A foul-smelling package forced the evacuation of a building and sent six individuals to hospital in Germany recently.

Police were alerted to a suspicious odour coming from one of the packages in a post office in Bavaria, which led to the evacuation of some 60 people in the building. An elite team was then sent in to inspect the package.

Such was the paranoia that CNN reported that six ambulances, five first responder cars, and two emergency vehicles were deployed to the scene.

Terrorism was suspected. 

The terrorists were later identified to be three durians from Thailand.  Even so, Larry, Curly and Moe, sent six people to hospital for nausea. 

OK, it’s bad. But is it that bad? 

The writer Anthony Burgess – who taught English at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar in the 1950s – in his The Malayan Trilogy compared eating a durian to “having sweet raspberry blancmange in a lavatory”.

And he meant “Malayan lavatory in the 1950s” too.

Privately, he told friends that it was like “rotten, mushy onions”. 

The travel writer Chitra Divakumari once described a morning thus “Each new day,” she observed, “has a colour, a smell.” 

Unfortunately, what wafted to the nostrils of the good citizenry of Bavaria that day were malodorous sulphur compounds associated with skunk spray, rotten eggs and dirty socks. 

Actually, the durian is mild compared to some Western foods that are off the smell-scale, as it were. 

Surstromming, a Swedish delicacy, is herring that’s fermented in barrels for six months and then canned for a year. The fermentation is so extreme that the cans actually bulge from the pressure. 

When opened its contents can stun canaries a mile away. 

Or Vieux-Boulogna cheese from the district of that name in France which has the dubious distinction of being the “smelliest” cheese in the world.  

It is a great delicacy in France though.

Kiviak is probably the most revolting though. It’s a Greenland delicacy and is made by wrapping whole small sea birds, feathers and all, in sealskin and burying it for several months to decompose. When it is dug up, the insides are decayed to the point of near-liquification and are reportedly sucked out. 

As Conrad might observe, the horror of it! 

The humble durian is the only food that isn’t fermented yet smells that way. It’s not so humble actually. Its prices have sky-rocketed, no thanks to the Chinese who seem bent on littering durian rind on the Road on which the Belt is located.

It has become a test of sorts for Western chefs hitherto given to assuming that blue cheese had been the only skunk stunner.  

Even the great Bobby Flay broke down and ran off screaming into the night when confronted by durians.

When told that some Malaysians considered it the King of Fruits, he began laughing hysterically and couldn’t cook for a week. 

But the durian could have new uses. Bottled and concentrated, its essence is said to have been found to strip bark from trees.

Alas, scientists are yet to figure out how that might conceivably be useful. 


Looking on as Pakatan Harapan attempts to get its leadership sorted out is like watching grass grow. 

It seems interminable even when they are nowhere near the reins of government.  And now we have former Transport Minister Anthony Loke assuring us that it’s okay to have Dr Mahathir as PM-designate – in the event PH takes over, that is – because we “have safeguards” to make sure he will step down in favour of Anwar Ibrahim after “six” months. 

Says who? That might be classified under “famous last words” or as songwriter Neil Young might have summed up: “Helplessly hoping.”  

To the forgiving Tony, it’s about trust. Put yourself in the other man’s shoes for a minute: To Anwar Ibrahim, it’s been twice bitten already.  

And there seems something hopelessly lopsided about the whole dynamic. The story of Anwar has been spun so very deftly by various Dr Mahathir allies that we have generally taken it as gospel. 

It is this: that he is so ambitious that he will do anything to be premier. This was reinforced by Dr Mahathir himself saying: “He is crazy to become the PM.” And this, ironically after the ex-physician resigned as premier and set into motion the whole ball of unfortunate wax that we are now confronted with. 

Ambition is not a crime. If it were, Dr Mahathir should have been locked up years ago. “Even the smallest dog can raise his leg against the tallest building,” was how the word was once explained. It could be the perfect description. 

Peering through the same critical lens, what are we to make of Dr Mahathir now?

The man is neither young nor a visionary. Bluntly put, he is the Methuselah of world politics who blew his chance at redemption when given it on a platter two years ago.  

When Robert Mugabe continued ruling into his 90s, he was accused of “clinging on” to power. And Nelson Mandela retired at 80, when the applause was loudest. So, you’d think the doctor would know better. 

But no, not Dr Mahathir. He keeps returning like the proverbial bad penny.  

After 22 years as premier and another 22-month stint as the premier after May 2018, it seems the nonagenarian politician wants yet another bite at the cherry. 

Does it not strike anyone as being “selfishly ambitious?” A “lusting for power?” Even a little, “crazy to be the PM?” 

And if he does get his wish, are we then to believe, as the trusting Anthony Loke does, that he will step down in six months in favour of a man he has twice denied? 

No one believes that for a minute. Which brings us to the real question: Why does he want to come back?

If it is to lecture nations like the US, Singapore or India on how to manage their affairs, please spare us. 

If it is to start another car project or some pie-in-the-sky gold dinar trading scheme, perish the thought!

If it is to sell perfectly well-run government assets to private hands for no reason other than 1) they are your friends and 2) they might help spur other Bumiputera entrepreneurs, give us a break. 

It didn’t work before and ended in tears amid enormous debt. 

So, again, why?

Is there honour among thieves? Nah!!

Here we go again! 

