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.

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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

Malays must stand up to the extremists (and Malaysians too)


June 27, 2014

Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.–The Late Benazir Bhutto

MY COMMENT: Well done, Ahmad, for this article appealing to Malays to stand up against extremists. I hope he also means extremists without identifying their ethnicitydinmerican or religious orientation. Extremism in whatever shape or form, colour and race must not be tolerated. So far the most vocal ones are Malays like PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and Zul Nordin, formerly of PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat), and institutions like Jais, Jawi, and  Mais, Isma headed by Ustaz Ahmad Zaik Abdullah Rahman and other Muslim NGOs claiming to be defenders of the Faith. That is unfortunate as I expected Malay leadership to be enlightened, open minded and colour and race blind. But we do know that there are also extremists from the “other side” (for want of a better word), be they bible champions or  those in Non-Muslim NGOs who also spread prejudice.

ibrahim-ali-perkasaMalaysia cannot be a truly a united country if extremists on both sides (UMNO supporters and Pakatan supporters) are allowed the freedom to spread hatred and extol their prejudices. We are living in a wonderful country, blessed with good weather (generally speaking), diversity and peace. Let us all, men and women of reason and compassion, stand up for  Malaysia for all.

My family like many other families came from the Indian sub-continent centuries ago. I was born, bred, educated and worked here in Malaya/Malaysia. It makes no sense to label me a pendatang. Those who resort to this sort of labelling, or racial and religious stereo-typing, should check their own background carefully before casting the proverbial stone on others.

Let us be realistic and recognise that we are all an indivisible part of our heritage in the ever advancing continuum of time. I am proud to be a Malaysian. I am loyal to my King and country. That is why I am against extremism and condemn those who use extremism to create social disharmony and achieve political ends or for personal gain. Stand up for Malaysia and fight the extremists.–Din Merican

Malays must stand up to the extremists (and Malaysians too)

by Ahmad Hafidz Baharom | June 24, 2014 2:44PM@http://www.malaysiakini.com

NO to ExtremismFirst and foremost, I am a third generation constitutional Malaysian Malay Muslim, as far as I can tell from my secondary school history project I did in 1996. That being said, there are those who may have a history of their ancestors and families living in this nation longer than I have.I am partially Chinese, Indian, Indonesian Malay and Malaysian Malay, which we can all say are the four biggest populations in Malaysia currently.

All I can say about this is that my parents must have taken Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s racial genetic co-mingling which he suggested in The Malay Dilemma seriously.As much as I am a Malay, I am not a supporter of UMNO, nor am I a supporter of PAS or any political party. Instead, I align myself to individuals, among them PAS’ Khalid Abdul Samad, and Mujahid Rawa (regardless of his anti-smoking crusade), DAP’s Charles Santiago and Tony Pua, PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar, Elizabeth Wong, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, and Rafizi Ramli, and UMNO’s Saifudin Abdullah, Ahmad Husni Hanadziah and Nur Jazlan Mohamed.As a graduate of UiTM, I am thankful for what UMNO has done in the past, but that doesn’t exclude them from criticism. Nor does it exclude UiTM from criticism. As such, I don’t find an insult to UMNO as an insult to myself as a Malay, nor do I see urging UiTM to be opened up to non-bumiputeras as an insult to myself.

Similarly, I do not find it taboo for a non-Muslim to wish me salam, or to use Islamic phrases. This is Abdullah-Zaik-Abdul-Rahman-145x120because I see it as a positive, as them trying to emulate our culture instead of somehow seeing it as a threat against my religion. In other words, I am not a paranoid. In the past year or so, we have somehow seen that any insult to UMNO, Ikaan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), having Iban language Bibles, urging the reining in of religious authorities, all of this as an insult to Malays.

UMNO is not a representation of all the Malays in Malaysia. The fact that they lost Shah Alam in the last two general elections is solid proof of it. Mind you, we have a more than 90 percent Malay population in this parliamentary district. Isma’s president, contrary to his wife’s belief, is not the representative of all Malays. After all, if he thinks the Chinese are trespassers, then he is equally saying I myself am the product of a trespassing ancestor.

A Penang assemblyperson calling UMNO ‘celaka’ is also not an insult to me, because I have seen students right out of UiTM who just got their first jobs giving out the same expletive remarks when they read news coverage of the Auditor-General’s Report. And by the way, these were former BN Youth Volunteers during the 2013 general election.

I am not a traitor to HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah for thinking that both the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) are in the wrong and have totally lost the plot by seizing Bibles and having fake ex-Christians hold a talk at UiTM, regardless of what Negri Sembilan Perkasa suggests. And if they think they need to behead me for this, I suggest they check in with the His HRH Sultan of Selangor to use his royal courtyard for the guillotine.

I believe the Malays have to now take a stand against all these extreme views, and voice it out as ardently as possible; that we are no longer represented by extremists. Now is the time for the Malays to take a stand and tell those in charge to either stop it, or face the consequences of misrepresenting us to the entire world.

It is time to take legal action against our extremists to gag them from making unwarranted statements that tarnish the image of the Malay race. If not, then the greatest insult to the Malays would be the insult we do to ourselves by letting the voice of the loud few destroy whatever pride we have left in ourselves as a people, as a community, as a majority in this country.

Calculated Risks: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’


June 25, 2014

NY TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW

Calculated Risks: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’

In 1969, the night before a Wellesley College senior named Hillary Rodham gave a commencement address that would draw national attention, she was introduced to Dean Acheson, the legendary former secretary of state who had come to campus for his granddaughter’s graduation. “I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say,” Acheson told Rodham. At the time, many in the country were looking forward to hearing what Acheson had to say. He had just put the finishing touches on “Present at the Creation,” his landmark memoir that would come out a few months after his encounter with the young Rodham, providing a seminal portrait of his role in helping Harry S. Truman forge a new national security architecture at the outset of the Cold War.

Forty-five years later, Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered a memoir about her own time in the job Acheson once occupied. But “Hard Choices” is no “Present at the Creation.” Where Acheson offered a bracing, at times blunt, account of his four years as secretary of state — he eviscerated his wartime predecessor, Cordell Hull, and titled one chapter about Congress “The Attack of the Primitives Begins” — Clinton has opted for a safe and unchallenging volume, full of bromides and talking points.

To its credit, Clinton’s memoir is serious, sober and substantive. What it is not is revealing. Taking the reader along on her journey representing the United States as President Obama’s top diplomat, she provides a sophisticated analysis of many of the world’s most complicated hot spots, but no analysis of one of the world’s most complicated political figures. We learn about the progress of Botswana and the challenges facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, but we learn little about Hillary Clinton.

To compare “Hard Choices” with “Present at the Creation” may be unrealistic. Acheson was done with his career and wrote for history. Clinton is not and has not. Much as we may yearn for her to pull back the mask after more than two decades on the national stage, that’s hardly a practical expectation for someone with the Oval Office still on her to-do list. So perhaps it’s more fitting to compare her memoir not with the diplomatic histories of other secretaries of state but with the pre-campaign books of other would-be presidents. In that context, “Hard Choices” stands a cut above. It certainly demonstrates a greater mastery of the world than, say, “The Audacity of Hope,” by Barack Obama, or “A Charge to Keep,” by George W. Bush.

No fair-minded reader could finish this book and doubt Clinton’s essential command of the issues, whatever one might think of her solutions for them. She roams widely and delves into war and peace, terrorism and Russia, economic development and women’s rights. She knows the players and the history. If nothing else, she implicitly makes the case that if she were to occupy the Oval Office there would be no need for the kind of on-the-job training in foreign policy required by the last three presidents, including one she happens to know well.

Hers is a cold-eyed view of international affairs. “Our relationship with Pakistan was strictly transactional,” she writes, “based on mutual interest, not trust.” The administration’s demand that Israel stop building settlements “didn’t work.” And the desire to abandon autocrats like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was unwise: “Were we really ready to walk away from that relationship after 30 years of cooperation?”

In some ways, we do learn about one side of Clinton, the earnest wonk genuinely absorbed by the environmental and health implications of cookstoves in the developing world. When she devotes three pages to Mongolia, it’s because she finds each of the places she visits fascinating in its own way, as anyone who has traveled with her knows. Indeed, she devoted three pages to Mongolia in her last book, “Living History,” about her time as first lady. But she gives little sense of the other side of the Clinton story, of the politics and the ambition that drove her to the verge of the presidency. She discusses how her husband ordered missile strikes on Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998 without mentioning that it happened just after he admitted his affair with Monica Lewinsky and she was making him sleep on the couch. She gives little sense of the darker corners of Hillaryland, as her aides took to calling her world — a world characterized at times by feuding courtiers who vie with opponents, reporters and one another.

Even when she flavors the narrative with a little revelation, the portions are stingy. She got into “a shouting match” with Leon Panetta, then the C.I.A. director, over a proposed drone strike, but doesn’t say which one, who prevailed or why she dissented. She supported the military operation in Libya over the objections of Vice President Biden and Robert Gates, then the defense secretary, but doesn’t take us into the Situation Room to hear the debate. Indeed, much to the relief of the White House, she stays resolutely away from the sort of candor that marked Gates’s own recent memoir. In his book, for instance, Gates reported that he and Clinton tried unsuccessfully to get rid of Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and Douglas Lute, the White House coordinator for Afghanistan. “I’ve had it,” he quoted her saying. Clinton makes no mention of that. When she discusses internal debates, her adversaries are often vaguely described as “some of the president’s advisers.” There’s no score-settling here.

While Gates entitled his memoir “Duty,” Clinton might have called hers “Dutiful.” Every box that needs checking has been filled. Latin America? Check. Benghazi? Check. The book demonstrates that in at least one way she’s ready to be president — it amounts to a 600-page State of the Union address, in which every constituency and every issue receives due mention.

Clinton traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state, more than any of her predecessors, and she seemshillary-clinton-hard-choices determined to cite each one of them. (The index lists 105, but missed some she mentions, like Belarus, Brunei and Nepal.) At times, “Hard Choices” feels like the book you might have gotten by picking up your iPhone and asking Siri to write a politically safe memoir. “All the set-piece speeches and procedural mumbo-jumbo can often be deadly boring,” she concedes at one point.

