US Report: Religious intolerance rising in Malaysia


July 30, 2014

US Report: Religious intolerance rising in Malaysia

The United States has expressed concern over growing religious intolerance in Malaysia as Islamic sects are being persecuted in public and in secret, along with abstruse laws aimed at blocking those wishing to leave Islam.

In the recently released ‘International Religious Freedom Report 2013’ the US noted that observers continued to express concern that “the secular civil and criminal court system had ceded jurisdictional control to syariah courts, particularly in areas of family law involving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

The report also raised alarm that the Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), under the Prime Minister’s purview, now had full power to determine what was proper Islamic teaching and hammer away at those who did not agree.

“The government reportedly has a secret list of “sects” banned as “deviant” interpretations of Islam which included over 50 groups,” the report, submitted to the US Congress, said.

It notes that among those publicly banned were Shia, Ahmadiyah and Al Arqam believers. “Members of banned groups may not speak freely about their religious beliefs. The government may detain Muslims who deviate from accepted Sunni principles and subject them to mandatory “rehabilitation” in centers that teach and enforce government-approved Islamic practices,” the report noted.

Jamil KhirThe report singled out Prime Minister’s Department Minister Jamil Khir Baharom (left), Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and  Kedah Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir as among government leaders who publicly backed and carried out the government’s policy to weed out Shia and Al Arqam followers in the country.

It added that these forced “rehabilitation programmes” could last up to six months.

One-way street

The US also expressed concern that Islam was a one-way street in Malaysia. “The law strictly forbids proselytising of Muslims by non-Muslims, but allows and supports Muslims proselytising others.Neither the right to leave Islam nor the legal process of conversion is clearly defined in law,” it said.

This has led to the Syariah court having an bigger say on child custody issues when parents of mixed-faith divorce.

The US report noted that the case of M. Indira Gandhi, dating from 2009, remains unresolved. In another case, Siti Hasnah Vangarama Abdullah faced much difficulty in getting the courts to hear her case, challenging the validity of her conversion to Islam when she was seven years old.

“At year’s end, the police had taken no action to return the youngest child to Gandhi, and the case was ongoing,” the report stated.

“Religious NGOs contended that syariah courts did not give equal weight to the testimony of women. Several NGOs dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights continued to state that women did not receive fair treatment from syariah courts, primarily in matters of divorce, child custody, and enforcement of alimony payments,” it said.

The report also noted that there were stringent laws restricting the use of certain words exclusively to Muslims, including the controversial court case over use of “Allah” by Catholic publication, the Herald. Other restricted words included ‘baitullah’ (house of God), ‘Kaabah’ (location toward which Muslims pray) and ‘salat’ (prayer).

Meanwhile, under a section on “Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom” the US report singled out Malay rights NGO Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali as an unpunished violator.

“In January, Ibrahim Ali (right), President of the Muslim NGO Perkasa, called for bibles to be burnt… In Ib Aliresponse to his statement, lawyers and human rights activists called for action to be taken against Ibrahim Ali for inciting religious disharmony, hatred, disunity, and discomfort, which is punishable by law. The Attorney General’s Chambers noted that they would only take action against Ibrahim Ali if the bibles were actually burnt,” the report said.

Other incidences

Other incidences of religious bigotry in Malaysia cited in the 13-page report included:

  • The use of Registrar of Societies (under Home Ministry) to arbitrarily determine whether a religious group may be registered and thereby qualify for government grants and other benefits. It noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were registered businesses in Malaysia.
  •  State laws in in Kelantan and Terengganu making apostasy, defined as conversion from Islam to another faith, a capital offense. However it notes this law has yet to be implemented.
  • Islamic religious instruction is compulsory for Muslim children in public schools; non-Muslim students are required to take nonreligious morals and ethics courses. Local churches and temple groups unsuccessfully urged the government to include the option for non-Muslim religion classes to be held during the school day.
  • State governments have exclusive authority over allocation of land for, and the construction of, all places of worship, as well as land allocation for all cemeteries.
  • On October 24, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission questioned two radio producers after they conducted an interview with American religious scholar Dr. Reza Aslan, who criticized the Malaysian government over the ban of the use of word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
  • In August the Sultan of Johor, the highest Islamic authority in the state, called for a Muslim prayer hall at a privately-owned resort to be demolished after a group of Buddhists used the hall for religious meditation.
  • According to the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Taoists (MCCBCHST), the government continued its practice of restricting visas for foreign Muslim and non-Muslim clergy under the age of 40 as a means of preventing “militant clergy” from entering the country.
  • The government continued to require, but did not strictly enforce, all Muslim civil servants to attend approved religion classes, and several government agencies pressured non-Muslim women to wear headscarves while attending official functions.
  • Kelantan’s restrictive laws prohibiting traditional performances such as Mak Yong and Wayang Kulit and overzealous enforcement on conservative women dressing codes and crackdown on hair salon publicity posters which displayed hair.

Positive note

The report ended with a positive note: “Unlike previous years, there were no reports of public anti-Semitic statements made by government representatives.”

John KerrryReleased on July 28 to mark International Religious Freedom Day, US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) stressed that “nations that protect this fundamental freedom will have the partnership of the United States and the abiding commitment of the American people as we seek to advance freedom of religion worldwide.”

Kerry also announced the following countries as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Turkmenistan has been designated a CPC for the first time this year.The reports, now in their 16th edition, are available on State.gov and HumanRights.gov.

Read the full report on Malaysia here.

PKR, doing a fine job of crushing dreams


July 30, 2014

Message to Anwar Ibrahim and Cohorts

PKR, doing a fine job of crushing dreams

After pledging to effect political reform, all PKR has succeeded in doing in Selangor is plunge it into chaos, making it the laughing stock of the nation.

“Many voters today concede that their vote for PKR was a mistake as they have been forced to put up with a ‘comedy of errors’ literally, with the operative word here being ‘errors’, in the last one year.”-Fernandez.

COMMENT

July 29, 2014

Dear PKR leaders,

AzizahWhat happened to Ubah sebelum Parah?

I am a Selangor resident who unashamedly and proudly voted for PKR in the last two general elections.I voted for reforms, a better Selangor and a “new Malaysia” after being sick and tired of the UMNO brand of politics.

Today after six years, my fellow voters in Selangor will agree that many of us are disillusioned with the state of affairs both in Selangor and within PKR. The party’s many instances of infighting, the practice of nepotism, the abuse of power among their power crazy leaders and the sheer lack of strategy and direction have left many voters wondering what happened to their dream of change that was promised.

The Kajang Move was an excellent example of a poorly thought through strategy. It was doomed to fail from the start. This is a typical case of a blind “de facto leader” who only seems to be promoting his personal interests while indulging in self-glorification (He only wants to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia).

Whilst the prudent financial management of the state’s coffers is commendable, the irony is that the Menteri Besar has failed to address basic issues that matter most to voters. Poor rubbish collection, water shortages, increases in the cost of living, poor public transportation, clogged drains and filthy eateries are just some of the issues voters face on a daily basis.

Many voters today concede that their vote for PKR was a mistake as they have been forced to put up with a ‘comedy of errors’ literally, with the operative word here being ‘errors’, in the last one year.

The writing on the wall is clear.

Abe's StatueUnless PKR has the political will to reform itself and address critical issues affecting the daily lives of the people of Selangor, it can rest assured it will not retain power in Selangor in the next elections. This would be extremely sad as many of us in the state had places our hopes on CHANGE-UBAH.

Let me conclude with a thought-provoking quote from President Abraham Lincoln that should serve as a reminder to our leaders from both sides of the political divide.” You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

*W. Fernandez is a FMT reader.

Can PAS be trusted to do it right for an Inclusive and Just Malaysia?


July 29, 2014

Can PAS be trusted do it right for an inclusive and Just Malaysia?

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Thank you, Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki.

mohd zuhdi marzukiThank you, for your honesty and bringing into the open what many supporters of Pakatan Rakyat have suspected for a while now and which The Malaysian Insider has touched on in the last few days: that the removal of Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as the Selangor Menteri Besar has become a sideshow.

