WE SAY GOOD-BYE, HE SAYS HELLO

I suspect Malaysian voters might be collectively suffering electile dysfunction – an inability to become aroused over any of our choices for prime minister.

Our current incumbent has all the charisma of a melancholy sponge, a ranking only slightly above that achieved by his dour predecessor. Meanwhile, the most energetic contender of all promises to be as old as Methuselah by the time he assumes office.

That might be the reason why Fearless Leader, a jaunty brigand much beloved by Patek Philippe, may be plotting his Big Comeback.

Actually, Fearless had never been away. Despite having been convicted of corruption and abuse of power by Malaysia’s High Court, Fearless remains free on bail and relentlessly continues to advise, chastise, browbeat, and taunt the government without a care in the world, behaving as if he’d never left the political stage in the first place.

And that’s the rub. He intends to remain and, preferably, to stay.

In a breakfast meeting with several reporters last week, Fearless blithely revealed that he intended to defend his parliamentary seat of Pekan in the next general election.

Does he know something the rest of us don’t?

The Malaysian Constitution expressly forbids a convicted person from contesting an election. It also forbids a tax dodger from doing the same. Fearless had struck out on both counts, so what was he talking about?

From across the seas, his less-than-trusty sidekick, the flabby Felonious aka Jho the Low, felt the wellsprings of hope stir anew in his bosom.

He’d begun to feel reassured last month, first after Umno, a party after his ow heart, had retaken control of the federal government and, second, when transgender and cosmetics entrepreneur, Nur Sajat, had supplanted him on the country’s Most Wanted list.

Felonious missed the Big Game, the time when he pulled the strings from afar, the heady period when he was the Lord of Pretty Much All That He Surveyed.

He lived for today, he stole for tomorrow, and he partied tonight. And, along the way, he’d amassed art, jewellery, mansions, and a super-yacht.

It had all been confiscated of course, but what a ride he’d had, what a rush! You couldn’t take that away from him.

Now it was not much fun anymore, although there was much to be said about lolling by the pool sipping Cristal champers. He was grateful. Indeed, he was the first to concede that Macao was a far more salubrious location to be in than, say, Kuala Lumpur, even with Umno back in harness.

Still, the sticky problem of which country he might legitimately enter always loomed before him like irritating question-marks. They were elusive too, not unlike the citizenships these countries refuse to let him buy.

But perhaps Fearless’ re-entry into politics could prove his salvation.

On the latter count, Felonious’ premise could be seriously flawed. Throughout his premiership, Fearless had stoutly maintained that Felonious had nothing whatsoever to do with 1MDB. Or that it had even been looted!

After his ouster, he changed tack, claiming that Felonious was wholly responsible for Everything, and The Kitchen Sink.

If you were a chess player, you might see why that might not be such a good defence.

Let’s just hope that comedian Bill Maher wasn’t referring to us when he said, “In this country, you’re guilty until proven wealthy.”

ENDS

BEWARE THE CAMEL IN THE TENT

Imagine that!

CNN reported Thursday that an Australian musk-duck had been recorded saying quite clearly; “You bloody fool.” The network said it was the “first documented instance of the species mimicking human speech.”

Consider it a latter-day miracle, even some celestial advice. When ducks are given tongue, man should listen, none more so than Malaysia’s timid Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The guy is Malaysia’s 9th premier and, by all accounts, a secure one: he’s even got a cooperation agreement with the opposition, a move that vaults him into near-political impregnability.

And what does he do, this most timorous of leaders? He tries to placate everyone, to the detriment of societal mores and the rule of law.

Last week, the government proposed Ahmad Maslan, an MP from Johor and Umno’s secretary-general, as deputy speaker for Parliament.

Never mind that Mr Ahmad could always be counted on as a reliable sounding board on policy matters: he wasn’t known as Mat “Good Idea Boss” Maslan for nothing.

No, it’s the fact that he was, and remains, charged for money laundering by the country’s corruption agency and is awaiting trial.

What kind of message does Putrajaya think it sends the Malaysian people or the world at large by such appointments? That crime pays: a deputy speaker’s salary is not to be sneezed at.

It trivialises corruption at best and, at worst, it implies a foregone conclusion on his matter.