If “Living History” left readers wanting to know more about the author’s relationship with the 42nd president, this new book leaves us wanting to know more about her relationship with the 44th. Unlike Acheson, Clinton had the challenge of forging a partnership with the man who beat her for the presidential nomination and then asked her to serve in his cabinet. By all accounts, she did a remarkable job of overcoming that history, and yet she doesn’t tell us how she did it or dwell on whatever personal or political trade-offs must have been involved.

Barack Obama is a peripheral figure in “Hard Choices.” Meeting with him just after their nomination battle was “like two teenagers on an awkward first date,” she allows, without much elaboration. He “took me to the woodshed” over impolitic comments by her special envoy to Egypt after he left office, she writes, without letting us hear Obama’s voice. They disagreed at pivotal moments — on cutting Mubarak loose, on arming Syrian rebels — but she mentions them only gently.

Clinton’s overarching philosophy as secretary of state seems primarily to involve engagement and hard work, the idea that showing up is as important as any treaty or ideology. Perseverance matters. Sometimes this pays off, as with the pressure campaign that eventually forced Iran to slow its nuclear program, temporarily at least. At times, though, this approach seems maddeningly inconclusive, as when Clinton works two mobile phones in the back of a car to hold together a peace deal between Armenia and Turkey, only to have it fall apart again later. She finds solace in the hope that someday the groundwork she laid will yield the breakthroughs that eluded her.

Rather than putting in place a new foreign policy, as Acheson did, Clinton portrays her tenure as a transition period and herself as just one runner in a relay race, passing along the baton. Acheson won a Pulitzer Prize for his memoir. Clinton seems to have a bigger prize in mind.

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

US penalises Malaysia for shameful human trafficking record


June 23, 2014

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Record

Congratulations to the Ministry of Home Affairs, The Inspector-General of Police of the Royal Malaysianimage Police and related agencies under the charge of Home Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Zahid Hamidi on our human trafficking record.  Tier 3 is not bad; we could have been worse. As a reward, we deserve what is due to us in terms of likely punitive actions from Najib’s strategic partner, the Obama Administration, for doing a brilliant job that has enabled us to join the ranks of Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Frankly, coming after the MH370 debacle, this downgrade is another blemish to our image. But aren’t we  known for shooting overselves in the foot! I wonder what our beloved Prime Minister would say if he should meet President Obama again. I suspect the answer would likely be: “Mr President, we are doing about our best and given this downgrade by the State Department, you can be assured that we will be double our efforts in fighting this scourge.”–Din Merican

US penalises Malaysia for shameful human trafficking record

Continued failure to curb traffickers prompts US to downgrade Malaysia in its annual Trafficking in Persons report

by Kate Hodal @ the guardian.com, Friday 20 June 2014 13.59 BST

The US has downgraded Malaysia to the lowest ranking in its annual human trafficking report, relegating the southeast Asian nation to the same category as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. The move could result in economic sanctions and loss of development aid.

Malaysia’s relegation to tier 3 in the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report – published on Friday – indicates that the country has categorically failed to comply with the most basic international requirements to prevent trafficking and protect victims within its borders.

Human rights activists in Malaysia and abroad welcomed the downgrade as proof of the government’s lax law enforcement, and lack of political will, in the face of continued NGO and media reports on trafficking and slavery.

“Malaysia is not serious about curbing human trafficking at all,” said Aegile Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita, a local charity that works directly with trafficking victims. The order of the day is profits and corruption. Malaysia protects businesses, employers and agents [not victims] – it is easier to arrest, detain, charge and deport the migrant workers so that you protect employers and businesses.”

According to this year’s TiP report – which ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat trafficking, and is considered the benchmark index for global anti-trafficking commitments – trafficking victims are thought to comprise the vast majority of Malaysia’s estimated 2 million illegal migrant labourers, who are sent to work in the agriculture, construction, sex, textile or domestic labour industries.

Many of the victims are migrants who have willingly come to Malaysia from neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Bangladesh, attracted by Malaysia’s large supply of jobs and high regional wages. But once in Malaysia they fall prey to forced labour at the hands of their employers, recruitment companies or organised crime syndicates, who refuse payment, withhold their documents or force them into indentured servitude.

The Malaysian government has continuously failed to provide basic rights protections to migrant workers and instead has created a system where unscrupulous labour brokers, corrupt police and abusive employers can have a field day,” says Phil Robertson, Asia’s Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch.

Refugees are particularly vulnerable to trafficking within Malaysia’s borders, the report states, as the government does not grant them formal refugee status or allow them to work legally. As a result, many of the 10,000 refugee Filipino muslim children who reside in the Sabah region are subjected to forced begging, while reports of abuse, detainment and torture by Malaysian traffickers of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in western Burma made headlines earlier this year.

“When you Google ‘Malaysia’, it’s among the five worst countries for refugees,” said Lia Syed, Executive Director of the Malaysia Social Research Insitute, which supports refugees. “There is no policy for refugees in Malaysia at all. They are not recognised, they do not have legal status, they are just considered illegal migrants. It doesn’t matter what country they come from, what their story is, they do not get any support officially from the government.”

Malaysia’s downgrade to tier 3 is an automatic relegation after four years on the tier 2 watchlist and it is the third time in seven years that the country has sunk to the lowest ranking.The downgrade is likely to be seen as a considerable blow to Malaysia’s image and is sure to strain diplomatic relations. Malaysia is a strategic US partner in President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the east, with the US serving as Malaysia’s largest foreign investor and fourth-largest trading partner.

The downgrade could spell economic sanctions and restrictions on US foreign assistance and access to institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, such punishments can be waived under national security considerations.

While Malaysia has increased its preventative efforts against trafficking via public service announcements, there were fewer identifications of trafficking victims, fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions this year than in 2012, the report stated, with poor victim treatment posing a “significant impediment” to successful prosecutions. Authorities not only failed to investigate cases brought to them by NGOs, they also failed to recognised victims or indications of trafficking, and instead treated cases as immigration violations. Some immigration officials were also accused of being involved in the smuggling of trafficking victims, yet the government did not investigate any such potential individuals or cases.

“Unfortunately Malaysia’s victim care regime is fundamentally flawed,” said Luis C deBaca, the ranking state department official for combating trafficking. He pointed to Malaysia’s use of detention centres for people, mainly young women, identified as having been trafficked into the country for illegal purposes.

 “Malaysia has a strong focus on getting rid of illegal aliens rather than a progressive compassionate response to its many victims of trafficking. There has been lots of promised future action but no signs of things happening on the ground to deal with their significant problems,” he said.

 Key recommendations issued by the US included amending the current anti-trafficking law to allow victims to travel, work and reside outside government facilities, and increasing efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish any public officials who might profit from trafficking or exploiting victims.

Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister, Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said earlier this year that the country was in a “very difficult position” as it knew it needed to increase trafficking victims’ rights, yet it didn’t want to encourage illegal migration to its borders.”

“If we allow these people to start working, everybody will start coming here,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after a conference on human trafficking.


 

“When you Google ‘Malaysia’, it’s among the five worst countries for refugees,” said Lia Syed, executive director of the Malaysia Social Research Insitute, which supports refugees. “There is no policy for refugees in Malaysia at all. They are not recognised, they do not have legal status, they are just considered illegal migrants. It doesn’t matter what country they come from, what their story is, they do not get any support officially from the government.”

 

Malaysia’s downgrade to tier 3 is an automatic relegation after four years on the tier 2 watchlist and it is the third time in seven years that the country has sunk to the lowest ranking.

 

The downgrade is likely to be seen as a considerable blow to Malaysia’s image and is sure to strain diplomatic relations. Malaysia is a strategic US partner in President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the east, with the US serving as Malaysia’s largest foreign investor and fourth-largest trading partner.

 

The downgrade could spell economic sanctions and restrictions on US foreign assistance and access to institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, such punishments can be waived under national security considerations.

 

While Malaysia has increased its preventative efforts against trafficking via public service announcements, there were fewer identifications of trafficking victims, fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions this year than in 2012, the report stated, with poor victim treatment posing a “significant impediment” to successful prosecutions. Authorities not only failed to investigate cases brought to them by NGOs, they also failed to recognised victims or indications of trafficking, and instead treated cases as immigration violations. Some immigration officials were also accused of being involved in the smuggling of trafficking victims, yet the government did not investigate any such potential individuals or cases.

 

“Unfortunately Malaysia’s victim care regime is fundamentally flawed,” said Luis CdeBaca, the ranking state department official for combating trafficking. He pointed to Malaysia’s use of detention centres for people, mainly young women, identified as having been trafficked into the country for illegal purposes.

 

“Malaysia has a strong focus on getting rid of illegal aliens rather than a progressive compassionate response to its many victims of trafficking. There has been lots of promised future action but no signs of things happening on the ground to deal with their significant problems,” he said.

 

Key recommendations issued by the US included amending the current anti-trafficking law to allow victims to travel, work and reside outside government facilities, and increasing efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish any public officials who might profit from trafficking or exploiting victims.

 

Malaysia’s deputy home minister, Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said earlier this year that the country was in a “very difficult position” as it knew it needed to increase trafficking victims’ rights, yet it didn’t want to encourage illegal migration to its borders.

 

“If we allow these people to start working, everybody will start coming here,” Wan Junaidi told reporters after a conference on human trafficking.

 

Roaring on the Seas


June 19, 2014

Taipei, Taiwan

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

Roaring on the Seas

Few aspects of China’s dynamic emergence as a global power have generated as much insecurity and danger in its neighborhood as its mounting campaign to control the South China Sea, a vital waterway for international commerce. On Wednesday, at a high-level meeting in Hanoi, China’s top diplomat scolded his Vietnamese hosts for complaining about an oil rig that Beijing planted in early May in waters that Vietnam claims, as its own.

Chinese Naval ShipsChina’s Blue  Water Navy in the South China Sea

The sharp back-and-forth represented one of the lowest points in relations between the two countries since a brief territorial war in 1979, and it added to worries in Washington and elsewhere about Beijing’s continued bullying in energy-rich waters that not only Vietnam but other small Asian nations lay claim to.

he sharp back-and-forth represented one of the lowest points in relations between the two countries since a brief territorial war in 1979, and it added to worries in Washington and elsewhere about Beijing’s continued bullying in energy-rich waters that not only Vietnam but other small Asian nations lay claim to.

In addition to installing the rig, Beijing’s efforts to assert sovereignty over the many specks of rock dotting the South China Sea now includes a novel twist: the piling of sand on isolated reefs and shoals to create what amount tonew islands in the Spratly archipelago.

Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations that also claim sovereignty in the Spratlys have watched this island-building with growing alarm, but despite their protests — and a strongly worded statement last month by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel condemning China’s “destabilizing, unilateral actions” in the South China Sea — Beijing is showing no intention of changing its ways.

The Spratly Islands are uninhabited and of no economic value in themselves. But the archipelago covers rich fishing grounds and is believed to harbor large oil and gas reserves, and China could claim an exclusive economic zone within 200 nautical miles of each of the three or four islands it is creating. The new islands, projected to reach 20 to 40 acres in area, would also serve the projection of Chinese military power by providing bases for surveillance and resupply.

China insists that the Spratlys, Paracels and other islands have always belonged to China. But Vietnam also claims sovereignty, and parts of them are claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. In 2002, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China signed a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, agreeing to resolve territorial disputes “without resorting to the threat or use of force.” That declaration is not legally binding, and China has argued that Vietnam and the Philippines have already developed some facilities in the islands, though without adding acreage.

The real problem, in any case, is not the muddled question of sovereignty, but the way China appears to believe that its expanding military and economic power entitle it to a maximalist stance in territorial disputes. Certainly the smaller nations abutting the South China Sea are no match for China in a fight, but the fear and anger that China’s aggressive actions have generated among its maritime neighbors, and the tensions they have raised with Washington, hardly seem to be in Beijing’s interest, or in keeping with the image China’s president, Xi Jinping, tried to project when he said in Paris in March that “the lion that is China has awoken, but it is a peaceful, amiable and civilized lion.”

That is not the lion now roaring over the waters of the South China Sea, threatening the stability and security that have benefited, above all, China. That is all the more reason for Beijing to heed the 2002 declaration’s call for self-restraint in activities that would complicate disputes or disturb the peace.

Book Review: Hillary Clinton’s Book ‘Hard Choices’


June 9, 2014

Examining ISMA’s Nam Tien Ideology


June 6, 2014

Examining ISMA’s Nam Tien Ideology

UMNO protest

Nation and national soul-searching, despite the romantic connotations behind the term, is always a painful and unsettling process.

A free nation, especially one with a colonial past, will always need to recalibrate its moral position to provide an existential standing. Therefore, a liberation story that is buttressed by a ‘good triumphs evil’ narrative is needed: a new nation sprung from the buds of history, cleansed and desanitised from its past, ready to take on a new course without any entanglements of the past; a ‘New Contract’, but not a renewed contract, so to speak.

This is until it realised, the ‘New Contract’ could not be sustained without hinging on the past, albeit a resented one. A void in history is too borderless for a nation-state with stoic and constitutional borders; be it geographical and psychological, and hence the national discourse is prone to relapse into ‘us-versus-them’ hostility expected of a liberating nation.

The familiarity of achieving a benchmark point of defeating evil (independence) was sought after to achieve cohesion and coherence for a dominating and identifying factor, and therein lies the highly emotive but not necessarily patriotic force of ultra-nationalism. Its digression from patriotism is because those who capitalised on such forces to place imaginative captivity on the masses are usually not patriots themselves. The civil wars and genocides in former African colonies are testaments to that.

Malaysia proves to be an interesting case-study of this “relapse” condition because of its relatively peaceful transition to Independence. The shouts of Tunku’s Merdeka, although invigorating in spirit, did not provide a clean slate for the national conscience to be built upon.

The peaceful transition also meant that there was no post-traumatic stress disorder that originated from a brother-in-arms resistance against invaders for the citizens of diverse origins to direct a common recuperation effort at. Instead, the infantile nation was torn between the political majority rural Malay psyche that the country will “return” to a not-explicitly defined pre-colonial order Malay feudalism and a ‘New Order’ that in practice by the nascent government made little effort in differentiation from the colonial structures.

In other words, there was, and is an expectation for “wrongs” – no matter what they were or are – to be corrected to return the country to a perfect equilibrium before any new projection to the future could be made. The little participation its citizens had in Malaysia’s Independence had left a void being created within the colonial shackles of mind and economics, and it is within this void, contestation of nationhood and identities occurred, as can be seen from the politics of race, language and subsequently, religion that arises.

Ironically, almost every imagination being thrown into the void during that time was retrospective in nature. The Malays longed for a revived domination of the nation’s politics untampered by British intervention, while the Chinese expected a return to the autonomy and free-handedness they enjoyed in commerce and education during colonial governance.

Unsurprisingly, the clash of such nostalgia produced an outcome of retributory nature; the New Economic Policy (NEP) in focus of “correcting” racial imbalances was born. It was a relapse towards the discourse of Malay special position and supremacy, a privilege that was guaranteed by colonial governance to placate Malay fears in the face of a changing nation, demographically, economically and culturally.

Understanding this, Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA)’s classification of the Chinese as being an invading force, the Nam Tien or “southbound invasion” in challenge of Malay or Islam’s indigenous position can be seen as just another episode of the relapse syndrome.

UMNO-ISMA-PERKASASoutheast Asia’s indigenous religion is not Islam to begin with since it is pre-dated by Hinduism. ISMA, however, had made significant efforts in revising of this fact. The fact is that, the invasion from China in usurping the physical or religious status of the locals, simply did not happened. Therefore, the claim that the Chinese are “wrongs that should be corrected” is merely a throwback in a sense. As the vitality of the NEP wears off following the decline of Mahathir’s developmental state, a substituting agenda was needed for “retributory justice” to continue in maintenance of the capitalist elite power structure, and it was in this light a militaristic revisionist account of the Chinese influx into Malaysia was created.

Although not entirely original, the conceived idea of the Chinese as being an “invading” force did have some salient features. Using an invasion analogy, the need to stress constitutional justifications of Malay and Islamic supremacy (a common strategy employed by right-wing ethnocratic organisations such as UMNO and PERKASA) was diminished.

The approach taken to externalise Chinese citizens of Malaysia had shifted the psychology of the siege mentality to one that is even more rudimentary, one that hardly sees co-existence as an amenable outcome. This is because as the logic goes, the threat is foreign and expansionist in nature and had to be repealed to preserve sovereignty.

Placing Islam in the centre of it, in full cognisance of the religious conservatism of the Malays as well as the outright secularist orientation of the Chinese was only a natural move. A frontier that is both distinctive and violent was enforced between the two communal groups.

The demonisation process, not unlike the “history textbook” treatment that was subjected to most colonial powers, was undertaken. A new struggle against foreign evil, the others, is to be embarked; a theme that has mythical origins, also made relatable for the Malaysian context by Islamic concepts like the jihad (although not in the Salafist jihadist sense).

As iterated above, soul-searching is a painful process, especially when history was kept like a gaping hole, filled in by State-controlled narratives that were insufficient in richness, complexity and inclusiveness. Dominated by retro-looking agendas (Mahathir’s Vision 2020 was a breath of fresh air but it collapsed in the face of growing inequality, communal integration and most importantly, the competence expected of a capitalistic developed nation).

ibrahim-ali-perkasaMalaysia’s perpetual search for divergent collective motives were vulnerable to be seized by the romanticism associated with puritanism and evil banishment, for it is these sentiments that fuelled a citizen’s anger against immigrant workers, free trade agreements and foreign cultures.

The inability of authoritative figures to put a stop to all of this, or the civil societies to provide an effective diversion, will only spell trouble for the already economically struggling nation. Despite years of official forward planning, and government mantras of a brighter future, the forward looking narratives have been undermined by the lack of credibility and authenticity of its proponents and implementers. It also makes its present proponents appear hypocritical.

It is dangerous for Malaysia to not have a credible and authentic forward looking narrative. But it is even more dangerous for the ‘Muslim Malay’ (however that is defined) – without this credible and authentic forward looking narrative – to ask the question “Dari mana datangnya saya?” (“Where do I come from?”), and to look to the pendatangs (immigrants) for an answer.

Nicholas Chan is a King’s College London graduate in Forensic Science. He is currently a socio-political analyst with the Penang Institute. He can be reached at: nicholaschan2003@penanginstitute.org

 

Dissonance in Malaysia-Japan Relations


June 4, 2014

Dissonance in Malaysia-Japan Relations

Abe-NajibBamboo Diplomacy–Look East Again?

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak recently met with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe in Tokyo in conjunction with the annual symposium organised by the Nikkei, one of Japan’s leading newspaper. The summit meeting covered various topics including Japanese security policy, coastal protection, the missing MH370, the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, and Malaysia’s goal to be a high-income nation by 2020. Enhancing the cooperation for a ‘Second Wave of Look East Policy’ (LEP) was also agreed as a framework to deepen bilateral relations. The meeting nevertheless appeared lacklustre with the two Premiers appearing in the same press conference but talking about totally different agendas: Japan underscoring the importance of security while Malaysia stressed on the economic cooperation.

Wither “Second Wave of LEP”?

Malaysia-Japan relations have always been depicted as special by academics and diplomats who frequently refer to the LEP as a symbol of cultural, economic and ethical ties. When talking about the LEP, it is important to remember that this policy was the product of a congruence of strategic thought among the key players in the two countries more than three decades ago. In 1982, the LEP was launched by Mahathir Mohamad in response to a proposal by the Japan Malaysia Economic Association and Malaysia Japan Economic Association. The LEP would mean many things: the emulation of the Japanese model; a way to attract Japanese capital; to put Malaysia on the track to heavy industrialisation; but would also uplift the economic status of Bumiputeras.

Japan in the 1980s, on the other hand, was in the process of expanding its identity from just a member of the West to that of the growing Asia Pacific region as developed countries faced economic stagnation after the second Oil Shock, and as Japan confronted a protracted trade conflict with the US. Thus, the LEP was formulated between a developed country looking for new investment opportunity to decrease its trade surplus with the US and reduce production cost on one hand, and a developing country trying to court much-needed foreign investment. Bolstered by an appreciated Yen – following the Plaza Accord – the LEP eased the inflow of Japanese capital, with the amount of direct investment from Japan to Malaysia increasing by more than seven times for the next decade.

