The Unnecessary 260

Among the idiot politicians during the recent Sabah state election

Politicians don’t seem to have an inkling as to the reason people are angry. That’s because they’re selfish and greedy for power.

There was no real need for an election to be held in Sabah. It was the Governor’s call anyway whether or not to dissolve but only after the CM had made such a request. The request could have come only when the CM no longer has the confidence of the members of the Dewan.

There was no need to downplay the real dangers of COVID-19. But they did, and went ahead with it. They had programmes and ceramahs attended by definitely more than 250 people. No physical distancing by attendees and party people alike. Lots of handshakes.

There was no need for hundreds of campaigners from Malaya to flood Sabah to lend support. Were the Sabahans handicapped? Or were they incapable of winning the hearts and minds of voters there, in which case it underscores the notion that those parties did not have the support from local voters?

In this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigns should be done digitally. And if the politicians have been doing their job, servicing the voters continually, there is no need to campaign even. And we would not have seen these 260 cases yesterday. Do you think by apologising you can cure the sick, turn back time and stop the virus from spreading?

Equally fast spreading is the IDIOT-19 virus where, again, politicians and their supporters are calling for a snap general election. If there’s anything that needs to be snapped really would be their neck that holds their redundantly empty head.

What does he expect by making this statement? That everything will be dandy?

Why Are We Purposely Losing the COVID-19 War?

COVID-19 patients in a High Dependency Unit (courtesy of Bloomberg)

On Day 1 MCO: our 10-day average number of cases was 146 cases per day.
On Day 10 it was 159 cases per day.
On Day 20 it was 170.
On Day 30 it was 69.
On Day 40 it was 40. All the above were during the full MCO.


On Day 50, we introduced the Conditional MCO. The 10-day average number of daily new cases was 39 cases per day.


On Day 60 it was 22.
On Day 70 it was 15.
On Day 80 it went up to 37. And on 10 June 2020 we allowed interstate travel.


On Day 90 it was 11 cases.
On Day 100 it was 6 cases.
On Day 110 it was 5 cases.
On Day 120 it was 3 cases. We were winning the war. Or so we thought.


On Day 130 (26 July 2020) we allowed the Tourism industry to reopen. The 10-day average daily new cases was at 13. The Sabah State Assembly was dissolved on 29 July 2020.


On Day 140 it was at 21.
On Day 150 it was 26.
On Day 160 it went down to 11.
On Day 170 it was still at 11. Unofficial campaigning in Sabah was in full swing. 8 days later (12 September 2020) the Benteng Cluster was identiified.


Day 180 it was at 31. 8 days later on 22 September 2020, MOH announces three clusters in Sabah and one in Kedah (Benteng, Sungai, Pulau and Selamat).


On Day 190 (24 September 2020), it is already at 71 cases per day. 777 people were under treatment. 3 days later (27 September 2020), the number of cases under treatment was 950: an average of 58 new patients per day in three days. In September 2020 till yesterday, we’ve had 7 deaths bringing the total to 134 deaths.


The Ministry of Health for some reason has not quarantined those returning from Sabah at quarantine centers; instead, relying on Malaysians who are lazy enough to turn on their signal indicator before changing lanes on the roads to be disciplined enough to perform home self-quarantine.


On Day 113 (9 July 2020) we had only 63 people nationwide being treated for COVID-19. Yesterday, 80 days later on Day 193, we were treating 950. I shudder what the numbers will be like in the next two weeks following the conclusion of the Sabah State Election.

Re-Think The Conditional MCO, Please

A stretch of vehichles queue for inspection at a police roadblock ereted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak at Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh – RONNIE CHIN/The Star

Locking down a country is an expensive exercise, no doubt.  After 45 days and almost RM63 billion loss made, the government has decided to loosen the Movement Control Order (MCO) a bit to kickstart the economy.

The announcement of a Conditional MCO (C-MCO) by the Prime Minister was made as part of his Labour Day speech.  Most sectors of the economy will be allowed to operate again on Monday 4 May 2020, except those that involve services where physical contact cannot be avoided, or where crowd control is virtually impossible.  Restaurants are allowed to operate as long as they meet requirements such as checking the body temperature of customers, prepare a registry for customers to leave their contact details in case contact tracing is required, maintaining a 2-meter distance between tables, and place lines on the floor for customers to queue before paying their bill.

