Ahok wins Round One of Jakarta’s Gubernatorial Elections–Good News


February 24, 2017

Ahok wins Round One of Jakarta’s Gubernatorial Elections–Good News

by Charlotte Setijadi

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Incumbent Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) is a dynamic Governor of Jakarta

Unofficial results of the Jakarta gubernatorial election last week show that embattled incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) has won with 43 per cent of the votes.

However, since Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat failed to secure the 50 per cent threshold needed for an outright victory, the election will go to a run-off scheduled for April 19.

They will go head to head against former Education Minister Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno, who came a close second with 40 per cent of the votes.

Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Agus Yudhoyono and running mate Sylviana Murni are out of the second-round race after coming last with less than 18 per cent of the votes.

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The first-round election result came after months of controversy and civil unrest following allegations of blasphemy against Purnama for allegedly insulting the Quran. The case centred on an edited video showing him telling a small crowd in Jakarta’s Thousand Islands Regency not to be “fooled” by those who use Al Maidah verse 51 of the Quran to convince Muslims that it is a sin to vote for a non-Muslim leader.

Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, has pleaded his innocence and apologised. But the ongoing blasphemy trial has clearly hurt his campaign.

Before the blasphemy allegations, Purnama’s electability rating was at over 50 per cent, indicating that a first-round victory was not only possible, but likely.

His opponent Baswedan was a known political figure, but he was a newcomer to Jakarta politics, and many voters distrusted him for quickly switching political camps to Prabowo Subianto’s coalition after he was sacked from the Education Ministry in President Joko Widodo’s last Cabinet reshuffle. Similarly, Agus Yudhoyono was a completely new political figure and largely seen as a puppet for his ambitious father’s political manoeuvres.

While Purnama’s ethnicity and religion had always brought about protests from radical Muslim groups such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), the straight-talking and brash governor consistently achieved more than 70 per cent in performance satisfaction ratings with programmes such as the JakartaT project and swift slum evictions around the city’s clogged-up river banks.

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Furthermore, with President Widodo’s PDI-P party behind him (in coalition with Golkar, National Democrat and Hanura parties), Purnama had the strongest party mechanism support, not to mention the many people in Jakarta who supported him through grassroots channels.

This was why Purnama’s Al-Maidah comment was a gift for the Islamist factions and for his political opponents, as well as those of his close ally Widodo.

Purnama’s electability ratings plummeted to almost 20 per cent at their worst in early November 2016. The blasphemy issue divided Jakarta, and race and religion dominated public discourse during the election campaign.

Suddenly, a vote for Purnama was a vote against Islam, and the far-right Islamist factions were quick to garner anti-Ahok sentiments. Because of this case, previously marginal radical Muslim vigilante groups such as the FPI became political players to be reckoned with.

Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian and Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto had to meet FPI leader Rizieq Shihab to urge calm following the successful mass mobilisation of anti-Ahok Muslim protesters.

While his opponents never directly condemned Purnama for blasphemy, they certainly benefited from the Islamist sentiments.

Throughout the campaign, both Baswedan and Yudhoyono emphasised their Muslim identities and made shows of Islamic piety to appeal to Muslim voters. Baswedan even went as far as meeting the FPI in a move that shocked those who had seen him as a moderate Muslim politician.

Furthermore, rising anti-Chinese sentiments alleging various Chinese economic and political conspiracies behind Purnama and the President have created legitimate worries among Chinese Indonesians traumatised by past anti-Chinese attacks during times of political instability.

Evidently, the strategy of stirring up race and religious issues had worked.

Despite having a high performance satisfaction rating as governor, Purnama did not win outright and the battle will go into a second and final round. This was a huge blow for his camp as an Ahok victory in the second round will be even more difficult.

So, what can we expect next?

Now that there is more at stake with just two contenders, the political gloves are off and we can expect amplified religious and racial campaigning in the second round. The on-going blasphemy trial will continue to put the case in the spotlight and cast doubts about Purnama’s future.

