It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt – The Bible (Proverbs)

There is a reason why the Bible has such sayings. It’s the same reason that prompts people to cringe when they hear absolute imbecility from their leaders.

The latest salvo in a long list of jaw dropping absurdities dumped by an administration on its people comes from Zuraida Kamaruddin, Malaysia’s comely Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister.

The worthy was reported to have said at a January 5, Malaysian Palm Oil Council dialogue that the country still had many orangutans, contrary to the notion that the palm oil industry was killing off the primates.

And there, she let fly. “In Malaysia, if you see an orangutan, it will kill you first, not you kill the orangutan first, correct?”

We can only speculate over the appalled silence that followed. But she must have been made of sterner stuff for she forged on relentlessly, noting with gay abandon that the wildlife and national parks department (Perhilitan) did not “simply kill orangutans, tigers and lions,” but followed a policy of “making the animals faint” first, before taking them to the zoo.

What does she smoke, I wonder?

According to the literature, orangutans are among the most docile of all the great apes although your average orangutan in Sabah’s Sepilok sanctuary might want to snarl disapprovingly at Zuraida for her lamentable ignorance.

Indeed, among the large primates, chimpanzees and gorillas have been known to turn on humans if provoked. The worst offender, of course, is man himself. And it’s a wonder that orangutans don’t turn on him given his propensity to destroy their habitats and sell their young.

Local environmentalist Andrew Sebastian described the minister’s comments with terse outrage. “Bizarre and ignorant” were the words he chose and he was right on more than a few counts.

For one thing and as everyone, except Ms Zuraida, knows, there are no lions in Malaysia.

Malaysian orangutans are only found in Borneo, whereas Perhilitan only operates in Peninsular Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Sebastian also noted that the minister did not seem aware that orangutans were dwindling in number. He said that while there had been over 250,000 such primates in the jungles of Borneo back in 1973, it’s estimated that, by 2025, they will drop to 47,000.

For the record, Malaysia cannot be held responsible for said attrition in numbers. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the Republic of Indonesia occupies 72% of the island. Malaysia makes up most of the rest (27%) while Brunei occupies a sliver (1%).

And what’s this about making the “animals faint” before taking them to “the zoo?” Presumably, the minister is referring to the practice of immobilising wild animals with anaesthetic darts before transporting them to a suitable location. In the case for, say, a tiger, it would probably be released deep in the National Park in Pahang.

It certainly isn’t always the zoo!

We cannot have this type of thing constantly embarrassing the country so I think there should be a basic IQ test for candidates before the next general election. Actually, I think it’s crucial given the level of inanity from the current administration after the floods recently.

It reminds you of what John Stuart Mill said. To paraphrase him, “although it is not true that all members of this administration are less than clever, it is true that most less than clever people are members of this administration.”