The real issue is the percolating fight in PAS between those aligned to Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who are more comfortable sharing power with UMNO than with PKR and DAP.

It is a fight within PAS on whether the Islamist party should continue to preach the Pakatan Rakyat mantra of inclusiveness and justice for all Malaysians or return to its narrow path of Malay and Muslim supremacy. This battle in PAS will reach a crescendo on August 10 when the party leaders meet. But in the meantime, both factions – the moderate, professional class and the hardliners – are engaged in a sizzling behind-the-scenes war of words.

And this was the context in which Zuhdi’s WhatsApp message was leaked out. To be fair to the Director of operations of the PAS Research Centre, no one knows what comment from the other PAS CWC member or member elicited that response from him.

Besides calling Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a dictator and wishing that he retired from politics, Zuhdi also offered a political scenario out of the Khalid impasse: that PAS form a simple-majority government with UMNO and retain Khalid as Menteri Besar.

Zuhdi has been put to the sword on social media platforms and given the antipathy of the party grassroots towards UMNO, any move to join forces with UMNO could really split PAS down the centre. But that is a story for another time.

Zuhdi has been on the defensive but really, he does not need to defend his remarks.It is good that voters know the thinking of those aligned to Hadi. It is important that voters understand that what is at stake is not a simple change of the Chief Executive of Selangor.

The PAS hardliners are entitled to change course, bail out of Pakatan Rakyat and return to the welcoming embrace of like-minded religious and racial chauvinists in UMNO. Apparently, PAS hardliners find it suffocating having to share power with DAP and PKR elected representatives, and they believe that Islam is under threat and that non-Muslims and liberal Muslims must be kept in their place.

HadiGood luck to the Hadi camp. But what about the so-called professionals and moderates? They know the position of the hardliners. Are they also going to turn their backs on a more inclusive Malaysia? Are they going to forget the legions of Malaysians who tossed aside decades of misgivings about PAS to vote for PAS candidates contesting under the Pakatan Rakyat banner in 2008 and 2013?

Are they willing to join forces with UMNO politicians with whom they have battled so vigorously on the corrosive issues of corruption, race and religion? In short, are the moderates going to sell out the people who put them in office?

It may have started out as the “Kajang move” or the grand plan to remove Khalid as Selangor MB, but today, it is much more than that. It is about the future of PAS, the future of Pakatan Rakyat. And allowing UMNO back into power through the back door.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/xxx1#sthash.WQT9sahn.dpuf

 

 

Arrogance of Power and Some Shady Deals will lead to Khalid Ibrahim’s eventual political demise


July 29, 2014

Arrogance of Power and Some Shady Deals will lead to Khalid Ibrahim’s eventual political demise

“It needs now, in the intervening period before the PAS central committee meets, for light to be shed on the dubiousness of Khalid’s deal with Bank Islam for him to be painted into a corner. It’s a corner out of which not even the most powerful personages in PAS can credibly bail him out.”–Terence Netto

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: A week is a long time in politics, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously remarked. It’s less than a fortnight to the PAS central committee meeting that will finalise the party’s stance on the move to remove Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim.

AzizahThe PKR Top Team: Anwar, Saifuddin Nasution, Azmin Ali and Wan Azizah

Wilson’s musing on the passage of time on political events was to point up its effect as a solvent rather more than as coagulant. Time, as the wily survivor of many daunting wrangles in a faction-ridden British Labour Party in the 1960s was saying, has a bracing effect on political stances that at the outset may look more likely to bring disaster than relief.

Time’s solvent effect was perhaps the consideration behind PKR de facto Anwar Ibrahim’s statement of confidence the other day that the consensus-forging process within Pakatan Rakyat would prevail over the centrifugal forces let loose in the opposition coalition by the divisive matter of Khalid’s removal.

His ouster is desired by PKR and backed by DAP. The upper bracket of leadership of their Pakatan ally, PAS, has demurred though significant players in the Islamist party’s penultimate tier assented to Khalid’s removal.

Anwar and KhalidThe Winner is (?)

It looks like a fearful wrangle, but this is just the sort of twister that democratic politics exists to resolve, with its deliberative wheels of consultation and debate, all of which thrive on the attenuation from first – and often unreliable – impulses provided by the passage of time.

First – and inevitably, destructive – impulses were on display in the debate in social media on the options open to the party as a result of the fallout from the Khalid issue.The discussion on WhatsApp among some PAS central committee members, a snapshot of which was posted by this web news portal, exhibited the strengths and drawbacks of this promethean tool called social media.

Social media is useful for galvanising action towards constructive ends. By the same token it an easy vent for the impulsive and the rash.The latter feature is not healthy when vexed issues are being deliberated. For counsel to be wise cool detachment from the madding crowd is vital.

Pakatan will be blown to vanishing if fraught issues, whose causes have not been adequately ventilated in advance, are left like washing hung out to dry on an extremely windy day.

‘Paint him into a corner’

Khalid the MoleThe End is Near for a Man who held lots of Promise in 2008

Khalid’s moral transgressions implied in the deal that settled his long standing dispute with Bank Islam over the Guthrie shares he purchased with a loan from the bank quickly became obvious to insiders but not to initiates. Subsequent to the deal, the alacrity with which the water agreement between the Selangor state government and the federal’s was signed was unseemly.

The water agreement, like Khalid’s dispute with Bank Islam, had been long held up. Both issues’ sudden and expeditious settlement had the odor of the illicit.

Worse, the green light he appears to want to giveto the Kinrara-Damansara (Kidex) highway project was a violation of the Pakatan promise before GE-13 that there would be no more toll roads in Selangor.

This series of misdemeanors is serious enough to get him indicted in the bar of informed public opinion in Selangor. But, save for the Kidex highway, most people find the issues connected to the water agreement opaque and are unaware of the facts behind the banking deal.

But as matters such as his loss in the PKR divisional polls and his almost certain defeat by Anwar loyalist Azmin Ali in the race for Deputy President of the party make clear that he is not exactly popular, the clamour for his exit as MB mounted in tandem with his shameless public resistance to the notion.

It needs now, in the intervening period before the PAS central committee meets, for light to be shed on the dubiousness of Khalid’s deal with Bank Islam for him to be painted into a corner. It’s a corner out of which not even the most powerful personages in PAS can credibly bail him out.

SELANGOR: Removal of Khalid Ibrahim checkmated by PAS’ Spiritual Leader


July 28, 2014

SELANGOR: Removal of Khalid Ibrahim checkmated by PAS’ Spiritual Leader

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/270038

Khalid the MoleThanks to Frank for the Above

COMMENT: Can we take it that because the word of the Mursyidul Am (spiritual leader) of PAS nearly enjoys the sanctity of holy writ, Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s demurral over the PKR attempt to remove Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim means the move is dead in the water?Without PAS’s support the PKR attempt, though backed by its Pakatan Rakyat partner DAP, is hobbled and, if persisted in, risks the break-up of the six-year-old opposition coalition, as Lim Guan Eng has warned.After PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang had the day before yesterday announced he saw no good reason why Khalid should be removed as Selangor MB – despite a slew of other high-ranking PAS leaders having earlier endorsed the move – it only remained for the spiritual leader of the party to state his stand for the rest of Pakatan to know what effectively is the PAS position.

Now that the Tok Guru has adopted an identical position to that of the party president, the PAS stance becomes clear: It’s a no-go to the PKR initiative to have a new MB for Selangor. PAS is a democratic party with a monolithic superstructure. It’s imperative for members and subordinate leaders to follow what the president says while the word of the spiritual leader is regarded as sacrosanct.

We have seen in the last six years of Pakatan’s emergence as a government-in-waiting how the Tok Guru is the final word on any issue affecting PAS. No one can buck him in the Islamic party. This fact was vividly demonstrated in the early days of Pakatan’s emergence as a political entity when a move by PAS to commence unity talks with UMNO gathered pace.