The question now is whom Yudhoyono’s supporters will back in the second round. Assuming that the majority of Yudhoyono’s 18 per cent of votes came from Muslim voters who had refused to vote for Purnama, the majority will presumably go towards Baswedan as the other Muslim candidate.

However, it is also not all doom and gloom for Purnama. The very fact that he was able to bounce back and secure a first-round election victory despite the blasphemy case and concerted political attacks show that many in Muslim-majority Jakarta were able to see past race and religious issues in their voting decision.

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The second round of the election will be a test of just how mature and open-minded Jakarta voters really are. Purnama and his campaign team must convince moderate Muslim swing voters to focus on his policy achievements and to stand together against the demands of hardline Islamists.

Looking further afield, the political rhetoric, power play and result of the Jakarta gubernatorial election will have major implications for the 2019 presidential polls.

An Ahok defeat will be a major blow for Widodo and his PDI-P party, as not having Purnama as an ally at the leadership of the capital city would weaken the president’s hold on power.

More importantly, it would show that his opponents’ strategy of using race and religious issues as a political tool to destabilise and delegitimise Widodo’s government has worked.

This would in turn set a dangerous precedent in the lead-up to the 2019 presidential election and for the future of Indonesian plural society more generally. — TODAY

* Charlotte Setijadi is visiting fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme, Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

 

Open Letter to President, Armed Forces Veteran Association


February 24, 2017

Open Letter to President, Armed Forces Veteran Association: Don’t Ampu Corrupt Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

by Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji

I received many responses to the short write-up I wrote regarding an announcement to gather more than 100,000 veterans to an assembly in July this year, allegedly made by you at a recently held Round table Conference attended by the various Armed Forces Veteran Associations in Kuala Lumpur.

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Why don’t Army Veterans do this to Corrupt Najib Razak ?

I am not privy to the reason(s) for the assembly, and the number of veterans to be gathered is unusually large. I then begin to question myself as to the purpose of the mammoth assembly, and it soon strike me to a rumour that has been going around of a possible GE-14 to be held anytime before the end of this year.

I don’t think you made the announcement on your own accord, but I strongly believe the announcement was prompted by someone high in the nation’s political hierarchy, and in all probability with selfish political agendas. I can only think of this i.e. the assembly is to propagate and influence the minds of veterans to support the current political regime.

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The ruling regime must understand what the Armed Forces Veterans had stood for, and many had lost their lives, and many others maimed for the rest of their lives in defence of the nation. The ruling regime today cannot question the loyalty of the veterans for they have proven themselves to have served the nation and King faithfully, that had brought about the prevailing peace and security of the nation today.

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A Facility for China’s emerging Blue Water Navy in the Malacca Straits

The issues affecting the nation today are startling and there is now a raising concern that the nation of which we defended with our lives will even lose it sovereignty to a foreign nation if the present regime remains ignorant to this three central issues i.e. firstly, the massive national debt that is simply ballooning; secondly, the selling off outright large tracts of land to a foreign company on the pretext of joint development and thirdly, the willingness to allow a foreign company to further develop the sea ports of Malacca and Kuantan on the pretext to facilitate and improve commercial shipping.

Now, just tell me who is actually financing all these massive projects when we know the national coffer couldn’t simply afford it. Are these loans taken from the foreign company that will only be paid many years later? Were all these projects thoroughly debated and approved by parliament? Who actually proposed and approved the projects bearing in mind the nation’s affordability to repay the loans? Now let me tell you this i.e. that all these projects will have a long-term security impact on the nation and I just wonder if the Armed Forces chiefs and leaders of our police force were ever consulted about these projects. If they were consulted and had approved it, then I say they are all foolish and are equally ignorant as their political masters as to the long-term security impact these projects will bear upon the nation. One only have to read what is happening to Sri Lanka today.

