Indonesia’s New Leadership


July 23, 2014

The Guardian view on what the election of Joko Widodo will mean for Indonesia

EDITORIAL

The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 19.55 BST

Jokowi JK

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country, the third largest democracy, and the biggest Muslim nation. It made the transition from dictatorship to democratic rule after the fall of Suharto in 1998 with remarkable smoothness. For years it counted with Turkey as a leading model of democracy for the Islamic world. Now, with Turkey showing signs of a regression to authoritarianism, troubled democracies in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and only Tunisia still holding on to what now seem the very fleeting achievements of the Arab spring, Indonesia constitutes, because of its size and importance, a massive and even more relevant proof that democracy can work as well in Muslim societies as in others.

The victory of Joko Widodo in the presidential elections, although still disputed by his opponent, represents a further advance in Indonesian political life. It means that for the first time a person with no direct connections with the older, authoritarian era will occupy the country’s highest office. The departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was an ex-military man from the Suharto years and the son-in-law of a general involved in the massacres of communists in the 60s.

His predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of the first head of state, Sukarno, who also ruled, under his “Guided Democracy”, in an authoritarian way. The first president after Suharto, Abdurrahman Wahid, was the scion of a leading religious family. Although these two were opposition figures, they still had connections with the largely military ruling class. The other candidate in this election, Prabowo Subianto, a former Special Forces General and a son-in-law of Suharto, was very much from that class. Joko Widodo is not. He comes from a humble background, working his way through school and then becoming a successful but middling businessman.

Indonesia managed its way out of the shipwreck of the old regime by a series of complex compromises between old and new, with the dangers of violence, separatism, parliamentary dysfunction and party proliferation very much in mind. These had destroyed Indonesian democracy in the 50s. There was no generalised purge. The problem was that too much of the old might survive, with only slightly reconstructed figures from Suharto’s “New Order” continuing to dominate, and service in the armed forces or membership of the intertwined business elite of those years continuing to be a qualification for power. The connections between old and new are by no means entirely hacked away. Prabowo may be gone, but Jokowi, as he is known, is the protege of Megawati and has as his vice-presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla, a former Chairman of Golkar, the old government party under the New Order. But there is nevertheless a sense that a new chapter has now begun in Indonesia.

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17


July 22, 2014

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17

Close to 500 people flooded the roads near the embassies of Russia, Ukraine and also the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur today in a BN-organised demonstration to seek justice for the victims of the MH17 tragedy. Clad in black t-shirts which read “Justice 4 MH17″, the protestors also included members of several NGOs including right-wing NGO Perkasa, reports Malaysiakini.

Lest we forget about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Israeli aggression. There must be justice for them too. We criticize Russia but we forget that the United States is supporting Israel and US weapons are being deployed in Gaza. Russia in turn supports the Bashir Al–Assad regime. What is the difference? It is the big power game of using proxies to fight their wars. Please listen to Chris Hedges in this video (below).–Din Merican

MH17: Options available for Malaysia


July 22, 2014

MH17: Options available for Malaysia

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

MH17 Crash Site 3

MOUNTING evidence points to Ukrainian separatist and Russian responsibility in the shooting down of MH17. And, in­­deed, video shots as clear as daylight show the Russian-supported rebels stealing and looting at the wreckage, tampering with and era­sing eviden­ce of the grisly deed, carrying away the black box – and unconscionably carting away and refusing to hand over the dead bo­dies for identification and decent burial.

Given our inability to strike back hard, the options Malaysia has in response to the downing of MH17 are limited to diplomatic and legal measures. To make these measures effective, the plan of action must be well prepared: form an alliance of victim nations and pursue the perpetrators vigorously.

The options Malaysia has, given limited power and influence, will be subjected to international geopolitical considerations and the vagaries of international legal process. How­ever, it does not mean we are po­wer­less to do anything except to confine ourselves to big, loud statements.

We can seek the support of kindred spirits to bring to justice the perpetrators who downed MH17 with the BUK (SA-11) surface-to-air missile. An alliance of victim na­­­-tions, comprising countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, should be formed. States willing to support the investigation into the horrible act of terror, even if it was a mistake, should be engaged.

This alliance should be collecting its own evidence from now. It actions should not wait for an international investigation which looks unlikely to be unimpeded. The United Nations can condemn and call for an international investigation. These resolutions, as we know, are more often than not disregarded.

MH17 Crash Site 4

Free access to the area where the wreckage and mutilated bodies are strewn has been denied. Evidence from the crashed plane has been re­­moved. Even if the black box would only register the explosion when the aircraft was struck and even if the BUK missile self-destructs on impact, there are voice and communications recordings which would be relevant. So why has the black box been taken away?

At the same time, people in the rebel-held territory of the Ukraine have looted the wreckage, the common crime of thievery following a heinous crime against humanity.

All these acts – from the firing of the missile to the removal of evidence to the denial of access to the looting – violate clear rules of international law. Even if it cannot be positively identified who fired the missile and rebels who have trespassed the law will not be released, the available evidence points the finger at Russia.

Russia provides the arms. Russia protects the rebels. Russia helps them violate international law and the sanctity of the victims. Russia calls the shots.The intercepted conversations, first on the firing of the missile and its aftermath and next on the remo­val of evidence and bodies at Russian behest should be tested for their authenticity.

When confirmed, it is good evidence to go by in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice. American intelligence reports now show the trajectory of the missile and, subsequently, the transportation of remaining missiles back into Russian territory.

The Chicago convention of the International Civil Aviation Organi­sation (ICAO) provides clear rules on the conduct of investigation, on the safety of civil air flight and against the tampering of evidence.

The Ukrainian government, although it does not control the expanse of territory where the aircraft came down, has been making numerous statements about the removal of evidence and rebel use with Russian aid of the BUK missiles, which had downed at least two of its military aircraft. It should hand over what evidence it has.

In the case where Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 was shot down on September 1, 1983 by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor jet, the ICAO condemned the attack. The United States Federal Avia­­­tion Authority revoked the li­cence of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot to fly to and from the US, a denial that was not lifted until April 29, 1986.

Similar sanctions should be considered by ICAO, the US and other countries in the case of MH17 amidst the mounting evidence pointing at Russia and the consequences of its actions. There should be no fear to act against a country in the horrible wrong, which might otherwise not just get away with it but would conspire to violate further international norms of behaviour.

Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back to the Soviet Union days of lies and deceit, threat and bluster, coupled with his own megalomania. Putin is a bully, a thug world leaders find extremely difficult to deal with. At a meeting with Angela Merkel in 2007, his Labrador Koni was allowed in to unnerve the German Chancel­lor, who was bitten by a dog in the early years of her life.

The black arts operate at the Kremlin. It is little wonder that thuggish behaviour at the centre sends signals for drunken gangsterism among rebels Putin supports.

With KAL007, the Soviet Union suppressed evidence which was not released until eight years later, following the collapse of the communist regime. Now there is another re­gime seeking to resurrect that control of people, territories and information with no regard for the rights and lives of others. This is unacceptable.

Whatever evidence is available should be examined for the pursuit of civil damages for the acts of violation and denial. A group led by the Dutch, who suffered the most number of deaths in this act of terror, should be set up to pursue this line of action. Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation in the industry has been severely but unjustly damaged, should join in this effort to extract some measure of recompense.

More importantly, Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

It can then join forces with states such as the Netherlands and Austra­lia, who are signatories, to institute legal action against individuals and agencies in the Ukraine and Russia, who are also signatories.

Let’s be realistic. After the initial shock-horror reactions, states will return to tending to their own affairs to serve their own national interests and, in time, will not be so incensed by murderous violation of international safety, violation of laws, and acts of brazen and drunken thuggery.

Even now, despite his most welcome strong support and call for ASEAN solidarity with Malaysia, Pre­sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot be expected to put Indonesian interests second. Indeed his spokesman said Indonesian relations with Russia were excellent and there was no reason to disturb them.

The Chinese ambassador at the UN advised caution and not jumping to conclusions, as the Security Coun­cil issued a statement last Friday con­­­­demning the attack on MH17 and called, in hope more than expectation, for full, thorough and independent investiga­tion.

It would have been a diffe­rent statement if most of the passengers had been Chinese, or Chinese inte­rests were damaged and at risk. This is the way of the world. Malaysia must look after its own interests.

When it is stated we want to bring the perpetrators to justice, we must be clear on how we might get there. We should be clear about the avenues open to us and about states sharing a common interest who can be persuaded to act with us. We should determine our options and how we might realise them.

We owe it (how often this is said) to the victims and to our national airline which has suffered so much, maybe fatally this time, to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must show these are not mere words that are uttered lightly. We have the duty to protect our citizens and to ensure safe passage of our vessels in accordance with international law and practices.

