Whither Political History on US campuses


August 29, 2016

Whither Political History on US campuses

American political history, it would seem, is everywhere. Hardly a day passes without some columnist comparing Donald J. Trump to Huey Long, Father Coughlin or George Wallace. “All the Way,” a play about Lyndon B. Johnson, won a slew of awards and was turned into an HBO film.

But the public’s love for political stories belies a crisis in the profession. American political history as a field of study has cratered. Fewer scholars build careers on studying the political process, in part because few universities make space for them. Fewer courses are available, and fewer students are exposed to it. What was once a central part of the historical profession, a vital part of this country’s continuing democratic discussion, is disappearing.

This wasn’t always the case. Political history — a specialization in elections and elected officials, policy and policy making, parties and party politics — was once a dominant, if not the dominant, pursuit of American historians. Many of them, in turn, made vital contributions to the political process itself, whether it was Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s role in the Kennedy White House or C. Vann Woodward’s “The Strange Career of Jim Crow,” which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “bible of the civil rights movement.”

But somewhere along the way, such work fell out of favor with history departments. According to the American Historical Association’s listing of academic departments, three-quarters of colleges and universities now lack full-time researchers and teachers in the subject.

There appears to be little effort to fill the void. A search of the leading website advertising academic jobs in history, H-Net, yielded just 15 advertisements in the last 10 years specifically seeking a tenure-track, junior historian specializing in American political history. That’s right: just 15 new jobs in the last decade.

As a result, the study of America’s political past is being marginalized. Many college catalogs list precious few specialized courses on the subject, and survey courses often give scant attention to political topics. The pipelines for new Ph.D.s in the subject, and therefore new faculty, are drying up, and in many graduate programs one can earn a doctorate in American history with little exposure to politics.

How did it come to this? The trend began in the 1960s. America’s misadventure in Vietnam led to broad questioning of elite decision making and conventional politics, and by extension those historical narratives that merely recounted the doings of powerful men. Likewise, the movements of the 1960s and 1970s by African-Americans, Latinos, women, homosexuals and environmental activists brought a new emphasis on history from the bottom up, spotlighting the role of social movements in shaping the nation’s past.

The long overdue diversification of the academy also fostered changing perspectives. As a field once dominated by middle-class white males opened its doors to women, minorities and people from working-class backgrounds, recovering the lost experiences of these groups understandably became priority No. 1.

These transformations enriched the national story. But they also carried costs. Perceived “traditional” types of history that examined the doings of governing elites fell into disfavor, and political history suffered the effects (as did its cousins, diplomatic and military history).

The ramifications extend well beyond higher education. The drying up of scholarly expertise affects universities’ ability to educate teachers — as well as aspiring lawyers, politicians, journalists and business leaders — who will enter their professions having learned too little about the nation’s political history. Not least, in this age of extreme partisanship, they’ll be insufficiently aware of the importance that compromise has played in America’s past, of the vital role of mutual give-and-take in the democratic process.

Change will not be easy, and will not come from history departments facing tight budgets and competing demands. What is needed, to begin with, is for university administrators to identify political history as a priority, for students and families to lobby their schools, for benefactors to endow professorships and graduate fellowships and for lawmakers and school boards to enact policies that bolster its teaching — and without politicizing the enterprise.

This matters. Knowledge of our political past is important because it can serve as an antidote to the misuse of history by our leaders and save us from being bamboozled by analogies, by the easy “lessons of the past.” It can make us less egocentric by showing us how other politicians and governments in other times have responded to division and challenge. And it can help us better understand the likely effects of our actions, a vital step in the acquisition of insight and maturity.

Judging by the state of our political discourse during this dismal campaign season, the change can’t come soon enough.

ASEAN Solidarity back on track–Great News


August 20, 2016

ASEAN Solidarity back on track–Great News

by Kavi Chongkittavorn

http://www.khmertimes.com.kh

 

Following the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) last month, ASEAN’s overall positions on the South China Sea have been strengthened.

Although the grouping’s dialogue partners – the US, Japan and Australia – tried hard to push ASEAN to mention the decision in its joint Vientiane communique, the group’s Foreign Ministers disregarded the suggestion.

