Cabinet move to hide pollution readings hailed as "a stunningly wise decision"

August 8th, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, August 8 . . . . Loyal, patriotic Malaysians throughout the country today warmly welcomed the Cabinet decision not to reveal air pollution index (API) figures as hazy conditions linked to fires in Indonesia return. The cabinet made this stunningly wise decision last Wednesday so as not to "drive away the tourists."

"It is a stunningly wise decision," said fruit-seller Abdullah bin Bodek as he was being wheeled into the respiratory diseases ward of the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital with a sudden asthmatic attack. "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise, that's what I say," he wheezed. "What I don't know won't hurt me."

A patient in the lung cancer ward, Mr A Ampusamy, also hailed the government decision. "It is a stunningly wise decision," he remarked, choking on his phlegm. "These foreign tourists bring in lots of money. The Cabinet decision highlights the fact that our government cares only for the one thing that is really important to pragmatic Malaysians - MONEY - not silly, worthless things like health, truth and the environment."

Mr Lim Ah Beng added that the decision would help local businesses contribute to Malaysia's economic recovery. "It will allow local entrepreneurs to venture into new products and services," said Mr Lim, who owns a company marketing face masks, air purifyers and medical insurance.

Tourists interviewed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport also welcomed the stunningly wise decision. "I was, of course, initially quite concerned with news reports of the fires in Indonesia and the resulting haze in Malaysia," said Mr G Soros from Hungary. "But as soon as the Malaysian government refused to disclose air pollution figures, I immediately knew that everything was alright. It was a stunningly wise decision."

Mr A Gore from Los Angeles said the decision reflected on the lengths with which Malaysians were willing to go to to make tourists feel at home. "I thought I was flying to a country where there were clear, blue skies and clean, fresh air - I was quite worried that I would miss the polluted, choking smog of downtown LA. But now, it feels just like home. Thank you, Malaysia!"

He added that the haze had the potential for creating even more tourist attractions for Fascinating Malaysia. "For example, due to low visibility, there was this amazing plane crash at runway 2 the morning I arrived. It was spectacular - and very entertaining."

Another tourist refused comment. "Go away. I'm here to recolonise the country."

Even Opposition party supporters welcomed the stunningly wise decision. "I and thousands others were tear-gassed by police during demonstrations in the streets of Kuala Lumpur last September," said Mr A Ibrahim from his Sungai Buloh prison cell. "I commend the government for demonstrating its sense of fairness by effectively tear-gassing the whole country with this stunningly wise decision."

Mr N A Razak, a senior educationist, felt the decision would address the government's concerns about falling academic standards among Malay undergraduates. "With all the smoke out there, students will be forced to stay indoors and study. This shows great foresight by the government - it is a stunningly wise decision."

Mr Razak added that he expected the number of Malay first class honours degree holders to increase next year as a result of the decision - especially from the medical faculties.

Sports enthusiast Mr M Lembik said that the worsening haze conditions would be a great boon for Malaysian football, alluding specifically to Malaysia's humiliating 6-0 soccer defeat to Indonesia last month. "We can now easily blame it on the haze. God knows we've blamed everything else."

Mr Lembik suggested the decision not to reveal the API figures should be emulated in the sports arena. "The next time we lose 6-0 to somebody, we don't have to tell the whole world about it. It might drive away the tourists."

"Similarly, stock market indices, ringgit exchange rates and even election results can be similarly undisclosed, if they can be used by foreigners out to recolonise us and threaten the stability and unity of our great, free, democratic country," Lembik said, breaking down in tears.

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