It might get worse. Singapore’s Straits Times reported that Ismail was considering appointing former premier Najib Razak as a government Economic Advisor. It was clearly a trial balloon. And as if to provide ballast to the attempt, Umno’s Nazri Aziz said it would be a waste not to do so “given his experience.”

Najib is many times removed from Ahmad Maslan. He is a criminal convicted of the world’s biggest theft and we are now asked to believe the government “needs” his advice? Are we that bankrupt of talent?

If so…

Quick! Let’s get Jho Low back to advise the central bank how to plug money laundering holes in the banking system.

Whatever happened to shame as a concept?

And while Ismail’s insecurity is displayed for the world to see, former diplomat Dennis Ignatius warns that the country is sliding faster into Islamic-type statehood than anyone realises. This is, of course, due to Pas’ current control of the federal religious agencies like Jakim.

Pas should give thanks to the former PH government. It could never dream of making it into the federal government on its own. But by preying on Malay fears of losing political dominance – aided and abetted by the ever-reliable Dr M – it’s managed to sneak into the Malay coalition now governing Malaysia.

Never mind it’s a weak party with far less popular support than, say, the DAP or PKR, it still controls the most influential lever over the country’s majority people – Islam. Indirectly, that translates into enormous influence over the whole country – unless there is check and balance.

That’s why Pas is the most committed to ensure the permanence of the three-party Malay coalition now in power. It’s never had it so good.

If history is any judge, everyone should worry about this trend going forward.
Because the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, has never made any secret of its over-arching ambition for Malaysia.

ENDS

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME.

I suppose we should feel reassured.

Apparently, Ismail Sabri’s leadership was proven when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Malaysia. And “he is an expert in the fight against Covid-19.”

This is the opinion of Ahmad Maslan who, when not in the company of similarly inclined, red-shirted types chanting support for Malay- dominance, can generally be counted on for incisively untrue statements. His 2015 comment that the goods and services tax actually lowered prices is a case in point.

Even so, Mat’s description of Ismail should reassure because the latter has been nominated by 115 MPs – a majority – to be the ninth Premier of the country.

What do we know of him?

Quite apart from Mat’s extravagant tribute and a nagging feeling that Ismail’s characteristically doleful appearance might have been better suited to undertaking as a career choice, there is little we know.

His Wikipedia page only demonstrated one truth: the more things change, the more it stays the same.

Like Dr Mahathir and a host of politicians preceding him, Ismail has unabashedly played the race card to rise.

In 2015, he urged a boycott of Chinese businesses by Malay consumers to “cut prices.” In the process, he alleged that Old Town White Coffee’s halal signs had been called into question and that the Ngah family of Ipoh – a prominent member of the opposition Dap party – had an interest in the kopi-tiam chain.

Interestingly, he was witheringly called out by both the MCA’s Wee Ka Siong and Wan Saiful Wan Jan, previously of the IDEAS think tank. Messrs Wee and Wan went on to become members of the previous administration and are now, presumably, hearty cheerleaders for the Ismail-for-PM club.

For the record, the DAP’s Ngah Koo Han sued Ismail for defamation (being labelled anti-Islam) and won RM85,000 in damages and costs in 2018. It was also noted in court that his family had no interest in the Old Town chain.

In the same year, Ismail set up Low Yat 2, a digital mall along the lines of Low Yat Plaza, Kuala Lumpur’s most popular electronics mall, but one that would only house Malay traders, the better, presumably, to break the Chinese grip on the electronics business.

Interestingly, he was heavily criticised for it by Saifuddin Abdullah, then in Umno until he lost in the 2013 general election. That made him, Saifuddin, search his soul enough to defect to the PKR where he won in the 2018 elections and became Foreign Minister in the PH government.

More soul searching followed until he defected yet-again to the previous administration which resigned early this week. But we suppose he’s poised, alertly and with his usual nimble footedness, to rejoin Ismail’s government to which he will, no doubt, add his fulsome support.

For the record, Low Yat 2, and a further two other similar malls set up by Ismail, failed. It’s unclear how much money the government lost but it’s unlikely that Ismail lost any popularity in Umno in the process.

