Who let the dogs out? Malaysia vs Indonesia’s Amazing Race to the Bottom

Most of your would be unaware of it but there is a relentless race between two neighboring and competing nations Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is a race to the bottom of the IQ ladder by its religious wallah. You know the type, using the name of religion to to impose their stupidity on others.


The state of play yesterday was this: Malaysia fired its first salvo when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” lest it confuse and alarm Muslims.

The dog is an unclean animal, according to some Muslims, so using its name would make things unclean. Presumably Jakim will soon order name changes to Hamburg and hamburgers, Swine Fever, pig iron and order a revision of the nursery rhyme featuring three little piggies.

Rename ‘Pretzel Dog’ to ‘Pretzel Sausage’, Jakim tells Auntie Anne’s – Nation | The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has recommended that pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” in order to receive a halal certification.    “It is more appropriate to use the name ‘Pretzel Sausage’,” said Jakim’s Halal Division director Sirajuddin Suhaimee.    “The improvement process is being conducted from time to time.  “Malaysia’s good name as a pioneering ‘halal global’ figure needs to be improved.  “To avoid this issue at the global stage, the panel has decided not to use such a name,” he said via WhatsApp Tuesday.   In a statement earlier, Jakim clarified that the body did not label Auntie Anne’s as not halal.  Jakim explained that Auntie Anne’s food products were in the process of getting a Malaysian halal certification.  It said that this was done after some improvements to the franchise’s application.  This week, Jakim’s rejection of Auntie Anne’s halal certification application went viral on social media and blogs, with many Muslims questioning the halal status of the food items.

Read more

Not to be outdone,  the Indonesian team represented by the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa against speed bumps.

Its rationale: Speed bumps because they are “harmful.” It is unclear whether the ulemas have mistaken the word bumps with humps because Unspun’s been told that if you’re going at reckless speed while humping it may result in injury.

Indonesian Ulema Council in Samarinda issues fatwa saying speed bumps are haram

As the sole independent entity entrusted to inform Muslims in Indonesia as to what is or isn’t forbidden, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued many questionable fatwas (rulings based on an interpretation of Islamic law by a recognized authority) in the past, which have included everything from theprohibition of playing Pokemon GO to being homosexual, which they said should be punishable by death.

Some might argue that the MUI is doing what they believe is in the best interests of all Muslims with their fatwas, which is why this one is oddly counterintuitive.

The MUI branch in Samarinda, East Kalimantan issued a fatwa against road speed bumps of all things, because they are supposedly harmful.

“If a speed bump disrupts road users, then it’s makruh (advised against but not sinful). But, if it claims lives, then it’s haram,” said MUI Samarinda head Zaini Naim, as quoted by Tempo on Sunday.

Read more…

With the score being 1-1 we are all at tenter hooks on what the outcome of the race will be. Will Malaysia counter with another stab stupider than this dogged approach? And if so, will Indonesia strike back with a big fatwa?

Only time will tell.

A Malaysian newbie in Jakarta

What would you make of Indonesian working life and the people in general if you’re a Malaysian, newly graduated and looking for some work experience? Andrew Seow took the plunge and tried his hand in public relations at Maverick and this is this story:


Time passes when you are having fun. So after what felt like mere days I realized that my four-month work experience with Maverick in Jakarta had reached its inevitable end.


Just prior to joining Maverick I had, like so many in my generation, been given lots of encouragement to do well in school and then getting a degree from a recognized university as the jumping off point with which to launch a respectable career.

When I left university at the end of last year, however, I realized that I was rather clueless of what I would like to do next. I was beset by a sense of emptiness, not knowing how my life would turn out, and what my next moves should be.

Realising that the best course of action was to begin immersing myself in the real world of work, I reached out to a family friend whom I grew up referring to as Uncle Hock Chuan, but whom I later learnt was referred to as Pak Ong, the well-known PR consultant in Indonesia.

When Maverick decided to accept me I quickly packed my bags and headed for Jakarta with few expectations except to fulfill three goals – to learn as much as I could about the industry and country, make as many new friends as possible, and have a damn good time doing it.

The first thing that struck me on arriving at Maverick was its creative working space concept. It was a huge relief being in a cool working space as I’ve never liked being contained in claustrophobic cubicles.

