President Jokowi Gets on with His Job

November 24, 2014

President Jokowi Gets on with His Job: No Talk, Just Action


by Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim

Jokowi has barely stepped into office as the new President of Indonesia and he is already making waves.

He is coming into world prominence not by grabbing the microphone to makeGovernor of Jakarta thunderous speeches about race and religion or picking on the ethnic Chinese businessmen, foreigners and  western imperialists  as scapegoats for his country’s endemic corruption, inefficiencies and economic backwardness. Instead, he is getting admiration at home and abroad  by simply doing what his people expect from him –just be his humble self  and get on with the job he was elected for.

His bold move to cut down on  subsidies and make the people pay more for fuel  will not endear him to millions of  poor Indonesians but it is precisely the kind of action that is needed to show he means business in his promise to strengthen the economy and find the money to build roads, schools and hospitals for the masses. It is also a warning sign that he is not afraid to take the unpopular measures to stop the wastages and  abuses that have plagued this resource rich country for decades . A few years down the road, when the man on the street sees signs of progress all around him, he will thank his President for being  politically honest in doing what needs to be done.

The Muslim world can also look up to him to lead in the path of moderation and pragmatism.His brave statements condemning Islamic terrorism and extremism during the election campaign shows  that he is one who is unafraid to speak his mind for fear of losing  votes. Nor was he deterred when Islamic groups tried to stop him from appointing an ethnic Chinese to be Governor of Jakarta (above right). The silent majority will be cheering him for standing up to the racists and religious bigots and simply doing what is right.

I will not be surprised that in the near future, he will act on the blasphemy laws , which Amnesty International  has higlighted for the several cases of injustice inflicted on  non-Sunni religious minorities. Being a former businessman himself, Jokowi knows that Indonesia cannot let religious extremism and unfair Islamic  laws to fester because it will have a negative impact on the country’s investment climate. Without large doses of local and foreign investment, Indonesia cannot progress at the rate Jokowi has in mind.

Jokowi Widodo

Jokowi and his wife travelled to Singapore recently on economy class ticket to attend his son’s graduation from the Anglo-Chinese International University . By this simple act of self-discipline in not abusing his position to use his presidential plane for a private visit, he has sent volumes of signal to his countrymen that he is going  to be an honest and clean president. Cynics may dismiss this simple act of humility  as political showmanship but , to the ordinary millions of poor people who still remember the luxurious grandeur of their past presidents and their first ladies , they thank God that Indonesia is now changing for the better.

All the best to Indonesian President Jokowi as he leads the country with the largest Muslim population in the world towards economic progress and social stability and by so doing, make himself as an example for other Muslim leaders  to follow.

With Bad Economic News, Abe’s Magic Seems to Evaporate

November 21, 2014

Japan: Between Monetary Stimulus and Fiscal Austerity

Love Flows, President to President

November 19, 2014

Love Flows, President to President

’41,’ George W. Bush’s Portrait of George H. W. Bush

Review by Michiko

Bush-Senior-and-JuniorThe relationship between George W. Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, might just be the most dissected filial relationship in modern history — compared, variously, to Shakespearean history, Greek tragedy and opéra bouffe. In his new book, the 43rd president draws an affectionate portrait of the 41st president that’s short on factual revelations and long on emotion.

In “41,” Mr. Bush sheds little new light on his fateful decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or on other pivotal moments of his presidency, nor does he tell us much about his father’s tenure in the White House that we didn’t already know. Instead, he’s written what he calls a “love story” about his dad. At its best, the book has the qualities of the younger Mr. Bush’s recent and much-talked-about paintings: It’s folksy, sharply observed and surprisingly affecting, especially for someone not exactly known for introspection. At its worst, the book reads like a banquet-dinner-type testimonial about his father, with transparent efforts to spin or sidestep important questions about his own time in office.

Since George W. Bush stepped onto the national stage, journalists, other politicians and even family members have been comparing and contrasting father and son. Whereas Bush senior was famous for his self-effacing New England manners and quiet diplomacy, Bush junior became known as a proud, outspoken gut player, with Texas swagger. Whereas Bush senior’s policies were grounded in foreign policy realism and old-school Republican moderation, Bush junior’s tilted toward neoconservatism and a drive to export democracy and remake the world. Bush senior was not crazy about “the vision thing,” whereas Bush junior was big on big ideas.

“On everything from taxes to Iraq,” the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in 2002, “the son has tried to use his father’s failures in the eyes of conservatives as a reverse playbook.” When Bush 41 went to war against Saddam Hussein in 1991 (after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait), he made a decision not to go on to Baghdad and topple Iraq’s dictator, later explaining that if we had gone in and created “more instability in Iraq, I think it would have been very bad for the neighborhood.”

