It isn’t a nice time for Planet Earth,

don’t you think?

Between climate change that’s getting scary and the possibility of a global pandemic courtesy of the novel coronavirus, the world seems to be quickly going to hell in a handbasket.

We are told that Jakarta is sinking and will vanish off the earth’s face in 30 years. Likewise, the ringgit – and a whole host of currencies besides –is getting that sinking feeling. So are our disposable incomes. 

It’s got a lot of people scared. I spend a lot of time in Singapore these days and people here went near berserk when the government first amped up its warnings on the infection a month ago. Stores rapidly emptied of sanitisers, face masks, rice, eggs and, especially, toilet paper. Even now, face masks are at a premium. 

Bear in mind that Singapore is one of the richest places on the planet. Now think Somalia – which is facing the same challenges – and you get a glimpse of the horrors of income inequality. 

Maybe it’s a product of my generation, people born in the 1950s and who came of age in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1970s. We did not go through the hardships of war or occupation, for example. My father did and he remembered them to the extent that he carried it around with him like a badly healed wound. When I once offered to drive him around Seremban in my wife’s new Ford Laser, for example, he declined on the grounds that it was Japanese.

So yes, while we might remember the embarrassing discomforts of bucket toilets in the 1960s, it’s a fleeting memory, not unlike a fading nightmare. I remember the genteel poverty of my family and wonder how on earth we managed to make it – all of us – to where we are now.  

Indeed, it would be true to say that my classmates and myself have largely availed ourselves of the opportunities afforded us, each in our own way. In my case, I have had an over achiever’s share of luck along the way and I’m grateful. 

In short, while there’s been a bad day here and there, it’s not been a bad life. 

That’s why we should pray that the economic, climatic and political speedbumps that are emerging to confront the world do not last. Let’s hope that man’s ingenuity carries the day. 

In Malaysia’s case, it is especially important. While the RM20 billion stimulus package will go a long way to alleviating the challenges of the pandemic, our political climate is far more ugly. 

Dr Mahathir Mohamad only returned to power through co-operation from stronger parties that was cemented through a promise. That is easily broken, it seems. Now he urges a unity government but one that will only work if he is to head it. It does not seem to occur to him, going on 95, that others might do it just as well, if not better.  

It is ironic that Muhyiddin Yassin, sacked by the former premier for daring to reveal a great wrong, now thinks it appropriate to partner people facing trial on charges of corruption. Taking the premise to its conclusion, it implies that his victory would grant them absolution. 

What would it mean for the AG’s Chambers? The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission? All that fledgling reform of which he was a part? 

It was George Santayana who predicted: “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.” 

Brace up folks. It could be a rough ride. 


The Malaysian police recently revealed that the plump pilferer alias His Awesome Ampleness Jho bin Low was at one point hiding out in Wuhan.

If true, it would make for no small irony as the villainous virus would then have met up with his infectious counterpart with quite possibly interesting results all round. 

Alas, there is no new intelligence on whether the dumpy dacoit has since fled the city at the centre of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

In any case, the cherubic crook’s status has evolved over time. Once thought to be but an ample accomplice in the 1MDB heist, court testimony in the trial of its alleged pink-lipped principal has moved to shift the blame on to Fatso’s well-upholstered shoulders. 

Fearless Leader, who once vowed in Parliament that the smiling shark had nothing to do with 1MDB, now alleges that it was the same beaming brigand that not only took him, but the country, for an epic ride.  

As Fearless’ prosecutors might question: “Et Tu Brute?” Fat-boy agreed it was brutish and wished his erstwhile friend had blamed it on the bossa nova like most sensible people.    

The bandit was no-longer beaming. Instead, he felt sick to his stomach. 

It led to Malaysia’s alert and always intrepid Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador to shrewdly speculate that the villainous varmint might have contracted the virus.

He said that if the massive miscreant had indeed contracted the disease, “he should return to Malaysia where the treatment is the best.”

The civilised conman declined the offer courteously. And he did so in the full knowledge that he could buy a few hospitals if need be: the proceeds from the crime of the century is estimated at between US$4.5-7.9 billion (MYR18.6-33 billion)

China has always denied the Plump One’s presence. The South China Morning Post reported, however, that a spokesperson for the ne’er-do-well has disclosed that the round robber was hiding out in a country that “acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights”.

China would heartily agree with that description of itself. 

Late last year Abdul Hamid had bemoaned the scuppering of the manhunt for Low by “dishonest” foreign state authorities who were allegedly protecting the fugitive.

