Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. – Benjamin Franklin

I read an item on Twitter recently, from an aggrieved bank customer in Malaysia.

Our friend thought he’d finally paid off his car loan. Close, but no cigar.

His loan balance read $0.01. And the bank insisted that he settle the “outstanding” amount before anything else, meaning, he couldn’t cancel said bank’s claims on the car.

Trivia for the day: Do you know you cannot transfer $0.01 online? It’s below the minimum transfer amount.

It stumped our worthy who proceeded to have a Eureka moment: He transferred $1 to the bank instead.

“Hee-Hee,” thought he gleefully, “now it’ll have to return $0.99 to me and Good Luck with that!”

Unfortunately, the bank was made of sterner stuff: it knew Banking Rope-A-Dope 101 as well as any Goldman Sachs and countered with the aplomb of a bureaucrat. Its answer: if said worthy wanted any change, he’d have to submit a written request together with supporting documents of proof.
It was the banking equivalent of “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Of course, he gave up!

Our friend didn’t name the bank which was a pity as it might have embarrassed it enough to have the grace to return his money.

“You win, bankers,” he concluded dismally, “You always f$%^&g win!”

Tim Leisner didn’t.

As an implacable banker and a hardnosed dealmaker, Leisner knew there were only two rules for success. 1) Never tell all you know.

But now he was telling all that he knew about 1MDB to a New York court and Malaysians were riveted. He was the person who enabled Jho “Felonious” Low to steal billions of dollars from 1MDB and his guilty plea probably did more to undermine former premier Najib Razak’s credibility than anything else.

The sums bandied about in Leisner’s testimony against Roger Ng, his Goldman colleague and friend, were enough to delight Donald Trump. It also made you wonder why anyone in their positions – wealthy by any measure – would take such risks to make themselves richer.

But these people aren’t normal, to begin with. Recall that the wife of the former premier thought nothing of paying over a RM1000 for getting her hair done in her home.

For his part, Felonious knew that money couldn’t buy you happiness, but it could buy you a yacht big enough to pull up alongside it.

He probably thought he would remain safe so long as his friend remained in power. Both knew the Golden Rule: he who has the Gold, Rules.

I suppose in the case of the former First Lady, if it didn’t buy you happiness, it helped you be miserable in comfort.

But how to explain Leisner and Ng?

Goldman’s exorbitant commissions were immediately noticed by the media which must have set warning bells ringing in the US and Malaysia.

Felonious’ extravagant and well publicised spending sprees in the US must have also attracted attention. The minute the DOJ released its report in 2016, Messrs Leisner and Ng must have known the jig was up.

Despite his testimony and cooperation, Leisner still faces sentencing. The former premier’s last gasp is also due.

Only Felonious remains unaccounted for.

So are 1MDB’s billions.



Reason has been a part of organised religion, ever since two nudists took dietary advice from a talking snake – Political satirist, Jon Stewart

A bemused British television presenter introduced it as a Malaysian minister’s advice on “how to strike your wife.”

Was he serious or what? Methinks the statement should strike any wife as sinister, if not downright threatening.

But not, apparently, if you’re from that benighted Malaysian political party called Pas, or, in English, the Islamic Party of Malaysia. It gives religion a bad name and was probably the one that inspired Dave Allen to “thank God” he was an “atheist.”

The party is made up of individuals who think, nay, know they alone understand, and are fully committed to the ideals of Islam. Unfortunately, they think this qualification gives them the right – God-given, too – to shove their brand of conservative Islam down the throats of their fellow citizens.

Ironically, it is a trait they share with one Donald Trump who also knows that only he understands Christianity; “Nobody reads or understands the Bible better than I do.”

But I digress. We were talking about the bemused British television presenter, weren’t we? Yes, he was referring to Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff, Malaysia’s deputy minister of Women, Family and Community Development whose gratuitous advice to married men two days before Valentine’s Day provoked outrage in Malaysia, and ridicule overseas.

Zailah suggested that husbands had a “right” to use a “gentle but firm physical touch” on their “undisciplined and stubborn” wives.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that such unthinking comments only serve to perpetuate an already-entrenched culture of misogyny in some parts of Malaysia. As parliamentarian Nurul Izzah correctly called it, it’s a “disservice” to women at a time when over 9,000 cases of domestic violence had been reported.

And this Zailah is tasked with looking after the affairs of women and families in the country?

If her post were ever reduced to credit, for instance, Moody’s would doubtless have rated it as an “F Double Minus” with a “You-Have-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me” outlook!

In an aside, the rating agency apologised for “using capitals” but said it felt “compelled to scream”.

To be sure, this is the inanity of a single person but, truth be told, for real bona fide stupidity there isn’t anything like teamwork of the numbers represented in Pas. Ever since some of its members became part of the Federal Government, one thing has become abundantly clear. The party is singularly unfit, ill-equipped and hopelessly unsuited to rule any country.

It is clueless about economics, finance, foreign affairs, trade, exchange rates or anything to do with the workings of a modern economy in the 21st Century. Its idea of a weighty matter of state is the attire of airline stewardesses, or the fact that sharia law still isn’t practiced in Malaysia, or the reality that a renegade group like Sisters in Islam continues to flourish in the country.

In 1999, I once asked a senior Pas leader if he seriously thought hudud law was practical in this country. “Surely, it would be difficult enough to get people to chop off hands,” I argued.