The downing of MH17 is a tragedy of horrific proportions. We grieve. But we must also do something about it to get at the evil perpetrators. It is a matter of national interest and honour.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid is Visiting Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also chairman of CARI and Bank Muamalat. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment


July 21, 2014

Indonesia’s Decisive Moment

by Farish A. Noor@www.nst.com.my

TOMORROW will mark the decisive moment when Indonesians will know who will be the country’s next president. The mood in the country — already anxious and tired after a long wait and a hard-fought contest — is one of anticipation and also concern about what will happen next.

Prabowo lawan JokowiIt is interesting to note that despite the fact that both candidates have refused to concede defeat, cracks have begun to show among some of their supporters already: Abdillah Toha, one of the founding leaders of the Peoples’ Trust Party (PAN), has appealed to the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa camp to admit defeat and to accept the results, whatever the outcome may be.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that this stalemate will be resolved any time soon. For starters, the final margin between the two candidates proved to be much smaller than hoped for, by both sides.

The Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla camp had signalled that it expected, and wished for, a lead of more than 10 per cent. This has not happened, and after the quick count results came in two weeks ago, it appeared that the lead enjoyed by Jokowi-Kalla’s camp was less than five per cent. A smaller number of quick count agencies suggested that the Prabowo-Hatta camp had gained the lead, but again, with a margin of less than five per cent.

Thus, there is the likelihood that whoever wins the race by tomorrow would have done so by the narrowest of margins and, thereby, opening up the opportunity for the other side to dispute the results and, perhaps, even take the matter to court. Hopeful though many political analysts are at the moment, it seems that tomorrow will not see a final, neat, clean conclusion to what has been a messy race.

Then, there is the question of how the new President of Indonesia will be able to gain support within the Peoples Assembly, or DPR. At the moment, the parties that dominate DPR happen to be aligned with Prabowo’s Gerindra and Hatta’s PAN. The Gerindra-PAN-led alliance totally dominates DPR at the moment, and should Jokowi-Kalla manage to win, the next president of Indonesia will be faced with the challenge of having to push for laws and reforms against what may well be a hostile assembly.

But, the uncertainty does not stop there, for the Gerindra-PAN alliance may also face its own internal difficulties if some of the parties aligned with it now decide to jump ship and hop over to PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party — Struggle)-led alliance. Over the past week, voices of discontent have emerged among the ranks of Golkar, in particular (that is currently part of the Gerindra-PAN alliance), where members have called for a serious rethinking of their current position. Golkar has never been in opposition, and should it turn out that Jokowi-Kalla wins after all, some of the leaders of Golkar have called for the party to join the ruling and winning coalition.

All this is taking place amid a society that has grown bored and tired with sensational politics, and where everyone seeks a quick and neat resolution. What is worrisome, however, is that already there is talk of parties sending out thousands of members and supporters to “safeguard” (mengamankan) the election results and announcement of the new president tomorrow. When analysts note that this may well be Indonesia’s most serious challenge and test so far, they were not exaggerating. Indonesia’s fate may well be decided by tomorrow, and the rest of ASEAN will feel the impact as well.

GOLF: Rory McIlroy wins The 143rd Open at Hoylake


July 21, 2014

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/20/sport/golf/golf-british-open-mcilroy-wins/

GOLF: Rory McIlroy wins The 143rd Open at Hoylake

From Chris Murphy, CNN
July 20, 2014 — Updated 2156 GMT (0556 HKT)

Hoylake (CNN) — Rory McIlroy is one step away from golfing immortality, but it didn’t come easily. Perhaps that is the way it should be, given the 25-year-old’s two-shot victory at the British Open has elevated him into exalted company.

Rory-McIlroy win The Claret JugRory McIlroy wins The Claret Jug at The OPEN 2014

Only two players have completed three legs of a grand slam by that age — Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods — a potent pair with 32 majors between them.Victory at Hoylake means it is only the U.S. Masters that eludes him, a tournament which inflicted such a cruel fate back in 2011.

When McIlroy wins majors, he usually wins big. His previous pair — the U.S. Open in 2011, and the U.S PGA Championship in 2013 — had both been secured at a canter, eight shots the margin to second best. But not this time.

Out in front by six shots at the start of the day McIlroy stumbled round the links, scrapping and clawing away at the course to maintain his advantage.His main challenger wasn’t playing partner Rickie Fowler but friend and Ryder Cup comrade Sergio Garcia, of Spain, who charged round the first 10 holes in five-under par.

At one stage, McIlroy’s lead had been whittled to a mere two shots, but while the Spaniard’s nerve wobbled, McIlroy’s held. Just. Garcia took two shots to get out of a green side bunker on the 15th and McIlroy made a birdie on the 16th to stretch his lead to three.He could even afford to find a bunker on the last for a par-five to finish on 17-under for the championship. Garcia and Fowler finished tied for second on 15-under. “There was a better player,” Garcia said after shooting an impressive 66. “It’s as simple as that.”

Perhaps this leg of the hat-trick is the one that will give McIlroy greatest satisfaction, given he had to grind his way to the finish line amid the constant strain of pressure and expectation. His celebration was one that betrayed the relief he felt at getting the job done. Now all that is left is to conquer those demons at Augusta.

After being presented with his prize, McIlroy told reporters: “It feels absolutely incredible.I’m happy I gave myself a cushion because there were a lot of guys coming at me especially Sergio and Rickie Fowler. Just to be sitting here and looking at this thing, (The Claret Jug) and having my name on it, is a great feeling.It hasn’t sunk in yet and I’m going to enjoy it and let it sink in tonight in the company of my friends and family.”

As the 25-year-old himself acknowledged on Saturday, there will be a mountain of hype when he heads to Augusta next April, but for now it is all about McIlroy’s transformation on the links.

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone, asks Tony Gosling


July 20, 2014

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone where 10 aircraft have been shot down?

by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:06
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Put yourself in the position of a certain passenger boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight at Amsterdam for the twelve hour trip to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning.

Given a previous Malaysian flight’s mysterious disappearance it’s likely he was not the only boarding passenger who was a little nervous when he joked on social media, “If we disappear, this is what the plane looks like.”

Settling down on the flight then watching the moving map display on the seat in front, you might perhaps see the word ‘Ukraine’ edge its way across from the right of the screen. Would you not be a little uneasy in the knowledge that quite a lot of planes have been blown out of the skies there recently? That there’s a war on?

Check out David Cenciotti’s ‘Aviationist’ blog and you’ll see that 10 aircraft have been shot down in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Five MI-24 Hind and two MI-8 Hip helicopters, as well as military transport planes, one AN-2 and an AN-30. On July 8, the latest transporter, an Il-76 was shot down at Lugansk when the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine closed their airspace indefinitely to civilian aircraft. But why did the air traffic control regulators keep directing planes over eastern Ukrainian territory at higher altitudes?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but on any of hundreds of flights over Ukraine in the past month I might even have been tempted to tug the sleeve of one of the cabin staff. Asking them brusquely to get reassurance from the captain straight away that we would not be passing through the very airspace where so many planes had so recently been brought down.

So what was the plane doing there?

Malaysian Airlines was quick to point out that the Ukraine war zone had been declared ‘safe’ for them to fly over by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Was this the same authority that was party to closing Europe and the North Atlantic for almost a week for Eyjafjallajökull’s ‘volcanic ash cloud’ drifting out of Iceland? Canceling the flights of around 10 million passengers? Yet they fail to close a war zone where they know ground-to-air missiles are flying around?

I do hope ICAO Regional Director Luis Fonseca de Almeida will apologize in person to all the victims’ families before he resigns and hands himself in for questioning. Of course, this is not the only arm of the UN and other parts of global governance to be failing, crippled, and where the people appointed to run it seem to be pliable stooges rather than independent-minded enough to be up to the job? Let’s hope too that the Malaysian authorities will heed the voices in their professions warning against relying too much on help from international bodies which may be used against them.

As for who’s responsible, it’s unlikely the shooting down was a random ‘pot shot’ by Ukrainian separatists who would have nothing to gain and only further isolate themselves by such an act. There are also doubts as to whether they have access to this sort of weapon system, more advanced than any that appears to have been used so far. Which is presumably why ICAO and Malaysian Airlines thought 30,000-foot high airliners were safe from shoulder-launched missiles.

Appearing on BBC TV’s Newsnight, weapon systems expert Doug Richardson said the relatively high altitude airliners fly at offers “no protection” from what he believes was probably a former Soviet ‘Buk’ missile, developed in the 1970s, that did the dirty deed.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Shot across bows of Russian presidential jet?

Then there is the proximity of the MH17 shoot-down to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who happened to be flying home, west to east, from Brazil. Russia’s equivalent to Air Force One, the Ilyushin-96 ‘Board One’ was roughly half-an-hour’s flying time, about 200 miles (320km), behind the Malaysian plane as it passed near Warsaw just before the doomed jet entered Ukrainian airspace, which the presidential jet avoided.

