The following is, allegedly, Lee Kuan Yew’s posthumous letter to leaders of Lilliput, an oil rich, Third World Country that sent condolences to Singapore on Lee’s death in 2015. I have edited said letter for brevity…

“..Thanks, but I have had a good innings as do most of my people. The life expectancy in Singapore is 80 years for men and 85 for women.
I have no regrets because I did my country and my people proud. Let me share some facts.

We are ranked AAA by all the credit rating agencies, the only one in Asia ranked thus. We are the world’s fourth largest financial centre and one of its five busiest ports.

Manufacturing accounts for 30% of GDP and Singapore has the world’s third highest per capita income.

Unlike Lilliput, we don’t have any oil. Nor minerals, forests, mountain or any land to talk about. But, unlike you, we’re a huge exporter of petroleum products.

Meanwhile, Lilliput, with all its oil, has been importing petrol, diesel, kerosene and engine oil for decades.

Let me shock you further. We are the largest oil-rig producer in the world! The World Bank ranks us as the easiest place to do business in. I’m sorry if I sound immodest but what can I say?

How did we do it? In two words, incorruptible leadership.

First, the quality of leadership is non-negotiable. It’s the dog that wags the tail, not the other way around.

No country develops by accident. Development is planned.

That is where it starts. It’s when you have a vision of society with the basics. Education is key, electricity and water are key, health is key, infrastructure is non-negotiable. And you have to pick the best people to do the job, the best and the brightest. No compromises!

Leaders cannot be obsessed with instant gratification. That is one of the biggest problems you, Lilliputian leaders, have.

You’re so obsessed with official perks that you forget why you were even elected!

You like presidential jets and chattered jets. What a waste!

But you’re not alone.

In 1973, I went to Ottawa for the Commonwealth meeting. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman, arrived in his own aircraft.

I saw a parked Boeing 707 with “Bangladesh” emblazoned on it. When I left, it was still standing there, idle for eight days, getting obsolescent without earning anything.

As I left, two vans were being loaded with packages for the Bangladeshi aircraft. But Rahman had also made a pitch for aid to his country. You want aid while showing opulence to the world.

Meanwhile, I generally travelled by commercial aircraft and helped preserve Singapore’s Third World status for many years.

I understand that Lilliput leaders are very religious.

The Muslims pray five times a day, go for haj often, fast during Ramadan and mention the name of Allah to punctuate sentences. But clerics seem obsessed with judging others and punishing “immorality” rather than decrying dishonesty, fraud or theft. There seems more importance on form rather than substance. The Christians take communion, pay tithes and hold regular prayer sessions.

Yet, you loot your state treasury without compunction, inflate contracts recklessly, and watch — without conscience — as your citizens struggle with reckless development, water disruptions and potholes.

I died an agnostic. I neither denied nor accepted that there was a God although two of my brothers were Christians.

I was never a churchgoer. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying you should not believe in God. I only wonder: how can you believe in God and fail so woefully in what the Bible and the Qu’ran teaches about loving your neighbour, caring for the needy and showing responsibility as a leader?

On a final note, I appreciate that you are mourning my death. But you too can become great by putting your citizens’ welfare above yours. Lilliput can also produce a Lee.

I went to my grave happy. Will you go to yours fulfilled?”

With apologies (for edits) and thanks to the anonymous messenger who posted the idea on social media.


For sincere advice and the correct time, call any number at 3 am. – Comedian Steve Martin

You may have been unaware of it but the planet celebrated World Sleep Day sometime last week.

Shakespeare called it “tired Nature’s sweet restorer” and you can’t argue with that: it pretty much sums up the condition. In addition, you get the best of both worlds: you’re alive and unconscious at the same time. In fact, it’s the best way to achieve that impossible dream.

Some people actually achieve things when sleeping or in the twilight world between half-sleep and wakefulness. Paul McCartney got the tune for Yesterday in such a state while John Lennon’s Across the Universe – words, chords, the whole song – came to him in a dream.