But the strangest spin was given on the story by the Hong Kong-based paper. The IGP was quoted by the SCMP as saying:

“Among the excuses they gave include Jho Low apparently having changed his looks by undergoing facial surgery to look like a bear.”

“Sometimes when he walks, he looks like a [bear]. So, when we look at him from behind, that is how he looks. Do you think this excuse [given by the authorities of the country Jho Low is hiding in] is logical?”

Think about it. This is a man who’s allegedly stolen more money than Croesus’ net worth: who’s able to afford to look like Brad Pitt but, if the Chinese are to be believed, prefers to look like Yogi. 

So, the next time someone says, “Bear in mind”, don’t immediately visualise Paddington.

Think Low Teck Jho.  


There is a wry saying about signing up with the United States Armed Forces that goes something like this. Join the Army. Meet interesting people. And kill them. 

But it cannot have been the intention of Brazil’s Tourist Board to have promoted Rio de Janeiro this way: Get away from it all. Experience Rio. And get mugged. 

Indeed, when marketing Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s national tourism agency typically focuses on the city’s world-class beaches, samba-filled music scene and caipirinha-fuelled parties. Violent crime is rarely listed among the attractions. 

But in an embarrassing social media gaffe this week, the Brazilian Tourist Board (Embratur) accidentally shared a critical Instagram post from a tourist who did not enjoy her stay in the so-called “Cidade Maravilhosa,” or Marvellous City. 

“I just spent 3 days in Rio with my family, and in those 3 days my family and I were robbed, and my 9-year-old sister witnessed a violent robbery,” Instagram user “Jade” wrote in an Instagram Stories post. “I can’t recommend a visit to a city where I felt afraid of even leaving the apartment.” 

Embratur deleted the shared post on Wednesday. It said in a subsequent statement that “sharing (the post) was a mistake.” 

No kidding!

Subsequently, some Brazilian wag shared this on Instagram the day after Jade posted her denunciation of Rio. “Got mugged by six dwarves last night. Not Happy!

But it failed to cheer up the mortified agency which added glumly that it had worked hard to promote a nationwide fall in crime in 2019. 

Safety concerns along with inconvenient flights, poor infrastructure and high costs have long held back Brazil’s tourism industry, which lags its South American neighbours. 

As news of the mistake went viral, Jade, who identified herself as a Brazilian living in Europe, said in another Instagram post that she hoped “the person (at Embratur) doesn’t get in trouble, we all make mistakes.” 

But she defended her original post. “If I don’t feel safe or comfortable somewhere, I’ll share it,” the unrepentant muggee said. 

For a nation that gave the world Pele and won the World Cup the most times (5), Brazil felt pretty maligned to have its criminal credentials burnished for all the world to see. 

It wasn’t fair, the much-maligned nation brooded. Crime was actually everywhere: it was a universal phenomenon.  

In America, for instance, the perfect crime was getting caught and then selling your story to television. In Malaysia, on the other hand, crime did not pay as well as politics. It was also the place where money launderers were, and still are, filthy rich.

It was only in Germany and Singapore where crime was minimal and that was only because it was against the law. 

In the end, it might all be relative after all. An escaped prisoner camping out in the woods was an open and shut case because it was a clear sign of criminal in tent

Murder was a crime but describing murder wasn’t. Sex, on the other hand, wasn’t a crime but describing sex, in puritanical countries at least, was.


Meatloaf may have been ahead of his time. This current pandemic came straight out from the Bat Out of Hell! 

Nobody had batted an eye previously, but everyone knew better now. Restaurants in Manado located in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province have put a stop to selling dishes made out of bats due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We haven’t sold (bat dishes) for a week. We are worried because we’ve learnt that bats are carrying the virus,” Mr Mereyke, who owns a restaurant near Tikala Manado street, said on Feb 4.

The virus originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month. Wuhan Institute of Virology found that the new coronavirus is more than 96 per cent genetically identical to a bat virus from the Yunnan province in the south of China, according to results published in the journal Nature on Monday.

Mr Mereyke said bat meat stewed in coconut milk had been one of his best sellers, along with other bat dish variations.

Paniki (bat stew or curry), is well-loved among the Manadonese. “Bat meat indeed tastes delicious. The cooking method and the spices used are no different from other dishes, only we add coconut milk and turmeric to it,” said Mr Helpy Poluakan, a paniki enthusiast.

And here we were thinking that it was only the Chinese people who loved to eat exotic wildlife. The Indonesians do as well, apparently. They don’t really care for animal rights. Indeed, as far as they’re concerned animals only have the right to remain delicious. 

