Looking on as Pakatan Harapan attempts to get its leadership sorted out is like watching grass grow. 

It seems interminable even when they are nowhere near the reins of government.  And now we have former Transport Minister Anthony Loke assuring us that it’s okay to have Dr Mahathir as PM-designate – in the event PH takes over, that is – because we “have safeguards” to make sure he will step down in favour of Anwar Ibrahim after “six” months. 

Says who? That might be classified under “famous last words” or as songwriter Neil Young might have summed up: “Helplessly hoping.”  

To the forgiving Tony, it’s about trust. Put yourself in the other man’s shoes for a minute: To Anwar Ibrahim, it’s been twice bitten already.  

And there seems something hopelessly lopsided about the whole dynamic. The story of Anwar has been spun so very deftly by various Dr Mahathir allies that we have generally taken it as gospel. 

It is this: that he is so ambitious that he will do anything to be premier. This was reinforced by Dr Mahathir himself saying: “He is crazy to become the PM.” And this, ironically after the ex-physician resigned as premier and set into motion the whole ball of unfortunate wax that we are now confronted with. 

Ambition is not a crime. If it were, Dr Mahathir should have been locked up years ago. “Even the smallest dog can raise his leg against the tallest building,” was how the word was once explained. It could be the perfect description. 

Peering through the same critical lens, what are we to make of Dr Mahathir now?

The man is neither young nor a visionary. Bluntly put, he is the Methuselah of world politics who blew his chance at redemption when given it on a platter two years ago.  

When Robert Mugabe continued ruling into his 90s, he was accused of “clinging on” to power. And Nelson Mandela retired at 80, when the applause was loudest. So, you’d think the doctor would know better. 

But no, not Dr Mahathir. He keeps returning like the proverbial bad penny.  

After 22 years as premier and another 22-month stint as the premier after May 2018, it seems the nonagenarian politician wants yet another bite at the cherry. 

Does it not strike anyone as being “selfishly ambitious?” A “lusting for power?” Even a little, “crazy to be the PM?” 

And if he does get his wish, are we then to believe, as the trusting Anthony Loke does, that he will step down in six months in favour of a man he has twice denied? 

No one believes that for a minute. Which brings us to the real question: Why does he want to come back?

If it is to lecture nations like the US, Singapore or India on how to manage their affairs, please spare us. 

If it is to start another car project or some pie-in-the-sky gold dinar trading scheme, perish the thought!

If it is to sell perfectly well-run government assets to private hands for no reason other than 1) they are your friends and 2) they might help spur other Bumiputera entrepreneurs, give us a break. 

It didn’t work before and ended in tears amid enormous debt. 

So, again, why?

Listen to what the man said

You’d think the Minister would leave himself some wriggle room. 

But no, there was Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof in Parliament, stubbornly sticking to his story that the country could see its “flying car” take off by the end of the year. That’s a month and a half away. 

In Malaysia, there is only one vehicle with wheels and flies. It’s called a garbage truck. 

To Malaysians tired of Dr Mahathir’s near-delusional obsession with a “national car of our own,” this flying car idea seems like more garbage of the sort first trumpeted in 1984. Mr Redzuan should get real. 

If after more than 30 years in the business, we are still incapable of nurturing a genuine auto industry that can innovate, we should give up the ghost, stop throwing good money after bad and call it quits. 

Proton, Dr Mahathir’s brainchild and the country’s first national car, has been a monumental failure. Even with continued protection, it began bleeding because its models were of inferior quality and the company had to be delisted to prevent a national embarrassment. Only after China’s Geely bought into it in September, 2017, and took over its management, did its fortunes improve. 

A smart leader would have declared a Malaysian victory at this point and moved on.

But no, this administration is a glutton for punishment and has since announced plans for a third national car. It has promised, however, that no government funds will be involved in the venture. Unfortunately, no one believes it for a minute.

All this is, of course, separate and distinct from Mr Redzuan’s flying car. No one will be surprised to hear plans for a “car without wheels” next. I bet they’d work on it tirelessly too.  