As the Western powers’ anti-Russian sanctions are failing to bite and the Kiev government they back is losing on the ground, this may indicate a NATO motive for the attack. If so this sort of audacious act may also be an early test of loyalties by the West’s power elite of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. The message being, “Watch that you don’t get any troublesome ideas of making your own minds up on the matter.”

The timing of the attack is intriguing too, being the day after a historic agreement Putin signed, along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to create a BRICS World Development Bank.  Quite possibly the greatest challenge since Bretton Woods in 1944, to the dubious monopoly of the World Bank, was indeed signed on Wednesday by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

For those that muse on the obsessive nature of those that spend their lives pursuing ever more money until the day they die, there is a shocking recent history of nations and their leaders coming to a sticky end that dare to oppose the global monopoly of the petrodollar, and that of the enforcers at the World Bank and IMF.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein didn’t know what fate lay ahead when he announced in November 2000 that he was taking the first steps toward setting up a bourse, or oil exchange, which traded in euro rather than dollars. Two-and-a-half years later, weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist had been ‘found’ in his country and the bombs were raining down, Saddam and his fellow countrymen was illegally invaded under orders from Messrs. Bush and Blair and the nation plunged into the sort of chaotic hell which is now spreading like a plague around the Middle East and from which one wonders if it will ever emerge.

Similarly when debt-free Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and his shuttle diplomacy had secured agreement from enough African leaders to announce the creation of an African reserve currency, the African gold dinar, he found his country up in front of the United Nations Security Council on a fabricated charge of ‘bombing his own people’. On May 1, 2011, the weekend of William & Kate’s royal wedding in London, one of Gaddafi’s sons and three of his grandsons were blown to pieces in an airstrike and NATO began to bomb the country – blessed with the lowest infant mortality rate on the African continent – back to the Stone Age.

Although no ground troops were allowed by the UN, mercenaries were sent in, and on October 21, Gaddafi was finally executed with a bayonet up his backside. National governments in the West these days really do seem to have become an irrelevant side show when the power of the military dances to the tune of the unrestrained mega-resourced muscle of the IMF and its friends.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Why Malaysian Airlines?

‘To lose one plane may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.’ Though it might seem trite to borrow from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’, is it really pure coincidence that both this and the March ‘disappearance’ of MH370 have been with unfortunate Malaysian jets? Neither appears to have been an ‘accident’, so could both be acts of aggression, acts of war against Malaysia? If so why, and by whom?

Malaysia is a genuinely independent nation torn between East and West. Like Ukraine and so many other medium-sized independent countries, Malaysia is finding it very difficult to stay independent. As the world inches towards what many believe may become an enormous world war, brought on by the collapse of capitalism, it is becoming increasingly impossible for small and medium-sized nations to remain independent. So yes, there is likely to be pressure on the Malaysian leadership to make alliances and this, perhaps, could simply be an attempt to intimidate, to force their hand.

It’s comforting to repeat that nobody wants an economic collapse and nobody wants a world war, but it wouldn’t be the first time that ruling elites have deployed these two chestnuts as a ‘double whammy’. Making a fortune out of a crash is easy when you can see it coming and, as well as being an archaic ‘human sacrifice’ to the old gods, war is the best way to distract everybody who might be thinking of locking you up. For anyone who dares to look, the evidence is there that the US decided to step up the projection of their already ruinous military power at the time of the 9/11 attacks, probably as a reaction to the waning power of the dollar.

As Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War and of the US chapter of Veterans For Peace, said when interviewed for Venezuelan State Television, “There are no rules, this is World War III. The rule book went out the window on September 11th.[2001].”

As a regular attendee at US Marine Corps intelligence briefings Jimmy was in a position to know rather more than the West’s public, media or politicians do about how far down the mission line covert policies of the White House and Pentagon have crept.

And here’s the rub. Malaysia are one of the world’s feircest opponents of the phoney ‘war on terror’, former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman even convening a tribunal in 2011 to try Bush and Blair for war crimes. Endorsed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad the tribunal found: “Unlawful use of force threatens the world to return to a state of lawlessness. The acts of the accused were unlawful.” Malaysia has done what the UN and The Hague’s International Criminal Court dare not.

European and North American countries have realized too late in the day that only by keeping stiff exchange controls can they stay sovereign nations. Without them international finance capital will move in with infinite resources to destroy everything that stands in its way, from media to parliaments, nothing can withstand them. Even the courts now are finally about to be co-opted into the service of the tax evading transnational corporations should the secretly-negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) be signed later this year.

The courts will then be theirs to overturn any parliamentary decision the corporations don’t like, and they have been saving up lots and lots of cash to pay the very best lawyers in the world, to make sure they win.

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

No shortage of people who’ll shoot down an airliner for you

With the privatization of war in the West, points out UK charity War On Want, “repeated human rights abuses” are being “perpetrated by mercenaries, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians and torture. Unaccountable and unregulated, these companies are complicit in human rights abuses across the world, putting profit before people and fanning the flames of war.”

So if you want somebody to fight a nuclear war, conduct a massacre, or shoot down an airliner for you nowadays you can buy those services on the free market. The proliferation of private military companies since 9/11 suits the military industrial complex very nicely, thank you.

But how has the world come to the point where such companies have state protection and business is, quite literally, booming?

The problem again, is the global banking giants who have been shown in court, time and time again, to be hand in glove with the intelligence services and international drug cartels. Whether it’s Iran Contra with drugs flying one way and guns the other, or HSBC’s piffling $2 billion fine in 2012 for money laundering, they are not just criminals who are above the law, they are now shaping it in their own private interest.

It is not just the Asian, Pacific and South American power blocs they seek to control who will be watching them, but their own people, those they depend on to survive. With every evil act they think they’ve got away with, they are painting themselves into a corner as the Trans-Atlantic edifice they are trying to control crumbles beneath them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy


July 20, 2014

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy

 

MH17

 
COMMENT: by John Ling@www.malaysiakini.com

“In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?”–John Ling

When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, he had done so on the back of a campaign that promised hope and change. Among other things, he urged a ‘reset’ in relations with Russia.

This would be the cornerstone of his new administration – a radical approach in ‘soft diplomacy’. One designed to defuse tensions with America’s former adversary and pave the way for warmer ties. This was a monumental undertaking, but with a young and vibrant president now in the White House, it looked like it might actually have a chance of succeeding.

In Geneva in March 2009, we witnessed what appeared to be an initial thawing in relations between America and Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with the cameras of the world looking on, she presented him with a big red button made out of plastic.

The word ‘reset’ was prominently stenciled on it, accompanied by a Russian translation. However, in an unfortunate gaffe – perhaps an omen of things to come – Clinton’s aides had messed up the Cyrillic words on the button.

Instead of ‘perezagruzka’, which would have been the correct translation, the one that was used instead was ‘peregruzka’, which meant ‘overcharged’. It was an embarrassing mistake, but Lavrov appeared to be a good sport, laughing off the error.

Good start short-lived

Around the same time, President Obama noted that Vladimir Putin (below) had recently stepped down as President of Russia, and in his place, Dmitri Medvedev had ascended to the highest office in the land. Like Obama, Medvedev was a former academic and of a similar age.

Naturally enough, Obama perceived the new Russian President to be a transformational figure, and it was in that spirit that he wrote a secret letter and instructed a trusted aide to hand‑deliver it to Moscow. In the letter, Obama expressed a willingness to make American concessions in return for Russian goodwill.

In an age of wireless communication, this unorthodox approach was a throwback to simpler times. Nothing short of remarkable. In Malaysian culture, we might call this ‘giving face’.

In July 2009, Obama, encouraged by Medvedev’s optimistic reply, flew into Moscow for his first official visit to the nation. The two leaders met in congenial fashion. They seemed like a natural fit for each other. And a grinning Obama took the opportunity to solidify America’s commitment to a reset in relations with Russia. All in all, it looked like an unqualified triumph for hope and change. Not bad for a president who had been in office for barely six months.

Russian reset in tatters

Five years on, however, Obama’s Russian reset is in tatters, and the world we find ourselves in now is a far cry from that buoyant period. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has regained presidential power, and he is currently pursuing an agenda of ultra-nationalist expansion. A former KGB officer in his youth, he has spent a lifetime perfecting the black arts of murder and intimidation.

As a result, Russia today has become a nightmarish country. It’s a place where free speech is crushed,MH17 Crash site 2 political dissidents are assassinated, and government‑sanctioned thugs roam the streets, attacking everyone from homosexuals to foreign students.

Putin has placed the whole of Russia under his iron will, and he is now driven to expand its influence abroad. Soft diplomacy is not what runs in this man’s veins. Rather, he craves the aggressive projection of power, Soviet‑style. The invasion by proxy of Eastern Ukraine and the senseless shoot‑down of Flight MH17 serves as a testament to his vision.

While the world mourns this horrific tragedy, President Obama, for his part, is looking increasingly haggard. Right‑wing critics have savaged his attempt at soft diplomacy with Russia, calling it naive and idealistic. They claim it never should have been attempted in the first place. The Russians, it would seem, have perceived Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness, and they have since exploited it to the fullest.