2015 seemed to be a banner year for Ismail where preposterous statements were concerned. In November, he lauded the country’s vaping industry because it was dominated by Malay entrepreneurs. Forget the health ministry warnings about vaping. In fact, Ismail hoped the unregulated industry “will expand globally.”

And there you have it, Ismail in his nutshell.

All the best folks, we might need it.

ENDS

LIVING SEPARATE REALITIES IN BOLEHLAND

You can tell the Prime Minister is a student of history: like Napoleon, he learnt how, from the mistakes of the past, he could make new ones. 

Despite months of lockdown and reassurances from the authorities, the country has gotten no respite from the pandemic with new daily highs amid rising deaths. 

Its one success – a rapid vaccination rate – gets blighted by over-reach.  A mega vaccination centre for undocumented migrant workers, for example, can go horribly wrong when there are no clearly spelt-out protocols

A video on social media captured the chaos perfectly.  A motor cyclist stops to try and fashion order in a long waiting line with no semblance of social distancing. Indeed, they are sardine-like in their crush. 

He barks orders trying to make the line safer and there is some unenthusiastic movement. He cajoles, even begs, but they are bewildered and uncomprehending. He rants against government, screams at Minister Azmin Ali – Do something brother! – and finally breaks down, weeping, and asks why “no one in power is bothered about this.”

“People are dying,” he observes brokenly.

No explanations are needed. In truth, he should be commended for civic mindedness.

Whether the leadership cares is another matter. Truth be told, they all appear to be living different realities. 

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has clearly lost majority support but “appears confident and is willing to duke it out in Parliament.” This, from Free Malaysia Today. 

Yes, but only on September 6, which is weeks away. Why is that do you suppose? Why not now, if he is confident and prepared to duke it out? 

Everyone knows why – he does not have the numbers but needs time to, well, do so. No one, however, least of all the enforcement agencies, seems to care that getting the said numbers could be through a crime. 

At least three opposition lawmakers – all from the Democratic Action Party – have been approached through anonymous WhatsApp texts to support Muhyiddin in return for cash and ministerial appointments. 

Police reports have been made. That’s a week ago. Ho hum, thers’s SOP for you. The premier seems “unflappable”.

Maybe someone else will bite. Or, in the words of the Rolling Stones, “Time is on my side.”  

Meanwhile, you’d think former premier Jibby has a whole epoch on his side the way he’s pontificating about this, that and the other. Here is a man, to quote the Wall Street Journal, accused of the “greatest heist in history,” a man found guilty of said heist by Malaysia’s High Court. And he not only glibly dispenses advice to all and sundry, but has his own cheering squad to boot, and is considered a long shot contender for the premiership.

Now you can understand why countries like Japan consider bail a privilege and not a right. 

It is lamentable that Malaysia chooses to display its worst face to the world currently. But what is amazing is we do not appear to comprehend this stark truth. Not a bit, not at all. 

Why else would the Home Ministry suddenly quadruple the “offshore income” of participants in the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme to RM40,000 a month and insist on at least RM1 million in fixed deposits, from RM150,000 previously?

And the new rules appear to affect people already established under the old rules. 

Any number of lawyers will tell you that such retrospective effect is odious. Many of these people have been here for years and rely on offshore pensions that might have been sufficient under the old rules but not the new. 

We are doing it, apparently, to boost the economy by attracting richer, “higher quality” participants. 

The policy makers should get real. 

What do they think the rest of the world thinks of us? 

ENDS

IT’S BROKE. GO FIX IT!

I’ve always thought Dr Hamid Pawanteh wasn’t your average Umno type. He’s not strident but reflective and quite unlike the sort of doctor who might confuse the Spanish flu for an aphrodisiac not quite from Spain.  

Now 77, the former chief minister of the tiny northern state of Perlis predicted that the country would become the world’s worst unless “its custodians change how they conduct themselves” as leaders.

Many of us know what ails the system. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that there is something wrong with our education system. Dr Hamid agreed. In a word, it had “failed.” To his mind, it was the cause of our bad leadership.

The problem: while everyone agrees that, yes, this is so, no one wants, or knows how, to fix it. 