The talks boded ill for PAS’s continued presence and collaboration with partners DAP and PKR in Pakatan. The planned talks were a follow-through to the one surreptitiously conducted in the wee hours of March 9, 2008 when an UMNO that was jolted by severe reverses in the national polls held the previous day sought a spurious unity with their long standing rivals for the Malay vote.

Nik Aziz simply pulled the brakes on the entire matter.  He spoke out against the unity talks with UMNO even as it appeared that he was the only leader of prominence in his party bold enough to set his face against collaboration with UMNO.

Formidable clout

Though seemingly alone in his opposition, not only to the idea of a unity government but also to the exploration of the initiative, his clout was formidable enough to bury the boondoggle for good. Nik Aziz might be old (he is 83) and ailing, he’s still a huge influence on PAS, a stature gained by his incorruptibility during 23 years as MB of Kelantan, by the simplicity of his lifestyle, his at times perspicacious pronouncements, and his refreshing freedom from the racism that warps Malaysian society.

In the 16 years of the emergence of the reformasi movement, catalysed by the travails of Anwar Ibrahim, NikDSAI Aziz has shown sympathy for the tribulations endured by the PKR leader on account of UMNO’s deliberate campaign to smother the threat to their continued rule posed by Anwar.

Snuffing out the effort by a faction within PAS wanting to forge common ground with UMNO was seen as a move by Nik Aziz that favoured Anwar’s campaign to draw Malay/Muslim support away from UMNO-BN and channel it towards Pakatan. But now it appears there are limits to Nik Aziz’s receptivity to Anwar’s maneuvers.

In not wanting to go along with the move to remove Khalid as Selangor MB and to replace him with PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, it is quite clear that the PAS supremo’s receptivity to Anwar’s presentation of a case for action is not as it was before.

Might this be the closure of a phase of empathy between Anwar and vital higher-ups in PAS on issues of national import, a phase that began when Fadzil Noor, the PAS President (1989-2002) before Abdul Hadi, who had a special tie to Anwar and was responsible for steering his party into the lead role in the general clamour for justice when Anwar was goaled following his sacking from UMNO in 1998?

What’s next?

With Nik Aziz and the party’s current president united in giving the thumbs down to the move to remove Khalid, how are the rest in Pakatan who want a new MB for Selangor to effect the change?

Obviously, the forces in PAS that favour Khalid’s removal would have to find some way round the party’s top two leaders’ disapproval. Could a circumventing move succeed given the way PAS is constituted where the president’s opinion is taken as the party’s preferred stance and the spiritual leader’s advice is viewed as sacrosanct?

For some time now the argument has gained credence that a discernible divide in PAS between the Quranic literalists and those of not inflexible interpretation would arrive at the point where each would have to go separate ways.

The former take positions on issues that tend to drive a wedge between them and the more liberal rest of Pakatan whereas the latter hew to interpretations that are broadly compatible with their DAP and PKR allies. Increasingly, it is felt that Pakatan’s cohesion as a tripartite coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS is dependent on the collusion of that part of PAS that is less literalist and inflexible.

Is that faction realistic enough to see that going along with its literalistic brethren in PAS places Pakatan at risk of a break-up and with that the incineration of hopes of an opposition coalition ever supplanting an irredeemably decayed UMNO-BN in Putrajaya?


TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for four decades now. He likes the profession because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

 

Time to throw in the towel, Anwar Ibrahim


July 27, 2014

Time to throw in the towel, Anwar Ibrahim

by Jasmine Wong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

AzizahThe long spell of drought we are experiencing these past months pretty much mirrors the long spell of drought Anwar’s camp has been experiencing in their many failed attempts to wrest control of the Selangor Menteri Besar’s (MB) post from Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Deftly avoiding the brickbats hurled at him like a Matrix warrior, Khalid has been happily going about his business, keeping his head down while strategically strengthening ties with the Palace and holding quiet talks with his ally, PAS’ President Abdul Hadi Awang, to keep the snarling hounds at bay.

Looks like it’s paid off for Khalid as Hadi has made it official he will back Khalid in his bid to retain his post as MB of Malaysia’s richest state. With both Hadi’s and HRH The Sultan’s support, looks like Anwar has been hung out to dry despite jubilantly naming just days ago, his wife and PKR party president Dr. Wan Azizah, as Khalid’s replacement.

What baffles me is that Anwar confidently stated he had secured the buy-in of DAP and PAS. How does he now explain Hadi’s decision to back the very man he is trying to unseat?

It does look like the Kajang Move, the precursor to unseating Khalid, was ‘much ado about nothing’. As wasAnwar and Khalid the brouhaha over Dr.Wan Azizah that has come to a premature end.With so many manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres to oust Khalid failing, it does show up Pakatan for the sorry bunch of amateur politicians they are, who despite having the numbers, lack the finesse to gain political ground in just one state in Malaysia.

Hadi also has the support of Nik Aziz, the ulamas and the youth within PAS in his endorsement of Khalid. With this new development, just what trick will Anwar pull out of his hat this time in his last ditch effort to launch yet another intervention?

For once, Anwar cannot pin the blame of this catastrophe on Barisan Nasional, as the main players in this ‘game gone wrong’ have all come from within his own opposition coalition, save HRH The Sultan who is beholden to no one.

Despite many Pakatan supporters refusing to consider that money, and lots of it, is the motive behind casting Khalid aside, we must ask why the Kajang Move, as ill-conceived as it was, was put into motion in the first place.

RafiziRafizi Ramli’s flaky explanation for the move being a launch pad for Anwar’s future political dominance in Putrajaya was an insult to our intelligence. There was obviously something more sinister lurking behind it.

With all the recent relevations surrounding the water deal gushing out in the media, it does look like Anwar and his band of brothers were merely eyeing Selangor’s pot of gold.

This Hari Raya while good triumphs over evil, Khalid can sit back, safe in the knowledge that Selangor will continue to prosper under his shrewd eye and tight fist. To the rest in Pakatan who are livid their recent plans have gone awry yet again, simmer down! Rafizi is bound to hatch another harebrained plan he will force us to swallow. Time to throw in the towel Anwar, and let someone else lead the cause.

Jasmine Wong is a FMT columnist.

 

 

MH 17: Malaysia’s “Quiet Diplomacy” triumphs


July 27, 2013

MH 17: Malaysia’s “Quiet Diplomacy” triumphs

by A. Jalil Hamid@www.nst.com.my

CAPPING nearly two weeks of intense international diplomacy, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak travels to the Netherlands this Wednesday for crucial talks relating to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 recovery and investigation.

Mark RutteHis meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte (left), in The Hague will focus on ways to secure full access for an international team investigating the cause of the crash at the site in eastern Ukraine.

Just five days into the July 17 incident, Najib scored a major diplomatic coup by securing a surprise deal with pro-Russian separatists that required them to surrender MH17 flight recorders, return the remains of the victims and allow the independent team full access to the crash site.Two of the three conditions have been met.

Needless to say, this is a major triumph for Najib’s “quiet diplomacy”. Both his political foes and the usually blunt Western media have heaped praise for his meticulous skills in the way the delicate process was handled: quiet, discreet, behind-the-scenes and effective.

It was, to say the least, a difficult situation. Just as how the MH370 episode unfolded, there was no precedent.

From day one, Najib took charge of the situation by assembling a small team of close advisers and workingNajib and Putin tirelessly on the phone with the leaders of Australia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

“For two nights in a row, I almost didn’t sleep because I was calling world leaders,” he quipped. His biggest break came when the Prime Minister, using back channels, managed to speak on the phone with Alexander Borodai, the self-declared leader of the Donetsk separatists and the man who controlled the crash site.

It was an excellent diplomatic approach, as Malaysia was unlikely to make a lot of inroads if we were to rely solely on the US and Europe — which, by the way, are quite wary of Russia over the Ukraine conflict — for help. In fact, 21st century international relations must consider “non-state actors” as influential groups. This is a known fact in contemporary international relations.