Offices, too, should produce their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and prepare physical health risk mitigation measures such as providing body temperature checks, separating cubicles, common area and items cleaning procedures, flexible working times so that workers do not all come to the office at the same time, and so on.

For those who are health-conscious, they can now resume jogging, or riding their bicycle, play tennis, badminton or even golf – as long as social distancing is maintained and not done in a large group.

Some say it is high time that the government returns the responsibility of not spreading the virus back to the public.  After all, it is not like the virus is going to go away in such a short time.  It will take another two years before the war against COVID-19 can be won.  Therefore, we should learn to live with it.  Just follow the recommendations: maintain your social distance and wash your hands thoroughly more frequently.

The only problem is rules and regulations to Malaysians are like bicycles are to fish.  They just don’t care.  Almost immediately after the announcement was made, traffic on the road increased, parents took their children out to do groceries, some are already without face masks.  Wet markets no longer see social distancing.  Videos and photos of the Batu Berendam Wholesale Market, the Sumayyah Market in Tumpat, and the Taman Maluri Wet Market showed that it was free for all again.  That night and even last night, cars were back on the roads while motorcycles raced through the wee hours of the morning. And to top that all off, a policeman was killed by a speeding Toyota Hilux driven by a drunk driver!

I understand that it is costing the government in the region of RM2.4 billion for every day that the economy is under a lockdown.  I understand the need to kickstart the economy so that money could be made and jobs could be saved.  But pray tell, how does playing tennis or going jogging help kickstart the economy?

The announcement of the implementation of the Conditional MCO was made on a Friday, such wrong timing, because the implementation starts the following Monday.  There is not enough time for companies to have SOPs and physical health risk mitigation steps in place.  I do not know why is there a rush to get things done but this is just like that stupid decision to allow barbers and hairdressers to operate – a decision that was rescinded the following day.

The government should have given time between Monday 4 May to Friday 8 May for these measures to be in place first and announce the first day of work as Monday 11 May instead.

It is also good that restaurants are allowed to open, but dining-in is really not necessary.  Most restaurants have remained open since the start of the MCO to allow operators to deliver food to customers or for them to do self-pickup.  Yes, sales must have been a lot less than normal then, but how many tables and chairs can a restaurant have with social distancing being a prerequisite?  The whole idea of an MCO is to reduce exposure to the Coronavirus.  People will be going back to work and will definitely need to eat.  Therefore, I think it would be wiser to maintain restaurant operations for takeaways and deliveries as the volume of sales will go up anyway.  That would help reduce the exposure to the Coronavirus.

According to Dr Phillippa Lally, a Senior Research Fellow at the University College’s Behavioural Science and Health department, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact.  What it means is that it takes 66 days for this new habit of wearing face mask, washing of hands for more than 20 seconds, social distancing and so on would take 66 days before it becomes a habit.

For that reason, during the first three months of military training no recruit or officer cadet are allowed to have visitors or go on outings because new values are being grinded into them.  Once these values have become a new habit, they are allowed some freedom.  These new habits will only become a lifestyle in six months, the time that they are allowed to graduate.  For officer cadets, they spend another six months being turned into officers from mere soldiers.

Even Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit agrees that the Conditional MCO has been introduced too early.  Citing the 95 local transmissions out of 105 new cases on Saturday, the Nipah virus expert said that there are still too many local transmissions for the government to relax the MCO.

The academician who was involved in the discovery of the Nipah virus in 1998 said in a press statement that he does not object to the loosening of MCO, but the relaxation is far too much and too soon.

“With the relaxation of MCO, there is every likelihood of a surge of new clusters and cases. Can we really cope with increased testing and contact tracing?

“Can we empower and engage the community to do their part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus?” he asked.

He expressed concerns that if the country faces a resurgence of cases, the MCO would have to be reinstated and what had been undertaken would be wasted.  Already on Sunday 3 May, we are seeing 122 new cases, with only 52 imported cases while 70 others are local transmissions.  There were two deaths as well.