The open office environment was comfortable to work in, dismissing the usual hierarchal tension between senior and junior co-workers. Also, how often can people brag about their office having a Tatami room? The beanbag and pillow-filled Japanese-styled room ended up being my most productive working space, especially for Gen Zs like me who do our best work away from chairs and desks when working…read more

Surprises in Malaysian Health Care

My impressions about public health care in Malaysia were shaped at last three decades ago. Then, it was the choice you made if you could not afford to be treated elsewher

This was because the hospitals were run like government bureaus with the civil servant acting like the rest of us were servants. Many were incompetent, many rude and a lot of them embraced both qualities.

Someone’s doing something right at University Malaya Hospital. I like the fact that they have signs like this in the hospital asking its staff to say no to harassment. When you value your people they get energized and get a boost to their self-esteem



So when Unspun’s mum had to have a major operation in the University Malaya Hospital, because being a former civil servant entitles her for free treatment, Unspun was all girded up to do battle with the obtuse. Little did he know, however, that he was in for a pleasant surprise.

Each patient has to share the room with three others. No exception as they do not have classes. The downside of this arrangement is a lack of privacy. There is also no TV set for the convalescent to tune out. And the facilities are a bit worn out – the shared toilet in my mother’s ward had a broken shower head and a leaky sink.

But apart from these drawbacks the medical attention she got, the professionalism, courtesy and efficiency of the doctors, staff and nurses was second to none. Unspun has been in private hospitals before and can attest first hand that the team at UMH rocks, not only in the surgical ward but also in the other sections such as biting and administration that we had to deal with.

There were two more surprises in store as my mother got discharged from the hospital. The first was the speed of processing the discharge. The doctor in attendance told us he would complete the paperwork that morning and when he did he dropped by the bed to tell us that he had done so and we could check with the central desk for the rest of the documentation required.

The nurse at the central desk took less than an hour to process the rest of the papers, I took a slip from her and went down to the cashier. Here lay another surprise.

The cost of the operation, that involved a mastectomy, ward charges and other associated costs, came up to a whopping RM1,250. That’s about Rp4.25 million! And because my mother had been a teacher in a public school, she did not have to pay a cent or as they say in this country sen. A woman who had had a previous mastectomy at a private hospital told us that she had hers done for RM20,000.

This set our family and friends discussing the merits and demerits of seeking treatment in the public vs private sector and this was our unanimous opinion: Sure the private hospitals have prestige and comfort but the motivation of the private hospitals is to make money.

The doctors who work there are caught in the system. They have to feed the beast – make money or else. So they end up prescribing expensive treatments that the patient do not necessarily need. We all recalled first hand stories of how a hospital insisted on propping a friend who had been brain-dead, against the wishes of the family – and then charging them a whopping amount for healthcare after that.

A cousin of mine tells me of how a private hospital was harassing him to commit to collecting the bod of his father – when the father was imminently dying but not dead yet.

Another friend tells me of the elaborate and expensive procedures a doctor in a private hospital administered on him – to lance a boil. Just because the doctor knew that he was insured and the hospital can claim from the insurance company.

This contrasts with the doctors working in the public hospitals. Unmotivated by the need to make lots of money to cover their high salaries and bonuses, the doctors actually give the patient what they want. They would not rush into a treatment until they are sure.

Another plus point with public hospitals is that they apparently have the best medical equipment in the country because of government funding.

So when Unspun was walking his mother out of University Malaya Hospital he was smiling because there was something good to say about Malaysia. In a country where the politics sucks and racial segregation seems to be worsening, and professional standards dropping, someone is doing something right at University Malaya Hospital.






The Bomoh’s back with five watermelons to keep things cool

The Malaysian bomoh(shaman, medicine man, con man whatever you call them) Ibrahim Mat Zin, who won notoriety for his antics involving a magic carpet, several coconuts and some nuts serving as acolytes in the search for the missing MH370 is now back.

Never mind that his methods did not yield any results in the search for MH 370 (the plane is still missing and nobody in the temporal or spiritual realms seem to have a clue of its whereabouts), the good witchdoctor remains undaunted and altruistic.

The bomoh at work trying to find MH 370

Like the caped crusader who cannot resist doing good whenever calamity strikes, the Bomoh has now trained his spiritual sights on the dry and hot spell affecting Malaysia.

This time, the Bomoh, who seems to have a penchant for local fruits has enlisted the help of five watermelons and four funny looking acolytes.

Will the Bomoh succeed this time when rather bureaus and modern science has failed? Only time will tell but Unspun, in his communion with the spirit realm, has divined that after the Vernal Equinox, where the sun gets closest to the earth and therefore makes it the warmest day we’ll experience, tomorrow, things will cool down.

