Southeast Asia: The Bright Spark


October 8, 2014

Southeast Asia: The Bright Spark in a Gloomy World

by W. Scott Thompson@www.nst.com.my

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bright Spark in a Gloomy World

“AROUND the world in 80 days”, or even eight days, might not be a happy trip in 2014. Start with my country: the current issue of political journal Foreign Affairs has a cover saying “See America: Land Of Decay And Dysfunction”. Head south and it’s hard to find success stories. Argentina is in a financial mess, Venezuela is moving back into the hands of the Army and Mexico is all about drugs.

For Europe, the biggest joke is that only Belgium has escaped the financial crisis, mostly because it has no real government and no prime minister during the key years. You can’t blame Germany for being thrifty and resenting to pay for the high life in Greece, Italy and Spain over the last 20 years. A compromise has yet to be found between the northern proponents of austerity and those believing that more consumer spending will get the southern countries out of their doldrums. Unemployment rates at 25 per cent don’t make for easy governance.

Africa is a mixed bag. Even the leading stars in growth, like Ghana, are in financial trouble. Fighting continues in Congo, extremists continue to move south and even if overall, Africa has an average growth rate better than most of the world, it’s too small a part to change things — CNN attempts to show the bright side, notwithstanding.

Let’s just skip the Middle East; it’s a disaster zone and it’s too early to say whether the Islamic State can be stopped — though it has to be. Suffice to say that if IS takes control of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, the best scenario indicates it would take a year or two to evict them. As usual, Iran is a shadow player and in the end, will be the most important one to stabilise the region.

In South Asia, India’s new Prime Minister has made it big at the United Nations, but it’s an open question whether he can really can open up the Indian economy for the rapid growth on which success depends. Let’s not even mention Pakistan.

All the talk about China centres on Hong Kong and what the demonstrations portend. But I would pay more attention to western China, where the Islamic Uighurs are a far bigger headache for the Politburo.

Jokowi WidodoCome to Southeast Asia and you might start smiling. Discussion is dominated by the old forces of the Indonesian military under the leadership of General Prabowo Subianto, in voting out all the moves of decentralisation that have achieved so much since 1999. President-elect Widodo will be sworn into office on October 20; he does not command a majority in Parliament but he hasn’t even begun to use presidential patronage to block Probowo’s attempts to turn the clock back. I wouldn’t bet against the new President’s powers of persuasion and presidential suasion. On balance, we should be very optimistic about Indonesia.

Now, go around the region and just about everything is moving, if slowly, in the right Thailand Democracy Protestdirection. That is, if you see the Thai coup d’état as a necessary evil that will restart the political system without the cost of long-term death to democracy that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra represents. The political establishment has regained control and let’s not forget the 60 years of transformation that the coalition has provided. Next to China, no sizeable state has grown so fast.

Malaysia provides one of the world’s best examples of a tricky balanmalaysia-truly-asia-girls11cing act in providing stability in a multi-ethnic state. It is basically because it is a strong state; even its critics must admit the remarkable success of its leaders. It is gaining ground in the middle income division of the world’s states. The economic model says that countries well-endowed with natural resources are the first ones to fail, relying too heavily on what they can get out of the ground or grow on trees. But it secured independence with strong leaders who changed all that. This is quite an oversimplification, but the bottom line is a big success story.

The PhilippinesNow, welcome to the Philippines, home of, in my experience, the world’s happiest people. Its growth rate is closing the gap with China. Critics say the rich elite is getting more than its fair share, yet, studies of wealth division show the Philippines with not much different a Gini coefficient of wealth distribution than the other countries in the region.

And if nothing else, everybody is benefiting from investments in infrastructure. Bulldozers and backhoes are everywhere, widening roads to population centres, and providing jobs for the best of the young professionals in the all but ubiquitous call centres. President Benigno Aquino III has managed two thirds of his six-year term without an agenda, but he always says the right things and leaves no taint of corruption — leaving aside consideration of some of his associates whom he’s too nice to fire.

Everyone in the region is worried about China’s claim to much territorial waters of littoral states in the South China Sea. My guess is the new President of China is too smart to let its navy push too far. Anyway, if you came from Mars and could live anywhere, you certainly wouldn’t choose Russia or China, most of Africa, and so many other places with deeply rooted problems.

