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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany


July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophyI once saw a picture at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany. Dated July 4, 1954, it depicted a group of men with broken teeth, crutches and in worn-out clothes shouting for joy over West Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup Final.

The West Germans had just barely recovered from the horrific World War II, and Hungary had been widely tipped to win the title. Still, West Germany went on to claim the crown as a dark horse, and the game is known historically as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’ (‘the Miracle of Bern’; Bern is the Swiss capital where the final was held).

The 1954 World Cup was particularly meaningful to West Germany for several reasons: it was the first time that Das Lied Der Deutschen (the Song of the Germans) was played at an international sporting event since the end of WWII, signifying the return of the country into the world community, while defeating the then communist-ruled Hungary was hailed as an ideological triumph.

Two decades later, West Germany was showered with greater global recognition when it hosted the 1974 World Cup and was crowned champion. If 1954 symbolised West Germany’s international acceptance, 1974 probably took on a greater significance in that the country demonstrated proudly to the world its reemergence as an economic power, rising from the ashes of the catastrophic Nazi regime (which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), preceded also by the 1972 Olympics.

It was most ironic that, while Britain and France, the two WWII victors, were mired in incessant labour strikes as industrial production came to a virtual halt, West Germany’s economic development and standard of living continued to improve by leaps and bounds.

Then came the eventful autumn of 1989, when the Eastern Blocs were on the verge of drastic revolution. Berlin Wall, 1989Many East Germans drove their Trabants right up to the Berlin Wall and demanded that the gates be opened.

When their calls went unanswered, they took out sledgehammers and chisels and started dismantling the wall themselves, and the (in)famous wall did come tumbling down within weeks. Welcoming the Ossis was not only the far advanced Volkswagen produced by the Wessis, but also the abundantly available commodities in the shops in West Berlin.

When West Germany beat Argentina to claim the World Cup title on  July 8, 1990, East German fans erupted in euphoria publicly for the first time. Three months later, East and West Germany became history.

Rebranding the country

When the reunified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the German government at the time made use of the opportunity to rebrand the country as a Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen), seeking to promote to the world Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Beethoven, philosopher Jürgen Habermas and many other modern achievements alongside football.

It represented a conscious effort on the part of the Germans to remind the international community that, having faced up to historical issues squarely, it was time that Germany should be free to celebrate its achievements for and contributions to the world.

The reunified Germany failed to win the World Cup in 2006, but many a European country was impressed with a new Germany that was not only confident and forward-looking, but also warm and hospitable, so much so that the British tabloids, usually relishing in insulting Germany with WWII references, toned down their wording and English fans could be seen waving the German flag during the semi-final between Germany and Argentina.

Now that Germany has once again made it to the final, the question whether the reunified country will win a historic World Cup is again in the mind of many, for a win on this coming Sunday (Brazilian time) would go a long way in affirming Germany’s coming of age, and I wish them all the best.

After all, no other competition arouses one’s nationalistic sentiment and sharpens political differences more than football – with the exception of an actual war. Seen in this light, what Germany destroyed last Tuesday was not just Brazil’s world status as a land of football, but it’s very national identity as well.

For historical reasons, the Germans are not used to overt symbols of nationalism, but it does not mean they should tolerate idiotic insults such as Bung Mokhtar’s ‘Hitler tweet’ in the wake of Germany’s thumping victory over Brazil. It is outrageous because no other countries have demonstrated so much goodwill and sincerity in dealing with historical baggage as Germany, especially when the country has shown no signs of relenting in pursuing justice for the victims.

Bung Mokhtar’s brainless tweet is more than a personal gaffe because it exposes the quality (or the lack thereof) of UMNO politicians. The fact that he continues to be a wakil rakyat is an utter shame to Malaysia.

NOTE: Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Rio . It was thriller. witnessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong contingent of German fans while the rest of the world witnessed a spectacle of great sportsmanship and fine football. –Din Merican
________________
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People


July 14, 2014

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People

by Citizen Nades/R. Nadeswaran@www.thesundaily.com (07-13-14)

KEN CLARKE, a Minister in the Cabinet Office in England, claimed the cost of paying for an 11p rulernadeswaran on his expenses. He also claimed for a pack of pens costing £21.73, and a pack of adhesive notes for £14.27.

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed for a glue stick costing £4.68 and a box of clips costing 8p, and printer cartridges costing £133.57. Vince Cable, the business secretary, claimed 43p for a pair of scissors. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara bought a pair much cheaper – 24p.

Cameron, who earns £142,500 a year, raised eyebrows by claiming 7p for a “bulldog” clip in January, even though processing the claim would have cost four times as much as its value. He also claimed 26p for “banner bar tags”, and 38p for a staple remover.

How do we know these trivial details? They were from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which processes and monitors MPs’ expenses. Last week, it released figures for February and March which showed that MPs claimed about £3.6 million in expenses. It processed over 32,000 claims. The bulk of the expenses was attributed to train tickets from their constituencies to Westminster in London.

Everyone has access to these records and one can check the amount claimed by his or her MP. Malaysia is said to have adopted the Westminster system and one wonders why we did not adopt this principle of openness and transparency.

Our lawmakers have been shouting themselves hoarse on so many other inconsequential matters like the World Cup football and even glorified Adolf Hitler, but yet choose to remain silent on matters of public interest such as their own expenses.

