Fiber: edible wood-pulp said to aid digestion and prolong life, so that we might live for another six or eight years in which to consume more wood-pulp –  Writer and humorist Robert Benchley 

“It ain’t the heat,” baseball player Yogi “Malaprop” Berra used to fret, “it’s the humility I can’t stand.”

Raisa knows the feeling. 

She came to Singapore two weeks ago and, for someone born and brought up in equatorial Malaysia, began seriously perspiring the minute she stepped out of the airport. Being an island, the city-state is far more humid than Kuala Lumpur and almost three years of life in Europe had caught my daughter off-guard. 

But she became accustomed to the weather in short order and wanted to eat the stuff of her childhood, generally unattainable in Amsterdam but easily available in Singapore, give or take some differences. 

We sampled durian and mangosteens along the roadside in Geylang, tried chili and pepper crab in a restaurant on the East Coast, munched roti-chanai (called, rather grandly, paratha here) and chicken rice near Orchard, and tasted what the island tries to pass off as Hokkien mee in Tanglin.  

Meanwhile, I found out there is no such thing as Singapore fried meehoon in Singapore.  Go figure.

But Raisa had heard that the city boasted a certain famous restaurant and wanted to eat at Spago because she never had. Neither Rebecca nor I knew of its existence in Singapore. Apparently, we didn’t move in those circles! We Googled the place and finally secured a reservation ten days later. 

It was certainly grand enough, located as it was on the 57th floor of one of the towers of the Marina Bay Sands. Raisa asked Das, a knowledgeable waiter from Johor Baru, what was good, and he replied: “Everything.”

But Das let it slip that English chef Gordon Ramsey had come in some months ago and, having ordered the laksa with bream, had subsequently raved about it to anyone who would listen. 

Of course, Raisa had to have the laksa. Becky had duck breast, which smelt heavenly, and I ordered the wasabi-infused black cod.

My fish was melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous and good enough to convert the vegetarian. Becca reported that the duck was similarly divine. 

Spago, it appeared, was the creation of one Wolfgang Puck, an Austrian American who was, after Julia Child, the first, genuine celebrity-chef. Like Child, he was a television personality but, unlike her, was also an entrepreneur with a brand of frozen pizza and, at one point, 63 restaurants spanning the US and extending from Shanghai and Tokyo to Singapore and Sydney.  

Before Wolfgang, American cuisine was humdrum, non-existent and boasted Chinese takeaway at its zenith.

Haute cuisine’s philosophy at the time might be distilled into a solitary sentence: if it looked like a duck, sounded like a duck and smelt like a duck, it probably needed a little more time in the microwave.

Wolfgang changed all that. He made cooking a sought after, even glamorous, profession and brought respectability and better pay to a job long regarded as a necessary, if thankless, one. It brought with it a certain grandeur to the experience of dining out.  

And we probably have him, now 70-plus, to thank for the ever-present cooking show – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, for example – we now catch on television. 

Raisa flies back tonight. But she goes home happy.  



There is a relatively inexpensive Italian café Rebecca and I frequent. It’s within walking distance from the apartment and Paul, its headwaiter, is both friendly and a countryman, being from Petaling Jaya. 

We decided to have dinner there before Singapore shut down Thursday on “heightened alert” fears. Dine-ins would no longer be permitted then. 

Paul seemed his usual cheerful self until we wondered, as is our wont when we meet Malaysians, when we might all go back next.

Then he bemoaned the “challenging” times and let slip that his mother, sister and brother-in law were all down with Covid-19.

When I asked him how old his mother was, he broke down, weeping, and fled the scene. We were transfixed and I felt mortified for having asked the question. 

It turned out, as we found out later, that his mother, 70, was critical, having suffered a stroke last year. To compound matters, both his sister and brother-in-law had lost their jobs which made his job in Singapore absolutely crucial to sustain the family. 

But what made him break down was his sudden realisation that he was unlikely to see his mother again. The cost of the quarantines – both in Malaysia and Singapore – and the resulting no-pay during the period ruled out its possibility with a finality that crushed him.

