Flat Earth: Rights and sarongs

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IT WAS with mixed feelings last week that we learned, first, that the Malaysian Cabinet had ordered its elite Royal Malay Regiment to give up marching in the dull British fashion and adopt the exciting goose-step, and second, after due experiment, that they have rescinded the order. There was always something oddly satisfying about the goose-step. Whenever you saw it, in old footage of Nazis on the Unter den Linden or Russians at Cold War Potsdam, you knew instinctively that you were watching a losing team. A Ministry of Silly Walks is one thing: the conscripted manhood of a nation doing a silly walk takes it - silliness - to a magnificent extreme.

But when the Malaysians, in their eagerness to rid themselves of all memory of their egregious British ex-rulers, adopted this remarkable Prussian gait they ignored one thing: the men of the Royal Malays wear a short multi-coloured sarong. And men goose-stepping in sarongs looked too silly even for the patriotic Dr Mahathir.