It is not a matter of prying into their private affairs. No one is even suggesting that they have and still are making unjustified claims. It’s just that the path to transparency must start from the doorsteps of Parliament which dictates policy and draws up legislation.

While it is common knowledge that previously two or three lawmakers were charged with making false claims, shouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest that the claims are scrutinised by the same people who pay their salaries and elected them to Parliament?

In the absence of any requirement, would any MP in the name of transparency, take the first step by putting up their expense claim on their website? Wouldn’t this be a noble gesture which will propel or compel others to follow suit?

Any takers?

WE NEED TO KNOW

Steve Shim RCIThe Members of The Steve Shim RCI on Illegal Immigrants

FOR a few days last year, I was at the High Court in Kota Kinabalu listening attentively to witnesses who testified at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Illegal Immigrants in Sabah. They included the former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his then Deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The inquiry heard some startling evidence including “Project IC” where illegal immigrants were given blue identity cards to enable them to vote for the ruling party. The inquiry was also told that some were asked to assemble in a community hall where they were issued documents which afforded them “protection” from the immigration authorities and the police.

There were even accusations that this project was done at the behest of national leaders who afforded support and protection in this clandestine operation. There were also accusations that officers from the National Registration Department sold blue ICs and were subsequently held under the Internal Security Act.

The inquiry was headed by former Chief Judge of Borneo Tan Sri Steve Shim, which started on January 29 last year, heard from 211 witnesses, and ended on September  23. The report was presented to the government in May this year.

However, Putrajaya has withheld making public the findings without providing any reasons. Our leaders have remained silent. The people of Malaysia, especially the Sabahans, are eagerly awaiting the findings as they have often said that “we are strangers in our own land” and that “the population of immigrants has exceeded the locals”. They also complained about social problems and the public health system bursting at its seams because of the presence of the foreigners.

Right-minded citizens will agree that the findings and the implementation of the recommendations of the panel will go a long way in placating and pacifying the anger of Sabahans who are being displaced by foreigners.

R. Nadeswaran says that our lawmakers must be in the forefront leading and demanding for transparency. Comments: citizen-nades@the sundaily.com

The Last Days of a Menteri Besar


July 14, 2014

The Last Days of a Menteri Besar

by Radzi Razak@http://www.malaysiakini.com

ANALYSIS:  PKR’s Ketua Umum Anwar Ibrahim’s latest comments on Saturday have made it clear that Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is walking his last days as Selangor Menteri Besar.

Anwar’s statement can be seen as an admission of sorts, as if seeking Khalid to vacate the seat on request of his party and Pakatan Rakyat.Khalid now appears to be alone in his corner, and can no longer reach out for support from PKR to remain in the post that he has held for six years.

A change of MB’s is not something strange in politics. Indeed in Terengganu, the MBs were changed as per normal procedure at the behest of top party leadership.

Those in PKR agitating for Khalid’s departure, however, say he must do so for the sake of accountability. Is this really the reason for Khalid to leave?

While Anwar has called for the issue to be dealt with properly “behind closed doors”, veiled attacks and psychological warfare via the mainstream and social media continue to prevail. As a result, whether or not Khalid leaves, the polemics and scheming that it has ignited can do no worse for PKR and Pakatan’s image.

‘Move 28′

With the PKR party election still unresolved, shifting in the winds is something slyly dubbed ‘Move 28′ purportedly discussed by the Selangor Backbenchers’ Club (BBC) recently.Sources from the legislative assembly said 28 out of 31 Selangor Pakatan assemblypersons have agreed to move a motion of no confidence against Khalid.

This has led Selangor BBC chairperson Azmin Ali (left) to call a special meeting for the first time in three years in Shah Alam last Tuesday.

It is apparent that most of the DAP and PKR assembly persons have come to the consensus to strongly urge Khalid to resign.

PAS has, however, remained silent on the matter, waiting on ‘higher authority’ for consent. “Only two assembly persons from PAS attended the meeting – Khasim Abdul Aziz (Lembah Jaya) and Saari Sungib (Ulu Klang),” the source told Malaysiakini.

Selangor PAS Commissioner Iskandar Ab Samad, who is also a Selangor Executive Councillor, declined to comment on whether he supports or rejects Khalid.

However, Selangor PAS sources claim that the directive from the top is to accede to PKR’s and DAP’s pressure on the matter.

Azmin, who has long been said to be eyeing the MB post, himself refuses to confirm or deny ‘Move 28’. “Please don’t speculate,” he told reporters who swarmed him after the meeting on Tuesday. PKR sources claim that the vote of no confidence could not be discussed at the said meeting, as PAS representatives had not received clear instructions from their top leaders.

Psychological warfare continues

Meanwhile, war between pro- and anti-Khalid sources heighten in the social and mainstream media with both sides launching broad sides, both veiled and direct. Selangor DAP leaders have been increasingly vocal in attacking Khalid on issues like the water restructuring, water rationing, the Bible Society Malaysia bible seizure and the construction of the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex).

Selangor PKR, on the other hand, is believed to be using the long-protracted party polls as an anti-Khalid platform, further widening Azmin’s lead against Khalid in the number two race.

“Khalid will feel even more pressured after he loses in the polls. He will have nothing left,” one source told Malaysiakini.

On Khalid’s side, the NGO Coalition of Selangorians in Support of the MB (Pasmeb) is actively voicing opinions and lodging police reports against PKR leaders believed to be linked to the spreading of false information on Khalid’s resignation last week.