The spirits, however, are silent on whether it is The Bomoh’s handiwork that will result in the cooling of Malaysia, out of professional courtesy.





The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 


On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?


Light at the End of the Road for Bersih?

Then commentary in Malaysiakini by Neil Koh headlined End of the Road for Bersih?  is great food for thought.

Unspun agrees with the author that by allowing the Bersih 4.0 rally to go on Najib has let the steam out of the pressure cooker.

Part of the allure of the Bersih 4 rally was that it was forbidden fruit and as such it provided many Malaysians a forum to vent their frustration and defiance at the Government. But if there was nothing to defy in the calling of the next protest rally, would the Malaysians turn out in such numbers again? One doubts this.

“So, what is next for Bersih? ” the author Neil Khor asks, and answers: “I see a network of micro-neighbourhood level action that is truly colour blind and that serves to connect Malaysians at the individual level.

“Only then can the movement breach the walls that politicians have put up to separate us. Only then can we truly connect.”

That might be the case but IMHO that would not do much for the future for Malaysia. With a ruling Umno-led coalition that is corrupt to the core and will cling on top power at any cost; and an opposition that is helmed by outdated leaders that have a difficult time keeping the opposition intact, let alone being able to imagine ruling the country, it is clear that no change will come if Malaysia leaves politics to the politicians.

Perhaps it is time for the people behind Bersih and other concerned Malaysians to think of taking politics away from the politicians. Perhaps they should think of organizing themselves to, as a first step, take a few crucial urban parliamentary seats from the government at the earliest opportunity. Any why not?

Social media has resulted in a much more informed public. It has also made the cost of disseminating messages extremely low. With social media, you can effectively have your own newspapers (blogs), radio stations (podcasts) and TV stations (YouTube channels, periscope etc). You can easily level the playing field, especially when you can crowdsource support.

In Indonesia, for instance, a whole new crop of politicians like jakarta governor Ahok and Ridwan Kamil are riding high and securing lots of support through the use of social media. Granted they both came to power on the backs of political parties. But in Ahok’s case when the party tried to rein him in he resigned from the Gerindra party. He’s now an independent, his supporters are the ones using social media to support him, and if he has to run for Governor again without any political party backing, he’s likely to win.

Consider, for instance, if, say, the Parliamentary seat of Federal Territory of KL were to become vacant for some reason. Someone of Ambiga’s stature stands for election to the seat. What would happen? The DAP would probably field their candidate, the Barisan would field theirs. The party machinery would swing into action.

But Ambiga would have a groundswell of supporters and followers. They would use social media to broadcast her messages, coordinate support and raise funds. In a plugged-in, urban electorate this has a good chance of working.

let’s just say she wins. What are the implications then? It would change the power equation in Malaysia entirely. Both Barisan and Pakatan or whatever form of coalition the Opposition takes would be shocked to their core because their duopolistic hold on political power in Malaysia would have been broken. They would have to truly change or face one defeat after another as other Malaysians, inspired by Ambiga’s win, take them on.

Such grassroots leaders would unlikely capture seats where there is no urban, educated and plugged in populations. They would never capture enough seats to be a significant opposition. But they would become symbols that the people can take power from the politicians. And that’s a lesson that Malaysia’s politicians must learn quickly before the country gathers too much momentum in its decline.








The talk about Chinese-Malay participation in Bersih 4

As a Malaysian who has lived overseas for most of his adult life, the last two decades spent in Indonesia, Unspun cannot help but marvel at the racial divide in Malaysia, even during a unifying event such as Bersih 4, that took place over this weekend.

For those not familar with Malaysian politics Bersih 4 is the wildly successful and popular rally of Malaysians over the weekend to protest the rotten system of political patronage and corruption among the elite in Umno entering on its leader and Prime Minister Najib Razak (for a primer on this issue see here).

So  hundreds of thousands of Malaysians turned up for the rally in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend. Smaller groups of Malaysians all over the world also gathered in their cities to show support and solidarity with their compatriots. This included Jakarta that held their gathering at a restaurant at Epicentrum (see photo below).

Malaysians in Jakarta demonstrating support for and solidarity with the Bersih4 protests in Kuala Lumpur

What’s interesting is how one major threat of the conversation about Bersih 4 is going. And it’s all about race. There are those that say that most of the protesters in Kuala Lumpur are of Chinese descent, and that those of Malay descent were under represented. (But I do a disservice to the Malaysian nomenclature – careful phrasings of Chinese descent, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Malays are all abbreviated into Chinese and Malays).

Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become
Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become

Such observations have given rise to inferences and polemic. Some say that this reflect the political conservatism of the Malays, others say that the Chinese have now become politically dominant at the expense of the Malays; still others disagree and say that the Malays were actively participating, that the overwhelming population in Kuala Lumpur is Chiese, and that many Malays earned less and therefore they had to work serving everything from KFC to McDonalds to Starbucks to the bearish 4 protesters.

Without getting into the merits of their inferences, Unspun  it is telling about Malaysian society how race remains the single most important factor of their lives. It is difficult to imagine such conversations gaining so much play in Indonesia, where protests can happen often and often with the numbers that can make even the Bersih 4 rally a middling event.

That Malaysians are so aware of their race is a testament of how damaging and polarising the Government’s policies have had on the populace. Everything revolves around race and interpreted through the racial prism. Even the most well meaning Malaysians who proclaim that they did not see Malays, Chinese or Indians among he protesters but only Malaysians belie the fact that they are conditioned by this polarisation to have such mindfulness of race.

So where does this leave Malaysia, assuming the Bersih 4 protest achieves its objective and they get rid of Najib?  A bit of a better place but still sitting on a powder keg. Race is polarising, emotive and easily stoked as an issue. It is so entrenched that it will take much effort and many years to undo the harm that the Umno-led government (beginning with Mahathir Mohamad) has done.

But it needs to be addressed. So perhaps when Najib is shoved aside the focus should move toward a depolarisation of race, rather than anything political on the agenda?












The Mt. Kinabalu tragedy: what are schoolchildren doing there?

Last year a group of us decided to climb Mt. Kinabalu. We weren’t the fittest 40-50 somethings but we weren’t slouches either.We had in tow a 12-year old.

a member of the group, Unspun, for instance,  is in his mid-50s but hits the gym at an average of three times a week chalking up 40 minutes each session on the treadmill at a clip of about 9km/hr.

In spite of this we found the going up Mt. Kinabalu pretty tough. It was one of the mist difficult climbs Unspun has undertaken as the climb up the mountain was an relentless series of fairly high uneven stone steps. And it gets worse the higher you go because the air thins.

Our group managed to trudge the 6.5km or so the first day up to the base station at Laban Rata. It was perched 3,270 meters above sea level. We were exhausted and thought we could sleep well after dinner. But we all spent a restless night tossing about in our bunk beds as the altitude got to us. Kinabalu

At 3am the next morning we all woke up, had our breakfast and began our ascend to the summit, hopefully, in time to catch the summit. It was cold, dark and very difficult because the thin air made the climb tougher. Our 12-year old had a headache, probably a sympton of altitude sickness so we left him to recover at the laban Rata base station.

The remaining four of us trudged on. The trail was manageable until we hit the section where the trail became a wall of granite rocks that we could only scale with the aid of ropes. It was challenging for someone like me who has no fear of heights but it was terrible for some of us in the group who had to scale those walls in the dark and with the cold wind blowing.

We started thinking that it was a good idea that we had left the 12-year old behind as the steep climbs was actually too dangerous for children. We also started getting a bit angry over two things – why the park authorities had not posted a warning to climbers of the extent of the difficulty in the climb and the potential dangers; and why it allowed children below at least 16 or 18 years to scale the mountain when it was already difficult and dangerous to reasonably fit adults? We also spoke among ourselves what park authorities in Western countries – who generally have a higher level of care to such details – would have done. We concluded that they would at least have adequate warnings on their website of the challenges that climbers would face.

We managed to clear the section and got up to about 3,400 meters above sea level where there is a reporting station. Our guide (and yes its true what they say about the stamina, courage and level of care of the Kinabalu guides) told us that we would not be able to make sunrise at the pace we were going.

As we were all exhausted, we decided to abort the climb and started trekking down, through the wall of granite and back to Laban Rata. The rest of the climb down was jarring and difficult but manageable.

I thought of posting something about the danger to children climbing Mount Kinabalu but got busy and forgot about it.

The recent earthquake and the tragedy unfolding at Mount Kinabalu has prompted me to write this in hopes that the Park authorities will at least in the future provide adequate warning to would-be climbers and considering upping the age-limit of the climbers.

Right now the official Mt. Kinabalu website cheerily gives the impression that anyone between 10 and 80 years old who’s reasonably fit can make the climb. That is inaccurate and dangerous information.

But a disturbing question is this: did the teachers are the Singapore primary school not do their research before deciding to take the schoolchildren on the hike up Mt. Kinabalu? Our did they, like us, take the information on the Kinabalu official website on surface value as well?