Three decades later, Najib calls for upgrading the LEP. The intent was clearly stated when he asserted that the LEP can address new priority industries such as energy-saving and green technology, healthcare and education— key areas of development included in Najib’s Economic Transformation Program (ETP). However, it is unclear if the ‘Second Wave of LEP’ gives a new thrust to the bilateral relations. In the 1980s to 1990s, “Look East Policy”, “Mahathir” and/or “developmental state” were catch-phrases attached to Malaysia among the Japanese business class and policy-makers. Today, neither “Second Wave of LEP” nor “Najib” are buzz words among the same circle in Tokyo. Rather, it is “middle-income trap”, “weak government” or “dragging its feet in the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)” that the Japanese audience is talking about.

Dominant party systems in decay: experience of LDP and BN

The notion of a “weak Malaysian government” is depicted by the declining power of the Barisan Nasional (BN). For some Japanese commentators, the developments surrounding the 13th Malaysian General Election was reminiscent of Japan in the late 1980s to early 1990s when Japan’s own dominant party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), saw its control over government diminishing and eventually lost.

At that time, financial deficit had become normalcy and government debt kept on soaring as LDP expanded expenditure for public works and social spending for the elderly to consolidate its support. One of the decisive moments of LDP losing its dominance was the introduction of 3% of Consumption Tax in 1989 as a means to broaden revenue base, after years of hesitation in fear of losing voters. Indeed, this decision – to introduce the consumption tax – was derided by voters who were already angered by the LDP-led government’s profligate public spending. Another and bigger cause of LDP’s decay was the corruption scandals involving top party leaders including then Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita. These scandals revealed the pervasiveness of money politics within the party and the government. The recurring scandals prompted voters, especially those who resided in urban areas, to discard the LDP. Not surprisingly, the party lost the majority of the Upper House in 1989. In 1993 the LDP lost power for the first time since 1955 to a coalition of small parties that consisted of former LDP members and socialists in the Lower House elections of that year. The “1955 system” ended.

Like the LDP dominated Japanese government, the dominant party government in Malaysia has behaved in the similar way for decades, and especially since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. BN has tried to boost or maintain support for the party, especially under the Najib administration, through expansionary fiscal policies. To draw support from the business sector, the government has increased expenditure for infrastructure projects. To gather support from lower income groups, BN has disbursed cash benefits under the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M). Moreover, an increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was put on hold in the run-up for the last general election.

The similarity between the LDP and BN does not end there. Prolonged control of government by the BN has blurred the boundary between public and private interest, resulting in the series of high profile corruption allegations involving top party leaders. Even the result of GE13 – in which BN managed to secure a simple majority of the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) through heavily-weighted rural votes – reminded many Japanese of the strategy of the LDP in Japan to maintain its dominance in equally testy times in the past.

Though the BN managed to retain majority control of the Dewan Rakyat despite losing the popular vote against the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, not a few Japanese observers have reflected on whether a change in the federal government in the near future will ensure better or a more effective government. This question is relevant in the Japanese context given the fact that post-1993 governments have been short-lived, unable to push forward their reform agenda, and in the case of the Democratic Party of Japan that was in power from 2009 to 2012, bungled on key concerns that include Japan-US relations and the management of the 3.11 disaster (referring to the triple earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima disaster).

Stalled structural reform

While the effectiveness of the future Malaysian government is yet to be known, what is clearly understood by the Malaysia-attentive Japanese audience is that the BN government is weak and can barely maintain its autonomy given heightened social pressure. This is made evident most clearly in the TPP negotiations.

While the TPP draws controversy in Japan, especially with its impact on the agricultural sector, Malaysia’s demands on the TPP is also often highlighted in the Japanese media. For example, Malaysia is known to oppose the institution of investor-state dispute settlement and intellectual property rights that affects access to generic medicines. But much more highlighted in the Japanese media is Malaysia’s demand to exempt Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) and government procurement from TPP coverage. For those who are familiar with Malaysian domestic affairs, this is understandable.

GLCs play too big a-role in the Malaysian economy, and also as the major investor in Najib’s flagship Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). Further, government procurement is an essential means to distribute resources to GLCs and eventually to Bumiputera SMEs. Given the result of GE13 where Bumiputera votes somewhat enabled BN-UMNO to remain in power, the already limited room for the Government to make concessions to external negotiating parties in these areas has narrowed even further.

Malaysia’s rather defensive posture in the TPP negotiation is seen, especially by the Japanese business sector, as a reflection of the weak power of the government vis-à-vis pressure groups and a stalled reform agenda. For this group, liberalisation under the TPP is one of the primary means to further advance structural reform and increase the competitiveness of Japanese economy. This same group knows that Malaysia remains – now for almost two-decades – caught in a “middle-income trap”. Many also argue that a failed conclusion of TPP, with the creation of ASEAN Economic Community just around the corner, would negatively affect Malaysia’s path to become a high-income nation.

The misgivings of the Japanese business sector is also anchored on the belief that the BN cannot be expected to exercise strong leadership given its increasing dependence on the Bumiputera constituency and the relative increase in the power of UMNO within the governing coalition. They somehow expect that it will take an even bigger electoral jolt, similar to what the LDP experienced in 1993, before the Malaysian government takes a more serious effort in pushing required reforms through. Looking back, it was only after LDP lost its power that Japan embarked on a series of important reforms. For instance, administrative and fiscal reform was pursued since the mid-1990s, and more seriously since 1996 when the LDP came back to power as a major coalitional partner.

Based on the lessons learned, LDP-led governments shifted to a more liberal orientation where the government drastically decreased government spending, rationalised government financial institutions, and embarked upon series of privatisation including Japan Post, Highway Public Corporation and other financial institutions. In light of these Japanese experiences, a number of Japanese naturally expect that a reform that pushes Malaysia out of the trap would come only after change in the federal government.

Japan’s security agenda and Malaysia’s ambiguity

While Japanese business players have not been impressed with scenes from the Malaysian political economy, the current Japanese government puts much value on Malaysia. This is demonstrated by the frequent official visits of Ministers between the two countries. In particular, Prime Minister Abe’s renewed interest in Malaysia, as well as ASEAN, comes with a clear agenda: regional security.

Abe grabbed a landslide victory and brought the LDP back to power again in the 2012 Lower House election touting a “Take Back Japan” that focused on “intrusion into Japanese territory by foreign forces” as one of his main campaign slogan. Since then, Abe has had official visits to ASEAN countries and even hosted the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in 2013. All this in the hope of cementing Japan’s relationship with Southeast Asian countries in various areas including regional security given China’s growing naval power and its increasing assertiveness over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. In the summit meetings with Malaysian counterpart, Abe highlighted the issues such as maritime security and the newly introduced Air Defense Identification Zone declared by Chinese government in November 2013 as common concerns between the two countries.

The Japanese Premier’s effort is also directed toward securing support from ASEAN countries for his long-cherished goal of a “departure from the post-war regime,” enabling Japan to play a bigger role in regional security among others. His security policy self-labelled as “proactive pacifism” includes changing the interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense. This agenda has always been included in the summit meetings with ASEAN countries including Malaysia.

TDM--21 MarchHowever, the timing and context do not seem right. In the mid-1990s, it was Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir that often urged Japan to loosen the legal constraints on the use of force to play a significant role in regional and global security. The Socialist Party dominated coalition government, however, did not positively receive this prodding. Now, as the Abe government pushes for a reinterpretation of Article 9, the conditions that will generate support for such change from countries like Malaysia has changed. China has grown powerful, economically and militarily, and disputes over territories have become more intense with increasing competition over natural resources and nationalistic sentiments among the general public in the conflicting countries. In this new regional context, Malaysia has shown a somewhat reserved reaction to Abe’s agenda.

Although Malaysia has expressed concern over the overlapping territorial claims in the SCS and the absence of an effective regional Code of Conduct, the fact that China is its largest trading partner has led Malaysia to stick to its traditional position: not to regard China as a threat. This explains Najib’s rather indifferent attitude towards Abe’s expressed concern on China’s aggressive actions in disputed territories. In one meeting, Najib was reported to have indicated that the SCS issue should be dealt by ASEAN through a multilateral approach, indicating his weariness to link disputes in SCS and East China Sea.

While the Malaysian government carefully but steadily deepens security cooperationPM Najib with the US as a hedge against a rising China, it obviously sits on the fence with Abe’s new agenda. Such a posture by Malaysia is often taken as a reflection of the country’s “pro-China” position by some Japanese whose picture of contemporary East Asia is a region where two major countries – Japan and China – are competing for influence in the region.

The dissonance between Abe and Najib in their latest bilateral meeting is explained by the fate and current status of their long dominant parties in the context of changing regional security dynamics. Abe, the leader of Japan’s former dominant party that recently regained control of government due to the ineptness of the opposition, confidently pursued his hawkish agenda. Najib is at the helm of a dominant party whose acts are tied down by the reality that their support base has declined. Najib also has to balance his responses to regional issues as Malaysia – a middle power – is in a delicate position in the rapidly changing big power relations in the region. Thus, a significant ‘Second Wave of LEP’ underpinned by strategic congruence between the two countries will simply have to wait.

Hub and Spokes: How US Allies in Asia Can Contribute to the US Rebalance


Asia Pacific Bulletin
Number 265 | June 3, 2014
ANALYSIS

Hub and Spokes: How US Allies in Asia Can Contribute to the US Rebalance

By Hayley Channer

The US rebalance to Asia and the promise of renewed American attention and resources has prompted some US allies and partners in the region to expect more of their superpower ally. Many countries, including Japan, Australia, and South Korea, welcomed the rebalance, although there has been criticism from some that the rebalance is “all rhetoric and no action.” While the expectations of US allies vis-à-vis the rebalance have been well communicated, exactly what the United States expects of its allies is less clear.

Certainly, the United States faces greater constraints after two long military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, sequestration, and a diversified global security environment that continues to spread US resources more thinly. These constraints have influenced the United States to expect more from its allies in Asia and globally. The question remains though, what precisely does the United States expect of its allies, and in what areas?

In order to answer this question, it is important to recognize what allies are currently doing. Japan, Australia, and South Korea are three of the closest US allies in Asia and are often mentioned together in connection with the US rebalance. Japan has been contributing to the rebalance in a number of ways by attempting to reinterpret its pacifist constitution and expand the role of its self-defense forces in global security operations–especially those mandated by the United Nations–by increasing defense spending and acquisition. No doubt, these measures also work in favor of Japan’s national interests.