Well, this is a bit subjective for me, having chosen Southeast Asia 50 years ago as a research area that was on the go — and when the world was my oyster and I could live anywhere. I’m glad I chose Bali, the Philippines, and the capital cities of Thailand and Malaysia.

Malaysia Offers to Host U.S. Navy Aircraft


October 6, 2014

Malaysia Offers to Host U.S. Navy Aircraft

by Trefor Moss at trefor.moss@wsj.com

U.S. Says Malaysia’s Offer Covers Flights From Base on Edge of Waters Claimed by China

http://online.wsj.com/articles/malaysia-offers-to-host-u-s-navy-aircraft-military-official-says-1410524618

Malaysia has offered to host U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft at a base on the edge of a disputed part of the South China Sea, a move likely to heighten Chinese sensitivities about U.S. involvement in the region.

US Navy U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon

With the Philippines and Singapore having already agreed to host rotations of U.S. forces, Malaysian support marks a further boost to the Obama administration’s policy of rebalancing toward the Asian-Pacific region as anxiety persists in Southeast Asia about China’s assertiveness over its territorial claims.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, said that “the Malaysians have offered us to fly detachments of P-8s out of East Malaysia” in a speech delivered Monday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think tank based in Washington.

The P-8 is capable of long-range surveillance and anti-submarine missions.Adm. Greenert emphasized the Malaysian base’s “closeness to the South China Sea” and identified Malaysia, along with Indonesia and Singapore, as “the key” to the U.S. Navy successfully increasing its regional presence.

The facility in question is likely to be the Royal Malaysian Air Force base on the island of Labuan, off the coast of Borneo, which U.S. forces have used for exercises in the past, according to a U.S. Navy officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.

While the ownership of Labuan itself isn’t disputed by China, it lies close to the southern end of the Spratly Islands chain, which Malaysia and China both contest.

Lt. Rebekah Johnson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said that no formal agreement had yet been signed between Kuala Lumpur and Washington, but she confirmed that an offer was on the table for P-8 aircraft to use the air base “on a case-by-case basis.”

Malaysian officials didn’t respond to questions about the arrangement. China’s foreign and defense ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

While other South China Sea claimants—notably the Philippines and Vietnam—have objected vociferously to what they regard as aggressive Chinese behavior, Malaysia has kept a lower profile in the disputes, generally refraining from openly criticizing China.

Malaysia’s view of how to handle China seemed to shift, however, during the bruising experience after the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March, said Tim Huxley, executive director of the IISS-Asia, a Singapore-based think tank. Mr. Huxley said the incident not only exposed serious weaknesses in Malaysia’s air defense system, which failed to track the lost airliner effectively, but also left the country feeling bullied by China. Beijing took a keen interest in the search operation because of the 153 Chinese passengers on board and at times disparaged Malaysia’s efforts.

That episode, combined with Chinese pressure in the South China Sea, may finally have led Kuala Lumpur to see “a confluence of interest” with the U.S. and “may have provided sufficient incentives for Malaysia to further intensify defense and security relations,” Mr. Huxley said.

President Barack Obama visited the country in April and agreed to upgrade bilateral relations with Malaysia to the level of “comprehensive partnership,” signaling a broad commitment to increase collaboration in a wide range of areas, including defense.

China has repeatedly opposed the U.S.’s monitoring of its activities in the South China Sea—especially with aircraft, like the P-8, capable of tracking submarines. On Tuesday, Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, told U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, who was visiting Beijing, that the U.S. should scale back or completely halt monitoring near the Chinese coast.

Last month, a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy P-8 off the coast of Hainan. The incident sparked fears that there could be a repeat of the 2001 collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter, also near Hainan, due to what the Pentagon described as dangerous maneuvers on the part of the Chinese pilot. China denied this, saying its fighter kept a safe distance during the encounter.

Write to Trefor Moss at trefor.moss@wsj.com

Religious Extremism returns around the globe


October 3, 2014

Religious Extremism returns around the globe

by Pankaj Mishra@Bloomberg

Boko HaramDenunciations of “religious extremism,” always commonplace, have never sounded more persuasive as Islamic State and Boko Haram go on murderous rampages and sectarian killers enjoy political respectability in places such as Pakistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken out a fresh lease on Christianity’s old compact with imperialism. Many prominent rabbis in Israel have ignored the 19th-century conflict between Judaism and Zionism to sanction the messianic aims of settlers in the West Bank.

