Citizen Nades’ Wish List

June 30, 2017

Citizen Nades’ Wish List



During WW II, a man was arrested in London for calling Winston Churchill a fool. The next day in the House of Commons, the opposition members were ready to roast the government for this. “Are we living in a police state”, they shouted, “where we cannot call the PM a fool”?

Churchill’s reply was truly disarming: “The man was not arrested for calling the Prime Minister a fool”, he said, “but for letting out a state secret at a time of war.”

– Anonymous

COMMENT | Over the past two years, Prime Minister Najib Razak has had his name smeared, muddied and tarnished. He was called all sorts of names and even unpleasant prefixes were added – some undeserving and downright uncouth.

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Miranda Kerr

As the imbroglio over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) canters into its third year, there must have been times when some of the key players would have told the PM and themselves: “We should not have said that”; “We should have taken a different approach” or “We should have put our cards on the table”…

The whole issue would have taken a different dimension if only the game had been played by the rules and greater efforts were made to be transparent at all times. People involved were in denial mode from Day One and this led to speculation, assumption and conjecture.

This, in turn, gave a carte blanche to detractors and critics, who in all fairness, created some interesting yet unbelievable tales. And so, misinformation, half-truths and bare denials made the headlines.

What would make us citizens sit up and pay attention instead of dismissing whatever said by government officials and the mainstream media as propaganda? What would it take to restore public confidence in our system? This is no time for sentiments or phrases like “If only we could turn the clock backwards…” or some smart aleck saying: “I told you so.” Below are some “statements” which all right-thinking Malaysians would like to hear or read:

  • The Prime Minister yesterday declared that he would invite the Arab prince who made the donation to make a public announcement on why he deposited RM2.6 billion into the former’s bank account. “Members of the media can ask the prince all the questions that linger in their minds and clear any doubts or misconception on the donation,” a spokesman said.
  • The Pime Minister’s stepson Riza Aziz has agreed to travel to Washington and challenge the application by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to seize his assets. “I will prove that the money I invested in Red Granite came from genuine well-wishers and friends who bequeathed the wealth to me.”
  • Interpol on the request of the Malaysian Police has issued a Red Notice for the immediate arrest of Jho Low. He is wanted to assist the authorities in investigations into billions of ringgit which were allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.
  • In a well-coordinated swoop, the US Navy intercepted the Equanimity in international waters off Japan. The superyacht was towed to a US base in South Korea. Jho Low was not on board and the crew were released after questioning.
  • 1MDB head honcho Arul Kanda yesterday vowed to break his silence and face the media. In a terse one-paragraph statement, he said: “I have a reputation as an international banker with impeccable credentials. I don’t want to be tainted because of my tenure with the company. I will tell all. I have nothing to hide and I will not protect anyone.”
Image result for shafee abdullahHe is also the RM9.5 million Man
  • PM Najib and senior lawyer cum prosecutor Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said, in a joint statement, that they would both face the media to explain the reasons for the transfer of RM9.5 million. “It has nothing to do with legal fees or the Anwar Ibrahim case. We ask you to stop the speculation. You will get all the answers soon.”
  • In a shock announcement, the government said former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed has been recalled from his secondment to the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Vienna. Also recalled is his former deputy, Mohd Shukri Abdul. “Both were involved in the MACC investigations into SRC International and there are few ends to tie up. Their knowledge and experience will help put an end to this long saga.”
  • In a related development, sources said that two directors of SRC International, who have been on the run, have indicated that they would surrender to the Indonesian authorities and return to Malaysia. Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil and Suboh Md Yasin are said to be “fed up and frustrated” in a foreign land and want to tell the truth.
  • The Australian media yesterday reported that glamour model Miranda Kerr is scheduled to visit Kuala Lumpur to clear her name and that she was not aware of the alleged thievery of her then suitor Jho Low. “I have returned the diamonds to the US authorities and want to emphasise that at no time did I suspect the money for the diamonds was stolen from the people of Malaysia,” a newspaper quoted her as saying.
  • However, some newspapers doubted if Kerr would be allowed to enter Malaysia. Quoting past experiences in Malaysia where members of the ABC crew were arrested and deported, some questioned if she would get past the Immigration checkpoint. Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who was previously deported on arrival, hoped Kerr would not be viewed as a ‘‘security threat’’ and not be put on a “watch list”.
  • In Putrajaya, Rizal Mansor, the spokesman for PM’s wife Rosmah Mansor, said Rosmah will make comments on the DOJ filings “at an appropriate time.” Despite being vocal in providing answers on her behalf, Rizal said: “They booked the best and most expensive available accommodation in Bali. They are entitled to some privacy and time to themselves. On her return, I am sure she will do as the others have done.”
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The Generous Arab Donor born in Penang

Let it be reiterated that this is the wish list of the writer and is not related any event in the past or present. It could happen in the future, after which the disease called Truth Deficiency Syndrome will be wiped out.

