It’s a mad, mad world

By Zairil Khir Johari | November 18, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. So goes the ancient phrase that has, throughout the millennia, remained an appropriate and relevant dictum to this very day.

The systemic trait of madness has been an inherent hallmark of declining autocratic regimes since time immemorial. Take, for example, the story of the Roman emperor Caligula, whose reign began with much promise and great popularity, but who quickly succumbed to the luxuries of power and who, towards the end of his short-lived rule, attempted to appoint his favourite horse as a consul of the Roman Senate.

And then of course there is the late totalitarian President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan who, apart from styling himself Turkmenbashi (Leader of Turkmens), also deigned to rename calendar months after members of his own family, in addition to outlawing long hair and beards for Turkmen men and advising the citizenry to gnaw on bones in order to strengthen their teeth, because apparently it works for dogs.

History is rife with more examples of self-aggrandising eccentricities and excesses by leaders inebriated by power. Of the African and Middle Eastern variety, we have colourful characters such as the tyrannical Ugandan President Idi Amin, who insisted on being called the King of Scotland and Conqueror of the British Empire, and of course the recently-deceased erratic demagogue Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his coterie of 40 virgin Amazon bodyguards.

Closer to home, who can forget the epitome of public extravagance, Imelda Marcos? The Filipino Iron Butterfly was the pillar supporting her husband’s iron-fisted rule, while making headlines for her multi-million dollar shopping sprees and famed collection of 2,700 pairs of shoes.

The lesson to bear in mind, however, is the fact that every single one of the above megalomaniacal regimes eventually found themselves pulled, almost willingly, into an inescapable whirlpool of self-destruction. Truly, delusion and egomania are signs of a waning regime.

In our own country, 54 years of single-party incumbency is now unravelling and showing similar symptoms. After many failed attempts, a scheme to construct a monolithic dam in Bakun, Sarawak was put into motion, with the outlandish idea of sending hydroelectricity to the peninsula via 670 kilometres of undersea cables.

A decade later, after billions of ringgit in cost overruns and the successful displacement of 10,000 indigenous people, we have a spectacular white mammoth (an elephant in this case an unbefitting term) that can produce 2,400 MW of electricity for a state that would be hard-pressed to consume even half that amount.

At the very least, the untenable idea of sending electricity through cables on the seabed has been safely buried, along with a crooked bridge that an infamous prime minister wanted to build halfway to Singapore. Remember that one?

Another rampant scam involving public funds is the Port Klang Free Zone fiasco, where at least RM12.5 billion of public funds has been squandered in an elaborate scheme that involves a trail of prominent characters leading all the way to the federal Cabinet. False claims, payments for imaginary works and ministerial “support letters” are all part of the unfolding drama.

Daylight robbery in this country is also often accompanied by grandiose acts of personal extravagance, such as a late Selangor state assemblyman who (illegally) built a 16-bedroom palatial mansion in the midst of a low-income working-class neighbourhood, complete with a tower that loomed condescendingly over his fiefdom.

But he was really only trying to emulate his boss the former mentri besar who, besides constructing an even larger palace, also spent millions of state funds on purported “study trips” to Europe, Hawaii and Disneyland with his family.

With the very public exposure of such brazen acts of abuse of power and shameless showboating of ill-gotten wealth, one would think that there would at least be an attempt to exercise more caution and stealth. But of course, madness is necessarily irrational.

And so we come to the latest mind-boggling scandal, in which public money in the form of a RM250 million soft loan and a large expanse of state land have been directly awarded to a Cabinet minister’s family for the purpose of developing a mega cattle-rearing project.

Lurid details emerging from this scandal are shocking to say the least. Not only has the Auditor-General’s Report exposed the failure of the company to achieve its targets and, at the very least, to upkeep its land and facilities, it now appears that money has instead been used to purchase a premium condominium in the city.

Allegations also abound of numerous personal transactions and even family holidays at the company’s expense. Indeed, the term “family business” in this case also takes on a wholly literal meaning, with the minister’s husband sitting as chairman, her eldest son as CEO and the rest of her kids as executive directors.

Yet the issue at hand is not so much the gross mishandling of public funds, which is standard fare, but the blatant manner in which it has been carried out and the unabashed audacity of the minister’s response, having been quoted as saying that her family “deserves it because they work very hard.”

The wanton madness of power is now taking its course on the rulers of our country. Purchasing luxury condos with money meant for cattle may not quite compare to appointing a horse to the Senate, but the symptoms are veritably obvious.

In Barisan Nasional’s mad, mad world, it would seem that the end is nigh.
Zairil Khir Johari is a chocolate purveyor, chicken rice enthusiast and noodle lover. When he’s not preoccupied with any of the above, he is also a politician.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:18 am

    Exactly how much of that RM250 million soft loan (principal plus interest) has been repaid by auntie mamak?
    How many years left for that loan to be fully repaid?
    What security, if any, has been put up to secure that loan?

    I fear Mrs Ma Mak would just declare bankruptcy and leave the rakyat to pay for that RM250,000,000, not counting interest charges.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:25 am

    Najib, I believe you know that RM250,000,000 is sufficient to build at least 10,000 low-cost homes to house more than 10,000 homeless poor families. So why did you allow that cowgal to do what she did? Please reply ASAP

  3. #3 by SENGLANG on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:29 am

    Profit or other wise, that investment good or bad was a deviation from the original intention. This is criminal breach of trust. Just like if a listed company raised fund for its working capital but later used the funds so raised to other then its original purpose the director may face charge. There is similarity in this case. Not a single sen should be used other then for the LEMBU PROJECT.

    The loan agreements should have spell out clearly.

    If BN is sincere in its transformation it should start with NFC

  4. #4 by Cinapek on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:30 am

    “….may not quite compare to appointing a horse to the Senate, but the symptoms are veritably obvious.”