Also believed to be linked to the feud is Khalid’s announcement that an internal audit will be conducted on all state constituency service centres that has received grants from the state. The state is also reviewing the performance of all state GLCs and its directors – a move Khalid says is not political but is seen to place pressure on Selangor PKR leaders sitting on boards of directors.

Will Pakatan lose Selangor?

Worse, both sides are now summoning the bogeyman of defeat the 14th general election if whatever they are pushing for does not materialise. Sources from the MB’s Office have raised concerns that if Khalid is gone, the RM3 billion in reserves that he has helped accumulate will be prioritised for partisan politics instead of the rakyat.

Those who have stuck it out with Khalid since 2008 also caution that the popular ‘Democratising the Selangor Economy’ programmes introduced by the MB will be cancelled or changed.

“What will the rakyat say when PKR or Pakatan are seen using taxpayers’ money at whim?” one source asked.

The source also claimed that Khalid’s departure from the corner office of the state secretariat building will make things easier for BN to wrest back the crown jewel state. The source said that this is as Khalid’s successor will not be able to take drastic measures superseding political interest as ruthlessly as the former Guthrie CEO did.

On the flipside, the opposing side argues if Khalid continues to dig his heels in the airing of dirty linen it will only cause voter distrust in Selangor, which can be further exploited by the BN. “If Khalid does not resign, Pakatan will lose Selangor after this,” one Selangor PKR source said bluntly.

The rakyat may soon be able to see for themselves how BN and Pakatan deal with the issue of changing MBs in the states that they hold, and decide which one wins the vote. The fledgling Pakatan’s wisdom in handling this thorny issue will also show if the coalition is simply a pact for individual political gains, or one which heeds the people’s desires.Will PKR face this delicate test?

 

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes


July 14, 2014

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes

Our World is beyond George Orwell’s Worst Nightmare


July 13, 2014

Our World is beyond George Orwell’s Worst Nightmare

by John Pilger (07-11-14)@www.alternet.org

In politics as in journalism and the arts, it seems that dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground…Today’s grand illusion is of an information age when, in truth, we live in a media age in which incessant corporate propaganda is insidious, contagious, effective and liberal.–J. Pilger

John PilgerThe other night, I saw George Orwell’s 1984 performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell’s warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, “To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.”

Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. “What a mindfuck,” said the young woman, lighting up her phone.

As advanced societies are de-politicised, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesised in 1984. “Democracy” is now a rhetorical device.  Peace is “perpetual war.” “Global” is imperial. The once hopeful concept of “reform” now means regression, even destruction. “Austerity” is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.

In the arts, hostility to political truth-telling is an article of bourgeois faith.  “Picasso’s red period,” says an Observer headline, “and why politics don’t make good art.” Consider this in a newspaper that promoted the bloodbath in Iraq as a liberal crusade. Picasso’s lifelong opposition to fascism is a footnote, just as Orwell’s radicalism has faded from the prize that appropriated his name.

A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then Professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice.  Among the insistent voices of consumer- feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people … of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.

At the National Theatre, a new play, Great Britain, satirises the phone hacking scandal that has seen journalists tried and convicted, including a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Described as a “farce with fangs [that] puts the whole incestuous [media] culture in the dock and subjects it to merciless ridicule”, the play’s targets are the “blessedly funny” characters in Britain’s tabloid press. That is well and good, and so familiar. What of the non-tabloid media that regards itself as reputable and credible, yet serves a parallel role as an arm of state and corporate power, as in the promotion of illegal war?

The Leveson inquiry into phone hacking glimpsed this unmentionable. Tony Blair was giving evidence, complaining to His Lordship about the tabloids’ harassment of his wife, when he was interrupted by a voice from the public gallery. David Lawley-Wakelin, a film-maker, demanded Blair’s arrest and prosecution for war crimes. There was a long pause: the shock of truth. Lord Leveson leapt to his feet and ordered the truth-teller thrown out and apologised to the war criminal. Lawley-Wakelin was prosecuted; Blair went free.

Blair’s enduring accomplices are more respectable than the phone hackers. When the BBC arts presenter, Kirsty Wark, interviewed him on the tenth anniversary of his invasion of Iraq, she gifted him a moment he could only dream of; she allowed him to agonise over his “difficult” decision on Iraq rather than call him to account for his epic crime. This evoked the procession of BBC journalists who in 2003 declared that Blair could feel “vindicated”, and the subsequent, “seminal” BBC series, The Blair Years, for which David Aaronovitch was chosen as the writer, presenter and interviewer. A Murdoch retainer who campaigned for military attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, Aaronovitch fawned expertly.

Since the invasion of Iraq – the exemplar of an act of unprovoked aggression the Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson called “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” — Blair and his mouthpiece and principal accomplice, Alastair Campbell, have been afforded generous space in the Guardian to rehabilitate their reputations. Described as a Labour Party “star”, Campbell has sought the sympathy of readers for his depression and displayed his interests, though not his current assignment as advisor, with Blair, to the Egyptian military tyranny.