Mr Redzuan was speaking in Parliament because Khairy Jamaluddin had asked him a question about the “ecosystem” for flying cars. Methinks he shouldn’t take the Rembau MP too seriously. Let’s face it, he really didn’t do anything remarkable when he was the Minister of Youth and Sport in the previous administration apart from bemoaning the fact that Malaysian youth rarely exercised. 

You could not say the same about YB Khairy and exercise: he was generally surrounded by dumbbells.

Indeed, the one thing that sticks in the memory about the MP was a videotaped conversation between him and the former Prime Minister which was widely distributed over social media just before the general election on May 9 last year.

Mr Khairy can be seen talking soberly to Mr Najib about the challenges posed by the election. He ticked off three points that he said the opposition coalition was using against the government. In order, it was “slander, incitement and false hopes”. 

I’m not sure about the “incitement” bit and there might be something to be said about the “false hopes”. If I remember right, however, most of the so-called “slander” revolved around 1MDB and its alleged pillages of government institutions. 

Earlier this week, Mr Najib was asked to file his defence against seven charges of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering all involving 1MDB, brought against him by Malaysia’s Attorney General. 

In response, Mr Khairy tweeted something to the effect that the ex-PM, and his former coffee shop mate, was still innocent until proven guilty. 

That is an obvious and quite unnecessary statement and one wonders why the Rembau MP felt compelled to issue it. 

Almost like saying that any car can be damaged. Like Mr Redzuan driving his car into a tree to show how a Mercedes bends. 

Behind Every Great Fortune Is A Crime

The majority of people in Thailand are Buddhist which explains their philosophical approach to life. It’s like “treat every day as your last and one day you’ll be right.”

That sort of explains the Death Awareness Café.

The establishment is a cafe in Thailand that’s using a macabre gimmick to draw in customers – closing them in coffins after finishing coffee.

The Death Awareness Cafe in Bangkok features mortuary-inspired décor and coffins placed for customers to spend time closed inside after their purchased beverages.

A sample poster on the wall reads “Twelve remain dead in morgue shooting.” Another reads; “You should never grieve at funerals. In fact, if anyone cries at my funeral, I’ll never speak to him again.” 

Veeranut Rojanaprapa, the owner of the extraordinary café said the purpose of the cafe is to inspire customers to reflect on their lives. He said the idea was inspired by Buddhist philosophy and is aimed at encouraging people not to be driven by greed.

And he didn’t see any irony in opening the cafe for profit? Actually, the businessman was an eternal optimist. When he was a child, he persuaded his parents to buy him two goldfish. He called them One and Two so even if one died, he’d have two left.  

Be that as it may, there are as many business models as they are varied. The death motif was original and, to hear Mr Rojanaprapa explain it, it was also quintessentially Buddhist. 

“Our main goal is for the visitor to experience the death awareness,” he said. “When the lid of the coffin closes, their basic instincts will come up and they will realise that eventually they cannot take anything with them.”

The felonious fatso now not hiding out in China would have said that what they’d feel is panic. 

The Royal Malaysian Police felt panicky and wished the ostensibly Buddhist Felonious aka Jho Low would have had such self-realisation before he came up with his grand plan to defraud Malaysia that the Wall Street Journal described as the “world’s greatest heist.” 

But the smiling swindler must have known he would rise to a level of thievery that made even Bernie Madoff look like Winnie the Pooh. He knew that an MBA with a brief case and a fountain pen could steal more than a hundred men with guns. 

“Behind every great fortune is a crime,” wrote the French playwright Honore de Balzac way back in the early 19th century. But the plump pilferer who continued to haunt the dreams of the Inspector General of Police knew something that Balzac didn’t. 

Very early on, perhaps as early as his college years in Wharton, he’d realised that, in Malaysia, crime did not pay as well as politics.

So he combined the two and, if things had stayed the same, he may have gone on to become a latter day Warren Buffett.  

For isn’t it said that history is written by the victors?

He might even have commissioned Tom Wright and Bradley Hope to write his memoirs called – why not? – Billion Dollar Whale.

Alas, poor Felonious! His advice will no longer be sought by governments, he will always be looking over his shoulder  and the next book about him might conceivably be about his arrest and trial, the best-selling Billion Dollar Bail.

It doesn’t get any more Zen than that.