Australia has been hosting US Marines in the country’s Northern Territory since April 2012 and has further increased its defense cooperation with the United States on force posture, interoperability, space, cyber, and ballistic missile defense. It has also offered political support and, importantly, spoken out against China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in November 2013. South Korea has also supported the rebalance militarily, by accepting another battalion of US troops and heightening military exercises with the United States in face of highly unpredictable and belligerent actions by North Korea. Thus, US allies in Asia have been contributing to the rebalance in a number of areas and in different concentrations. So, what more does the Unites States expect?

Speaking off-the-record with former US government officials, think tank experts, and academics in Washington DC over the past two months has provided this author with some fascinating insights.

Where Japan is concerned, the overwhelming view is that its greatest potential contribution to the rebalance is economic, specifically, by agreeing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and undertaking economic structural reforms to revitalize its economy. The TPP–a trade pact under negotiation between twelve countries–is designed to open markets and establish high-standard trade rules for the global economy.

From the perspective of the United States, TPP is the economic component of the rebalance. If successful, a TPP agreement would include member economies that represent approximately 40 percent of the world’s economy and would help shape the rules of international trade for the 21st century. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan’s inclusion would be a major contribution to ensuring TPP success. Other areas where Japan could help the rebalance are by increasing its defense spending above one percent of GDP; improve its relations with South Korea and China; and increase its engagement with Southeast Asia. The latter is something that Japan has already begun to do.

For Australia, its main strength in supporting the rebalance is seen in being a political voice for the region. The vast majority of interviewees thought that Australia could assist the United States by promoting a rules-based order and adherence to international norms and codes of conduct. In particular, Australia was considered to be somewhat passive regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea over territorial disputes.

Australia currently maintains a position of neutrality and, while it supports ASEAN’s call for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with China, Australia emphasizes that it has no direct interests in the dispute. The commonly held American view is that Australia should speak out more strongly against coercive action by China and voice its support for the Philippines’ move to seek international arbitration, just as the United States has done.

By having a louder voice in regional affairs, Australia could encourage other countries to follow suit and, collectively, they could influence China. In terms of a military contribution, Australia could support the rebalance by increasing its defense spending, upgrading existing military bases to host additional US forces, and increasing maritime domain surveillance.

In contrast to Japan and Australia, expectations of South Korea’s contribution to the rebalance were not as great or well defined. There is a palatable feeling of uncertainty in Washington about the extent to which Seoul is willing and able to contribute to the US rebalance. This derives from the belief that South Korea sees the rebalance as directed at China and is cautious not to be seen siding with Washington against Beijing. Seoul is careful not to upset relations with Beijing as China is crucial to the outcome of the reunification of the peninsula. Despite South Korea’s unique concerns, Washington analysts still identified areas where Seoul could be doing more to militarily support the rebalance.

In particular, South Korea could implement measures that would allow it to regain wartime operational control (OPCON) of its forces in a war time environment. The United States would like to see OPCON transfer realized in order for South Korea to take greater responsibility for its own security. South Korea could also develop a more sophisticated ballistic missile defense system–integrating ground and sea-based platforms–as well as enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, and keep its military reserve forces in service until the age of fifty. In terms of political and diplomatic contributions, South Korea could make a concerted effort to improve relations with Japan.

Overall, all US allies in Asia could assist the rebalance by deepening their links with each other, increasing their interoperability, and by investing more in multilateral forums. In addition, many in Washington would like US allies to be proactive on regional issues and, rather than always look to the United States to take the lead, be more forward leaning.

From the above, it is clear that the United States expects more from its allies in Asia. Financial, political and–in some cases–social and cultural constraints will prevent allies from fulfilling US wishes in all areas. However, Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all making greater efforts to support the US rebalance and, if they can better communicate their intentions to the region and to their own domestic populations, this will go some way towards ensuring the longevity of the rebalance and the continuation of this policy beyond the current administration.

About the Author
Hayley Channer is an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and currently a Visiting Scholar at the East-West Center in Washington. She can be contacted via email at channerh@EastWestCenter.org.

___________

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. DC
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington. DC

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.

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Building on the Tun Razak Legacy


June 1, 2014

Malaysia and China: Building on the Tun Razak Legacy

by Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak@www.nst.com.my

JOURNEY OF GOODWILL: This is the full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday

Tun Razak and Zhou EnlaiTun Abdul Razak and China’s Mandarin Premier Zhou En-Lai 40 Years ago

FORTY years ago, my father set out on what he called a ‘journey of goodwill, to sow the seeds of mutual understanding and trust’.

That journey led him here, to Beijing, and to this very hall. It was here that he signed an agreement with Premier Chou En-lai, formally establishing diplomatic ties between our countries.

It was here that we began a new chapter in our relations. And, it is here today that I feel not just the responsibility of government but the responsibility to my father — to continue his legacy and ensure the deepening of Malaysia-China ties.

Our nations are joined by a history that spans a thousand years. The friendship that began during the Song dynasty flourished under the Ming, as a relationship built on trade was strengthened by blood — as Chinese families made the Straits of Malacca their home. From Zheng He and the Peranakans to Sun Yat Sen in Penang, our nations’ stories share the same cast.

It should not have been a surprise, therefore, that Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country to establish relations with China. Yet, some allies advised my father, prime minister Tun Abdul Razak, against the decision.

Alone among the members of ASEAN, he held firm, and extended a hand of friendship to the People’s Republic of China. As a university student in 1974, I asked my father why did you make that journey and establish diplomatic relations? He replied, and I quote, ‘because Chou En-lai is a man I can trust’. At a time of upheaval and uncertainty, Malaysia and China laid the foundations of trust for a relationship which has advanced and flourished.

Over the past four decades, as our nations have developed, we have grown closer together. China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner in Asean. We formed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for prosperity and growth. And, last year, we signed a Five-Year Development Programme for Economic and Trade Cooperation.

najib_razak_xi_jinpingAs our economies grow, so, too, do the bonds between our people. Thousands of our students have made the journey to learn in a different culture, my own son included. The ties of family and language which were forged in the 15th century grow deeper with time. There is perhaps no better symbol of our friendship than the recent arrival from China of two giant pandas, which have become an instant hit with the Malaysian people.

Like all friendships, ours is sometimes tested. Malaysia was deeply saddened by the tragic disappearance of flight MH370, with 50 Malaysian passengers and crew, and 154 Chinese passengers on board. Facing a mystery without precedent, we were grateful for the support of the Chinese government, which has spared no expense in the search effort. We will not rest until the plane is found.

I believe that, with time, we will grow even closer together. Good relations are easy when times are good; but true friendship is forged in difficulty. In his speech four decades ago, my father stressed that ‘this goodwill that exists between us must be carefully nurtured’.

It is in this spirit that I come here to China. And, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the government of the People’s Republic of China for the hospitality and warmth extended to us on this visit, and particularly, to Premier Li Keqiang for attending today.

The joint communiqué we have signed further broadens and deepens cooperation in all areas of mutual benefit — economic, tourism, financial services, political, cultural and military.

We have agreed to increase our level of trade and investment, enhance people-to-people relations and to preserve peace and stability in the region.

Today, we renew the bonds of friendship that were established four decades ago. And, as Asia assumes a greater role in the world, we look forward to greater cooperation in the service of common goals.

In years to come, we will remain partners for prosperity; connected by history and firm in our commitment to peace. The ties that bind us will bring stability for our region and opportunity for our citizens.

For as the Chinese proverb says: ‘If people are of one heart, even the yellow earth can become gold’.”

 

A Life Remembered: Sister Juliana died as she lived – for others


May 24, 2014

A LIFE REMEMBERED

 Sister Juliana died as she lived – for others

By Terence Netto

Sister JulianaIn Catholic-Christian understanding vocations to the religious life do not arise in a void. They sprout from a bed seeded by the prayer, deeds and sacrifices of the family from which the postulant has emerged, the community of faith of which he/she has been a part, and the educational environment in which the candidate was nurtured.

 Hilary Clinton’s idea that it takes a whole village to educate a child very nearly explains the vocation of Sister Juliana Lim, the Roman Catholic nun who died last Tuesday, six days after she was beaten senseless by an unknown assailant on the grounds of the Church of the Visitation in Seremban. Juliana, 69, was getting out of her car, together with her elder confrere Sister Marie-Rose Teng, 79, when both were accosted by an intruder brandishing a crash helmet.

The sisters, belonging to the Congregation of the Infant Jesus, famed for the setting up of convent schools in the country from as long ago as 1852, were early for a daily ritual: attendance at morning mass which on Wednesday, May 14, was scheduled for 6.30.

 Little did the nuns expect that this was to be a different morning, one in which they would become victims of every urban denizen’s paranoia in a country where the police are at pains to deny what many citizens feel in their marrow – that they can at any time be targets of the random violence that could leap at them from shadowy recesses where individual pathology intersects with law enforcement decay.

 Perhaps because the church is located in a street, Jalan Yam Tuan, that has a gurdwara and a Hindu temple in the vicinity, the three places of worship lying almost cheek by jowl, the sisters would not have had an inkling of the brutal surprise that lay in furtive wait for them. But when it appeared in the form of a frenzied figure flailing away with a crash helmet, all expectation of the day getting off to a sacramental start, said to be the oxygen of religious life, was crushed under the bludgeoning blows of the assailant.

It must have taken a few moments for Juliana to come to terms with what was happening and, habituated from her childhood in Ayer Salak, an agrarian New Village 15 kilometers northeast of the city of Malacca, she moved without a thought for her safety to get between the assailant and her elder confrere, Marie-Rose.

 The younger nun took the brunt of the hammer blows rained by her attacker who was probably in dire need of the stimulants that can drive otherwise placid-seeming individuals to a manic state if they are short of the cash for their next fix.

The attacker would not have been sentient to the reality that his targets that morning, vowed to a life of evangelical poverty, would not have been in possession, between them, of more then a few Ringgit – a cruelly ironic mismatch, one might say, between his expectations and his victims’ actual capacity.

Juliana crumpled to the ground senseless from the battering she received while Marie-Rose was felled by a less intense barrage. As his victims lay prostrate, their assailant, chastened perhaps by the enormity of what he had done, vanished into the dappled darkness from which he had emerged like a sinister apparition.

 It was several minutes before regular attendees of the morning service became aware of the atrocity that had taken place within a short distance of the main entrance to the church. By the time they were alerted, Juliana was beyond saving while Marie-Rose, reprieved by the selflessness of her younger confrere, would make a fairly quick recovery at the Tuanku Jaafar Hospital where the injured nuns were admitted.