As Iraq is dismembered as a consequence of the Blair/Bush invasion, a Guardian headline declares: “Toppling Saddam was right, but we pulled out too soon”. This ran across a prominent article on 13 June by a former Blair functionary, John McTernan, who also served Iraq’s CIA installed dictator Iyad Allawi. In calling for a repeat invasion of a country his former master helped destroy , he made no reference to the deaths of at least 700,000 people, the flight of four million refugees and sectarian turmoil in a nation once proud of its communal tolerance.

EyeWatch out someone’s snooping

“Blair embodies corruption and war,” wrote the radical Guardian columnist Seumas Milne in a spirited piece on 3 July. This is known in the trade as “balance”. The following day, the paper published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the bomber were the words: “The F-35. GREAT For Britain”. This other embodiment of “corruption and war” will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered people across the developing world.

In a village in Afghanistan, inhabited by the poorest of the poor, I filmed Orifa, kneeling at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed in the adjacent house. A “precision” 500-pound bomb fell directly on their small mud, stone and straw house, leaving a crater 50 feet wide. Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer’s, had pride of place in the Guardian’s advertisement.

The former US Secretary of State and aspiring President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was recently on the BBC’s Women’s Hour, the quintessence of media respectability. The presenter, Jenni Murray, presented Clinton as a beacon of female achievement. She did not remind her listeners about Clinton’s profanity that Afghanistan was invaded to “liberate” women like Orifa. She asked  Clinton nothing about her administration’s terror campaign using drones to kill women, men and children. There was no mention of Clinton’s idle threat, while campaigning to be the first female President, to “eliminate” Iran, and nothing about her support for illegal mass surveillance and the pursuit of whistle-blowers.

Murray did ask one finger-to-the-lips question. Had Clinton forgiven Monica Lewinsky for having an affair with husband? “Forgiveness is a choice,” said Clinton, “for me, it was absolutely the right choice.” This recalled the 1990s and the years consumed by the Lewinsky “scandal”. President Bill Clinton was then invading Haiti, and bombing the Balkans, Africa and Iraq. He was also destroying the lives of Iraqi children; Unicef reported the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five as a result of an embargo led by the US and Britain.

The children were media unpeople, just as Hillary Clinton’s victims in the invasions she supported and promoted – Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia — are media unpeople. Murray made no reference to them. A photograph of her and her distinguished guest, beaming, appears on the BBC website.

In politics as in journalism and the arts, it seems that dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground. When I began a career in Britain’s Fleet Street in the 1960s, it was acceptable to critique western power as a rapacious force. Read James Cameron’s celebrated reports of the explosion of the Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll, the barbaric war in Korea and the American bombing of North Vietnam. Today’s grand illusion is of an information age when, in truth, we live in a media age in which incessant corporate propaganda is insidious, contagious, effective and liberal.

In his 1859 essay On Liberty, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mill wrote: “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required.  “It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open-ended nature: its conviction that it represents a superior form of life.” He had in mind a speech by Blair in which the then prime minister promised to “reorder the world around us” according to his “moral values”.

Richard Falk, the respected authority on international law and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, once described a “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. It is “so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.

Tenure and patronage reward the guardians. On BBC Radio 4, Razia Iqbal interviewed Toni Morrison, the African-American Nobel Laureate. Morrison wondered why people were “so angry” with Barack Obama, who was “cool” and wished to build a “strong economy and health care”. Morrison was proud to have talked on the phone with her hero, who had read one of her books and invited her to his inauguration.

Neither she nor her interviewer mentioned Obama’s seven wars, including his terror campaign by drone, in which whole families, their rescuers and mourners have been murdered. What seemed to matter was that a “finely spoken” man of colour had risen to the commanding heights of power. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon wrote that the “historic mission” of the colonised was to serve as a “transmission line” to those who ruled and oppressed. In the modern era, the employment of ethnic difference in western power and propaganda systems is now seen as essential. Obama epitomises this, though the cabinet of George W. Bush – his warmongering clique – was the most multiracial in presidential history.

As the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the jihadists of ISIS, Obama said, “The American people made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better destiny.” How “cool” is that lie? How “finely spoken” was Obama’s speech at the West Point military academy on 28 May. Delivering his “state of the world” address at the graduation ceremony of those who “will take American leadership” across the world, Obama said, “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it. International opinion matters, but America will never ask permission …”

In repudiating international law and the rights of independent nations, the American President claims a divinity based on the might of his “indispensable nation”. It is a familiar message of imperial impunity, though always bracing to hear. Evoking the rise of fascism in the 1930s, Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being.”  Historian Norman Pollack wrote: “For goose-steppers, substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”

In February, the US mounted one of its “colour” coups against the elected government in Ukraine, exploiting genuine protests against corruption in Kiev. Obama’s national security adviser Victoria Nuland personally selected the leader of an “interim government”. She nicknamed him “Yats”. Vice President Joe Biden came to Kiev, as did CIA Director John Brennan. The shock troops of their putsch were Ukrainian fascists.

For the first time since 1945, a neo-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.  No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism in the borderland through which Hitler’s invading Nazis took millions of Russian lives. They were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), responsible for the massacre of Jews and Russians they called “vermin”. The UPA is the historical inspiration of the present-day Svoboda Party and its fellow-travelling Right Sector. Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato Enlargement Project. Reneging on a promise made to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has, in effect, militarily occupied eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s expansion is the biggest military build-up since the Second World War.