The Emerging Geopolitics of the Indian Ocean Region

June 29, 2017

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Number 386 | June 28, 2017

The Emerging Geopolitics of the Indian Ocean Region

By Jonathan D. T. Ward

In a world in which Asia plays an increasingly important economic and geopolitical role, the Indian Ocean provides the foundation for the trading systems that underpin Asia’s economic rise. The Indian Ocean is the basin in which trade from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa connects. It is also the energy lifeline on which several of the world’s major economies depend. Littered with maritime chokepoints, the geopolitical outcomes that will determine the region’s future have yet to be decided.

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Three essential pieces are visible in the geopolitics and economics of the Indian Ocean Region.

First, the Chinese economy depends on access to this region. Energy imports from the Middle East, resources from Africa, and trade with Europe must transit the Indian Ocean in order to reach China. To make things more difficult, Indian Ocean shipping towards China must pass through the two-mile-wide Strait of Malacca. Former PRC Chairman Hu Jintao termed this chokepoint ‘the Malacca Dilemma’, both because of the difficulty of transiting trade back to China through this narrow waterway, and also because of its vulnerability to blockade or maritime interdiction. As such, China must deal with a very difficult geography in the region which it depends on for economic survival and growth.

Second, the region is home to a rising India which possesses much more advantageous geography than China does when it comes to maritime trade and security. As China builds up its expeditionary naval forces to embark on a ‘two-ocean strategy’ that focuses on the Pacific and Indian Ocean, India, in its most recent maritime strategy, made clear that it considers the Indian Ocean, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Lombok Straits, as its primary area of interest. The Indian Navy plans to field three aircraft carrier groups, one which will patrol the Eastern Indian Ocean, a second for the Western Indian Ocean, and a third to be held in reserve. Chinese naval visits to Indian Ocean nations such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan, two essential nodes on China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’, have led to discomfort in New Delhi.

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India’s  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping –Indian Ocean Diplomacy

Third, while the Indian Ocean is increasingly the realm in which the geopolitics of China-India relations will take shape in the coming decades, many other nations are also dependent on its waterways for commerce, and it is increasingly becoming a feature in national strategy documents, where the ‘Asia-Pacific’ often becomes the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as nations measure their global and regional strategic interests. If the Pacific links the Americas to Asia, the Indian Ocean links East, South, Southeast, and West Asia, as well linking Asia to Africa and Europe. It is the waterway that makes an Asian trading system possible, and with it the possibility of a world with Asia increasingly at its economic center. As such, while access to the Indian Ocean is essential to many, domination of the Indian Ocean by any single power is likely to be resisted.

In this vital region, initiatives that attempt to secure access and influence are already underway. China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, half of which is focused on Indian Ocean trade routes from China to Africa to Europe, aims to build infrastructure that will link these other continents more tightly with China. While ‘OBOR’ is marketed as an economic project, key places on the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ have also been used for military purposes. China’s most recent defense strategy emphasizes that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must ‘safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests’, as well as tasking the PLA Navy to ‘shift its focus from “offshore waters defense” to the combination of “offshore waters defense” with “open seas protection”. In addition to building military infrastructure in the South China Sea, China has begun construction of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, at the opposite end of Indian Ocean sea lines of communication that are vital to China. In addition to visits by Chinese naval assets to the East African coast during anti-piracy operations, underway since 2008, Chinese submarines docked in Pakistan in 2015, and in Sri Lanka in 2014, at a Chinese owned terminal in the port of Colombo. This month, three Chinese warships arrived in Pakistan where a joint naval exercise is scheduled. A Chinese naval officer said of prior exercises with Pakistan in November, 2016 that they would ‘improve the naval capability of both countries to protect Gwadar port activities’ – Pakistan’s Gwadar is a hub on OBOR’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’.