The government should seriously re-think this Conditional MCO and not bow down to any pressure given by any quarter.  It was doing very well with its way of handling the COVID-19 crisis and citizens sang praises for it, until the PM decided to announce the Conditional MCO.

(This article was first published by The Mole )

RMO Day 26

Graph showing COVID-19 total cases, daily cases, total recovered, daily recovered, and total deaths in Malaysia from 11 March 2020 till 12 April 2020

Every day at 5pm I would listen in to the daily briefing by the DG Health Ministry. Although I applaud the efforts being done by the Ministry, I should caution against any form of optimism. Today, 12 April 2020, is no different. It is the 26th day of the Restricted Movement Order.

In the first graph, the blue line at the top represents total number of cases while the grey line beneath it represents total number of those who have recovered. Optimally, we should see the blue line tapering and flattening, the grey line showing exponential increase whilst decreasing the gap between the two. It is only when the blue line flattens and the grey line crosses it could be breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Graphs showing daily COVID-19 deaths and recovered cases in Malaysia from 11 March 2020 till 12 April 2020

In the second graphs, you can see that the number of daily deaths is showing a steady increase while those who have recovered daily is going on a downward trend. Our percentage of deaths have increased from 1.58 percent to 1.62 percent of total cases. 

Sure, today we also saw a drop in the number of daily new cases, but we are still getting at least 150 new cases daily. And there still are thousands of results pending, and I am sure a huge number of those with the virus still undetected.

If anyone is optimistic that we are winning the war, that certain sectors of industries ought to be allowed to operate, or that internal borders should be re-opened to allow movements, think again.

This war is far from over.

Hoping For Better Healthcare

doctor

Among the more important aspects of welfare that the government has to look after without fail is healthcare.  Fortunately, public healthcare in Malaysia already has a good foundation.  The only thing that needs to be done is for it to be better enhanced.

Among the issues that has to be addressed is of the issue of the glut of medical practitioners in this country.  Every year, about 5,000 new doctors are produced, including 1,000 from overseas universities and colleges.  The problem now is that these new doctors have to do two years of housemanship in government hospitals before they can be recognised as general practitioners.  The problem is, government hospitals could only take in 10,000 housemen at any one time.  Therefore, new doctors would have to wait between eight months to a year before they could do their housemanship.

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad’s recent announcement that the Klinik 1 Malaysia will be enhanced by locating doctors and proper drug-dispensing units could help the situation.  Not only that, it would alleviate the congestion that we see at almost all Klinik Kesihatan on a daily basis.  There are 196 Klinik 1 Malaysia currently operating on a 24-hour basis manned by an Assistant Medical Officer and nurses.  Having at least twelve doctors doing three eight-hour shifts would allow for more medical graduates to be absorbed.

If the financing mechanism could be formulated, the Skim Peduli Sihat nationwide extension could also help private clinics, especially those in the urban and suburban areas whose business is affected by the presence of Klinik 1 Malaysia.  The idea is for the B40 group to be able to seek basic healthcare at private clinics for RM500 per family per year, or for individuals above the age of 21 earning above RM1,500 a month, RM200 per person per year.  This would certainly help private clinics and help alleviate the congestion at Klinik Kesihatan.

I certainly hope that the government would roll these initiatives out soon.  The government must be seen to be serious in making reforms, and not look back and blame the previous government.  Pakatan Harapan is now the government and has all the means to improve the situation.  For now, Dr Dzul is on the right track.  I hope he would be able to move forward with healthcare reforms.

22 Tahun Tentera Merana

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Semasa saya berkhidmat dalam Angkatan Tentera Malaysia sebagai seorang pegawai lebih tiga dekad yang lalu, gaji saya sebagai seorang Leftenan Muda hanyalah RM700 dengan sekali kenaikan sahaja dalam pangkat tersebut berjumlah RM750.  Itu sebelum dipotong. Elaun perkhidmatan yang diterima adalah sebanyak RM115 manakala elaun sewa rumah bagi mereka berpangkat Kapten ke bawah hanyalah RM450 sebulan.