A Nato Membership Action Plan is Washington’s gift to the coup-regime in Kiev. In August, “Operation Rapid Trident” will put American and British troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will send US warships within sight of Russian ports. Imagine the response if these acts of provocation, or intimidation, were carried out on America’s borders.

In reclaiming Crimea — which Nikita Khrushchev illegally detached from Russia in 1954 – the Russians defended themselves as they have done for almost a century. More than 90 per cent of the population of Crimea voted to return the territory to Russia. Crimea is the home of the Black Sea Fleet and its loss would mean life or death for the Russian Navy and a prize for Nato. Confounding the war parties in Washington and Kiev, Vladimir Putin withdrew troops from the Ukrainian border and urged ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon separatism.

In Orwellian fashion, this has been inverted in the west to the “Russian threat”. Hillary Clinton likened Putin to Hitler. Without irony, right-wing German commentators said as much. In the media, the Ukrainian neo-Nazis are sanitised as “nationalists” or “ultra nationalists”. What they fear is that Putin is skilfully seeking a diplomatic solution, and may succeed. On 27 June, responding to Putin’s latest accommodation – his request to the Russian Parliament to rescind legislation that gave him the power to intervene on behalf of Ukraine’s ethnic Russians – Secretary of State John Kerry issued another of his ultimatums. Russia must “act within the next few hours, literally” to end the revolt in eastern Ukraine. Notwithstanding that Kerry is widely recognised as a buffoon, the serious purpose of these “warnings” is to confer pariah status on Russia and suppress news of the Kiev regime’s war on its own people.

A third of the population of Ukraine are Russian-speaking and bilingual. They have long sought a democratic federation that reflects Ukraine’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are neither “separatists” nor “rebels” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland. Separatism is a reaction to the Kiev junta’s attacks on them, causing as many as 110,000 (UN estimate) to flee across the border into Russia. Typically, they are traumatized women and children.

Like Iraq’s embargoed infants, and Afghanistan’s “liberated” women and girls, terrorised by the CIA’s warlords, these ethnic people of Ukraine are media unpeople in the west, their suffering and the atrocities committed against them minimised, or suppressed. No sense of the scale of the regime’s assault is reported in the mainstream western media. This is not unprecedented. Reading again Phillip Knightley’s masterly The First Casualty: the war correspondent as hero, propagandist and myth maker, I renewed my admiration for the Manchester Guardian’s Morgan Philips Price, the only western reporter to remain in Russia during the 1917 revolution and report the truth of a disastrous invasion by the western allies. Fair-minded and courageous, Philips Price alone disturbed what Knightley calls an anti-Russian “dark silence” in the west.

On 2 May, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. There is horrifying video evidence.  The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). The New York Times buried it, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.

On 28 June, the Guardian devoted most of a page to declarations by the Kiev regime’s “president”, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko.  Again, Orwell’s rule of inversion applied. There was no putsch; no war against Ukraine’s minority; the Russians were to blame for everything. “We want to modernise my country,” said Poroshenko. “We want to introduce freedom, democracy and European values. Somebody doesn’t like that. Somebody doesn’t like us for that.”

According to his report, the Guardian’s reporter, Luke Harding, did not challenge these assertions, or mention the Odessa atrocity, the regime’s air and artillery attacks on residential areas, the killing and kidnapping of journalists, the firebombing of an opposition newspaper and his threat to “free Ukraine from dirt and parasites”. The enemy are “rebels”, “militants”, “insurgents”, “terrorists” and stooges of the Kremlin. Summon from history the ghosts of Vietnam, Chile, East Timor, southern Africa, Iraq; note the same tags. Palestine is the lodestone of this unchanging deceit. On 11 July, following the latest Israeli, American equipped slaughter in Gaza – 80 people including six children in one family — an Israeli general writes in the Guardian under the headline, “A necessary show of force”.

In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerised Germans; it was her Triumph of the Will that reputedly cast Hitler’s spell. I asked her about propaganda in societies that imagined themselves superior. She replied that the “messages” in her films were dependent not on “orders from above” but on a “submissive void” in the German population. “Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked. “Everyone,” she replied, “and of course the intelligentsia.”

John Pilger‘s documentaries have won academy awards in both the U.K. and the U.S. His new film, “Utopia,” was released in Australia in January.

http://www.alternet.org/culture/our-world-far-beyond-george-orwells-worst-nightmare?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

ASEAN political-security community challenges


July 13, 2014

ASEAN political-security community challenges

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my (07-12-14)

 THE People’s ASEAN would not be a reality if the politics is not right – both the domestic political systems in which the people live and the wider regional order that underpins the peace, stability and prosperity of their lives.

Economic Growth and Political Rights

As ASEAN member states are increasingly discovering, the previous contention that economic growth andASEAN_logo_1 benefit will satisfy citizens without need to be over-excited about political rights, is wearing thin. That model does not work any more, if it ever did. Certainly, if nothing else, the ICT revolution and social media have provided a shared marketplace of experiences in political societies across the globe. It is no longer possible to pull the wool over people’s eyes. So state authorities have to get smart to it, whatever political system they profess.

In this connection, the notion of an ASEAN political-security community (APSC) is apposite. The APSC blueprint actually is hard to be faulted. Whoever writes these things, and those who adopt them, must really know what’s happening around them, even if they do not quite come along in action against their profession in words.

Read this: The APSC… ”will ensure that the peoples and member states of ASEAN live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment.” Some more: “The ASEAN states will offer democracy, rule of law and good governance, and will ensure respect for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom”.