On another level, the German chemist August Kekule was dozing in front of his fire when he imagined a snake eating its own tail. Waking up, he realised that he’d visualised the hexagon structure of benzene which set out the study of hydrocarbons for the future.

The amount of sleep required by most people is usually five minutes more. Indeed, the writer Mark Twain claimed he never exercised except for “resting and sleeping.” He lived until he was 75.

Women frequently complain that their husbands snore while asleep. Indeed, there is a Jewish proverb that goes “the person that snores will fall asleep first.”

My wife insists it’s true, the Jewish proverb, I mean. Still, I suppose it could be worse. I’ve heard that some women have actually invested in an anti-snoring device that’s fool-proof. I think it’s called a Taser.

Some people have no trouble sleeping; they can doze off at a drop of a hat. That is a truly admirable quality, I suppose, unless you are a leader.

The former US President was one such fellow, frequently interrupting his sound slumber with a quick nap. Nero may have fiddled but the Donald snored. In fairness, however, he was careful and issued strict instructions that he was to be awakened in the event of a national emergency, even during a Cabinet meeting.

On the other hand, there are those who have trouble sleeping like Fearless Leader, Malaysia’s ex. It wasn’t that his trouble was talking in his sleep, it was Gopal Sri Ram interrupting in his sleep.

Which, by way of a circuitous route, brings us to World Sleep Day. That the United Nations saw it fit to name a day after it merely underscores its importance. Indeed, sleep is so fundamental a human need that millions have gone into researching it with sleep laboratories, dream research, even short cuts to induce sleep.

You can purchase slumber-inducing aids these days. And it doesn’t cost much at all.

These “auditory triggers” provoke a relaxing euphoric trance-like state, a kind of semi-cerebral, semi-auditory sensation for those who are receptive. And people use it to relax and fall asleep more easily.

The most popular are tapes of the sea; the rhythmic sounds of waves breaking amidst rolling surf seems to have a universally soporific effect on human beings even, curiously enough, those who live in land-locked countries and who may have never beheld the sea before.

But the latest rage is a video of Florida native Isabelle Pontbriand, a self-described “sleep actress” whose video describing taking the viewer through a Covid-19 vaccination registration in soft, gentle tones is guaranteed to bore anyone into comatose insensibility.

Which is why it’s effective and she’s successful.

In short, sleep’s essential. Life, on the other hand, is what happens to you when you can’t sleep.



Prince Charles, apparently, talks to his rhododendrons on a daily basis.

It isn’t clear if it had to do with impatience or anything to do with the interminable wait to become King. It didn’t have much to do with the health of the said orchids either: they were reportedly in rude health before he initiated the dialogue.

The prince isn’t alone. Some people even sing to their plants or have music played to them. But it might be all wishful thinking on our part. Whether it’s Tchaikovsky or Twisted Sister, one suspects the plants couldn’t care less. For all you know, they have Van Gogh’s ear for music.

My wife has no such pretensions although she loves gardening with the best of them. Despite being confined now to a service apartment in Singapore, there is, nevertheless, a neat row of pots along the window- sill facing Orange Grove Road, nurturing, among others, basil, rosemary, aloe vera and chillies.

I’m happy to say they’re in the pink as it were and have been occasionally used in Rebecca’s cooking. And while they’ve not been talked or sung to, they’ve been kept informed courtesy of CNN or CNA through the television that shares their accommodations in the living room.

In the early 1990s, we lived in a semi-detached house which had a reasonable amount of land where Rebecca planted Asoka pillars, a kafir-lime and palm trees and a weeping willow out back. A herb garden was slowly added and heliconia of various colours did much to brighten up an evolving garden.

All these developments took place in the six years leading up to 1997 when Rebecca decided to do her doctorate in the United States.

She took Raisa, then 5, with her as well which left me pretty much alone in the house.

That is to say I was seldom there. It also meant that the Asoka pillars began reaching for the sky and the weeping willow all but wept at its wild and woolly state.