Non-monotheistic religions do not seem to have fared much better despite their explicit commitments to diversity and pluralist practice. In the past two decades, Hindu nationalists have sought self-affirmation in grisly acts of violence against minorities. Buddhist monks have led lynch mobs in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and they have proudly turned out as soldiers in Thailand’s counterinsurgency campaign in the southern provinces.

If the so-called “return” of religion shocks us, it is because we are too accustomed to reading its premature obituary. A range from European prophets, from Marx to Max Weber, shared the belief that democracy, economic growth, technology and mass culture would wean people away from reliance on the supernatural and usher them into a truly “disenchanted” secular world. As the process of modernisation moved from the West to the non-West, religion would retreat from the public into the private sphere.

obama-isis-beheading-zerohedge

For much of the world’s population, however, religion has continued to provide the basic vocabulary for conversations about society, politics, law and the good life. In fact, the threatening incursions of the West and the modern world in the 19th century stimulated a reinterpretation of religious faith and identity in many Asian and African countries.

The calls for jihad against the British in India and the revolt of the Mahdi in Sudan are well-documented instances of Islamist mobilisation against the all-conquering West. Many of the leading thinkers of the non-Muslim world ― Han Yongun in Korea, Taixu in China, Anagarika Dharampala in Sri Lanka, U Dhammaloka in Burma, Swami Vivekananda in India ― also hoped for a properly organized Buddhism or Hinduism to provide the basis for national strength, solidarity and identity in the modern world.

In many cases, their fondest dreams ― and worst fears ― have been realised. Buddhist nationalism is no longer an oxymoron in Sri Lanka. Fringe believers in “Akhand Bharat” or Undivided India seem to have hijacked the mainstream discourse of secular nationalism in India.

But then, modern nationalism itself has the symbolism and ritual of religion: a missionary belief in cultural distinctiveness, a political theology that includes declarations of independence and constitutions, and civic liturgies demanding reverence for the flag and founding fathers. Religious symbols and narratives have long permeated even the evidently secularised West.

Irish nationalism identified itself with Catholicism; the Welsh broke en masse with Anglicanism in the 19th century to define their own national identity. The American Revolution was preceded and followed by a great efflorescence of Protestant denominations.

Republican France, from which the creed of progressive secularisation is drawn, has always been exceptional. Nevertheless, Nicolas Sarkozy revealed an unalterable fact when he claimed that Europe’s roots are essentially Christian.

Queen Elizabeth remains the Head of the Church of England. Even today, Germany finances its churches and allows them to tax their members. The constitutionally mandated separation of church and state doesn’t prevent religion from influencing politics in the US. A sense of providential mission infuses the rhetoric of US foreign policy.

Clearly, our faith in the miracle of secular modernization defies all evidence of the intensity, persistence and variety of religious belief in the West as well as the East. More fatefully, it hinders us from questioning whether there is such a thing as the purely secular.

Zionism was aggressively anti-religious in its European origins. But its basic goals ― redemption of the “promised land” and revival of the Hebrew language ― were informed by theological notions.

The Indian claim to an Undivided India, whose mythology-inspired map includes all of South Asia, has been advanced at different times by “secular” members of the Congress party as well as Hindu fanatics.

We have assumed too easily ― and complacently ― the moral superiority and eventual triumph of the “secular.” But Islamic State has more in common with the utopia of the fanatically secular Khmer Rouge than anything in the long history of Islam. We need fresher ideas to understand the great violence of our times, which is far from being explained by diehard secularists blustering against religious extremism. ― Bloomberg View

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Civilisational clash ‘not of our doing’


September 29, 2014

Civilisational clash ‘not of our doing’

by Dr. Farish M. Noor@www.nst.com,my

farish-a-noorTHE ongoing bombardment of Syria — ostensibly to remove the threat of the Islamic State (IS) — has sparked off a bout of serious questioning about the propriety of the campaign, and whether such a strategy would actually work.

Interestingly, many of these questions are also being raised in the Western press, where opinion makers have argued that such a strategy may well end up entrenching IS further and angering ordinary civilians, who will also be the victims of such attacks, for it is well-known that “smart weapons” are seldom truly smart, and that civilian casualties are bound to be incurred.