The younger Mr. Bush writes, somewhat defensively here, that in ordering the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he “was not trying ‘to finish what my father had begun,’ as some have suggested. My motivation was to protect the United States of America, as I had sworn an oath to do.”

He also elaborates on a surprising statement he once made to Bob Woodward — that he couldn’t remember consulting his father about his decision to go to war. In “41,” he says: “I never asked Dad what I should do. We both knew that this was a decision that only the president can make. We did talk about the issue, however. Over Christmas 2002, at Camp David, I gave Dad an update on our strategy.”

His father, he says, replied: “You know how tough war is, son, and you’ve got to try everything you can to avoid war. But if the man won’t comply, you don’t have any other choice.”

The oddly dysfunctional inability of father and son to discuss policyGeorge Bush Sr. and politics — out of fear, it seems, of meddling or stepping on each other’s toes — is a recurrent theme in this book. The younger Mr. Bush says his father did not directly caution him against running for Congress in the late ’70s, but instead sent him to talk with a friend who told him he couldn’t win. (He didn’t.)

For many concerned about the war drums beating within the younger Bush’s White House in 2002, something similar occurred when the elder Bush’s former national security adviser and close friend, Brent Scowcroft, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal warning that another attack on Saddam could “seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.”

George W. Bush also writes that his father had little to say, in 1993, about his decision to run for governor of Texas, and that he didn’t ask his father whether he should run for president in the 2000 election, adding, “I knew he would support whatever choice I made.”

Biographers and journalists have often observed that the young George W. Bush (whose hard-drinking, irresponsible youth had made him a black sheep in the family next to Jeb, the golden boy) frequently felt overshadowed by his father. And they have speculated that, as President, he was driven to outdo his dad by taking Saddam Hussein down for good, and by winning a second term — arguments the Bush family has dismissed as psychobabble.

In “41,” the younger Mr. Bush talks at length about his dad’s early success. (“Few could claim the trifecta of war hero, Phi Beta Kappa and captain of the baseball team” at Yale, he writes.) And there is certainly fodder for readers searching for clues to an Oedipal rivalry. Mr. Bush says that his father’s college dreams of a baseball career were foiled because “he didn’t have a big enough bat to make the major leagues,” and also frets about his well-mannered father looking “weak” in a debate against Ronald Reagan, recalling a press account that said he showed “the backbone of a jellyfish.”

He writes, however, that his dad gave him “unconditional love,” and that he and his siblings felt “there was no point in competing with our father — no point in rebelling against him — because he would love us no matter what.” He celebrates his father’s well-known generosity, his talent for friendship and his willingness to take risks (from enlisting at the age of 18, not long after Pearl Harbor, to moving to Texas after college, to diving into politics after a stint in the oil business).

Like many, 43 hails 41 for his diplomatic handling of the end of the Cold War, reaching out to the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and wisely refusing to gloat over the fall of the Berlin Wall. In some ways, the younger Mr. Bush says, his father was “like Winston Churchill, who had been tossed out of office in 1945 just months after prevailing in World War II.”

The most persuasive sections of this book deal not with the political, but with the personal. Mr. Bush’s writing doesn’t have the earnest charm of his father’s letters (“All the Best, George Bush“) or the literary gifts displayed by his wife, Laura, in her memoir, “Spoken From the Heart.” But unlike his earlier books (his perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep,” and his dogged 2010 autobiography, “Decision Points”), this volume comes close to capturing Mr. Bush’s distinctive voice — by turns jokey and sentimental, irreverent and sincere.

There is very little here about his other siblings (his brother Jeb, the potential presidential candidate, is mentioned only in brief asides), but the passages devoted to his younger sister Robin’s death from leukemia in 1953 are heartfelt and moving.

“In one of her final moments with my father,” Mr. Bush writes, “Robin looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes and said, ‘I love you more than tongue can tell.’ Dad would repeat those words for the rest of his life.”

As for Mr. Bush’s descriptions of the West Texas world that greeted him and his parents in the 1950s, they are evocative in a way that attests to his painterly eye. “We lived briefly at a hotel and then moved into a new 847-square-foot house on the outskirts of town,” he recalls. “The neighborhood was called Easter Egg Row, because the developers had chosen vibrant paint colors to help residents tell the houses apart. Our Easter egg at 405 East Maple was bright blue.”