When he became premier again in 2018, Dr Mahathir said the curriculum had become too Islamised and promised to repair it. 

His choice for Minister wasn’t inspiring to begin with. Nevertheless, we heard that a report was commissioned to find out exactly how much time religion featured in an average school-day. Like a damp squib, nothing came out of it and there were whispers that the report was so damning that it was classified “secret.” 

There are other whispers. It’s said that the grading system for the harder subjects like Math and Science had been relaxed: a grotesque reclassification of merit that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Math for Dummies.” 

This particular whisper has been going on for years. 

Indeed, the cynicism is so great that when the latest SPM results showed dramatic improvements despite months of school lockdown, Sheriff Kassim, a former senior civil servant, wondered if it had to do with grade manipulation and urged an investigation.  

Nowhere is the failure of the education system more apparent than in the current problem of the contract doctor. The reason is clear – too many doctors chasing too few jobs. And its blame, crystal – the ruling politicians in Umno. 

The party seemed to think more universities meant more votes and soon most states boasted their own university. Whether there were sufficient faculty of competence seemed irrelevant. Similarly, whether the demand for those graduates were there was even less relevant.

As far back as a decade ago, people like Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, himself a doctor from the 1970s University Malaya, warned Parliament that the sheer number of local medical faculties coupled to the increasing recognition of medical degrees from Russia and Indonesia, was leading to an oversupply of doctors. 

That the government ignored these warnings is lunacy. Pity the poor wannabe Malaysian doctor. That they might not get employed, after almost six years of study in a field that’s near Godlike, is mindboggling and only attests to the government’s negligent stupidity.

An oversupply almost always results in a certain drop in quality. Recall the furore a few years ago when a local doctor confused chicken pox for chicken chop and issued a prescription to that effect. It isn’t clear what the pharmacist thought.  

It isn’t a unique problem. Singapore, too, thinks it’s getting there, according to a local doctor friend who graduated from Ireland’s Trinity College. He told me that he’d recently read that the Singapore government would, in a couple of years, no longer recognise the medical degrees from a number of foreign institutions including Trinity, one of the leading medical schools in the world. The government was giving notice to its citizenry in what can only be deemed a friendly warning, a caveat emptor regarding future employment, if you like. 

Isn’t that what responsible governments do? 

ENDS

THIS TOO SHALL PASS: NOT SOON ENOUGH

Singapore’s Channel News Asia is good at detailing the rigours afflicting its neighbours, the better, presumably, to show the city state’s administrative superiority. But it’s accurate, and the other day, it showed pictures of Serdang Hospital: a large tent under which patients drowsed on lines of camp beds that stretched to the car park, a sight simultaneously sad and pitiful, like a stanza out of Dante. There are worse stories. Klang Hospital is, apparently, running out of oxygen.

God bless our medical front-liners. They are, hands-down, the heroes of this crisis. My admiration for them is unbounded and the fact that they continue to go to work every day, uncomplainingly, is a miracle.

Take L, a skin specialist, compelled to help at the Covid ward at Serdang Hospital. The work, she says is non-stop: a daily grind of pressure and heartbreak in a hazmat suit.

And clap for the generous Malaysian. An hour after a doctor at Serdang Hospital urgently called for buns and bottled water, 400 of each, for his patients, swiftly relayed WhatsApp messages resulted in its delivery, courtesy of a Rotary Club chapter near the hospital

These are the country’s unsung heroes, not those clowns in government. I mean, don’t you just hate it when old men dream up new tricks to remain in power?

This Perikatan Naasional government seems fearful of being accountable for its decisions. For some reason, they do not want their decisions scrutinised by Parliament. Why not table its resolutions to revoke the Emergency ordinances before Parliament and subject it to debate?

That’s Democracy 101. It’s also basic courtesy after months of hiding under the skirts of an ersatz Emergency. Skulking around and then trying to push through a retrospective revocation of the emergency ordinances only signals something to hide, a whiff of fire and unholy smoke.

On Thursday, in an unheard-of display of royal pique, the King singled out Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan for “misleading” Parliament. There had, apparently, been a meeting between the King, the Minister and the Attorney General previously where the King had made clear that he wanted the revocation of the Emergency ordinances to be tabled and debated by Parliament before he consented to it.