What A Difference A Year Makes

Get re-elected

First Law of Office Bearers

People who sometimes wonder why Malaysia used to be described by the British as the Land of Promise should have been around during the first two months of the run-up towards the 14thMalaysian general election. 

Let’s face it: the eventual winners, Pakatan Harapan promised all and the kitchen sink. 

But wait a minute. Are we saying that Malaysians were so dazzled by Pakatan’s brilliant pledges of sweeping reform that those promises ensured its victory? 

Please. Voters were simply sick and tired of the high cost of living, Barisan’s arrogance and that 800-pound gorilla in the room called 1MDB. 

Or to put it another way, do you remember a single electoral promise by the Barisan Nasional between, say, 1975 and 2013 that sticks in your mind? 

It’s been a year since May 9, 2018 and a famous electoral upset where an unfancied Pakatan Harapan coalition toppled the incumbent government in a decision that, to me at least, was way overdue. 

But now the pundits are shaking their heads with some predicting that the new government is, at best, a one-term wonder. 

First, ignore those who credit PH’s alleged unpopularity to unfulfilled campaign promises. That is the stuff of bunkum. The BN were almost never held accountable for its campaign promises. Why should PH be any different?

Still, in all fairness PH has implemented almost 40% of its promises, which is fantastic in itself. And it maintains that the rest – except for the free tolls, perhaps – is a continuing work in progress. 

OK, the jury will remain out on that. One of the pledges, however, was putting limits on the term of a serving prime minister and that would be very remarkable if implemented. “Remarkable” because that would be like asking chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders. 

Truth be told, the only reason for PH’s declining popularity is the fiction, mainly hawked by some opposition politicians from the previous government and the Islamic Party, that it is a threat to the Malays and Islam. 

That, in itself, is well-nigh impossible for the following reasons:  

The position of both Islam and the Malays is protected by the Constitution. 

The Rulers, the protectors of the religion, are all Malay.

The civil service – from federal to state level – is overwhelmingly Malay. 

The Police and the Armed Forces – the only ones permitted to carry weapons – are overwhelmingly Malay.  

The Prime Minister, his deputy and the majority of MPs in Parliament are Malay. 

All Islamic agencies including the Syariah courts are staffed by Muslims. 

Yet, prodded by politicians desperate to make a comeback, the notion of a “threat” persists. 

It is also fueled by the largest number of non-Malay Cabinet Ministers ever; the largest number of non-Malay MPs in Parliament and non-Malays as both Finance Minister and Attorney General, respectively. 

So you can see how a “threat” argument might conceivably be developed. 

It was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, who famously described how a fiction might be believed. “If you tell a lie big enough and continue to repeat it, it will eventually be believed,” was how he put it.

In short, this is likely to go on until 2023. 

The best counter for that would be a simple question. What would have happened if BN got re-elected last year?

The answer – business as usual – should put the fear of God into any sensible voter. 

Any Change Seems Terrible At First

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad did not approve of political jokes. He’d seen too many being elected. 

That was why the world’s only nonagenarian leader was perplexed by the Honourable Member from Tanjong Karang. Was he being deliberately obtuse?  No, the doctor thought, he should never attribute to malice what could safely be explained by natural stupidity. 

In a recent parliamentary debate, Noh Omar, the said parliamentarian in question, had offered a whole new definition of morality that boggled the minds of everyone listening except those who firmly believed in it anyway. Incidentally, their numbers were not inconsiderable. 

“Stealing is not wrong, only when you are arrested it becomes wrong,” mused the philosophical Mr Noh. “Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is not wrong, only when the police arrest you it becomes wrong.

Mr Noh was a lawyer, which was mildly disturbing to the profession. But he more than made up by his keenly developed moral handicap. Indeed, if what he didn’t know could not hurt him, he was practically invulnerable. 

Even so, his cogent reasoning in Parliament delighted a select few in the previous administration who knew that stealing was wrong and best left to government. It was also the primary reason why the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the police had never been busier. 

Things had changed in Malaysia. Previously, it had been as Jonathan Swift had described the law as being “like cobwebs capable of catching small flies but allowing the wasps and hornets to get through.” 

