The late Canadian cartoonist Dan Blackburn used to caricature powerful politicians, corrupt tycoons, pretentious celebrities and flamboyant upstarts of all sorts.
Said Blackburn: “If I see a stuffed shirt, I want to punch it. If it’s big and loud, or flashy and fawned over, whack it. You can’t go far wrong.”
Absolutely right, Daniel. Whether it’s Lee Kuan Yew, Kith Meng, Jackie Chan or Manny Pacquiao, they all need an occasional verbal or pictorial ribbing to stop their stuffed shirts swelling too much.
No one is too big or too pretty or too well-connected not to require their egos lancing now and again. Of course, it can be difficult getting close to them due to the near toxic levels of pomposity that often envelop them and the lickspittle minders that surround them like genuflecting hyenas.
But we always rejoice when they get their comeuppance and we can celebrate with a biscuit and a nice mug of hot chocolate.
We can do that now, because one of the juiciest egos has just been exquisitely skewered in Jakarta, where an anti-corruption drive is causing ructions in elite circles.
Angelina Sondakh, 35, a powerful member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, has finally been caught out and her connections, wealth and stunning looks have not saved her.
Born in Australia where her father was studying, the family returned to Manado when she was a toddler, and years later, after graduating in economics, she was crowned Miss Indonesia 2001.
Universally known as “Angie”, she was elected to parliament in the SBY sweep of 2004 and soon became a political fixer par excellence.
But even the bright and beautiful trip up, and last month Angie was jailed for four and a half years after being found guilty of taking bribes worth US$3.6 million. The money was paid to her by the Permai Group, a holding company controlled by the former Democratic Party treasurer and voluminous stuffed shirt Muhammad Nazaruddin.
Two years ago, Nazaruddin, realising that probes into his kickbacks from government-related projects were about to lead to formal charges, fled to Colombia, as crooks do if they don’t fancy Cambodia or Singapore.
Strangely, however, Colombia is not as tolerant of fugitive scoundrels and Czarist conmen as our leaders are, and Nazaruddin was arrested in Cartagena, extradited to Jakarta and given five years in the clink.
He then began spilling the beans and revealed that when the 2011 Southeast Asia Games in Sumatra was being planned, he and Angie helped rig the bidding so that Permai got the lucrative contract.
The anti-corruption commission then zeroed in on Angie and her Prada pumps and other luxuries, mostly bought online – the naïve lass thinking that if no one saw her shopping, no one would suspect.
Unfortunately, they did, and after Nazaruddin’s revelations, even her femme fatale theatrics did not stop her being hauled into court.
Refuting the charges, Angie insisted that she was the scapegoat of a party conspiracy and labelled Nazaruddin “the most evil person on earth”.
It didn’t wash, so she tried pleading for mercy, recalling how, aside from her beauty pageant triumphs, including Champion Miss Pixy Manado, she had won school awards in chemistry, maths and scripture.
That didn’t help either. In fact, her 4.5 year sentence was decried by anti-corruption activists who demanded the full 12-year jail term sought by the prosecution.
What did help was her decision not to emulate the quisling Nazaruddin and to refuse to name her co-conspirators in the scandal.
Still, her downfall, along with other recent exposés, has not helped SBY’s party as it gears up for next year’s legislative and presidential polls.
It would all light up my old mate Dan’s eyes and he’d begin sketching “Angelina-not-so-Jolly” stuffing dough into her blouse while other party cronies stood nearby holding first class tickets to Phnom Penh.
Ah, the world, the world. Pass the hot chocolate, please.
Contact our regional insider Roger at [email protected]