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The Corrupt Couple –A lethal combination for the moral degradation of Malaysian polity

Now, going back to the proposed mass assembly of veterans, I demand the purpose of the assembly be reasoned out to us. If it has the slightest political connotation i.e. to boost the image of our political masters to meet their self-serving political agendas, then I demand most sincerely that the assembly be called off.

*_Pse viral this message as requested by the writer_*

The Game Malaysia and North Korea play over a dead Korean


February 23, 2017

The Game Malaysia and North Korea play over a dead Korean

by Lim Sue Goan@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 

The assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Jong Nam would be nothing short of a spectacular movie in the spy thriller genre, should anyone use the recent event as a plot.

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The storyline is roughly there: A fanatical leader of a certain hermit state has been suffering from some kind of persecutory delusion, fearing that someone is going to unseat him from the pinnacle of power. Consequently, he gets his intelligence agency to orchestrate an assassination plan to get rid of his half brother.

So, four intelligence operatives land in the country where the target is found, and pick two young foreign women to carry out the killing. The four men also arrange to catch the next plane out when the assassination goes as planned.

These agents are masters of their trade. One of them had entered the country on January 31 while the other three arrived several days later. They presumably arrived at different times to avert the attention of security authorities.

They later found the two women, one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian, possibly with the help of some other individuals, believing they were the right candidates to put down Kim Jong Nam.

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The plan was drawn up in less than two weeks, including training the two foreign women, acquiring the poisonous fluid, tracking Jong Nam’s whereabouts, conducting site inspection and designing the escape route. The highly efficient plot worked, possibly with a little help from some insiders.

When the female suspects sprinkled the toxic fluid on Jong Nam’s face, the whole incident was closely monitored by the four masterminds from a nearby restaurant. Presumably, they were also ready to put a Plan B into execution if the female suspects had failed. They were supposedly still observing Jong Nam as he sought assistance, right until he slumped in the chair at the airport clinic.

The incident took place at about 10am in the morning, and the four suspects took the 12pm flight to Surabaya on the same day, arriving in Pyongyang on day four after making transits in three countries. The two women could have been abandoned by them, and could have been allowed to be arrested by the Police in order to give them ample time to flee.

From the leaked video of the klia2 CCTV footage, it could be seen that the two women were swift in their action. Their actions were nothing like the “prank” they claimed that they were carrying out for some men.

Elusive agents

The question is: how did the secret agents find out Jong Nam’s flight details and how many of them are still lurking in this country?

We know very little of these elusive agents. Malaysia and ASEAN have been doing a superb job in fighting terrorism, such that we could track down and know of certain militant group’s plans before they had a chance to act.

That being said, we still need to step up our cooperation with regional countries on the sharing of vital information on cross-border spies and secret agents to prevent autocratic regimes from carrying out their barbaric acts on our soil.

All police evidence point straight to Pyongyang, including the prime suspects being North Korean.

North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol has accused the Malaysian government of intentionally delaying the claim of Kim Jong Nam’s body in a bid to conceal the truth while colluding with external forces to tarnish the reputation of his country.

In view of this, it was absolutely necessary for the Malaysian government to take action, such as summoning Kang and recalling our envoy in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang must respect the laws of other countries. Malaysian law requires the next-of-kin to provide DNA for verification purposes before he or she can claim the body of the deceased.

Pyongyang cannot capriciously do what it wants. If the Malaysian Police fail to probe the case thoroughly, how are they going to answer to the international community? Our police have indeed carried out their job in a highly professional manner this time.

Subsequent moves by the Malaysian authorities show that we are ready to do anything even if it means our ties with Pyongyang being at stake. This will effectively prevent ourselves from getting embroiled in any unnecessary “diplomatic war” because mishandling of this matter could cause countries such as China, the United States, South Korea and even Japan to step in.

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Malaysia has always been practicing an independent, neutral and non-allied diplomatic policy, but as a small nation, we must never risk our national interests by throwing ourselves into the whirlpool of international conflicts involving powerful nations.