 No purely material computations of the value of a life are allowed in the Roman Catholic worldview, but in the unlikely event that such a heresy is permitted, it would have been Marie-Rose who would have reckoned her life as more expendable than Juliana’s.

The latter was a versatile member of one of the 20 communities to which ageing members of Sisters of the Infant Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order whose charism is the education of young women, have been divided.

After losing control — through a combination of the Islamization of the national education system and slumping vocations — of the 57 convent schools the order had set up in Peninsular Malaysia since their first in Penang in 1852, the nuns have had to reinvent themselves. They moved away from their focus on education to concentrate on the care and upbringing of orphans, on providing shelter and vocational training to abandoned and battered women, and on faith education.

Juliana was good in the new roles her order has had to assume. When she took her vows in 1964, the nuns of the Infant Jesus and the convents they ran, like the Christian Brothers of the De La Salle order who also had their own schools, were renowned for the quality of the education they imparted in their institutes. But matters have steadily declined from that lofty perch so that people like Juliana, who was pushing 70 but was healthy and energetic, were viewed as anachronisms or relics of a bygone era.

Just two Sundays ago, when it was Good Shepherd Sunday in the Catholic liturgical year, a day devoted to the fostering of vocations, Juliana took leave from her community in Seremban to go back to Ayer Salak where she was born to be with 21 others – all either nuns, priests or brothers – who had returned from their stations throughout Malaysia for a celebratory gathering at the St. Mary’s Church. Three others could not make it. At 24 vocations to the religious life, the agrarian community of Ayer Salak, with a population of about 1,550 mainly Catholic Teochews, has furnished the lion’s share of the vocations to the religious state.

Perhaps a pastoral backdrop is more conducive to the flowering of religious vocations, the natural rhythms of agriculture – of herding, sowing, cultivation and harvesting — bearing similarities to the phases of life devoted to matters of the spirit.

 Her confreres at the gathering at St. Mary’s and the people of Ayer Salak remember Juliana as a strong and cheerful character. Several of them made the journey yesterday to Seremban for her funeral which was held at the church where she met her untoward fate.

Ayer Salak is unique as it is the only Chinese Catholic New Village among the 450 settlements formed in the mid-1950s at the height of the communist insurgency. Unlike most Chinese New Villages where land is held under lease or Temporary Occupation Licenses, the land belongs to the Malacca-Johor Diocese of the Catholic Church and the villagers are charged a nominal yearly rent.

It is from this hatchery that the vocation and character of Sister Juliana Lim was formed, selfless and heroic to the end.

Asia’s tomorrow has come–PM Najib Tun Razak


May 24, 2014

Asia’s tomorrow has come

by Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

http://www.nst.com.my (05-23-14)

RISING ASIA’: This is the full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s keynote address at the Nikkei’s 20th International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo yesterday (May 22, 2014)

PM NajibPrime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak delivering a speech at the Nikkei’s 20th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo yesterday. Najib says theLook East policy will move into a second phase, focusing on high technology and highly skilled workers. AFP pic

I am honoured to join you today. This is the second time I have spoken at the Future of Asia conference, and it is wonderful to be back in Japan. Under Prime Minister Abe’s leadership, the Japanese economy has burst back into life, with strong early promise. Now, Japan looks set to usher in a new period of sustained growth,  and set a new standard for reform.

Abenomics–Resurgance of Japan

Japan’s reputation for economic leadership is well-known and well-deserved. In the early 1980s, under Prime Minister Mahathir’s leadership, Malaysia began a ‘Look East’ policy, turning to Japan and Korea for inspiration, helping to train the next generation of Malaysian students and businesses leaders in the East Asian way.

Not only has the Look East policy continued under my tenure, but in line with our transformation programme for Malaysia, it’s moved into a second phase, focusing on high technology and highly skilled workers — helping us move our economy up the value chain, and onto high-income status.

Back in the 1980s, things were different. Asia was rising, but the truly explosive growth was still to come. The emergence of the ‘Tiger’ economies, and the reforms in China, showed the world that something was stirring in Asia. It was the 1980s that the phrase ‘Asian Century’ was coined. But for many observers, Asia was still tomorrow’s story.

Tomorrow has come to Asia (and Malaysia)

Tomorrow has come. Economically and politically, Asia is now at the heart of world affairs. The most populous region on earth is also one of the most dynamic, and increasingly, one of the more contested.

Remarkable economic development has focused global attention on Asia’s prospects. When the recent financial crisis shook confidence in established markets, more companies, and countries, began to ‘look East’.This growing sense of economic momentum has also raised the geopolitical stakes, as emerging and established powers vie for influence in Asia.

This trend shows no sign of abating. Within 20 years, Asia is set to account for more than 40 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and 60 per cent of the world’s middle class. This phase of growth will be accompanied by growing global stature, influence, and interest. We must come to terms with life in the spotlight.

Asia’s economy will remain in focus; our internal dynamics under the microscope. There will be, InsyaAllah, no return to Asia’s age of isolation. We are one of the new centres of gravity in a newly multipolar world.

For the Asians of tomorrow, what matters is how we respond to this scrutiny; whether we build strong and sustainable economies, or simply inflate more bubbles. Whether we show security leadership, or allow internal tensions to derail the peace upon which prosperity depends.

That is what I would like to talk about today — the challenges to Asia’s economy and security, and how we can respond. Let me start with the economy. There are a number of trends that will determine Asia’s continued success. The first is economic integration: the removal of trade barriers, and cooperation on monetary and fiscal policies.

According to McKinsey, in 2012, cross-border trade accounted for a third of global GDP. By 2025, that figure could reach half. In the past 20 years, emerging economies have more than doubled their share of cross-border goods, services and finance, but are still lagging far behind developed markets.

For Asian economies, integration offers significant benefits, including the ability to negotiate together. It can increase the power of middle nations, and raise living standards for all. It can help developing nations climb the ladder, and ensure fewer citizens are left behind, as common standards and entry requirements filter back into domestic policy.

I believe Asian states must look to build stronger, more lasting economic connections — both within our region, and with the outside world. That is why I strongly support the push to create a single market in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Economic Community will support jobs and growth for more than half a billion people, and help ensure Southeast Asia’s growth spills across into all member states.

Trans-Pacific Partnership and Integration for Economic Growth

In an interdependent global economy, the benefits of greater cooperation extend far beyond Asia’s borders. Malaysia looks forward to the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on terms acceptable to us. The TPP will strengthen our ties with the wider world; as will the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will bring three of the largest economies into the world’s largest trading bloc.

For governments and businesses, trade agreements such as these often have a visible logic. We see the negotiations unfold, often over years. We see the compromises that are made, and the benefits that are secured.

The risk of public disaffection can grow. In an age of increasing integration, we must ensure we take people with us — explaining the process and describing the benefits more clearly. Education and engagement can help address public concerns, and win support for agreements that can unlock growth and create higher paying jobs.

To prevent the build-up of risk, we must also ensure reforms to our financial and regulatory regimes keep pace with innovation in the financial sector. In the next decade, Asia’s financial sector is projected to grow by 50 per cent, accounting for almost a third of global banking sector assets. Yet, as the International Monetary Fund points out, Asia’s financial integration is not keeping pace.

As Asian firms ‘build out’ beyond their borders, and Asian investors seek new opportunities, they will be bound more closely into the global economy. There will be new regulatory challenges, such as the growth of shadow banking, and new problems of scale. As Asian capital stretches into other emerging markets, financial supervisors must be ready to address a much wider range of cross-border risks.

Focus on the reforms needed at home

We must also focus on the reforms needed at home. As the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has pointed out, despite a considerable pool of savings, and strong inflows of capital, some Asian infrastructure projects struggle to attract investment due to political, legal and governance risks. Stronger credit, risk management and corporate governance norms can make it easier to secure foreign capital. These must be complemented by a commitment to institutional reform to boost business and public confidence.

These reforms must be undertaken with an eye on the big picture: Asia’s changing role in the world economy. For many years, emerging Asia’s development model was based on a trade surplus with rich-world markets. But rebalancing is under way, as our nations grow richer and our labour costs rise. Some Asian economies are focused on building domestic demand — laying the foundations for more independently sustainable growth.

Alongside macroprudential policies, this approach will help cushion us from the near-term problems, such as the ongoing effects of sluggish growth in established markets, the withdrawal of United States stimulus, whilst also preparing our economies for the next phase of development. They will pave the way for Asia to play a greater role in shaping the global financial architecture, for the ultimate benefit of our citizens. Such structural changes take time and commitment. They can be socially disruptive. But the reward is a stronger and more secure economic future.

The Challenge of Inequality

The second trend we must come to terms with is inequality.Over the past few years, the growing gap between rich and poor in developed economies has become a pressing policy issue. This is not just the battle cry of the Occupy Wall Street protesters: many research institutions have pointed to the corrosive effect of structural inequality.

A little inequality encourages individuals to work hard and innovate; but an unequal system creates hollow economies, where wealth and opportunity are kept for the few, at the expense of the many. Excessive inequality has serious, and avoidable, effects on health, education and life outcomes. When soaring GDP outstrips living standards, people feel they do not have a stake in their nation’s economic success. That, in turn, undermines social progress and threatens stability.

With rapid growth at a time of globalisation and technological change, emerging Asia is particularly exposed to widening inequality. Over the past two decades, eight out of 10 Asians found themselves living in areas where income inequality is rising, not falling. Whilst inequality has narrowed in emerging regions such as Latin America, it has widened in Asia. As the Asian Development Bank has pointed out, had inequality stayed static, an extra 240 million people would have been lifted out of poverty.

Behind the headline growth figures, it is clear that Asia’s future success depends on broader and more diverse economic development. For Asia to truly prosper, we must give our citizens greater equity, as well as greater equality. Again, this will not be easy. Even the most successful economies have struggled to tackle inequality. There is no straightforward solution. But there are a number of things we can do.

We must invest more in public goods such as education and health: increasing access to quality education and narrowing the divide between urban and rural health outcomes. It means strengthening social safety nets and deploying targeted subsidies that support the poor at the point of need. It means encouraging the private sector to do its part, with corporations providing labour with flexibility, training and support. And, it means building more balanced economies, with higher quality jobs and more even growth spread across sectors.