Malaysia blissfully ignorant

In Malaysia, most of us have remained blissfully ignorant of the storm that’s been brewing for the past couple of years. Even as Putin’s brand of ultra-nationalist fervour has taken hold, we have chosen to invest in the Russian aerospace, oil and gas industries. We have sent our children to study the Russian health sciences. And even after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, our political leaders did not respond with a note of protest. No one had the gumption to call a spade a spade.

But now, like it or not, we have been drawn into Vladimir Putin’s dysfunctional world order. It’s not what we asked for. It’s certainly not what we wanted. But innocent blood has been spilled; hundreds of civilians have been murdered with no warning.

And to make the atrocity worse, Putin loyalists have interfered with the site of the crash, making a fair and transparent investigation all but impossible. In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?

JOHN LING is a Malaysian‑born author based in New Zealand. You can find out more about him and his work at johnling.net

 

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17


July 20, 2014

MY COMMENTWe have been hit by two tragedies, MH 370 and MH 17 a few days ago,Din Merican both within a space of four months. MH370 is still shrouded in secrecy and  it is a public relations disaster; our leaders and public and security officials handled the foreign media poorly. MH17 was brought down by Russian made missiles in the hands of Ukrainian rebels backed by  Prime Minister Putin’s government. Our political leaders and officials are again in the eyes of media. Let them handle the situation better this time.

Those who are behind this dastardly violence must be brought to account. Our diplomats and those of countries which lost their citizens and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must act in concert to ascertain the facts about the downing of this ill-fated 777 aircraft. At home, the new Transport Minister has to ensure that there are no cover-ups, blame games, excuses, and conflicting or contradictory statements. Please provide facts as they come to light, and do it well and ensure that there are no fumbles.

I am glad that our Prime Minister has allowed debate in our Parliament on MH37. I hope Parliamentarians on both sides of Dewan Rakyat can be rational and constructive in their deliberations so that we can achieve consensus on what we should do to restore national self confidence and pride in our national flag carrier, Malaysian Airlines.

No shouting matches please. Bung Mokhtar types must not be allowed to disrupt the debate or make fools of themselves. In this time of national crisis, UMNO-BN and Pakatan Rakyat must stand together. The debate should result in a plan of action for the government. To nudge the debate along orderly lines, there should be a White Paper to Parliament on MH17 in which the government can present its views on what it has its mind to deal with the aftermath of MH 17.Din Merican

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-18/malaysia-can-t-botch-another-air-tragedy

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

by William Pesek (07-18-14)

There’s nothing funny about Malaysia Airlines losing two Boeing 777s and more than 500 lives in the space of four months. That hasn’t kept the humor mills from churning out dark humor and lighting up cyberspace.

Liow_Tiong_Lai-MH17_PC

Actor Jason Biggs, for example, got in trouble for tweeting: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysia Airlines frequent flier miles?” A passenger supposedly among the 298 people aboard Flight 17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday uploaded a photo of the doomed plane on Facebook just before takeoff in Amsterdam, captioning it: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

That reference, by a man reportedly named Cor Pan, was to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, whose disappearance in March continues to provide fodder for satirists, conspiracy theorists and average airplane passengers with a taste for the absurd. On my own Malaysia Air flight last month, I was struck by all the fatalistic quips around me — conversations I overheard and in those with my fellow passengers. One guy deadpanned: “First time I ever bought flight insurance.”

MH17 CrashThere is, of course, no room for humor after this disaster or the prospect that the money-losing airline might not survive — at least not without a government rescue. This company had already become a macabre punch line, something no business can afford in the Internet and social-media age. It’s one thing to have a perception problem; it’s quite another to have folks around the world swearing never to fly Malaysia Air.

Nor is no margin for mistakes by Malaysia or the airline this time, even though all signs indicate that there is no fault on the part of the carrier. The same can’t be said for the bumbling and opacity that surrounded the unexplained loss of Flight 370. Even if there was no negligence on the part of Malaysia Air this week, the credibility of the probe and the willingness of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government to cooperate with outside investigators — tests it failed with Flight 370 — will be enormously important.

As I have written before, the botched response to Flight 370 was a case study in government incompetence and insularity. After six decades in power, Najib’s party isn’t used to being held accountable by voters, never mind foreign reporters demanding answers. Rather than understand that transparency would enhance its credibility, Malaysia’s government chose to blame the international press for impugning the country’s good name.

The world needs to be patient, of course. If Flight 370′s loss was puzzling, even surreal, Flight 17 is just MH 17plain tragic. It’s doubtful Najib ever expected to be thrown into the middle of Russian-Ukraine-European politics. Although there are still so many unanswered questions — who exactly did the shooting and why? — it’s depressing to feel like we’re revisiting the Cold War of the early 1980s, when Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet.

More frightening is how vulnerable civilian aviation has become. Even if this is the work of pro-Russian rebels, yesterday’s attack comes a month after a deadly assault on a commercial jetliner in Pakistan. One passenger was killed and two flight attendants were injured as at least 12 gunshots hit Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK-756 as it landed in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the first known attack of its kind and raises the risk of copycats. The low-tech nature of such assaults — available to anyone with a gripe, a high-powered rifle and decent marksmanship — is reason for the entire world to worry.

The days ahead will be filled with post-mortems and assigning blame. That includes aviation experts questioning why Malaysia Air took a route over a war zone being avoided by Qantas, Cathay Pacific and several other carriers. The key is for Malaysian authorities to be open, competent and expeditious as the investigation gains momentum. Anything less probably won’t pass muster.

MH 370 and MH 17 taught us never to take things for granted


July 20, 2014

MH 370 and MH 17 taught us never to take things for granted

by Neil Khor (07-19-14)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

MASPride of Malaysia dented by Tragedy

COMMENT: The loss of 298 lives as MH 17 was shot down over Ukraine has come too soon on the heels of the loss of MH 370. An airline that had a near perfect record for the past 30 years since its inception is now suddenly the most blighted in the aviation industry.

Crying for Loss of Loved OnesThe manner in which we recover, and there is no doubt that we will, shall determine our collective destiny as a nation. Like many Malaysians, I was in shock and disbelief at midnight on Thursday as news of the loss of MH17 filtered through social media. Since the loss of MH 370, I have made it a point to fly MAS whenever possible come what may.

I have grown up with MAS, as a toddler traveling from Penang to Singapore in the 1970s right through my student days at UM, when the airline was kind enough to extend to students with AYTB (Asian Youth Travel Bureau) cards tremendous discounts allowing us to go home on the cheap.

In those days, it was a grueling nine-hour bus ride down Malaysia’s trunk roads from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. A MAS flight not only provided comfort and speed, it assured that students got home safely.

Like the airline, those of us born in the 1970s, have come of age to find a world changed beyond all recognition. It is not that we cannot adapt to change but the changes have come so rapidly and so brutally that nobody has had the time to make sense of it all. We may have been brought up to believe in God and Country (Rukunegara) but globalisation have altered our allegiances.

Similarly, the aviation industry, too. has not fared too well in this globalised world. The pacific period, from the 1960s to 2000, is over.

In those days, emerging nations like Malaysia personified themselves through national airlines. We broke away from Singapore to form MAS, which not only flew the flag but also assumed the burden of unprofitable but necessary domestic routes. The growing up years was characterised by good service, which by the 1980s, was amongst the best in the world.

Flying on MAS was a privileged and entire families would go to the airport to receive or send relatives off. It was definitely not the era of “everybody can fly” but rather “now you have arrived”. Cheap fossil fuels and better-designed plans made flying cheaper and more accessible. By the time the budget airlines appeared in the sky, the entire attitude towards aviation had changed as well.

MH17 Crash Site2 National carriers had to compete like any other in the industry resulting in spectacular bankruptcies, including that of Japan Airlines! With this fundamental change, attitudes towards flying also transformed. Malaysian society changed the most in the last 15 years. The Internet continues to be a great leveler. No single Prime Minister, no matter how powerful, can decide with impunity or set the tone of discussion on national issues like Dr Mahathir Mohamad.In short, MAS like many other “national” organisations has continued to come up short, never meeting the rising tide of expectations. Since September 11, 2002 when two planes slammed into New York’s Twin Towers, air travel has never been the same. I remember traveling from Minneapolis to Louisville in Kentucky with a guide dog as a fellow passenger.

There was hardly any security with checkpoints that were no more stringent than at a bus stop.  That was in 1999 but today the US is imposing full body scans, check-ups on laptops and security scanning of mobile phones. Soon security procedures will take as long as inter-continental flights in all major airports.

From the sad and painful experience of losing MH370, we have learned that the aviation industry itself has not kept up with technological change, with planes entering blind spots and much dependent on 1940s radar technology. There is also very little improvement on how to track planes to ensure better monitoring. Till this day, black box technology still relies on batteries that only last a maximum of 30 days.Now four months onwards, we have lost MH17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over a route that was deemed officially safe by the IATA. Yes, some airlines have avoided this route over the Ukraine but many airlines flying from Europe to Asia were using this prescribed route.