Ironically, granted the current status, the outcome unexpectedly generates a win-win situation for concerned parties, especially the Philippines and China. With Manila’s return to the ASEAN fold, the group’s bargaining power has increased.

Furthermore, it has renewed the process of mending ASEAN-China relations, and the 25-year anniversary of ties will be commemorated in Vientiane next month.

To assess ASEAN’s next move – as well as its latest strength emerging from the 49th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting last month – it is necessary to make a comprehensive examination of all the papers issued at Vientiane on the current regional situation.

There were four documents – the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the Occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the annual Joint Communique, the Joint Statement of the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN Member States on the Maintenance of Peace, Security and Stability in the Region, and finally, the ASEAN-China statement on the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and the early conclusion to the code of conduct.

As it turned out, all these statements implicitly reinforced the ASEAN positions and commitment to solve the maritime conflict with a full respect for legal and diplomatic process.

Following Thailand’s proposal to reiterate the importance of TAC on the eve of the 40th anniversary of this historic treaty, the Asean foreign ministers agreed without hesitation to a statement to pay tribute to TAC’s promotion of peace and stability in the region for the past four decades.

In addition, in the statement, ASEAN called on the TAC signatories – including key major powers – to continue to “fully respect and promote the effective implementation of the TAC, especially the purpose and principles contained therein.”

It is interesting to note that for the first time, ASEAN’s Foreign Ministers agreed to explore “a legally binding instrument” building upon the TAC for the wider region. ASEAN is more confident than ever that the TAC is an excellent instrument to engage external powers and secure peace and stability, so its application should be widely promoted.

The TAC joint statement jump-started all ASEAN members to work on the content of the 49th ASEAN joint communique, which was released on schedule despite unfavorable predictions. As in previous years, the section on the South China Sea continued to serve as an indicator of overall ASEAN solidarity.

The 388-word document – with its eight-paragraph section in the 32-page communique – signaled a united ASEAN position on the dispute, which it said must be resolved through peaceful means, based on “friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law including the UN Law of the Sea of 1982.”

ASEAN reaffirmed its long-standing policy to fully implement the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct and the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (DOC) to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea region. It also agreed to non-militarization and to “undertake self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability” in the region.

The statement expanded the concept of self-restraint to include “refraining from action of inhabiting the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features.” This has always been the Philippine position.

At the Vientiane meeting, Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay displayed leadership in consistently urging ASEAN for “restraint and sobriety” followed the PCA award. At one point, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi (above) responded, commenting that ASEAN should not shy away from mentioning a major decision of international rules of law which would reflect on the group’s own self-respect.

After the award, Myanmar released a statement touching on the decision, the first stand-alone diplomatic statement on the South China Sea, with a well-crafted response bearing Mrs. Suu Kyi’s advocacy at the ASEAN meeting.

Kudos for this rare display of unity must go to the Lao chair, Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith (above), who steered the group to reach a consensus, despite different views among ASEAN members. But with Manila’s magnanimity, Phnom Penh’s assertiveness, as a non-conflicting party, did not have as much impact as before. To firm up the ASEAN position, the chair also backed Indonesia’s proposal for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to issue an additional statement on the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the region – in reference to the South China Sea.

Finally, there was a joint statement from ASEAN and China that reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of DOC as well as freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea. The statement did not mention the July 12 decision.

At a glance, all these affirmations about principles and international rules of law relating to the South China Sea dispute sound hollow and meaningless given the past bitter experiences. But in reality, that is not the case.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers have to work hard to come up with their declarations one after another. They are not given much time, as outsiders might have thought, granted the fast-changing strategic environment.

After the Vientiane meeting, ASEAN is confident there could be substantial progress on the ongoing process to complete the code of conduct in the South China Sea (CoC). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated that Beijing is now ready to conclude the CoC sometime next year.

On this, some new tangible progress has been made over agreement to observe the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the area. ASEAN and China earlier discussed the code, which was put forward by Singapore as the coordinating country for ASEAN-China relations at a previous working group meeting in April.

This new measure will further reduce tensions and the risk of accidents and misunderstandings in these busy waters. Laos and Myanmar are preparing to accede to the CUES.

The grouping also wants to establish hotlines between the Foreign Ministries of China and ASEAN member states to promote trust and confidence, which reached an all-time low ahead of the ASEAN annual meeting.

