Thursday, March 19, 2009

...howwwzattt... the spaceman saga pt. 2...

History is all in the faking
MalayMail March 18, 2009

MAJLIS Amanah Rakyat (Mara) wants to buy the spacesuit used by Malaysia’s first astronaut from the Russian authorities for display in museums nationwide. In fact, Mara had no such intention but had been ordered to do so by Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Minister Noh Omar. Mr Noh’s burning ambition was to get a PhD so that he could sound like the character in the James Bond movie but he’d been told he’d have to get a degree first.

In the meantime, he was a firm believer in outer space, much like the Defence Ministrywhich boasted that it had so many explosives that it could put anyone in orbit. Mr Noh thought the astronaut’s suit might inspire school children to want to become astronauts the next time Malaysia could afford to pay Russia for the privilege.

For Mara, it was one small step for man and one giant leap towards the poor house because the damn thing cost RM185,000, which is a great deal of money in these recessionary times.

In fact, the agency wondered where the money was to come from because these things had to be budgeted for and if it wasn’t, it was going to come out of somewhere else.

The Malaysian taxpayers, however, knew where it was coming from and they didn’t like it one bit.

Actually, they didn’t like it two bits either but no one cared, not least the government, which seemed more worried about its rising budget deficit – except when it came to spending money on items or projects of dubious significance.

Even so, Mr Noh had his supporters. The Malaysian Chinese Association thought the space racket was a good way to freeze-frame history and urged the government to buy Yap Ah Loy’s hat from e-Bay before it got sold to the many countries clamouring for it to be placed in their museums. The MCA knew it would be a good way to inspire schoolchildren into learning all about the trigonometry of cones.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) felt left out and suggested that the government purchase the original Melaka tree that had shaded Parameswaran just before he found Malacca. The city leapt back in fright, protesting it had never been lost but the United Malays National Organisationthought it wasn’t a bad idea because it could teach children how to buy ancient trees from eBay.

But they were sticklers for a fact and pointed out that the MIC had misspelled the name of Malacca’s founder.

The Society for Preserving Antiquity Needlessly (SOPAN) jumped on the bandwagon and demandedthat Francis Light’s bifocals be added to the growing list of Things to Inspire Schoolchildren. They were convinced about the merits of their demand, pointing out breathlessly that the founder of Penang had even been mentioned in the beginning of the Bible, in the part about letting there “be Light.”

Gerakan, which was devoutly secular, thought that religion should be kept out of the debate but SOPAN was equal to the challenge. “That was Zen,” it shot back in a stinging reply that floored Gerakan. “This is Tao.” The nonplussed political party concluded that P.T. Barnum was right and that there’s a sucker born again every minute.

On the other hand, the Splitting Hairs Association of Tronoh came out strongly against Mr Light, arguing that his inclusion would be an affirmation of neo-colonialist hegemony which would be in violation of all the principles upheld by Maharaja Lela, including murdering colonials in the shower.

It was far better, insisted the association, to have the original shower displayed in museums nationwide, the better to show children how not to spare the Birch. And eBay’s got it too, complete with bloodstains.

● S. Jayasankaran is the bureau chief of Singapore’s Business Times and can be contacted at

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