(Reprinted from The Edge – Options pullout, 20 February 2017 issue)
With so much crazy news coming out of Trump’s America, are we in danger of forgetting about Malaysia? We’ve got crazy news too, I think. I can’t remember.
It has been yet another weird news week and it keeps changing by the minute. In America, Donald Trump’s presidency is barely a month old and it is rapidly descending into an even bigger shambles than it already was a week ago. Trump’s national security adviser (NSA) had to resign because he lied to the vice-president. I have never really understood what America’s NSA does when the CIA and FBI are presumably already looking after national security.
Americans have such a poor understanding of world geography (George W Bush did not even have a passport until he became president) so I guess it must be the security adviser’s job to be able to tell the president where, say, Malaysia is on a map and then advise him if it is safe to drink the water: “Make sure you boil it first and don’t swallow the water when swimming in Port Dickson. That’s if you can find the sea anymore.”
But the security adviser had to resign because he lied about a telephone conversation he had with the Russian ambassador and now the whole administration is coming under possibly terminal scrutiny because of its close links with Russia. Not only do Trump and his whole team appear to worship Vladimir Putin but so do many people around the world, including in Malaysia, and I do not know why.
The Russian economy is smaller than Italy, California, and probably Guangzhou province. Apart from oil and gas, does anybody buy anything from Russia? Even if you drink Smirnoff Vodka, it is actually a British brand and your bottle was probably made in India. At 70 years, life expectancy in Russia is five years lower than Malaysia’s. Putin should be concentrating on the Russian economy and not wasting his time fixing the US election.
And then the half brother of North Korea’s leader died, presumably murdered, in Malaysia. I do not like seeing Malaysia in the world headlines, but at least on this occasion it had nothing to do with us and we probably do not need to hold an embarrassing press conference where we find the need to threaten foreign journalists. Will the culprits be caught? The death just happened to take place in Malaysia and not in, say, Singapore. Oh, and by the way, North Korea just tested a missile and it can now send nuclear payloads to Japan and beyond.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is possibly upset that he is no longer the world’s crazy guy because Trump has taken that role (that was also Putin’s job and he might not like having the limelight stolen either). But Trump might not be around for too much longer. Things are changing fast but new reports keep coming out that Trump’s relationship with Russia is way too close. Even his most ardent fans might start thinking that is weird.
With the world’s eyes firmly fixed on Trump, even to the extent of deeply analysing the nature of his handshake with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Trump’s press spokesman called him Joe Trudeau), nobody is watching little old Malaysia anymore, unless the North Koreans happen to kill the Great Leader’s half brother here. Even Malaysians have stopped watching Malaysia. For so many years, the fate of Malaysia was the central concern of all Malaysians and yet now, a great many of us have become so distracted or simply feel so beaten that Malaysian news has taken a back seat to the crazy events in faraway America. So, I take my hat off to all those who are still trying to make a better Malaysia. That effort takes real dedication.
Meanwhile, I suspect that some people must be really happy that there is so much distracting political noise being made overseas. Some people can play golf and go shopping without a care in the world.
Did you say you were in George Town last week? How was that?
I have just spent a wonderful week in Penang. Two very old friends of mine from England came to visit and I was worried that I would not be able to keep them entertained for a week and that they would leave, thinking that Malaysia is a boring place. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. With Thaipusam and Chap Goh Mei both happening under the call of the muezzin, it was a dazzling week that showed to my friends and to me that Malaysia is a remarkable country.
My English friends are excellent, enthusiastic and respectful world travellers and they were invited to join in the Chap Goh Mei celebrations by the members of a small but very old clan (kongsi). I was so impressed and so very proud of the amazingly warm welcome that the members of the kongsi gave my friends who just happened to be watching one day, and who were eventually given the honour of lighting the fire crackers on the last night of Chinese New Year.
By the time my friends returned to London, they were exhausted and bewildered by the breadth of Malaysia’s diversity. And thanks to them, I too had seen aspects of my country that I had never seen before. Sometimes it takes outside help to see what has always been right in front of you, and to see what an amazing place this country can be.
Reprinted with the kind permission of