Fight Against Corruption

It also requires a lasting commitment to the fight against corruption. Corruption suppresses meritocratic opportunity, undermines social cohesion and eats away at people’s confidence in the state. Tackling corruption is not the work of a year, or even a decade; but it can and must be done. Government procurement should be reformed to introduce open bidding, bringing transparency to a process often blighted by graft. Strengthening independent anti-corruption institutions, and increasing prosecutions for both bribe takers and bribe givers, can help change attitudes — even when corruption is deeply rooted.

Responding to these two trends — integration and inequality — will be critical. The changes I have spoken about will not always be easy; they require the investment not just of resources, but of political will. Difficult conversations will be had; in my country, for example, where income inequality remains a concern, we are working to find the right balance between affirmative action and individual opportunity.

With courage and foresight, however, we can deliver a stronger economic future for Asia. But, this future will not be assured unless we deliver the security and stability on which economic success depends.

To do so, we must manage our own rising influence, whilst responding to more intense outside interest in Asian security matters. We must make headway on non-state threats such as terrorism and piracy, and act on the ‘new security’ issues such as climate change. And, we must prepare to play a new leadership role in global security issues.

Rise in Asian military power must deliver peace

First and foremost, we must ensure the rise in Asian military power delivers peace, not instability.Over the past decades, Asia’s strong economic growth has obscured a military build-up that is almost as strong. In 1988, Asian defence spending constituted eight per cent of global military expenditure. By 2012, that figure had risen to 20 percent. In the last 25 years, overall military expenditure has grown by 187 per cent.

Countries have every right to defend themselves. But regular arms replacement programmes aside, this trend indicates deeper concerns about security and conflict — concerns that could swiftly become self-fulfilling. To address this risk, we should reject the siren song of competitive armament, and seek wherever possible to strengthen the multilateral and diplomatic ties that check instability.

We should also redouble our commitment to negotiation. Confronted with complex disagreements between states, Asia must place its trust in diplomatic solutions. We should heed the fundamental principles on which good diplomacy is conducted: sovereign equality, respect for territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes and mutual benefit in relations.

And, we must affirm our commitment to rule-based solutions to competing claims. International law, and not economic or military coercion, should guide the resolution of disputes over resources. I also believe Asia can explore ways to make a bigger contribution to global security challenges.On non-proliferation, for example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has adopted a comprehensive treaty, the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

We should also make a concerted effort to implement and enforce strategic trade controls to cut the risk of dual-use goods.Our regional agreement on piracy is cited as a strong example of regional cooperation by the International Maritime Organisation, which seeks to replicate it elsewhere. The same principles — of sharing information and building capacity – could be applied to anti-terrorism initiatives, which, despite some successes, have sometimes lacked the coordination needed to be truly regional.

Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution

On peacekeeping and conflict resolution, Asian nations are already ramping up their involvement in the promotion of global peace. Malaysia, which has already played an active role resolving regional conflicts, is bidding for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2015-2016. Japan has made peace-building one of its main diplomatic priorities, South Korea has markedly increased its peacekeeping and post-conflict work, and many ASEAN nations, such as Vietnam, which will join UN operations next year, are looking to play a more active role.

This is driven partly by pragmatism: we have seen from the rise of nations that growth in influence and hunger for resources can bring new tensions, and exacerbate old ones. But it is also about acknowledging that with rising influence comes rising responsibility; that for Asia to continue to prosper in a stable global security environment, we must play our part not just in the enforcement of international norms, but in their creation, too.

By laying the foundations for greater Asian engagement in the international security agenda, and preparing our economies for more integrated and sustainable growth, we are recognising that our position in the world is changing.

As we leave behind the era of single hyperpower dominance, as the global economy becomes more connected and as nations converge around democratic market liberalism, a broader policy approach is needed. Today, more than ever, consensus, cooperation and constructive engagement are the basis for success.

Thirty years after it was proposed, the Asian century is upon us. By reforming at home, and assuming a greater international role, we can ensure it brings stability, prosperity and growth.

Defending our airspace is not a video game


By Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

May23, 2014

PlayStation-crazy Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein thinks that RMAF jets sent to investigate an unidentified aircraft must fire missiles and shoot it down. He must realise that the defence of Malaysian airspace is not like playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It is bad enough having to suffer an inept Cabinet. We do not need trigger-happy ministers to start a war because of their stupidity.Hishammuddin’s performance, in the interview with ABC’s Four Corners programme, was embarrassing. He wasn’t just evasive, he was reckless and negligent.

He misunderstands his role as Defence Minister. On the night Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, he justified the failure of the RMAF to scramble a fighter jet to investigate because the blip on the radar was “…not deemed a hostile object.” He said, “If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” The Defence Minister does not need Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or other people to tarnish the reputation of Malaysia. Hishammuddin is doing a splendid job by himself.

Malaysia's defence minister defended his military's failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn't seen as a hostile object.

Malaysia’s defence minister defended his military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn’t seen as a hostile object.

As Defence Minister he should have known that to shoot a plane down, one does not need to send a fighter jet to apprehend it. One can target it with a surface-to-air missile. Hishammuddin’s justification for not sending fighter jets to investigate a possible incursion into Malaysian airspace is no different from his reaction to last year’s invasion of Sabah.

When Hishammuddin was told about the incursion of the Suluk militants in Lahad Datu in Sabah, he was very laid-back and told the public not to be alarmed because the Suluks were probably a bunch of old men enjoying a picnic. We subsequently found out that he was wrong!

Hishamuddin's reaction defies logic and common sense.

Hishamuddin’s reaction defies logic and common sense.

As Defence Minister, he has much to learn, and a schoolboy probably knows more than him. During peacetime a lot of the work of the military and armed forces is routine, like guarding key premises, weapons depots, telecommunications facilities or border posts.

Perhaps the most excitement the military gets is when they have to investigate reports of an incursion or to check-out sightings of people, straying close to important installations. Investigating any unknown activity does not necessarily mean the military has to engage in hostilities.

When a navy vessel encounters a boat full of asylum seekers they do not blow it out of the water.

The two aeroplanes which crashed into the twin towers on the Sept 11 terrorist attack were commercial aircraft and were not deemed hostile. What if MH370 had been commandeered by terrorists and turned into a missile?

A whole nation betrayed

After the Sept 11 attack on the twin towers, countries throughout the world put their air forces on red alert, ready to escort any plane which strayed from its flight path. They would only be shot if they were considered a threat.

Hishammuddin has often repeated that the RMAF knew the blip on the radar was not hostile. He has refused to explain how the RMAF knew this.

Although there was no radio contact with MH370, the RMAF fighter jets could have done a visual confirmation by the paintwork and the markings on the body of the plane. They could have trailed MH370 and known in which general direction it was heading.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) mission could have been better coordinated instead of sending search teams on a wild goose chase, wasting time and resources. The MH370 investigations highlighted a lack of communication between the Malaysian military aviation and the civil aviation authorities. How is Hishammuddin resolving this?

We spend hundreds of millions of ringgit on aeroplanes, submarines, patrol boats, defence equipment and radar but the leaders of the armed forces seem to be irresponsible or incompetent, or both. In most air forces, strategic airfields have two pilots ready to take-off at a moment’s notice and intercept unidentified aircraft.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

Planes which have not filed a flight plan and which stray into prohibited airspace are intercepted and escorted out of the airspace. Sometimes rival countries may want to test the air defences of a country and check the capabilities of that country’s air force.

Hishammuddin has betrayed a whole nation. Perhaps, his most cruel act and his worst indiscretion was to insult the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. He has failed them. He gave conflicting and inconsistent reports on the military radar detection. There were allegations that the radio transcripts between the control tower and cockpit were doctored.

Why is there so much intrigue over the cargo manifest? Because of incompetence, he and Najib Tun Razak directed SAR to the wrong areas. Why are we at the mercy of ministers who are both reckless and dopey? Hishammuddin is not fit to be the Defence Minister, let alone a future PM. Trying to appease the rakyat by flying in economy will not do.

Hishammuddin defends the people who did not do their jobs. So, why is he rewarding failure? We owe it to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370 and that is why Hishammuddin must resign, along with the head of the RMAF and the chief of the armed forces.

They are only good at showing off their medals at the National Day parade. The rest of the time they act irresponsibly and treat the defense of the nation as a matter of inconsequence.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

Hishammuddin defends military over failure to act on MH370


May 20, 2014

Note: What else do you expect him to say. He has to defend theHishamuddin Hussein military (in the case of MH370 it is the RMAF) since he is the Minister of Defence. That is not good enough. He must take full responsibility for this serious military foul up, that showed that in stead of being alert and responsive to any encroachment of our air space, the men in uniform were practically sleeping on the job. Hishamuddin should have directed the military top brass to conduct a full investigation on the matter and then take action.

I guess that is asking too much a Minister who is known to be inept and incompetent. He should take responsibility and resign. In stead he has been touted as the next Prime Minister of Malaysia. How low can we go than this. This video (below) makes makes  me sick. There is no remorse from the Malaysian authorities. The Prime Minister should also  explain why there is no White Paper to Parliament on the MH370 saga.–Din Merican

Hishammuddin defends military over failure to act on MH370

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com (May 19, 2014)

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has defended the military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from civilian radar on March 8, saying “it was not deemed a hostile object and pointless if you are not going to shoot it down”.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported today that the defence and acting transport minister, who was interviewed on the ABC’s “Four Corners” programme tonight, had said “the plane was deemed commercial and not hostile”.

Flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar when its transponder stopped transmitting during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing around 1.21am.

The military radar tracked it after it turned in a westerly direction across the peninsula. “If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” Hishammuddin was quoted as asking on the show.

Delays in pinpointing the Boeing 777-200ER’s location led to days of searching in the South China Sea before analysis from British satellite firm, Inmarsat, pointed its likely course as the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin had defended the military and was quoted as saying that had the jet been shot down with 239 passengers and crew on board, “I’d be in a worse position, probably”. He said he was informed of the military radar detection two hours later and relayed it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who then ordered a search in the Strait of Malacca.

The other guest on tonight’s “Four Corners” was Asuad Khan, the brother-in-law of missing pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Asuad told the Australian news network that the 53-year-old had been the subject of rumours and inaccurate reporting since the day the jetliner disappeared on March 8.

“From what I can see, a lot of people are saying a lot of things about him which are untrue,” he was quoted as saying, speaking on behalf of Zaharie’s wife, Faizah Khan.

