Author Archives: wcw

Believe it or not

Raising eyebrows: Both Hishammuddin and Dr Ahmad Zahid have met up with Dr Mahathir since GE14.

Stranger things have happened post-general elections, but losers seeking the winning party’s advice is certainly curious. 

POLITICS in Malaysia gets stranger with each passing day. As the adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction, and it seems to apply well here.

That saying simply means sometimes what happens in real life is more bizarre than anything that could have been imagined.

Shortly after the general election in May, where the Barisan Nasional was trounced and consigned to the scrap heap, then acting Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi raised eyebrows when he called on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed for advice.

His party had just been hammered, yet he decided to consult the new Prime Minister and leader of Pakatan Harapan. It was so peculiar for him to do that.

Dr Mahathir revealed that Zahid “wanted to know how to manage Umno. So, I was frank and said Umno had betrayed the Malays.”

Yes, at least, that’s what the man said. Zahid wanted advice on how to manage Umno and he got it from the best man possible.

“I reminded him that we formed Umno to help the Malays, but that Umno had changed and prioritised self-wealth.

“Because of that, Umno is now hated. It’ll be hard for Umno to recover. Once seen as noble, now viewed with disgust,” Dr Mahathir apparently said.

Incredibly, Zahid was not the only loser who queued up to acquire Dr Mahathir’s wisdom. He was, in fact, the third opposition party leader, believe it or not.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu president Datuk Abang Johari Abang Openg made their moves earlier.

Forgive our naivety in politics, but are we missing something here? These guys had just lost the elections, leaving their parties in disarray (at least Umno), and the first thing they do is run to the man who defeated them for advice on how to run their houses?

Are we reading this right? But then, this is Bolehland, and what is regarded strange can easily be real.

Last week, another top Umno name – Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein Onn – also scooted off to see the nation’s foremost nonagenarian.

It’s uncertain if the purpose of his visit was, likewise, to learn how to save Umno and run the party.

Honestly, why would Dr Mahathir, even as former president, want to save Umno?

No one would have known better had Datuk Kadir Jasin, the media adviser to the Prime Minister, not let the cat out of the bag about the meeting.

“Assalamuailaikum Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, nak tanya, semalam pergi Putrajaya jumpa siapa? (I wish to ask, who did you meet in Putrajaya yesterday?)” Kadir wrote.

Presumably caught off guard by the revelation, Hishammuddin, who is also a former Umno vice-president, however said the meeting was only to listen to Dr Mahathir’s plans for the country’s future.

And last week, Perlis Umno deputy chairman Zahidi Zainul Abidin claimed Umno and Barisan Nasional MPs had met Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia leaders to discuss the possibility of a union.

Zahidi, who is Padang Besar MP, said the purpose of the discussions was to seek the “best option to save the Malays”.

“We are trying to discuss with PPBM to save the Malays. We want PAS, but PAS is not ready, so we are looking for the best option because we want the best for the Malays,” he said at Umno’s headquarters.

According to him, Barisan MPs met PPBM leaders two to three months ago, but he refused to disclose details. However, he said: “We are planning to merge with PPBM but we do not want to quit Umno.

“Some of the MPs agreed to discuss with PPBM while some agreed to discuss with PKR. So, we will see which one is best. We have met PPBM.”

Dispensing with the bravado and hyperbole, what Zahidi is trying to convey is simply that Umno is in trouble and going nowhere. We want PPBM or PKR to hold us, we can’t just quit Umno, but without the two parties, we are dead.

And of course, the narrative must be about saving the Malays – not saving ourselves politically!

Meanwhile, in Bolehland, the Chinese and Indians are upset that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is said to be drumming up support by doing a devil’s deal with some Umno MPs to overthrow Dr Mahathir by November in a despicable and devious plot.

Why November? Well, that’s when Parliament meets, but that’s what a friend of a friend told me. I didn’t ask why November either because that seemed like an insignificant detail.

So, here’s when many of us become confused: who is cosying up to Umno? Is it Dr Mahathir to checkmate the ever-impatient Anwar, or is it really Anwar himself? Now, this is when the truth gets stranger than fiction, or so it seems.

But dig deeper, and it sounds more like a group of Umno MPs – who find the gravy train now derailed, and without benefit in sight – cooking up a juicy story to let the various insecure factions in Pakatan Harapan fight over them, for what they are still worth as MPs.

And if nothing is offered, what can be more pleasing to the egos than be heralded as the saviour of the race and religion at the party assembly for their undying proclamation to the party, race and religion?

But don’t be too quick to dismiss the story. It’s only a story, so far, and it hasn’t ended. Whether it’s fiction or otherwise, it will always be strange because this is Malaysia.

It’s only in Malaysia where one runs off to his enemy for advice! Malaysia Truly Amazing.

A question of faith

THE Port Dickson by-election has unexpectedly become a controversy for some PKR leaders and the party’s supporters.

Suddenly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has found himself being openly challenged by some of the top brass for his purported failure to consult them on the selection of the coastal town for a by-election, and why his wife or daughter weren’t asked to vacate their seats, instead.

For sure, this is unfamiliar ground to any leader – to be openly challenged. Call it democracy, but it looks more like an open rebellion.

Anwar is now being accused of nepotism and those who have defiantly questioned this move include prominent lawyer S. Ambiga, who is closely linked to Pakatan Harapan.

Even the issue of race has cropped up in social media, with some, hiding behind anonymity, demanding why an Indian MP had to be sacrificed for the PKR president.

Others have suggested that Anwar is an impatient man, and that he should wait until the next general election in five years’ time for his turn. Perhaps he could be named senator, first, and save the big bucks needed for a by-election.

However, some of these politicians have suddenly developed amnesia, it seems, now that they hold positions in government.

They seem to have forgotten the pledge made to Malaysians was for Anwar to be pardoned and released from his incarceration.

In fact, that’s the basis of the PKR struggle – to free Anwar, who had to live with the unofficial title of de facto PKR leader. He was the party boss, even while languishing behind bars for 11 years.

Love him or loathe him, only Anwar can glue the PH government in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s absence.

Not any PH leader, including Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamed Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, or, for the time being, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, could manage it.

It’s not about competence or ability, but about holding a government together. All his harshest critics, including those who questioned his trustworthiness, would admit it, even if reluctantly.

Anwar is also the only one who can man the fort against opponents like Umno, PAS and the right wingers who wield race and religion like weapons.

He was the man who issued press statements from jail, as we wondered how he did it.