Malaysia can probably claim an over-achiever’s share of ‘Pauls’, all unheralded, and mostly unlamented. The latter observation seems especially apt in the wake of some of the statements coming from our leaders. 

Consider the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who exhibits the taste and sensitivity of a gnat. In a put down of the “white flag” campaign, the premier remarked that “if we were to go to the ground, we would probably find the kitchens of homes to be full (of supplies).” The Prime Minister was implying that the government was doing enough about aid. Hence, to his mind, the white flag campaign was pointless.

Here’s a news flash for anyone who hasn’t got it:  the premier may be delusional. In which case, we might want to worry because delusional people tend to believe in themselves. 

What’s he smoking? Does he honestly think that anyone would want to raise the white flag, to admit that they cannot provide for their family and turn to charity? No one likes to be pitied. The premier should know this more than anyone else: there were many in Malaysia who sympathised when he was sacked from the Cabinet in 2016 by then premier Najib Razak. 

It was one of the many reasons behind the government’s ouster in the general election two years later. The Moo would do well to remember this.

“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the world and it has a longer shelf life.” The statement was by no less than Frank Zappa, a rock musician whose onstage act included biting off the heads of snakes while wearing enough make up to delight Alan Pereira. 

What would Frank have made of Malaysian politicians? 

A Minister who can’t differentiate Spanish Fly from Flu and another who’s singularly blasé about the fact that the food aid from his ministry comes with his photograph!

And what about Hadi Awang, a minister whose exact function is vague but, as an avowed Islamic scholar, took pains to explain the public’s growing distrust of politicians. 

It was the fault of the liberals, the great thinker observed with the aplomb of a Zakir Naik, those “demons in human masks.” 

There are a great many ‘Pauls’ in Singapore and they will remember all this. 

And, make no mistake, they will return to cast their judgments. 



We’d been in Singapore since September so we weren’t surprised when Rebecca received the call last week.

We were to report to the Queenstown Community Centre at 7 pm on Wednesday for the first of our vaccinations.

We didn’t know which vaccine but a surprisingly knowledgeable Grab driver set us straight Saturday.

Driver: “You got your shots-ah?

My wife: “We will, this Wednesday. But we don’t know what we’re getting.”

Driver: “Where getting the shot?”

(He’s thumbing through his phone while continuing to drive. Unnerving, to say the least.)

Becky: “Queenstown.”

Driver: “Ah that, Pfizer only. Only four places got Moderna-one”

(Waves his phone at us as if that clinches it. We nod, dumbly, and suspect he’s right.)

He was.

The Queenstown Community Centre is many things to the neighbourhood. There is a small mosque, two tennis courts, notices announcing everything from yoga to acupuncture; numerous rooms for presumably those purposes and a large, cavernous hall that’s been set up for mass vaccination.

It’s extremely efficient. At our first stop, they peruse our IDs and elicit a brief medical history. They just want to know if we have had or are being treated for cancers or any autoimmune disease. That would, apparently, rule us out.

Then they want to know about allergies, specifically, those that cause anaphylaxis or severe breathing difficulties. I reply no but I do have those that cause “hives” and they say that’s fine.

Nasty, they admit, but OK.

We’d come prepared. An hour before, we’d both taken two paracetamol (Panadol, in another word) on advice from my doctor-niece. I’d also added an antihistamine.

You can never be too careful.

We joined those in line for their shots. There were chairs in socially distanced rows so it was a comfortable wait. Our peers were mostly elderly – ourselves, in another word – and some were accompanied by their children.

In Singaporean terms, these were Heartlanders, the ones who stay in HDB apartments, the brick and mortar of the People’s Action Party.

It took about 15 minutes before my wife was called and a sympathetic attendant asked me if she needed me to hold her hand.

“Are you kidding?” I replied. “If anything, I’ll need her to hold mine!”

That got a laugh, at least. When my turn came, the nurse pointed out the potential side effects – pain at the jab-site, headache, body ache and, rarely, fever – and again went through its contra-indications.