Political maturity in short supply

How high an airplane fly is also dictated by the air traffic controller of the country whose territory one is flying across presumably they know what other flying objects will be flying over their airspace at the same time. As someone who flies on MAS, Emirates and SIA regularly from Malaysia to Europe, this route above the Ukraine is very familiar.

I have also flown frequently to neighbouring Georgia, crossing the Caspian and Black seas. There was really no way to have anticipated that a civilian plane would be shot down. If the European authorities had red-flagged the area as two other Ukrainian military aircraft had been shot down, they should have banned all commercial flights over Ukraine airspace.

Having lost two aircraft involving the loss of more than 500 souls is a very bitter pill for Malaysians to accept. For the longest time we have developed and made giant progressive strides forward. Yes, political maturity is still an on-going battle.

Religious and racial extremism is on the rise but most of us have enough to eat, some even able to share with the less fortunate by supporting soup kitchens.

Never take things for grantedMalaysia is still a great country, blessed with natural resources and a cultural diversity that is the envy ofMH17 Crash site 2 the world. But the loss of our two MAS flights has taught us never to take things for granted. Whilst we can plan and make the best preparations, we cannot foresee how these plans will unfold.

In the case of MAS, some hard decisions may have to be taken to make it viable again. There is no loss of face if we have to start again from scratch. To all those who have lost friends, families and loved ones in MH370 and MH17, my most heartfelt and sincere condolences.

Malaysians the world over are united in grief and sorrow. But I am sure we will emerge stronger and better, at least strive to be better people to ensure a stronger nation going forward.

NEIL KHOR completed his PhD at Cambridge University and now writes occasionally on matters that he thinks require better historical treatment. He is quietly optimistic about Malaysia’s future.
 

 

 

Can Malaysia Airlines survive after MH17?


July 19, 2014

COMMENT: Of course, our national airline can. With a bailout by Khazanah and thedinmerican Malaysian Government. There is too much pride and dignity for Malaysians not to have a national carrier to fly the Jalur Gemilang (our Flag). It will need large amounts of money to save it.

And we have little choice as far as I can see it. But this funding should only be made at the cost of a total revamp of the airline including a corporate culture change, new competent and accountable Board and management, the dismantling of the MAS Employees Union that has been an albatross to MAS management, and renegotiation of all contracts with UMNO crony companies and other parties.

The question is whether the Najib administration has the stomach to proceed with such drastic measures. Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, CEO of Khazanah Nasional, who I know well, can be very tough this time around.–Din Merican

Can Malaysia Airlines survive after MH17?

by in Beijing @theguardian.com(07-18-14)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/malaysia-airlines-survive-mh17-disaster-mh370-disappearance

MH17 Crash site 2

 Malaysia Airlines was still reeling from the impact of flight MH370′s March disappearance when news of MH17′s crash in Ukraine broke on Thursday. Now many question whether the carrier can survive a second disaster in such a short time.

“It is a tragedy with no comparison. In the history of aviation, no airline has gone through two tragedies of this magnitude in a span of four months,” said Mohsin Aziz, an aviation analyst at Maybank. “Even before the second incident, I have been very sceptical over the company’s ability to survive beyond the second half of 2015. They are making huge losses … This is probably going to hasten that.  It doesn’t matter who is at fault. The perception to the customer is ‘I don’t want to fly Malaysia Airlines any more’, and to battle that is not easy.”

Shares in the carrier fell sharply on Friday, down 11% by the midday break in trading in Kuala Lumpur, as already negative investor sentiment deepened. In all, it has dropped by 35% this year.

Questions were also raised about the airline’s choice of route, after it emerged that some other carriers had avoided the area for months – though many companies were flying in the same area, rerouting only after Thursday’s disaster.

The carrier, and the Malaysian government, came under heavy criticism for its handling of MH370′s disappearance – particularly in China, which lost more than 150 nationals in that disaster. While any airline and any nation would have struggled with the extraordinary twists and turns in a mystery that remains unresolved, relatives complained of confused and contradictory information and insensitivity on the part of the government and company.

At Kuala Lumpur International airport on Thursday night, angry relatives demanded to see the passenger manifest, but could not find a Malaysia Airlines official, Reuters reported.

“We have been waiting for four hours. We found out the news from international media. Facebook is more efficient than MAS. It’s so funny, they are a laughing stock,” one young man told reporters angrily.

While the two Malaysia Airlines flight disasters are clearly very different, the uncanny coincidences are likely to resonate.

“This comes very close [in time]; it was the same airline; the same aeroplane type. It happened outside the more common way of crashing for big airlines; most accidents happen close to landing or just after takeoff. They both have an element of mystery and perhaps unlawful and external interference,” noted Sidney Dekker, an expert on aviation safety at Griffith University.

“If the public is willing to keep them separate and say they really have little to do with each other, and any common link is not Malaysia Airlines, you can probably survive with the brand relatively intact,” he said.

But that is a big if. Five years after Trans World Airlines flight 800 crashed into the ocean near New York in 1996 with the loss of 230 lives, the carrier filed for bankruptcy and was acquired by American Airlines. For an already troubled company, the disaster was the straw that broke the camel’s back, said Dekker. For others, a disaster may well mean “rebranding, rebadging, a new air operator’s certificate”.

The Malaysian Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, declined to comment on the airline’s future at a press conference about the disaster on Friday, describing that as a separate issue.

Prior to MH370′s disappearance, Malaysia Airlines was making losses but seemed to be improving, said Mohsin; it was reducing operating costs and selling more tickets. But while its flights were increasingly full, it had not managed to bump up its fares.

Now the airline’s previously strong safety record has effectively been erased for passengers by two such losses. According to the International Air Transport Association, there were an average of 517 deaths annually in commercial aviation incidents between 2009 and 2013. Now a single airline appears to have surpassed that death toll in a single year.

“People are only willing to fly with Malaysia Airlines if the ticket price is really, really cheap,” said Mohsin. The airline has also faced additional costs, such as supporting the families of victims and increasing its spending on marketing.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd planned to take MAS private as the first step towards restructuring the company, citing two unnamed sources.

“For it to completely disappear would be too much of a loss of pride for Malaysia,” said the Maybank analyst. “It is more realistic or probable for the government to intervene directly or via Khazanah.”

One key question is whether the airline should have chosen another course for the Boeing-777, given that two aircraft had been downed in the region that week.

Malaysia Airlines said early on Friday: “The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. International Air Transport Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.”

Cathay Pacific, Australia’s Qantas and Korea’s two major carriers are among airlines that stopped flying over Ukrainian airspace months ago due to concerns.

“Although the detour adds to flight time and cost, we have been making the detour for safety, and until the Ukrainian situation is over we will continue to take the detour route for our cargo flight out of Brussels,” an Asiana Airlines Inc spokeswoman told Reuters.

But many major players were still flying through the area, though Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines and others, such as China Eastern, have stopped using that airspace in the wake of the disaster.

“‘What’s wrong with Malaysia Airlines?’ is completely the wrong question to ask and will lead us down a rabbit hole of entirely useless thinking,” said aviation expert Dekker. “It is pure chance. I flew through Ukrainian airspace on Monday with my daughter. It could have been us.”

While pilots ultimately have the discretion to refuse to fly along a particular course if they have concerns, they do not make the routes. Those are based on a multitude of factors, including airspace charges and wind speeds that affect journey times, but also, of course, safety.

While the US Federal Aviation Authority had cautioned American carriers not to fly over the Crimean peninsula, there was no such warning for the area where MH17 came down. Ukrainian officials had closed airspace to 32,000ft (9,750 metres), but MH17 was flying 1,000ft above that.

“What I have heard raised in various guises is the broader question: can we come to more efficient international agreements about where to avoid flying and where to fly?” said Dekker.

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session


July 19, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com (07-18-14)

MH17 Crash Site2

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has called for an emergency Parliament session on July 23 to condemn the irresponsible acts by those who caused the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine yesterday.

Making an official address to the nation from Angkasapuri, in a telecast that was carried live by government broadcaster RTM, he also announced that the national flag will be flown at half mast from tonight until Monday as a sign of mourning over the loss of life in the incident.

He, however, added that until credible evidence surfaces, there will be no finger-pointing towards any party involved, despite the widespread believe that the flight with 298 passengers and crew onboard was shot down.

He also expressed condolences and deep sympathies to the family and loved ones of the victims on behalf of Putrajaya. “We condemn this despicable and irresponsible act and as Prime Minister I will be calling an emergency Parliament session to debate this motion,” he said of this second tragedy involving a Malaysia Airlines flight in the past four months.

