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.

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

 

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session


July 19, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister calls an Emergency Parliamentary Session

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

MH17 Crash Site2

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

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

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

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

Crying for Loss of Loved OnesMH17- Crying for Loved Ones

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

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

Acknowledging that “we are in the last days of the fasting month”, Najib also called on Muslims, regardless of political affiliation, to come together to pray so that Malaysia will be safe from harm.He also called on other faiths to pray for the same in their own way.
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Brasil 2014, Football and Germany


July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebranding the country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes


July 14, 2014

Malaysia–the best predictors of electoral outcomes

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


July 13, 2014

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

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

Malaysia2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Friendly” Advice to Najib on Leadership


July 12, 2014

“Friendly” Advice to Najib on Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abide by the Constitution

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

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

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

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

Brazil’s defeat shows the importance of Leadership says who but Leadership lacking Najib


July 9, 2014

Brazil’s defeat shows the importance of Leadership says Leadership lacking Najib

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

Brazil’s catastrophic 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final shows the importance of leadership, said Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Referring to the host nation’s defence during the match being in tatters, Najib said a nation would suffer a similar fate in the absence of leadership.

“If that can happen to a football team, imagine what can happen to a country without leadership, vision and a commitment to strive for the rakyat’s fate. The answer is that the outcome would be like the Brazil team,” he is quoted as saying by news reports today.

The Prime Minister was speaking at a ceremony to present Perdana Fellowships to cabinet ministers in Putrajaya. Ironically, Najib’s critics have said the same thing about his leadership, claiming that the nation is on auto-pilot weathering a series of storms.

On various occasions, he had been chastised for his silence on controversial issues, with Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian noting that the Prime Minister preferred to take photos with pandas and US President Barack Obama.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin, upon studying Najib’s tweets for first 100 days since the last general election, had concluded that Najib has lost focus while UMNO conservatives hijacked issues. Even former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (above) had weighed in and acknowledged that the government is “weak”.

Isn’t it ironic?

Meanwhile, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang deemed Najib’s analogy “ironic” and “tragic”, implying that the Prime Minister himself is also risking Malaysia on the fate of absence of leadership.

“Where is Najib’s leadership in his Global Movement of Moderates for ‘the voices of moderation to drown the voices of extremism’? In the past year, there has been an incessant stoking and incitement of racial and religious hatred, tension and conflict in the country,” said the Gelang Patah MP in a separate statement.

He also questioned Najib’s leadership in the war against corruption, with Malaysia recording its worst ranking in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index during his term.

Not Easy to be the PM’s Wife–Rosmah Mansor

Japan’s Cabinet Seeks Changes to Its Peace Constitution


July 2, 2014
Asia Pacific Bulletin
Number 270 | July 1, 2014
ANALYSIS

Japan’s Cabinet Seeks Changes to Its Peace Constitution – Issues New “Interpretation” of Article Nine

By Andrew L. Oros

AbeJapan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed his nation at a 6pm press conference on July 1 to announce a much-anticipated Cabinet decision to reinterpret a constitutional prohibition related to Japan’s military forces working together with other states, setting the stage for a series of changes to Japanese law when its parliament reconvenes in the fall.

Protestors opposing this effective change to Japan’s constitution–which has never been formally revised since its implementation in 1947–have gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence all week. An estimated 5,000 protestors gathered outside the prime-time press conference where the prime minister argued that the reinterpretation did not represent a fundamental departure in nearly 70 years of Japanese security policy, but rather was a modest update to current policy in response to a changing international security environment.

He repeatedly touted Japan’s postwar identity as a “peace state” (heiwakoku), arguing that now is the time for Japan to make a greater international contribution to international peace–in line with the national security strategy released by his government in December 2013 that called for Japan to make “proactive contributions to peace” internationally.

The issue of “collective self-defense”–engaging in military action with allied states even if your state itself is not directly threatened–has been a topic of debate in Japan all year. Japanese government policy for over half a century has been that although all states have an inherent right to engage in collective self-defense, as rooted in long-standing practice of international law, Japan would refrain from exercising that right in deference to Article Nine of its postwar constitution, which forbids the use of force to settle international disputes.