And, of course, we remember all those street protests under different names and colours, all essentially for a singular purpose – to free him. So, it must be surprising to Anwar, who would probably feel slighted, to learn about the rebellious remarks made by some self-important key personalities for his need to first earn their approval and then consult them to contest in a by-election.

Suggestions of deceit abound, and no wonder, what with decisions shrouded in secrecy and lacking transparency.

And there we were thinking it was clear that Anwar would contest a by-election, get into Parliament and wait for his turn to be Prime Minister. Even premier Dr Mahathir has proclaimed unequivocally that he would hand the torch to Anwar and honour the agreement by the four partners of the Pakatan Harapan alliance to step down after two years.

So, the question is, how can Anwar be the successor if he is not an MP?

It’s pointless being the PM-in-waiting if one isn’t elected. We could not give two hoots about the charade and antics of politicians, who have the audacity to tell us they dislike politicking. We want certainty, stability and succession planning.

Dr Mahathir is already 93 years old, and it is just biologically and physically impossible to expect him to be PM until the next general election. We can’t allow the rigours of the job to take their toll on him.

A video of him walking wobbly recently circulated, so surely, we want him to remain healthy. However, he is still a mere mortal.

Anwar being named successor and elected into Parliament will provide better comfort because otherwise, an ugly scramble for power is bound to ensue, which we have no wish to see.

We don’t really care if Anwar chooses Port Dickson, Puncak Borneo or Timbuktu, because we are all suffering from the fatigue of election fever, which never seems to cease in Malaysia as they come in all forms and temperatures.

A by-election costs money. Also, it is in poor taste to ask a serving MP to step down to make way for Anwar. Most of us might hate the idea, but progression needs to take place.

Let’s be openly ignorant about this, because up until last week, most of us had never heard of Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, with due respect. Of course, we didn’t even know he was a retired first admiral. But those who attended his ceramah during GE14 said he never failed to remind them he served in the navy for 38 years.

Danyal has been recognised as the “voice” of the navy, and for them, his loss means no one will champion their cause.

Once Anwar is elected MP and eventually becomes Prime Minister, the full breadth of his ability will be on display, courtesy of his authority and power as a leader. Every constituency would want the serving PM as their MP, so the same can be said for PD. Surely, they can see the preferential treatment accorded to Langkawi and Pekan.

Then there is the issue of family dynasty, but let’s not get into this because the Lim brood has two MPs and a senator, the Karpal clan has an MP and two state assemblymen, and, of course, there’s the PM and his Mentri Besar son.

Malaysians are familiar with this situation, and how most of these individuals got elected is proof that it has never been an issue.

But we should create a racket if Anwar is PM and Nurul Izzah becomes a Minister while Dr Wan Azizah still remains Deputy Prime Minister.

You can count on your bottom ringgit, though, that’s neither going to happen, nor be allowed to happen.

A husky lover’s guide to Bangkok, Thailand

TrueLove at Neverland in Bangkok is a cafe that allows patrons to play with its huskies for a fee. Photos: The Nation

The routine holiday to Bangkok, Thailand, for seasoned Malaysian tourists (like me) will probably include eating, massages and shopping. We have visited most of the tourist spots, and they are no longer appealing.

Yes, we’ve been there, done that … you know the drill.

It’s become obvious to us that there are no tigers in the strangely named “tiger shows” as the performers are more acrobats than animal trainers, and it takes little for most of us to distinguish Lady Boys.

Then, there’s only so much spicy tom yam soup and spicy som tam salad one can take before setting their belly on fire.

Not on the list of the most exciting things to do, though, is twiddling with our phones while the wives take forever to shop in Pratunam Market, the largest retail market in the city.

Also on that “list” is how some friends are forever asking the favour of paying respects – which they call vows and blessings – at the famous Erawan Shrine, or more famously known as the Four-Faced Buddha, located at the busy Ratchaprasong intersection.

That’s what average Crazy Middle Class Malaysians do when they are in Bangkok – the same thing again and again.

On a recent trip there, though, I decided to try something else. It’s already on the tourist map, but not mainstream yet, and it was important that I saw it before China tourists discover it and squeeze me out of the “dog house”.

Being the owner of two lovely huskies, I was advised to check out TrueLove at Neverland dog café, located at a leafy, quiet neighbourhood in Bangkok.

It was a challenge getting there because most Thai taxi drivers don’t speak English well. It was a struggle telling them I wanted to visit a husky café – because they had no idea what I was describing.

To get the best photos, wait for the huskies to calm down and get used to you first.

For some weird reason, the taxi driver kept saying “dog no good, sir, tiger better, very cheap. I take you to Soi Cowboy, very near only. No see dog, see tiger.”

At this point, I began to get worried that our linguistic problem would lead him to selling me a show of feline persuasion, his interpretation, of course.

Thank God for Google, as we finally reached the location of the address – No. 153, Soi Ari Samphan 2, Phaya Thai, Khet Phaya Thai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400. And now you know why it isn’t the best-known address.

But it was a worthwhile trip despite the initial hiccup and having to fend off the attempts of the taxi driver to take me to see furry animals of a different variety.

What sets TrueLove apart from the pack is its unique skew: The café is specifically a husky café.

There are dogs and then there are dogs, and I love these wolf-like animals for their appearance and beautiful coat of fur.

They are known to be stubborn, even stoic at times, and can be near impossible to command. Despite their intimidating appearance and strength, huskies are gentle, friendly and affable to humans. For whatever reason, they are a misunderstood canine species.

I was curious to find out how many of these dogs would be on parade to justify the entrance fee, and if the owner had provided adequate air-conditioning and fans to keep them cool and comfortable.

With their Siberian and Alaskan lineage, these huskies can’t bear the heat – even if they are born in Thailand or most places in Malaysia.

When they are young, some have the trademark piercing, deep blue eyes, but as they grow older, those peepers turn grey or brown. Being a formerly-ignorant owner, I always blamed our lousy hot climate for the loss of those striking blue eyes.

In answering my primary curiosity, yes, there are enough dogs there to make one feel satisfied with the investment, but what was most heartening was the owner’s attention to hygiene.

The enclosure was free of dog odour, poo or urine stains because attendants keep the place spick and span. The dogs are in view from the side of the café. For those wishing to enter the play area, they must adhere to some strict rules.

Visitors can interact with cute huskies at the cafe.

I had to take my shoes off and wear plastic covers for my feet provided by the café. I also had to wash my hands and use bacterial lotion – before and after entering the play area. The strict hygiene practice is commendable.