Adalah menjadi suatu mimpi buruk sekiranya ditempatkan di bandar-bandar besar.  Kuarters kediaman pegawai mahupun lain-lain pangkat tidak pernah mencukupi dan hanya dikhususkan buat mereka yang berjawatan penting sahaja seperti Pegawai Memerintah, Ajutan, Ketua Cawangan-Cawangan.  Jika anda tidak berjawatan sedemikian maka bersedialah untuk menyewa di luar.

Mimpi ngeri saya adalah apabila saya ditempatkan di Markas Pemerintahan Pendidikan Udara di Jalan Azyze, Pulau Pinang dan telahpun berkahwin.  Sukar benar untuk mendapatkan rumah sewa yang elok dan mampu.  Harga sewa sebuah unit flat di Tanjung Tokong pada ketika itu adalah sekitar RM250 tetapi tidak pernah ada yang kosong.  Rumah teres pula sewanya RM800 sebulan.  Untuk kuarters (rumah keluarga) tentera pula, selain kami di Tanjung Bungah, terdapat elemen tentera darat seperti Markas 2 Divisyen, Kem Batu Uban, dan Kem Sungai Ara.  Kuarters di Pangkalan Udara Butterworth pula penuh dengan anggota dan pegawai yang berkhidmat di sana.

Maka saya terpaksa menyewa di rumah setinggan di sebuah kampung yang tidak lagi wujud, iaitu Kampung Haji Mahmood.  Bayaran sewanya ialah sebanyak RM150 sebulan termasuk elektrik dan air.  Ianya bukanlah rumah.  Sebaliknya hanyalah bilik yang disambung di belakang rumah tuan rumah – satu bilik yang juga merupakan ruang makan dan ruang tamu, satu sudut untuk menempatkan dapur masak, satu bilik mandi yang juga merupakan tandas disebabkan ketiadaan tandas. Maka, membuang air besar adalah di atas lantai dan kemudiannya disimbah.

Ramai di antara pegawai dan anggota yang duduk bujang di mes, berjumpa dengan keluarga seminggu atau dua minggu sekali.  Ada yang berulang ke Pulau Pinang setiap hari walaupun tinggal di Gurun (semasa itu lebuhraya PLUS hanya wujud di antara Bukit Kayu Hitam hingga Gurun, dan Changkat Jering hingga Ipoh) sebab sewa di sana lebih murah.  Beberapa orang anggota mengalami kecederaan teruk akibat kemalangan jalanraya untuk datang atau balik kerja.

Kedai PERNAMA yang ada di Jalan Gajah, Tanjung Tokong dan di Kem Sungai Ara bukanlah macam PERNAMA yang ada sekarang.  Dulu tidak berapa ada barangan dapur sebagaimana yang ada di PERNAMA sekarang.  Maka, pukul 4.15 petang, saya bersama beberapa orang pegawai dan anggota lain akan pergi memancing sama ada di Teluk Bahang ataupun di seberang jalan berhadapan dengan rumah sewa saya (kini telah ditambak dan didirikan apartmen-apartmen mewah).

Saya mempunyai sebuah peti ais kecil yang dibeli semasa bujang, sebuah televisyen warna 12-inci, dan sebuah radio.  Untuk televisyen, saya dikenakan pembayaran lesen sebanyak RM24 setahun, untuk radio pula RM12 setahun untuk setiap radio.

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Kampung Haji Mahmood kini tidak wujud lagi. Tiada lagi rumah mampu sewa di Pulau Pinang

Di Kuala Lumpur, rakan saya berpangkat Kapten yang bertugas di Kementerian Pertahanan ketika itu terpaksa menyewa di sebuah rumah setinggan di Jalan Jelatek (kini tapak Kondo Sri Maya).  Seorang Sarjan di bawah saya menyewa rumah kampung di Kampung Tengah, Batu 12 Puchong (berhampiran One City Subang Jaya kini) dan berulang ke Kementerian Pertahanan.