I think she must have applied some local anaesthetic on my left arm as well because I didn’t feel a thing.

More sitting around followed. Both of us felt fine although my wife’s arm was quite sore. But her ache disappeared the next day. We both felt sleepy though and had an early night.

I didn’t get off scot free, however, The next evening. I had an allergic reaction with hives. Thankfully, I was fine on Good Friday but not without the aid of a trusty antihistamine.

You got to hand it to Singapore. When vaccines began to be first approved worldwide, the republic went about purchasing Pfizer, Moderna and even the one from China.

But only the first two have been used with the Chinese vaccine yet to be approved. The point: Singapore bought first so that it wouldn’t have to wait.

I asked the nurse how many people she’d vaccinated that day and she shrugged tiredly: “Countless.”

I believe her: officially, the republic estimates it can vaccinate 80% of its population by June.



The following is, allegedly, Lee Kuan Yew’s posthumous letter to leaders of Lilliput, an oil rich, Third World Country that sent condolences to Singapore on Lee’s death in 2015. I have edited said letter for brevity…

“..Thanks, but I have had a good innings as do most of my people. The life expectancy in Singapore is 80 years for men and 85 for women.
I have no regrets because I did my country and my people proud. Let me share some facts.

We are ranked AAA by all the credit rating agencies, the only one in Asia ranked thus. We are the world’s fourth largest financial centre and one of its five busiest ports.

Manufacturing accounts for 30% of GDP and Singapore has the world’s third highest per capita income.

Unlike Lilliput, we don’t have any oil. Nor minerals, forests, mountain or any land to talk about. But, unlike you, we’re a huge exporter of petroleum products.

Meanwhile, Lilliput, with all its oil, has been importing petrol, diesel, kerosene and engine oil for decades.

Let me shock you further. We are the largest oil-rig producer in the world! The World Bank ranks us as the easiest place to do business in. I’m sorry if I sound immodest but what can I say?

How did we do it? In two words, incorruptible leadership.

First, the quality of leadership is non-negotiable. It’s the dog that wags the tail, not the other way around.

No country develops by accident. Development is planned.

That is where it starts. It’s when you have a vision of society with the basics. Education is key, electricity and water are key, health is key, infrastructure is non-negotiable. And you have to pick the best people to do the job, the best and the brightest. No compromises!

Leaders cannot be obsessed with instant gratification. That is one of the biggest problems you, Lilliputian leaders, have.

You’re so obsessed with official perks that you forget why you were even elected!

You like presidential jets and chattered jets. What a waste!

But you’re not alone.

In 1973, I went to Ottawa for the Commonwealth meeting. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman, arrived in his own aircraft.

I saw a parked Boeing 707 with “Bangladesh” emblazoned on it. When I left, it was still standing there, idle for eight days, getting obsolescent without earning anything.

As I left, two vans were being loaded with packages for the Bangladeshi aircraft. But Rahman had also made a pitch for aid to his country. You want aid while showing opulence to the world.

Meanwhile, I generally travelled by commercial aircraft and helped preserve Singapore’s Third World status for many years.

I understand that Lilliput leaders are very religious.

The Muslims pray five times a day, go for haj often, fast during Ramadan and mention the name of Allah to punctuate sentences. But clerics seem obsessed with judging others and punishing “immorality” rather than decrying dishonesty, fraud or theft. There seems more importance on form rather than substance. The Christians take communion, pay tithes and hold regular prayer sessions.

Yet, you loot your state treasury without compunction, inflate contracts recklessly, and watch — without conscience — as your citizens struggle with reckless development, water disruptions and potholes.

I died an agnostic. I neither denied nor accepted that there was a God although two of my brothers were Christians.

I was never a churchgoer. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying you should not believe in God. I only wonder: how can you believe in God and fail so woefully in what the Bible and the Qu’ran teaches about loving your neighbour, caring for the needy and showing responsibility as a leader?

On a final note, I appreciate that you are mourning my death. But you too can become great by putting your citizens’ welfare above yours. Lilliput can also produce a Lee.