Chinese investment in Indian Ocean countries has been rising, leading to concerns over indebtedness to China by smaller Indian Ocean states including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Djibouti. The possibility of an Indian Ocean Rim constructed of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) beholden to China should not be overlooked as the geopolitical future of this vital region takes shape.

The military dynamics of the Indian Ocean Region are evolving rapidly, particularly as China and India build up expeditionary naval forces, and each one supplies partner nations with military material. China has agreed to provide Pakistan with eight diesel-electric submarines, exercising with Pakistan’s navy last year in the East China Sea, and this month in the Indian Ocean. India has upgraded its relationship with Vietnam to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership,’ and has found substantial partners in the United States and Japan. Meanwhile, India has extended its naval relationships across the Indo-Pacific, inaugurating bilateral naval exercises with Japan, Australia, and Indonesia.

If there is a great game in the Indian Ocean, it may be a game of economics, infrastructure, and investment. At present, however, there are few players that can rival China’s influence and impact, particularly as OBOR gains ground in both developing and advanced economies around the world. India has not yet reached an economic position in which large levels of outbound investment can garner influence in other nations, and the Modi government is currently busy building much needed domestic port and infrastructure projects under the Sagarmala program.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that Asia has $26 trillion in infrastructure needs from 2016 to 2030, and HSBC estimates Asia’s needs at $11.5 trillion over the same period. Both numbers are well outside the scope of new Chinese initiatives including OBOR, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), or the OBOR-focused Silk Road Fund. However, the Indian Ocean Region – which comprises East Africa, the Red Sea and Suez, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, South East Asia, and Australia – is rarely studied as an economic region unto itself. Data from AEI’s China Global Investment Tracker shows that China invested nearly $500 billion in the region from 2005-2016, more than double its investments in Europe or East Asia and triple its investments in the United States in the same period. As the vital interests of major Asian nations are increasingly linked to this ocean, and as a contest for security and assured access is likely to continue, we can expect many players, near and far, to realize the importance of this ocean to a world system in which Asia plays a major role, and, accordingly, to turn attention to the shape that this region will take in the coming decades.

About the Author

Dr. Jonathan Ward has recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford, specializing in China-India relations. He is the founder of the recently established Atlas Organization, a consultancy which advises on China, India, and their strategic interests. He can be contacted at

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.

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Thailand: Lese Majeste losing its magic

June 29, 2017

Thailand: Lese Majeste losing its magic

by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Kyoto University

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Following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016 and the enthronement of his unpopular son, now King Vajiralongkorn (pic above), the Thai Palace has continued to work intimately with its traditional ally — the military — to strengthen the position of the monarchy in politics during this volatile transitional period.

In the past months, Vajiralongkorn has vigorously intervened in the political domain. He ordered the amendment of the constitution to increase his power and to more easily facilitate his frequent visits overseas. The junta enthusiastically granted Vajiralongkorn’s wishes, and saw an opportunity to exploit the monarchy for its own political advantage.


The new king spends most of his time in the outskirts of Munich. Yearning for a quiet life in Germany, Vajiralongkorn soon discovered the aggression and intrusion of the European media. He has been constantly hounded by the paparazzi. On at least two occasions, images of him and his mistress in skinny tank tops revealing massive fake tattoos on their bodies emerged on the internet and appeared on the cover of a German tabloid.

These photos and video clips undoubtedly damaged the reputation of the newly crowned monarch and shook the political stance of the junta. It prompted the military government to introduce drastic solutions to stop the proliferation of the video clip and photos — threatening to block access to Facebook in Thailand and banning prominent critics of the monarchy.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society issued an order in April this year prohibiting Thais from contacting three critics of the monarchy — historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, ex-journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall and me. Thais were told not to befriend or follow us on Facebook, as well as not to click ‘Like’ or share our content online. Those violating the order could be charged with lèse majesté, a crime of injury to royalty punishable by 3 to 15 years in prison.

Shortly after the issuance of the order on 3 May, six Thais were arrested and charged with lèse majesté. Among them were university Professor Saran Samantarat and well-known lawyer Prawet Prapanukul. The lèse majesté law, as defined by Article 112 of the Criminal Code, has consistently been employed to attack enemies of the royal institution. This pattern of repression over the years has become normalised as a vicious device used to undermine opponents.