When you try to PR the un-PR-able…

This is what happens. Told’ja so here


Nowhere2Hide: Dr M’s man blasts Kok Wing


FMT Reporters | June 6, 2015

Najib’s PR team in tatters, says blogger, and warns image man Lim that his own legacy in danger

KUALA LUMUR: Najib Razak’s new image consultant, Lim Kok Wing, has been urged to beat a “quiet but hasty retreat” in a sharply-worded blog posting by Syed Akbar Ali, an ardent supporter of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Syed Akbar Ali gave Kok Wing a double-barrel blast, blaming him for the “PR disaster of the century” when the prime minister did not show up at the Nothing2Hide public forum where Najib was expected to answer criticisms about his government’s handling of national affairs.

In addition, Syed Akbar warned Lim that “some people are not going to forget you for this” for his having warned Dr Mahathir at a personal meeting to lay off his campaign against Najib and for Dr Mahathir to expect his legacy and reputation to be torn to shreds.

Syed Akbar relied on unnamed sources to accuse Lim of having bungled by coming up with the idea of the forum. It had become “the biggest PR disaster of the century”, and people were calling it Nowhere to Hide instead of Nothing2Hide.

After Najib failed to show up at the forum, Dr Mahathir began to speak but the police intervened to stop him and turned off the microphone and video projector.

Syed Akbar said “some serious finger pointing” had begun inside Najib’s public relations camp because those responsible for telling the prime minister not to attend the forum were from another part of the PR team.

The blogger said Najib was “a PR disaster” and warned Lim that he could not “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

As an example, he cited Najib’s failure to say anything about Friday’s earthquake in Sabah, a first in Malaysia, until five hours later “because he was too busy running and hiding from Dr Mahathir all of yesterday morning”. Najib had also failed to visit the state and instead was going for an official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Syed Akbar warned Kok Wing that his own legacy (as an adman, image consultant, and founder of a creative design school) was now in danger.

Lim Kok Wing rose to prominence by being the Barisan Nasional’s principal image consultant in charge of all election campaign advertising during the 22 years of Mahathir’s several terms in office. He also founded a design school which eventually achieved university status under Dr Mahathir’s patronage and spread internationally.

Dr Mahathir, in his blog yesterday, alluded to Kok Wing, describing a visit by “a friend” and the friend’s advice to stop his campaign of criticising Najib. Dr Mahathir has asked Najib to step down as Umno president and prime minister.

Reminding Lim that Dr Mahathir had concluded by calling him an “ex-friend”, Syed Ali said pointedly: “I don’t know how else to say this but so late in life you have assumed a very stupid role for yourself.”

The blogger said he himself had visited Dr Mahathir on Friday evening and “from our conversation at Dr Mahathir’s office yesterday, I think some people are not going to forget you for this. A crime has been committed by some people. All the ‘levers of power’ (to borrow your words) are not going to help them. It is best for you to beat a quiet but hasty retreat. Don’t say I did not tell you.”

He warned Kok Wing that the only legacy that would go down the drain “is your future as well as your past”.

Ominously, Syed Akbar pointedly said “You don’t know what we discussed yesterday” at his own meeting with Dr Mahathir on Friday evening.

via Nowhere2Hide: Dr M’s man blasts Kok Wing | Free Malaysia Today.

Najib’s March of Folly

In 1985 Pulitzer prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman wrote the book The March of Folly  which was a fascinating study of why leaders from Troy to Vietnam acted against their own self-interest.

If she were updating the book today, Unspun thinks she would certainly consider not only adding Malaysian Premier Najib Razak but perhaps promote him to the front line of the phalanx of marchers.

Najib’s march, where his public image was concerned, actually began in 2009 when, critical bloggers began to expose his foibles and questioned his involvement in the Alantuya affair, where a Mongolian model was killed by the Premier’s bodyguards and then her body was disposed using C4 explosives.

There were rumours — all unproven in a court of law controlled by the Malaysian government –  that she was somehow romantically involved with Najib and the bodyguards acted under orders from the highest leadership in the land.

Najib's detractors are begging to have some fun with his appointment of Lim as a PR guru, as seen in this meme over Twitter
Najib’s detractors are begining to have some fun with his appointment of Lim as a PR guru, as seen in this meme over Twitter

Assailed by bloggers, who enjoyed a freedom of expression that the legacy press in Malaysia did not have, Najib made the decision of employ US lobbying and communications firm APCO to pull him out of the mess.