Najib’s negotiations with Borodai should not be equated with an endorsement of the separatist movement. He is just letting go of his stature for the sake of the family members of those who were on board MH17.His quiet diplomacy worked this time around because it is in Malaysia’s interest to get the remains and the black boxes out of the crash site quickly and safely.

The quiet diplomacy approach will also not drag us into the power game between Russia and the US. It is an open secret that Russia, which has a firm hold over Borodai, will not release the remains and the black boxes directly to the Americans.

Najib and ObamaWhatever US intentions are in Ukraine, the MH17 issue should not be turned into a political tug-of-war to further Washington’s interests in the region. Privately, some US diplomats, not surprisingly, had some reservations about the outcome of the Malaysian deal with Borodai.

The pro-Russian separatists and Russia also have to prove to the world that they are not the way Western governments and the Western media would like to portray them.

Qquiet diplomacy could prove to be our major foreign policy strategy going forward. We have seen howNajib and Abbott the Prime Minister had recently gained a reputation as a deal-broker by mediating the peace process in the southern Philippines. Najib’s diplomatic mettle could go down in history as a major lesson in crisis management and leadership.

Equally significant is the domestic impact of his move; even the Opposition had praised him for his astuteness and ability to secure the deal with the rebel commander.The key lesson here: quiet diplomacy can accomplish some things not otherwise possible.

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia


July 26, 2014

Indonesia’s Presidential Elections 2014: A Lesson for Malaysia

by Karim Raslan@www.thestar.com.my

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Ceritalah/Profile/Articles/2014/07/26/Msia-can-learn-from-Indonesian-polls/

What’s striking is how much more advanced the republic’s elections have become, with the General Elections Commission uploading a photograph of each of the result forms from all 479,000 voting stations.

Jokowi. IrINDONESIA has a new President and – to the relief of many – it’s Joko Widodo or Jokowi as he is fondly known.

His extraordinary personal journey, from the slums of Solo to the Istana Negara, says as much about the man as it does about the republic itself, now into its 16th post-Reformasi year. The excitement is palpable but we must hope and pray that this fairy tale-like story, with its egalitarian hue, ends in real achievements and a better life for all Indonesians.

Even though I am a proud Malaysian, the 2014 presidential elections has reminded me of how our politics is so very disappointing.We used to regard Indonesia as a basket case. But they have shown that their democracy hasn’t impeded economic development. Moreover, it remains vigorous despite the determined manipulation of the pre-Reformasi elites.

Consider this fact – some 133 million voters cast their ballots on July 9 – much more than some 120 million who turned out in 2009 to re-elect President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

Still, many of my Malaysian friends kept (and are still) buzzing me about the elections.This was especially after his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, regrettably and petulantly refused to accept the results. The tone from my fellow Malaysians was generally along these lines: “My God! It was so close!

Will Bapak be allowed to win? Will there be violence?” This, I suppose, betrays the fundamental differences in politics between Malaysia and Indonesia – as well as what we can learn from our neighbour to the south.

First off, Jokowi’s margin of victory over Prabowo (70,633,576 votes or 53.15% of the popular vote to 62,262,844 votes or 46.85%) was by more than eight million votes and 6%.

A narrow win? Perhaps. But let’s not forget that Barisan Nasional only won 47.38% of the popular vote in Malaysia’s 2013 general election.

Indeed, the eight million-plus voters who propelled Jokowi to victory make up over 60% of the total voter turnout at the Malaysian polls last year. So while Prabowo can try to halt Jokowi via legal challenges – the fact remains that the Solo-born entrepreneur’s victory was clear and decisive.

But what’s really struck me is how much more advanced and sophisticated Indonesia’s elections have become.On polling night itself, various reputable polling houses were able to release “quick counts” that gave a remarkably accurate reading of the election results.

Over the weeks that followed, the “real count” by the General Elections Commission of Indonesia (KPU) was updated in “real” time on their official website. Parallel websites were also put up by civil society groups, monitoring the recapitulation.

Furthermore, the KPU actually uploaded a photograph of each of the result forms (dubbed C1) from all 479,000 voting stations.This is transparency. Having had to endure our own elections first-hand on live TV, I can say that the Indonesian election process was far more open and robust.

Jokowi

A Remarkable Journey to the Presidency

More importantly, Indonesia’s elections – and I’ve said this before – also featured lively and extensive debates between Jokowi and Prabowo plus their running mates: five separate nationally televised events, covering a range of subjects from the economy to foreign policy.

This process forced the candidates to articulate and argue for their respective platforms. The debates varied – some were boring and over-full of rhetoric. Others were scintillating.Whatever the case, the voters were able to decide for themselves as to the suitability of the two candidates.

Indonesia and Malaysia are united by language but separated by political experience. We are still living in the equivalent of Suharto’s New Order with a drastically curtailed and censored media while they are savouring a dramatically more open environment. So for those who question the scale of Jokowi’s victory, I say don’t just look at the result, consider the process.Isn’t it time we move forward?

Karim Raslan is a regional columnist and commentator. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. His online documentaries can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/KRceritalah. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Khalid Ibrahim’s defiance may prove costly to PKR and PAS


July 26, 2014

Khalid Ibrahim’s defiance may prove costly to Anwar Ibrahim, PKR and PAS

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/269938

Terence Netto’s COMMENT: With him digging his heels in for the long haul, Pakatan Rakyat will discover that the remaining time on Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s watch may well turn out as Chandra Muzaffar predicted an Anwar Ibrahim premiership would: an “unmitigated disaster.”

That apocalyptic prediction, aired with days to go before General Election 12 (GE12) in March 2008, made the flesh of the then rapidly coalescing opposition to UMNO-BN creep horribly.

Never mind that the former Deputy President of PKR’s precursor, Parti Keadilan Nasional, had quit — in circumstances more to do with ego than with principle – after a few years of residence in the party he had helped found in 1999. Never mind, too, that his leaving had strengthened the reputed theory that intellectuals tend to be more bane than boon to a fledgling political party.

When Chandra (left) regressed to the extent of his truculent denigration of the moving force behind the reformasi movement on the eve of what was seen as a pivotal decision by the Malaysian electorate, his renunciation rankled like a case of apostasy of a prominent follower would in a Muslim community.

Several years down the road from its airing, Chandra’s dire prognostication of how an Anwar premiership would turn out is being played out in the saga of Khalid Ibrahim’s MB-ship of Selangor. In the last few weeks, even as it has become increasingly evident that Khalid has crossed the Rubicon in terms of some kind of accommodation with his own party with respect to his MB-ship, the notion that forces beyond Pakatan’s ability to manage are at work to help Khalid keep his job has become a suppurating wound in its flanks.

The wound has to be cauterised

The longer it lies exposed to the elements that are out to undermine Pakatan so as to gain UMNO-BN a return to power in the richest state in Malaysia, the more certain it will be that the 51.87% of the national electorate that voted Pakatan in May last year would not be encouraged to re-endorse the coalition at GE14, at least not the PKR and the PAS components of it.

At this juncture, both parties appear decidedly unreliable as trustees of the cause of political and economic reform of the country that the reformasi movement, galvanized by Anwar Ibrahim’s travails, had raised hopes for.

PAS’s insistence on implementing hudud in Kelantan and Anwar’s (right) seeming ineptitude vis-à-vis internecine feuding in PKR have combined to erode confidence in the two Pakatan components.

Only the DAP, in the tripartite Pakatan, appears steadily adherent to prior agreed goals of the coalition; by comparison, PAS and PKR are flaky.

Seeing as voters had how easily a PKR appointee as MB can turn out to be a quisling and keeping in mind that the top ranks of the party are riddled with former UMNO types cannot be very encouraging to voters who had cottoned on to the idea that UMNO-BN’s more than half-century rule had decayed irredeemably.

Khalid has to be jettisoned if the Pakatan government in Selangor is to renew its claims to the allegiance of those who voted for it in 2008 and 2013. But the signs are that Khalid has dug in for the long haul. He has done so in the belief he has the support of not only UMNO-BN, but also some quarters of Pakatan component PAS.