Kalau dapat kuarters pun, iaitu semasa di Alor Setar, daripada tiga bilik yang ada, saya hanya gunakan dua buah bilik. Satu untuk saya dan anak-anak, satu lagi untuk tetamu jika ada.  Bilik yang satu lagi itu tidak pernah saya masuk sebab kadang-kadang terdapat ular tedung yang memburu tikus-tikus di dalam rumah.

Begitulah GAHnya kami berpakaian seragam pegawai tentera dan berjalan di celah lorong-lorong perumahan setinggan setiap hari, naik kapcai tidak bercukai jalan untuk pergi bertugas, tinggalkan isteri dan anak-anak dalam suatu suasana tidak selamat.  Suatu keadaan yang tidak berubah di bawah sebuah pentadbiran selama 22 tahun.

Berbeza sekali keadaannya sekarang.  Kerajaan yang ada kini banyak memikirkan kebajikan para pegawai dan anggota ATM.  Saya lihat skim demi skim disediakan untuk ATM, bukan sahaja dari segi kuarters, malah juga rumah mampu milik.  Tidak cukup dengan itu, bantuan perumahan juga dipanjangkan kepada para veteran ATM yang berkelayakan.

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Rumah keluarga untuk lain-lain pangkat kini adalah jauh lebih baik dari para pegawai berpangkat Mejar semasa zaman saya berkhidmat

Untuk warga ATM yang bertugas, contohnya di sekitar Kuala Lumpur, selain kemudahan PERNAMA yang jauh lebih baik, diwujudkan pula Pasar Tani yang menawarkan harga lebih murah dari harga jualan biasa.

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Kebajikan dari segi penjagaan kesihatan warga ATM juga ditambah baik.  Kini terdapat lima buah hospital angkatan tentera (HAT) utama yang telah dibina atau dinaik taraf di seluruh negara, tidak termasuk Rumah Sakit Angkatan Tentera yang terdapat di unit-unit serta pangkalan-pangkalan.

Para veteran ATM juga tidak lagi perlu hanya menagih simpati daripada hospital-hospital kerajaan dan HAT, kerana akan dibina sebuah hospital khusus untuk para veteran ATM, manakala enam buah poliklinik yang turut mengandungi pusat rawatan hemodialisis untuk menjaga kebajikan kesihatan para veteran ATM juga diwujudkan.  Sebuah poliklinik untuk warga dan veteran ATM kini sedang rancak di bina di Kem Penrissen, Kuching.

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Latihan-latihan peralihan untuk bakal pesara tentera juga kini lebih baik dan diurustadbir secara teratur.  Tidak seperti di zaman saya di mana bakal pesara diberi kursus berpusat selama dua minggu dan kemudiannya dilepaskan seperti kerbau tidak bertambat selama enam hingga lebih setahun, dan kemudiannya kecundang di dunia awam kerana tidak mempunyai kemahiran yang diiktiraf.

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Dulu para pesara tentera tidak berpencen hanya akan menerima saguhati menurut pangkat terakhir dan jumlah tahun perkhidmatan, dan pandai-pandailah nak hidup di luar.

Kerajaan sekarang memandang serius golongan veteran yang terbiar ini dan membuat satu inisiatif yang diberi nama Bantuan Bakti Negara (BBN) untuk para veteran dari golongan B40 yang menerima BR1M.  Walaupun hanya RM1,200 setahun untuk golongan  veteran B40 dan RM600 untuk semua veteran tidak berpencen berumur 60 tahun ke atas, ianya merupakan bonus buat veteran tidak berpencen yang terbiar di bawah sebuah pentadbiran selama 22 tahun sebelum ini.

Untuk bakal veteran tidak berpencen, mereka diberi pilihan untuk menyertai Skim Anuiti Veteran (SAVe) di mana mereka akan menerima bantuan setiap bulan sehingga akhir hayat.

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Anak-anak warga ATM juga tidak dipinggirkan. Selain bantuan kemasukan ke kolej dan universiti, peluang mengukuhkan asas pendidikan juga kini disediakan dengan cadangan pembinaan sebuah Maktab Rendah Sains Mara di Bera, di mana 30 peratus kuota kemasukan disediakan untuk anak-anak warga dan veteran ATM.