Prime Minister Abe has long argued that Japan should engage in collective self-defense activities with like-minded states, both together with its alliance partner the United States as well as with other states and through United Nations peacekeeping operations. Abe’s coalition partner in government, the New Komei Party, has been opposed, however. As a result, the issue was set aside during the first year of Abe’s return to power in December 2012.

Critics of the Abe government argue that this decision is rushed, is taking place without debate in Japan’s parliament, and that no elected leader has the right to reinterpret the constitution. There is widespread misunderstanding about the power of this cabinet statement, however: it does not have the force of law.

Only legislation passed by Japan’s parliament has the force of law–and, indeed, this was one of the subjects of Abe’s 10-minute prepared statement to the nation: that his government would be creating a team to draft bills to establish the necessary legislation to submit to the Diet for its deliberation. Still, the cabinet statement does reflect unanimity among the cabinet, which includes one member from the New Komei Party. It took months of negotiation and substantial compromises by Abe to achieve this support, leading to a much watered-down mandate to exercise the right of collective self-defense only in highly constrained circumstances and even then only using the minimum necessary force to restore the peace.

The Abe government prepared 15 examples to share with the nation illustrating situations where it saw Japanese security at risk due to Japan’s decision not to exercise its right of collective self-defense, which Abe debuted in an earlier televised prime-time press conference in May. Famously pointing to a sketch of a mother holding a small child while fleeing hostilities, Abe explained cases such as the challenges of evacuating Japanese nationals from a war zone, or Japan’s need to cooperate in de-mining critical sea trade routes in the event an enemy were to lay such mines (as happened in the 1991 Gulf War). In fact, the most likely cases where Japan would exercise collective self-defense are together with its only formal military ally, the United States.

It was announced last October that the two states seek to formally revise their 17-year-old guidelines for defense cooperation by the end of 2014, making a decision on the issue of collective self-defense time sensitive. The two states’ goals of cooperating to combat cyber threats and to improve defenses against ballistic missiles both require a pre-commitment from Japan to work together with the militaries of other states, even in cases where it is not clear that Japan itself is being attacked. In addition, the long-standing fear of a new outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula would also put great pressure on Japan to offer assistance to US and South Korean military forces–even if Japan itself was not directly attacked, something prohibited under the prior cabinet interpretation of the Japanese constitution.

This new policy on collective self-defense should thus be seen, in part, as a way to show Japan’s commitment to the US-Japan military alliance–and to seek to secure US commitment to the alliance in the wake of growing Japanese concerns about China’s designs on the remote and uninhabited Senkaku Islands that Japan administers but China claims (and which China calls Diaoyu), and that Japan would need the United States military to help protect in the event of hostilities.

The new policy should also been seen as part of a set of initiatives of the Abe government to re-craft Japanese military activities as the sort of conduct any “normal” state engages in without suspicion. In this sense, it is part and parcel of his broader efforts to move beyond the criticism of Japan’s militarist past and to a new status quo where Japan’s “proactive contributions to peace” are welcomed on the contemporary international stage. The policy also should be understood at face value: as a way to address potential security contingencies Japan may face in the future.

The Abe government is correct about international law: that all states inherently possess the right of collective self-defense. But his public statements belie the substantial change in policy that Japan choosing to exercise this right would represent. Critics over-state the significance of the cabinet statement, however. Nothing has yet been changed in Japanese law, and even if new laws are passed in the fall based on this cabinet statement, the agreement within the ruling coalition places substantial barriers on Japan exercising this right in the years to come. Abe has thus not yet realized his dream of Japan becoming a “normal” state–and based on the scale of criticism both at home and abroad about this policy push, it will take many more years of policy evolution to achieve this goal.
About the Author

Dr. Andrew L. Oros is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland and Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington. He is author of Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice and can be contacted via email at aoros2@washcoll.edu.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated. For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

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Malaysia in 2014–a perspective from Singapore


June 30, 2014

Malaysia in 2014–a perspective from Singapore

MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE-DIPLOMACYFor Singapore, due to history, geography, demography, economy and recent political experiences, Malaysia has perpetually been its lynchpin concern and preoccupation. In the past, S Rajaratnam, the Republic’s first foreign minister, had described Singapore’s relations with Malaysia as ‘special’ and there is nothing to suggest that this has changed in anyway.