    The BN govt may not have appointed a horse to the Senate but they sure as hell have appointed several “donkeys” to the Senate lately.

    One has to question the contributions (or would be contributions) that these appointees would bring to the Senate or the nation. All these dubious characters have one thing in common. They are hatchet men to do the bidding of BN to attack the Opposition and nothing else. And they cannot even do a good job at that. With such unsavoury reputations, their utterances only drew scorns and derision. Hence “donkeys”.

  5. #5 by SENGLANG on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:39 am

    we may argue until the cows come home into the kondo but the real issue was that:-

    1 soft loan from government there fore from the tax payers have been given at favourable rates for the SOLE purpose of PETERNAKAN LEMBU.

    2 now the issue here the crooks has used 10m for activity outside the said project. Quetion here it this construed as a breach of the term and conditions as stipulated in the loans agreement?

    3 during the debate the minister also has mentioned that the 250m was deposited in a bank account and its withdraw terms is restricted and strict condition need to be fulfilled before it can be withdraw. Now we have come to a point where the money taken up but was not be used for its original purpose ie for that LEMBU projects. We are seeing building KANDANG LEMBU but we are talking KONDO MEWAH. So was it not crystal clear the term and condition of using the fund has been abused ?

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:45 am

    Yes, certainly It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    Go watch

  7. #7 by k1980 on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 12:57 pm

    psst, jibby, can you grant me a soft “loan” of RM250 million, please. I wish to use that money to set up a worm rearing farm in putrajaya.

    Why worm rearing? Well, we can always export these worms throughout the world. Worms are in great demand by anglers worldwide.

    As they say, the early bird catches the worm. So send me that RM250 cheque at your earliest convenience.
    Thank you and same same.

    P.S. I am, sad to say, not a mamak like Sharichat.

  8. #8 by SENGLANG on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 1:14 pm

    Now NFC boss put blame on his staffs.
    That did not excuse him form any thing.

    We know the mentality of these people when they have given the loans from government, the concern of whether they are able to make repayment will never ever cross their mind. What in their mind are how to spend all for their pleasure.

    It was also clear that the BN government will not border too how they use their money. The holding of one golden share has no use at all, as it is never in the BN intention to ensure the loans are put in good use. This attitude has partly contribute to how this Company is using the money.

    They may set a lot of term and condition and they are meant to be broke. That why the top lawyer was beside him to teach how to break the term and conditions and yet no facing any chances to sue.

  9. #9 by dagen on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 2:10 pm

    Oh yes that is not quite yet. Much worse than those known mad regimes, present and past, umno believes that umnoputra is a supreme race of the world, that islam-jenis-umno is supreme to all other religions, that corruption, bribery, theft, wonton wastages are their birth rights. And in order to ensure that no umnoputras ever regain even partial sanity umno set up the mad mad BTN programme to perpetuate their madness at infinitum. And for good accompanying sound effects, umno also set up perkasa and appointed a certain ibrahim to be the official loudspeaker and sound effects maker.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Dictators are all voted out or forced to resign or be killed …all over the world.
    Malaysia takes a long time…because we are such a rich country…so many are still enjoying good living without working hard.
    However…..vast majority Malaysians understand God made Malaysia one of the very few blessed country and will not allow rouges and thieves to keep sucking blood and keep fooling others.
    As long as Malaysians getting smarter…that will spell the end of dictators and corruptions by billions..from these blood suckers.

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 3:46 pm

    In the first place why disburse a soft loan meant for cattle farming of 2% interest to NFC when the amount is not needed at the moment by NFC so that it could and have to use a part of it to purchase 2 high yielding condos and profit from that yield? That the purchase of the condos is wise investment is not the point: why should the company be so favoured by such a loan of 2% which is not immeditely utilised for the national project? If it had placed it in Amanah Saham with 5% yield it would have arbitraged on the gain of 3% for doing nothing! It simply shows that there’s no proper conditions being attached to disbursement of such a loan much less oversight and monitoring how it is utilised.

  12. #12 by mauriyaII on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 4:26 pm

    In Bodohland aka Bolehland, everythingthe UMNOputras do is legitimate. Even if it is against the law of the land, the PDRM, MACC and the gutless Judiciary would uphold all their illegal actions. When people holding high offices behave irrationally, irresponsibly and with wanton disregard to the plight of the ordinary citizens, then it is high time that modern day Caligula, Idi Amin, Ghadafi, Mubarak and the likes of Mugabe are sent packing to savour their ill-gotten wealth in maximum security prisons. A better option would be to get rid of them and their children for good, at least from politics.

    Their accomplices should be accorded the same treatment.

  13. #13 by Bigjoe on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 8:06 pm

    The NFC saga gets MORE ridiculous each time they open their mouth. Now ‘eat-rice-of-women shoe’ chairman is justifying some sort of rebate that sounds more like a 10% bumi discount as income and claiming THAT is actually using his brain rather than his skin color..

    These people ought to be send to jail just for stupidity..

  14. #14 by monsterball on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 11:54 pm

    Malaysia is a upside down country….because our Govt. ministers are expert twisters.
    Chubby Checker who originated twisting cannot beat out Ministers.
    Our ministers can twists.. wiggle..juggle… like snakes.

  15. #15 by good coolie on Monday, 21 November 2011 - 12:01 am

    I have an even madder tale to tell. There was a bunch of toy judges trying Bush and that Poodle Blair. Among those witnessing this theater drama was an old face. He was scowling, which made me ask why. Then I got the answer: the next fellow in this bica-bicara (you know, like masak-masak), is going to be HE HIMSELF. CHARGES? Well, interference with Judicial Independence. Also, destroying the unity of Malaysians.

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