BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID 

Veteran oppositionist, Lim Kit Siang, has called on the Cabinet to freeze all increases in salaries and allowances in government-linked companies (GLCs) until the economy recovers.

This comes after FGV Holdings,, which is 80% owned by the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), agreed to increase its chairman’s annual allowance from RM300,000 to RM480,000 at its annual general meeting yesterday.

The hike came into effect yesterday. Meanwhile, the six board directors’ also saw their allowances increase from RM120,000 to RM150,000 a year. 

Most people would not even know of these proposals were it not for a social media post that went viral. The commentator, who wrote the post in Bahasa Malaysia, was grimly sarcastic about these pay increases at a time of   economic uncertainty amid steeply rising living costs. 

It appears that Lim was following up on the apparently popular rant.  

Even so, the government seems oblivious to the situation because no one, least of all in Putrajaya, has uttered a word about GLC salaries or anything connected to the economic situation.

Actually, our leaders  have said very little about anything meaningful which, given the economic climate, makes me believe that things will get a lot worse before it gets worse.

Indeed, I suspect  that’s the main fear of people: they worry that their leaders don’t  know what’s going on, and they believe they wouldn’t know what to do even if they did.

What are they all thinking  about anyway?

Messrs Najib and Zahid aren’t worried about the cost of living; they note that despite its increasing cost, it remains popular. 

They both think an early general election, preferably sometime around now,  will see a resounding victory by the National Front. This will somehow get them off  their respective  legal hooks. The exactly how is unclear but whoever is the premier after the election will presumably provide the answer.

For that reason, it appears that the current incumbent is quite happy with the status quo and sees no reason for an early general election. Dr M and most of the country is happy with this proposition. 

All the Finance Minister seems interested in is to be a candidate in said general election. It’s a wish that he telegraphs with increasing urgency to Umno and to the general public which, quite frankly, doesn’t give a hoot.  

All the Islamic Party, or Pas,  cares about is an electoral pact with Umno, without which, it will be soundly  thrashed in the election. It also worries about increasing national immorality which it defines as the morality of anyone having fun.

Tajudin, the boorish MP for Pasir Salak is so mightily chuffed with his ambassadorial appointment to Jakarta that he’s graciously forgiven his critics. They haven’t though and continue to assert his only credentials are idiocy veering on buffoonery.

Meanwhile, Nazri still hankers for a posting in Paris while sulkily insisting that floods in Malaysia could be the next big thing for tourism in the country. In fairness, no one’s ever accused him of sound reasoning in any shape or form.  

Now you know why everyone should worry.

ENDS

BETWEEN THE MIRAGE AND THE REALITY 

We were in Langkawi over the weekend and there’s something about the island that the rest of Malaysia might do well to emulate. 

We saw little, or no,  migrant labour, with locals doing everything from manning the hotels and waiting the tables to driving taxis – lots of female drivers, too – and working as guides. They were polite and, if you could speak reasonable Bahasa, were a lovely lot, always eager to help.   

There isn’t a trace of Pas’ influence on the island and thank Heaven for that. By way of explanation, the chief minister of Kedah state, where Langkawi is located, is  from the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, which frowns on anything that’s remotely connected to joy or feelings of good cheer.  

We went to Bon Ton for dinner one night to hear Joy Victor front a jazz band so smoking that  the appreciative  crowd of wall-to-wall Caucasians were besides themselves in rapture. But Norelle, the beanpole Aussie owner of the establishment, told me they were all “locals.” Norelle herself had  been in the country for over twenty seven years. 

In our party that night was a South American  Ambassador who’d taken up his assignment two years ago and seemed fascinated with all things Malaysian. 

But it was a comment he  made that struck, and quietened, us.  

He said before he arrived, the picture he’d envisaged of Malaysia was that of a Third World Southeast Asian developing economy. Not quite Singapore but not Somalia either. Which, if you think about it, isn’t far off the mark. 

Then he landed and as his embassy’s car rolled towards Kuala Lumpur, he began asking the same question: “Where are the shanty towns?”

These were the unmistakable  signs of urban blight, the slums indelibly associated with developing economies the world over, from Rio to Delhi, from Manila to Jakarta. 

“My mother came down recently,” he told us. “And she asked the same question. Your country is fantastic and I don’t see what all the Malaysians I meet are constantly bitching about?” 