If anything, the ‘specialness’ has been intensified and further reinforced due to a whole array of factors, not least being the imperatives of national, regional and international economics. A weakening United States, an assertive China, an unstable Thailand and a new nationalistic leader in Indonesia can change the political and security architecture in the region to the detriment of both states and hence, their bilateral ties.

In the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in Singapore’s expulsion from Malaysia in August 1965, the emotive dimension of Singapore’s view of Malaysia was dominant. Even though this has largely dissipated, it is not totally absent. Still, the pragmatism with which both states have moved forward is definitely a milestone achievement in bilateral ties in Southeast Asia.

For Singapore, continuity rather than change remains its key perspective on Malaysia. This was especially true after the May 2013 general elections where the Barisan Nasional (BN: National Front) was returned to power albeit with a weaker majority. Still, Prime Minister Najib, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the BN are in power and that is what matters even though the winds of change must also be disconcerting. The disquiet would be more, not so much from the economic aspect as it would be from the rising racial and religious polarisation of Malaysia in the last few years that was brought to the forefront during the last general elections. The ‘Allah’ issue has not been helpful and the recent firebombing of a church in Penang has merely raised the ante of what this will mean for Malaysia and possibly, even multiracial and multi-religious Singapore.

All that aside, the single most important development of late has been the rising warmth in Singapore-Malaysia bilateral ties under Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Tun Razak. While past imperatives of history, geography and demography remain relevant, most dominant in the new narrative has been the personal warmth of the two prime ministers and the strategic nature of their bilateral ties.

Most of the past issues have been addressed or settled such as relocation of Customs and Immigration Complex, land reclamation and even water. Most importantly, has been the breakthroughs that both leaders have made vis-à-vis two issues, namely, the resolution of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the land exchange deal as well as Singapore’s support for the Iskandar Development Project in Johor. Other positive developments in ties include the holding of annual leader’s retreats, re-establishment of links between both countries’ stock exchanges, Malaysia’s agreement to sell electricity to Singapore, the agreement to build high speed train link from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, the amicable post-Pedra Branca technical talks to resolve legacy issues over the islands’ dispute and finally, the establishment of a Singapore consulate in Johor Baru.

ST-Iskandar

If there is one key factor that has brought bilateral ties to a new height, it is the cooperation in the Iskandar Project. Not only is the Singapore Government supporting investments in the project through Government-linked companies such as Temasek Holding but also playing an important role in encouraging the private sector to invest in the project. Additionally, thousands of Singaporeans are expected to be permanently based in the Iskandar region and Johor as a whole, bringing interdependence to a level that was never seen before. To that extent, Iskandar has been the key game changer in Singapore-Malaysia bilateral ties of late.

The breakthrough in bilateral ties was a function of a number of factors. First, the decision by both sides to adopt a new approach to bilateral ties in order to garner win-win results. Second, the personal warmth of the top leaders was extremely helpful. Third, the calculation of the mutual benefits that would be gained by both sides in view of the increasing regional and global competition. Fourth, over the years, there has also been increasing economic interdependence with Singapore as one of the top investors in Malaysia over the last two decades or so. Two-way trade and investments are among the highest between the two states. Fifth, there is also the realisation of increasing security indivisibility of both states. Finally, the ideological pragmatism of both sides has also helped in boosting bilateral ties.

While Singapore expects Malaysia in 2014 to have a largely ‘normal’ year barring any unexpected events – all the more to be the case as the UMNO annual assembly has opted for status quo – the Republic is also mindful of the many uncertainties that can unexpectedly crop up to affect bilateral ties. While 2014 can expect the warming of ties to continue, this cannot be taken for granted. First, the warm ties of two prime minister, both of whom are sons of two former prime ministers  who were not close, may not survive personalities if a more nationalistic prime minister takes over in Singapore or Malaysia. Second, tensions could surface if the promised cooperation proves futile or produces one-sided benefits, say in Iskandar Project. Finally, growing domestic tensions in Malaysia, especially among the Malay and Chinese communities in Johor or in Malaysia could spill over into Singapore-Malaysia relations.