But overusing the law could be counterproductive to the military government and the monarchy itself. The sharp increase in lèse majesté cases indicates that the law might have lost its royal magic. It also suggests the rise of anti-monarchy sentiment among some Thais. More than 100 Thais are currently doing jail time on lèse majesté charges.

Vajiralongkorn has been on the throne for only 6 months, but his short reign has already seen the highest numbers of lèse majesté cases and the harshest punishment against violators of this law. Two weeks ago, a Thai court delivered a 70-year sentence to a Thai man accused of making a fake Facebook page and repeatedly offending the monarchy. He admitted his guilt and his sentence was reduced to 35 years.

The junta is relentlessly searching for ways to intimidate the public regarding any negative comments about the new king. Cyberspace has since become a primary battlefield, with the monarchy and the junta both hoping to win the war using the lèse majesté law as their desperate weapon.

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The His Majesty King Bhumibol was highly revered. He was charismatic, divine and enjoyed moral authority.

Of course, they are bound to lose. Under King Bhumibol, lèse majesté was used in a limited manner, at least prior to the 2006 coup that overthrew Thaksin Shinawatra. After 2006, the use of lèse majesté was more widespread, visibly becoming a political instrument against critics of the monarchy.

Bhumibol was highly revered. He was charismatic, divine and enjoyed moral authority. Royalists exploited those qualities of Bhumibol to justify cases of lèse majesté and harsh punishments against violators.

But Vajiralongkorn is not Bhumibol. Vajiralongkorn’s lack of charisma, divinity and moral authority makes the lèse majesté law less authoritative. As the new king behaves badly, the law becomes less sacred.

The military and royalists have arrived at a political deadlock. They are stuck with Vajiralongkorn. In the short term, there might be some attempts on the King’s part to construct a new public image, for example through a campaign like ‘Bike for Mom’. But such images of a supposedly engaging monarch stand in stark contrast with other darker portrayals of Vajiralongkorn — as a king inclined toward violence, an eccentric lifestyle and erratic moods.

It is too late for the palace to remake Vajiralongkorn’s personality. It is too late for the military and the royalists to refrain from using the lèse majesté law to defend the status of the monarchy. And it is too late to prevent Thais from talking openly about their king today.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.

Pakatan Harapan: Get Going or You will be Trounced in GE-14

June 29, 2017

Pakatan Harapan: Get Going or You will be Trounced in GE-14

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan

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Mahathir and Anwar–The Harapans for Pakatan Harapan

The Opposition coalition has to make some important decisions about leadership, especially in the run-up to the general election.

PAKATAN Harapan is amazingly creative in creating job titles. Chairman, President and Ketua Umum have been floated as potential titles for their top posts, all aimed at ensuring one person is above everybody else without putting any of their big shots below the president.

The person is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Despite being in prison, his letters and whispers still dictate how PKR decides. I cannot imagine how they will run a country. Every time a difficult question comes up in a Cabinet meeting, would they call for a coffee break while waiting for the postman to arrive?

They don’t seem to realise that, being in prison, Anwar’s own thought process would be easily influenced by what is conveyed to him and how the person visiting him explains it to him. The letters that he writes cannot possibly be based on a holistic consideration of all options and consequences.

Anwar’s camp in PKR says that if they win, they would ensure Anwar gets a royal pardon so that he becomes Prime Minister.

This is an extraordinary suggestion because the power to pardon belongs to our Rulers. No politicians in their rightful mind would ever assume that they could muscle over our Rulers, giving instructions just like that.

Luckily, over the weekend, Anwar declared he is not offering himself to be the prime minister candidate any more. This is a welcome deve­lopment because even those who do not support Pakatan are growing tired of their drama.

The stumbling block in Pakatan is PKR, because they are severely divided about Anwar’s future role, and Anwar’s camp in PKR feels insecure. However, Anwar’s latest announcement should allow PKR to move on.

Anwar’s camp in PKR must take the announcement as a call to stop naming him as the potential Prime Minister. Although Anwar was vague when saying he is “not offering” himself, they should not persuade him to change his mind, or plan for an interim Prime Minister who will pass the seat to Anwar later.