All good intention. However, even if this is all aspiration, it stretches credulity when it is observed how some states in ASEAN have stagnated as communist regimes, others have regressed into persecution and murder of minorities and workers, and yet another has introduced draconian religious laws.

APSC and Human Rights

Little wonder then that there is so much cynicism about, for example, the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) set up in 2009 under the auspices of the APSC “to promote and protect human rights.” Where in ASEAN, through the AICHR, are human rights being protected on their violation?

It is in their promotion that refuge is taken. Even so, the promotion is gentle. Go to the AICHR web-site and you will see many pictures celebrating numerous workshops to promote human rights. More ASEAN meetings while religious minorities are being persecuted and put to the sword in enough ASEAN member states.

These are all difficult situations to handle no doubt. ASEAN Foreign Ministers try to discuss the Rohingyas issue but Myanmar would not have it, and will only do so on a bilateral basis with states facing refugee problems as a consequence of its human rights violations. And it comes to pass.

Well, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, and where has the world been? Rwanda-Burundi, Bosnia, Syria, Palestine… the list is endless and the suffering never-ending. So why pick on ASEAN? But, shall we say, ASEAN is talking about community-building and higher standards of commitments to good governance? Therefore, there is every reason to hold ASEAN to a better protection on human rights and treatment of citizens.

The laudable objectives of the APSC, and in the setting up of the AICHR, should not be left on the shelf as we approach the end of 2014. The blueprint itself provides for biennial review. This review process should be reported and be held in a more open fashion, with the participation of representatives of civil society, who must however appreciate the issues of state sovereignty and ASEAN cohesion.

The hard question is not how to put aspiration down in words but how to implement it in difficult situations and circumstances. That review process should come up with creative ideas of making the words turn into at least some action, at least in respect of protection of human rights, and not just kick the matter to long grass by having more workshops and meetings to study it.

ASEAN, China and South China Sea

South China Sea

When it comes to international relations and the wider regional order, the gap between verbal exhortation and actual action is just as wide. For the longest time, ASEAN behaved as if there was no serious situation arising from the South China Sea disputes. And when ASEAN got real about it, emboldened China would suggest, it was only after US intercession. This was not good for relations with China or for the resolution of the dispute.

While no doubt there is a grave threat of the outbreak of conflict, especially from various stand-offs between China and Vietnam, China with the Philippines, the damage already done is to China-ASEAN relations. These have been extremely beneficial economically for the region. Their further development could be retarded by this “spoiler”, not to mention the threat it poses to existing economic links.

Of course, if there was actual conflict, it is something else again. We will be in new territory of uncertainty, suspicion and fear which, as we know, are bad bedfellows for investment and economic activity.

Against these near existential threats, ASEAN has been reticent and not united in addressing the South China Sea disputes. Whereas, in the APSC blueprint, it is clearly stated ASEAN will seek full implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of States of 2002 and the establishment of a binding code of conduct under the declaration in the South China Sea.

Has there been any urgency to achieve all this before matters came to a head, before America got more involved again in regional affairs and, yes, before China got more assertive with its claims? It could be charged that ASEAN’s desultory approach has carried a cost to the stability of the regional order.

ASEAN is, of course, not one unit, it is only inter-governmental, but it makes claims for itself and gives false hope of its effectiveness by proclaiming all sorts of things in so many words, including this blessed thing about ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture. These last six exact words are to be found word for word in the blueprint and, indeed, have been repeated countless times at diplomatic convocations where those who know very well this is not the case repeat it for ASEAN’s happiness.

The APSC blueprint has been too extravagant, especially measured against ASEAN inaction. Not just on the South China Sea, but also in other pronounced areas such as conflict resolution mechanisms and the pacific settlement of disputes in the broader context.

ASEAN-a great economic prospect but...

ASEAN is a great prospect, especially its economies. But the market does not buy on prospective earnings indefinitely. If that was the case, it would be buying Latin America which, in terms of total economic size (against ASEAN’s combined much touted 7th largest in the world) is three times the Indian or Russian economy, and almost as large as China or Japan.

The point is ASEAN does have great prospect, but it will not come of itself. There has to be a more realistic mission statement, better structure and management – and better managers. Then the prospective earnings ratio might even rise.

So there has to be a reset and a rethink about how ASEAN can improve performance against all its limitations. But not just among government leaders and officials. And not to be assigned to some council of elders who would come back some years later with a document even older. It has to be fresh and dynamic involving people with ideas from all levels of society.

Yes, ultimately the political leaders of the region would decide – based however on a good and realistic plan for the future of the People’s ASEAN.

 Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

 

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.


July 13, 2014

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

by Ahmad Zakie Shariff (received by e-mail from the writer)

Malaysia2

Can You See Our Future?   This is for all you out there trying to make sense of the environment around you – the social worker whose soup kitchen has been directed to close down, the CEO who’s looking for ways to better the company he’s been tasked to improve, the mother who’s wondering why the Ringgit does not stretch as far as it did.

Look around you – at current events that, if left unchecked will evolve a future none of us are prepared for – the high profile statements that some of our leaders have mouthed off recently; the sometimes heavy handed actions of some people in authority. I cringe at how little forethought is used before something is said or done. They must surely have considered the potential impact of their actions.