Hence, for Singapore, while Malaysia in 2014 is expected to continue ‘good business as normal’, there are also potential minefields that might explode, and hence, the need for caution. ‘Special relations’ are important but can never be taken for granted, and this also holds true of Singapore’s view of Malaysia in 2014.

Bilveer Singh is associate professor at the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore, adjunct senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and President of the Political Science Association of Singapore. 

Leave US alone, says UM Academic Staff Association


June 30, 2014

Leave US alone, says UM Academic Staff Association

BY JAMILAH KAMARUDIN–The Malaysian Insider
Published: 30 June 2014

Academic staff of the University of Malaya today hit out at the Education Ministry over its role in the removal of Professor Datuk Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman, saying it was clear Putrajaya did not rate academic freedom highly.

Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom (pic), who heads University of Malaya Academic Staff Associationazmi s (PKAUM), said if the ministry had leaned on Redzuan, then it is clear that decisions are made based on political importance and not academic reasons or interests.

“This is one of the reasons why Malaysian universities find it difficult to develop because there is political interference,” he said.

“Leave the academicians alone, our studies and methodology are done according to academic standards. If the government is facing problems or has issues, it is not our problem.”

The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Education Ministry had told Redzuan to quit as director of Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel), while his tenure as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in the university was also not renewed.

Azmi said Putrajaya should stop mouthing platitudes about academic excellence. “Close your mouth and keep quiet. Do not dream of delusions of academic grandeur and Malaysian universities making the Top 100 institutions of higher learning in the world rankings,” he said, adding that academic freedom was the basis of a top university.

Dr Amin Jalaludin“The top universities are free of political interference, especially in matters concerning research. However, the Education Ministry appears to have failed to understand this particular point,” Azmi said. On the issue of Redzuan’s tenure not being renewed, Azmi said the UM’s Vice-Chancellor (left) had the full power to determine the most qualified individual to hold the position.

“Even if the votes are in Redzuan’s favour, the V-C has the final say. The academic staff can only propose who they like. We do not know how many of the faculty staff supported Redzuan.Even if Redzuan wins the popular vote, the final decision lies with the V-C. However, if it is true that Redzuan won the popular vote but failed to retain his position, then it will be another example of Putrajaya’s interference at play,” he said.

The Malaysian Insider also reported that Putrajaya was uncomfortable with UMcedel’s research which was seen as favouring Pakatan Rakyat during last year’s 13th general election.One such research was a survey which indicated greater support for PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, compared to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The research conducted by UMcedel was later proven accurate when PR won the popular vote during the 13th general election.

Attempts by The Malaysian Insider to meet Redzuan was in vain as he was said to be busy in meetings and refused to speak to the media. Following Redzuan’s removal, former higher education deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said he was quitting his post as a senior research fellow in the university.

The Constitution must be supreme


June 28, 2014

Ceritalah

Published: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 7:03:13 AM

The Constitution must be supreme

Karim RaslanBy Karim Raslan@www.thestar.com.my

“We are a polyglot nation. We cannot suddenly rid ourselves of our diversity and complexity. Yes, it is messy but it is also a fact of life and embedded in our national DNA.Until and unless we amend our Constitution – the fact remains that Malaysia is not completely secular, but neither does it allow one faith to run roughshod over the other.”–Karim Raslan

A FEW weeks ago, I wrote about my opposition to the implementation of hudud in Malaysia. Since then, it appears that the on-going debate about the role of religion in our country has become even more complicated, whether over child custody, raids on weddings and funerals as well as the issue of Malay-language Bibles.

To me, the challenge for Malaysians is simple enough.We must decide what kind of country we’re living in. Is it secular or religious? A constitutional monarchy which practises Westminster democracy or something else altogether?

Our leaders have shied away from answering these questions for far too long, allowing opportunists and extremists to dominate the discourse.This has left Malaysia in a permanent state of flux. We cannot become a developed nation when one group of citizens thinks the only way they can be protected is to relegate another into an inferior state.