Although George senior’s failure to win a second term in the White House led to a sense of despondency, his son writes, he would find “something positive about his defeat in 1992 — it had given rise to the political careers of two people” (that is, the author and Jeb) “whom he had raised and loves.” Had his dad been re-elected that year, the younger Mr. Bush says, “I would not have run for governor” of Texas in 1994 — nor, presumably, run for president and ascended to the White House in the too-close-to-call election of 2000 that went to the Supreme Court. History works in strange ways.

A Template for the Crafting of Indonesian Foreign Policy

November 18, 2014

Jamil Maidan Flores: A Template for the Crafting of Indonesian Foreign Policy

Retno MarsudiMy impression is that even during the New Order era, there was never a lack of debate on foreign policy. In seminars, media and think tank people often expressed views that didn’t support those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the ministry, diplomats brought competing ideas to the attention of their superiors.

The debate eventually rose to the level of the directors-general vying for the approval of the Foreign Mminister.

Worth a revisit is the crafting of a policy on Timor-Leste, when it was Indonesia’s 27th province. At a late stage of the process, there was a three-way debate on the issue of East Timor involving Nugroho Wisnumurti, who at the time was the country’s permanent representative to the UN in New York; Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesia’s then permanent representative to the UN in Geneva; and then foreign minister Alatas.

Each had an “intellectual constituency.” Nugroho spoke for all who took a legalistic approach to the issue of East Timor; Hassan advocated a more pragmatic approach, which he would later call the “policy approach”; while Alatas took the middle ground. After much discussion, Alatas assigned Hassan to draft the policy paper on East Timor.

Hassan then wrote a policy paper following a format he learned in graduate school. The first part consisted of the history of the issue — not a detailed one but certainly a comprehensive history that includes a consideration of the various sub-issues (human rights in East Timor, for example).

This was followed by an analysis of the current situation, the challenges and the opportunities and “trends” emanating from it. A trend is a series of probable events from the current situation to a future one, considering the impact of the regional and global environments. Out of this analysis and consideration of the trends, five policy options were developed.

The first option was essentially for the status quo. Had this been chosen, Indonesia would have simply insisted that East Timor remained as Indonesia’s 27th province, and that was it. The second option was for the early holding of a referendum on the political destiny of East Timor, and if through this referendum the people of East Timor chose to separate from Indonesia, the separation would be carried out in orderly fashion.

The third option was for wide-ranging autonomy to be granted to East Timor and after seven years, a referendum would be held in which the people of East Timor would decide whether to remain or to separate from Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government would try to win the hearts and minds of the East Timorese so they’d vote to stay with Indonesia.

The fourth and fifth options were variations of the third. The option recommended was the third. The rest of the paper dwelled on how this option could be carried out successfully.

The third option, although initially adopted by the Indonesian government, was not fully carried out. In the midst of the Asian Crisis of the late 1990s, Suharto stepped down and his successor, B.J. Habibie, took the second option.

The point is that if a debate on foreign policy could take place under authoritarian rule, there should be more of it in a democratic Indonesia. During the transition to democracy, Hassan Wirajuda, who had become foreign minister, could finally expand the debate to include other stakeholders — members of the House of Representatives, the media, the academe, the youth, etc. — through “foreign policy breakfasts” and other forms of consultation.

The practice has since been discontinued, but I understand that the new foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, intends to revive it. That’s good news to foreign policy buffs in Indonesia. The more views brought into the debate, the greater will be the public support for the resulting policy. It will then be a people-driven foreign policy.

Jamil Maidan Flores is a Jakarta-based literary writer whose interests include philosophy and foreign policy. The views expressed here are his own.

Human Rights and Diplomacy

November 14, 2014

Human Rights and Diplomacy

by I.A. Rehman

A THREE-DAY discussion on planning foreign policy decisions from a human rights perspective revealed that this important subject has been neglected in Pakistan by state and civil society alike.

The Third World has unhappy memories of the use of human rights as a weapon in big-power conflicts. However, the discussion organised in Jakarta over the weekend by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development brought out possibilities of promoting peace, justice and good governance in the world, especially in the global south, by harmonising foreign policy with human rights.

The objective of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to monitor the desired nexus between diplomacy and human rights. In order to ascertain whether a state was paying due attention to human rights as a determinant of its foreign policy decisions, the participants from Asian countries were offered a set of indicators. Let us see how Pakistan responds to these indicators.

The Constitution’s silence on external ties limits the scrutiny of foreign policy.

The first question was whether there had been any engagement between the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa) and NGOs. If any engagement had taken place, was it regular or sporadic, broad or restricted to certain groups only? A truthful answer might be embarrassing for both the Mofa and the NGOs as the former is one branch of the executive that keeps civil society organisations and the people at large at an arm’s length.