But more worrying still is the talk of a “war against evil” and the need to fight against IS in the defence of “civilisation”, “law and order”, and “justice”.The somewhat simplistic dialectics of such arguments are embarrassingly clear, where the insurgents of IS are being labelled as uncivilised and barbaric, while those who attack them have summarily assumed the mantle of a higher moral authority.

Under such circumstances, is it any wonder if critical thinkers the world over have opined that what we are seeing today is a nasty prelude to a larger conflict that will be fought along the fault-lines of culture and civilisation?

Lest it be forgotten, we need to remember that IS does not represent the civilisation of Arab-Muslims in any way. In their deeds and words IS does not represent the same grand civilisation that was the product of thinkers like al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun.

As many contemporary Muslim leaders have argued, what we see in the ranks of IS is a travesty of Arab civilisation that was once the fountainhead of science and rational thinking.  But equally worrisome is the language and vocabulary of IS’s opponents, who have applied to them a pathology that is general, sweeping and reductionist.

To argue, as some Western leaders and policymakers have, that IS is the result of blind hate and anger, would be to reduce the frustrations and anxieties of millions of Arabs to bare emotions and reactionary action, without any attempt to understand and recognise the very real political-economic underpinnings of such collective anxiety.

It is dumfounding that hardly any of these leaders have noted the obvious fact that IS has emerged in a region that has been torn apart for three decades, since the Iran-Iraq war, that was also supported by external states and other actors.

It is equally perplexing to note that none of these leaders have acknowledged their own culpability in their policy of intervening in that region — in the name of “regime change” — and by doing so, weakened the states of the Arab world to the point where none of them can really rein in radical movements and splinter groups like IS. Do we seriously expect a moderate society to emerge from a region that has been reduced to a war zone for so long?

It is for this reason that the term “Clash of Civilisations” is so misleading, and dangerously so. As a glib slogan that reduces and over-simplifies the complexity of the problems of the Arab world, it is a convenient by-word that allows external actors and players to absolve themselves of their own responsibility for the mess they have created.

The term is dangerous in the manner that it reduces the phenomenon of violent radical resistance to the level of primordial irrational sentiments, and reinforces the racist stereotype of Arabs as inherently violent and pathologically fatalistic.

In dealing with the real problem of groups like IS, a degree of honest, objective analysis is required that would also unveil the hidden hands at work, the connections with external agendas and interests.

What we do not need at the moment is some convenient slogan that white-washes the facts about intervention, regime change/manipulation and their monstrous outcomes.

And, we need to remember that the idea of the “Clash of Civilisations” itself is a concept that was never invented by us, but rather imposed upon us and other communities — perhaps in an effort to deny our genuine political-economic needs and aspirations, and to discard serious critical thinking for simplistic oppositional dialectics instead.

Rosli Dahlan wins Appeal against NST and MACC


September 17, 2014

Rosli Dahlan wins Appeal against NST and MACC

By Din Merican

rosli-dahlan2Unknown to many, this morning, the Court of Appeal presided by JCAs Clinton Albert, Hameed Sultan and Nalini Pathmanaban today heard NST’s appeal vs the High Court Judgment of Judge Siti Khadijah Badjenid which held NST and MACC liable for defamation vs Lawyer Rosli Dahlan and ordered NST and MACC to pay RM150, 000.00 each to Rosli (total RM300,000.00). The counsel for NST was Harjinder Kaur and counsel for Rosli was Chetan Jethwani and Parvinder Kaur.

The High Court had found that The NST and MACC had authored and published false news about Rosli by reporting that he was investigated and charged for hiding the assets of Dato Ramli Yusuff which they had dubbed as the RM27million Cop story.

Previously, Utusan Malaysia and The Star newspapers had published public apologies and paid damages to Rosli for publishing similar false stories.. Yet, The NST refused to apologise to Rosli. The NST’s misconduct was further aggravated by the fact that the NST’s reporter, V Anbalaga, had claimed that he had obtained the information from the MACC who wanted the news to be leaked, whereas during the trial the MACC denied leaking any information. Judge Khadijah had found that the MACC had breached s.21(4) of the ACA Act by leaking confidential investigation information.

What was comical about the whole thing was that the MACC even republished the NST article on its website and later claimed that the MACC Publication Unit did not know about the case but just adopted the false NST story. During the trial witnesses for NST and MACC blamed each other just to avoid liability. That is how these liars behaved when they are caught lying!