That is at the heart of the various disputes: Malay versus non-Malay, Muslim versus non-Muslim and so on. At the same time, this dichotomy fails to acknowledge the many Malay-Muslims who feel uncomfortable with the idea of living under a theocracy.

Still, the fundamental question remains this: should people be treated equally in Malaysia? If not, why?If it is because this will somehow denigrate the position of Islam and the Malays – why is that so?The solution, I think, is to go back to Malaysia’s founding document – our Consti­tution.

Unlike Britain, Malaysia’s Constitution is written.This makes us a nation of laws, which gives us a framework for how we deal with each other. And what does the Constitution say? It is true Article 3(1) states that Islam is the religion of the Federation but also provides that other faiths may be practised in peace and harmony.

Every mainstream voice in Malaysia has accepted this.But does this article mean that the rights and values of non-Muslim Malaysians are completely irrelevant the moment Islam comes into any matter? Let us also not forget that Article 3(4) also states: “Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.”

I might be wrong here, but I think this also means that Islam’s special position does not abrogate the force of other provisions, like Article 8(1): “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.” Malaysians – it seems – are being forced to choose between two very unpleasant extremes.

One is that we must remove religion from our public lives altogether.The other is that a certain understanding of Islam must take priority over everything else.But if people truly took the time to read the Constitution – they would realise that neither of these paths meet the spirit in which our nation was founded.

We are a polyglot nation. We cannot suddenly rid ourselves of our diversity and complexity. Yes, it is messy but it is also a fact of life and embedded in our national DNA.Until and unless we amend our Constitution – the fact remains that Malaysia is not completely secular, but neither does it allow one faith to run roughshod over the other.

Anyone who says that provisions of the Constitution or other laws can be ignored simply because they think Islam is under threat is going against the law of the land. Does believing this make someone a bad Muslim? I humbly submit that faith is better served through doing justice rather than by causing fear and ill-will. Our leaders must show collective wisdom and courage in these difficult times.

HRH The Sultan of Selangor is to be commended for stating that his state’s religious authorities should seek redress for their grievances only through legal means.However, we live in a democracy. As such, our elected officials should lead the way.

They must draw on the collective wisdom of our nation to find the path forward.Leadership is not about being silent in times of crisis. It is about decisiveness and courage.I am no fan of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but at least he always understood the need to lead.

image

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must step forward. They must lead from the front.If they don’t have the guts to do so – Malaysians will turn elsewhere.

 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

We Allow Thugs to set the National Agenda


June 25, 2014

Brave New World

Published: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 7:14:57 AM

We Allow Thugs to set the National Agenda

by Dr. Azmi Sharom@http://www.the star.com.my

Azmi SharomMALAYSIA is turning into a hateful country. Hate; it is such an ugly word. Yet I can’t think of anything else to describe what is happening here, the land where I am to spill my blood.But then, why should I care? I am after all an intruder and immigrant.

Yes, I realise that when the racists speak about intruders and immigrants, they mean non-Malay intruders and immigrants; this despite the fact that many so-called Malays are actually of foreign origin. But I am not a hypocrite like them.

 I know my roots and they spread to Yemen, to Medan, to Singapore. I wasn’t even born here. Yet I believe that I have as much right to be here as anyone else and my fellow Malaysians have just as much right as me. And still the question remains: why should I care? I don’t have the answer to that question because I am not a very philosophical man. Yet I know this; I have no desire to live in the Yemen, or Medan or Singapore. And as much as I loved my significant time in England, I always knew that I would come home. And home is here, Malaysia.

Forgive the overly sentimental tangent this article is taking, but I am trying to make sense of my world as I write. It is hard to be purely analytical when one’s home is being slowly destroyed by the bigoted, small-minded, cruel and vicious.

This place is my home because I grew up here. My memories and therefore my identity are tied up to this place.My tastes, my relationships, my way of thinking, in short everything that makes me the individual that I am, are due to this place. But what kind of place is it now? It looks to me like the kind of place where the vicious can threaten to behead people, where those who are meant to be the final arbiters are unwilling or incapable of making judgments based on the principles they have sworn to uphold.