The next question was about the parliament’s ability to hold the government accountable for its foreign policy through standing committees and briefing of MPs. Now we do have standing committees but their ability to hold the executive accountable for Mofa’s decisions and its attitude to human rights is debatable, to put it mildly. The heads of these bodies may consider the necessity of providing positive answers.

Another question related to the judiciary’s intervention on foreign policy issues. A safe answer would be that the Constitution does not take notice of foreign policy at all and so far the judiciary has avoided taking the government to task for its foreign policy bloomers.

One was also asked as to how the foreign service in Pakistan was structured, how much of governance reform had taken place and how much capacity the foreign affairs’ ministry had in terms of human and financial resources.

All one knows is that recruitment to the foreign service is done through competitive examination for the civil services and to qualify for senior positions the foreign service officers have to undergo some training at the National School of Public Policy. There have been reports about a foreign service academy but little is known about its accomplishments.

As for reforms, ambassadors have been harangued now and then by the top man in authority, and quite a few stories have been going round about Ziaul Haq’s stamina for sitting through such sessions and taking copious notes, but one doubts if any reform of the foreign service has ever been attempted or that a link between human rights and diplomacy has been discussed.

The issue certainly deserves to be examined by all concerned. There must be some clear objectives, besides paying homage to aid-givers and keeping faith with the ‘good’ Muslim states, that Pakistan’s diplomats should respect.

An interesting question was: “To what extent do national security and defence legislation, bylaws and motivations regulate public participation in foreign policy and free movement of people?” What a query. Who does not know that all actions and thoughts of a Pakistani citizen, intentional or unintended, are regulated by national security myths of the establishment?

The extent of media interest in foreign policy and its effect on human rights was also discussed. The media do often question the government on its foreign policy choices but rare must be the occasion when it has assessed foreign policy options from a human rights perspective. The issue certainly deserves the attention of media associations.

The final question was whether one saw a link between the government’s positions on thematic issues internationally and domestic conditions. The themes specifically mentioned included freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association.

An answer to this question was available in the record of Pakistan’s voting on a recent resolution in the Human Rights Council on the freedom of peaceful protest. Pakistan joined China, India and Saudi Arabia in trying to dilute the resolution through a series of amendments.

The first amendment called for a state’s right to regulate the freedom of peaceful protest under national legislation: the ground in the second amendment was threat to national security; and the third amendment sought to make the organisers of protest responsible for the consequences. Pakistan was also said to have argued that no protest that affected the glory of Islam could be allowed.

That all these amendments were rejected by the council should have caused considerable embarrassment to the people if the government had fulfilled its obligation to inform them of what it says in Geneva or New York. This is a serious issue and civil society organisations must urge the government to respect transparency and if this demand is not heeded they should start informing the citizens of their government’s voting record at international forums.

All institutions are handicapped in their task of scrutinising foreign policy decisions by the Constitution’s silence on Pakistan’s external relations. The point will become clearer if we study Article 4 of the Brazilian constitution, which says: “The international relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil are governed by the following principles; i) national independence; ii) prevalence of human rights; iii) self-determination of the Peoples; iv) non-intervention; v) equality among the states; vi) defence of peace; vii) peaceful settlement of conflicts; viii) repudiation of terrorism and racism; ix) cooperation among peoples for the progress of mankind; and x) granting of political asylum”.

Official spokespersons are likely to assert that Pakistan’s foreign policy is in fact based on the principles quoted above. Such statements do not have the force of a constitutional commitment that would make deviations justifiable. There is indeed much need to break with retrogressive forces and for strengthening respect for human rights through diplomacy.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2014

25th Anniversary of The Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 10, 2014

25th Anniversary of The Fall of the Berlin Wall

by Joseph A.

The Berlin Wall, 1989Many historians trace the seeds of the momentous events of November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, as being planted back in August 1975 when 35 nations, including the United States, unanimously approved the Helsinki Accords. Helsinki’s “Final Act” recognized the sovereignty of East Germany and other Soviet satellites and banned any “armed intervention or threat of such intervention against another participating State.” In effect, the Helsinki Accords were an ironclad assurance that neither NATO nor the U.S. would take military action against the Warsaw Pact. It greatly reduced Soviet paranoia that the West might someday attempt to reunify the country by force of arms.