They are also exploring the possibility of undertaking cooperative activities in the South China Sea, such as navigation safety, search and rescue, marine scientific research, environmental protection and combating transnational crimes at sea.

All in all, the four ASEAN documents renewed the ASEAN centrality and laid a new foundation for a much-needed conducive atmosphere to improve ASEAN and China relations. Early next month, their countries’ leaders are due to meet in Vientiane to celebrate 25 years of bilateral relations.

In a series of exchanges of letters between the leaders of China and ASEAN on this special occasion, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to bring their relations to “a higher plane and make greater contribution to peace, stability and prosperity of this region and beyond.” China regards ASEAN as “the priority in neighborhood diplomacy and will continue to support the ASEAN integration process and ASEAN’s centrality in regional cooperation.”

Near the end of his letter in July, Premier Li expressed his wish that mutual relations with ASEAN will “go from strength to strength” and his hope that the friendship between people in the region would be “everlasting.”

It remains to be seen how quickly these expressions of goodwill can be materialized. But if this is the path China and ASEAN have indeed chosen to travel, they will need extraordinary political will and patience to overcome their differences and forge a new foundation for trusting relations for the next 25 years.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a Bangkok-based journalist and a senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

 

AEC building block of ASEAN community?


August 14, 2016

AEC building block of ASEAN community?

by Dr. Munir Majid

http://www.thestar.com.my

THE AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) could turn out to be the saviour of ASEAN. Whatever its shortcomings, it is real, unlike largely mere words of the ASEAN Political and Security Community, and the tamasha (carnival) of the socio-cultural communion.

Even so, there are developments worth noting which would make the AEC, or the ASEAN community, not what is envisaged in the fine official plans.But first let us acknowledge the so many things that are happening in the ASEAN economy, facilitated by economic ministers and officials, but most of all driven by business people who see its huge potential.

Business people appreciate all too well the size of the ASEAN market (at 640 million people, the third largest in the world), the total economy (US$2.6 trillion, the world’s seventh biggest), healthy growth rate of 4%-5% (which could make the ASEAN economy number four in the world in a little over a decade), and the powerful demographics (65% of the population under 35 years of age).

Despite complaints about non-tariff barriers and measures (NTBs and NTMs) that impede virtually zero tariffs for trade in goods in most places, despite still limited openness for trade in services, for investments in some strategic sectors, and for mobility of skilled labour, there is a dynamism in business activity not much seen elsewhere in a lacklustre global economy.

In economically under-rated Laos (with GDP of US$13.5bil the smallest in ASEAN, not counting Brunei), there is potential and activity that belie its size.

The proposed Kunming-Vientiane high speed railway, with a price tag over half the size of the country’s economy, will transform the country.Already, huge projects in special economic zones are taking place whose activities cut across mainland South-East Asia.

For Laos, conversion from being land-locked to being land-linked, is not just a slogan. The connectivity from north to south, and east to west, is driving economic activity in what is commonly called the Mekong sub-region way beyond it, even into extra-ASEAN territory. There is a “T” in the traditional CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries – Thailand – which is very much in the mix.

The kingdom has great ambition to be ASEAN’s logistical hub, based on its central location in mainland South-East Asia, bordering Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, with access to the Mekong, the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.

But not just Thailand. Under Prime Minister Modi India, which has been “Looking East” for a mighty long time, is moving to “Act East”.

Last November it was announced that India is providing a US$1bil line of credit for a 3,200km highway linking the country with Myanmar and Thailand. Once completed it would add to pre-existing, largely historical, land and maritime linkages.

Cambodia –The Hub of Mainland ASEAN

While significant, this is some way behind what is already happening in the CLMV ASEAN sub-region, which is served by improving north-south connectivity and the East West Economic Corridor stretching 1450km from Danang in Vietnam, through Laos and Thailand, terminating at Mawlamvine Port in Myanmar. Distance to global markets from Laos has already been considerably shortened, as with the other countries.

According to one calculation, with the East West Economic Corridor, existing global sea routes have been shortened by 3,000 nautical miles, “or a 10-day sea journey from east to west and vice versa” – generating enormous savings of freight and time costs for all investors along the region.