His looked me straight in the eye. “You’d be surprised,” was all he said.



History may be classified differently in the future.

That period to come may be forever changed because of the now-ubiquitous smartphone. Until then, man had been born intelligent (pre-phone). Then he got his hands on that dastardly invention and everything changed (post-phone).

The new timelines might not apply in India, however, because it might confuse its people. India’s the only place in the world where you can bring forward an event (prepone) instead of putting it off till later (postpone).

Got it?

Although IBM is credited with the invention of the first smartphone in 1984, the erosion of human intelligence only really began with the creation of the IPhone circa 2007pp.

And we Malaysians feature prominently in the intelligence stakes.

A recent global study on smartphone addiction by Canada’s McGill University had young people in China hooked the most, followed respectively, by Saudi Arabia and, well-well, Malaysia.

In China right now, it’s the news about Winter Olympics’ gold medalist Eileen Gu that’s keeping her fellow citizens riveted to their mobiles, although it might well be news about President Xi’s latest Dictum for the Day tomorrow.

Although details of the latest executions in Saudi Arabia used to be ghoulishly fashionable to SMS around, things may have changed. It appears that the recent opening of selected public beaches to mixed bathing has attracted more smartphone toting crowds than Michael Buble ever achieved in his dreams.

Malaysia’s case might be a little more complicated. The citizenry generally use their smartphones for the usual necessities like where to get the best nasi lemak (Kampung Baru) or which roads to avoid on a Friday evening (all of them).

But it’s fake news that’s mostly being created and spread over smartphones these days. Ever since Donald Trump invented the phrase circa 2016pp and became its biggest purveyor – “Wind farms cause cancer” – Malaysians have taken to the phenomenon with the enthusiasm ducks normally reserve for water.

I got one yesterday. Someone sent me a news item that claimed that the Barisan Nasional had chosen the country’s First Felon aka Najib “the Fib” Razak as its Premier-in-Waiting should it win the next general election.

Why wouldn’t I believe it?

The current premier had invited him to the office and fawned over him. So had the various BN component parties while Umno leaders who should have known better – Khairy J or Mohd Hassan, for instance – prudently maintained a deafening silence. And all this in the face of hero-worshipping crowds who insisted the Jibman was “the Boss who needn’t feel shame.”

Then I remembered he’d been found guilty of monumental fraud by four judges, fined RM210 million and had only an appeal left. And I thought: even the BN can’t be that stupid, can it?

It was a good and pertinent question. Even so, I checked, and it wasn’t anywhere else so the answer to my question had to be, no.

Still, the obsession with smartphones is becoming ridiculous. It’s so bad that it’s getting more important than many things we hold dear including, well, holding Dear herself!

Standout statistic: in a recent US/Europe survey, 61% of respondents indicated that Wifi was impossible to give up, even more than for sex (58%).



We went over to my niece’s place for dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year. She’s half-Chinese anyway which must tick off some box somewhere in the city. She’s married to a large, cheerful man who not only appreciates good food but is something of a Gordon Ramsey himself. Which, in our book, makes him a very important member of the family.

Anyway, my niece was grumbling that she couldn’t find the pepper. “There’s some in the storeroom,” said almost-Gordon helpfully, then clarified. “No, not the one in the back. I mean, the shelter.”

I pricked up my ears: “The shelter?”

“Yes, we have a bomb shelter,” replied almost-Jaime, revelling in our surprise. “I think it’s like mandatory or something. Let me show you.”

He led us to the kitchen and pointed to a long, thin room on the immediate right of the kitchen’s entrance. Its door had been flung open carelessly to reveal shelves lining both sides of the walls, groaning under the weight of everything from pasta and spices to toilet paper and hardware items.

But the door alone was testament to the reinforced and blast- proof nature of the shelter, a last-gasp recourse against shockwaves and shrapnel in the event of a bombing. To put it simply, it was massive.

We were informed that there were already lights inside but there were extra points where air-conditioning, even a television, could be installed. But “no one bothers, and most people are like us, they use it as a storeroom.”

Singapore has always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position. In the 1960s and 70s, it felt vulnerable as “a Chinese island in a Malay Sea” and with the aid of the Israelis, rapidly set out to build a significant military capability.

While its threat perceptions have largely shifted – terrorism, for instance – the paranoia remains. The city-state is widely considered to have the most technologically savvy military in the region with an emphasis on a sophisticated air-force as its main deterrent.

Lest anyone miss the point, however, there are almost 600 large bomb-shelters scattered around the city, mostly in schools and MRT stations. And that’s on top of all homes required to have one since 1996!

Whether it’s practical is another matter. Stripped of shelves and supplies, my niece’s family of four and the maid might ride it out for a day inside, but a few days?

It seems like a recipe for instant claustrophobia. Also, unless you’re on the ground floor, it would not be sensible to use it in a high rise for obvious reasons.

For the record, our place does not have any such shelter although, having had our curiosity piqued, I’ve checked with other Singapore friends. Most said they use it for storage while some said they know of people who use it for their maids – grim! The best one I heard was a fellow who used the room to brew beer. Which is as good an antidote to anxiety as any I know.

Like Paul Simon, however, I suspect paranoia strikes deep in the heartland. Just try its hotline. You’ll just hear a terse bark: “How did you get this number?”

Meanwhile, did you hear about the Singaporean who’s paranoid, dyslexic, and an agnostic?

He’s afraid and worried all the time if there is a Dog.