The latest indications of support for Khalid emanating from PAS President Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang tends to confirm that PAS has learned nothing from its troubles in Kedah in the 2010-12 spell when their MB, Azizan Abdul Razak, was under pressure from within the party’s ranks to quit. Hadi and company declined to give an incompetent MB the coup de grace just like how they are refusing now to cashier Khalid.

The upshot: Kedah was lost to UMNO-BN, with five parliamentary seats – three held by PAS and two by PKR – reverting to UMNO.

The longer Khalid is allowed to thumb his nose at the forces within Pakatan that want him out, the more certain it is that recriminations will mount in the PKR quarter at least, which would prompt critics from among that lot to muse on the magnitude of the misjudgment that has seen a man like Khalid morph into what he has become: a fifth columnist in PKR’s ranks.

Early signs of political ineptitude

To be sure, Khalid had shown troubling signs of political ineptitude on the very morning after Pakatan captured power in Selangor on March 8, 2008. He began discussing with Dr Hasan Ali, the then PAS chief in Selangor, the possibility of that man becoming deputy to him as MB.

What was egregious about that move was that Hassan had the previous night been in negotiations with Mohamad Khir Toyo, the UMNO-BN MB unseated by the Pakatan win in Selangor. The negotiations, premised on an UMNO-PAS unity government for Selangor, broke down over Hassan’s insistence on being the MB-designate.

A man of vaulting and dangerously unmanageable ambition, Hasan would go on to create a lot of tension in the Pakatan government in Selangor until PAS put an end to his dissidence by sacking him in January 2012.

Khalid had no clue on how to bring to heel a person whose vaulting ambition he had unwittingly spurred. Anwar has a clue on how to dispose of Khalid, but it appears he can’t get PAS to sign on.

If PAS cannot be persuaded to endorse the removal of Khalid, then the leader who was the principal adhesive in the, hitherto, improbable coalition between secular DAP and theocratic PAS will have been gravely undermined by one from his own quarter. The irony is too bitter for comment.

It will seem for far too often in his career such that one can draw a damaging inference, Anwar can’t quite tell friend from foe. There is a reason why he can’t; let’s leave that for another time. Suffice the flaw is of the gravest magnitude.

With his politicking and abandonment of principle, “Anwar has lost Malaysia forever”


July 25, 2014

With his politicking and abandonment of principle, “Anwar has lost Malaysia forever”

by Nathaniel Tan@www.malaysiakini.com

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/269832

DSAI

I never criticised Anwar publicly until the Kajang Move. Watching him continue to be obsessed about whatever little power he can fight over has been a continuing disappointment…Gone, it seems, are the dreams he sold us of a better Malaysia and a political movement based on firm principles. In its place is naked ambition, petty politicking, and greedy scavenging over whatever money that is up for grabs…with his abandonment of principle in favour of greed, it is certain that he has lost Malaysia forever.–Nathaniel Tan

COMMENT: First, he tried to topple Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, and failed. Then he tried to topple Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and failed. Finally, he tried to topple Najib Abdul Razak, and failed as well.

Even as Malaysia faces crisis after crisis, Anwar Ibrahim has now decided to set his sights even lower, and focus all his energies on toppling Khalid Ibrahim, the incumbent Menteri Besar of Selangor. There is a good chance he will fail there too. Anwar’s credibility is crumbling almost as fast as his integrity is disintegrating.

Anwar’s announcement that Wan Azizah will be the next Menteri Besar immediately brought to mind September 16, 20o8. It seems that once again, Anwar is bluffing. Instead of getting the numbers and then creating hype, he is creating hype in a sad attempt to get numbers. Once again, it is shoot first and ask questions later.

Anwar’s hope for September 16 was that if he could make everyone believe he had the numbers to take over the federal government by the crossover of parliamentarians, then more and more parliamentarians would join his cause and make the myth he was selling a reality.

When September 16 came, all of Malaysia saw Anwar revealed to be the fraud that he was – that he never had the numbers, and that he was doing nothing more than gambling with the nation’s future.

Tearing Pakatan apart

Instantly after Anwar announced PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the next Menteri Besar, PAS Selangor denied it had agreed to this move. This slams home the point that every anti-Khalid effort since the Kajang Move has achieved nothing except to tear Pakatan Rakyat apart.

At a Pakatan meeting that PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang (right) chose not to attend, Anwar failed to win the Islamist party’s endorsement for Wan Azizah, and was only able to achieve a joint statement saying “we’ll talk about it”.

PAS is very understandably asking why it should support PKR’s candidate (especially given how divided PKR is at this point), when it could very well push to take on the Menteri Besar’s position.

PAS appears to have had enough of browbeating and bullying by an ‘ally’ it sees as being all talk and no substance – the same party that PAS always has to support on the ground in elections because of PKR’s persistently hopeless or non-existent party machinery.

What would happen if PAS and PKR continue to be at loggerheads? Or if PAS decides to take the extreme measure of uniting with UMNO against PKR and DAP on the question of the Menteri Besar? Then, throughout Malaysia, Pakatan  Rakyat dies an early death at the tender age of six years.

All about increasing payout to water firm?

Already, as it is, one of the worst parts of this crisis is having to read sense from people we are so accustomed to spewing nonsense on. It is heart wrenching to see that, for once in their lives, it is the likes of Ibrahim Ali, Hassan Ali, Shamsuddin Lias (UMNO Opposition leader in Selangor), and even Utusan Malaysia taking the right side.

I’m sure some will be against what they say merely out of habit, but if we look at this objectively, it is painfully obvious that Pakatan leaders are bending over backwards to justify the unjustifiable. (I have already written no less than six articles addressing all the key issues used to criticise Khalid and ‘justify’ his removal.)

A theory that this coup d’etat has a lot to do with PKR favouring certain players in the waterRPK restructuring exercise that I alluded to some time ago is now breaking with even greater detail. Raja Petra Kamaruddin (right) has been wrong about a great many things, but he has been right on some; and I’m betting he is right on this one as well.

Consistent with this view is Rafizi Ramli’s blatant statement that the valuations of the water deal will change. I will bet significant sums of money that in this change, one water concessionaire will get a higher payout.

READ:http://www.malaysia-today.net/selangors-watergate-about-to-explode/ –by Raja Petra Kamaruddin

Puppet Rule

Wan Azizah is a great woman, and has always been personally very nice to me. She is an individual with a kind heart who has never given anyone cause to doubt her compassion or tenderness. In fairness, she cannot be said to have demonstrated the qualities of a strong leader.

I don’t think anybody harbours any illusion about who really runs PKR. Equally, no one harbours any illusion about who will run Selangor if Wan Azizah is elected Menteri Besar.

Already there are rumblings that should this change take effect, the ‘kontraktor berwibawa’ crony patronage system from Anwar’s days as Finance Minister will snake its way into Selangor’s administration. The very thought of it is probably already making Khalid balk.

Enjoying the accountability-free position of ‘de facto leader’, whatever that means, Anwar seems to want to extend his undemocratic portfolio to de facto leader of Selangor. This system and pairing is not only undemocratic, it has proven thoroughly ineffective.

PKR is easily the worst-run party in Malaysia. For one thing, countries the size of India and Indonesia are able to start nationwide elections after, and finish them before, PKR’s own farce of internal party elections.

Anwar’s influence in the party is equally in shambles. Even with the fielding of his candidate for deputy president Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution (left) to act as a third corner spoiler, Khalid is still toe-to-toe in the elections with the party’s other feudal boss, Azmin Ali – a clear indication that even the party grassroots want change.

Anwar’s other trusted lieutenant, Rafizi Ramli, has meanwhile fallen considerably behind in the vice-president’s race. In fact, Anwar’s only candidate that won in the PKR race was the one who won uncontested.

The death of principles

Once again, it’s hard to write these things. When I worked for Anwar, and was arrested one weekend, he came with others to stand vigil outside the Dang Wangi Police station, calling for my release. I apologise if writing the following makes me ungracious.

