falling back, uncontrollably it seems, to earth.

The good news is the Chinese believe it will “easily” burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere. The bad news is that no Western agency agrees. They think the debris will be the largest-ever to plummet back to Earth and could weigh several tonnes.

It’s happened before, according to Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell. The last time China launched a similar rocket, they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast. It was seen as a victory for humankind except in the Ivory Coast, where people kept glancing anxiously upwards for years. The current anxiety, reported by Ivory Coast’s news agency, anxiously, is likely to stoke anxieties to a fever pitch.

Meanwhile, the Europeans estimate that the debris will land on a strip of Earth running from southern Spain, Portugal and Italy down to Australia. You can trust the Europeans for their exactitude.

While spit-balling on an estimate, they finally agreed that “between 20% and 40% of the dry mass could survive.” That’s the equivalent of several tonnes of seriously heavy metal.

It was Einstein who came up with the definitive equation about space and it was about time too, but all this space travel is having an impact on Planet Earth.

About 150 tonnes of man-made space hardware fall back to Earth each year which is ridiculous. It’s fortunate that almost 60% of Earth is covered by ocean which, as you can imagine, must cover a mountain of excess.

In addition, space itself is increasingly congested by Earthly junk, courtesy of seven decades of exploration. If Jim Croce is to be believed, that there isn’t anything “meaner than a junkyard dog,” then only Heaven knows what manner of junkyard alien we’ve created.

As if that weren’t enough, civilians hoping to join astronauts on the July 20 inaugural flight of the New Shepard rocket system have two weeks to bid for a single seat in the spacecraft starting now, US aerospace company Blue Origin said yesterday. It’s owned by gazillionaire Jeff Bezos who, for reasons of prudence and sanity, would not “be accompanying the lucky winner” on this historic trip.

The accompanying promo gushed: “if you feel fat or overweight, this will be ideal for you” but the very fine print noted that only the “seriously rich” should apply.

It isn’t clear how science will gain from this particular trip. The rocket booster jettisons a crew capsule designed for up to six people. It reaches a height of more than 60 miles and lingers in zero-gravity space for several minutes before returning to Earth for a parachute-enabled landing.

Apart from inflating Mr Bezos’ ego, it isn’t clear how this helps climate change or benefits humankind in any way. Maybe you just had to be there.

That’s what the promo said.



Why is it that some people associate vegetarianism with virtue? It’s like, you know Jim, why, he’s a good, salad citizen.

It isn’t true at all. Indeed, the word itself comes from the Sioux vege tar which literally means “bad hunter”. This was regarded by Sitting Bull as a capital offence and generally considered bad form.

But it might have a lot to do with ethics or its lack thereof. Are vegetarians what they are because they love animals? Or are they so because they nurse a deep and malevolent hatred towards plants? Or, as vice-presidential aspirant Sarah Palin once observed: “If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?”

These are the good and searching questions that, once upon a time, kept Aristotle up at night.

Be that as it may, vegetarians have taken it a step further by inventing veganism which means the kitchen sink plus no milk or dairy products, whatsoever.

In short, No Joy At All.

The odd thing about vegetarians is that they attempt to make their meals as close to the real thing as possible, which is weird if they really wanted to forget the whole meat thing. Like they claim the Impossible burger is “impossible” to distinguish from meat. Sitting Bull would have harrumphed.

Camembert is the latest food getting the vegan treatment, landing as a cheese-free cheese made with cauliflower and hemp seeds by its American makers. But how will this faux fromage go down in France?

“Mon Dieu,” exclaimed the French bleakly. They took their dairy products seriously and were still cheesed off with Lionel Ritchie for taking a revered French product less than seriously in his hit song Hello – “Is it brie you’re looking for?”

The French were genuinely distressed by the fake Camembert and thought it was no way to make America grate again.

After fish-free sushi and meatless meat, what was next? Was nothing sacred? It seemed that nothing was, and everything suddenly appeared 50 shades of gruyere.

History will record that it a Benedictine monk named Bert Camoens who invented the cheese by accidentally sneezing on a dish of milk one sun-dappled morning in the late 18th Century.

The pollen count in Normandy was especially high on that morning, and Brother Camoens was busy so he soon forgot both the sneeze and the milk.