According to a report in the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, the US investment banker that helped birth a gigantic fraud at the 1Malaysia Development Fund (1MDB), is attempting to get US federal prosecutors to ease up on the bank’s role in the scandal. 

The report stated that lawyers for Goldman Sachs had asked US Deputy Attorney-General Jeffery Rosen to review demands by certain federal prosecutors that Goldman Sachs pay more than US$2bil (RM8.5bil) in fines and plead guilty to a charge.

The report said that the bank was also seeking to pay lower fines and to avoid a guilty plea altogether. It quoted sources as speaking on the condition of anonymity as the talks were currently ongoing.

“The request, which was made several weeks ago, is not unusual for a high-profile corporate investigation and often comes in the final stage of settlement talks,” said the paper. 

“But it has been a point of pride for Goldman that it has never had to admit guilt in a federal investigation, and the scandal has already been a black eye for the bank,” the report said.

That could be understating it considerably. For its part, Malaysia got a lot more than a black eye. 1MDB’s protagonists earned the dubious distinction of perpetrating the world’s biggest-ever fraud.

But “point of pride” and “never had to admit guilt”? Surely you jest, Goldman?

It’s not as if the investment bank had an unblemished reputation.

In 2009, for example, a Rolling Stone article by Matt Tiabbi unforgettably described Goldman Sachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”. 

So much for “point of principle.’ 

According to the US Justice Department, Goldman Sachs earned USD$600mil (RM2.56bil) in fees for raising US$6bil (RM25.6bil) for 1MDB.

Tim Leissner, the Goldman employee in Asia, had admitted that he and others at the investment firm  had conspired to circumvent the bank’s internal control to work with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho – known as Felonious to friends and the police alike – to bribe Malaysian officials in order to secure the lucrative bond work for the bank.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since. 

A government has collapsed under the weight of 1MDB and its leader – Fearless to all and sundry – has been tried and is awaiting a verdict in July 

Felonious is still at large and he corpulently continues to cast a sizeable shadow over the Malaysian body politic. As is his wont, he prefers to cast that shadow as far away from Malaysia as possible. 

Fearless hasn’t changed much though. He continues to try and assert himself although it’s doubtful if he will ever be taken seriously again.  

He, however, does admit 1MDB might have been a mistake. 

He has since come to the revelation that Malaysia “had been cheated.” By Felonious! Peerless also claimed that “it was clear” that Goldman had also failed.

He had clearly been thinking the matter over the last two years and seemed to have all the answers. 

And like the Oracle of Delphi of bygone days, Fearless pronounced his Truth. It was actually everyone – “the investment bank, the lawyers and the auditors” – who had all let us, all of us, the whole country, down. 

Everyone but him. 


The private hospital is a servant of humanity and it has done brilliant work in isolating new and increasingly innovative fees. 

That sounds cynical but I’m beginning to wonder if it rings true in the private halls of Medical Malaysia.

Recently, it was reported that a 39-year-old man, who takes his 64-year-old mother to a private hospital in Penang for dialysis treatment thrice weekly, cried foul after being charged an extra RM5 in each bill since April.

When he inquired what the charges were for, he was blandly informed that it was for ‘sanitiser use and a body temperature check.’

Now if that’s not profiteering, I don’t know what is.

At the Accident and Emergency Department, such charges are routinely parked under a general cover-all phrase as “Outpatient Precautionary Measures”, according to that plague of porcine-pandemic-profiteers, the Consumer Association of Penang or Cap.    

“During this Covid-19 emergency period, taking temperature readings of people walking into hospitals, offices and stores is a requirement of the Ministry of Health,’ huffed Mohideen Kader, the consumer body’s head. 

It is a mandatory requirement during the current Covid-19 outbreak and can probably be expensed off taxes. In other words, Mr Mohideen is right. 

In a pandemic such as this, you can see how charges like that might add up especially if everyone – from stores and government departments to hotels and diners – decides to adopt similar charges along the grounds that “precautionary measures” don’t come cheap. 

Hospital administrators should be careful what they wish for. 

We all know that private medical care in Malaysia is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy because it encapsulates a rather unsavoury principle of capitalism: it is what the market can bear and in the case of private healthcare, it’s a lot. 

Standout example: there is an elderly Malaysian billionaire, for example, who’s been living 24/7 in a leading Kuala Lumpur private hospital for almost four years now. He occupies a suite of rooms there where he chairs meetings without stress as medical treatment is just a click away. 

To the hospital, he is an important, and recurrent if not ever-increasing, revenue stream and is probably listed in its annual report as such. And to him, the expense is probably just a droplet in his dividend stream. 

But imagine his peace of mind if he is the kind of hypochondriac that checks into a hospital if only for everyday reassurance. 

He is truly living the hypochondriac’s dream: to be surrounded by doctors of all specialties, waiting alertly to spring into action at his first ache, twinge, cramp, spasm or grimace of pain that all but screams out to the assembled throng: “I told you I was sick!”  

But he is a billionaire who probably would not deign to examine his monthly bills nor carp over extra charges designed to squeeze blood from stones. 

But the ordinary Malaysian does, because his or her money usually has to go a long way. 

And rapaciousness of the sort exhibited by the Penang hospital is revolting and gives credence to the belief that pawn brokers and private hospitals are cut from the same cloth – fleece.