The evidence we have provided should be sufficient to pinpoint the secret hand behind this dramatic assassination, and get the United Nations to intensify the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

Conventional logic does not apply to an impressionable and tyrannical leader of an autocratic state. It is now time to review our diplomatic policy to stop us from getting sucked into any international conspiracy.

Lim Sue Goan writes for Sin Chew Daily.

 

 

Policy uncertainty threatens trade growth, says World Bank


February 22, 2017

Policy uncertainty threatens trade growth, says World Bank

Warning on protectionism and threats to trade agreements in Trump era

https://www.ft.com/content/9d49b092-f859-11e6-9516-2d969e0d3b65

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Political uncertainty is slowing trade growth, a World Bank report has concluded, indicating that the rise of Donald Trump may already be casting a shadow over the global economy.

Major international institutions such as the IMF, the OECD and World Bank have recently upgraded their forecasts of global economic growth largely due to expectations that tax cuts, rising infrastructure spending and a wave of deregulation will boost the US economy under the new president. But the report by World Bank economists, released on Tuesday, highlights the fragile state of one historically important engine of global growth — trade.

To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued. Michele Ruta, World Bank report co-author

The study avoids naming Mr Trump, but highlights rising protectionism and threats to unwind trade agreements — such as those made by the president. It also raises the prospect that attempts by the Trump administration to force companies to repatriate global supply chains to the US could undermine efforts to boost lagging productivity growth. To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued Michele Ruta, World Bank report co-author International trade has been growing below historic trends for the past five years. The 1.9 per cent growth recorded in 2016, according to the team at the bank, was the slowest since the 2009 collapse in commerce that followed the global financial crisis.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House–The Future of NAFTA

The team found that some of the reasons for the anaemic trade growth, which affected both developed and developing economies, were broader trends such as slow economic growth around the world and a collapse in commodity prices. But in 2016 the principal change was a surge in uncertainty about economic policy. According to the World Bank’s calculations, such uncertainty was responsible for 0.6 percentage points of the 0.8 percentage-point fall in trade growth between 2015 and 2016. The team at the bank based their figure on a study of the relationship between trade and economic policy uncertainty in 18 countries over three decades. They added they expected the impact to continue in 2017. “To the extent that the policy uncertainty will remain high we should continue to expect [global] trade growth to be subdued,” said Michele Ruta, one of the authors. The World Bank team also sought to quantify the impact of trade agreements on global trade growth. World trade grew at an annual rate of 6.53 per cent between 1995 and 2014, they calculated. Had no new members — including China — joined the World Trade Organisation or no new trade agreements been signed, international trade would have grown at just 4.76 per cent annually, they found.

One of the big consequences of the explosion in trade deals in recent decades has been the emergence of global supply chains. Such chains are widely seen by economists to have made businesses more efficient and boosted productivity. But Mr Trump and his administration have said they want to unwind those international supply chains and bring them home. “It does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components,” Peter Navarro, one of the president’s top trade advisers, told the Financial Times last month.

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According to the World Bank team such a move, coupled with unwinding existing trade agreements that have encouraged the establishment of international supply chains, would hurt productivity growth. “Preserving and expanding the reach of trade agreements, rather than backtracking on existing commitments, would help to sustain the growth of productivity,” the bank’s economists wrote.

Sri Lanka and China’s Indian Ocean Strategy


February 22, 2017

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Number 372 | February 21, 2017

ANALYSIS

Sri Lanka Suffers from China’s Indian Ocean Strategy

By Shiyana Gunasekara

Amidst local protests against the Chinese presence in the southern Sri Lankan town of Hambantota, Beijing insists that the town’s port project has been discussed in the “spirit of equality and mutual benefit, and follows market rules.” China’s activity in the Indian Ocean – particularly in Sri Lanka, which is a focal point in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) plan – appears to be predatory lending under the guise of economic development.