I began with good intentions of course and, in the beginning, watered the orchids, the herbs, the trees, even a vase in the study that, I found out later, contained artificial flowers.

But the road to hell is, you know, and I figured out that Malaysia’s equatorial climate worked in my favour. A climate that was hot and wet all year around was what all gardens demanded, surely?

There were occasional lapses of course. There was a time when I forgot to cut the grass to an extent that it led to a pointed, and anonymous, note in the letter-box.

It was, doubtless, the neighbour from hell, but it could have been anyone. The state of the lawn did leave much to be desired.

My friends all thought I would get hell when Rebecca returned. I wasn’t worried at all.

I knew that I had created an original, the neighbourhood’s first, and only, Darwinian garden.

By letting nature take its course over the space of three years, only the fittest plants had survived, and natural selection had once again been restored to its place of primacy.

Raisa seemed delighted by my explanation, but I felt Rebecca’s laugh had grim overtones.



Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, or Fearless Leader, has applied to a United States court to obtain the names of 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) officials who were bribed by Tim Leisner, the former Asian head of Goldman Sachs.
Fearless’ lawyer, the hirsute Scruffy A, had been doing his damnedest to stall the trial of his client because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Fearless is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery totalling RM2.28 billion and 21 other charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
Unfortunately, the learned Scruffy’s fishing expedition was dismissed. The judge didn’t budge which, while being good poetry, did little for Fearless’ state of mind as the trial wasn’t delayed in the slightest.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Fearless had already been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison in an earlier trial. He’d also been fined RM210 million to boot. He faces an additional five years if he fails to pay the fine.
Indeed, everything Fearless had touched during what he liked to recall as his “golden years” seemed to be crumbling into dust.
AmBank, the bank Felonious, Fearless’ ever-mistrustful sidekick, chose for the money laundering operations, had been fined RM2.83 billion as part of a “global settlement” in relation to 1MDB. The fine almost brought the bank to its knees.
Similarly, Deloitte, 1MDB’s auditor at one time, paid RM324 million for neglecting to disclose the agency’s sins of commission. Another auditor KPMG is negotiating its fate.
With so many entities and individuals left burning in their wake, a reasonable man might conclude that Messrs Fearless and Felonious were now repentant and despairingly sitting in sackcloth and ashes, and beating their breasts.
Alas, he would be disappointed.
The flabby Felonious has not been seen since 2018, the same year that French winemakers noticed a huge spike in the sales of champagne in the northern region of Macao.
That was not to say that Felonious had gotten off scot free. By his own standards, he’d bled as well, losing a yacht, a private jet and billions in assets in Malaysia, the US and the United Kingdom.
But the chubby charlatan was nothing if not philosophical. “Easy come, easy go,” shrugged the bovine bandit and concentrated on weightier matters like getting the amount of caviar on his cracker just so.
He was never one to put Descartes before the horse.
It wasn’t as if Fearless’ feet were being held to the fire either. He dispensed advice freely whether people listened or not: they didn’t. He diligently continued to attend Parliament, an act that compelled Scruffy A to plead yet another reason to postpone the trial.
He even put out videos of his exercise regimen – planking and weights. Indeed, it appeared that the only inconvenience dealt to the unflappable Fearless was his conviction, which effectively ruled him out as a candidate in the next general election.
The other thing that had changed was that the dynamic duo had fallen out. Now the main plank of Fearless defence was that it was all Felonious’ fault, and that he’d been merely guilty of a silly, and misplaced, trust in a friend; that he’d been “more sinned against than sinning.”
The idea had come from the learned jurist Scruffy A, whose inspired decision-making stemmed from a long political tradition of blaming others for the really serious errors.
In between flutes of the good stuff, Felonious sympathised because he understood. Had the shoe been on the other foot, he would have done the same.
Thank God it wasn’t, he reflected cheerfully, and decided he could, and would, drink to that.