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Banyak lagi inisiatif-inisiatif yang telah diwujudkan dalam sembilan tahun pertama pentadbiran Najib Razak yang menyokong kepimpinan Hishammuddin Hussein dalam membantu Panglima ATM dan Panglima Perkhidmatan-Perkhidmatan menaikkan moral melalui kebajikan yang lebih baik bukan sahaja untuk warga ATM, malah untuk para veteran ATM juga.  Sembilan tahun yang lebih baik dari keseluruhan peluang 22 tahun yang telah diberikan kepada seorang Perdana Menteri sebelum ini yang tidak pernah mengambil berat hal ehwal kebajikan warga dan veteran ATM.

Nikmat apa lagi yang hendak kita dustakan?

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Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Ignorant? Stupid? Or agent provocateur?
My late brother underwent a brain surgery in Sydney four years ago this month because the congenital condition called arteriovenous malformation was the largest any neurosurgeon had ever seen here. I was there for about two weeks to encourage his post-surgery progress.

One morning as I walked from the hotel across the street to the hospital I saw a man, evidently recovering from a keyhole prostate surgery standing outside the hospital building smoking a cigarette. He was from Ireland and was in Sydney for a holiday when he had to undergo an immediate surgery.

He asked me what I was doing there and where am I from. When he heard the name Malaysia his eyes widened and said, “Good God! I would have gone to Malaysia for this surgery if I could. It costs a bomb here. My sister met an accident in Malaysia and was in a government hospital to undergo corrective surgeries and it was dirt cheap and good too!

It costs RM1.00 for a person seeking outpatient treatment to see a doctor, and RM5.00 to see a specialist. The medicines are given for free. Surgeries would cost a bit more. My daughter underwent an appendectomy and that cost me less than RM100.00. No doubt she had to be in an open Class 3 ward but the pre and post surgery care was better than in most of the private hospitals I have been admitted to.

A foreigner would have to pay a lot more. Even then it would still be cheaper than seeking treatment at a private hospital in Malaysia. My former maid fell and broke her forearm and I was forewarned that it would cost me a lot to send her for treatment at a government hospital. It cost me about RM1,200 if my memory serves me right to have her undergo surgery to have her broken bone screwed into place.

The Full Paying Patient is a program that allows someone who could afford such luxury, or has a good medical insurance scheme, to obtain virtually personal medical care at a government hospital at a very competitive price. Not only that, if you or those close to you suffer from cancer, there is a National Cancer Institute that provides treatment at very affordable price.

Among other initiatives that have been taken by the government is providing Human Papillomavirus (HPv) vaccination to 13-year old schoolgirls and young women nationwide for free. Mind you, each injection costs RM600.00! And Malaysia is among the first countries in this region to implement such a program.

I am also baffled by complaints by fellow veteran servicemen about the lifetime allowances given to athletes who excelled during the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro recently. What the veterans never realise is that apart from the monthly pension that they receive (for those who served until pensionable age) the 85,000 veterans receive free medical care for the rest of their life and that definitely costs more than the RM3,000 that is given to less than twenty athletes. Imagine the cost the government has to fork out as a token of appreciation for services rendered.

In the latest 2017 Budget announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak today the government continues to put importance to health of the veteran servicemen and the rakyat‘s. RM55 million have also been allocated to help veterans handicapped during the counter-insurgency periods. RM25 billion have been allocated for the upgrading of hospitals and government clinics, provision of equipment for cardiology treatment, and the operation of Klinik 1Malaysia, mobile Klinik 1Malaysia, government clinics and also rural government clinics.


On top of that RM110 million have been allocated to open up private haemodialysis centres and to assist almost 10,000 people who cannot afford medical care.


Now who says that the government does not care for the well-being of the rakyat? A certain nonagenaric has-been politician even said the government has no money to help the rakyat. Probably due to his age he has forgotten that his medical bills for the repeated treatments at the National Heart Institute is all paid for by the government of Malaysia led by Najib Razak.

As the Malay saying goes: “Kufur Nikmat.” Which is why I often laugh at him nowadays.