I do because I’m in my sixties and I remember. 

I remember having a leader like Hussein Onn who set great store on honesty which struck me as very impressive then. Yet I remember later assessments  of his tenure being denigrated as slow and indecisive. Would that we still had that, rather than the grandiose megaprojects, the massive debt and the corruption that would characterise later leaders. 

In the 70s, I remember attending a local university that was ranked higher in quality than its peer in Singapore, a time when our educational excellence was right up there with the best of them, a period when standards mattered, when English was taken matter-of- factly and not treated as some dirty word.  

“Patriotism,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” That is self- evident in today’s Malaysia. In the name of nationalism, merit is shunned, corruption is tolerated if not quite extolled and smart people migrate the first chance they get. They don’t want to because what’s not to love about this country, but they see a future where they are not wanted. But most don’t have a choice. 

If we are honest with ourselves, the signs of decay are everywhere. Potholes aren’t fixed, the water supply keeps breaking down. It’s scary the way the local colleges turn out graduates that are unemployable. It’s what happens when you drop standards and ignore merit. 

Meanwhile, a resigned population accepts everything thrown at them because we have learned to live with third-best. 

That’s what we’re bitching about Mr Ambassador. 

ENDS

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING PAS

I’m an atheist…thank God – Comedian Dave Allen

Who knew that Malaysia’s counter-terrorism chief Normah Ishak had a dry sense of humour?

Take this statement for instance: “The recognition by an Islamic party for the Taliban’s struggle augurs well for fans of terrorism in Malaysia,” Normah was quoted as saying in a recent webinar on Afghanistan.

The counter-terrorism chief was talking about that group of people who know an awful lot about very little – the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas. More specifically, she was referring to Pas’ admiration for, and recognition of, the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

The party was, apparently, banking on the Taliban to improve its Islamic image. Its head of International Affairs Abdul Khalil Hadi had tweeted his party’s congratulations to the Taliban after the hard-line group had taken over Kabul in August.

Khalil is PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s son, which reinforces the notion of the apple not falling far from the tree.

True enough, the father echoed the son’s sentiments two weeks later. In a statement published in the party’s organ Harakah on August 25, Hadi claimed that the Taliban’s leaders had “changed” and were heading in the right direction.

He also urged Muslims not to be influenced by the coverage of the Taliban by the Western media, which he described as “evil”.

Normah explained the method behind Pas’ madness. “They are creating narratives to the party’s advantage, forming opinions and perceptions among Muslims in Malaysia, so that they will think the Taliban are okay now,” Normah said.

To paraphrase her, “fans of terrorism” will undoubtedly be dancing in the aisles. People who think that the danger of terrorism in Malaysia is much exaggerated should think again.

Three years ago, I was invited to a briefing by a very senior cop to the senior management of a listed company. The briefing was about terrorism.

In the beginning, we were shown slides of training camps, young people using guns and other weapons to, essentially, learn how to kill.

Most of the camps were in the Middle East, while I supposed the last two to be camps in the Philippines or Indonesia because their backdrops were “green.”

I was half-right. The last slide, we were told, was in a camp somewhere in “the vicinity” of Kuala Kangsar that “we’ve been watching for some time.”

God bless our Special Branch: they’re ahead of the curve.

That’s why the Islamic Party’s narrative is confounding. It flies in the face of the Malaysian government’s refusal to recognise the Taliban. It’s yet another reason to kick it out of the government.

Pas is still a part of the federal government although its contributions are generally in the “Less is More” category.

It’s safe to say that Messrs Hadi and Hadi don’t read widely because they were clearly unaware of the Kandahar commander who ordered all the women employed in a bank there to go home while their jobs were filled by men whose only ideas of banking or finance were previously gleaned from the business end of a Kalashnikov.

It isn’t clear if the same order applied to all the female doctors at Kandahar General.

“I’m sorry, I’m unable to do your hernia op right now, Commander,” says Dr Ayesha as she divests herself of mask and surgical gown. “But here’s my cousin, Ali, who’s got lots of experience with sheep.”

Who says I’m kidding?

Thus far the Taliban have grimly forbidden all things Gillette, quietly encouraged opium cultivation, and continued to discriminate against women and minorities.