Eager not to miss a thing, I arrived at the café early for the “parade”, which was essentially the grand entrance of the 25 or so dogs that comprised Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes. This was them coming out of their air-conditioned “homes”.

Visitors are then allowed to join the “play and touch” session with these lovely huskies, as they energetically jump around, or just laze about, waiting to be patted and hugged.

Accustomed to the adoration of visitors, these dogs are at ease and readily interact with people. As much as I’ve described them as stubborn, they’ll happily pose for photographs, too.

The dogs seem healthy and well looked after, as is apparent from their physique, behaviour and mood, which pleases me tremendously as a visitor and dog lover.

Treats aren’t required for the obligatory “bribe”, proof that these very endearing dogs are comfortable and sociable. These pooches sure enjoy being touched and hugged.

On the flip side, I had the misfortune of seeing sad-looking bears at a small zoo in Hokkaido, Japan, begging for food from visitors from their smelly enclosures. It was a sight which made my blood boil, and made me want to do something completely reckless, like freeing them into the nearby forest. That’s a sinful place and should be shut down.

Closer to home, it’s a no-brainer that no one goes to the husky café for the food – entrance tickets come with a complimentary cake and drink each – but rather to experience the joy of playing with these lovely and beautiful dogs.

The huskies are very friendly with guests. There’s no need to offer them any ‘bribes’ of food as they will automatically come to you.

These hair-shedding dogs are not the easiest pets to take care of and many dog homes are aware of owners abandoning them after realising the difficulties in caring for these big canines. So, the café offers a unique experience for us to be near them without the hassle.

There are enough dogs and time for visitors to have their fill, although in typical kiasu (afraid to lose) fashion, there was the predictable rush to hug the nicer-looking animals for pictures when the play area was opened.

What you really need to do is just chill and laze around, because these huskies will come to you. The best photographs are had when the excitement has died down and the animals are calmer.

This is an experience highly recommended for families, especially for children who have never interacted with dogs or had the opportunity of owning one because they either live in a tiny apartment or in an environment prohibiting dogs.

Be there early to avoid the crowd and check the latest operating times on the café’s Facebook page. It is also better to call and place a booking, if one is in a group, to enable the staff to organise visits.

To get to TrueLove at Neverland by public transport, take the BTS (train) to Ari Station. Leave the station via Exit 2, then hop on a tuk-tuk and ask for Soi Ari Samphan 2, a trip which should cost you about 40 baht (RM5) each way. The staff at the café are helpful and ready to assist visitors in calling for a taxi or tuk tuk, so they can find their way out of this dog haven.

Waiting in the wings

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

THE acrimonious relationship between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim – when they were Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister back in the day – is well-documented, and as a reporter covering the feud, I had a ring-side seat of the fight.

I remember joining Dr Mahathir and his entourage on a trade mission to South America in September 1997.

Malaysia was grappling with a financial crisis, the stock market had plunged, its currency was under attack and the skies were shrouded in haze.

It seemed like things couldn’t get any darker.

But worse it got when the relationship between its two leaders went terribly sour over how the country should tackle the financial crisis.

The South American visit was the longest official overseas engagement during Dr Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister.

And the knives which had been drawn by then made the assign­ment feel even longer.

During the trip, a few ministers obviously wanted to “apple polish” the PM by doing their best to run Anwar down – all within earshot of reporters, amazingly.

One Umno leader waved a copy of the now-defunct Asiaweek magazine – which pictured Anwar riding a jet ski on the cover – and loudly complained that Anwar was a man in a hurry, and even promised to gather supporters to turn up at the airport for Dr Mahathir’s arrival.

My good friend, Johan Jaafar, now Tan Sri, was most uncomfortable when the air on board the chartered flight became toxic.

He was editor of Utusan Malaysia, which at the time was probably the most influential newspaper in the country.

In his own words, “I was famously fired three months before Anwar got the axe. I was guilty by association.”

Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister on Sept 2, 1998 and as deputy Umno president the following day.

I was at the Putra World Trade Centre with other reporters from every media on Sept 3.

And that marked the beginning of the reformasi movement.

Along with my journalist brothers and sisters, I literally camped outside his home, soaked to the bone in the rain.

It’s funny now to recall how we predicted a short lifespan for the uprising.

How wrong we were.

Anwar is a born fighter and he’s probably the most charismatic Malaysian leader I’ve ever known.

He mobilised thousands onto the streets and had powerful international leaders on his side.

He has gone through the “black eye” episode, beatings, jail sentence, sex video scandal and sordid sodomy trials – not once, but twice – and survived it all. (Anwar was assaulted after his arrest on Sept 20, 1998, causing him to appear in court with a black eye. Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor was eventually charged with the assault and received a two-month jail sentence. He later apologised to Anwar and his family.)

More incredibly, his wife – Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – stood by him, defended him and filled in for him as party president.

That’s another astonishing story by itself.

Fast forward to 2018. Dr Mahathir is surely the glue that binds for the ruling coalition.

Without him, it wouldn’t have been possible for Pakatan Harapan to win the general election and, without PKR and DAP, Dr Mahathir wouldn’t have had the structure and machinery to do likewise.

He held the key to reach many rural areas, including the Felda seats, which tipped the balance.

It was the massive historic win which led to Anwar being released from prison and subsequently pardoned.

Basically, the unimaginable happened and now, another stranger-than-fiction scenario is about to play out.

And again, there is plenty of cynicism and disbelief.

So, what Dr Mahathir said last week is important.

On record, for the first time, he said he would honour an agree­ment by the four parties of the Pakatan Harapan for him to step down after two years, and hand the country’s leadership to Anwar.

I am told there is a written agreement, but what’s more significant is that he has said so very clearly and in no uncertain terms, that it is going to be passed on to Anwar.

“I am confident that he is now more mature and much more experienced,” Dr Mahathir said at a gathering in a hotel with Malaysians living in Brunei.

He was responding to a question from a guest who voiced concern about history repeating itself on the choice of successor.

This should put an end to the conspiracy theories that PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was his preferred choice as successor, or that Dr Mahathir intended to stay longer than two years and wouldn’t honour the agreement.

Even after Dr Mahathir’s open endorsement of Anwar as his replacement, there were still lingering doubts for some.

Former Umno MP Datuk Tawfik Tun Ismail said he was expe­riencing a déjà vu moment with the current political landscape, and with the banter between government and party leaders.

Referring to statements made by both Dr Mahathir and Anwar, Tawfik said the current back and forth was reminiscent of the time leading up to when Anwar was ousted from the government.