I went to my grave happy. Will you go to yours fulfilled?”

With apologies (for edits) and thanks to the anonymous messenger who posted the idea on social media.


The tableaux in the lobby of Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel features a belligerent ox amid pink cherry blossoms, all fashioned out of chocolate. It’s likely to be dismantled tomorrow which is a pity as its smell is irresistibly cheerful.

Today (Friday) is the last day of the festive season and Chap Goh Meh, normally riotously celebrated with firecrackers in Malaysia, is met here with only a stoic silence.

Firecrackers, or anything louder than a lion dance have been banned for decades.

Indeed, it’s been replaced by silence in Singapore on a sunny and very breezy day that’s left me desperate for a column-idea.

I’m stuck without a plan. Three years ago, I might have stepped out for inspiration through a moody cigarette. But this is Singapore where cigarettes are viewed with as much benevolence as Pol Pot did his countrymen. More to the point, I am long past the habit and, instead, settle for a scrutiny of the newspapers.

The daily horoscope seems a good place to start. Off the bat, I don’t believe in horoscopes but that’s just me: I am a Pisces and we’re sceptics.

The filing on Pisces offers slim pickings. I’m informed I have “valuable diplomatic skills” and had a great opportunity to play “the peacemaker” among people who are “falling out.” At the same time, I am sternly warned: “Don’t let your thin skin hold you back.”

Well, my daughter, Raisa, is also a Pisces so maybe it’s her the post is aimed at. Still, this zodiac stuff can be mystifying: It’s like being inspired only to be disappointed at the end.

Put it this way. It’s not unlike meeting a scientist-looking fellow who tells you that he’s working towards eliminating “all cancers.” Just when you begin feeling impressed, he continues quietly: “Then I plan to move on all Virgos.”

Grim and stern, I tell you!

I felt better after reading Cancer’s fate. “You have a simple choice,” it began in no-nonsense fashion. “Either throw yourself into whatever’s coming your way, or you may stay on the sidelines.”

I say, this isn’t good for the average Cancer-professing fellow about to be rendered pandemically-unemployed and to harbour suicidal inclinations.

The fateful message ends on a killer note, the sort of stuff that pushes one to snapping point.

In short, if he did not throw himself into the path of a speeding bus previously, he definitely would have after reading this. “However, if you choose to stay aloof, circumstance may well force your hand.”

Pity the poor sucker born under the Aries sign, which comes with a chilling warning. “Both at home and at work, expect the unexpected!” it screams with a suicide-bomber’s fanaticism.

We know what time that is because that time is nigh. It’s the still unexpected but oh-so-friendly e-mail from the Nigerian prince whose inheritance had hitherto been unfairly delayed for lack of a man of integrity and, more importantly, a bank account.

There is also a pious bromide to the effect that “it is difficult to erase past memories.”

You think?

It seems to have as much to do with the typical
Aries person as the price of mothballs.



Since we stay at one of its service apartments, we are allowed to use the facilities at Singapore’s Shangri-La.

And as soon as you step into its lobby there’s no mistaking the time of the year you’re in. As you head towards the gymnasium amidst the Christmastide and its inimitable carols, you almost forget there’s a pandemic about because of the normalcy of the scene: families taking photographs under the towering, bauble-bedecked tree stretching up to the roof.

There’s a smell of chocolate in the air and it’s strongest near the escalator that takes you down to the gym. The reason isn’t immediately obvious and then you get it: the tableaux of three dazzlingly white polar bears playing with presents amidst the snow and ice next to the escalator is fashioned entirely out of chocolate.

Only when you’re on the escalator do you realise why the scene isn’t completely normal: everyone’s wearing a mask.

We decided not to go back for Christmas this year after cases in Malaysia began spiking four months ago. It prompted Singapore to tighten its rules. Previously, when we went back, we only needed to quarantine for a week at our apartment when we returned. Now we had to do it for two weeks at some government facility and, being foreigners, we had to pay for the privilege.

In any case, with Malaysia under movement control and our daughter in Amsterdam it wasn’t hard decision to make.