And this is the model Pas holds up as its exemplar?

It’s got to be kidding!

ENDS

OUR FRIENDS, THE FANATICS

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.

ENDS

IF YOU’RE LOST, LOOK FOR THE AULD LANG SIGN

Good riddance to 2021!

As Queen E might have put it, it was certainly an “annus horribilis.” The floods alone would have been bad. Throw in an implacable pandemic, a reeling economy and less than intelligent leadership – and that’s being kind – and one is driven to despair.

But we’re more fortunate than many others: there are Malaysians whose plight is truly harrowing with ruined homes and wrecked livelihoods.

It’s been bad everywhere, even in Singapore where I’ve been living the past two years. There was, for example, a record number of suicides in the city state during the year.

Now that we’re all agreed that 2021 was the Year of Living Dangerously, let’s hope that the new year will bring a smile to our lips, a song in our hearts and cheer to our lives.

Maybe it will too.

Ironically, the hope could lie in the Omnicron variant of the coronavirus. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that the variant is, in itself, attenuated with few hospitalisations and a generally lower virulence. But its enormous infectivity holds the promise of displacing the deadly Delta variant and the prospect of wiping out the pandemic altogether.

Or, at the very least, it might just reduce Covid to nothing more than the common cold. It went away just like that a century ago. Why shouldn’t it happen again?

OK, fingers crossed.

I have one wish for the country as well. For one thing, I wish the level of stupidity, especially from the religious right, will be greatly reduced.

In fairness, the general level of intelligence among such people in any country isn’t exactly overflowing. Consider this inanity from Pat Robertson, an American Southern Baptist minister of such fiery piety that it would make Hadi Awang blanch. Robertson was the one who encouraged Christians to vote for Trump because “the Holy Spirit” told him.

Clearly, he didn’t think much of the movement in general or in the particular. “It (feminism) is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

And we thought Jane Fonda was merely beautiful. Who knew?

Compared to Robertson, Ustaz Nazri Karim is a mere dolt in the intelligence sweepstakes. But he wasn’t averse to displaying his ignorance for the world to see when he ascribed the cause of the floods in Selangor to its “numerous wine bars and its beer factory.”

Idris Jala, Heineken’s chairman, thought the Ustaz was grossly ignorant which was a dreadful rebuke because everyone knew that gross ignorance was 144 times worse than ordinary stupidity.

Which reminds me of the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas. It seems to me that the party has only four, near-obsessive preoccupations. They are as follows:

  • Booze, its existence and sale in the country
  • Gambling, its existence and practice in the country
  • The attire of stewardesses on Malaysia Airlines’ flights, and
  • The deplorable lack of sharia law in the country

Quite apart from these pet peeves, they seem to have no ideas on corruption, the economy or anything remotely useful towards helping to govern a multiracial, multi-religious country of 32 million people. In short, they are about as useful as the G in lasagna.

Happy New Year people, and remember, the secret to life is honesty and fair dealing: if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

ENDS

DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS?

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.

ENDS

GOING BACKWARDS INTO THE FUTURE

Having lived here for almost two years, I can safely say Singapore is not only rich but well managed.

Despite widespread construction, its roads remain clean, green, and remarkably pothole-free. Better yet, crime is negligible, and the streets are safe at any hour.

Its public housing projects – where over 60 per cent of people reside – are attractive, landscaped, and free from the incipient grot that characterise most public housing in Malaysia or, the West.

And things work. The buses and trains run on time. And water disruptions of the frequency and magnitude witnessed in the Klang Valley the last two years, were last felt by Singaporeans in the 1960s!

Indeed, heads would have rolled had the same thing happened here in Singapore. But we continue to accept inept management because we have become inured to mediocrity. Simply put, we’re accustomed to it.

Why am I going on like this?

Well, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts, Vietnam’s GDP in 2020 was estimated to have reached US$340.6 billion, exceeding that of Singapore with US$337.5 billion and Malaysia with US$336.3 billion.

This makes Malaysia the sixth largest economy among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ahead only of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei.

How the mighty have fallen!

In the 60s, Malaysia was the largest economy in the region but by the 90s, I became used to describing the country as “Southeast Asia’s second largest economy” after Indonesia.

And what about The Philippines, perennially the region’s “sick man?” Not any more, it seems, glass houses and all that.