“Listening to what is said and what is denied, it’s almost like listening to what Anwar and Dr Mahathir said many, many years ago.

“I support you, you support me, and next day, you know one is killed,” he said, referring to Anwar’s sacking by Dr Mahathir in 1998.

In politics, a week can be a long time, what more two years.

However, age is not on Dr Mahathir’s side.

After all, he is already 93, so the punishing demands of the top job will take its toll on him.

He is truly doing a tremendous national service for Malaysia and we must be indebted to this incredible man for his tenacity. But he is also only human.

He needn’t take on this back-breaking job of cleaning up the government and economy when it will be easier for Anwar to do so when he takes over the reins instead.

Anwar has certainly grown much wiser and has mellowed, demonstrating patience and constraint, particularly with his constant urging for Dr Mahathir to be given room to decide.

But Anwar is not getting any younger either. He has waited long enough. He must get himself elected as a Member of Parliament soon.

To be known as a PM-in-waiting means nothing really, so he needs to be an MP before he can be appointed prime minister by the ruling coalition.

Let’s not picture this, but should something unfortunate happen to Dr Mahathir, Anwar cannot assume any role or position unless he is an MP.

There is nothing unusual because there is a process of succession planning, even at company level, and as the president of the party with the largest number of seats within the PH alliance, it’s only rightful Anwar succeed Dr Mahathir.

In just three months, the year will come to an end. The motion of succession will begin soon, and while fate decides everything, as early as next month, Anwar will take his earliest steps to fulfilling his destiny.

When the right words count

Alarm bells: Dr Mahathir caused a stir across China and Hong Kong when he said foreigners were banned from buying residential units in the US100bil (RM410bil) Forest City project in Johor.

ANY journalist who has had the pleasure of covering a press conference by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will tell you that he is a delight because the Prime Minister is so quotable, and his witty and trademark deadpan sarcasm provides the best news stories.

Two decades on, he has made a return to helm the country’s top post and remains very much the character we’ve come to know.

Brimming with confidence, he is never guarded or cautious, unlike some other politicians. He can deliver a speech from prepared text, but Dr Mahathir is at his best when he’s spontaneous.

He openly says what’s on his mind and in his heart, and sometimes, does so impulsively. That perhaps sums up what he has gotten himself into lately.

Dr Mahathir has never shied away from any questions from reporters no matter how provocative, but he needs to rein himself in sometimes.

There is really no need for him to weigh in on the issue, particularly when it involves bilateral relations with China, a situation which can now best be described as delicate.

Last week, he triggered alarm bells across China and Hong Kong when he said foreigners – as good as singling out mainland Chinese – were banned from buying residential units in the US$100bil (RM410bil) Forest City project in Johor.

Most Malaysian businessmen have also expressed concern and discontent at the remark.

“One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners,” Dr Mahathir told a news conference here.

“We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” he was quoted in an interview with Reuters.

He then added that the government would tear down the perimeter wall around the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) in Pahang, which has been described as the “Great Wall of China.”

He rattled off all this right after his official visit to China, which isn’t likely to go down well with Beijing.

While the Chinese government has been able to exercise restraint and patience with Dr Mahathir’s outbursts, sentiments on social media – in which the Chinese government has become more sensitive – are exacerbating the situation.

Dr Mahathir, who visited Beijing for the first time since he took shots at Chinese investment ahead of a May election win, told China that he supports free trade, so long as it’s fair. Everyone needs to remember that countries are at different stages of development, he said.

“You don’t want a situation where there’s a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries in terms of just, open, free trade,” he said.

Dr Mahathir has got this wrong though. Johor allows foreigners – especially Singaporeans – to buy properties in the state.

It’s very simple – there is already a policy in place on what it takes for foreigners to purchase real estate there.

A glut of houses amounting to RM1mil and above is bad enough, and the soft market has only stretched the wallets and maxed out the credits of property developers. Like in any business, contractors, too, are badly hit when not paid in full. The property market is, after all, the biggest multiplier of jobs.

Malaysia cannot afford to pick and choose its property clients because it is not legal and is also irrational and impractical.

The diplomatic and commercial faux pas sent all the wrong signals to Beijing and Hong Kong, causing bewilderment and uncertainty among developers and buyers alike.

Dr Mahathir’s remarks sent the shares of Country Garden Holdings, the developer of Forest City, into see-saw mode in Monday’s trading amid confusion.

The stock, which had risen by as much as 3.9% earlier last Monday, returned almost all its gains for the day on the Hong Kong exchange after his comments were published, ending the day 2.5% higher at HK$12.14.

As part of a damage control exercise, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian had to reiterate that the state still welcomes foreign investors buying high-end residential units here, assuring Johor stays friendly with foreign direct investment.

“Our restriction on foreign property ownership is still the same – foreigners are only allowed to buy housing above RM1mil,” he said.

There is also ambiguity between Permanent Residence status and the “My Second Home” programme, which is aimed at enticing the well-heeled to take up temporary residence in the country with every purchase of high- end property, a common practice in many countries.

And let’s be honest, because to the rich mainlanders, in terms of draw for temporary stay, we can’t compete with Canada, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom or even Singapore.

It is a fallacy and the handiwork of misguided fears to believe that mainland Chinese would invade Johor Baru to take up residence.

While some politicians have made it an issue of Chinese investments in Malaysia, the question that needs to be asked is, are we seeing anyone else, besides the Chinese, coming to our shores with serious investment plans?

Yes, we have found ourselves stuck with over-priced and over-paid deals, and agreements that should have been better drawn up and with exit clauses, but let’s be mindful and tactful, too.

And for sure, there is no Great Wall of China in Kuantan, as sadly represented, because it is merely a fencing parameter.

The Pahang state government, in trying to defuse the issue, told Dr Mahathir that the government should take into consideration the consequences before tearing down the perimeter wall around the MCKIP.

State Tourism, Environment and Plantations committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said the previous, Barisan Nasional government had already deliberated the matter, putting it down to the culture and working style of the Chinese citizens.

“That might be the working culture of the Chinese nationals, who prefer a secluded area. It could also be due to security reasons that the previous government had allowed the construction of the wall.

“Just like when we are there (China), they respect our working culture, including the need for halal food supply, surau facilities and separate washrooms. So, I believe the wall is due to their working culture,” Sharkar said.

He also expressed concern that such minor issues could affect the relationship between Malaysia and China.

The reality is that all our properties – whether residential or commercial – have walls or fences, for security reasons at least.

