Saturday, August 21, 2010

UMNO and MACC in suicide pact?

UMNO and MACC strangling each other

By Pak Bui | 21 Aug 2010 | Hornbill Unleashed

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) head prosecutor Abdul Razak Musa made a humiliating spectacle of himself in front of the coroner’s court during the hearing into the death of Teoh Beng Hock.

His self-abasement is a terrible setback for UMNO’s efforts to regain votes in the next general election. The MACC has plumbed the depths of public mistrust, and in so doing has reflected badly on its masters in UMNO.

Public anger towards the MACC will also be directed against UMNO, since Malaysians of all races understand that the MACC behaves as a political weapon, wielded by UMNO and its allies against their opponents.

The MACC’s move to attack celebrated Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand appears to have backfired. Abdul Razak Musa was ill-prepared, and cracked under the intense pressure on him to cast doubt on the Thai doctor’s findings that Teoh’s death was no suicide.

Abdul Razak inexplicably mixed up ‘dead’ and ‘unconscious’. He blurted out irrational statements and questions, drawing laughs and jeers from the public gallery, and even from the coroner himself.

He asserted that a man could “strangle himself” (as Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim was said to have given himself a black eye during his persecution a decade ago). He also insisted a man would weigh more when unconscious than conscious.

In short, he brought shame to the Malaysian legal profession, and to our nation as a whole. He also embarrassed his masters in UMNO. UMNO and MACC are now caught in a fatal embrace that is suffocating both institutions. UMNO has lost votes, while the MACC has lost credibility in the midst of this mutual strangulation.

Only a change in government can improve the MACC and, for that matter, UMNO itself. Any rehabilitation efforts will mean wholesale reforms and changes of leadership: it will take years to repair the damage inflicted by UMNO warlords’ domination.

Lawyers’ duty to search for truth

Abdul Razak refused to speak to the press after the hearing, realising perhaps that his catastrophic performance had done more harm than good for UMNO apologists, in the shambolic coroner’s investigation.

The MACC’s Abdul Razak and Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail have made a mockery of the process of justice. The Attorney-General tried to submit a so-called ‘suicide note’ to the coroner, nine months after the inquiry began. Teoh’s family members have told the press the note is a forgery. The prospect of a Royal Commission into his death appears ever more distant.

Abdul Gani has also supervised the removal of a Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) from Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, following reports of a sexual affair between the female DPP and the prosecution’s star witness, Saiful Bukhari. There has been irreparable harm done to the credibility of the trial, with this potential breach in confidentiality of the prosecution’s information and lack of impartiality.

The MACC, the Attorney-General’s Office, and their masters in UMNO, have made Malaysia, our judiciary and legal profession a laughing stock worldwide. Our worldwide reputation now matches that of the Singaporean legal profession, infamous for its meek subservience to the executive.

Will these senior government lawyers’ cynical manipulations now be seen a role model for young Malaysian lawyers? These wealthy MACC and government lawyers behave like highly paid vassals of the ruling class within UMNO. Their contempt for the justice system is another example of how UMNO’s misrule is strangling Malaysia and her institutions.

[Read the rest of this excellent essay here.]

Recommended Reading: Martin Jalleh's hilarious take on MACC's suicide.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Dentistry runs deep in the family, particularly on my father’s side. My paternal grandfather Lee Kiang Choon must have arrived in Singapore from Guangdong, China, around 1905. A bit of guesswork here, as no one in the Lee family has bothered recording these details. I recall hearing that as a teenager he served as an assistant to a Japanese dentist in Johore Bahru, who later made him an apprentice, taught him everything he knew, and even left him all his tools. In those days nobody enrolled in dentistry school, they only had to register with a dentists’ guild to practice their craft.

My paternal grandpa was the Sultan of Johore's personal dentist

Lee Kiang Choon was reputed to be a very fine dentist with a light touch. He was recommended to the Sultan of Johore who was so impressed with his work he handed him a fat contract to visit every school in Johore state and fix the students’ teeth. Kiang Choon prospered and married a shopkeeper’s daughter, a pretty Teochew girl with a weakness for gold ornaments.

By the time the Japanese invaded in December 1941, the couple already had six grown children - my father Lee Hong Wah being the third, born May 1st, 1916. My father was offered the option of studying dentistry but chose a less academic path and became a government health inspector. His younger brother Hong Wai decided to carry on the tradition and studied dentistry in Australia.

I recall that both my brothers, Lanny and Mike, had considered dentistry as a career – but neither had the required academic merits to be accepted. However, Lanny’s daughter Candy did become a dentist in the U.S. – and not only that, she married a dentist named Leo in 2004. And her email nick is still “sweetdntst” 😁

My niece Candy with hubby Leo and "kids" on vacation

Years later I heard my sister Mae had been dating a member of the Tan clan but it didn’t work out; her beau went on to become a superb dentist, got posted in Batu Pahat with the government clinic, and made me my first dental plate when I was 15. Years later I found the same dentist practising in Kuala Lumpur and sought him out again. He still swings by my house every so often with goodies for the family. (Seow Than, thanks for being such a durable, generous friend and faithful follower of my blog!)