What with tax breaks and governmental support, many businesses are seizing the opportunity.This “Greater Mekong sub-region” is getting linked up with China, particularly the provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi. Its growth rate is higher than the overall ASEAN average.

This whole area, with the two Chinese provinces, has a population of more than 400 million people. One calculation has it that it is more than half the size of the ASEAN economy. Thus there is an economic reality in mainland Asean with a gravitational pull towards China.

Of course all this is part of the AEC scheme. Construction materials and equipment, for example, moving seamlessly from Thailand to Laos for development projects. Car parts going from Laos to Thai assembly plants. Connectivity across ASEAN member countries.

Open regionalism, linking up with China and to a lesser extent with India which, after all, is part of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

Business is agnostic. Investments are being made. Economic activities are taking place. The Greater Mekong Sub-Region is throbbing.However, from the viewpoint of the AEC and Asean generally, a few points need to be observed. The first is that antecedent to Asean economic centrality there are centrifugal forces pulling outwards.

This means policies for an ASEAN single market and production base must be enhanced so that whatever hubs that develop occur also because of the Asean economy even if there will always be extra-regional and global market attractions as well. Therefore removal of all those NTBs and NTMs remains essential for natural economic flow.

The ASEAN Business Advisory Council, as the lead and apex private sector body, is pushing hard for elimination of NTBs and NTMs in four key sectors – healthcare, retail, logistics and e-commerce, and agri-food.

The working groups, which ASEAN economic ministers again agreed last week should be formed, must get cracking. The official sector is also doing its bit with the launch in Vientiane last week of the ASSIST (Asean Solutions for Investments, Services and Trade) web portal where sustained complaints against NTBs and NTMs will be posted.

This kind of name and shame way is a good start, but much more needs to be done particularly at the front end of such barriers.

A second observation to be noted is the possible bifurcation of ASEAN. Mainland and maritime South-East Asia not quite gelling together economically, with trade, investment and movement of peoples between the two areas becoming secondary or minimal as they forge different hubs and look more to extra-regional economic relationships.This would be nothing new for Singapore which has always looked outward.

Indonesia is huge enough to go ahead with its maritime development plans at whatever pace it can achieve.

The Philippines has always been a bit apart, but it is well integrated in trade with China whatever South China Sea problems it faces with the Asian giant. In any case, with a population in excess of 100 million there is plenty of unfulfilled potential in the domestic economy.

It is Malaysia that could be squeezed. With a relatively small population of just over 30 million, ASEAN offers the country a huge hinterland which it could benefit enormously from if the economy is not caught in the middle income trap, moves into higher value products and services, invests out of sectors it no longer is competitive in, and becomes a hub in modern services using advanced technology.

The great irony will be what is now called a two-speed ASEAN will become a two-part ASEAN, with mainland South-East Asia no longer looking like the poor cousin.

The final and most significant point to note is that the centre of economic gravity is China, whether for mainland or maritime ASEAN. Through sheer economic and financial resources, and total strategic commitment, such as through OBOR (one-belt-one-road) and the AIIB, it has caused a frustration of the ASEAN community, including of the AEC, without actually willing it.

This does not mean there will be no ASEAN community, based largely on economic foundation, but it will be one subsumed within a Greater China political economy, and not in the way intended.

This will be neither a good nor a bad thing. It all depends on the basis of relationships countries in the region, not just Asean, have with China, and what hold China would exercise over them.

The realist therefore might contend the ASEAN community 2025 Blueprints, including on the AEC, would need to take into greater account the Greater China superstructure than they have done. It would be useful if top ASEAN policy makers could have this conversation, but I doubt they ever will except in national confines.

 

No political leadership in failing ASEAN


August 4, 2016

 No political leadership in failing ASEAN

by Dr. Munir Majid

http://www.thestar.com.my

The Transformation of Munir Majid: From  an ASEAN Activist to an ASEAN Skeptic

ASEAN is failing. It is not working in the way grand declarations and pronouncement of community just last year proclaim it would. Yet, in a pattern of self-deception which has become a regional characteristic, ASEAN – and its intellectual apologists – continue to deny what is plain for all to see.

