THE MIGHT OF THE PEN
By Salma Khalik HEALTH CORRESPONDENT, The Straits Times Singapore
DOCTORS will miss at least one in five H1N1 patients here because their symptoms will be somild, said an infectious diseases expert on Wednesday. Or they could exhibit no symptoms at all, and still pass on the virus. This means Singapore can expect its H1N1 numbers, now at 220, to spike sharply.
Dr Leo Yee Sin, head of the Communicable Disease Centre, gave this gloomy prognosis on Wednesday when she released results of an examination of Singapore’s first 50 patients. The CDC team found that only half had high fevers of 37.8 degrees or more – one of the symptoms the United States uses to identify H1N1 cases.
‘If we use this cut-off, then 46 per cent of confirmed cases would not have been picked up,’ she said. Cough was the most common symptom, affecting four in five patients, although only half had sore throats. These are such general symptoms that ‘it would be a challenge’ for general practitioners (GPs) to identify them as H1N1 patients, she said. Such symptoms are also very similar to those of seasonal flu.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 – With no love lost between him and Lee Kuan Yew, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pulled no punches today and called the Singapore leader “a little Emperor … of a tiny Middle Kingdom” lecturing Malaysian leaders on how to run the country in his recent “triumphant visit to Malaysia”.
The longest-serving Malaysian prime minister also took a swipe at his successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, calling him “the great 5th Prime Minister” who had decided not to build a new bridge or settle other outstanding issues with the island republic when Johoreans said they did not want to sell sand to Singapore for its reclamation works.
“During Lee Kuan Yew’s triumphant visit to Malaysia, he made it known to the Malaysian supplicants that Singapore regards the lands within 6,000 miles radius of Singapore as its hinterland. This includes Beijing and Tokyo and, of course, Malaysia,” Dr Mahathir said in posting at his popular http://www.chedet.cc.
He did not meet Kuan Yew, who is Singapore’s longest-serving prime minister, during the latter’s eight-day visit to Malaysia which ended today. The two leaders had an acrimonious relationship while in power.
“Of course this self-deluding perception places Singapore at the centre of a vast region. It is therefore the latter day Middle Kingdom. The rest are peripheral and are there to serve the interest of this somewhat tiny Middle Kingdom,” he added.
Dr Mahathir pointed out Kuan Yew’s explanation that Singapore Chinese would control the “Iskandar whatever” was not justified as Malays could work there, sarcastically saying “It is good to know that Malays can also work in their own country. I wonder as what? Maybe someone should make a study of the Malays of Singapore just to know what it is like to be a Malay minority in their own country”
He has been a long-term critic of the Iskandar development corridor launched by Abdullah three years ago, saying Singapore would dominate Malaysian territory, which is modelled on the fast-growing Shenzen region across Hong Kong.
Dr Mahathir also picked up his pet peeve about the price of raw water being sold to Singapore at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons under two agreements made in the 1960s.
“Lee says it was absurd for the former Prime Minister of hinterland Malaysia to ask to increase it to RM8 per 1,000 gallons. I don’t know where he got this. Some Malaysian officers did suggest this figure but we were ready to bargain and maybe settle for RM3.
“And why not? Johor sells raw water to Malacca for 30 sen, 1,000% higher than to Singapore. And Malacca is, I believe, a part of Malaysia! Some Malaysians may see the irony of this,” he added.
Reserving some vitriol for his favourite whipping boy, Abdullah, Dr Mahathir said, “The great 5th Prime Minister has decided that since the people of Johor did not want to sell sand to Singapore, Malaysia would not build any bridge, straight or crooked, or negotiate and settle the other issues like the Central Provident Fund, the Railway land.
“Maybe the 5th Prime Minister thinks he is punishing Singapore. Actually he is giving Singapore what its wants, including the 3 sen per 1,000 gallons water until 2060. Think of how many grains of nasi lemak we can buy with 3 sen in 2060. Imagine what 1,000 gallons will earn for Singapore at that time. Can’t think of a more astute PM for Malaysia,” he added
He also made a stinging observation about Kuan Yew’s visit to Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Ipoh, Penang, Kota Bharu and Kuantan with his delegation in the past week.
“All those who met the great man from the little country were lectured on how Malaysia should be run. We should not have any more problems now. We have been told the direction to take. MCA must help Umno to win because Singapore does not want an Islamic party like PAS to win. We must ensure this.
“Sorry, PAS. Working with the DAP, the offspring of PAP has not endeared you to Mr Lee,” he wrote.
But he promised this was not the end of his diatribe against Kuan Yew.
“I have a lot more to say about this little Emperor but I will reserve it for later,” Dr Mahathir vowed.
Sarcasm oozed out of every pore when reporters posed a question pertaining to Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The 84-year-old statesman was asked if he would meet the Singaporean behemoth, who is a year older, if the latter requested for a meeting with him.
Lee is currently on an eight-day visit to Malaysia.
Mahathir said even if the former Singaporean premier requested a meeting, he would not meet him, and on the same note, added that he saw no reason why Lee would consider such a thing.
“No, I don’t see why he would request to see me. I am nobody,” he said.
On Lee meeting with Malaysian opposition leaders, Mahathir replied that he could meet anyone he likes.
“He has a lot of experience. Our politicians know nothing, so that is why we have to learn from Singapore.
“Singapore is a great country, it invests so much money (in Malaysia),” he said.
During Mahathir’s 22-year reign, bilateral ties between the two neighbouring states was often on the rocks.
However, the relationship became rosier after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded Mahathir in 2003, a development which the latter sarcastically attributed to the new premier’s penchant for playing golf.
Sand and bridge
Meanwhile, Mahathir was also quizzed on another touchy subject – bridge.
When asked what he thought about the proposed third bridge between Malaysia and Singapore, he said: “If we give them sand, then we can get the bridge.”
Mahathir, who was instrumental in Abdullah’s early exit from power, had reportedly fumed when his successor decided to scrap the crooked bridge project.
This, according to observers, was the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back and set Mahathir on the warpath with Abdullah.
In early 2000, Mahathir proposed for the 86-year-old causeway to be replaced by a bridge.
However, when bilateral disagreements threatened to derail the plan, Mahathir decided to push ahead with a ‘crooked’ bridge above Malaysian waters to be connected to Singapore’s side of the causeway.
Last month, Abdullah’s successor and Mahathir’s protege Najib Abdul Razak had proposed a straight bridge to link the two nations.
The bridge, which would be built on the eastern side of Johor, would be the third link between the two countries.
Malaysia and Singapore are already connected by a bridge on the western side of Johor, called the Second Link, built to overcome traffic congestion in the causeway.
While Singapore is reportedly receptive to this idea, Mahathir is said to have found the notion a little peeving.
Not a pressing need
However, Johor Bahru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad said the third bridge was not a feasible idea.
The Umno leader, who is known to be closely aligned to Abdullah, said the bridge is not of pressing urgency.
“In my view, the construction of the bridge is not a necessity. Instead, the government should upgrade the effectiveness of the ferry services and promote commuters to use water transportation.
“The government’s priority should be building a new bridge to replace the causeway in the city to overcome the traffic congestion,” he was quoting as saying by Bernama.