The subsequent explanation from the PM’s office on Friday danced around the issue and never addressed the question of whether the King consented to the PN’s revocations. Did he sign off on it?

Nope. Neither did Parliament get a chance to debate anything. Takiyuddin coolly told Parliament that there was no need for debate as the Cabinet had done away with the revocations a week ago ergo there was nothing to get excited about.

Now if this was an action of the previous PH government, what do you think would have happened? Remember, also, the Law Minister then was one Liew Vui Keong from Sabah and the AG was a certain Tommy Thomas. I think we can safely assume that police reports would have piled up faster than an Usain Bolt on steroids. And the cries of treason would have reached near-hysteria.

Why is the government so fearful of scrutiny?

The simple answer is that they are loath to provide explanations: for the billions they have spent without legislative approval, for their dismal management of the pandemic.

The outbreak shows no sign of abating despite months of lockdown. The caseload now exceeds 1 million and continues to grow at an alarming pace.

Malaysia has always prided itself on its health system. Among developing countries, we were among the earliest to bring life expectancies and infant mortality rates on par with the developed world.

Now the system is breaking down. We are closing on 9,000 deaths from Covid and averaging 100-200 fatalities a day. The bodies are piling up, but the government insists that everything is “under control.”

This too shall pass. Meanwhile, you know what they say: some people are wise while some are otherwise.

ENDS

OF GOOD NEWS AND BAD

We have good news and bad news.

OK, it’s mostly bad news but there is a solitary ray of very good news that might ultimately prove our salvation.

It is this: Malaysia now can boast one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, second only to Canada on a similar-size basis and double that of Australia.

If so, we might just jab our way out of our current predicament given enough luck, nerve and a continued lockdown.

The initial signs are there. Out of Thursday’s tally of over 13,000 cases, fully 96% were asymptomatic or mild. That seems to indicate that the vaccinations are blunting the severity of the disease.

Even so, it does not get us off the hook. So long as the numbers keep climbing sharply, even a 5% rate of severity will continue to choke our health services.

That’s where luck and the lockdown come in.

We all know what the bad news is, but outside the reeling economy and the rising unemployment, other concerns are surfacing including a resurging Dr Mahathir.

OK, let me rephrase that with a question: What are the odds that Pejuang will throw its supports behind the Prime Minister, currently embattled by Umno’s withdrawal of support?

The only reason I ask is that the Home Ministry has suddenly been gracious enough to allow Pejuang’s registration as a “legitimate” political party while resolutely continuing to ignore Muda, a party of young, political aspirants, that has similarly sought registration.

Given that we are talking about Malaysia where there is always a political quid against someone else’s quo, there is ample reason to believe something is afoot.

Add to that Dr Mahathir‘s airy, and apropos of nothing, comment that he would quit Pejuang if offered the headship of the National Recovery Council, and we are left to ponder, once again, the Machiavellian machinations of Malaysia’s Mahathir.

In short, the man wants back.

You’d think he’s old enough to know better, having just turned 96. I mean, this is a guy who baby-sat Maharaja Lela, for God’s sake, and he still thinks he’s indispensable.

He once accused the Malays of being “easily forgetful.” In truth, most Malaysians aren’t. We remember all too well his odious assault on the judiciary and his dumbing down of the civil service. Then there were his deeply flawed ideas that cost the nation dear: the national car, the push for heavy industrialisation. None of these “Think Big” projects were successful but you wouldn’t know that, listening to him.

According to the late Barry Wain, who authored a critical book on the man, he once told Dr Mahathir that he’d estimated that the former physician had engineered over RM50 billion in wealth destruction during his tenure. Barry said that Dr Mahathir simply retorted that he’d “created more wealth than he destroyed.”

That might very well be true but it also speaks volumes about the country’s inherent wealth generating capacity, its industrious population and its resource-rich nature.

Immediately after the 2018 general election, a group of us were celebrating PH’s improbable victory when we were joined by another, an elderly arbitrator, a man who not only remembered British colonial rule but started his career during the period. Surveying our good cheer, he asked one question, clearly directed at the incoming Prime Minister: “Can a leopard change his spots?”