You see, anyone who is a leader must understand that their every word, their every action is scrutinized and analysed, and as such amplified.

Now ask yourself: do these people have a clear and broadly shared understanding of our nation’s ability to shape the future? Are they ‘lighthouses’ shining far enough to guide distance ships or are they merely weak ‘torchlights’ shining the very few dark metres ahead? If like me, your answer is the latter, then let me tell you that there is hope: we CAN collectively influence and own our future.

As with companies, I believe that every nation has the opportunity to shape its own destiny. I believe it is possible to create a broad and enticing new opportunity horizon for the people; a lack of resolute leadership (read weak) need not limit a nation’s ambition nor its accomplishments.

These beliefs are not a product of simple-minded optimism, but of deep conviction that Malaysians are meant for better things.

At the time of independence, Malaysia’s leaders were clearly ahead of the people. The creation of a new democratic monarchy with universal suffrage, anchored by a well-thought out constitution, was a leap of faith the government took with a trusting, young country.

Fifty-seven years on, however, it seems that the roles have reversed. The people have gained more confidence and are reaching for the stars. Some of Malaysia’s leaders however, seem more timorous – happy to be stuck in an outmoded past, unwilling to change – our politics have become more tactical than visionary.

But there has been a transformation in Malaysia over the last decade. It did not involve the people toppling a monarch or bringing down a wall, but it did involve a society throwing off something huge – throwing off the shackles of comfort zones and a ‘government knows best’ mentality and replacing it with energy and boundless aspirations.

Anyone can spawn a revolution. Yet many Ahmads, Ah Chongs and Anthony Dasses today, inclined to regard themselves as victims, have lost confidence in their ability to shape the future of the nation. They have forgotten that historically it has been the dispossessed – from Gandhi to Mandela – who have led revolutions. Notwithstanding all the sombre incantations that “change must start at the top,” one must ask how often monarchy has led a revolution.

We are evolving as a nation and we suffer from growing pains – no nation is spared that throughout history – Malaysia is no different.  But I know this: I know the shape of Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

That is why I believe that we need loud, engaging, spirited arguments about how and why Malaysia and Malaysians need to go about influencing the right choices – and never resign themselves to fate.

But we need to do it in a spirit of respect for one another. We are many trying to be one and we need to hear representative voices from all constituents in order to shape our collective future.

The American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “There are always two parties, the hj-ahmad-zakieparty of the past and the party of the future; the establishment and the movement.” A substantial truth lurks in this observation: the future belongs not to those who will not tinker with things that ain’t broke, but to those willing to challenge the biases and prejudices of ‘’the establishment’’. The future belongs more to “the movement”, the unorthodox and the unreasonable than it does to those who are afraid to challenge the unknown.

I write this in the spirit of gently prodding my fellow Malaysians to imagine and deliver on a different future by refusing to settle any more for a Malaysian politics and governance that falls short of the talents possessed and needed by the Malaysian people.

No matter what ills have beset our nation in recent times, I am an optimist, a sober optimist, but an optimist nonetheless about the future of my country.For did someone not remind us that it is better to light a candle than to continually curse the darkness?

 

A Poem for this Weekend


July 13, 2014

A Poem for this Weekend

William-Ernest-Henley2I am the Master of my Fate

I dedicate this Henley poem to  Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Teoh Beng Hock, Bernard Zorro Khoo and Irene Fernandez, and fellow Malaysians who are in the forefront of our struggle for Democracy, Freedom and Justice. –Din Merican

INVICTUS

( The Unconquerable Soul)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

 

“Friendly” Advice to Najib on Leadership


July 12, 2014

“Friendly” Advice to Najib on Leadership

by Nigel Aw@www.malaysiakini.com (07-11-14)

Taking a shot at Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s comparison between Brazil’s devastating defeat in the World Cup semifinals and the need for strong leadership, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad offered some pointers.The former premier said a strong leader would reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

“I think it is Najib himself who said we need strong leaders. What is the qualification of a strong leader? It is the ability and willingness to stand up against foreign pressure and protect the interest of this country. If you don’t do that then you cannot be considered a strong leader,” he told a press conference in Shah Alam.

Tun Dr. MahathirMahathir was speaking to reporters after launching a book entitled ‘TPPA: Malaysia is not for sale’ by the Malay Economic Action Council (Mtem). Asked if he thought Najib was a strong leader, Mahathir, who celebrated his 89th birthday yesterday, replied: “I don’t know.” “Because it all depends on the test or challenges he faces and how he handles it,” he said.

Asked if Najib’s stance last Friday that Putrajaya intends to go ahead with the TPPA but on Malaysia’s terms was assurance enough, Mahathir insisted the agreement should be scrapped altogether.

“In the first place, why is it (TPPA) done in secret if it is not to cheat people? I think the mark of a goodThe Silent One leader is the ability to reject what is not good for this country,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, Mahathir repeatedly made references to Najib’s statement on the need of strong leaders in making his case against the TPPA. He added that the country had been able to develop well even without free trade agreements in the past.

Mahathir was also asked about Pakatan Rakyat’s leadership in Selangor but he appeared to have mis-heard the question and instead commented on BN’s leadership in the state.

“I’m sorry to say, we should have done better in the last election but we did worse in 2008.There is a lack of leadership there or the system we used was all wrong and we should not continue to do wrong things,” he said.