ABC News also quoted Asuad as saying the allegations levelled against Zaharie regarding his personal life and professional activities were untrue. Asuad also denied that the captain could have been a rogue pilot on a suicide mission and said the authorities might be using Zaharie as a scapegoat.

Some 26 countries were initially involved in the search for the missing jetliner.The search has is now focused underwater.

In a statement issued by Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre today, Chinese, Australian and Malaysian authorities agreed that the Chinese ship Zhu Kezhen will conduct a bathymetric survey of the Indian Ocean floor as directed by Australian air crash investigators.

The ship will sail for the survey area on Wednesday, weather permitting. After an initial air and seabed search failed to find any trace of the plane, authorities this month announced a new phase of the search would be conducted over a vastly expanded area of seabed measuring 60,000 sq km.

The new phase also involves mapping the seabed, where depths and topography are often unknown.

China rebuffing ASEAN’s Quest for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea


May 17, 2013

China rebuffing ASEAN’s Quest for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea

by Dr. BA Hamzah @www.nst.com.my

THE ASEAN summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, has just ended with the usual pomp and circumstance. Some heads of government were visibly exasperated with fresh feuds in the South China Sea and their failure to bring order to the “Maritime Heartland”.

Scs

At Nay Pyi Taw, all eyes were on China, the Middle Kingdom, for rebuffing ASEAN’s proposal for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea. The negotiation for the COC started since the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties was adopted in Phnom Penh in 2002. While a mechanism to manage order at sea remains pressing, from Beijing’s perspective, the COC is a bridge too far, unnecessary and giving it just enough rope.

Besides this, the fissures within ASEAN on the COC have not impressed China. Vietnam and the Philippines are very vocal. The other claimants are more conciliatory. The non-claimant states are happy to go along with the COC to keep ASEAN together.

ASEAN should know that China is determined to dominate the South China Sea as its “own internal lake”, akin to the “Yankee Lake” that the United States established in the Caribbean to keep rivals out in the early 20th century.

In my view, China is no longer eager to embrace the COC. A weaker China was more willing to let ASEAN play the China card. Hence, it lulled ASEAN into thinking that it would play ball with the COC. Today, the card has changed hands.

A more confident China, which believes it has geography and history on its side, now takes things in its stride. Worse, China believes that the COC is a pretext by some claimant parties to engage stronger external parties (read: the US) in a proxy war. As an example, within days of signing an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Washington, Manila is involved in a massive US-led war game, involving more than 5,000 troops near Scarborough Shoals that is occupied by China since April 2012.

From Beijing’s perspective, the joint military exercise is threatening and runs counter to the earlier assurance by US President Barack Obama that the EDCA was not to counter or contain China. If China is not the threat, who is?

China believes geopolitics is also on its side. At the global level, its rise comes at a time when its biggest rival, the Frugal Superpower (after Michael Mandelbaum), is limping and retreating home. America’s decline results from strategic overstretch and costly military misadventures.

China is now more emboldened as US soldiers continue to recuperate from operational fatigue. Despite the EDCA and policy to rebalance forces to East Asia, China believes the US is less likely to put more fresh boots on the ground.

The US is too preoccupied with Europe to bother about the Pacific. The situation in Ukraine will keep the US busy with Russia. Besides, Washington cannot afford to antagonise Beijing, as it needs China to moderate Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East, as well as keeping peace in Africa.

The COC is an agreement between ten states against one. Its asymmetrical nature does not bode well for China. It drags in the non-claimant parties, with whom China has no territorial quarrel. The fissures or cracks between the claimant states and non-claimant states (visible in Phnom Penh in 2012 and evident in Myanmar this year, another non-claimant state), have weakened the ASEAN initiative.

ASEAN must not be too pushy over the COC or it may lose its raison d’etat. When Asean was formed in 1967, its original mission was very clear: to keep peace among the member states. Today, there is a danger that the internal fissures may undermine ASEAN’s mission, strategic relevance and centrality.

Dr. Hamzah,

Do we really need a binding code of conduct on South China Seas, since China is already a signatory to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in SEA?–Din Merican

CHINA: INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION TO THE TREATY OF AMITY AND COOPERATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

WHEREAS the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which was signed on 24 February 1976 in Bali, Indonesia, was amended by the First and Second Protocols Amending the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which were signed on 15 December 1987 and 25 July 1998, respectively;

WHEREAS Article 18, Paragraph 3, of the aforesaid Treaty as amended by Article 1 of the aforesaid Second Protocol provides that States outside Southeast Asia may also accede to the Treaty with the consent of all the States in Southeast Asia, namely Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam; and

WHEREAS all the States in Southeast Asia have consented to the accession of the People’s Republic of China;

NOW, therefore, the People’s Republic of China, having considered the aforesaid Treaty as amended by the Protocols, hereby accedes to the same and undertakes faithfully to perform and carry out all the stipulations therein contained.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, this Instrument of Accession is signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

DONE at Bali, Indonesia, on the Eighth Day of October in the Year Two Thousand and Three.

41

 

The Bay of Bengal: A New Locus for Strategic Competition in Asia


May 16, 2014

Asia Pacific BulletinNumber 263 | May 15, 2014

ANALYSIS

The Bay of Bengal: A New Locus for Strategic Competition in Asia

By David Brewster

Bay of BengalIt is possible that the Bay of Bengal may soon be joining the South China Sea as a major locus of competition between China and its neighbors. Both are the key transit zones between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and, some would argue, the pivot points for maritime security across the Indo-Pacific littoral. Like the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal is now coming under the strategic spotlight.

Indeed, this body of water is beset by a host of security problems which may even dwarf those in other regions of Asia. These include separatist insurgencies and religious violence in most of the littoral states; major concerns over the energy trading routes through the Malacca Strait; maritime boundary disputes relating to oil and gas; widespread piracy and smuggling; and many environmental security problems, not least the possible inundation of large parts of the littoral by rising sea levels. To these problems can be added strategic competition among India, China and the United States.

There are however surprisingly few attempts by strategic analysts to take a coherent view of security problems around the Bay of Bengal. Indeed, analysts rarely even see it as a “region,” usually drawing a sharp dividing line through the middle of the bay, between “South Asia” and “Southeast Asia.” Perhaps it is now time to better understand the Bay of Bengal as a coherent strategic region within the broader framework of the Indo-Pacific.

India has long been the biggest naval power in the Bay and last year announced that it should henceforth be seen as a “net security provider” to the region. India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon announced in March the establishment of a new maritime security arrangement among India and the island states of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius. Menon also foreshadowed that the arrangement may be expanded to encompass the Bay of Bengal or that a similar arrangement could be replicated with other littoral states around the Bay. If implemented, such an arrangement would represent a major strategic development for India and for the region.

The main driver for these developments is China. India has long been anxious about a possible Chinese military strategic presence in the Bay of Bengal. Delhi fretted about the purchase of Chinese arms by Sri Lanka during its civil war. The close military links between Myanmar and China have also long worried India, including a supposed Chinese listening post on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island–which if it ever existed, is no longer there. More recently there have been concerns about Bangladesh-China military links, including the purchase of two Ming-class submarines by Bangladesh from China.

India has also long been building its military power in the Bay, including new naval and air facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that run north-south through the Bay. These would allow India to potentially dominate the western end of the Malacca Strait and much of the surrounding waters. The Indian Navy is also gradually being “rebalanced” towards the Bay through the expansion of its Eastern Fleet on India’s east coast–among other things, India’s new aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines will be based there. India has growing security relationships with all of its Bay of Bengal neighbors and is keen to demonstrate its credentials as a provider of public goods in such areas as maritime policing, counter-terrorism and humanitarian and disaster relief.

For years, India has hosted its premier multilateral naval exercise, Exercise MILAN, out of the Andaman Islands. This year’s event, held in early February, was the largest ever with 16 guest navies represented, including all the Bay of Bengal states and other navies from the Pacific to Africa. The cooperative and multilateral nature of India’s Exercise MILAN stands in stark contrast to a unilateral naval exercise which was conducted in late January by China in the eastern Indian Ocean–between the Indonesian island of Java and Australia’s Christmas Island.

These developing security relationships have been accompanied by an increased focus on building political and economic ties across the Bay. Recently, New Delhi has been giving renewed focus to BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), the regional grouping of Bay of Bengal states, with an emphasis on developing improved transport connectivity across the Southern Asian littoral. Some see BIMSTEC as representing an important opportunity for India to break out of the “stagnant regionalism” of the Indian subcontinent–where India is frequently constrained by its rivalry with Pakistan.

Raja Mohan, a prominent Indian strategic commentator, argues that India’s sluggishness is allowing China to seize opportunities which are enabling it to develop regional infrastructure in and around the Bay. These include the construction of road links and gas and oil pipelines that essentially extend “vertically” from southern China through Myanmar to the Bay of Bengal. According to Mohan, New Delhi’s dithering means that India risks being marginalized in the region–while India talks, China builds.

Certainly the BIMSTEC grouping has had few concrete achievements to date. This largely reflects the internal political turmoil and violent insurgencies that have kept members such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand internally focused. Plans for the development of “horizontal” road infrastructure connecting major manufacturing areas in eastern India with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and even to Vietnam have been under discussion for years. India’s Congress-led government did little to create any sense of urgency in implementing these projects.

This is not, however, just about India and China. Washington is also playing a delicate balancing act in the Bay. It wants to see a reduction in China’s relative economic influence and to encourage countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to avoid becoming too reliant on Chinese weapons or military assistance. The United States also wants to be able to counter or contain any new Chinese maritime presence. These objectives are consistent with India’s, but India is also extremely sensitive towards the military presence of any outsiders in the Bay.

This means that Washington needs to build security relationships and capabilities in the Bay of Bengal in a manner that pays proper regard to India’s perspectives. This includes avoiding or minimizing any overt US military presence that could be perceived as impinging upon India’s core interests in the Bay. An understanding about respective security objectives and responsibilities in the Bay of Bengal needs to be part of a more cooperative overall strategic relationship that Washington should be seeking to develop with the new government in New Delhi.

Dr. David Brewster is a Visiting Fellow with the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at the Australian National University and a Fellow with the Australia India Institute. He is the author of India’s Ocean: The Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership and can be contacted via email at dhbrewster@bigpond.com.

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