During the hearing this morning, the Court of Appeal Judges asked why the MACC did not appeal if they did not do any wrong to Rosli and if the story that was published on the MACC website was true. They also questioned NST’s lack of remorse by appealing when MACC did not appeal.

Judge Hamid Sultan asked why the NST started and popularised the RM27milion story when the charge against Rosli and Dato Ramli did not mention any amount at all. Judge Hamid Sultan also said there was no basis for stating that amount or that story which was false and indicated malice on the part of the NST- “News cannot add on untrue stories,embellished it to be a fairy tale. Only real news enjoy any privilege.”

Judge Linton Albert said- “The Sting of the Defamation is that you stated he hid RM27milion or that he was charged for RM27milion when that was totally untrue!” When Court resumed at 12.50pm, the Chairman of the Panel dismissed NST appeal and ordered NST to pay cost of RM20,000.00 to Rosli Dahlan.

Secession is not an Option


September 1, 2014

After 51 years of federalism in which the centre (Putrajaya) is dominant, the time has come for us Din MericanY to review the bases of our relationship with Sabah and Sarawak. Both states have grown and a few generations have gone, and now there is growing restlessness among Sabahans and Sarawakians. To some extent, Malaysia is already a success. We have created political awareness among the people there. But we have more work to do to achieve national integration.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has said that stern action will be taken against those in the two states who are advocating secession. They have threatened to take the issue of self-determination to the United Nations. The UN route to deal with our internal affairs is a retrogressive step since the issue was settled nearly three scores ago by both the Cobbold Commission and the United Nations team in 1963. Furthermore, I do not have much faith in the United Nations. I believe in our own ability to deal with our problems. We have the means and experience to manage our own affairs.

The idea of secession is not an option. Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia. That means we cannot entertain the idea of political separation. People advocating this separation should be warned to stop playing with fire. But a better  and more equitable deal for Sabahans and Sarawakians? Yes. According to Dr. Puyok, “[T]he federal-state conflict in Malaysia is caused by an “ideological clash” between federal and state leaders, imbalance in centre-periphery relations, and lack of meaningful engagement between federal and state administrative officers.” I agree with his point of view.

Let us, therefore, not ignore the concerns of Sabah and Sarawak. In stead, we should begin a new era of constructive engagement with our brothers and sisters in East Malaysia. Take integration beyond the level of political rhetoric, and deal with the fundamental issues concerning federal-state relations that have been swept under the carpet for far too long. In this regard, the Najib administration must act in earnest based on a clear vision of national unity and integration.

najib and his deputyProject Malaysia must be taken to a new and perhaps a more enlightened level. The feeling that we at the centre are a bunch of neo-colonialists (and thereby lending credence to President Sukarno’s claim that Malaysia is a “neo-colonialist plot” hatched by the British) must be eliminated.

Let us recognise for starters that what politicians and public officials say and do at the centre affect Sabah and Sabah. One case in point is the Allah issue. Another matter of pressing concern is revenue sharing. Prime Minister Najib should begin the dialogue with leaders of Sabah and Sarawak and civil society as soon as possible.  –Din Merican

Secession is not an Option

by Dr. Arnold Puyok*

Merdeka--57

After 51 years since the formation of Malaysia, the issue of secession has come to haunt the country once again. While the calls for secession by some quarters in Sabah and Sarawak are not as serious as it looks in the social media, anti-federal feelings are real and growing.It is not too late to “save” Malaysia. The federal structure was designed in such a way to preserve the uniqueness of each state in the federation.

The main problem faced by the country lies in the weaknesses in the implementation of the Federal Constitution. It is time that Malaysians – the young especially – to take a hard look at the country’s origin by studying the Federal Constitution.

Now, the Federation of Malaysia is said to be on the brink of collapse. The federal-state conflict in Malaysia is caused by an “ideological clash” between federal and state leaders, imbalance in centre-periphery relations, and lack of meaningful engagement between federal and state administrative officers.

Ideological clash

The ideological approach in federalism discusses the “ideological and philosophical foundation of federalism”. Ideologies clash because of differences in language, culture and religion. Malaysia’s federal foundation is essentially driven by Malay-Muslim ideology – a “copycat” of the previous federal structure under the Federation of Malaya – even though the later federal structure (the Federation of Malaysia) was significantly altered to accommodate non-Islamic and non-Malay territories of Sabah and Sarawak.