If not before it is piece of fiction now to speak of ASEAN centrality. This was again proclaimed when the ASEAN Political and Security Community was pronounced last November. ASEAN Foreign Ministers even agreed in September on a “work plan” to strengthen this.

But, however ASEAN muddles through with a definition on what this centrality means, it is gone.Surely, the first and foremost thing about ASEAN centrality must be that it is central to its member states. Is it? Certainly not in respect of how to project and defend an ASEAN position on the South China Sea.

Some have described ASEAN as toothless in this regard. This is unfair. You cannot expect ASEAN to bite or even bark at mighty China. However you would expect ASEAN to stand up for its principles and sovereign rights of states, big or small. Therefore ASEAN should more appropriately be described as spineless.

This did not use to be the case. When ASEAN declared ZOPFAN (Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality) in 1971, through the leadership of Malaysia’s Tun Razak among others, it was in no position to defend it in a very hot phase – the Vietnam War was raging – of the Cold War. Nevertheless it drew a line in a joint commitment to establish a cordon sanitaire.

When ASEAN so creatively promulgated the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in 1976 – with leaders such as Indonesia’s Suharto and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew at the fore – it was in actuality the origin of ASEAN centrality: when states from outside the region want to come and treat with ASEAN, they had to accede to the TAC, one of whose main tenets was the legal undertaking to resolve disputes peacefully.

Thus it was that China acceded to the TAC in 2003 and the US in 2009. It is interesting to note that in the joint communique in Vientiane last weekend, where ASEAN Foreign Ministers struggled to forge a weak consensus, there was allusion to the TAC – as if, whistling in the dark, ASEAN wanted to remind its outside partners, especially in relation to the South China Sea, of their commitment to the peaceful conduct of states.

If there was some agreement in Vientiane not to make big the arbitration award on the law of the sea which so infuriates China, to lower the temperature in a situation that was spinning out of control, to engage in bilateral negotiations with China among the claimant states, but also to return to the Declaration of Conduct of Parties (2002) framework which will be fulfilled by a legally binding Code of Conduct, it is actually a good thing.

But where is the leadership in ASEAN to pursue the matter with the commitment that is needed? Leaders and ministers meet and then they go back to domestic concerns. Who follows through?

Certainly not the weak secretariat. Who provides the leadership in ASEAN today of the type which saw its establishment of Asean 50 years ago, of the panache and imagination of Tun Razak, Lee Kuan Yew and Suharto, to name just a few of the luminaries of ASEAN days gone by?

This lack of leadership is the reason why ASEAN is failing today. Asean has been happily organising meetings, with rotating chairs, among its members, with its partners (the so-called Asean Plus countries), at the Asean Regional Forum (established in 1994, now with 27 members) and the East Asia Summit (set up in 2005, now with 18 members), where they all come and attest to Asean centrality. Which Asean believes while they do their own thing.

After the hoopla and the linking of arms, there is poor follow up and follow through, except for the organising of more meetings. All too often you hear the assertion: ASEAN will do this and that, will take on the challenge of one thing or the other. Who? Which ASEAN? Doing what exactly?

There is no doubt there are big problems in the region. The biggest is the new regional geopolitics in South-East Asia informed by strategic contest for influence in the region between China and the US.

Weighty academic conclusions have been reached such as South-East Asia has become “the decisive territory, on the future of which hangs the outcome of a great contest for influence in Asia.”

ASEAN – here we go again, ASEAN as one when there is not any – is not able to contend with this new geopolitical reality. There is now an environment in the region out of the control of ASEAN’s institutional capabilities, such as they are. Another comment by a regional expert: “ASEAN suffers from inherent institutional paralysis.”

However, the situation was not any easier at the height of the Cold War at the time ASEAN was established, when the Vietnam war was raging, later when the genocidal Pol Pot regime reigned in Cambodia, which was then invaded, the war between China and Vietnam in 1979 – one thing after another – but ASEAN held together and fashioned a regional order even if it did not exclusively determine its remit.

There was leadership in ASEAN to make it possible to talk about an ASEAN position. Nowadays even the simplest of things take forever to happen.

The leaders talk grandly about a “People-Centric”. Yet they cannot even make sure there are ASEAN lanes at all ASEAN airports and points of entry.