Three weeks later, he noticed a somewhat ripe smell in the air. Further investigation revealed the forgotten milk dish, now containing a moist, soft and creamy cheese-like substance.

A lesser man would have shuddered and dumped the whole thing in the trash. A superstitious one would have crossed himself before dumping it in the trash.

But Bro Camoens was both pious and bold. After crossing himself, he ventured a cautious taste and thought that the ambrosia would go well with strawberry jam and sourdough bread.

Napoleon the 3rd agreed and decreed that Camoens be nominated as a national treasure and the cheese to forever bear his name.

Such was the ancient and humble beginnings of the Norman cheese and it explained the intensity of the region’s rage against its vegan pretender.

It was clear that it was up to no gouda.



I hate to say this, but we do not appear to have a particularly savvy leadership.

We would like to believe that the people running the country are smarter than us, people who know what they are doing and are planning the country’s future intelligently, and with the best of intentions.

Does any Malaysian, hand on heart, think this is true in this Year of the Lord AD2021?

The country’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, started superbly only to sputter to its current abysmal state.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the Czar of the vaccination programme, is tragically long on promise and short on delivery. And what’s with these silly ads featuring them truly: “We’ve been vaccinated. Have you?”

You don’t need to go to Oxford to know what’s screaming back at you: we would if we could!

At the rate we are proceeding, it will take 15 years to vaccinate the entire country.

Why did we not begin to stock up on vaccines a year ago like Singapore? Like we have such experience with vaccine development, that we needed to “study the data?”

Let’s not delude ourselves. And when we do finally start, we begin with the high and mighty instead of the ones that matter – the medical staff, the ambulance personnel, teachers.

And why have the politicians taken over? What happened to the Science Adviser? Or the Director General of Health? Or does the Czar think that politicians inspire more confidence? If so, he knows something we don’t.

We also do not need disingenuous statements that encourage fatalism and apathy. Here, Hadi Awang’s statement – that Muslims who die of Covid would die as “martyrs” – qualifies.

How his dogmatic opinion advances the cause of science, medicine or the price of fish is beyond anyone. And what about its theological implications: what happens to non-Muslim fatalities?

As I write this, I note that tomorrow is Earth Day. Indeed, we are entering a period of increased awareness of climate change and the importance of sustainable development. Which begs the question: are our leaders thinking about new growth paths?

Not at all. The premier recently said that mineral development was the way to go for the future and that by 2030, mineral extraction would be a significant growth driver.

It does not say much for a thinking government that its only fallback option for the future is, once again, the easy way out – resource exploitation with all its attendant perils of pollution, water contamination and environmental degradation.

We already have the answer, but we refuse to accept them because they are politically unacceptable. The industries and way of the future have already been mapped out in the New Economic Model of 2009 – a far reaching document that was authorised, incidentally, by now-disgraced premier Najib Razak. But it was never even considered because the Malays felt that it might undermine their position going forward. Indeed, it wasn’t even debated.

As it perpetually is with us, we keep throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It may be time to stop and reflect, look back at the document and pick what we might use. We have to make some hard choices and stop blaming others or reach for the easy way out.

Otherwise change might be forced on us because, in the end, that is all history ever teaches.



Doctors can be such killjoys.

I remember visiting a mate of mine from university who’d just suffered a heart attack. There were other friends around, one of whom happened to be a doctor.

The thing about any illness and people over 60 is that the conversation almost invariably graduates to antioxidants.

Say the topic is cancer or Bell’s Palsy – I’m just showing of here – and, bingo, antioxidant supplements will be mentioned. It’s like bees and honey, it’s a kind of hand in hand analogy.

In that particular instance, one chap said that the way to avoid all things nasty was a supplement called CoQ10 and the others nodded knowingly as the words “powerful antioxidant” reverberated around the room.

“Nonsense,” exclaimed the doctor who proceeded to explain that all these supplements were just advertising gimmicks and mere placebos designed to enrich big pharma, with emphasis on Pharma. But he was a UK-trained paediatrician and a board-certified conspiracy theorist to boot, so we just changed the subject.

But the face of the guy advocating the supplement fell miserably: he’d been taking it for years.

Pity the poor hypochondriac. He goes to the doctor who tells him he has hypochondria. Patient: “Not that as well.”