Abide by the Constitution

On another matter, Mahathir said the country should abide by the constitution which provides for a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

“If you break that, people will break other parts of the constitution then there will be chaos,” he added. He was asked to respond to readers’ comments in his latest blog posting which raised concerns about the Johor royal family’s involvement in the Iskandar region.

In the blog posting, Mahathir had weighed into the rapid development in southern Johor but expressed concern that it might become a region of foreigners like Singapore.

Asked what he thought about the comments to his posting on the royalty’s involvement in business, he replied: “If people feel we are a free country, we are very liberal, people can speak their mind, no more ISA so people can say what they like.

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership


July 9, 2014

The Cambodian People’s Party: A Deficit of Leadership

http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/the-cambodian-peoples-party-a-deficit-of-leadership/

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington


July 7, 2014

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-broke-iraq-three-lessons-washington-10785?page=show

“Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely.

Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transitionAmerica should get out of the business of invasion and occupation.”

Mahbubani2By Kishore Mahbubani*, The National Interest (July 1, 2014)

Colin Powell put it clearly and succinctly:”If you break it, you own it.” America broke Iraq. America owns Iraq. This is how the rest of the world sees it. This is also why the world is mystified by the current Obama-Cheney debate. Both these camps are saying, “You did it.” Actually both the camps should say, “We did it.”

The tragedy about this divisive debate is that America is missing a great opportunity to reflect on a big and fundamental question: why is America so bad at the simple task of invading and occupying countries? Surely, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most botched operations of its kind. America spent $4 trillion, lost thousands of American lives and millions of Iraqi lives, and at the end of the day, achieved nothing. Since the failure was so catastrophic, why not at least try to learn some valuable lessons from it? There are at least three lessons that scream for attention.

Dick-Cheney-and-Barack-Ob-001Cheney-Obama Debate a Lost Cause–Iraq in a Mess

The first lesson is the folly of good intentions. Let’s be clear about one thing: >Americans are not evil people.They do not conquer countries to rape, pillage and loot. Instead, they conquer countries to help the people. President George W. Bush’s goal was to set up a stable, functioning Iraqi democracy, not to set up an American colony in perpetuity. The British colonial rulers of Iraq in the early twentieth century would have been totally mystified by these good intentions. And they would have been even more flummoxed by the methods used to achieve these good intentions. For example, the British would preserve local institutions, not destroy them.

The last successful American occupation was the occupation of Japan. MacArthur wisely preserved Japanese institutions-including Emperor Hirohito, despite his role in the war. By contrast, America destroyed both Saddam’s army and his Ba’ath party at the beginning, thereby condemning the occupation to failure. Some Americans believed they could manage Iraq because American governance was inherently superior.

Bremer with bootsPaul Bremer (wearing his big boots) assumed he could rule Iraq effortlessly with his big boots, without ever being aware that his big boots were culturally offensive. This American trait of supreme self-confidence in running other societies is not new. When I lived in Phnom Penh in 1973-74 forty years ago, I witnessed firsthand how a young, inexperienced American diplomat would walk into the offices of the Cambodian Economic Minister and give him daily instructions from Washington, DC on how to run the Cambodian economy.

What was the result of this? The Cambodian leaders felt powerless to govern their own society. There is a paradox here. One strength of American culture is that it empowers people. But when America takes over another society, it disempowers it. This happened in Iraq, too. So after the disastrous management of Cambodia and South Vietnam and of Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely. Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transition.

The second lesson is to avoid over reliance on the American military.Obama said it well:”Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.” Future historians of the American century will spend a lot of time scratching their leads over a difficult conundrum: how did the relatively peaceful people of America become so trigger-happy in their external adventures?

The simple lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan and of Cambodia and South Vietnam is that guns alone do not work. This is why the recent American debate about Syria is so bewildering. Both sides were debating one question-to bomb or not to bomb Syria? But bombing would have solved nothing. And it was equally unwise for America to make a unilateral announcement on August 18, 2011 that “Assad must go”. Almost three years later, he is still in office.

All debates in America inevitably become black and white. Assad is black. His opponents must be white. Therefore, kill the bad guys-this appears to be the only solution. In many parts of the Middle East the choice is between black and black (or, more accurately, between various shades of grey). To bring “peace”, America will have to learn to deal with and shake hands with people who are not American boy scouts.

All this leads to the obvious third lesson: strengthen American diplomacy. Let me start with one painful fact obvious to many in the rest of the world: American diplomacy has deteriorated. In my thirty-three-year career with the Singapore Foreign Service from 1971-2004, I witnessed this firsthand. The reasons for deterioration are obvious. Organizations attract young talent when they can promise the best jobs at the end of their hardworking and dedicated careers. But if all that a young American diplomat can aspire to after three decades of service is to be the Ambassador to Ouagadougou or Kabul (with London and Paris being completely out of the equation), why stay on?

One counterargument I have heard is that the strong American private sector makes up for the weak public sector. A weak State Department, for example, is compensated by strong think tanks. This is true, but it creates a deeper mystery: how can America have the best strategic think tanks and strategic thinkers and yet have the worst strategic thinking in invading and occupying other countries? So this is the time for Americans to have the obvious epiphany: America should get out of the business of invasion and occupation. Four decades of failure have provided enough evidence to prove that the American people are far too good to do this job.

*Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, which was listed by the Financial Times in its ‘Books of the Year’ list, 2013.