At least for now, the wasps and the hornets aren’t getting through.

It is said that Australia is a “Lucky Country.” But if we are really truthful about it, it is actually us that make up the Lucky Country. We are blessed with natural resources and, unlike Israel or California, we don’t have to worry about water as a scant resource. 

We have no hurricanes, volcanoes, typhoons, cyclones or earthquakes. Nature is, has been, and will continue to be remarkably kind to us. Not for us the four seasons. Instead, we have a long hot summer all year around and, while boring, it beats walking to class on a dark, bitterly cold evening in New York City in February. 

Indeed, we have been abundantly blessed and yet we only have to look down south to realise that we have been punching way below our weight for the longest time. 

It just goes to show the importance of good governance. May 9th opened the door to that and the opportunity of seeing people like the Honourable Member from Tanjong Karang no longer occupying the seat of government. 

The problem is that May 9th also came with unreasonably high expectations. Change – serious, profound and irrevocable change for the better – must necessarily take time, and will if it is to make any serious difference. 

We just have to stop bitching and be good natured about the fact that, in the words of Benjamin Disraeli,  “everything comes if a man will only wait.” 

I mean, let’s face it: ceaselessly complaining about yesterday today won’t make tomorrow any better.

Surprise post!

To make up for our unfortunate technical difficulty from last week, we hope you enjoy this second post for this week!

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Leaving Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Old Crooks Never Die: They Just Steal Away 

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak is popularising the notion that it’s OK to be shameless even if you might be dreadfully guilty.

“Try me if you can” seems to be the former premier’s abiding credo and, to be sure, he has been dodging what could be a judicial bullet for ten months now.

So it appears that until he is finally brought to face the music, the 65-year-old former leader will continue to don black – parka, jeans and sneakers – and ride into the sunset because it wows youthful rebels without a cause into believing that shamelessness for fun and profit is not just fine but dandy and perfectly de rigour.

In such a universe, old axioms get tossed out the window. Perhaps even the one that says crime does not pay.  And you can seriously forget the one that says “the truth will set you free.”

Heaven help us for we are losing it where values – or its lack – are concerned.  It appears that politics trumps everything including patently distasteful posturing.

And yet, the President of the Malaysian Chinese Association Wee Ka Siong recently suggested that his party might learn a thing or two from Najib’s motorcycle-riding antics “to stay relevant.”

Do you remember all those PM apologists who suggested at the time that it was always someone else’s fault – his wife, Fat Boy, etc? Now we know who’s calling the shots: BossKu (Our Boss) on a Moped.

At least some things have changed. Previously MO1 always denied that anything was wrong with 1Malaysia Development Fund. Now he concedes that there was, indeed, wrongdoing but it was a “systemic failure” and everybody should be blamed.

Harry S Truman, the 33rd President of the United States had a plaque on his desk that read “The Buck Stops Here,” meaning he was the one who took responsibility for everything that happened during his tenure.

Alas, the buck seems to have stopped at other destinations in this case. 

Low Teck Jho had never heard of Harry Truman but he’d heard of Harry Houdini and he had a healthy respect for the legendary magician who could escape from anything and who made things disappear into thin air.

Houdini may not have known that crime did not pay as well as politics. But far away across the oceans and safe from the madding crowd, the fraudulent fatso known as Jho Low knew it and mouthed a silent benediction to its sentiment as he uncorked yet another bottle of champagne to celebrate not having to ride mopeds in the humid heat of his homeland.

No, he much preferred comfort in well-cut suits. The corpulent conman believed in keeping his wits about him preferably in a land where Everybody Didn’t Know Your Name and where Interpol was both unseen and ignored.

You had to be smart but quiet. It was like underwear, the pudgy purloiner reasoned. It was important that you have it on but not important that you show it off.

The beefy brigand took pride in the fact that he was scrupulously fair. He did not, for example, want to stand trial in Malaysia because he thought he would not get a fair trial there.

But that was not to say that he might consent to being tried in the United States or Singapore where he was also wanted. That would be oh-so-unfair to his beloved Malaysia, his tanah tumpah darahku.

Fat Boy had principles and, by God, he was sticking to them. Who says there’s no honour among thieves?