India needs to recalibrate its strategy towards the other South Asian countries for its own security, if not regional stability; however, Delhi has yet to offer a comparable alternative to doing business with China. Instead, India has taken its asymmetric power in the region and the de facto allegiances of its much smaller neighbors for granted.  With China’s recent track record of placing military vessels in traditionally commercial docks, India must take its role as the South Asian hegemon seriously.

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80% share of  Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port goes to China

In October 2016, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that the China Merchants Holdings (International) Company Ltd. would hold an 80% share of the Hambantota Port in exchange for over USD $1 billion in the country’s debt.  This should be of particular concern to India, since China has used the Colombo South Container Terminal, owned by the same Chinese firm, to dock submarines, as opposed to the Sri Lanka Port Authority’s mooring designated for military vessels.  Previously, Colombo intended to hide visits of two other Chinese naval vessels from the media. With the majority of the Hambantota Port sold to China’s semi-private sector, India should be prepared for another visit by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy – perhaps for a much longer period of time.

The complete details of Chinese loans and other financial assistance have not been disclosed to the public, notably including details of the loan interest rates. China leads the country’s foreign inflows, with 98% of Chinese assistance to Sri Lanka being loans and only two percent as grants. China’s Export-Import Bank accounts for 77% of these loans, with 14% coming from the China Development Bank, and five percent from interest-free loans. China’s Export-Import Bank has notoriously given loans to countries on its OBOR initiative with strict self-serving procurement and contracting regulations: Chinese companies must be awarded the contract, both for the project itself and for procurement, and at least 50% of project procurement must be services, equipment, technology and materials from China.

Foreign direct investment and other forms of financial engagement from a G2 country to an emerging economy should be focused on market-friendly approaches to supporting economic development in the latter. Chinese investment in Sri Lanka, and other countries along China’s visionary trail would be a true boost to the local economy if the loan money were staying in the country through greater local employment and project procurement. Instead, Sri Lanka borrows money from China, which China requires to be used to contract largely state-owned Chinese companies. These companies provide salaries to Chinese employees who come to Sri Lanka to build infrastructure projects using mostly Chinese materials and technology.

The Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Port are prime examples of large-scale infrastructure projects financed by China that did not promote local economic development.These projects were purely gambles by the former Sri Lankan government, for which there was no guaranteed return on investment – a risky move for an economy coming out of an expensive three-decade war.

Sri Lanka, undergoing vast economic reforms outlined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), might not be the only South Asian state that will have to be bailed out due to crushing Chinese-owned debt.  An IMF report on the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), noted that import requirements of the project “will likely offset a significant share of inflows, such that the current account deficit would widen.” While the IMF acknowledges that the long run benefits may help mitigate said costs, such success is not guaranteed, as seen in Sri Lanka.  Hence Pakistan too should take into serious consideration the equity-for-debt swap that Sri Lanka was forced into due to the island nation’s ill-advised decisions and China’s over-eagerness to offer self-serving loans.

India is the largest power in South Asia in essentially every measure, and should continue to initiate deeper maritime collaborations with its neighbors for its own interests as well as for the benefit of the region. India can accomplish this goal by providing fiscal alternatives for its smaller neighbors to develop their infrastructures and human capital that are more favorable than Chinese-financed loans with unclear intentions.

China is a pragmatic power, and most likely foresaw Sri Lanka’s economic decline that resulted in Chinese ownership of the Hambantota port. China’s actions of fostering questionable loan conditions and blurring the line between commercial and military objectives do not correspond to its purported aim of establishing a positive public image. Ultimately, if China commits to increased transparency, its ambition to become a re-emerging global power will be better received.

About the Author

Shiyana Gunasekara is a masters candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies focusing on international economics and Asian affairs, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Sri Lanka in 2014-2015. She can be contacted at Shiyana.Gunasekara@jhu.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: Peter Valente, 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.