It is a place where cowardly leaders think only of their votes and not of making a stand against vile people and their vile deeds.There is so much going on which is going to affect our basic needs of hearth and security. While the wheels of capitalism turn, we the ordinary folk are going to find it harder and harder to just make ends meet. Yet we allow thugs to set the agenda. We allow non-issues to become national debating points. We allow the vicious to go on screaming malicious words with God on their lips and hatred in their hearts.

ayn-rand-We have lost our capacity to Reason

All this when we are living in a country with so much potential and wealth. If we can ensure that the truly needy, regardless of their creed or colour are protected and helped; if we can move our education system towards one where we produce thinking people and not well-educated automatons; if we can create a government in all its guises which is dedicated to honesty and the rule of law.If we can do all these things, then the future will be more secure for all of us. It is there, within reach.

Instead there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel and all I see is a darkness populated by the shrill screeching of the hatemongers.It does not need to be like this. If the face of this country is as twisted and ugly to you as it is to me, we can still do something.

We can challenge our elected representatives into a corner. Force them to tell us where they stand.We can support the downtrodden. We can gather together in huge numbers to make a stand not for any political reason, but to show the bigots that they are not the only ones in this land and that their cruel philosophies are not welcome.

We can think for ourselves and not simply allow those with so-called authority to dictate our thoughts for us. We can be fearless in deed, words and thoughts to uphold the values that surely any country needs to hang on to – fairness, compassion, kindness, freedom and justice.This country is becoming so hateful; that is true. But I am not yet ready to hate it. Are you?

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Brave-New-World/Profile/Articles/2014/06/25/Thugs-allowed-to-set-agenda/

 

Kadir Jasin on Najib’s Cabinet and Najib-Muhyiddin Partnership


June 25, 2014

DM at 75

COMMENT: Veteran newsman A Kadir Jasin has mocked Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak over his latest cabinet reshuffle, which apart from the appointment of new faces, did not witness the much speculated shake-up. In truth, there is little that Najib can do with regard to changes to his Cabinet for two reasons.

First, he has to make sure that his support among UMNO ministers is solidly with him ahead of the impending UMNO General Assembly to prevent a no confidence vote against his leadership of the party, government and the country. Second, there is in reality a dearth of talent and competence in the Barisan Nasional coalition making it difficult for him to make any radical change. 

John Maxwell on Leadership

Najib must take decisive action on pressing issues facing our country, and prove his critics like me and  others  of my generation wrong. He has been at the helm of our nation since 2009, and that should be time enough for him to learn the ropes of governance, and do what is expected of him. He should lead our nation, and that means he should not pander in the name of politics to extremists, bigots and ultra-nationalists since he is Prime Minister for all Malaysians.–Din Merican

Kadir Jasin on Najib’s Cabinet and Najib-Muhyiddin Partnership

In line with his policy of appeasement towards the Chinese, making everybody happy and keeping things big, Prime Minister  Najib added three more Ministers to his cabinet and retained the rest.

The new Ministers are MCA President Liow Tiong Lai, his Deputy Dr Wee Ka Siong, and the Gerakan President, Mah Siew Keong. Liow is Transport Minister while Dr Wee and Mah are ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department.

With the new additions, he now has 34 Ministers to lord over. Ten of these people are in his department. There are 35 including him. This is not counting 28 Deputy Ministers. The MCA, despite its mediocre performance at last year’s general elections, also received three Deputy Ministers’ posts. The appointees are Vice-Presidents Datuk Lee Chee Leong (International Trade and Industry), Datuk Chua Tee Yong (Finance) and Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun (Women, Family and Community Development).

So all the talks and speculations about Muhyiddin leaving and Hishammuddin going up are a waste of time and space. The Prime Minister and his merry men march on! Apologies: Mohd Najib was Finance Minister under Abdullah.

ORIGINAL POST–June 24, 2014

najib and his deputy

They need each other

NOT long before last year’s UMNO election, Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin, made known to allies that he would not challenge Mohd Najib Abdul Razak for the post of president and gave “tiredness” as his reason. When I asked him some time later, he repeated the same reason – penat. – Additionally he did not want to be accused of being unable to work with any Prime Minister having been instrumental in hastening (Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s resignation as Prime Minister in 2009.

