Maybe it’s the pandemic but Malaysians are beginning to act mighty strangely these days.

Take the case of the Datuk and the Datuk Seri. Now these fellows were neighbours and, if they are to be believed, friends. The latter opinion is dubious and something of a stretch.

It was the Datuk Seri who started the whole ball of wax, apparently. The area of Puchong in Kuala Lumpur is a grimy, industrial district so you can imagine the consternation when Datuk Seri punctured the lazy, suburban quiet of one of its posher neighbourhoods by parking his helicopter in his porch.

It isn’t clear why.

Maybe, he was feeling depressed that the current movement control order in place over much of the country prevented him from using his machine. Maybe, because he could. The fact was that there was a helicopter inscrutably parked in a porch in Puchong.

His neighbour, a Datuk, also possessed a chopper but it was in his kitchen. He wasn’t amused and may have even entertained thoughts of chopping.

What came next was captured by a 38-second video clip that should embarrass each enough to want to migrate to Outer Mongolia. It was pathetic to say the least.

Shouting. Shoving. Profanity. Datuk Seri reminds neighbour that he is but a Datuk. So there. Like school kids. Rich people acting poorly.

The pandemic seems to be bringing out the worst in us. A woman was recently assaulted by her neighbour over a guava tree that shared airspace between the properties.

She said she’d written a note to him asking him to cut off a branch jutting into her garden because, she claimed, it was a source of insect infestation.

The neighbour’s reaction was to come over and beat her up. The police aren’t taking it with a grain assault but are pressing charges.

I wish my neighbour had written me a note about our durian tree all those years ago.

We used to live in Petaling Jaya then. My wife, had planted a dwarf durian tree in our garden and it had grown pretty well. What we didn’t know was that another had been watching the tree’s progress as well.

At the time, we had a Neighbour from Hell next door and she’d spotted a tiny spur of said tree poking into her airspace.

Did she write us a note? Did she lean over the fence to complain as neighbours might?

Nope. She hired a handy-man who climbed over our fence early one morning to chop the tree down.

We were in bed then and my wife woke me about the chopping noises. But we were too late and the tree was down and out by the time we investigated.

It was the first time I’d ever seen Rebecca lose her temper.

In her defence, NFH said the part jutting into her space had been “raining ants.” And the handy-man, clearly not the sharpest tool in any shed, confessed that he found it “strange” that he had to climb over but stoutly insisted that “she” said it was all right.

It was all very dramatic. Our other neighbour, a lawyer, offered to take a case against NFH. He said it was a simple “breaking and entering and “open and shut.”

Meanwhile, his wife was making howling-wolf noises and pointing at the moon, a reference presumably to NFH whom everybody suspected of being a couple of popadoms short of a curry. It was a rare treat for the entire neighbourhood so early in the morning.

Of course, we did nothing. They were old and, in fact, I helped the husband carry out the tree’s remains as the handyman had vanished.

And to think it happened during pandemic-free times.



If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

What’s with Malaysia? Do we always have to be involved in some meaningless controversy or another? And do they almost always have to be about race or religion?

Other countries are advancing, moving on and getting things done. Even India – which we presume to condescend to – is getting its act together and embarking on the world’s largest vaccination drive in history.

Moreover, it’s produced its own vaccine and gifting it to poorer countries to boot.

Closer to home, Singapore thinks it will vaccinate all its people by July. Even Indonesia has begun to inoculate its people without too much fuss.

Meanwhile, apart from running our healthcare professionals into the ground amid successive lockdowns, what have we achieved?

First, there was a debate on whether the vaccine was shariah-compliant. Then, we seemed to want to hold out for our own “clinical trials.”

It was as if the country had been testing its own homegrown vaccine. Only it’s not, so let’s not waste time and money re-inventing the wheel.

Then there are the needless, inconsequential controversies.

A few days ago, Sanusi Md Nor, the chief minister of Kedah decided – for no other reason other than he could, apparently – that Thaipusam, a Hindu festival, would no longer be a state holiday. He said there would be none since all activities in the annual festival had been cancelled because of the movement control order.

All it did was to demonstrate his contempt for the festival. Reason: his reasoning would necessarily exclude holidays for Chinese New Year, even Hari Raya if the MCO stretched on.

Apart from showing Mr Sanusi’s lack of inclusive acceptance, not to mention intelligence, the controversy he began was pointless to say the least.

And what’s with the hypocrisy? Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently urged his party not to tolerate “liberalism, humanism and secularism.”

That is bunkum and, deep down in places he will not admit to, the premier knows it. It’s been our tacit adherence to secular, liberal values that’s brought Malaysia this far in the first place. Going forward, however, increasing conservatism will only hinder our progress.

The countries like those of East Asia and the West that profess fealty to secular, humanistic values are the ones progressing. No theocracy has done as well nor come close.

Indeed, Muhyiddin recently called on Asean to be tough on hate speech “including those based on gender or sexual orientation.”

Don’t look now Mr Prime Minister, you just came across sounding mighty liberal. But no one here seems to think it’s hypocritical to tell different things to different audiences. What happened to the so-called “Islamic” values espoused by the leadership?

And what’s happened to our sense of humour? When it comes to religion, it now appears that the two are mutually exclusive.

That conclusion would have horrified Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country’s easy-going first Prime Minister.

After he retired in the 1970s, the Tunku began a long-running column in the Star. One of his columns in the 1980s was especially critical of Hadi Awang, the firebrand leader of Parti Islam SeMalaysia, or Pas.

The ever-sensible Hadi had suggested that stoning should be prescribed for Muslims caught for adultery.

An indignant Tunku lambasted Hadi in his column and dismissed the proposal out of hand.