But you have to feel for the Chinese. If at one time, the only sort of influenza associated with the country was kung flu, now the global pandemic that originated out of Wuhan has the world in such a tailspin that countries have begun prosecuting citizens who spread fake news that “could inspire panic.”

Some of the Western media don’t help by dubbing the contagion “the Wuhan flu.” If that’s the criterion, then the 2009 swine flu pandemic should have been called the “American flu” because it was first detected in the United States.

Some Malaysians have pooh-poohed the outbreak pointing out that around 50-odd people die of dengue fever every year while between 5,000-8,000 people die in traffic accidents annually. But the novel coronavirus outbreak has to be taken seriously because of its potential for exponential contagion. 

To put in context, the worst pandemic in world history was the Black Death of the Middle Ages. The bubonic plague outbreak killed an estimated 100 million people worldwide. Meanwhile, the worst influenza pandemic was the Spanish flu of 1819 which killed between 20 and 80 million people. 

The present pandemic has a relatively low mortality rate (2.1%) compared, say, to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (over 40%) of 2003. Even so, if the worse came to the worst and all the planet’s 6 billion people contracted the novel coronavirus influenza, an estimated 126 million people would perish. 

Those make for grim odds. 

The good news is that it is highly unlikely and it’s largely thanks to China. The World Health Association thinks so as well. Earlier in the week, the agency lauded China’s “unprecedented response” to the outbreak adding that the measures the country took were likely to “reverse the tide” fairly quickly. Even better, a British laboratory has announced that it has come up with a potential vaccine against the virus. 

An antidote may be available in 2-3 months. 

That could be worth a shot. 


From a purely academic standpoint, legalised gambling began in the United States out of a desire to bring a little more decorum to poker than the non-negotiable: “My Colt-45 beats your four aces.” 

Very quickly, governments all over the world realised that gambling, if severely taxed and zealously regulated, could prove a boon to public balance sheets. 

The desire to create something out of nothing based on nothing more than dumb luck and “a hunch” has generally proven irresistible to human beings the world over. 

The above hypothesis must be tempered against the notion that many religionists think, which is, gambling is the best way to create nothing out of something. 

Gambling as a business must also be distinguished from the business that is gambling as in, say, playing the stock markets or betting on horses. 

In any case, all this probably explains why P.T. Barnum, allegedly the Greatest Showman on Earth, coined the phrase: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” 

A qualified corollary to that saying is “a sucker and his money are soon parted”. Casinos have taken it one step further arguing that it was “morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money if he entered a casino in the first place”. 

The 2009 global financial crisis hit many countries hard. One such nation was Singapore which then began looking for an industry that was recession proof. 

You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist in the People’s Action Party to get it, and the island introduced two casinos dubbed “integrated resorts” because they boasted other facilities like theme parks and the like. 

It worked spectacularly. Wikipedia, my general reference of choice, describes the Singapore integrated resorts as some of “the most profitable casinos in the world.”

With that in mind, you would expect the casinos to pull out all the stops, right? I mean, giving back something to the customer is sound business sense and quite moral to boot. It’s even quoted in the Bible: “It is in giving that you receive”.

So now you might understand the sheer scope, the imagination, of the idea embodied in the next sentence. 

Six toilets at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore have received the six-star rating from the Restroom Association of Singapore – RASA to its friends and admirers. Indeed, it’s the first toilets in Singapore to be awarded its top rating.

Under the toilet grading system, six-star or “magnificent restrooms” are expected to use smart technology and employ cleaners who have completed a Workforce Skills Qualification module in washroom cleaning. 

You need a diploma to clean toilets? Well, only in Singapore. 

Everything is all very IT and so Applesque that you’d think Steve Jobs had miraculously been resurrected. I mean, these toilets have detectors which measure the level of ammonia in the air only to relay this information to cleaners via SMS.

Once odour levels exceed a certain threshold, a text message goes to the cleaners with information about which toilet is affected. Said toilet then plays the theme song from Ghostbusters. In short, nothing is left to chance. 

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing. One employee got so carried away by Elon Musk’s predictions of a “paperless” future that he had to be dissuaded from removing all the toilet paper from said rest rooms.

Now consider, if you will, how the toilet rating agency might react to being asked to rate local Malaysian rest rooms. 

The whole experiment was called off after the restrooms at the budget terminal were given an F9 rating with a “OMG, I’m out of here” outlook.