Crying for Loss of Loved OnesMH17- Crying for Loved Ones

Najib said that he had also put forward three demands to United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. “First, we want to ensure that evidence relating to the incident is not tampered with or disturbed; second, we hope for the safety of rescue personnel during the operations to be guaranteed. And third, if the investigation finds that MH17 was indeed shot down, we demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

“I have put forward these three demands to UN chief Ban Ki-moon,” he said at a special address today, adding that Malaysians are facing some very challenging times.

Acknowledging that “we are in the last days of the fasting month”, Najib also called on Muslims, regardless of political affiliation, to come together to pray so that Malaysia will be safe from harm.He also called on other faiths to pray for the same in their own way.
-

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter


July 18, 2014

The Negara-Ku Charter

On a daily basis, we are confronted with serious challenges that have begun to undermine the very foundations of our Nation. The peace and harmony of our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society are under threat.

 Ethnocentric and race-based politics and communally-minded politicians continue to derail the process of inclusive nation building and the formation of a Bangsa Malaysia national identity. Importantly, religion is now increasingly used as a main marker of identity, and as a boundary maintenance mechanism to polarise the people.

There are political parties and their affiliates that are not focused on nation building, rather on building their respective power bases. These parties on both sides of the divide pursue their agenda that are transactional and short-term, not transformational and long-term.

The mobilisation and manipulation of race, ethnicity and religion have resulted in increasing intolerance, bigotry and extremism. There is also an emerging sub-culture of political violence. These are symptomatic of dangerous under-currents in our society.

The State, by default or design, has failed to address these pernicious developments. The State has also failed to play the role of an honest broker in managing conflicts in our society.

We believe the majority of the People want to end this brand of divisive ethno-religious politics.

We want to take ownership, fully cognisant, that Malaysia is a nation where her people are inextricably bound by a shared history, commonweal, and destiny.

We have to act before our society descends into the abyss of instability.

The “NEGARA-KU” Coalition aspires to mobilize and empower the People: -

1. To resist all forms of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, extremism, and violence;

2. To oppose all forms of discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustice;”

3. To strive for a socially inclusive society;

4. To exhort the State and its Institutions to respect, adhere and uphold the Rule of Law; and

5. To demand adherence to the principles of stewardship, integrity, accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance.

We will strive to do this by returning to the basics:-

The Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land;
The Malaysia Agreement; and

The Rukunegara as the guide for national objectives and values.

By this process of engagement and empowerment we endeavour to”HEAL THE NATION” and “RESTORE HOPE” in our future.

_________________________________________

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter

Press statement in conjunction with Press Conference at Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Friday July 18, 2014

Ambiga2Leaders of the Negara-Ku Movement

We, concerned Malaysians, take note and fully concur with the  Negara-Ku Charter launched by the People’s Movement to heal the nation and to restore hope for our shared common future.

We are in the midst of epochal challenges and changes in which all Malaysians must stand together to fight the forces of racial bigotry and religious extremism.

To safeguard our fragile multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural unity, we must resist those who seek to destroy Malaysia and what it stands for which are the principles contained in the Constitution of the Malaysia Agreement of 1963.

We call on all Malaysians, especially our political leaders, to endorse this charter, embrace its values and principles fully and strive to uphold it wholeheartedly and unflinchingly in our personal and public lives.

List of Signatories

AB Sulaiman (Writer)

Ahmad Chik (Business and Community Leader)

Andrew Aeria (Academic)

Anwar Fazal (Educationist)

Art Harun (Lawyer and Commentator)

Azmi Sharom (Academic and Commentator)

Bah Tony Williams-Hunt (Community Leader)

Chong Ton Sin (Publisher)

Din Merican (Commentator)

Dominic Puthucheary (Lawyer)

Foong Wai Fong (Commentator)

Gurdial Singh Nijar (Academic)

Jannie Lasimbang (Community Leader)

Koon Yew Yin (Business and Community Leader)

Lim Teck Ghee (Academic and Commentator)

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (Lawyer)

Ramon Navaratnam (Business and Community Leader)

Sharaad Kuttan (Commentator)

Sharom Ahmat (Educationist)

S. Thayaparan (Commentator)

Tan Pau Son (Business Leader)

Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Commentator)

Wong Chin Huat (Academic and Commentator)

Tricia Yeoh (Commentator)

Zainah Anwar (Community Leader)

Another MH Tragedy: MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine, 295 killed


July 18, 2014

Another MH Tragedy: MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine, 295 killed

by Reuters (July 17, 2014)

graphic_MH17

Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, called Thursday evening for an investigation at the crash site and the unfettered cooperation of local authorities. Noting that Ukrainian officials had reported that the plane was hit by a missile, he said, “Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy.”“No stone will be left unturned,” he added. “If it transpires that the plane was, indeed, shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”–New York Times

A Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.

Raising the stakes in the East-West showdown between Kiev and Moscow, the official blamed “terrorists” using a ground-to-air missile and Ukraine’s prime minister called the downing of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur a “catastrophe”.

A Reuters correspondent saw burning wreckage and bodies on the ground at the village of Grabovo, about 40 km from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels have been active and have claimed to have shot down other aircraft.

“I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang,” one local man at Grabovo told Reuters. “Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke.”

MH17 Crash site 2The Boeing 777 came down near the city of Donetsk, stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook, adding it was “shot down with a Buk anti-aircraft system by terrorists,” the term the Kiev government uses for militants seeking to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia. The dead were 280 passengers and 15 crew.

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed it had lost contact with its flight MH-17 from Amsterdam. “The last known position was over Ukrainian air space,” it said.

A rebel leader said Ukrainian forces shot the airliner down. Ukrainian official said their military was not involved. A general view shows part of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the Donetsk region, near the Ukrainian border with Russia. Interfax-Ukraine quoted another Ukrainian official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 metres, a typical cruising altitude for airliners.

Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet – an accusation that Moscow denied.

The military commander of the rebels, a Russian named Igor Strelkov, had written on his social media page shortly before the report of the airliner being downed that his forces had brought down an Antonov An-26 in the same area. It is a turboprop transport plane of a type used by Ukraine’s forces. – Reuters/www.themalaysianinsider.com

NOTE: MAS Europe’s office disclosed the nationalities of those on board:

- 154 Dutch
- 27 Australians
- 23 Malaysians
- 11 Indonesians
- 6 Britons
- 4 Germans
- 4 Belgians
- 3 from the Philippines
- 1 Canadian

PAS President stands in the way of Khalid Ibrahim’s Ouster


July 17, 2014

SELANGOR: PAS President stands in the way of Khalid Ibrahim’s Ouster as Menteri Besar

ANALYSIS by Amin Iskandar and Eileen Ng@www.themalaysianinsider.com

HadiFinding a solution to the issue surrounding Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s shaky position as Selangor Menteri Besar may take longer than previously thought because PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang does not see any benefit in making any change at the moment.

Although opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had yesterday proclaimed that the so-called Kajang move will continue and that his party hopes to resolve the matter before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the PKR defacto leader realises without Hadi’s support, the move to replace embattled Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim will not be successful.

Hadi’s stand remains despite Khalid losing support from both PKR and DAP and is now considered a liability to Pakatan Rakyat, possibly causing them to lose Selangor in the next general election.

Selangor PAS had also unanimously agreed for the second term Menteri Besar to be replaced with a leader they can work with but they will not make any moves without Hadi’s blessing.

From the start, Hadi had opposed the Kajang move, which was aimed at making Anwar the Menteri Besar in Malaysia’s richest state but the plan was scuttled after the Court of Appeal found him guilty of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

A Pakatan senior activist told The Malaysian Insider that privately, Hadi disliked the PKR de-facto leader because in their younger years, the duo had competed against each other to capture the Muslim ground in the country.

“If Datuk Fadzil Noor is still PAS president, Anwar’s political moves will be easier because there is no animosity between the two,” said the activist in referring to the former PAS president who grew close with Anwar after the latter was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998. Fadzil died in 2002.

“Hadi is envious of Anwar because Anwar is recognised as a Malaysian Muslim leader by the international community because of his vast understanding and grasp of international politics. Moreover, Anwar is fluent in English.

“This is why a few PAS leaders met with Ku Li before last year’s general election to offer him the post of prime minister if Pakatan takes over Putrajaya,” said the activist in referring to Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Gua Musang MP.

Anwar and KhalidA Tussle between Anwar and Khalid

Additionally, Hadi wants Khalid to remain because the latter had ensured his interests in Selangor are taken care of. Hadi’s son-in-law, Zaharudin Muhammad is the religious head of state-owned company Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Berhad (KPSB).

Khalid had also appointed Raja Idris Raja Kamarudin, the brother of popular blogger Raja Petra as the Chairman of a few of the state’s sister companies, such as KPSB, Kumpulan Hartanah Selangor Berhad (KHSB), Central Spectrum (M) Sdn Bhd and CeresTelecom Sdn Bhd. Raja Idris enjoys a close relationship with Hadi, which was formed while the latter was the Terengganu Menteri Besar between 1999 and 2004.