Malays are a complacent and self-aggrandising People


February 22, 2017

Malays are a complacent and self-aggrandising People

by Farouk A. Peru

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/farouk-a.-peru/article/americans-show-us-true-meaning-of-freedom-and-democracy

I believe in natural laws which determine the fates of individuals and nations. If we adhere to these laws, our destinies will shine and conversely, we are bound for a Dark Age if we refuse to do so.

One of these laws is that societies will rise if they constantly replenish themselves with fresh blood. This is the natural process of human movement.

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The Malay Leader –Najib Razak

Sedentary societies will not enjoy this social rejuvenation and the societies to which they emigrate will not enjoy a cultural replenishment.

The Malays are overwhelming a society of this latter description. After living 20 years in the UK, I do not meet as many Malays who have made a life here for themselves as I have people of other ethnic groups. There is no Malaysian town in London whereas there is a China town and even a Bangladeshi town!

The United States of America was born out of such an emigration. I am not forgetting the cost of human lives involved in that process nor forgiving the lack of moral rectitude which led to millions of native Americans perishing.

Rather, I am focusing on the hardiness of character of those immigrants. They had to endure long voyages and for those who were pushing the boundaries of the frontier, they had to endure austere and often tragic lives.

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The Role Model for Malay Women–Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor

This is part of the natural law I mentioned above. I believe this is the reason the “civilisational momentum” was built and the proceeding chapters of American history were great. Shows like Little House on the Prairie were based on true narratives of such experiences.

However, “civilizational momentums”, like any physical body, does not last forever. Whilst in physics, momentum is lost when there is resistance, “civilisational momentums” are lost when societies become complacent and self-aggrandising.

In the case of the USA, the Baby Boomer generation was probably the time when they sustained the greatest measure of growth. However, by the time the 80s rolled around, that momentum was long gone.

Like our very own Bumiputera self-entitled generation, they had come to expect the world to lie down for them. When that did not last, naturally there were feelings of resentment and thus overcompensation.

America was a land which came to existence due to the desire for freedom, democracy and a better life. People have been doing that for centuries and the refugees are no different. To see Americans opposing their own President and acknowledging that shows me that all is not yet lost.

By the time 9/11 happened, the confluence of that tragedy with the sluggishness of the American economy resulted in the frustrations of the working class being directed at the Muslim world. I am not playing the victim card here. I do not believe the Muslim world is free from complicity in this matter.

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Rights, but what about responsibility, commitment and hard work?

Rather I am pointing to the sheer convenience of otherisation. Muslims generally don’t “look” American nor much follow certain American rites of passage. It was easy to alienate them and so the Islamophobia industry was born.

By the time the Donald emerged on the scene, the conservative American working class were ready to back him up all the way to the White House. He knew just what to say, after all, so why not?

The proposed Muslim ban back in 2015 was vehemently opposed by many sections of the American public be they government officials or civil rights groups. It was so profoundly unAmerican and unconstitutional, they said.

Trump never really backed down from that position but it did not affect his campaign. When you think about it, even the “grab’em by their …” statement, which should in theory, make half of the American population vote against him was not enough!

Americans were ready to return to the hard politics of conservatism. Overt conservatism, not the surreptitious kind peddled by Rodham-Clinton masked as a liberal.

Trump’s first days in office already showed the coming changes or perhaps, some testing of the waters to see what he could get away with. The ban on citizens from the seven “Muslim nations” could be either one, only time will tell.

What astounds me though, is the backlash from the American public themselves. They responded by protesting at the airports where the victims of the ban were held. Lawyers worked pro bono to get the detainees freed. Social media buzzed with support for the detainees.

Perhaps the biggest sign that America would not go down without a fight was the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, losing her job for refusing to back down. This shows that the original American spirit is still alive.

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America was a land which came to existence due to the desire for freedom, democracy and a better life. People have been doing that for centuries and the refugees are no different. To see Americans opposing their own President and acknowledging that shows me that all is not yet lost.