What was apparent by the time a cautious dawn emerged on Sunday was that the only serious disaster buffeting the country was the one inhabiting Putrajaya.

Nowhere was this better demonstrated than in the responses by local netizens to a tweet by Apple chief executive, Tim Cook. Mr Cook had promised aid to flood victims in Malaysia and the Philippines which was nice. But even Cook must have been bemused by the Malaysian responses: they urged Cook to direct the aid to non-government groups rather than Putrajaya.

It’s a stunning indictment of a government that’s clearly perceived as not only inept but untrustworthy.

You’d think such a revelation might have given pause to the rocket scientist currently leading our country. No chance: said RS was smilingly photographed Thursday “leading” a Thanksgiving ceremony at the Tropicana Golf and Country Club to celebrate his first hundred days in office.

Given his cheer and general good humour, he thinks it’s been wildly successful. Move over delusions of adequacy, we’re talking d’s of greatness here!

Ok, I’ll phrase it gently. It’s said that women sometimes make fools of men but you had to hand it to Ismail; he was strictly a do-it-yourself type.

I mean, it’s ridiculous. At least 27 people are dead from the worst floods in the history of Selangor and Pahang, a great many Malaysians are confronting wrecked homes and lives, and the premier thinks nothing of spending more taxpayer money to pat himself on the back. Doesn’t he, or his advisors, read social media?

It’s the season of giving, a celebration of God’s love for man. But did they know it’s Christmas?

Not if you go by the carnage and misery unleashed on the people of Selangor and Pahang. And certainly not if you go by the disproportionate self-importance displayed by some of the overpaid ministers of Ismail’s bloated Cabinet.

Why does Tengku Zafrul, the Minister of Finance, find it necessary to commandeer a boat, stuff it with his officials, security and cameramen and go over to the flooded areas if he does not intend to help anyone? Did he think that having a photo-op counted as aid? Or that gawking was an expression of sympathy?

Some people are born important, some achieve self-importance and some have hubris thrust upon them. For Ahmad Faizal Azumu, the minister of youth and sport, the latter moment arrived when he saw it fit to launch his ministry’s squad of flood-relief volunteers in a glittering, expensive-looking, but wholly unnecessary photo-opportunity that was immediately seized upon by netizens as yet another example of ministerial preening.

It’s no small irony that it took a rebuke from the nation’s First Klepto, Ah Jib Gor, to awaken the minister to the absurdity of his excess.

The general self-congratulatory attitude cut across racial barriers. A video of Human Resource Minister, M Saravanan checking aid parcels emblazoned with his face would have struck any reasonable person as tasteless in the extreme.

And yet it was the season of hope and charity, peace and goodwill to all man. Did they know it’s Christmas?

Ordinary Malaysians surely did. The spirit of caring and sharing, of mutual goodwill was evident when Malaysians of all races came together in a glorious recognition of their mutual humanity to help one another without fanfare, self-glorification or reward.

The spirit of the season fairly crackled in the air over Shah Alam and Mentakab among ordinary people and for a single, transcendent moment in time, the government politician was about as extinct, and useless, as the dodo.

It renews our faith in the country and it should give all of us hope.

Merry Christmas everyone.



It was Benjamin Franklin who warned us against the “young doctor and the old barber.”

Old Ben was a kindly old codger given to pottering about in thunderstorms to fly kites so he can be forgiven for failing to remember “the very old politician” as another potential threat.

I mean, consider Dr Mahathir. I know he’s gone to hospital for a check-up but that shouldn’t make him a sacred cow immune from critical assessment. I mean, the guy is 96 and you’d think would have moved on from his bigoted rantings in, say, 1969, when, in an infamous letter to the Tunku, he stated he only had “a few drops of Pakistani blood” in his veins.

But no, his recent lament that the Chinese penchant for eating with chopsticks was yet another example of the difficulty of forging a united Malaysian nation is a case in point.

Mahathir fretted that people in the country identify themselves as ‘Chinese Malaysian’ and ‘Indian Malaysian’, saying, “Because of that (strong sense of racial identity), they cannot be assimilated.”