Reading his column then, I thought his reasoning was sound. I agree even more now.

“I know my country and my fellow Malaysians,” declared the Tunku cheerfully. “There simply aren’t enough stones to go around.”



A racing pigeon has just completed an extraordinary 8,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean from the United States to its new home in Australia.

But no one’s cheering.

Cyrus, the feathered friend in question, wasn’t really expecting birdseed and a ticker-tape parade, although it wasn’t averse to the idea in principle. Still, he felt a little more enthusiasm from his hosts might have been in order.

Even Captain Cook hadn’t achieved half as much, boasted Cyrus to the less-than-welcoming party. But there were no cries of admiration, not even a half-hearted chorus of Waltzing Matilda as would have been any hero’s due.

Not this time. Now, he was getting the silent treatment, the murderous stare and, more unnervingly, the calm, Hannibal Lecter-like appraisal.

In the absence of proper documents, Aussie hospitality is fraught with grim, even sinister, overtones. And murder was what surely lay at the heart of Cyrus’ immediate future.

It was.

To the chagrin of pigeon-huggers the world over, Canberra decreed that the avian adventurer was to be killed and possibly tossed on the barbie without so much as a “No worries, mate.”

It explained its escape.

Cyrus was appalled. When he’d exhaustedly crossed over into Aussie airspace for the first time, he’d been met by a dove which had greeted him with a courteous “G’day, how you doing mate?”

He’d been assured that he’d chosen the right place for a new home. So long as one liked vegemite and disliked poetry, this was the lucky country with an over-achiever’s share of pigeons.

Cyrus would feel right at home, he was told. Indeed, homing pigeons, like boomerangs, were some of the country’s biggest exports.

Cyrus had little memory of what transpired after his escape.
Kevin Celli-Bird – no relative of the fatigued flier – said Thursday he discovered the weary bird, that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on December 26, had disappeared from a race in the U.S. state of Oregon on Oct. 29.

Cyrus’ feat attracted the attention of the Aussie media but also of the notoriously strict Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. It was peopled with humourless people with right-wing eyes and thin lips that were pursed in perpetual distaste. They’d been the ones that had first accosted him, the ones with the fishlike gaze of a Hannibal Lecter.

To these people, Cyrus was a prima facie case, a textbook model for capital punishment. He was from the US which always elicited an aha anyway because it was a hotbed of pestilence. But what clinched it beyond all reasonable doubt was its name.

Cyrus rhymed with virus and there was no getting around that. It was as open and shut and final as that.

All that was needed was to catch the bird. Posters offering rewards for the undocumented immigrant sprang up. “A bird in hand is usually dead,” it gloated as if to underscore the point of it all.

But Cyrus was far from dead. Mr Calli-Bird said the pigeon had regained its strength in his backyard and looked capable of, well, resisting arrest.

The quarantine cops have since changed tack, urging Cyrus to turn itself in because “all was forgiven.”

Cyrus disagreed courteously. He wasn’t sure if, in Australia, forgiveness came before or after the barbeque.



“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” noted English writer Samuel Johnson over 200 years ago. And yet, it appears to perfectly mirror Donald Trump’s present predicament.

Mr Trump’s presidential tenure officially ends at noon on January 20, a reality that, amidst allegations of sedition, has concentrated his mind so wonderfully that he’s not only accepted his loss but promised a “smooth and orderly” transition to his successor Joe Biden.

The President who never gave a fig for posterity’s opinion of him previously now seems to concede that history’s opinion of his presidency might matter, after all.

Whether history will afford a similarly smooth transition into retirement for Mr Trump is less clear, however. House Speaker Nancy Pelossi wants to impeach him while his allies have belatedly adopted health protocols: they’re socially distancing from him.

It may be time for Plan B, thought the Donald and brooded vengefully about the appalling lack of Christian charity or forgiveness among Members of Congress.

Actually, he had been thinking about forgiveness for some time now. Indeed, he’d first voiced the thought in a 2018 Twitter post: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.”

It isn’t clear why he felt compelled to shout the P word.

According to Thursday’s New York Times, the President is now floating the idea with his advisors in earnest. The paper described the proposal as something that “would be an extraordinary use of presidential power” by a sitting President.

Mr Trump scoffed. For one thing, he had been standing, not sitting, when the idea struck him, and for another, the correct word the NYT should have employed was “prudential” and not “extraordinary.”

As a businessman who’d presided over six successful bankruptcies, he knew the merit of prudence and judged that a crafty, pre-emptive pardon could keep the wolves at bay.

Mr Trump felt much maligned. He’d been honest in the sense that he thought the average person preferred a simple, uncomplicated lie rather than an incomprehensible truth. And he’d done it his way. In the posh New York neighbourhood where he grew up, the overriding credo ran thus: if at first you don’t succeed, lie, lie again.

He was old fashioned about things and considered the lack of money to be the root of all evil. And his admirers admired the fortitude with which he, a self-confessed billionaire, tolerated the disadvantage of his great wealth.

Mr Trump has already issued a slew of pardons to political allies and friends including some mercenary contractors accused of crimes against humanity in Iraq. It was fair to say he knew his way around them.

But what might he be afraid of? For starters, newspaper reports have listed perjury, obstruction of justice and the giving of false statements or, in other words, a routine, average, ho-hum White House press conference.

Still, if it ever came to pass, a self-pardon would be unprecedented. No president, not even Richard Nixon, has tried it before, so the courts have not weighed in. In Nixon’s case, he resigned and his successor Gerald Ford subsequently pardoned him.

But there is an old legal axiom that posits that nobody should be the judge in his or her own case.

Stay tuned folks. It promises to get interesting.