If you had to be somewhere else during the Yuletide season, Singapore’s the place to be with some additional advantages. Like many Malaysians, both Rebecca and I have family here and my niece, for example, has kindly invited us over to her place on the 23rd.

The other is that the island republic can seriously put on a show when it comes to Christmas. Only 20% of the country is Christian but the statistic belies the spectacle the nation puts on.

Carols were already being played on radio stations by November, while glittering, trees in tinsel and twine began sprouting in shops all over the place by early December.

It’s clearly a transactional Christmas in these parts and they make no bones about it. Even before Deepavali rolled around this year, the Christmas lights began blazing along Orchard Road on November 13.

We were out for dinner two nights ago and the lights along the 2.2- kilometre road were something else. Spectacular is one word that comes to mind. Over the top are three words more.

And then there’s the Botanical Gardens where a loop-around is about 4 miles. That was too long so we just cut through diagonally. Volunteers have done a fantastic job trimming every other tree along its length in Christmas splendor. You can imagine how the gardens might look like at twilight. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Rebecca’s baked her pineapple tarts and thrown in some panettone for good measure. So, we’re all set.

We’ve invited four friends – all Malaysians as well – for dinner on Christmas Eve which is just nice as our dining table only seats 6.

Merry Christmas everyone!


It appears that no one in power in Malaysia has ever heard of being accountable for their actions. 

It does not seem that way across the Causeway. 

On Thursday, the chairman of Changi Airport Group, Liew Mun Leong, resigned days after Singapore’s High Court not only acquitted his former maid of stealing from him but criticised the allegations brought against her.

Liew, 74, had been the group’s founding chairman since 2009. 

In a separate statement, Liew said he had also resigned as an advisor to Temasek International and several other board positions he had been holding. He had decided to retire. 

The maid, Indonesia’s Parti Liyani was acquitted of stealing more than S$34,000 worth of items from Liew and his family. She’d worked for the family for a decade. 

In his judgment, Justice Chan Seng Onn said there was an “improper motive” for mounting the allegations against Parti. This drew the notice of the Attorney-General whose chambers then said the judge’s comments “do raise questions which warrant further investigations.”

It could be that Liew was told, even ordered, to quit but the fact remains that he did. And that might still not be sufficient to get him off the hook. 

Compare and contrast this to Malaysia where the truth varies but which is still a land of promise, especially before a general election. Here, the politicians like to make all the decisions without any of the responsibility. 

But the best proof that light travels faster than sound is the Malaysian minister or deputy minister: they all appear to be intelligent until they open their mouths. 

And no one, not a solitary soul, ever contemplates resignation as a consequence of stupidity or wrongdoing.  

The examples, to say the least, are legion. 

A full minister, with his family in tow, goes to Turkey and comes back without the mandatory two-week quarantine. When the news was leaked, he was fined RN1,000 after the fact. And this after a woman was jailed and fined RM8,000 for a similar offence. 

Neither has the minister ever apologised. 

A university student in rural Sabah climbs a tree for better Internet connectivity to take an online examination. When she posts this on her Facebook page, two deputy ministers castigate her decrying her post as fake. 

When they get lambasted online, they retreat in a hurry and another minister flies to Sabah to apologise to the family. One of the two deputies has since apologised while the other quietly deleted his offending post without apologising,  

Then there was the MP from the Islamic Party of Malaysia. During the debate on new drink driving laws, the not-very-informed lawmaker suggested that the Bible had been perverted presumably because it did not condemn the consumption of wine. 

When this prompted an uproar, the unrepentant MP advised Christians that they “had no right” to be offended as his statement had been “a fact.” 

The wannabe Bible scholar has been remarkably blasé about his thesis since. 

But why should we be surprised? 

A former premier has been found guilty of corruption, tax-dodging and gross abuse of power involving billions of dollars. Yet, as his judge noted, he has shown “no remorse” and has swaggered about since, appearing to all the world as the soul of probity. 


The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is located on what seems to be a misnomer of an address because there isn’t a beach in sight. 