The excuse that he was tired was flimsy. I would have given some credence had he said he was to challenging Mohd Najib because the latter was doing a good job or something like that. I could not remember him saying such a thing. This latest talk that he wants out could have been members’ interpretation of his recent statements at party meetings that UMNO must prepare for succession and take steps to train younger leaders.

Muhyiddin isn’t exactly old. He is 67 and is not known to have health problem. The late (Tun) Abdul Ghafar Baba became Deputy Prime Minister at 61 and (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad remained PM until he was 78.

Even if Muhyiddin has differences with Mohd Najib, it should not be an excuse for him to step down. Many UMNO leaders, including ministers, have issues with Mohd Najib. They should stay and fight for the party instead of forsaking it out of distaste for Mohd Najib.

PM Needs Muhyiddin

ON the other hand, Mohd Najib may shudder at the thought of not having Muhyiddin by his side in the cabinet. This is even more so if Muhyiddin’s intention is to spend time building up UMNO. That could be a dangerous proposition for Mohd Najib.

He needs Muhyiddin close to him for two reasons. First, Muhyiddin is popular with UMNO members. For that reason, Mohd Najib has left much of party work to him. Second, because of Muhyiddin’s popularity with UMNO members, it is risky for Mohd Najib to let him take charge of the party away from his scrutiny. He has to keep Muhyiddin in his sight. That could have been the reason why Mohd Najib came out strongly to deny that Muhyiddin was leaving the Cabinet.

But we have to take such a denial with a pinch of salt. Dr Mahathir too denied strongly the allegations against Anwar Ibrahim by Ummi Hafilda in 1997. Muhyiddin’s aides acknowledged that their boss had raised the matter of his “advancing” age with Mohd Najib.

According to them Mohd Najib told Muhyiddin that he needed him.But now there is a new twist to the issue. According to aides, Muhyiddin had started to feel uneasy when speculations that he was leaving the Cabinet began to spread in the press. He felt that there might be attempts to pressure him to leave or to make Mohd Najib feel that he can no longer rely on him (Muhyiddin).

The Hishammuddin Factor

Surely Muhyiddin is not unaware that there are others in UMNO who aspire to take over his job as DPM. hishamuddin-husseinFor a start, talks are rife that Mohd Najib is preparing his cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein (right) to take over the post although Hishammuddin himself is said to be uncomfortable with the speculation.He is said to have told friends that such a speculation could have a negative effect on his chances of advancing in the party and Cabinet.

Like Muhyiddin, Hishammuddin is a Johorian. It is well-known that Johor UMNO leaders do not always get along well with each other. And talk about Hishammuddin’s being groomed as Muhyiddin’s successor does not help to calm matters down.

Whether this is true or not will depend on where Hishammuddin goes when Mohd Najib finally reshuffled his Cabinet. It is widely speculated that Hishammuddin would take over the Finance Ministry from Mohd Najib.Whether or not Hishammuddin is a Finance Minister material is debatable. But if he is given the post he will automatically become very powerful although not a single Finance Minister had risen to become PM.

The unofficial version of the story had it that Muhyiddin had told a very senior Supreme Council member that he was leaving because he could not anymore cope with the goings-on in the government.Muhyiddin may remain DPM but may let go of the Education Ministry and take on a smaller portfolio so that he can spend more time managing UMNO but on condition that he remains loyal to Mohd Najib. Furthermore, under Mohd Najib’s 1Malaysia, Muhyiddin is its Malay face. His “Malay first” assertion is popular with the Malays, especially those in UMNO.

 

Who is in Charge of Malaysia, asks The Malaysian Insider


June 24, 2014

Who is in Charge of Malaysia, asks The Malaysian Insider

the-chimp-paradoxPerformance since 2009 Grade F

Who is in charge? What is happening in Malaysia? What’s going on? How can this happen?

Any of these questions or all of the above occupies the minds of many Malaysians these days, coming to the fore with vengeance every time there is a misstep by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his comrades or when the Rule of Law and provisions of the Federal Constitution are supplanted by racial and religious supremacists.