During the time, Hadi appointed Raja Idris to sit in Amanah Saham Gemilang (ASG) and be the Chief Executive Officer of TDM Berhad, which is one of the east coast state’s biggest companies.

However, Dr Ooi Kee Beng, the Deputy Director of Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies believes Anwar will go all the way to replace Khalid.”I think if push comes to shove, Anwar will go ahead with it. It will look silly if Pakatan can’t get rid of one man who is acting not according to the party’s agenda. So I think Anwar will try to push through this… he can’t back down,” he said.

PAS, he said, is trying to “punch above its weight” in this matter but pointed out the Islamist party will have to live with the fact a change will happen and that the next menteri besar is very likely not going to be from their ranks.

As Selangor is the crown jewel of PKR, Dr Ooi does not foresee the party giving up on the coveted Menteri Besar post.PKR cannot risk losing Selangor and I don’t think things will go that far,” he said to a question whether this issue might result in Pakatan losing Selangor. For PKR to lose Selangor, they might as well give up… they can’t do that. They have to retain control of the MB position”.

As for the role of the Sultan, Dr Ooi said his political power should not be overplayed as the monarch’s power is mostly nominal and formal. “I don’t think he can stop the removal of a person. The question is whether he will accept the new candidate. He has to have a very good reason why he does not,” he said.

Hours after Khalid announced that he will stay in power until the end of his term, Anwar reiterated yesterday that the Kajang move will go on, reminding party members that it will benefit everyone. He had said the move’s objective was to spur change and lift Selangor’s capability further.

“The court decision was manipulated to hinder my advances. The Kajang move was meant to push for change. As I have said before, the rationale was that although we appreciate and acknowledge all the efforts being done right now, all the successes and benefits, there is room for improvement, to push the boundaries and convince the people further,” he had said.

Last Monday, PAS Secretary-General Datuk Mustafa Ali said Khalid’s fate will be decided by the Pakatan council, which is expected to meet before the Hari Raya celebrations.

“Maybe we will meet before Raya as we have not convene a meeting for a long time. Issues to be discussed might include the Menteri Besar,” he was quoted as saying.

The Passing of James MacGregor Burns at 95


July 16, 2014

The Passing of  James MacGregor Burns at 95

by Bruce Webber–July 15 @www.nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/16/us/james-m-burns-a-scholar-of-presidents-and-leadership-dies-at-95.html?ref=books&_r=0

 

J M BurnsJames MacGregor Burns, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and political scientist who wrote voluminously about the nature of leadership in general and the presidency in particular, died on Tuesday at his home in Williamstown, Mass. He was 95. The historian Michael Beschloss, a friend and former student, confirmed the death.

Mr. Burns, who taught at Williams College for most of the last half of the 20th century, was the author of more than 20 books, most notably “Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom” (1970), a major study of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stewardship of the country through World War II. It was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

An informal Adviser to Presidents, Mr. Burns was a liberal Democrat who once ran for Congress from the westernmost district of Massachusetts. Though he sometimes wrote prescriptively from — or for — the left, over all he managed the neat trick of neither hiding his political viewpoint in his work nor funneling his work through it.

The nature of leadership was his fundamental theme throughout his career. In his biographies of Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, among others, and in his works of political theory — including “Leadership,” a seminal 1978 work melding historical analysis and contemporary observation that became a foundation text for an academic discipline — Mr. Burns focused on parsing the relationship between the personalities of the powerful and the historical events they helped engender.

His award-winning Roosevelt biography, for example, was frank in its admiration of its subject. But the book nonetheless distilled, with equal frankness, Roosevelt’s failings and character flaws; it faulted him for not seizing the moment and cementing the good relations between the United States and the Soviet Union when war had made them allies. This lack of foresight, Mr. Burns argued, was a primary cause of the two nations’ drift into the Cold War.

Roosevelt “was a deeply divided man,” he wrote, “divided between the man of principle, of ideals, of faith, crusading for a distant vision, on the one hand; and, on the other, the man of Realpolitik, of prudence, of narrow, manageable, short-run goals, intent always on protecting his power and authority in a world of shifting moods and capricious fortune.”

This was typical of Mr. Burns, who wrote audaciously, for a historian, with an almost therapistlike interpretation of the historical characters under his scrutiny and saw conflict but no contradiction in the conflicting and sometimes contradictory impulses of great men. He could admire a president for his politics and his leadership skills, yet report on his inherent shortcomings, as he did with Roosevelt; or spot a lack of political courage that undermined a promising presidency, as he did with President Bill Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, in “Dead Center: Clinton-Gore Leadership and the Perils of Moderation,” written with Georgia Jones Sorenson. In the book, he chastised both men for yielding their liberal instincts too easily.

In “The Power to Lead: The Crisis of the American Presidency,” his 1984 book about the dearth of transforming leaders, as opposed to transactional ones, in contemporary America, Mr. Burns was able to denounce the outlook of a staunch conservative like President Ronald Reagan but admire him for his instinctive leadership — his understanding of not just how to maneuver the levers of power but also how to muster party unity and effect an attitudinal shift in society.

This distinction between transforming and transactional leadership was central to Mr. Burns’s political theorizing. As he explained it in “Leadership,” the transactional leader is the more conventional politician, a horse trader with his followers, offering jobs for votes, say, or support of important legislation in exchange for campaign contributions.

The transforming leader, on the other hand, “looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower,” Mr. Burns wrote.“The result of transforming leadership,” he went on, “is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.”

If there was any way in which Mr. Burns’s personal views pierced his objectivity as a writer and researcher, it was in his understanding of the human elements of leadership. He had faith in the potential for human greatness, and though he often scolded presidents, congressmen and party officials for failing to strive for progress, one could discern in his writing a pleading for great men and women to lead with greatness.

“That people can be lifted into their better selves,” he wrote at the end of “Leadership,” “is the secret of transforming leadership and the moral and practical theme of this work.”

Mr. Burns was born on August 3, 1918, in Melrose, Mass., outside Boston. His father, Robert, a businessman, and his mother, the former Mildred Bunce, came from Republican families, though Mr. Burns described her as holding feminist principles. She largely raised him, in Burlington, Mass., after his parents’ divorce, and it was she, he said, who instilled in him the independence of mind to oppose the political views prevalent in his father’s family.

“I rebelled early,” Mr. Burns told the television interviewer Brian Lamb in 1989. “I got a lot of attention simply because I sat at the dinner table making these outrageous statements that they never heard anybody make face to face.” He added, “There was a lot of very strenuous and sometimes angry debate within the household.”

After graduating from Williams, Mr. Burns went to Washington and worked as a congressional aide. He served as an Army combat historian in the Pacific during World War II, receiving a Bronze Star, and afterward earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. He did postdoctoral work at the London School of Economics. His first book, “Congress on Trial: The Legislative Process and the Administrative State,” a critical appraisal of American lawmaking, was published in 1949.

After his second book, “Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox” (1956), a study of the president’s early years, Mr. Burns ran for Congress in 1958 from a western Massachusetts district that had not elected a Democrat since 1896 — and it did not again.

Burn's Books

During the campaign he became acquainted with John F. Kennedy, then running for his second term as senator from Massachusetts. After the election, with unrestricted access to Kennedy, his staff and his records, he wrote “John Kennedy: A Political Profile,” an assessment of him as a potential president. Though the book was largely favorable, it was not the hagiography the Kennedy family and presidential campaign had anticipated. (“I think you underestimate him,” Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to him after she read it, adding: “Can’t you see he is exceptional?”)

After Kennedy’s assassination, Mr. Burns said frequently that Kennedy had been a great leader and would have been even greater had he lived. But in his book he called Kennedy “a rationalist and an intellectual” and questioned whether he had the character strength to exert what he called “moral leadership.”

“What great idea does Kennedy personify?” he wrote. “In what way is he a leader of thought? How could he supply moral leadership at a time when new paths before the nation need discovering?”

in 1978, after a half-dozen more books, including the second Roosevelt volume and separate studies of the presidency and of state and local governments, Mr. Burns wrote “Leadership,” an amalgamation of a lifetime of thinking about the qualities shared and exemplified by world leaders throughout history. It became a standard academic text in the emerging discipline known as leadership studies, and Mr. Burns’s concept of transforming leadership itself became the subject of hundreds of doctoral theses.

President Reagan“It inspires our work,” Georgia Sorenson, who founded the Center for Political Leadership and Participation at the University of Maryland, said of “Leadership.” She persuaded Mr. Burns, who was on her dissertation committee, to teach there in 1993, and four years later the university renamed the center in his honor; it is now an independent nonprofit organization, the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership.

Mr. Burns’s two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by three children and his companion, Susan Dunn, with whom he collaborated on “The Three Roosevelts” and a biography of George Washington, two of the half-dozen or so books Mr. Burns wrote or co-wrote after the age of 80. His last book, “Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World,” was published in 2013.

