IT was exactly as Agatha Christie had predicted it but with a twist: instead of the butler, it had been the Rela guard whodunit.
When one Suzanna Tan, a Malaysian motorist went to a Road Transport Department (RTD) office last Monday, she had been handed a sarong to wear and told that she would not be served otherwise.
She had been wearing a blouse and skirt that fell just short of her knees. Thus, the additional wear to ostensibly protect her modesty.
“What’s arong with that?” asked the plaintive guard who was proud of his rudimentary Italian. He also felt aggrieved as he secretly thought that his inspired fashion statement had covered a multitude of shins.
Even so, the RTD, presumably worried about how a kilt-wearing Scotsman might be treated by said Rela officer, promptly, and graciously, apologised.
And deputy transport minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi understatedly conceded to the media that the overly protective security staffer had been “overzealous” and that there was no such instruction issued by the department.
There was, declared Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in confidential tones that conveyed the divulging of an official secret, no such thing as a “sarong policy.”
A Facebook posting by Tan describing the incident had Malaysians all hot and bothered, newspapers pontificated, politicians harrumph’ed and netizens frothed at the mouth.
As a rule, Malaysians are easily tempted into excess. In this case, the nation had not seen such excitement since a transvestite strolled through the streets of Kuala Lumpur wearing a T-shirt that said “Guess”.
In short, it was just another day in Paradise where after all was said and done, more was said than done and no one seemed interested, anxious or worried about the things that really mattered.
Like the rising cost of living. Or the freefalling ringgit that was exponentially increasing the level of local currency-denominated debt carried by 1MDB and, through the effects of imported inflation, was also helping to push up the cost of living.
Like the fact that Parliament might soon consider a bill that proposed draconian punishments for criminals but in a selective way.
Or the fact that spending on health care was being cut in the name of budgetary prudence but that new state-funded programmes – GoAsean and Magic to name but two – were still being created.
And let’s not even begin to describe the death camps on the Thai-Malaysian border, let alone contemplate turning them into tourist attractions.
Nowadays it seemed that whichever way the Malaysian people had to march, it was always uphill. Instead of giving the politicians the keys to the city, it seemed far more prudent to change the locks.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, a text message claiming that both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings had recently downgraded Malaysia’s sovereign rating went viral over the week.
More alarmingly, it was widely believed.
It was simply a sign of the times which didn’t say much about Malaysian public perception.
But it wasn’t true. “What downgrade?” asked Moody’s moodily, alarmed that it might have done something that it hadn’t yet billed the country for. “You think you’ve got problems?” sneered Fitch. “What about Greece?”
And it was true. Greek budgets had just been schedules for getting into debt systematically and it had now worked itself up from nothing into a state of extreme poverty.
At last count, its public debt stood at roughly 177% of its gross domestic product, the highest level of any country in the eurozone.
Greece seemed to feel that any government which lived within its means lacked a sense of imagination. Thankfully, our imagination isn’t as vivid.
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