My daughter Moonlake didn’t become a dentist but she fell in love with one and married Dr Ansgar Cheng in 1992. In July 2010 they were in Hong Kong attending a reunion dinner organized by Ansgar’s university classmates to celebrate their 20th year as professional dentists.

I believe I have had to bear the karmic burden of so much dentistry in my family. Caries and odontalgia began plaguing me soon after I lost my milk teeth. When I was a kid, the prospect of sitting in a dentist’s chair and getting your teeth drilled represented the worst kind of torture. Drills in those days were intimidating belt-driven contraptions that made a horrendous bone-juddering noise and caused excruciating pain each time the drill hit a nerve.

At some point I began experimenting with mind over matter whenever I was stricken with a toothache. The procedure involved visualizing the interior of the affected tooth as the side of a mountain through which bacteria disguised as humanoid workmen were tunneling - blasting, chiseling and pounding away incessantly. I would approach the gang of workers with a stop-work order, telling them to down tools and take the day off. Almost immediately the pain would cease.

I got so good at this I didn’t have to see a dentist for years. My teeth would quietly, painlessly rot away and snap off without bothering me at all. Very rarely did I need to even pop an aspirin to relieve the pain.

Alas, one has only 32 teeth to lose. By the time I hit 40 I had lost more than half of them, luckily mostly in the back portion, so nobody could see how few teeth remained unless they peered right into my open mouth with a flashlight.

When a couple of front teeth snapped off in 1993, I went to see Dr Nathan, the only private dentist in Kuala Kubu Bharu. He recognized me instantly as his old schoolchum from Batu Pahat. The benefit of this old boys’ connection was that Nathan almost never accepted any payment from me. In fact, after making me a beautiful dental plate with four functional incisors and a canine, I had to insist that he at least allow me to pay for the materials. Reluctantly, he accepted RM50 from me. Such an angel – and a superb craftsman too, even if his equipment isn’t exactly state-of-the-art (I bet he doesn’t own a couple of digital x-ray units that actually speak to you while they scan a 3D image of your jaw).

Miraculously, eating was not at all a problem with a well-fitting dental plate. However, the plate was attached by chromium-plated steel wire to standing teeth – and after a few years the enamel would chip off these supports, loosening the grip. When this happens, embarrassing moments can occur.

For instance, one day in class when I was guest lecturing at a private mass communications college, I got passionate speaking about a pet topic and suddenly felt my dental plate shoot out of my mouth and onto the floor. Without missing a beat, I dropped the chalk in my hand and bent down to pick up both objects, turning my back to the class as I coolly stuffed the dental plate back in and immediately proceeded to draw a mystical symbol on the board. I’m pretty sure no one was aware what had happened. Phew!

Dr Nathan easily solved the problem by adjusting the steel wire with a pair of pliers. It took him a total of 10 minutes.

In March 2010 the inevitable happened. One of my last surviving canines snapped during the night and my dental plate was left hanging on by sheer force of habit. Again, Dr Nathan came to my rescue by giving me a tube of Polident (the denture adhesive preferred by Olympic gold medal winners). Nevertheless, I knew this was only a stopgap measure. Sooner or later I would have to face up to the blood-chilling truth - I no longer had any meaningful teeth.

Part 2

Monday, August 16, 2010


I once read that L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, was convinced he could he persuade new teeth to grow simply by deleting old beliefs that something like this was physiologically impossible. Unfortunately, Hubbard fell foul of the power establishment and was hounded by the FBI, IRS and Office of Naval Research till he either died or had to go off-planet. So we shall never know if he was anywhere close to achieving new dental growth.

If we had access to such remarkable mental powers, no human being on Earth would ever again have to suffer toothlessness, limblessness, or even lifelessness. No woman need ever complain about being flat-chested and no man need resort to false modesty to conceal a penis less than seven inches long. Most of us would closely resemble our favorite deities, rockstars or movie icons.

And my amazing son-in-law, Dr Ansgar Cheng (and his competent and personable partners at the Specialist Dental Group in Singapore) would be out of a job.

I wish to record herein my profound gratitude that the long history of dentistry in the family has ultimately spared me the ignominy of being labeled “toothless” by mean-minded rivals in love. Policemen will now think twice before attempting to arrest me – lest I turn out to be a member of Tian Chua’s secret school of dental shaolin. What I am especially grateful for is that at no time during my visits to his sparkling clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Center did Dr Ansgar Cheng ever involuntarily go “tsk tsk” (no matter how inaudibly) at the sight of my oral cavity.