Asked to describe Mr. Burns’s passions away from his writing, Ms. Sorenson named skiing; his two golden retrievers, Jefferson and Roosevelt; the blueberry patch in his yard; and his students.“He would never bump a student appointment to meet with someone more important,” Ms. Sorenson said. “I remember Hillary Clinton once inviting him to tea, and he wouldn’t go because he had to meet with a student. And he would never leave his place in Williamstown during blueberry season.”

Correction: July 15, 2014

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to Mr. Burns’s book “Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court.” It was not his last book. (“Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World,” published in 2013, was his last.)

 Correction: July 15, 2014

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the number of children who survive Mr. Burns. It is three, not four. The earlier version also contained an outdated description of the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership. It is an independent nonprofit organization; it is no longer affiliated with the University of Maryland.

Distasteful and Crass Language part of UMNO Culture (?)


July 15,2014

Distasteful and Crass Language part of UMNO Culture (?)

COMMENTARY by The Malaysian Insider

Why should anyone be surprised anymore by the distasteful and crass speech of UMNO politicians or those associated with the ruling party? If it is not a sexist remark, it is usually something so inappropriate on race, religion and even world history (Long Live Hitler!). No UMNO assembly is complete without a catalogue of tasteless jokes on sex.

This is the language UMNO politicians speak everyday, to their political comrades, business cronies, wives, mistresses and even children – individuals or groups of people so beholden to them that no one dare chastise them for the rubbish that escapes their lips.

Dato-Mohd-HafarizamAn UMNO Infected Mind

So on they go, infecting public discourse with their uncouth language and infected minds.The latest to join the long and not-so-illustrious list of UMNO duffers is party lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun (pic above).

He was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that a woman may not be a suitable candidate as the Menteri Besar of Selangor because while having her menses, she may not be able to accompany the Sultan of Selangor to religious functions.

“Hence, the article under the Selangor constitution, for example, may not hinder a woman from becoming a Mentri Besar, but by convention, there could be problems because of the said circumstances,” the lawyer was quoted as saying by the English-language daily.

It is hardly surprising that this individual, well-known as a lawyer only in UMNO circles but hardly a name to remember in the Malaysian Bar, has been slammed on social media. His statement is that of a misogynist.

As he himself pointed out, there is nothing in the state constitution that is remotely sexist or that would disqualify a woman from being the chief executive officer but he had to scrape the bottom of the barrel and come up with some rubbish.

The lawyer’s remarks were aimed at Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is the chief candidate to replace Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor MB from the time PKR decided on their Kajang Move.

Hafarizam now joins a list of UMNO politicians who have emerged as strong supporters of Khalid. Makeswan azizah 1 you wonder why? In the UMNO lawyer’s case, it should be noted that he is a shareholder in the company awarded the controversial Kidex highway. He and the family of former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi were given this project by the Najib administration ostensibly because they have some talent as builders, talent as yet unseen by the public.

Khalid, is the only Pakatan Rakyat (PR) elected representative who supports Kidex. He has yet to persuade his coalition members on the soundness of the highway contract, whose objection to the project lies on its disagreement with the concept of toll concessions. Not helping matters has been the opaque manner in which the contract was awarded.

Khalid IbCapable Man but a Bad Politician

So with the knowledge that a change of Menteri Besar could delay the Kidex project indefinitely, it is understandable for Hafarizam to try his darndest to scuttle the chances of Khalid being forced out his office. After all, billions of ringgit is at stake. And Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, UMNO’s Datuk Syed Ali Habshee and Hafarizam have all in the past days tried to promote Khalid as the MB.

You know the apocalypse is around the corner when UMNO leaders start trumpeting the qualities of an MB belonging to their political rivals.You also know that UMNO is nervous about change, that it has to trot out its lawyer to deliver a tasteless statement about a classy and capable woman.

 

 

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia


July 15, 2014

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/harsh-islamic-law-malaysia/

It is beginning to look like the issue of implementing seventh-century Islamic law requiring the amputation of limbs and stoning of adulterers has crested in Malaysia and is receding.

The issue attracted widespread concern among human rights groups and the international investing community as well as within the country itself, with Chinese, Indians and other minorities loudly objecting to any attempts to enact such a law, not only because they deemed it as barbaric, but because they fear it would spread from Muslims to wider segments of the population.

Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the rural-based fundamentalist Islamic party with its roots in the poverty-stricken east coast of the country, had threatened to introduce two private member’s bills in the parliament in June when Parliament reopened its session. PAS, as the party is known, had been pushing for introduction of hudud, the Islamic system of punishment under Shariah law, in the state of Kelantan, which it controls. It needs federal approval for implementation, however.

Under its provisions, hudud would impose age-old punishments for certain classes of crimes under Shariah law including theft, sex out of wedlock, consumption of liquor and drugs and apostasy. As an indication of the modern inapplicability of the laws, there appear to be no punishments for corporate crime, which is rife in Malaysia. Corporate crime hadn’t been thought of when the Shariah laws were written hundreds of years ago.

But with a rising crime rate and concerns especially over violent street crime, the issue caught fire with the Malay public, egged on by such Malay nationalist organizations as Perkasa. One United Malays National Organization source said UMNO members of parliament were being intimidated into agreeing to vote for it or being thought of as “bad Muslims” by the country’s rural population.

However, it has horrified the 35 percent of other races that make up the country’s polyglot population of 29.6 million. It also posed a huge problem for the Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party opposition coalition made up of the Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party, the moderate urban Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat headed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the fundamentalist PAS.

How much real political momentum was behind the measure is uncertain. PAS President Abdul Hadinajib and his deputy Awang announced in April that he would introduce a private member’s bill in the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament, to pave the way for the introduction in Kelantan. Shortly after, despite the fact that PAS is an opposition party, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom told local media that the Federal Government would back PAS on the matter, an almost unheard of parliamentary action, especially in Malaysia.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister, later proposed the establishment of a national-level committee to study the effect of the law, including bringing in experts from overseas, and that PAS and UMNO would participate in the formation of the committee. But three months later, no committee has been announced, and it appears unlikely that it will be.

There is some thought that the threat of backing the hudud bill was a subterfuge on the part of UMNO strategists because of its potential to split the opposition. Especially the Democratic Action Party headed by Lim Kit Siang and his son, Lim Guan Eng, were outraged by the thought of such a law, as were most urban Malays. Indeed, referring an issue to a committee is a time-honored and effective way to bury such a plan. The threat of implementation drove Chinese voters to stay from polls in an Perak by-election when DAP, in an effort to widen its appeal, ran a Malay candidate. Although she was attractive and intelligent, she lost.

The UMNO source said at the time Hadi Awang was considering introducing the bills that he feared the northern tier of Malay-dominated states would likely implement it on their own if it passed for Kelantan.

It was also to apply only to Malays and not the Chinese, who make up 23 percent of the population, Indians, who make up 8 percent, or ethnic groups in East Malaysia, most of whom are Christian.

But, as former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – who became a prominent voice against enactment of the law, said: “There are Muslims and non-Muslims in our country. If a Muslim steals, his hand will be chopped off but when a non-Muslim steals, he goes to jail. Is that justice or not?”

Tun Dr. MahathirMahathir has been perhaps the strongest voice opposing any such law, ironically despite the fact that he has been a moving force behind the strident Malay nationalists who have been calling for its passage. It has once again shone a spotlight on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who has once again backed away from taking a strong stance.

Najib stood in the presence of President Barack Obama while Obama praised the country as a modern, moderate Malay society, but he has sent contradictory signals. He has said there would be no hudud in Malaysia but at a meeting of a religious group in June, Najib said the federal government has never rejected implementation of hudud although there are “loopholes and shortcomings” that must be addressed. He called for a meeting of Islamic scholars to interpret shariah law to ”scrutinize and to exercise ijtihad (an Islamic term for independent reasoning) so that justice can be served.”

“When they ask Najib to stand up, he holds his balls and looks the other way,” said a longtime western observer who asked not to be named.

In recent weeks, a wider spectrum of Muslims has come out against implementation. Anwar, who himself has been relatively muted on the subject, has come out against it in force as well, telling the PAS contingent of his coalition that any attempt to pass it would wreck the coalition.

As Mahathir has said, although the law would apply only to Muslims, it sets up the specter of a dual classThe Silent One of punishments, with a Chinese, Indian or other minority facing perhaps two months in jail for theft, for instance, and a Malay facing the prospect of losing his hand. Adultery in Malaysia is rarely punished today for any of the races and although it is not talked about, it is rampant among the leaders of UMNO. Under hudud, ethnic Malays would face death by stoning.

Other Islamic organizations with a less harsh agenda have suddenly found their voices. That has included Sisters in Islam, whose executive director Ratna Osman said hudud punishments were not necessarily Islamic but instead were common in medieval society. Islamic Renaissance Front chairman Ahmad Farouk Musa questioned whether hudud is applicable in today’s society.