From 1957 to 1963, efforts to “build” the country through language and education were done with a strong Malay-Muslim flavour. With a strong federal support, Sabah’s Third Chief Minister Tun Mustapha Harun promoted a policy of “one language (Malay), one religion (Islam) and one culture (Malay)” as a basis for creating national solidarity in Sabah. This was opposed by many non-Muslim Sabahans.

Imbalance in centre-periphery relations

This imbalance is marked by centralisation of power by the federal government.Under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for instance, the federal government would use its constitutional and political power to force the state to prioritise federal than state needs.

The federal government would “punish” stubborn state leaders who refuse to subscribe to its agenda by declaring them “persona non grata” in the country’s decision-making process and also by reducing the compulsory federal allocation to the state.

In education, school syllabi do not reflect Malaysia’s multicultural outlook. Sabah’s and Sarawak’s unique historical and cultural background were not given due consideration. On the economic front, the government’s revenue and total expenditure were dominated by the federal – 96% and 80% respectively in 1990.

Lack of engagement

Owning a satellite dish by private individuals in Sabah is one of the many thorny issues in federal-state relations.

The federal government disallowed the use of a private satellite dish without licence. Sabah counter-argued saying that the federal government was protecting Astro and was victimising Sabahans, especially those in the rural areas who did not have the means to access to information.

Licensing requirements caused unhappiness and led to perception of federal officers’ lack of sensitivity to local needs.

There is also this issue of Sabah wanting to proclaim its natural sites as World Heritage Site. But the federal government refused to support the initiative unless those sites are federalised. Another “hot-button” issue is the state’s lack of autonomy in educational affairs.

The state has charged that it cannot manage school projects below RM500,000. Many schools, especially in rural areas, are in dire need of repairs and maintenance. However, these are slow as state officers need to wait for approval from their federal counterparts. Work progress is also affected by delay in payment to local contractors by Putrajaya.

Clear vision of national unity and integration

The first point of the Vision 2020 is “to establish a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny – a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one Bangsa Malaysia with political loyalty and dedication to the nation”.

But the questions are: how are we going to become a united Malaysian nation if we are still arguing over the year of our country’s founding? How are we to achieve the Bangsa Malaysia race if we continue to exclusively defend our rights – race, religious, and regional?

Our leaders must be extremely clear about where they want to bring Malaysia to. The concept of 1Malaysia looks ideal on paper but it has to be made workable in practice: is it a concept for the purpose of nation-building? Is it a concept for rebranding of government commercial products? Is it a concept to promote the country’s tourism industry?

Equilibrium in centre-periphery relations

It is time the federal government decentralised power as a way to lessen its dominance and to allow the state to develop independently according to its needs.

Apart from checking and balancing the power of the federal government, decentralisation, if applied effectively and judiciously, can also ensure effectiveness in public-delivery system.

Crucially, the state should be allowed to deal independently with its socio-cultural policy. Sabah and Sarawak should determine how they wish to preserve their people’s diverse culture, just like India’s “territorial linguism” and Ethiopia’s “cultural and linguistic autonomy”.

Our leaders could also enact a Territorial Integration Act to renew the commitment of federal and state leaders to abide by the Federal Constitution.It is a kind of “oath fellowship” that can be found in Switzerland to conserve differences and diversity.

The government should also establish a constitutional court to arbiter conflict between the federal and state governments – i.e. a special court in Germany – the Federal Constitutional Court — to check against the centralising tendency of the federal government.

Before decentralisation of power can be fully implemented, a National Council of Decentralisation orbm_puyok2 National Decentralisation Commission should be established to review aspects that are over-centralised and need to be decentralised, areas that are under-centralised and need to be centralised, and to review the concept of power sharing between the federal and state governments in light of Malaysia’s multicultural make-up.

Constructive engagement

The role of the State Federal Office needs to be strengthened so that federal priorities do not clash with that of a state’s.The government can also organise a yearly conference between federal and state administrative officers to discuss issues in implementation of federal and state programmes.

Secession threats are culminated in dissatisfactions of some sections of society. People who promote secession should be engaged in a civil and rational manner.The government must double the efforts to increase the sense of belonging of people from various races and religions. Malaysia is worth preserving but it also needs changing.

* Dr Arnold Puyok is a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/secession-not-the-solution-to-malaysias-problem-arnold-puyok