This should be made a definitive closure. Otherwise, that statement was nothing but a deception. I also urge Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to follow suit. But he should do more than Anwar. He should declare that he, too, is not interested in becoming Prime Minister again, and he will also not contest in GE14.

That would assuage Anwar’s camp and other critics in Pakatan. Pakatan must actively consider na­ming someone from their younger generation as prime minister. Wan Azizah has said she does not feel she is the best person for the post.

She is right. She is not. There are others who could do the job better. She should recuse herself too, and this will prevent allegations that Anwar is Prime Minister candidate by proxy.

Instead, Pakatan should name someone younger. This could be a game changer because others will immediately be under pressure to consider a different new line-up too. But the person should be from PKR, because Anwar’s camp will never accept PKR losing the Pime Minister candidacy.

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It is time for Azmin Ali to take PKR and revitalise its political organization. Wan Azizah should retire from being Anwar Ibrahim’s proxy.

I have never had the chance to talk to Datuk Seri Mohamad Azmin Ali (above) personally, so my judgment may well be wrong here. But from afar, he seems to be the most obvious candidate from PKR. Despite all the ruckus between PAS and all the Pakatan parties, he has proven that he can hold the coalition together in Selangor.

Considering all the odds, this is no easy feat. Even Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin could not persuade PAS to remain in Pakatan. And he is also one of the very few with administrative experience.

Adding names likes Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Nurul Izzah Anwar and Salahuddin Ayob to the top line-up would make the election even more exciting.

Anwar, however, did not name a successor. This will likely encourage Anwar’s camp in PKR to work harder to block Azmin, because they have never fully trusted him. Anwar himself is partly to blame here. He should have endorsed a credible successor. Otherwise, Anwar and his camp in PKR remain the biggest stumbling block for Pakatan’s stability.

Pakatan should treat the issue of coalition leadership as separate from the Prime Minister candidate. I cannot imagine Wan Azizah being an effective chairman in a meeting attended by Dr Mahathir and Muh­yid­din.

These two figures are far more experienced than she. Yes, she has sacrificed a lot for Pakatan’s struggle. But now is the time for her and her family to make the most meaningful sacrifice for the cause, which is to give PKR and Pakatan the freedom to flourish.

Pakatan needs a chairman who can facilitate decision-making without having to wait for notes from Sungai Buloh prison. Dr Mahathir is the best person for that. After two decades of chairing Barisan Nasional, is there anyone more experienced than Dr Mahathir in chairing a coalition of political parties?

But if Dr Mahathir becomes chair­­man, it is only logical that Muhyiddin could not become president because that would be domination by one party. Muhyiddin’s expertise is in strategising for elections. He has led UMNO and Barisan Nasional to victory in so many successful general elections and by-elections. He is more valuable to Pakatan if he leads their electioneering machinery, regard­less of the title given to him.

Since their target is to defeat UMNO, there really is no one in Pakatan more knowledgeable than Muhyiddin about UMNO’s strategies, dirty tricks, and tactics.

It does not matter which party you or I support. It is tiring to watch the indecision of Anwar’s camp in PKR. It has become too much and has continued for too long.Since Anwar has opened the door, for goodness sake, PKR, please move on.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

The Entire Trump Agenda Is at a Tipping Point–The Mess in US Senate and House

June 29, 2017

The Entire Trump Agenda Is at a Tipping Point–The Mess in US Senate and House

by Ryan Lizza*

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Ryan, Trump and McConnell and the Legislative Mess they created in the House and Senate. I label them the Dysfunctional Trio –Din Merican

Earlier this month, a senior White House official deeply involved in enacting President Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill laid out the Administration’s ideal legislative schedule for the rest of this year.

“Between now and the August recess, we’d like them to get health care done, we’d like them to get the debt ceiling done, we’d like them to start tackling the budget,” he told me. “So when they get back from the August recess, first or second week of September, we can throw a tax proposal down and, literally, we can do taxes for September, October, and November.”

The G.O.P. has adopted a major—even radical—agenda: transforming a massive sector of the economy, slashing taxes and rewriting the entire tax code, passing a budget that would dramatically reduce the size of government, and, in the middle of all of that, raising the debt limit. They have a plan to accomplish almost all of it before the end of the year, with minimal transparency, and without relying on a single Democratic vote. But if health-care reform goes down this summer, the rest of the plan may sink with it.

For obscure parliamentary reasons, Republicans can’t move on with the rest of their wish list until they pass the health-care bill. And those prospects are not looking good. On Tuesday, Mike Lee, of Utah, became the fifth Republican senator to say that he would vote against even bringing the health-care bill up for debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced, also on Tuesday, that he will delay the vote until after the July 4th recess, may yet broker a deal on health care, but if he fails to do so the legislative impact for Trump could be calamitous.

The parliamentary maneuver McConnell is using is called reconciliation. The process was created, in 1974, as a way to streamline the congressional budgeting process. It wasn’t intended to be used for major legislative changes. However, as partisan deadlock has grown, it has become an increasingly attractive legislative tool because it is protected from a filibuster in the Senate and therefore needs only fifty, rather than sixty, votes to pass. (Vice-President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote in both cases.)

Bill Clinton’s attempt at reforming health care was probably doomed the day that he decided not to use reconciliation. Obama passed his initial health-care bill through the Senate without using reconciliation, but he always kept it as a backup plan—and it turned out that he needed it. When he lost his sixty-vote majority in the Senate, Democrats used the process to pass a final package of tweaks to the bill.

This year, Republicans have been even more creative. They planned to use one reconciliation bill for health care and a separate one for the beast of tax reform. But one of the many arcane rules about the reconciliation process is that any new reconciliation bill cancels out the old one. “This is the first time anyone has tried to do this,” Stan Collender, a longtime budget expert who now works for the strategic-communications firm MSLGROUP, said. “You can only have one budget resolution in effect at a time. Their idea was to do health care and then move on to tax reform, but that strategy was based on doing health care quickly.”

If the Senate health-care bill dies and Republicans move on to tax reform, they will have an interesting choice to make: do they give up on health care and propose only a tax-reform bill? Or do they combine tax reform and health care into one monster bill, which would make passage even more daunting?

Some of these procedural issues might be overcome by a kind of nuclear option, whereby Republicans ignore or find a way to overrule the Senate parliamentarian who enforces the budget rules. But, however health care is resolved, the rest of the items on the Trump agenda consist of a series of fiendishly difficult political issues that divide Republicans. The budget, which must be resolved by October 1st, will pit congressional Republicans, who have decried the White House’s proposed budget, against Trump, who was so miffed about being ignored during the budget negotiations earlier this year that he tweeted, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” Republicans in the House are comfortable with defaulting on the debt, and the President himself has called for a shutdown. Things could quickly grow ugly.

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DJT and his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin-Getting the US Economy moving again?

In the middle of this drama, the White House wants to pass a comprehensive tax-reform bill. The last time Congress approved such a piece of legislation was in 1986, and it was the result of a lengthy and bipartisan process of hearings and horse-trading. So how are Republicans approaching tax reform this year? They are writing a bill in secret that they intend to pass using reconciliation. The group writing it, which calls itself the Big Six, consists of Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary; Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser; Representative Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; House Speaker Paul Ryan; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. There are no Democrats and no women involved, and there have been no hearings.

“We are all on the same page,” the senior White House official told me, referring to tax reform. “There’s going to be one tax bill and one tax bill only.”

Before a tax bill can move forward, Republicans will have to agree on health care—or abandon the issue. The health-care reconciliation package is a giant iceberg that needs to be cleared out of the way before Republicans can move forward with the rest of their agenda.

*Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, and also an on-air contributor for CNN. Before joining the magazine, in 2007, he was a political correspondent for The New Republic, from 1998 to 2007, and, before that, a correspondent for GQ and a contributing editor at New York. He has also written for the New York TimesWashington Monthly, and The Atlantic Monthly. Since 1998, he has covered most of the country’s major political stories, including the last four Presidential campaigns, and has written many political profiles for The New Yorker, on Barack ObamaHillary ClintonJoe BidenMitt RomneyJohn McCainPaul RyanEric CantorMichele BachmannDarrell IssaPeter OrszagLarry SummersRahm Emmanuel, and John Hickenlooper, among others. His awards include the 2012 National Press Club’s Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence, for his article “The Consequentialist,” and the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Aldo Beckman Memorial Award, for a series on Obama’s Presidency and reëlection campaign. His article “Making It” was a 2009 National Magazine Award finalist, and his 2010 article “As the World Burns” received honorable mentions from the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting and the National Press Foundation Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress.