Actually, if you consider all the nasties just waiting to get under your skin, hypochondria might be the way to go. Just think of what’s out there: bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites, pollution, chemicals, bad water, bad food, bad genes. Sheer bad luck! Then there are the syndromes, the diseases, the maladies, ailments, afflictions, complaints, sicknesses and the just plain horrors lurking around the corner, and it’s enough to drive you screaming into your local Vitacare.

In the face of such overwhelming statistical possibilities, the most logical position to take on life would be the hypochondriac’s. It seems the most rational and is eminently commonsensical besides.

It’s enough to make you appreciate the wonder of humankind’s capacity for improvement, the extent to which we’ve extended our lifespans from our Neanderthal brethren. From that perspective, being healthy and over 60 is a blessing and Dr Mahathir belongs in a museum.

Even so, the medical scepticism over supplements seems to have taken a revisionist turn since the onset of the CoVid-19 pandemic.

When it first began, all the hypochondriac-leaning literature advised us to beef up our immune system so we stocked up on things we normally would never dream of buying like zinc and Vitamin D.

I can almost hear the doctor friend of mine saying all you need for Vitamin D is a “walk in the sun.”

But now even Dr Sanjay Gupta of CNN fame advises the same.

For the true-blue Hypo though, I suppose the way to go is the way of a very rich Malaysian banker who continues to live in a private hospital 24/7.

He is there secure in the knowledge that there are capped and gowned specialists waiting alertly for any twinge, throb, pain, soreness, pang or spasm that he might experience before they spring into action armed with the best knowledge money can buy.

And if all else fails, your epitaph can always read “I told you I was sick” and you still make a point.



The ambient temperature in Malaysian is well suited to the growth of mushrooms on cow-dung after a rainstorm, apparently. But the police are now warning that these mushrooms may be hallucinogenic.

Actually they are. These fungi contain psilobycin which is a powerful hallucinogenic almost guaranteed to blow anyone’s mind and used to lend the word “magic” to a certain type of mushroom.

But they smell rank and have to be dried before use. Malaysian police say that they are crushed or liquidised and added to drinks to become the rage in wild parties across the Klang Valley.

Is this what they meant when they said we were on the cusp of a New World Odour?

The round robber known as Felonious alias Jho Low thought it was just bullshit and he had a point there. Felonious hated reading such articles because it reminded him of the wild parties he used to throw when he was the toast of the town in Hollywood.

Now he was merely toast and a wanted man in several countries. But at least he was free, he reminded himself while nibbling on caviar-encrusted crackers in between regretful sips of an ice-cold white wine.

Even so, the substantial scallywag was nothing if not practical. At his very core, Felonious was a paunchy pragmatist for be believed in looking forward and not dwelling on the past. In fact, he was all for the future and moving on.

If only the Malaysian, Singaporean, US and the Swiss police were similarly disposed, life would be so much easier, reflected the philosophical perisher and heaved a deep sigh. And with a cheerful cry of “needs must, I suppose,” he turned his attention to weightier matters like the menu he was considering for the party he was throwing tonight for certain high ranking party officials in the enclave he was officially not residing in.

“I should be so lucky,” grumbled Fearless Leader, Felonious’ one-time mentor, the Batman to Fatso’s Robin. Fearless was peeved because on Wednesday, the Inland Revenue Board had filed a bankruptcy notice against him for failing to pay RM1.69 billion in additional tax arrears between 2011 to 2017.

Lesser mortals might have turned to hallucinogenic mushrooms when confronted with such a bleak prospect. Not Fearless though: he merely complained that the authorities were plotting to “derail my political career.”

That the former leader felt he still had a political career to salvage spoke volumes about his cool and the confidence he still nurtures about his future.

He has already been sentenced to 12 years jail and fined millions by the High Court for money laundering and corruption. His appeal is now wending its way through the Court of Appeal where his principal defence appears to revolve around the High Court Judge’s competence or lack thereof. Some lawyers might argue that it isn’t necessarily the best way to win friends and influence judges.

Fearless concluded his lengthy Facebook post by saying he would “not be cowed by those attempting to persecute me.”

Watching admiringly from the side-lines, Felonious thought it wasn’t complete bull.