Increasingly, the sense is that these inmates are running the asylum. The PM and elected representatives are too afraid to put the extremist elements in their place because their cupboards are full of skeletons or they are unsure if their religious credentials can stand up to scrutiny. So they go with the flow directed and dictated by fringe groups and Islamic religious authorities.

hype_najib1The result: a heap of a mess and more questions than answers. Questions that keep Malaysians awake deep into the night such as:

* Who is in charge? Definitely not the man in Putrajaya. He may live in the plush residence of the Prime Minister; may have a large security detail and the use of a luxurious jet to travel around the world and may even chair cabinet meetings but Najib is not leading the country.

On any issue from conversions to body snatching to the abysmal state of education in Malaysia to the flexing of power byUMNO-ISMA-PERKASA sultans, he is a follower. Often he takes a position after the discourse has been influenced and driven by Perkasa, Isma, bit players in UMNO, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

His apologists argue that Malaysians have to expect this ambivalence because the voters did not give him the strong mandate he craved and needed at GE13.That’s a sorry excuse. Anyone who puts himself up to lead Malaysia has to lead once given the mandate, no matter the size of the mandate.

If he believes, that he can only lead with a two-thirds majority control of Parliament to function, then step aside. But as it stands today, the consensus is that Najib has abdicated decision-making to fringe groups and those who threaten him. As a result, on any given day, it seems that those who shout loudest are setting the agenda for Malaysia.

* What’s going on?

Khalid Abu BakarInspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar finally ordered the Police to go after a Muslim convert for flouting a civil court order. The Inspector-General of Police, who had earlier said police would not interfere as two court orders were in force in the interfaith custody battle, has instructed Perak Police Chief Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani to return Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah’s daughter, Prasana Diksa, to kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi .Why did it take the Police so long to get their act together? Perhaps, after 200 years of being the Police Force, they don’t know right from wrong.

That the Malaysian judiciary still has its powers and directives that must be followed. If the Police won’t take action after getting a court order, who else will respect the law? Anyone out there can just ignore the Police as much as the Police ignore the judiciary.Won’t that lead to a breakdown in law and order? Or do the authorities care? Are we going by rule of law or rule by fear of religion?

As it is, anyone can threaten to slap or behead anyone else and that is not seen as an offence. Are the politicians convinced that most Malaysians are as full as hot air as they are?There is the law. But it does not get the respect it deserves and only used when convenient.

* How can this happen?

Billions of ringgit are allocated for welfare programmes in Malaysia and there are substantial number of welfare officers and non-governmental organisations. So how come we had to read this sad story of Muhammad Firdaus Dullah who was found covered in his own faeces and so malnourished that he could not stand up or even sit down.

The 15-year-old would have died had he not been discovered by chance by Immigration officers conducting checks to nab illegal immigrants in Seremban on June 21.Yes, the boy’s mother has to bear a chunk of responsibility for leaving him in that sorry state. She has been arrested and could face up to 10 years in jail or be fined RM20,000.

But there are other questions that are troubling. Why didn’t she reach out to welfare organisations or NGOs? Did she seek help and was turned away? Are there other children out there suffering from malnourishment in the land of plenty?Did the neighbours know about his condition but choose to look the other way? This sad, sad story is an indictment of the abject state of the Malaysian system.

See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/is-anyone-running-malaysia#sthash.f9oqJXud.dpuf

Altantuya, Private Investigator Bala and all that


June 23, 2014

Altantuya, Private Investigator Bala and all that: The Facts

Just listen to Lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu and decide what you think. Like the disappearance of MH370, this truth as to who is behind this dastardly act will remain a mystery. The reality is that someone’s daughter had been blown up with C-4 in the belukar at a secluded place in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Raja Petra and I met Altantuya’s Dad some years ago at The Delicious Restuarant, Bangsar New Village when he came to Kuala Lumpur to plead his case to Members of Parliament over her disappearance. I was also present when the Mongolian doctor held a press conference at Anwar Ibrahim’s Office in Section 16, Petaling Jaya. –Din Merican