At the same time, I cannot forget another anecdote, that Nurul Izzah Anwar often shares when at events with Khalid. She regales audiences about how when Anwar was sent to prison, no high profile Malaysian dared to come and visit him in Sungai Buloh for fear of sharing his taint. No one except Khalid.

However, it now seems that all bets are off. When any politician reneges on his promise to relinquish power when he promised to, red flags and alarm bells should be blaring. Anwar’s excuse for not quitting after GE13, like he said he would, was, “we won the popular vote, so I’m not quitting,” immediately demonstrating that he had been bluffing all along.

How sad to see a man once regarded as intelligent, dynamic and principled make up such flimsy excuses and cling so shamelessly to empty trappings of power.

Should Khalid fail to step down after his second term as he announced, then he will deserve similar derision.

I never criticised Anwar publicly until the Kajang Move. Watching him continue to be obsessed about whatever little power he can fight over has been a continuing disappointment.

Gone, it seems, are the dreams he sold us of a better Malaysia and a political movement based on firm principles. In its place is naked ambition, petty politicking, and greedy scavenging over whatever money that is up for grabs.

A good friend reminded me: as we all long desperately to remove BN, the question we must ask ourselves is whether we are willing to sacrifice our integrity in order to replace BN. Does our desperation to reach these ends truly justify any and all means?

It remains to be seen whether Anwar will wrest Selangor; but with his abandonment of principle in favour of greed, it is certain that he has lost Malaysia forever.

Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy


July 24, 2014

Asia Pacific |​NYT Now. http://www.nytimes.com

Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Intervention on Flight MH 17 Pays Off

by Keith Bradsher, Chris Buckley and David M. Herszenhorn, July 23, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — It wasn’t an aide or a diplomat on the phone with pro-Russian rebels, trying to get them to relinquish the bodies and the “black boxes” from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 in eastern Ukraine — it was the leader of Malaysia himself.

najib and his deputyMalaysia’s Prime Minister and His Deputy. Muhiyuddin Yassin

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia played an unusual personal role, holding a series of cellphone conversations with a rebel leader and then coaching a Malaysian colonel on what to say as he passed through nearly a dozen rebel checkpoints on his way to the crash scene, according to a person who was with the prime minister much of the time.

Mr. Najib’s success has at least temporarily restored his standing at home, where his government was battered by accusations of incompetence following the disappearance in March of another Malaysia Airlines jet, Flight MH 370. The arrival of most of the bodies and the flight data recorders from Flight MH 17 at a Ukrainian military base on Tuesday brought an outpouring of relief and praise in Malaysia.

But Mr. Najib’s willingness to negotiate directly with Alexander Borodai, the rebel leader, has prompted disquiet outside the country about whether the prime minister had lent unwarranted legitimacy to a man the Ukrainian government has condemned as a terrorist.

Malaysian officials say Mr. Najib established a rapport with Mr. Borodai over the weekend, and finally reached an agreement with him on Monday for handing over the remains and the recorders, which the rebels had taken from the crash site, in territory they control near the Russian border. The plane, a Boeing 777-200 with 298 aboard, was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was struck by an antiaircraft missile on July 17.

Opposition politicians in Malaysia who had excoriated Mr. Najib through the spring over Flight MH 370 endorsed his actions on Wednesday at a special session of Parliament and in a series of earlier statements. A senior opposition politician, Lim Kit Siang, wrote on his blog that the prime minister “is to be commended for the breakthrough with the handover of the two black boxes.” And Lim Guan Eng, the Secretary-Ggeneral of the Democratic Action Party, a major opposition bloc, said that his party was “willing to stand together with the federal government to support their efforts to bring back the bodies to their families.”

Officials in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, insisted that Mr. Najib’s arrangement with Mr. Borodai did not involve any promise of formal diplomatic recognition or payment to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Political analysts said that Mr. Najib’s domestic political bonanza depended partly on that remaining true.

“If it emerges that there are issues behind this deal, then things will be seen in a slightly different way,” said Bridget Welsh, a senior Research Associate at National Taiwan University who specializes in Malaysian politics.

The Malaysian delegation in Ukraine incurred the anger of many Ukrainians by using the honorific “excellency” in referring to Mr. Borodai, who styles himself the leader of a breakaway republic. But, at least in public, Mr. Najib has not used the term, referring to the rebel leader only as “Mr. Borodai.”

Few Malaysians have followed the Ukrainian conflict in detail, so the question of legitimizing Mr. Borodai, who is a Russian citizen, has barely been raised here. The overwhelming priority has been recovering the bodies of the 43 Malaysians who were on Flight MH17, including two infants — an especially sensitive matter in a mainly Muslim country where prompt and proper burial of the dead is a strong religious imperative.

“Over here, people don’t care how the deal was done,” said James Chin, a Professor of Political Science at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Monash University. “All they care is that the bodies are coming back, so that the families have closure.”

But, Mr. Chin said, Mr. Najib’s political boost might not last long. When he announced the deal earlyTuesday morning, Mr. Najib predicted that the bodies of Malaysians would be in their families’ hands by the end of Ramadan, which in Malaysia will be Sunday. But Dutch and Australian officials now say that it could take weeks or months to identify the remains, which are first being flown to a laboratory in the Netherlands.

MH17 Crash Site2

“Now he’s smelling like roses, but I suspect it’ll end in tears,” Mr. Chin said of Mr. Najib.The Prime Minister sharpened his criticism of the initial difficulties in recovering the bodies and data recorders in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, but he continued to refrain from assigning blame for the downing of the aircraft.

For Mr. Najib, the loss of a second Malaysia Airlines jet in less than five months is an ordeal that began when he received a call at his Kuala Lumpur home late last Thursday telling him that Flight MH 17 had disappeared from radar. The person who was with him for much of that night, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a ban on commenting publicly about the Prime Minister’s private activities, said that Mr. Najib immediately summoned officials to meet him at an emergency response center at the capital’s airport.

Airport guards outside the response center were not prepared for the appearance of the prime minister’s motorcade, with its escort of armed guards on motorcycles, and initially refused to let it pass, while they tried to check with superiors by telephone, the person said. The prime minister’s security detail cut the wait short by bodily lifting the guards and carrying them to the side of the road, and then pushing up the heavy gate blocking the entrance road.

Mr. Najib was given Mr. Borodai’s cellphone number by someone whom Mr. Borodai trusted and who vouched for Mr. Najib, according to Malaysian officials. They declined to say whether the intermediary who set up the initial call was Russian.

Malaysia has long sought to avoid conspicuously taking sides in the rivalries among the United States, Russia and China, and many of its citizens are wary of American influence. While the Netherlands is a member of NATO, which many pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine see as a threat, Malaysia is a distant Southeast Asian nation that has stayed largely silent on the turmoil there.

Russia has invested years of effort in building up its relations with Malaysia, in which aviation has played a major role for more than a decade. Malaysia agreed to buy 18 Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia in May 2003, in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. In exchange, Russia agreed to train and transport to space Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon by profession who traveled to the International Space Station in 2007 and became a celebrated national hero, not least because he observed the Ramadan fasts in space under the guidance of a large team of religious experts.

At a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin in Vladivostok in 2012, Mr. Najib noted that he personally oversaw the deal for the Sukhoi jets, and added, “The time has come for us to broaden the relationship and to look into new areas of cooperative relationship with you.” The deal to recover the recorders and remains from Flight MH 17 may be the richest political dividend Mr. Najib has yet reaped from that relationship.

Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley reported from Kuala Lumpur, and David M. Herszenhorn from Kiev, Ukraine

 

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results


July 24, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results

Speech at the Emergency Session of Parliament (July 23, 2014)

Prime Minister Najib in ParliamentPrime Minister Najib Addressing MPs on MH17

“No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia…

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire”.–PM Najib Razak

MR Speaker Sir,

At about 11pm on Thursday, July 17, 2014, corresponding to 19 Ramadan, 1435, Hijrah, a date that will not be easily forgotten, I received a telephone call from the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof, about MH17.