Apparently not.

ENDS

WE ARE IN GOOD HANDS, AREN’T WE?

I remember an interview we had with Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It was during the height of the Asian financial crisis in early 1998 and he was premier at the time.

That he was distracted was obvious. Every so often, an aide would come up and show him a slip of paper. He would glance at it and then turn back to us. After 40 minutes of this, I couldn’t contain my curiosity and asked him what it was all about.

He explained that the aide was bringing him the latest greenback-ringgit quotes. The exchange rate had been frenziedly volatile, and the premier wanted to keep his eye on the ball.

The Lord knows I’ve frequently been critical of Dr M but during the Asian financial crisis, he kept his eye firmly on the ball.

These are the times that try men’s souls, wrote Thomas Paine over two centuries ago. We have entered such a time now and what a horror it is! The crisis we face now makes the 1998 one appear frivolous, almost Winnie the Pooh-like in both its scale and its scope. Like it or not, we are looking down the barrel of a gun.

And can we confidently say our leaders have their eye on the ball?

If that ball is power, then yes. That’s all that seems to interest Umno or Bersatu these days and people are sick of their shenanigans.

Consider the following.

The Prime Minister is admitted to hospital over a week ago. The poor man seems very sick right up to Wednesday night, when Umno threatens to pull support from his fragile coalition.

Lo and behold, he makes a miraculous recovery and dashes to his residence where the first “crisis” meeting of the pandemic is held: TV footage shows limousines coming and going amid an air of urgency. Reporters assert that Weighty Matters of State are Unfolding.

The Attorney General is summoned and pronounces, with all the grave impartiality of a Lord Denning, that because there “are no clear” facts showing that the PM has lost the support of a majority of MPs, he can continue governing. Carry on, McMoo, he advises and the PM duly declares victory.

Hallelujah!

Over at the Putra World Trade Centre, Umno President Zahid Hamidi also declares victory, satisfied that Umno had fired a shot across the Prime Ministerial bow.

Two cheers for democracy!

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri is promoted to deputy premier. It isn’t clear why, but it might have to do with his sadly lugubrious delivery of bad news.

Similarly, foreign minister Hishamuddin Hussain is promoted to senior minister for equally vague reasons. Insiders in the know, however, insist that it’s due to his masterful handling of foreign policy, noting that he kept Malaysia out of war for 16 months.

But hark, what of Master Azmin, a Master of the Universe and the Schemer behind the Sheraton Strategy?

But there is no joy in the Ministry of International Trade. Mr Azmin himself is spotted in contemplative prayer in a mosque in the Middle East, from where he will, doubtless, return, bearing much foreign investment and good cheer.

But before that, he will take a well-deserved holiday in Austria to unwind from the stresses and strains of holding high office.

Meanwhile, the rocket scientists in government continue to rock. On a day that Covid infections hit a new peak of 8,868 – a number that sent punter hearts aflutter – the Minister of Religion said that all mosques and suraus would be opened forthwith.

The future so bright, we’ll have to wear shades.

ENDS

IT’S A CRY FOR HELP, STUPID

Occasionally, this country comes up with something that sparkles, that provokes an involuntary smile, that cheers you up no end.

I refer to the geniuses who came up with the white flag campaign.

Now here’s an idea whose time has come. To avoid the humiliation of “begging” or pleading for government aid, distressed families have been asked to raise a white flag outside their homes and aid would, like the mail, arrive.

The idea was born out of the minds of creative Netizens on social media, and it’s taken off big time. Businesses have also pitched in with pledges to help.

What’s tactfully unsaid in all the commentary is the fact that the government has been found wanting. Because it failed to step up to the plate, Malaysians took matters into their own hands. There would have been no need for this campaign if the government had done what it’s supposed to.

The prolonged lockdown has seriously damaged the economy and pushed thousands into poverty.

These are very troubled times and nowhere is it more starkly demonstrated than the statistics for suicide which listed 336 deaths over the first three months of the year.

More than anything else, it was those appalling figures that prompted the “white flag” movement, that tugged at enough heartstrings to compel action.

Our politicians love to dwell on our differences, the better to create perceived or imagined threats that promise to forever keep some segments of society insecure, so that these politicians can continue to justify their existence, their grip on power.