With a 1,400 workforce at the MCKIP, owned by Alliance Steel (M) Sdn Bhd, the majority locals, it is illogical to imagine that the whole project is shrouded in secrecy.

The Chinese have been told that they need to “follow the laws” on issues related to Forest City and MCKIP, but the federal government hasn’t detailed their offences, which is only casting further confusion.

Meanwhile, investments from China to Malaysia have come to a halt now that the Chinese are truly spooked, particularly because no one seems to know what’s going on currently.

Flip-flop statements, contradictory remarks and unfriendly gestures won’t do us any good. Instead, we should be recognising that between Asean members, Malaysia has the best link to China with our cultural and linguistic advantages, something other member nations can only be envious of.

A wild durian trip to Sabah

Off The Beat: A wild durian trip to Sabah

The flesh of the sukang, or red durian, has a beautiful colour.

The bumper durian season has reached its tail end, at least in Peninsular Malaysia. Thanks to this super season, which saw a glut in the supply of our favourite King of Fruits, prices came tumbling.

This season is simply the best in recent times. A combination of hot weather and regular rainfall resulted in this long durian season and the fruit’s oversupply.

Thorny delicacy

It was hard to refuse this thorny delicacy, especially with the variety available and the affordable prices.

A few extra inches have made home of my waist line, and I dread going for a medical test now because I have always had to grapple with my blood sugar levels. It’s anyone’s guess if I get a lecture or a pat on the back from the doctor.

From Musang King to D24 to Red Prawns to the relatively unknown Golden Phoenix or Kim Hong, I sampled them all this season.

Genuine jungle fruits

I also made a a trip across the South China Sea to test Sabah’s red flesh durians, which are genuine jungle fruits.

I’ve been travelling to Sabah, one of my favourite states, for decades, but have never had the opportunity to taste its native fruit. The closest I’ve got to this unusual durian is through numerous pictures of them. With the season reaching its peak, I took a trip to the foothills of Mount Kinabalu recently in search of this unusual spiky fruit.

A two-hour trip from Kota Kinabalu took me up the winding roads of North Borneo to the quaint town of Kundasang in the Ranau district.

It reminded me very much of Cameron Highlands with its sprawling farm land of vegetables, and even strawberries, the key difference being the majestic view of the highest peak in Malaysia.

Simply a delight

Air-conditioning has little place here because the cool climate is simply a delight, a welcome relief from the sweltering heat currently baking the country. Against the backdrop of this breathtaking view, I began my search for the wild durians of Sabah, known by the Kadazandusun as the sukang (red) or dalit (red to orange flesh).


The sukang and dalit wild durians are endemic to Borneo.

Unlike the durians in the peninsula, which are mostly commercially cultivated, these wild durians are found in the more remote parts of the state and deep in the jungles.

But some farmers have started to cultivate them on a small scale because of demand from durian connoisseurs who readily pay top ringgit for them.

The red sukang, characterised by long and curved spikes, and the dalit (which morphs from white flowers to become roundish, orange fruits when ripe) with its short and sharp spines, can be sold at RM25 per kg. The more common and kampung varieties only fetch RM15 to RM20 per kg.


The dalit durian has short and sharp spines.

I’m certain tourists from the peninsula and those from China are paying anything between RM35 and RM55 per kg because of our naive behaviour of going weak in the knees and glowing with excitement at the mere sight of these novelty, sepak takraw ball-sized fruits. And from a mile off, vendors can identify weekend visitors from oil-rich Brunei, their car number plates a sure giveaway of their outstation origin and propensity to be fleeced. I’m not sure if they are still rolling in the dough these days, but they didn’t seem to be haggling with the durian sellers.

And here’s the point of this article – how do these wild durians rate against the smooth, buttery and creamy taste of Musang King or my favourite Golden Phoenix with its bitter sweet flesh, or the liquor-y taste of the XO durians?

I may not be the best person to rate them given my (poorly) hidden affection for Sabah and the obvious biasness that stems from it, but leaving prejudice behind, I gave them a shot anyway.

Red and orange

I found it hard to tune my taste buds to these indigenous fruits. Despite their colourful appearance, the taste was bland. Unlike the creamy durians that we are so accustomed to, the flesh of the red and orange durians is thin.

While others have claimed that wild durians have strong and distinctive scents, the ones I tried were odourless, reminding me of those from Thailand.

I read a review which said the “taste and flavour of red durian is twice as strong as orange durian. That’s why red durian is sold more (and fast) than the cheaper orange durian. Some say you would get a bit ‘drunk’ if you ate too many red durian”.

My experience was distinctly different, though. Perhaps I should have tried more of these wild durians to better assess them, but I had already struggled to finish three pieces. How was I going to manage more?

My Sabahan friends tell me these durians taste better in the fermented form of tempoyak, which is best served with rice mixed with salt and chilli. It was also interesting to learn that unlike ordinary durians, which fall off their tree when ripe, these wild ones normally ripen and split while still hanging in their tree.

As my red durian tasting tour came to an end – perhaps on a low note – my enthusiasm was reignited when I was told that my wild durian adventure had only just begun. Apparently, I should have entered the jungles in the centre of the Tongod district, where I would have found the oldest and tallest tree in Sabah, if not in Malaysia.

The tree in Kampung Kenang-Kenangan, measuring 57.7m, is believed to be over 100 years old, and according to legend, is able to produce up to 2,000 fruits a season.

The tiny district in Sandakan has a population of a mere 35,000 people, with Orang Sungai and Kadazandusun the predominant ethnic groups there.

If the statistics are anything to go by, there are likely more durians than people in Tongod when the season peaks.

From giant-size durian trees to durians that grow low on trees (just above ground level), it looks like my next destination would be to search for these unusual fruits in the deep jungles of Borneo.

The Kura-Kura or Tortoise Durian (Testudirium) is regarded an extremely rare durian of Borneo, and there is little information on this unique species. Naturally, this would make the hunt more tantalising for an off the beat trip, doesn’t it?

Hate destroys the hater

Taboo subject: The Merdeka exhibition, Stripes and Strokes , that is causing some Malaysians sleepless nights over photographs of LGBT activists.

IT’S a subject most Malaysians, and that includes prominent civil rights advocates, shy away from – the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conundrum is regarded too controversial, taboo even.

So, many of us prefer not to talk about it, choosing to pretend that the LGBT community doesn’t exist. Or we simply don’t want to think about it. After all, why question seemingly conventional mindset?

Those who want to share their thoughts about it (often loudly) see it from a religious and even political viewpoint.