Indeed, I found his “bedside manner” absolutely impeccable. He treated me with utmost courtesy and took pains to explain every aspect of the implant procedure, with only a friendly warning that nicotine causes constriction of the blood capillaries in the gums, which interferes with healing after an implant. He gently suggested that if I had to continue smoking, let it be the barest minimum over the maximum span of time. The upshot is, not only have I gained a full set of chompers, I am also in the process of acquiring far greater self-control when it comes to smoking.

Some are addicted to wine, some to song, and some to women. Well, I can live quite happily without a single drop of wine. I enjoy playing and listening to music, but haven’t become a compulsive iPodder; and I have learned the hard way how to let go and keep loving when women leave me. But tobacco has been an intimate friend since I was 15. The idea of being a non-smoker actually offends me. It would be akin to surgically removing the pipe from all images of Sherlock Holmes – or rewriting Lord of the Rings so that Gandalf no longer blows colorful smoke rings – or excising all mention of cigarettes from Mickey Spillane’s detective thrillers. Can you imagine Popeye being advised by his doctor to give up eating spinach out of a can?

Frank Zappa was once asked on a TV talk show why he smoked cigarettes and drank black coffee even though he claimed to be vehemently against substance abuse. Zappa momentarily frowned, then sucked on his cigarette and said with a grin: “Caffeine and nicotine constitute my staple diet. This is my food.”

True, Zappa died pretty young at 58 – of prostate cancer which, some believe, commonly afflicts men who don’t ejaculate often enough.

Ansgar made plaster casts of his newborn daughters' baby feet

Under ordinary circumstances I couldn’t possibly afford instant implants – at least not the high-end type offered by the Specialist Dental Group with titanium screws and base. Before affixing them, Dr Cheng showed me his masterpiece. He had been laboring over my implants in the lab for days, polishing every bit to perfection.

To keep his fingers nimble, Ansgar assembles model cars and makes jewelry in his spare time. I’m no expert but what I saw truly impressed me as the finest example of dedicated craftsmanship: my lower teeth were beautiful enough to wear as a pendant, and worth as much as, if not more than, a string of genuine Mikimoto pearls. In any case, they’re infinitely more useful to me than any ornament you can name. It simply means I will be able to enjoy eating normally as long as I live. Not only that, the new gnashers have taken a good 20 years off my smile. I can now pass off as a weather-worn 40-year-old rather than be mistaken for a well-preserved septuagenarian.

My daughter Moonlake remarked the day I arrived at Ansgar’s clinic for a preliminary scan and analysis of the situation: “You know Ansgar and I have been married 18 years. What took you so long to come and see him?” The glib answer on the tip of my tongue was: “Well, I wisely waited till he got really good at this!” But, in truth, I knew roughly how much this sort of sophisticated dentistry can cost and felt reluctant to impose on Ansgar’s goodwill just because he was married to my daughter. Out of curiosity, I enquired how much it would normally cost to get all this work done and barely managed to not bat an eyelid when a ball park figure was mentioned. But, then again, most folks would roll about on the floor laughing their asses off if they knew how low my overheads actually are... for me almost any figure would have been too much!

Moon & Ansgar with Allie (7) and Hana (5) in July 2010

My son-in-law has put in long years of study to acquire the impressive collection of degrees and diplomas adorning his office. After qualifying as a dentist in Hong Kong, he continued specializing in the U.S. (Northwestern University and UCLA) obtaining professional degrees as a maxillofacial prosthodontist. When China repossessed Hong Kong in 1996, Ansgar’s parents moved to Toronto, Canada, where they bought a house. Ansgar and Moon decided to join them in Toronto and Ansgar sat for another examination to qualify to practice in Canada.

A few years later he was appointed Head of Maxillofacial Prosthetics at the University Health Network, Princess Margaret Hospital (the largest cancer hospital in Canada). He was also a consultant to the Department of Otolaryngology (ENT) at the Toronto General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Prosthodontics with the University of Toronto. Dr Ansgar Cheng also happens to be an Examiner in Prosthodontics with the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. In short, the man is more than qualified to make a set of bionic teeth for his father-in-law.

If you happen to be extremely eccentric (and enormously rich) and fancy replacing your entire skull and jaw with a customized assembly carved from a giant quartz crystal, the Specialist Dental Group can probably handle your request with unruffled aplomb.

Ansgar was a tad disappointed I was unable to stay for a week-long stretch in Singapore – that was how swiftly he could have accomplished the Instant Implant. Instead, I opted to get the work completed in three painless sessions spread over three visits. At no time did I have to walk around displaying bare gums – and that was truly a great mercy.

Some of the technical feats Dr Ansgar Cheng and his specialist colleagues have achieved since they began their partnership have been documented in professional journals and health magazines. Many have been published on a very readable blog managed by Moonlake who was in charge of corporate communications for the company - till being a full-time mum to two fast-growing girls put a stop to that.

Now that I have joined the ranks of potential toothpaste models with my Hollywood smile, I just have to studiously avoid plane crashes and assassin’s bullets – or all of Dr Ansgar Cheng’s noble efforts and incredible craftsmanship will be wasted.