But the imposing colonial-style building eponymously named after Singapore’s founder still squats along Beach Road. That’s because when it was built over a century ago, the sea was visible through shimmering palms in the malarial heat of an island Sir Stamford thought might be a nifty port. 

The malaria is gone but the heat is still around although it’s dispelled by the many ceiling fans that line the route our guide takes to lead us to The Courtyard. 

We have now been stuck in Singapore for over five months largely because we landed a day before Malaysia imposed its movement control order. 

Then, just when it seemed that we could return to home quarantine, some idiots were taped breaking home quarantine and that loophole got closed.  

So, we thought we’d have a drink at the Raffles which was, at least, vaguely historic. I mean, Somerset Maugham staved off the chills via stiff G-and-T’s at the hotel’s Long Bar. 

Alas, the Long Bar was closed due to the virus, Rudolfo regretted but assured us the Courtyard would be just as good. 

We are led to a table amid the strains of the Stones’ Paint It Black, which I suppose is sort of par for the course for six in the evening. Rudolfo is from Chile and he’s here because he “followed my girlfriend home.” 

You have to suppose that’s as good a reason as any. 

We scan the menu and that’s when you realise how good the island is at branding itself internationally.

We learn that the Singapore Sling was invented in 1915 in the Long Bar by one Mr Ngiam, a bartender whose verve with gin-based cocktails endeared him to so many British hostesses that it made his at-first-shyly-offered pink confection an instant hit. 

We didn’t have one though: they were priced at S$35 a pop. 

But the guy who dubbed it the Singapore Sling was a genius who put the drink, its origin, on the map. 

Why can’t we do the same thing?

Malaysia is supposed to have invented Yee Sang so let’s just christen it the Kay-El Toss and get on with it. Why not Seremban Eggs for Foo Yong Tan? Tambun pomelos, anyone? And so on, ad infinitum.

And the thing that simply screams out to Malaysians visiting the Raffles Hotel is this: Malaysia has a zero history – zilch, nada, zip – of preservation or maintenance.  

The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station could be every bit as colonially imposing as The Raffles but history hangs shabbily on its frame. It is grubby; it has Ficus (a parasitic vegetation) growing in its cracks and it’s downright embarrassing given the billions squandered on wasteful projects or outright theft. 

Remember the country’s rest houses? They used to be quasi-motels where you could get a good meal relatively cheaply and a clean bed/toilet for the same privilege. These used to be looked-forward-to staples back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now ask yourself: where are they now? 


We came back to Singapore about a month ago. 

It was about seven in the evening when we finally pulled into our service apartment block. Waiting at the lifts, we could see out the glass doors into the swimming pool area where we both heard and saw a raucous Latin American party in full swing. 

The salsa and hip-hop continued well into the night and we marvelled at the republic’s seeming certitude. We had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur where there was, and still is, a movement control order being enforced amid a complete lockdown. 

Much has changed since then. Singapore, which used to be touted as a global model for its handling of the pandemic, got knocked off its pedestal about two weeks ago. 

Indeed, when attempting to justify the huge numbers in the United States, talk show hosts routinely engage in bromides like “Even Singapore has had to…”

It would appear that the coronavirus is the great leveller of fortunes. 

Still, Singapore tries to be different by avoiding words like lockdown or controls. No, the republic has merely instituted a “circuit breaker” and, truth be told, it’s much milder than in Malaysia. 

The basic rules of lockdown still apply. You may no longer eat at restaurants and most shops are closed except for those selling essentials. In supermarkets Xs mark the spots where people might line up while still remaining safely socially distant from one another. 

Indeed, these markings are everywhere – in subway cars and buses, even lifts. And almost everyone now works from home. 

But the numbers keep rising ominously. At the time of writing, the island’s total number of infections crossed the 4,000 mark while Thursday saw the highest number of new cases in a day (over 700). 

The rules keep tightening to keep apace of the threat. Early on, for example, we were “advised” that wearing masks might be useful. And it was “recommended.” 