 

Malaysia on the right track? No


August 4, 2016bee

Malaysia on the right track? No, it has been derailed due to Corruption and Inept and hen-packed leadership

by  Soo Wern Jun

(received by e-mail)

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak said Malaysia is on the right track towards becoming a developed nation. He was speaking at a dinner function at the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta yesterday.

He cited government’s policies and measures, such as fuel subsidy reduction and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which he said, spurred progress to benefit the people.

Comparisons were drawn with Indonesia that has a population of 261.21 million while Malaysia has 30.84 million.  He said Indonesian President Joko Widodo praised the Malaysian government’s measures and remarked that the challenges faced by Indonesia were greater, even though its policies were similar to Malaysia’s.

Does Najib realise that Indonesia has a population eight times bigger than Malaysia? Should Malaysia strive to be better, should it not compare itself with a developed nation instead?

Najib’s pedestrian solutions and quick fixes

Najib and Jokowi think that reducing fuel subsidy and implementing GST would help the countries achieve developed nation status. This could also be the very reason to why both nations are still struggling with high poverty levels.

According to the World Bank, Indonesia’s poverty rate may have declined by one per cent annually from 2007 to 2011, but has fallen by an average of only 0.3 percentage points per year since 2012.

“Out of a population of 252 million (as of May 2016), 28.6 million Indonesians still live below the poverty line and approximately 40% of all people remain clustered around the national poverty line set at 330,776 rupiah per person per month ($22.60) or RM89.50,” stated the World Bank.

While Malaysia tends to boast about its success in reducing poverty rates, why the high number of soup kitchens and non-government organisations setting up food banks to help feed those who are living below poverty line? As indicated by the World Bank, Malaysia may have a poverty of less than one per cent, but pockets of poverty remain and income inequality is high relative to other developed countries.

This is only one indication that Malaysia is far from achieving a developed nation status as it struggles to achieve income equality and become a high-income earning nation.

Education is another reason to why the country is far from achieving a developed nation. The fact that parents continue to send their children abroad to further their studies proves that the country still does not have a stable and good education system.

As highlighted by the World Bank, although Malaysia performs well in access to education, the quality of education remains low and appears to be declining rapidly by design.

“In the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), Malaysian students only outperformed Indonesian peers but lagged even lower income countries like Vietnam by a wide margin.

“Malaysian education system is most centralised and quality of teachers reportedly low with the report concluding that ‘there is an urgent need to transform Malaysia’s education system so that it produces quality graduates required by a high-income economy’,” the World Bank stated.

Critics also say too much emphasis on wealth may not be helpful in achieving the status of a developed country – as is proven with the current state of the country.

According to a research by the GlobalNxt University, achieving the income target may not be sufficient to be classified as a developed country. Citing Singapore as an example, it says the island state has exceeded that benchmark some time ago with current per capita income of staggering US$47,210 (RM191,984.23), but in many respects is still not a developed country.

Singapore is listed as a high-income economy as the country is small and per capita income may not truly reflect its real development.

Also, the process of development involves transformation of the entire society and the citizens of a developed country are expected to be highly sophisticated and generous.

Malaysians are still struggling with racial and religion problems which are still deeply influenced by the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 to 1990.

While the NEP had a goal to reduce poverty and to increase the participation of Malay community in overall economic activities, it has deepened the problems of racism and had widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

Malaysians are still grappling with racial and religious problems which are still deeply influenced by the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970 to 1990.

While the NEP had a goal to reduce poverty and to increase the participation of Malay community in overall economic activities, it has deepened the problems of racism and cronyism and had widened the gap between the rich and the poor in particular among the Malays.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) acknowledged Malaysia’s commitment and clear policy to drive science, technology and innovation – a key that placed the country on the right track to achieve developed-nation status.

Are the development of science, technology and innovation seen spread equally nationwide?

The country’s Internet speed is still far lacking behind Indonesia’s, while there are far too many undeveloped areas in the country that have yet to see Internet connectivity. Is Malaysia really on a right track towards becoming a developed country?

 

Malaysia’s Najib Razak demands Respect


August 4, 2016

Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Beset by Growing Scandal, Demands Respect

by Sara Schonhardt in Jakarta and  Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur

http://www.wsj.com

The  Malaysian Prime Minister addresses World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, facing a loss of international standing as he wrestles with global investigations into alleged domestic corruption, on Tuesdayurged countries not to meddle in the affairs of his Southeast Asian nation.