Imagine if the same thought had haunted Yap Ah Loy, the same way it haunts Dr M for his prejudices are long standing.

The would-be founder might have given up the ghost, returned to China and forgotten all about discovering Kuala Lumpur.

What poppycock!

My wife is a Eurasian and her roots in Malaysia are deep, I-mean-really-God-knows-how-far-back-deep but you must wonder if the former physician might find her less than patriotic because she wouldn’t dream of eating noodles without chopsticks.

Much later in our marriage, she told me that she found it strange that none of the homes of my extended family ever stocked chopsticks.

Back then, it probably never occurred to us. For the record, many do have them now.

Dr M seems to take pride in his bigotry, even when he’s being casually racist in public. I remember watching BBC where he was being interviewed after he came back as Malaysian premier in 2018.

Zainab Badawi’s obvious admiration for him began vanishing after he refused to make a distinction between Jews and Zionists.

Finally, his pettiness got the better of him when he insisted that you could tell the Jews apart because they were “hook-nosed.”

And the genteel, plum-toned Ms Badawi actually cringed!

The former premier seems to forget that race and religion define the Malaysian ethos today largely because of him and his United Malays National Organisation. For whatever reason, differentiation – perhaps to better implement affirmative action policies – was seen as the best way forward.

And so, rather than classify all Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans as simply Malaysian, successive generations have been classified, compartmentalised, branded and organised along cleavages of race, religion and, in my wife’s case, an indefinite pronoun.

For the record, she’s classified as an “other” which is remarkable as it implies that Rebecca is neither of “us” vintage nor of “them” extraction.

Much of the blame for this has to be laid at the former doctor’s door as he was premier for the longest time and he could have done something about it. Indeed, he could have done something about a lot of things – corruption, education, the civil service, racism, to name a few. But he didn’t.

And the strangest irony of all is that Dr M seriously thought, and still thinks, he is the best. Indeed, when asked once who might best be suited to succeed him, he answered only half in jest: “A clone of mine.”

It could be the ultimate Maha-paradox. He’s always believed he was the greatest thing since sliced bread…

….when we’ve known he’s actually been toast for a long time now.



To expect life to treat you good is as foolish as thinking a bull won’t hit you because you’re vegetarian – Comedienne Roseanne Barr

Felonious, namely the Low Jho, heard about Fearless Leader’s failure before the appellate court and his heart bled for his erstwhile mentor.

But the word that came to him wasn’t “disappointed.” The corpulent crook thought it should have been more in keeping with that expressed by Cyrus “The Virus” Meese after he was arrested for holding 30 Texas lawmen at bay for four hours before they finally served him his speeding ticket.

When asked why he resisted so long, Mr Meese, a reprobate of no small measure, shrugged and said it was the principle of the thing: “Never settle with words what you can with a flame thrower,” he replied with all the aplomb a clear conscience can summon.

Felonious, who was renowned for his courage under no fire whatsoever, thought it was a sentiment for the ages.

Malaysia’s Court of Appeal had unanimously upheld Fearless’ conviction and 12-year sentence by the High Court last year on abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust charges.

In addition, the judgment said Fearless’ action was not in ‘the national interest” but “a national embarrassment.”

Fearless was “disappointed” by the judgment. He went on to plead his innocence in an oath he swore “in the name of Allah.”

It’s one of several times that Fearless has invoked a religious oath to profess his innocence.

It seemed to indicate a clear conscience. Either that or he had a very bad memory.

The Appellate Court ripped Fearless’ defence up, even calling his much vaunted “Arab donation” claim a “concoction bereft of reality.”

Indeed, legal experts had wondered why Fearless hadn’t simply summoned his Arab friend to testify on his behalf. If he’d donated US$700 million to Fearless, surely, he’d have no problem saying so in court.

But it did not seem to have occurred to his crack legal team. It was even whispered that the Arab donor bore an uncanny resemblance to Felonious in a kaffiyeh.

To demonstrate his solidarity with his fallen comrade, however, Felonious gallantly eschewed a festive Dom Perignon for an agreeable 1991 Pinot Noir to go with the excellent duck confit his chef had whipped up for lunch.