Very soon, it was not just desirable but necessary on pain of financial hurt or what the republic deems to be a “fine.” And it’s a fine thing too because enforcement, like death, is inevitable: there are closed circuit televisions everywhere. 

The subways and buses still run and, masked, we can still go walking in the Botanic Gardens. The joggers, however, are still allowed to run unmasked which is puzzling as they are probably the largest droplet-emitters in the Gardens at any one time. 

But this is Singapore, and no one questions authority. Sometimes, however, it’s carried to the point of absurdity. Case in point: yesterday evening, we spotted numerous people driving solo, yet they were wearing masks.  Why on earth would anyone have to wear a mask while driving alone in an air-conditioned car? One suspects there is no such rule. 

But Singaporeans have been conditioned over years to avoid chewing gum and people called Jay, walking. Methinks they are being simply prudent and prefer to err on the side of caution. Indeed, everyone follows whatever directives the Singapore government deems fit without comment or talk-back. 

It’s like PMS, it’s simply that, period!

Which is why, I’m continually amazed to read stories in the Malaysian press that relate to the sorts of things our countrymen get up to during the MCO – golfing, arguing, even yelling at the police. And government parliamentarians have returned to the bad old days of being appointed to cushy GLC jobs…Alas, it appears that nothing has changed. 


From a purely academic standpoint, legalised gambling began in the United States out of a desire to bring a little more decorum to poker than the non-negotiable: “My Colt-45 beats your four aces.” 

Very quickly, governments all over the world realised that gambling, if severely taxed and zealously regulated, could prove a boon to public balance sheets. 

The desire to create something out of nothing based on nothing more than dumb luck and “a hunch” has generally proven irresistible to human beings the world over. 

The above hypothesis must be tempered against the notion that many religionists think, which is, gambling is the best way to create nothing out of something. 

Gambling as a business must also be distinguished from the business that is gambling as in, say, playing the stock markets or betting on horses. 

In any case, all this probably explains why P.T. Barnum, allegedly the Greatest Showman on Earth, coined the phrase: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” 

A qualified corollary to that saying is “a sucker and his money are soon parted”. Casinos have taken it one step further arguing that it was “morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money if he entered a casino in the first place”. 

The 2009 global financial crisis hit many countries hard. One such nation was Singapore which then began looking for an industry that was recession proof. 

You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist in the People’s Action Party to get it, and the island introduced two casinos dubbed “integrated resorts” because they boasted other facilities like theme parks and the like. 

It worked spectacularly. Wikipedia, my general reference of choice, describes the Singapore integrated resorts as some of “the most profitable casinos in the world.”

With that in mind, you would expect the casinos to pull out all the stops, right? I mean, giving back something to the customer is sound business sense and quite moral to boot. It’s even quoted in the Bible: “It is in giving that you receive”.

So now you might understand the sheer scope, the imagination, of the idea embodied in the next sentence. 

Six toilets at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore have received the six-star rating from the Restroom Association of Singapore – RASA to its friends and admirers. Indeed, it’s the first toilets in Singapore to be awarded its top rating.

Under the toilet grading system, six-star or “magnificent restrooms” are expected to use smart technology and employ cleaners who have completed a Workforce Skills Qualification module in washroom cleaning. 

You need a diploma to clean toilets? Well, only in Singapore. 

Everything is all very IT and so Applesque that you’d think Steve Jobs had miraculously been resurrected. I mean, these toilets have detectors which measure the level of ammonia in the air only to relay this information to cleaners via SMS.

Once odour levels exceed a certain threshold, a text message goes to the cleaners with information about which toilet is affected. Said toilet then plays the theme song from Ghostbusters. In short, nothing is left to chance. 

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing. One employee got so carried away by Elon Musk’s predictions of a “paperless” future that he had to be dissuaded from removing all the toilet paper from said rest rooms.

Now consider, if you will, how the toilet rating agency might react to being asked to rate local Malaysian rest rooms. 

The whole experiment was called off after the restrooms at the budget terminal were given an F9 rating with a “OMG, I’m out of here” outlook.