In their hyperbole, these people see the LGBT community as a threatening group with a deviant culture that “can destroy the moral fabric of society.”

Strangely, these moral police don’t even express anger and hatred towards terrorists and paedophiles.

At a time when Malaysians are dealing with more pressing concerns, like learning billions of ringgit have been stolen from us, consequently putting us under a mountain of debt, some of us are unbelievably having sleepless nights over photographs of LGBT activists at a Merdeka exhibition. Equally pertinent, apparently, is the community’s choice of washrooms – male or female. Go figure.

Over the past few weeks, the LGBT issue seems to have fired up many, with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusuf ordering the removal of two portraits of LGBT activists at an exhibition included in the George Town Festival.

Most Penangites likely never knew of the exhibition until the order to remove the photographs of Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik was revealed.

Dr Mujahid was quoted as saying that he had no issues with people choosing to practise LGBT activities, so long as they abstained from openly promoting their lifestyle.

The angry exhibition sponsor, Datuk Vinod Sekhar, retorted that it was “incredible” that Dr Mujahid voiced his opinion, saying that discrimination against such people needed to stop.

“For the first time in Malaysia, a Minister has stood up and accepted that there is transgender victimisation. Prior to this, no Federal Minister in charge of religious affairs has come out and said this. This really changes the narrative of things in the new Malaysia,” Vinod was quoted.

The colourful businessman, a heart patient, got so upset and bothered that during an interview with a reporter fromThe Star, he collapsed when his defibrillator (implanted in his chest), failed.

A defibrillator is a device that releases a high energy electric shock to the heart through the wall of the chest of a person who goes into cardiac arrest.

Predictably, no one spoke up against Dr Mujahid’s directive after that, as far as I can recall. It can’t be denied that Dr Mujahid acted because it would have been politically suicidal of him to not have done so. The plain truth is that he wasn’t worried about LGBT activists – he was more concerned about the political fallout had he not acted.

Surely he is aware that there is still a political market for those who want to hear hate speeches on race and religion. The urban voters may want a New Malaysia, but at least 50% of the electorate, many in the rural constituencies, want the old ways to remain, evident from the popular votes tally in the recent general election.

Never mind that their own community stole from them, the appointment of key government posts to non-Malays is still abhorrent and a challenge to the position of Malays.

What more when issues relating to LGBT are impossible to defend in an increasingly religious Malaysia, and one involving a tiny fraction of Malaysians with no political clout or dividends to politicians.

So, when a transgender was beaten to a pulp by a group comprising eight men in Sungai Ujong, Negri Sembilan, it didn’t warrant national outcry.

In fact, most media didn’t even report it, and the indifference to this blatant and cowardly display of brutality and gangsterism seems to suggest that the cross-dresser deserved to be assaulted.

So goes the adage padan muka (serves you right), and surely this is expected when some of us berate and demonise this community.

It is one thing to tell your followers that such sexual orientations are against religious, and even cultural practices, but it is another thing all together to incite hatred against fellow human beings, where the line is crossed when a person is beaten up, and we look the other way, and worse, feel no remorse.

Apparently, CCTV images showed a group of men whacking the transgender in the middle of the street with a piece of wood and plastic pipe.

No one attempted to stop the assailants as the shocking violence played out, resulting in the victim suffering a ruptured spleen, several broken ribs as well as injuries to her back and head, which required 12 stitches.

It’s unequivocal – violence is wrong, and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh and her party colleague, lawyer Syahredzan Johan, must be commended for speaking out when most politicians chose not to.

“The hate speeches directed at the transgender community reduced their humanity in the eyes of society and has made it easier for them to be targeted. We condemn in the strongest terms any hate speech directed at the community,” said the duo in a statement.

“The men surrounded her, and it is believed that she was attacked because of prejudice against her gender identity and the fact that she is a transgender woman.”

Five individuals have been charged, three of whom are expecting to sit for the SPM examination in November. It’s frightening that prejudice has rooted itself in our younger generation. What business do they have spreading hate and inflicting pain on those different from them?

No more talk, the time to nip it in the bud is now, so we must send a strong message that violence, in any shape or form, can never be tolerated.

We already live in a highly prejudiced society, so, do we really need this kind of blatant brutality and lack of acceptance? Absolutely not!

Good grace under pressure

BY Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s admission, the Pakatan Harapan didn’t expect to win the general election. So, the new federal government is finding itself biting more than it can chew having made “too many promises”, and is now struggling to fulfil its election pledges.

“Actually, we did not expect to win, and we made a thick manifesto with all kinds of promises.

“We need to make sacrifices to fulfil our promises. If we can’t fulfil them, we will need a good reason that is acceptable to the people,” Dr Mahathir was quoted by a daily which cited several sources who attended a PH meeting last week.

Firstly, there’s no way to fulfil all promises made in 100 days because it’s just physically impossible – that’s just too short a duration.

It augurs well during campaigning but realistically, it can never be pulled off, even if the economy is strong and we have billions to spend.

The 100-day period is popularly used to evaluate the first three months of an American president’s term, but many democracies have their own yardstick to measure the success of a government or a leader.

The practice has long been adopted in Malaysian politics to observe the start of a new political administration. It’s sometimes regarded as the honeymoon period, where some tolerance is accorded to a new leadership, especially if it is inexperienced.

Secondly, the PH and Malaysians, presumably, failed to realise the financial mess we’re in. The empty coffers will make the government’s task of realising its promises that much more difficult. However, given the depth of our debt, most voters will probably find it in themselves to give the new government more time to settle into the job.

Without doubt, the new government has plenty of goodwill and support, and even after the 100-day period is over, it will retain the patience of the rakyat, but nothing should be taken for granted.

After all, PH leaders can only blame the failures and corrupt ways of the Barisan Nasional government for a time.

They were elected to fix the problems left behind by the Najib Administration, so the blame game can’t continue forever.

We can expect a rough ride ahead because the figures released by Bank Negara don’t bode well for the future.

Economic growth for Malaysia in the second quarter of this year came in at 4.5%, which was below consensus estimates of more than 5%.

According to Bank Negara Malaysia, supply disruptions in the second quarter resulted in the slower economic growth.

In comparison, GDP growth was 5.8% in the corresponding quarter of 2017 and 5.4% in 1Q2018.

In the breakdown of GDP by economic activity, the services, manufacturing and construction sectors showed growth in the second quarter while the agriculture and mining sectors slipped into a decline.