As it turned out, even before the MH370 tragedy had abated, the unwelcome MH17 tragedy had happened.With divine provision, a tragic event had taken place. The world, in general, and Malaysians, in particular, were shocked by the unexpected tragedy of the reported crash of a Boeing 777-200 commercial aircraft of Malaysia Airlines, flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

In less than two hours, I arrived at the MAS operations rooms at KLIA (KL International Airport), along with several ministers. We were briefed by the MAS management on what had happened. Without wasting any time, I was in touch with several world leaders, among them President Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

At about 2am, I decided to send a special team to the crash site. Then, at about 5am, I called a special press conference to inform Malaysians and the rest of the world about what was happening at that time.

For the information of this august house, the flight had left (Amsterdam) at about 12.15pm local time and was scheduled to arrive at KLIA at 6.10am Malaysian time. The flight had on board 298 people, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew (members). Forty-three of them, including two infants, were Malaysians.  Malaysia Airlines confirmed having been informed by the Ukraine Air Traffic Control that it lost contact with flight MH17 at 10.15pm local time, about 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Message of Condolence

On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed profound sadness over the tragedy that had befallen the passengers and crew of flight MH17.

 I also extended condolences and profound sympathy as well, especially to all the family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims. It is hoped that all of them will remain steadfast and resolute in facing this most challenging moment of grief.

The government also declared that from 18 to 21 July, 2014, the national flag will be flown at half mast nationwide.Let us Muslims say the Al-Fatihah and the non-Muslims, observe a moment’s silence.

Important Facts

Some important facts for the scrutiny of this august house.

 Fact No. 1: The total number of deaths. For your information, Malaysia Airlines listed the passengers and crew based on nationality. The updated list as at July 18, 2014, based on nationality is as follows:

Netherlands — 192

Malaysia — 43 (including 15 crew and two infants)

Australia — 27

Indonesia — 12 (including one infant)

United Kingdom — 10 (including one dual national from UK/South Africa)

Germany — four

Belgium — four

The Philippines — three

The United States — one (dual national United States/Netherlands)

Canada — one

New Zealand — one

This brings the number of people killed to 298, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew. The number includes 83 innocent children and three infants.

Fact No. 2: The MAS flight path was certified safe. As for the flight path used by MAS, I have to explain that the flight path of MH17 was one that was certified safe and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or ICAO, as well as Ukraine, the air space of which it traversed. Furthermore, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, had also stated that the air space traversed by the flight was safe.

For example, 15 of the 16 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines used this route to get to Ukraine. European airlines also used the same flight path and traversed the same air space. In fact, several hours before the tragic incident, several commercial aircraft of several Asian nations also used the same flight path.

For your information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted a report from Eurocontrol, 400 commercial flights, among them 150 international flights, traverse the air space over eastern Ukraine daily. In fact, two days before the tragedy, 75 flights of various airlines used the flight path that was used by flight MH17. Even on that day, flight MH17 did not receive any instruction to alter the flight path.

Fact No. 3: MAS flight in good physical and technical condition. As for the physical and technical condition of the flight, MAS issued a statement on July 18, 2014, verifying that flight MH17 was in good condition. MAS also confirmed that all systems of the flight were in good working order, particularly the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and the transponder.

Fact No. 4: International Law. The shooting down of the aircraft was not only a cruel act, but one that violated the principles of international law by way of the Convention on International Civil Aviation or better known as the Chicago Convention and which is recognised by the United Nations as per Resolution 1067 (1996).

In this matter, the UN had unanimously approved a resolution to urge the separatists to provide unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. It also called for all military activity, including by the armed groups, to be stopped immediately in the vicinity of the site to enable the international investigation to be conducted in safety.

I have instructed the Attorney-General to look into this matter thoroughly to ensure that any action to be taken by Malaysia is in accordance with the international law applied in matters of such a nature.

Malaysia’s Demands and Call

For the information of honourable MPs (Members of Parliament), on July 17, 2014, several hours after the crash of MH17, officials in the United States and Ukraine claimed that the flight was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

If these claims are true, we strongly condemn this inhuman, uncivilised, barbaric, savage and irresponsible act by those who are believed to have shot down the ill-fated flight MH17.Nevertheless, for the moment, we are not pointing fingers at anyone until the facts have been obtained.

I am made to understand that the region where the tragedy occurred is under the control of a separatist group. Nevertheless, I felt angry and disappointed over two matters:

Firstly, when I was informed that they did not regard the crash site as a prohibited area and did not adhere to the international standard practice of ensuring that evidence is not removed or impaired.

Secondly, the delay in attending to the tragedy, which resulted in the failure to accord the bodies of the victims the honour and dignity they rightly deserve.

In addition, Malaysia called on the ICAO, as the guardian of civil aviation security worldwide, to issue a resolution strongly condemning the attack on flight MH17, as had been done in cases of a similar nature. Furthermore, the shooting down of the flight MH17 commercial aircraft is a most cruel act and a brutal and violent crime.

As stated in Annex 13 of the ICAO Convention, the government of Ukraine has to assume responsibility to undertake an investigation as to the cause of the crash. A report on the investigation has to be given to the next of kin of the victims as provided for in the ICAO guidelines.

Of course, Malaysia would offer unwavering support to participate in this investigation. For the record, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, and Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, were among those who had gone to Kiev, Ukraine.

Malaysia also welcomes the call for an investigation by an independent international team on the crash and urges all quarters to cooperate to ensure that the probe can be completed. We demand and support an independent international investigation into the tragedy. Those responsible for this tragedy have to be brought to justice.

Last Friday, we sent a plane with a special team of 133 people, comprising a SMART (Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue) team, technical officers, a medical team and Jakim officers to the crash site. A special investigation team was also set up, comprising representatives from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States.

MAS sent 40 staff to Amsterdam to provide assistance and moral support to the families of the victims.Furthermore, I received many telephone calls from world leaders who expressed their support and sympathy and promised to extend aid in whatever form that they can. On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed thanks for the support they and the world community have extended to Malaysia.

MH17 Crash Site 3The Crash Site

Three Successful Deals

In principle, the treatment accorded to the bodies of the victims was wrong, but following consultation with the head of the separatist group, we managed to avert further damage. It is unnecessary for us to announce every action taken. Sometimes we must work quietly in the service of a better outcome, especially when negotiating with the head of a separatist group, with the desire to ensure that the bodies of the victims can be retrieved and given a decent burial, even though time has passed.

On Monday, July 21, 2014, under difficult circumstances, I was forced to make a risky decision in the best interests of the bodies of the victims of the tragedy and to be certain of the reality of what had happened.In this matter, I consulted Alexander Borodai, the head of the pro-Russia separatist group, because the region is under their control. The consultation yielded three deals:

First, all the recovered bodies of the MH17 tragedy victims, estimated to be 282, were taken from Torev to Kharkiv in Ukraine by train before being flown to Amsterdam, along with six members of the Malaysian recovery team at 1am on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, and arriving there at 11am local time. Following forensic work in Amsterdam, the bodies of all Malaysians will be brought back to our country as soon as possible. I undertook to do this and will do everything I can because I had promised the families of the victims when I met them that, as far as possible, the victims can be laid to rest before Syawal. Only then will the families of the victims have peace of mind.

Second, the two black boxes of flight MH17 were handed over to the Malaysian team in Donetsk at 9pm Ukraine time on Monday, July 21, 2014. Without the black boxes, it will be difficult for us to carry on with the investigation. The black boxes have been handed over to the investigation team led by the Netherlands and will be sent to London for further investigation.

Third, all the members of the independent international team of investigators are to be given access to the crash site and a guarantee of safety to undertake a comprehensive probe into the MH17 tragedy. However, this has yet to be fully realised.

Solidarity and Unity

MH17We Malaysians Mourn the Loss of Lives on MH17 and MH370

In fact, this has been a very tragic calendar (year) for us. Nevertheless, in this difficult period in the month of Ramadan, we must strengthen our solidarity and unity in facing this situation. God willing.  No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia.