“I have always been a proponent of openness to the world and collaboration, but we must insist on respect for our own sovereignty, our own laws, and our own democratically elected governments,” Mr. Najib said at the opening of a summit on Islamic finance held in neighboring Indonesia.

Mr. Najib has struggled for more than a year in a scandal centered on the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd. He used a keynote address to the World Islamic Economic Forum to restate his country’s importance in Asian trade and security arrangements and as a counterbalance to Islamic extremism.

The remarks amounted to a pointed statement of Malaysia’s traditional role as an investment-friendly, moderate Muslim mainstay. That role has been overshadowed in the past year by a steady stream of bad news around 1MDB, which Mr. Najib founded in 2009 to promote economic growth.

The three-day forum is the first big international event Mr. Najib has attended since the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit July 20 seeking to seize assets that it said were bought with $3.5 billion misappropriated from 1MDB.

The lawsuit doesn’t name Mr. Najib, but there are 32 references to “Malaysian Official 1,” who allegedly received hundreds of millions of dollars in funds siphoned from 1MDB. People close to the investigation have said Malaysian official 1 is Mr. Najib.

“Without a doubt, the ongoing 1MDB investigation by half a dozen countries, including the U.S. and Singapore, is starting to take its toll on Najib’s credibility,” said Murray Hiebert, Deputy Director of the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“But much of this toll is focused on Najib,” Mr. Hiebert said. “Malaysia itself is still largely viewed as one of the most economically successful Muslim majority countries.”

Mr. Hiebert was jailed briefly in the late 1990s for contempt of court after losing an appeal against a 1997 conviction for writing about a case brought by the wife of a court of appeal’s judge on behalf of her teenage son. Mr. Hiebert was working at the time as a journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review, then owned by Dow Jones. Mr. Najib wasn’t the prime minister at the time.

On the international stage, Malaysia remains an important member of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement the U.S. is pushing, and an increasingly important security partner for Washington amid tensions in the South China Sea, Mr. Hiebert said.

“Najib is still the Prime Minister and therefore he still must be given all the courtesies for a sitting head of government,’’ said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of Kuala Lumpur-based think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. “So in reality, it does not matter what people think. He is still in charge.”

Mr. Najib has been embroiled in scandal since The Wall Street Journal reported more than a year ago that hundreds of millions of dollars that originated with 1MDB flowed into his personal bank account. Several countries have since launched investigations.

Mr. Najib has said he did nothing wrong and is the target of political smears. The Malaysian Attorney-General has cleared him of wrongdoing, saying the funds that went into Mr. Najib’s account were a legal political donation from Saudi Arabia and that most of the money was returned. 1MDB has also denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Najib is still regarded as a moderate voice in the Muslim world and Malaysia sees itself as a model for developing countries, said Norshahril Saat, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. His approach to terrorism has also earned him kudos among neighbors battling with Islamic extremism while earning rebuke from human-rights groups.

A special security law that took effect Monday widens Mr. Najib’s powers to fight Islamic terrorism but critics say it is broad and overly vague and could be used to silence critics. New York-based Human Rights Watch called for the law to be repealed.

Countries facing similar problems, including corruption, are less likely to pass judgment. But the allegations themselves continue to dog Mr. Najib and perceptions of Malaysia.

Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan says the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections will better show if Pakatan Harapan can unite as a viable pact or will continue to squabble over seat allocations. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

“I think Malaysia is suffering in terms of international reputation,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan (pic above). “Everywhere I go these days the question I have to answer is always about Najib and the allegations surrounding him. It is quite embarrassing and it is a distraction to the many good things we can talk about the country.”

The forum was founded in Malaysia in 2005, bringing together business leaders and government officials in the Islamic world to promote trade and investment opportunities. Malaysia is a global leader in the Islamic finance market and has more than tripled Islamic capital markets to $1.7 trillion over the past decade, Mr. Najib said.

An Islamic finance market is based on Islamic law. For instance, the system avoids investment in prohibited industries such as gambling and alcohol.

—Celine Fernandez contributed to this article.