Last week, Malaysian equities took a hit while the ringgit slid to its lowest level since November as fears escalated over the currency crisis gripping Turkey. These are factors beyond our control, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The PH government has made good its election promise to abolish the unpopular Goods and Services Tax. Unfortunately, this populist move will have far-reaching consequences for Malaysians in the long run as it simply means the government earns less from taxes. This diminished revenue stream is bound to hamper development.

Basically, the losses will extend to the forgone projects that would have been financed by the higher earnings the GST would have generated. This affects essential projects such as schools, hospitals, roads, public services and subsidy programmes for the poor.

According to Singapore’s Straits Times associate editor, Vikram Khanna described the move to discard the 6% GST as driven more by “populist politics than by sound economics”.

Malaysia became the first country to introduce GST and then abolished it, although it has long been accepted by economists as the most comprehensive, transparent, fair and efficient form of consumption tax.

Vikram said that while today’s oil prices of about US$80 (RM278.60) per barrel can provide some fiscal cushion in the short term, oil-based revenues are fickle and volatile. Malaysia can’t depend on them for the long term.

“After the GST is abolished, the government will eventually need to come up with new taxes – either on income or capital gains, or higher user charges. The negative impact on the economy of these taxes should also be factored into the cost of abolishing the GST,” he cautioned.

He said one reason for the perception that GST raises living costs is it being an “optical illusion” – the GST is transparent and is clearly stated in invoices, but the SST is hidden to consumers.

“While they actually pay it (SST), many of them don’t realise they are doing so. Another reason is that some unscrupulous businesses raised prices when the GST was introduced by more than their additional tax liability, blaming the GST for the increase,” Vikram said.

He said the GST also became a scapegoat for other issues such as the financial scandals relating to, for example, Felda Global Ventures and 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

“In some voters’ minds, the issues came to be linked: the GST was viewed as a means to recoup revenues that were lost to Malaysia because of mismanagement and corruption. What was essentially an economically sound tax became tainted and politicised.

“Abolishing it is relatively easy. But now comes the hard part: The new government has the unenviable task of managing Malaysia’s finances without the GST – and without an alternative revenue measure that can match it,” Vikram said.

The bottom line is that the government will now be short of at least RM21 billion with the abolishment of GST, and it doesn’t help that despite the rise in global oil prices to an average of US$70 per barrel, the expected increase in oil-related revenue is estimated at only RM5.4 billion.

The easiest thing to do, in the immediate term, was to identify cuts worth RM10 billion, which meant downsizing, delaying and abolishing overlapping and non-urgent programmes and projects.

It will be painful post GE14, but fortunately, there are also bright sparks in the New Malaysia.

Malaysians knew corruption had a vice-like grip on the country, but they didn’t realise its grave impact until examples of it were exposed, one after another, by the new government.

Barisan leaders and supporters must have been just as shocked and horrified to witness this unbridled greed.

The immediate institutional reforms will win the PH government top marks, and truth be told, the new culture that has surfaced is a breath of fresh air. The shackles feel like they have come off – Malaysians now feel free with the old regime having been toppled, and the media has also benefited. The PH government will be closely watched, though.

Call it what you will but ending the tenure of Barisan political appointees and replacing them with their leaders as envoys smacks of hypocrisy.

At least the effort to pursue those who stole our money through 1MDB deserves an “A”.

All’s not rosy though – the disorganisation of some ministers also needs the attention of Dr Mahathir. Some are already fast earning reputations for ignoring the advice of their more experienced ministry officials, while others are even resorting to snubbing the media.

It’s a shame that some PH politicians continue to wear “racial glasses”. Surely the long-drawn issue of many senior Malaysians not getting citizenships because of document issues is not restricted to a single ethnic group.

And some PH leaders still view race and religious issues as if they are still in Umno, quickly forgetting where their votes came from and how they got elected into government.

We must surely commend Dr Mahathir for looking beyond race in the appointment of key posts, including Tommy Thomas as AG and Lim Guan Eng as Finance Minister.

Hopefully this will set a precedent for appointments from now on to be based on ability and merit.

The PH government clearly has its work cut out, but coming from a patient and accepting culture, we could do with giving the new administration more time to iron out the creases. But good grace is always under pressure from the weight of expectation, particularly for a nation fraught by disappointment and thirsting for change. Everything has its limit, and time will soon tell if the powers that be have met their KPI.

When in Hokkaido, follow the lovely scent of lavender

When in Hokkaido, follow the lovely scent of lavender

It’s lavender season in Japan now and thousands of tourists are descending on places like Furano in Hokkaido prefecture.

It’s lavender season in Japan now and thousands of tourists are descending on places like Furano in Hokkaido prefecture, known for its sprawling lavender fields like the one in Farm Tomita, with spectacular views of Mount Tokachi.

It’s a breathtaking view, one that is a visual feast for the eyes. Lavender aside, poppies, lilies and sunflowers also grow lushly in the Nakafurano area.

There’s good reason why this kind of natural beauty is ingrained in the culture – the Japanese take the lavender season seriously because it is a multimillion-dollar industry. I decided to take a detour on a recent trip to my favourite Japanese prefecture, Hokkaido, the northern-most of the country’s four main islands. Was it the dead seriousness of the Japanese in their flower trade that made me want to visit a cemetery? Hardly.

It wasn’t to pay respects to the dead but to pay homage to the jaw-dropping sights (and dizzying smells) of the vast fields of lavender. Sure, visiting a place of burial isn’t exactly what most tourists have in mind when planning their travels, but then again, I’m no conventional traveller.

For those who don’t know, the Makomanai Takino cemetery in Sapporo, set up in 1982, is home to one of the most magnificent landscapes bristling with the wonder of lavender. Almost every tombstone is covered with properly manicured versions of the flower, true to Japanese precision.


The Makomanai Takino cemetery in Sapporo, Hokkaido, is home to one of the most magnificent landscapes bristling with the wonder of lavender.

The paradox of having so much life and beauty in a place representing death is odd yet stirring to the mind. What I saw was indescribable and simply beyond words, and summer is the best time to take in this amazing scene.

I’d have never set foot there had I chosen the ordinary path of signing up for a tourist package. It is out of the way for most tour operators, and I only had the chance to visit it because I was driven privately and didn’t have an itinerary to weigh me down.

“Any time of year, visitors will have a different experience. The 150,000 lavenders turn fresh green in spring, pale purple in summer and silky white with snow in winter,” as one writer aptly described the changing landscape.

While the trip was mainly planned for viewing blooming flowers, for me, it was even more incredible to catch the sight of a huge stone statue of Buddha within this hill of purple beauty.