The white flag initiative promises to transcend these petty notions. And the people behind this campaign instinctively grasp what the government seems incapable of: you cannot do kindness too soon because you never know how soon will be too late.

Meanwhile, if you’re not part of the solution, then don’t be part of the problem. Or at the very least get out of the way. Better still, shut up.

Take the MP from Bachok, Nik Abduh Nik Aziz. As a child, he fancied a career in counter-intelligence. Looks like he made it, too.

The MP chided people for hoisting the white flag as those who admit defeat to challenges “from God.” He then brightly added that they would be better served “by praying.”

Unsurprisingly, this rocket scientist hails from Pas, an obscure party of obscure people with obscurantist views that have, apparently, never heard of the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.”

The same God also gave people a brain so that they might use reason and act with kindness aforethought.

But Mr Nik could be the exception that proves the rule, being proof himself that God does, indeed, have a sense of humour.

And then there is the Chief Minister of Kedah who seems to have a worldview shaped by the Cro-Magnon period. He’s threatened to deny state aid to anyone who hoists the white flag. Reason: it’s “propaganda” against the government.

Well, if the shoe fits…

As a former journalist who’s covered enough Pas ceramah to know, it might be instructive to share this.

When any Pas event is unfolding, the organisers literally pass a bag around. That’s how the party raises its money. You might say it’s its white flag.

This bag-passing should cease and desist. That would be conceding defeat, wouldn’t it?

No, these God-fearing people would be better served by prayer.

ENDS

MAYBE NAPOLEON’S RIGHT: HISTORY’S JUST A SET OF AGREED UPON LIES

Many years ago, I was at a World Economic Forum session in Kuala Lumpur listening to the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia detail his country’s plans for the region.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, he was asked why the Chinese felt compelled to view much of the South China Sea as “theirs.”

The reply was so fast it seemed rehearsed: “There is a reason for the sea to be called such.”

This was swiftly followed by a comment from the back, in an American accent: “The Indian Ocean stretches down to Australia and parts of West Africa but you don’t see India claiming those waters.”

When nations begin using history to legitimise their claims – to territory or anything else – the results are generally fraught with peril because the rationale is spurious to begin with. Henry Ford is the one credited with saying: “History is bunk” and while he said a great many egregious things, I think he got that one right.

One is reminded of the cartoon, in which the first box features Donald Trump fretting about the “dangers of unchecked immigration into the US.”

And, in the next, a seriously unhappy Geronimo is agreeing, “Amen to that.”

Whether it’s the Chinese or the US, these claims are unending. When the British first proposed the creation of the state of Malaysia through the union of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, both the Philippines and Indonesia objected on the grounds, yet again, of “history.” Manila claimed “ownership” of Sabah while Jakarta insisted that Sarawak had always been part of the republic.

But the British and the Malayan leadership pit the matter directly to the people of the regions themselves and, in a referendum supervised by the United Nations, the notion of Malaysia was overwhelmingly accepted.

Despite the popular snub, Jakarta took it badly and declared a campaign of “ganyang Malaysia” (Hang Malaysia).

It took another two years of foolishness – and a coup that unseated Indonesia’s then President Sukarno – to restore amity to Southeast Asia. Even so, every eight years or so, Manila threatens to dust off its ancient claim to Sabah which leads to another fruitless round of sabre rattling from both sides.

If one takes history too seriously, you might end up with some utterly strange conclusions.

For example, did you know that present-day England was once ruled by the Romans in an unbroken stretch that lasted for 366 years (43AD to 409AD).

To put it in a modern context, that’s roughly 55 years longer than the current duration of the modern superpower known as the United States of America.

Taking that a step further, how would the people of England feel if Rome were to declare that, because of its ancient claim to England by virtue of historical antiquity, that, henceforth, all Romans and their descendants had a right to become automatic citizens of England. Sorry and all that, and I know it’s hard cheese for you chaps, but it’s history, what?

It would just about sum up the feelings of the Palestinians currently.

And don’t forget the clincher, all ye who treasure history: that the Jewish claim was rooted in no less than divinity, that the land in question was promised to them by God!

ENDS