Reading List: Ryan Lizza recommends “Trump Solo,” Mark Singer’s 1997 profile of Donald Trump.

Watch: Ryan Lizza discusses campaign politics and the future of the G.O.P. on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Human trafficking: Malaysia moves out of US’ Tier 2 watch list

June 28, 2017

Human trafficking: Malaysia moves out of US’ Tier 2 watch list

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Human Rights–More needs to be done


Malaysia has moved out of the “Tier 2 watch list” in the US State Department’s latest Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

“Countries on the Tier 2 list are countries that do not fully meet the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet those standards.”

However, being on the Tier 2 watch list subscribes to the same definition above, in addition to having a significant increase in the absolute number of victims and failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to prevent human trafficking, among other yardsticks.

“The government (of Malaysia) demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2.”

The government demonstrated increasing efforts by expanding trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions,” the TIP report states. However, the report noted that efforts to protect victims of human trafficking were “largely inadequate”.

It noted that newly implemented laws to shelter victims while providing free movement and right to employment were flawed due to bureaucratic delays.

“Of the 1,558 victims identified, the government conducted only 106 risk assessments and ultimately granted six victims work visas and 12 special immigration passes for freedom of movement. An additional 28 victims were approved for freedom of movement, but delays in obtaining required passports from their home countries meant that they either had returned home or remained waiting at the end of the reporting period,” reads the report.

The report urged Malaysia to improve on the implementation of laws related to human trafficking and to smoothen the process to allow victims freedom of movement and employment. The TIP is a diplomatic tool by the US, used to engage with other governments on methods to tackle human trafficking. It is published annually.

Malaysia was placed on the “Tier 2 watch list” between 2010 and 2016, save for 2014 when the country was placed on the “Tier 3” list, alongside countries such as North Korea and Libya.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has criticised the report for having whitewashed Malaysia’s poor to mediocre record on combating human trafficking for the second year in a row.

“The reality is that Malaysian officials identify very few victims compared to the numbers present in Malaysia. Foreign workers from Southeast and South Asia are debt-bonded and controlled, and the government’s efforts to shelter and care for victims is really sub-par and marred by bureaucratic red-tape,” Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson (photo), said in a statement today.

Robertson said Malaysia only needs to look next door to Thailand to see how to run an effective shelter system. Yet, the government was instead busy outsourcing its responsibilities to NGOs and then dragging its feet on providing the funding needed.

However, he said, in adopting that approach, Malaysia was aligning with the poor practices of Cambodia in dealing with trafficking victims.

“Malaysia has also made no effort to untangle wholly different concepts of ‘people smuggling’ from human trafficking in Malaysia’s anti-trafficking law, leaving frontline officials with a buffet line choice of whether to designate a person as an illegal immigrant or a trafficking victim.

“Not surprisingly, effective identification of trafficking victims falters in all but the most obvious cases, and the Malaysian anti-trafficking efforts stumble at the first hurdle. Amendments to the law in 2015 to create an inter-agency committee are far from sufficient to deal with the larger problems the law creates,” Robertson said.

Malaysia’s failure to prosecute lambasted

He also lambasted the Malaysian government’s failure to prosecute Malaysian officials for their involvement in the Rohingya smuggling camps, which he said was a testament to odious impunity to commit trafficking abuses, and demonstrates a fundamental lack of political will by the Malaysian government.

“It’s a joke to say that ‘investigation is continuing’ into the Rohingya cases when, for all intents and purposes, the investigations have finished in Malaysia and Thailand.

“Corruption of Malaysian officials, failures to identify victims, overcrowded shelters, moderate reforms not yet implemented – these are all indications of a problem still not fully addressed.”

Thus, he said, it is no exaggeration to say the section on Malaysia undermines the credibility of the TIP report. Robertson urged the US Congress to call Secretary Tillerson up to Capitol Hill and demand for an explanation.

“Progress can constitute many things, but calling a move from near zero to 10 percent still means that you’ve got 90 percent of the way to go – a fact which seems to be lost on whoever decided to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking to Tier 2.

“In fact, some of the justifications for ‘progress’ in Malaysia’s record are as clear as mud, and would be laughable if the rights issues at hand were not so serious,” he added.