The top of the statue’s head, which rises through a circular well at the centre of the verdant mound, is carpeted in 150,000 of the flowers, spread across 180ha of land.

This is the work of award winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who is regarded as the greatest Japanese architect in modern times. Ando has become one of the most renowned in his field, winning many prestigious international awards.


This stone statue of Buddha is the work of internationally renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

Apparently, before the temple was completed, the 13m Buddha sculpture stood alone in a field for 15 years.

“Soon after its completion, the client realised the stone structure was out of scale on its own, giving visitors an uneasy sensation. For that reason, they decided to hire Ando to create a more serene architectural procession for the site,” a report revealed.

However, I was a little disappointed to see the replicas of about 40 Moai (Easter Island) heads on the cemetery ground. I believe it makes little sense because all it does is dent what is otherwise a picture-perfect feel of the place.

Why would anyone want to see fake Moai heads at a Japanese cemetery? It gets worse – there is even a full-size replica of the Stonehenge, a distinctly British monolith. I don’t think Ando would have endorsed these replicas, which have given the cemetery a theme-park feel, a total contrast to its sombre mood.

I dare say, even the permanent residents there would be slighted!

But I wasn’t going to let these disappointments affect my overall impression of this magnificent terrain. It truly is a hidden gem.

This is no ordinary graveyard. And trust the Japanese to have worked on every detail to make visiting it an experience to remember.

Where else but at a Japanese burial ground could I buy lavender-flavoured ice cream to wrap up the trip? Who knew end of the line could amount to a sweet ending.

An F for you, Bung Moktar

Out of order: Bung Moktar crossing the line in Parliament with an ‘F you’ retort to Mongin’s ‘casino’ jibe.

THE antics of Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin at the Dewan Rakyat are familiar to most of us.

He’s a recalcitrant who thrives on earning attention from the media and Members of Parliament through his outlandish behaviour.

Members of the august House are supposed to address each other as Honourable or Yang Berhormat, being elected members, but it’ll be interesting to see how this fits the man of the hour.

After all, he is notoriously known for his crass, disparaging and insensitive remarks. They may be sticks and stones to many of us. However, last week he crossed the line when he shouted “F*** you” at a fellow MP.

He was about to question Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) on the price of goods at the Selayang wet market when Willie Mongin (PH-Puncak Borneo) said: “Not casino, is it?”

This was in reference to widely circulated photographs of a man resembling Bung Moktar at a casino apparently in Macau.

A visibly upset Bung Moktar retorted: “What is this? You are rude. You don’t deserve to sit here. Gangster!

“You want to fight? F*** you.”

With the microphone still on, his words were clearly audible, and as expected, his expletive spread like a disease on social media.

Bung Moktar has set a new “low” for his endless string of controversial remarks in and out of Parliament.

Last year, when he debated the tudung issue, he was quoted saying: “What is the problem with wearing a tudung?

“If she is a beautiful woman, even if she wears a tudung, she would still be beautiful. If she is not pretty, even if she is naked, who would want her?”

In 2011, he said “women drivers are slow and oblivious” and in 2007, he said women “bocor setiap bulan”, referring to their menstrual cycle.

He criticised then Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan in Parliament when she complained to the Speaker about the dilapidated condition of the august House’s roof which leaked every time it rained.

Mana ada bocor? Batu Gajah pun bocor tiap-tiap bulan juga.” (Where is the leak? Batu Gajah leaks every month, too).

In 2008, Bung Moktar was caught making an obscene hand gesture at some MPs during the 30-minute daily live telecast of Question Time in Parliament on RTM1, though it went unnoticed as the set cameras were off him then. He admitted to making the gesture but insisted that it was “not what it meant” and shouldn’t be construed as rude.

That year, he even insulted the disabled community by asking veteran politician (now late) Karpal Singh to stand up in a show of respect to the House, fully aware the DAP leader had been paralysed waist down following an accident.

When Germany won the World Cup in 2014, he tweeted: “WELL DONE…BRAVO…LONG LIVE HITLER”, upsetting many people.

Bung Moktar will surely continue with his ways because all he needs to do is retract his offensive remarks, apologise and move on. That’s the privilege accorded to MPs.

He’s in good company, though.

Joining him is Lipis MP Abdul Rahman Mohamad, who reportedly shouted “P****ak” in the Dewan.

In retracting the offending word, Abdul Rahman said he had wanted to “teach” DAP’s RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) a lesson for his slur during the previous week’s proceedings.

Rayer uttered “kepala bapak”, a phrase he also used in the Dewan Rakyat the previous week.

The DAP MP from Penang must surely be clued in to what Malaysians think of his debating skills at the Dewan Rakyat, despite being a practising lawyer.

He is in danger of edging towards a slippery slope if he continues displaying his brash manners and ignoring the voice of the people who feel he must improve on his delivery and exercise self-restraint. Theatrical responses are so passe in the New Malaysia. Keep that in your ceramah, please.

And what was Mongin thinking when posting on Twitter that he accepted Bung Moktar’s challenge to a one-on-one fight in the ring?

“Too many blunders from Kinabatangan in Parliament.

“If he insists on a fight, I accept his challenge to go one-on-one in the ring. Just let me know the time and date,” said Mongin in his entry last week.

Perhaps he was angry with Bung Moktar’s remarks: “I have seen Puncak Borneo (Mongin) having drinks with perempuan pelacur (hookers) as well.”

The truth is, Bung Moktar doesn’t even deserve a response.

Mongin can choose to sit down with whomever he wants. After all, purported tainted politicians still walk the corridors of Parliament as Yang Berhormats, passing themselves off as righteous and principled figures.

And let’s not even deliberate Pasir Salak MP Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s disgraceful tirade on race and religion, and his highly imaginative and provocative speeches on how Malaysia is in danger of being taken over by Christians.

His hate-filled speeches bordered on sedition and his remarks often targeted Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh):

“The only woman with a ‘Kok’ is in Seputeh.”

The nation might be crying out for a new political culture, where debates can be conducted in a more mature and civil manner.

Sadly, we haven’t seen enough of it. Instead, we are still violated by a spectacle of ill-mannered MPs unable to behave with dignity or debate intelligently (not even intellectually) and with decorum.

But MPs like Bung Moktar are doing as they please because there are no rules in Parliament which restraint lawmakers who continuously distract and disrupt proceedings, and in the process, dishonour the House.

So, if we’re asked to rate the performance of Bung Moktar and other renegade MPs, we can only give them an F for failing us miserably.