Therefore, do not engage in any speculation that can cause embarrassment to the victims of the tragedy and their families. This is not the time to splash on the social media stories which can be factually wrong or false.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Opposition leader (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and the Gelang Patah MP (Lim Kit Siang) and the leaders of other political parties for having likened the MH17 tragedy to genocide and for calling for the murderers to be brought to justice.

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire.

Conclusion

Although we have done a lot, much more remains to be done. We may be up against challenges and various obstacles, but we will never give up halfway.

As such, we urge that the investigation must be conducted by an independent team to ascertain the cause of the crash of flight MH17. Some questions demand immediate answers, such as to whether the aircraft was fired upon with a guided missile, who was the perpetrator of the crime and what was the motive for the attack.

Furthermore, was the shooting premeditated, with the intention to shoot down a commercial flight, or a mistake? All of these require clear and authentic proof.

No matter what we do, we cannot bring back the dead. Imagine how a 1-year-old child will grow up without the love of its father, namely Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi, the co-pilot who perished in the tragedy. More saddening is that the mother has lost her husband.

What about the fate and future of Amarpal Singh? How depressed will this medical student be whose cost of study had been borne by his father who was a victim of the tragedy?Just imagine what grandmother Jamillah Noriah Abang Anuar of Kuching, Sarawak, would be feeling, having lost six members of her beloved family.

Personally, I am able to feel what they are going through. My step-grandmother was one of the victims. More saddening is the fact the world has lost a group of scientists who were involved in AIDS and HIV research. These people were on their way to attend the International AIDS Conference in Australia.In fact, there are many more stories that I cannot mention here. For example, the Netherlands lost 192 of its people in the tragedy. The number is very large when taken as a ratio of the population of that country.

I am of the opinion that geopolitical upheavals do not benefit anyone. They just make people suffer when they lose their loved ones and the world stands to lose competent human beings.

As for the families of the victims of the MH17 tragedy, I wish to tell them not to be worried because, so long as we do not have the answers, we will not stop seeking the truth. No matter how difficult it may be, we will demand justice for the sake of the families of the victims.

Let us walk through this difficult time together, united in grief. Hopefully, God will give us assistance and enlightenment for a solution in the end.Above all, during this blessed final days of Ramadan, let us indulge in more prayers and hope that God will guide us to a solution through our efforts. We must believe that any period of hardship that we pass through will be followed closely by a period of ease, as set by God.

 http://www.nst.com.my/node/16916 –BERNAMA

dm-1205Our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has shown that when he takes charge, matters can be resolved expeditiously. As in all things, leadership with decisive action matters. I congratulate him for a task well done. He must now know that he has to take charge in times of crisis. More of the same, Sir, when crisis and tragedy beckons. Take charge and Malaysians will stand with you. Together, we shall overcome as we Malaysians are a strong people in body and spirit.–Din Merican

 

It is all in a Family for PKR


July 24, 2014

It is all in a Family for PKR

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com (07-23-14)

COMMENT: PKR were being myopic rather than far-sighted when its central leadership council chose party president Dr Wan Azizah Ismail as its only choice of who is to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor Menteri Besar.

Azizah

The party could have included Deputy President Azmin Ali, who covets the MB’s post, as the other nominee but a proposition to that end was talked down at the council’s meeting on Monday night. It was not immediately clear that the faction that rejected the proposal felt that Azizah would make for a better replacement of Khalid and, therefore, there was no need to name Azmin as an alternate.

More likely, this faction felt that it did not need to placate the Azmin forces though the latter are doing much better than their rivals in the internal party polls which will end on August 10, after what would have been a controversy-ridden staging of what must be the democratic world’s longest ever party election process. The exercise began as long ago as April 27.

If the anti-Azmin forces think they are not obliged to offer an olive branch they are being delusional – in declining to make a placatory gesture, they invite a renewal of internecine feuding in the party which is almost certain to follow when ( and if) Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy appeal is rejected by the Federal Court which has fixed a date in September for the matter to be heard.

If Anwar winds up in jail on account of losing the appeal, the expectation is that the pro and anti-Azmin forces would be at each others’ throats in a battle for control of the party. To forestall this eventuality the expedient of including Azmin’s name in the PKR list of who is to replace Khalid as MB of Selangor would have been a placatory gesture and far-sighted, too.

Its wisdom lies not only in the move’s potential to forestall trouble but also in its deference to the democratically expressed wishes of the party’s electorate. Factions are endemic to democratic political parties. A wise leadership co-opts them rather than excludes or, worse, bans them.

Azmin is the clear winner of the three-cornered fight for the Deputy President’s post in which the other contestants were Khalid Ibrahim and outgoing Secretary-General  Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution.

The move to make the contest for Deputy President a three-way fight rather than just a battle between incumbent Azmin and challenger Khalid – antagonists in a proxy war for which the spoils were the Selangor MB’s post – was motivated by a desire to rid the top leadership of both contestants in one fell swoop by the stratagem of getting Saifuddin elected to the party’s penultimate post.

Best way forward

It must have been felt by the faction that was opposed to the two antagonists that this was the best way forward for the party, troubled as it has been the last several years by the proxy battle between the incumbent deputy president and the Selangor MB.

In the last year at least, both antagonists had displayed disconcerting traces of what within PKR is pejoratively termed as ‘UMNO-DNA’. This is the play of ruthless clientelistic politics and the blurring of public and personal interests, hallmarks of the UMNO malady that has brought a once powerful party to its present – and irredeemable – decay.

In the last several months at least, Khalid has appeared the more flagrant exhibitor of these insidious traits.
The party is united in wanting him to go but divided as to who should replace him. The Azmin faction which has done rather better than its rivals in the party’s polls want their man in the Selangor MB’s slot but his opponents, backed by party supremo Anwar Ibrahim, are united in wanting not only to keep the retained Deputy President out, but to not even offer his side the fig leaf of an appointment somewhere in the state administration’s hierarchy.

Two Anwar flunkies, Saifuddin and Johari Abdul, the MP for Sungei Petani, are expected to become advisers to MB-nominee Azizah.   PKR dirctor of strategy Rafizi Ramli (left), adamant in his opposition to both Khalid and Azmin, is slated to fill the state economic adviser’s role, an important position but of no content in the time that Anwar has held it.

It was not Anwar’s fault that the role held no purchase on the policies and practices adopted by Khalid as Selangor’s CEO; the latter is simply not the sort to brook co-tenancy as MB. But if Rafizi comes to occupy the role, it will virtually be an Azizah MB-ship by proxy of Rafizi, a prospect that would not be palatable to those now doffing their hats to the idea of Azizah as the country’s first woman MB.

Azizah is distinguished by her fidelity to the role – through periods of recurrent travail and fleeting triumph – assigned her by the fate of husband Anwar. Other than that aura acquired by having been through fate’s mangle, she has little to qualify her for the role of MB.

In two of her choices – one of a Dr Norlela Ariffin as head of Wanita PKR in Penang and her recommendation of Faekah Husin as aide to Khalid Ibrahim – her instincts have been nothing short of disastrous. Fortunately, Norlela had the good sense to quit after a short time at the helm but Faekah continues to be an albatross around PKR’s neck. But within PKR, Azizah and her husband, however error-prone in judgment, enjoy Teflon exemption from the vicissitudes that other politicians have to endure.

Politicians like Azmin, flawed in character but steadily faithful to the party and, on the evidence of its internal polls, formidably popular are held to a different standard. It’s a struggle these days to keep in mind that PKR was founded 15 years ago to struggle for an egalitarian polity.


TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for four decades now. He likes the profession because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

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Indonesia’s New Leadership


July 23, 2014

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

EDITORIAL

The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 19.55 BST

Jokowi JK

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

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

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

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

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17


July 22, 2014

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17

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

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

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy


July 20, 2014

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy

 

MH17

 
COMMENT: by John Ling@www.malaysiakini.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good start short-lived

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

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

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

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

Russian reset in tatters

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

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

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

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

Malaysia blissfully ignorant

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

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

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

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

 

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17


July 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

by William Pesek (07-18-14)

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

Liow_Tiong_Lai-MH17_PC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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