It was a sombre group that assembled for lunch on the Wednesday of the verdict.

Hairy Low, Felonious’ pater and occasional yachting advisor, noted hopefully that Fearless’ defence team, while professing “disappointment” (that word again!) with the verdict, felt confident that the Federal Court would “overturn” the appellate court’s rebuke.

Hairy said this with a smile that set off his roguish, Errol Flynn-like moustache against teeth so dazzling they shone like whitecaps in the Macao surf. Indeed, they were the whitest caps modern dentistry could buy and Felonious knew it for a fact.

So did the dentist who kept giggling with an unseemly delight every time he went to his bank.

Felonious knew that Fearless’ lawyers had expressed similar, chest-thumping statements prior to the two trials.

And he wondered, not a trifle uneasily, if it was merely a coincidence that Fearless’ lawyers also giggled inordinately every time they went to their banks?

Felonious was made of sterner stuff and vowed not to despair. Actually, it was difficult to despair when confronted by plump, fresh figs amid a bed of sharp Stilton cheese, an exquisite pairing which Fat Boy thought deserved the chef a raise.

He’d gotten on to Life in a Fast Lane way back but had known when to get off and stay off. In that sense, it was hard cheese for Fearless but that was how the Stilton crumbled.

He had a new adage to live by now and he intended to stick to it. With wealth everything was simple, really: you scratch my back and I’ll let you know when to stop.

He couldn’t go home but you can’t have everything, Felonious reminded himself sternly. Life was good and so, like Groucho Marx, he intended to live forever…

….or die trying.



Why are Lat cartoons so popular?

I’ve put some thought into it, so listen up. They allow us to believe that our country is more than the sum of its parts, deserving to be seen through a mist of bittersweet nostalgia and hope, the way we think it ought to be viewed.

That was Lat’s special genius. His Malaysia had an innocent quality about it, a halcyon time when Mat, Ah Chong and Muthu were, indeed, besties; P Ramlee, cendol and Walls cones from the ice cream man’s motorcycle on a hot Sunday.

People like me, a child of the sixties, can easily relate to Lat because there really was an innocence about the time. I remember taking a bus from Rembau, really a village then, to Seremban in, I think, 1969, and there was a mother nursing her baby as if it was the most natural thing to do on a bus. No one gawked or seemed to think anything of it, so it probably was.

I wonder if Malaysian millennials can relate to Lat? I hope so but who knows? When you have parties like the Islamic Party which deems immorality as the morality of anyone having a better time, you tend to have your doubts.

Back then, there seemed to be none. My classmates used to come to my house on Deepavali when my mother would invariably cook mutton curry. No one – most were Malays – would even think of asking my mother if the meat was halal. It probably wasn’t but it would have been the height of rudeness to ask.

Not anymore. Now it’s considered positively de rigueur to ask upfront.

Certainly, we were far more innocent then. I remember holding hands with a male classmate every time we had to march back to our respective classrooms after Assembly. This went on even when we were in the Sixth Form but no one, least of all, my classmates, thought it was strange or bad form for men to behave thus.

Actually, one suspects that it would only have been derided in Western societies. Not so much in Asian ones, methinks.

But even in Western societies, a lot of things can assume darker and less innocent, connotations because of 21st Century mores amid a newly resurgent, and tiresome, political correctness.

It was the Beatles, for example, who kicked off a global hit in the 60s with these lines: “She was just seventeen/ You know what I mean.”

No, we don’t Sir Paul. What do you mean?

It might have been worse for Ringo Starr whose 70s song was also written by Sir Paul:
You come on like a dream/
Peaches and cream/ Lips like strawberry wine/
You’re sixteen/ You’re beautiful/
And you’re mine.

The song was titled You’re Sixteen and it went on to become a hit, even here in Malaysia. And no one thought it might excite your average pedophile anywhere.

I suppose the moral here is that things change and nothing’s ever written in stone. Take manners which you might think were written in stone.

We are repeatedly told you display good manners at the dining table by the noise you don’t make when eating soup.

But that would be rude in Japan, where it is both courteous and mannerly to show appreciation for the soup by slurping it.