It was a strange choice because Najib’s problems had nothing to do with communications but everything to do with his character, his evasiveness and the decisions he was unwilling or unable to make. He was virtually un-PRable but the fat fees he offered  APCO prompted the company to embark on a March of Folly of its own: It accepted the appointment.

Critics, including Unspun (see link here) felt that it was an expensive exercise in futility and after many months and millions of taxpayer’s dollars were spent, APCO achieved nothing and its contract was not renewed.

That didn’t deter Najib to forge on in his march though. In spite of an absence of results he apparently retained the head of APCO Malaysia, a certain Ralph Stadlen to continue advising him. Consistent with the deliverables of APCO, the results of Stadlen’s work was not apparent to anyone. Najib’s reputation continued to plummet, especially when the 1MDB scandal broke.

The government, in the story below, has denied that it is paying for Mr Stadlen’s elusive services and claims no knowledge of his existence. This is all an old trick. Instead of paying him from official coffers, they must have got a crony to pay him from their own corporate coffers in return for favours. At any rate Mr Stadlen must cost a bomb, considering his rather flamboyant and public lifestyle (see here).


A Sarawak Report photo of Stadlen exhibiting his prowress at having a good time in Malaysia
A Sarawak Report photo of Stadlen exhibiting his prowress at having a good time in Malaysia

Now Najib has taken another step forward in his good march. Besieged by crumbling popular support even within his own political party Umno and stinging from the potshots fired by former premier Tun Mahathir Mohamad has taken to appointing former adman Lim Kok Wing to address his reputational concerns.

The tragedy here is that everyone knows that Lim Kok Wing, talented as he is, cannot save nab from his deeds, himself and his wife. Yet the March of Folly is so compelling that Najib is trying once again to classify his problems as communications-based and outsource it to a communications expert.

But the intriguing question here is what Lim to embark on his own March of Folly? Why when he has no apparent need for the money, take on a job with impossible odds – the pundits are now counting the days before Najib exits the national stage. Why take on a mission impossible and in the process tarnish his own image when Najib ultimately falls? Did Najib offer him an irresistible deal? Did Najib blackmail him into taking on the job? Or is Lim such an adventurer that he would march on where even angles fear to tread?

Who has the answer out there?



 Lim Kok Wing is Najib’s new PR strategist – The Malaysian Insider


Advertising man Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, who has run Barisan Nasional’s election campaigns, is Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s new public campaign coordinator in a charm offensive to win over Malaysians and shore up the prime minister’s flagging popularity.

Lim rode high during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, but the former prime minister is now Najib’s harshest critic.

It was learnt that Lim, who has been appointed “special programme coordinator”, has drawn up plans for Najib to go nationwide to gather support and listen to the complaints from the people.

Lim, who founded the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, will report directly to the Prime Minister’s Office which already has a string of advisors.

The 69-year-old, who set up Malaysia’s first local advertising agency, has been involved in election campaigns for almost four decades.

In 1994, Lim, on recommendation by Dr Mahathir, was tasked by the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa’s first free elections, giving his African National Congress (ANC) the slogan, “A Better Life for All”.

He also conceptualised and ran Putrajaya’s “Tak Nak” anti-smoking campaign and promoted the “Rakan Muda” and “One Heart, One Nation” programmes.

This latest appointment came months after Lim was first appointed as “Goodwill Ambassador” in the Prime Minister’s Department in a Tolerance Day celebration that his university hosted in November last year.

Now, Lim has to run a fully political campaign for the embattled Najib against Dr Mahathir who has openly asked the prime minister to step down over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

In 1975, Lim started Malaysia’s first local advertising firm and went on to start Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology in 1991, before it became a private university in 2000.

He also sits on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) consultation and corruption prevention panel.

Lim now joins the list of four official advisors to Najib – Datuk Seri Dr Abdullah Md Zin, Datuk Johari Baharum, Tan Sri Rais Yatim and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

It was also recently reported that  public relations firm Apco Malaysia’s Paul Stadlen, had also served in the prime minister’s National Communications Team.

The status of  Stadlen’s alleged role in the government remains unclear with Putrajaya saying it did not pay any wages to the former Apco Malaysia boss.

“To date, the government did not pay any salary to Paul Stadlen,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told PAS’s Hanipa Maidin in a written reply in Parliament on Wednesday.

Hanipa had asked about the amount paid to Stadlen who was purportedly a member of the communication team at the Prime Minister’s Office.

However, the reply was silent on whether Stadlen was part of the team. – May 22, 2015.