An unexpected consequence of Helsinki was that its seemingly half-hearted and ineffectual safeguards for human rights spawned the “Helsinki Rights” movement. Over the course of the next five or 10 years, the Eastern bloc countries, as well as the Soviet Union, faced an explosion of grassroots clubs, community groups, and individual activists, all demanding that their government honor the human rights pledges laid out in the Helsinki Accords. The organization, “Helsinki Watch,” emerged with the express purpose of monitoring and publicizing abuses in signatory states.

The Berlin Wall had its origins in an attempt to stop people from fleeing East Berlin in search of political freedom and a chance for a better life in the West. Once an East German citizen made it into West Berlin he or she could apply for asylum, and many of those who defected were educated professionals, which caused a “brain drain.” By 1961, the crisis became so acute that it prompted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, along with his East German allies, to order the Berlin Wall to be built as a means of stemming the tide.

The edifice itself was an architectural monstrosity with an elaborate system of gun towers, barbed wire, and even a moat made of sand to detect footprints. In the summer of 1962, President John F. Kennedy had delivered one of his most memorable speeches at the city hall in West Berlin, to a crowd of several hundred thousand Berliners. Twenty-five years later, when President Ronald Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987, a generation of people had grown up who had difficulty imagining a world where that hideous symbol of human oppression no longer existed.

Despite Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform agenda and the ongoing popular struggles in Eastern Europe, in 1988 East Berlin did not appear to be a city on the brink of a revolution. The pro-Soviet German Democratic Republic (GDR) still routinely dispersed crowds of nonviolent protestors. In January 1988, the Stasi security services arrested over a hundred demonstrators who were simply commemorating the 1919 murder of the revolutionaries Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknecht.

Erich Honecker, the 77-year-old leader of the GDR, flatly rejected Gorbachev’s vision of perestroika and glasnost for East Germany. In the spring of 1989, Honecker dug in his heals holding municipal elections where government candidates won 98.8 percent of the vote. But events began moving very quickly after the Soviet-sponsored government in Hungary decided in early May 1989, as part of its own Gorbachev-style restructuring, to turn off the electrified fence that sealed the country’s western border.

Officially the Hungarian frontier with Germany was still “closed” but when the news of the relaxed border control became known in East Germany people began flooding across it. In a matter of weeks there were over 25,000 GDR citizens “on holiday” in Hungary, and by early September the number had swelled to 60,000. Thousands of people sought refuge inside the West German embassy in Budapest, and when the government announced it would take no action against GDR nationals going to Austria, about 22,000 more GDR citizens dashed through the border. Following these fast-moving events even a crusty authoritarian like Honecker had to recognize that he had a major public-relations disaster on his hands.

Gorbachev visited East Germany in October to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of its founding and he urged Honecker to move toward greater liberalization. But Honecker made it clear he had no intention of following Gorbachev’s reformist path. Within weeks enormous demonstrations broke out in Leipzig and other East German cities and some GDR officials close to Honecker believed that he might be contemplating a “Tiananmen Square”-style solution to the problem. Four months earlier, in June 1989, the Chinese communist government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters killing hundreds of people and jailing thousands.

Believing that Honecker might indeed follow China’s lead, GDR authorities, led by Egon Krenze, staged a coup d’etat against the septuagenarian after eighteen years in power. Krenze flew to Moscow to meet with Gorbachev and upon his return promised to implement an East German version of perestroika.

But the East German government was losing control of the situation. Demonstrations in Leipzig grew past 300,000 people, and in early November hundreds of thousands of East Germans were participating in daily protests in the streets of Berlin. Another 30,000 GDR citizens emigrated after Czechoslovakia also relaxed its border enforcement. Then, on November 9, 1989, the Krenze government, in attempt to “stabilize” the situation, agreed to allow East Germans to freely visit West Germany. The announcement, delivered almost inadvertently at a press conference by the GDR’s foreign minister, rendered the Berlin Wall obsolete.

People came from all over Europe to help Berliners tear down what had become one of the world’s preeminent symbols of police-state oppression. They converged on the Wall with picks and sledgehammers and battered down its ugly concrete edifice as Stasi guards stood by watching. The spectacle of hundreds of joyous people literally demolishing the Wall came to symbolize the power of ordinary people, even in a “totalitarian” state, to forge a new era of political freedom.

By Christmas 1989, one in six East Germans, about 2.4 million people, had crossed into West Berlin to visit friends and relatives or to just look around for the first time. There was a huge shopping spree as GDR citizens voraciously snapped up consumer goods that had been denied them under the stagnant economy of the East. The path had been cleared for reunifying Germany that had been split in half since the end of World War Two, and the unification of the country came less than a year after the Wall came down (on October 3, 1990).

Berlin Wall TodayWilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles