ASEAN political-security community challenges


July 13, 2014

ASEAN political-security community challenges

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

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

Economic Growth and Political Rights

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

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

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

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

APSC and Human Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASEAN, China and South China Sea

South China Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASEAN-a great economic prospect but...

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Poem for this Weekend


July 13, 2014

A Poem for this Weekend

William-Ernest-Henley2I am the Master of my Fate

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

INVICTUS

( The Unconquerable Soul)

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

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

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

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

 

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington


July 7, 2014

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner


July 4, 2014

RSIS Commentaries

RSIS presents the following commentary China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner by B.A.Hamzah.  Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at RSIS Publication@ntu.edu.sg.

No. 122/2014 dated 1 July 2014

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner

By B.A.Hamzah

Synopsis

Malaysia owns James Shoal, a submerged feature that is within its continental shelf. Being one thousand nautical miles from Hainan, James Shoal is outside the continental shelf of China; it is also outside the continental shelf of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.

Commentary

James Shoal

JAMES SHOAL, a feature that is permanently 22 metres (66 feet) under water in the South China Sea, should not have attracted public attention regionally but for geopolitics and ignorance of international law. Malaysians have been alarmed by recent reports of vessels of the People’s Republic of China Liberation Army (Navy), gathering and celebrating above the feature on more than one occasion.

China cannot appropriate any submerged features that are not part of its continental shelf and in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). James Shoal is more than 1,000 nautical miles (nm) from Hainan, well outside China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and not part of its continental shelf.

James Shoal and International Law

The whole affair could have been quietly resolved if the PLA Navy commanders acknowledged the international law governing a permanently submerged feature, embedded to the continental shelf of a coastal state. Unlike islands, rocks and low-tide elevations, permanently submerged features, cannot generate any maritime zone under international law.

Islands are entitled to a belt of territorial sea, continental shelf and EEZ. Low-tide Elevations (LTEs), on the other hand, belong to the state in whose territorial sea they are located. LTEs can be used to draw the state’s baseline if they are located within its 12 nm territorial sea.

Map 2--James ShoalMap showing the limit of proposed extended continental shelf of Vietnam and Malaysia jointly submitted to the United Nations Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) in May 2009.

International law defines continental shelf as a natural extension of a country’s landmass to a distance of 200 nm (maximum 350 nm). Drawn from the mainland or any of its islands in the South China Sea, the continental shelf of China is well short of James Shoal. Similarly, contrary to some suggestions, James Shoal is also not part of the extended continental shelf of Vietnam, the Philippines or Taiwan.

In May 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia put up a Joint submission on the Extended Continental Shelf to the UN Committee on the Limit of Continental Shelf (CLCS) whereby Vietnam acknowledged that James Shoal is not part of its extended continental shelf.

James Shoal is 500 nm from Pagasa Island in the Spratlys that the Philippines has occupied since 1971. The Shoal is more than 400 nm from Itu Aba, an island that Taiwan has occupied since 1956. James Shoal is also outside Brunei’s extended maritime zone which the 2009 Letter of Exchange Brunei had with Malaysia attested to. In 1969, Malaysia and Indonesia signed a Treaty on the continental shelf, off Tanjung Datu, Sarawak, which has placed James Shoal on the Malaysian side.

Contiguity not an issue

Map--James Shoal2Map showing limits of EEZ in the Spratlys

James Shoal, located 63 nm from the nearest base point (Batuan Likau) on Sarawak coast, is embedded in the continental shelf of Malaysia and within its EEZ. Although the feature is nearer to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur’s ownership of James Shoal is not premised on geographical contiguity but on customary international law. In the Island of Palmas (or Miangas) (United States v. The Netherlands), Arbitral Award, 1928 Judge Huber stated, “it is impossible to show the existence of a rule of positive international law” on contiguity to “the effect that islands situated outside territorial waters should belong to the state”.

China claims James Shoal is within the disputed nine-dash line boundary which China has drawn, incorporating close to ninety percent of the South China Sea, and overlapping with the maritime domains of five other states (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) as well as Taiwan.

Some experts believe China did not even know of the existence of James Shoal as a submerged feature when it drew the controversial nine-dash line maritime boundary over it in 1947/1948. After all, China was not the first state to conduct any physical survey of the maritime area. Besides, there is no evidence that China discovered and administered the feature.

The British discovered James Shoal

The British discovered the Shoal and its two nearby features (Parsons’ Shoal and Lydie Shoal) in the early 19th Century via many of its surveys. James Shoal first appeared on the British Admiralty Chart in the 1870s; China renamed the feature (as Tseng Mu Reef) circa 1947/1948 (1912 in some documents), when it published the nine-dash line.

The only possibility for China to “acquire” the feature, according to some experts, is via cut- and-paste method. While the international law recognises five traditional methods of territorial acquisition, the cut- and- paste method is not one of them.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (Malaysia and China subscribe to both Treaties) stipulate, “The rights of a costal state over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or in any express proclamation”. In other words, Malaysia does not have to do anything under UNCLOS to own the submerged feature that is embedded on its continental shelf.

Malaysia’s extensive activities on James Shoal

This notwithstanding, Malaysia has effectively asserted its jurisdiction over its continental shelf including the areas in and around James Shoal, Parson’s Shoal and the Lydie Shoal. As in nearby Laconia shoals, where currently a large chunk of Malaysia’s hydrocarbon resources comes from, the entire area has been explored for gas and oil.

The activities of the Malaysian authorities, which are extensive, peaceful, continuous and public in nature, include the construction and maintenance of a light-buoy on nearby Parsons Shoal on a 24/7 basis; daily patrolling and policing of the area by the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency; and undertaking economic activities like exploration for and production of hydrocarbon resources on a sustained basis.

Under international law, such display of peaceful and continuous activities over a long period is tantamount to establishing a titre de souverain (acts of the sovereign). This legal principle is critical in determining ownership of disputed islands, rocks and low tide elevations and by inference, submerged features on continental shelf.

Map 3-James Shoal Enlarged Map showing the location of James Shoal (Beting Serupai), Lydie Shoal (Beting Tugau) and Parson’s Shoal (Beting Mukah) (drawn by Vivian Forbes, 2014).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Arbitration have applied this principle on numerous occasions. Two recent ICJ Cases on territorial disputes, decided on this principle, involved Malaysia with Indonesia (Case concerning sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan) and Indonesia (2002) and Malaysia with Singapore (Case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca and Pulau Batu Putih (2008).

In sum, the activities of the Malaysian authorities (effectivité to some) are by themselves sufficient to demonstrate that Malaysia is the bona fide owner of James Shoal.

BA Hamzah is a lecturer at the Department of Strategic Studies, National Defence University, Malaysia. He contributed this specially to RSIS Commentaries.

Japan’s Cabinet Seeks Changes to Its Peace Constitution


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

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

By Andrew L. Oros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Constitution must be supreme


June 28, 2014

Ceritalah

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

The Constitution must be supreme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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.