In fact, the IMF estimated The Philippines’ GDP to have reached US$367.4 billion, while Thailand will remain way ahead with its US$509.2 billion GDP.

The elephant in the room is undoubtedly Indonesia with the IMF predicting that it became a US$1,088.8 billion economy in 2020.

What are we to make of these trends?

The only conclusion we can reach about Malaysia is that we seem to have been in “decline mode” for some time. The pandemic merely served to hasten the process.

How else are we to explain our gradually declining economic status in the region?

To what do we ascribe the continuing deterioration of our currency, the ringgit, and the steady build-up of our national debt?

Why is there a worrying pull-out of foreign investment from Malaysia to other places like Indonesia, Singapore or Vietnam?

These are the facts and they are irrefutable. If we are to connect the dots, we have to conclude that out policy makers, our leaders, have failed us, and are continuing to do so. We simply seem to be doing something wrong.

Penalising successful companies by extra taxes simply results in seriously escalating tax avoidance methodology.

And taxing those who bring money back from abroad will inevitably result in them creating offshore accounts.

Neither is anything gained from nit-picking matters of morality, drinking, gambling, et absurdum. It irritates everyone including investors who might wonder why the same care and concern isn’t directed at, say, corruption or public waste and profligacy?

What’s needed are bold measures. Scrap fuel subsidies and impose a tax on fuel instead. That will be green and bring in money in a hurry!

The world – both governments and companies – is marching to a different drum nowadays. And future outcomes will be judged against how they stack up against environmental, social and governance yardsticks, the so-called ESG standards. Dyson’s recent booting out of a Malaysian supplier over alleged labour issues is a case in point.

We will have to measure up or risk abdicating the future.

ENDS

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

Utility, thought Dr M, is when you barely have enough; luxury is when you have enough; opulence is when you have more than enough; and ridiculous is when you are heaped with more, despite already racking up much more than enough.

That appeared to explain the continuing good fortune of Fearless Leader. The former premier was convicted of Very Grand Theft for which the Malaysian government now appeared to want to reward him.

To paraphrase the Bard, the slings and arrows of Fearless’ continuing good fortune were, verily, outrageous.

Dr M was in Parliament to discuss this very matter and he thought it was good to be back. Actually, most people knew, at 96, it was good to be anywhere.

Life had handed the physician lemons and he thought it best to squirt them in someone’s eye. That’s what he did in Parliament last week, lambasting the government for its incredible generosity towards a man accused of looting more than RM18 billion from the country he was elected to lead.

Think about that for a minute! The sum – US$4.5 billion – is the amount the US Justice Department estimates was siphoned off from 1MDB. It’s mind-boggling, the sort of thing Bernie Madoff might have contemplated if he were on steroids; a heist that a Great Train Robber might regard with awe.

Dr M was incensed that Fearless had requested a “privilege” from the government in the form of a 2.8-acre residential property worth RM100 million in one of Kuala Lumpur’s swankiest neighbourhoods.

The government had, apparently, agreed, which was what had infuriated the old man.

It was Charlie Brown who got it right, “Somehow I never quite know what’s going on,” he reflected sadly in a strip I read years ago.

That’s what many of us want to know. Here we have a convicted person, the First Felon if you like, going around with security and a motorcycle escort, campaigning in an election to loud cheers, being allowed to travel overseas.

And now he’s asked for a RM100 million house as an “entitlement” and no one thinks it’s strange, weird, or, even remotely, grotesque?

Only a 96-year-old man and the rest of the opposition?

Even the self-confessed holier-than-thou types, the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, normally so quick to judge or condemn, has been strangely reticent on this subject. Indeed, they haven’t uttered a peep on the matter.

It’s never worried about other people’s money: it’s other people’s fun that keeps them up nights. Because, as sure as night follows day, it’s probably immoral.

I suppose that’s life. The average person strives, he tries to do what’s right, he stays on the right track and still gets hit by a train. And he answers like Norm in Cheers when Coach asks: “How’s the world treating you?”

Norm: “Like a baby treats a diaper.”

This is a world where John Lennon gets murdered, the same world that sees new Barry Manilow releasers each year.

Fearless knew the secret of life. The trick to getting ahead was to get a good lawyer, good book be damned.

ENDS

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