ASEAN Decision Making can be frustrating and self -defeating –Who is holding back Timor Leste’s Membership?


March 11, 2017

ASEAN Decision Making can be frustrating and self-defeating:Who is holding back Timor Leste’s Membership?

by Dr. Khoo Ying Hooi@www.newmandala.org

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Delay in admitting Timor-Leste as 11 the member  will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process, writes Khoo Ying Hooi.

2017 is a pivotal year for the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) as it celebrates its 50 years since its founding. Among the puzzles that need to be solved is whether Timor Leste will be formally accepted as the regional bloc’s 11th member.

As the newest country in Southeast Asia, Timor Leste and its place in the region is often overlooked.

Timor-Leste is vulnerable not only as a small and relatively young state. The fact that it has suffered an Indonesian occupation that destroyed its economy and infrastructure prior to the restoration of independence in May 2002, means it faces various post-conflict challenges, including having its voice heard in regional and international forums.

Timor-Leste expressed its desire to be part of ASEAN right after the restoration of independence in 2002. In July 2005, it became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and it signed the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Cooperation in 2007. As outlined in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030, Timor-Leste’s aspiration to join ASEAN is based on geographical location, the wishes of the country’s leaders and people, and its cultural affinity with its neighbours.

Timor-Leste officially applied for ASEAN membership in March 2011 during Indonesia’s chairmanship after a number of years of ASEAN observer status. An ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group (ACCWG) was then set up and tasked to assess Timor-Leste’s readiness to be part of the regional grouping, and the implications for ASEAN if it did join. It has been almost six years now since its official application in 2011.

With its domestic challenges, some questioned Timor-Leste’s aspiration for ASEAN membership, as well as the benefits and costs of joining.  For Timor-Leste’s part, ASEAN membership is hoped to provide access to an established forum where important issues such as security, economic development and integration, and socio-cultural matters can be pursued.

Timor-Leste has indeed come a long way. The nation’s independence came at a high price. Now, the country is gradually moving from fragility to a country that is consolidating and strengthening the necessary foundations of a state. But that is not without obstacles.

In ASEAN’s 50th year, many are hoping that the Philippines will use its chairmanship to accelerate  Timor-Leste’s formal membership to  the regional bloc. Under the theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” as announced by President Rodrigo Duterte last September 2016 in Laos, it is hope that ASEAN could live up to its inspiration as a model of greater regional integration when it comes to Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste has done everything it can to be part of ASEAN. Now, the question is not what Timor-Leste will have to accomplish to be accepted formally as ASEAN’s 11th Member State. The test now lies with ASEAN leaders, and whether they can live up to the ASEAN aspiration as lauded in the ASEAN Community.

The longer Timor-Leste’s membership is delayed will only reflect negatively on ASEAN’s decision-making process that has often being criticised. It is time to demonstrate ASEAN’s commitment to a region made prosperous through the spirit of cooperation and integration and most importantly, a people-centred organisation.

Khoo Ying Hooi (PhD) is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, Malaysia.

 

President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017


March 1, 2017

President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.

Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In nine years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world. But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future. For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds — families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake — and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.

We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

 We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home — from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.

I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars. And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it’s good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent. They weren’t even asking for change. But I am. I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program — the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country — twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges — leaving many Americans with no choice at all

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan? We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

 Obamacare is collapsing — and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice — it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts — but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

 Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance — and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines — creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more — so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.

Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame. Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan. In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind — and the souls — of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha. But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence. The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone — and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher. This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job. But to create this future, we must work with — not against — the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust — not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement. And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands — Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis — were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know — we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and — if they must — to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans. Our veterans have delivered for this Nation — and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater. And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.

For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific — to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people — and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past — we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year. Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag.And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears —inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless the United States.

Senator (Vermont) Bernie Sanders’ Response to President Donald Trump’s Address to Congress

Trump and New World Order


February 28, 2017

Trump and New World Order

Brought to you by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy featuring Dr. Amitav Acharya

Published on Feb 27, 2017

The election of Donald J. Trump as the US President has caused much anxiety about its damage to the liberal international order. But Trump is the consequence, rather than the cause, of the crisis and decline of the existing order. That decline, as foretold in Acharya’s 2014 book, The End of American World Order, has to do with the liberal order’s own internal limitations – aggravated by a long-power shift in world politics – that a complacent liberal establishment in the West had glossed over earlier. Recognizing the broader and multifaceted nature of those challenges is key to any hopes for building world order 2.0: a decentered and pluralistic Multiplex World, with its own challenges and opportunities.

Amitav Acharya is the Boeing Company Chair in International Relations at the Schwarzman Scholars Program, Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Distinguished Professor of International Relations and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC.

This talk is moderated by Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.

Trump, Najib and The Controlled and Free Media


February 18, 2017

Trump, Najib and The Controlled and  Free Media

 

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Prime Minister of Malaysia (PMOM) Najib Abdul Razak must be feeling tremendously superior to his alleged erstwhile golfing buddy and recently-elected President of the United States (POTUS) Donald J.Trump, even without a chance to play a round with him recently.

Because, however many courses Trump owns, and however close to scratch his game might be, he’s competing at world-class level according to US and international rules in full view of a global gallery, and thus has no chance of hiding just how green, gruesomely handicapped and doomed to defeat that he thus far appears to be.

Whereas Najib plays mostly for Malaysia on a minor circuit restricted to such similar small-timers as North Korea and Zimbabwe, who all consider themselves winners because they not only make-up the rules of the game and fake their own scorecards, but also feel free to club anyone who dares criticise or oppose them into silence or submission.

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Or, in some special cases, to death, as in the current case of the alleged hit on a member of North Korea’s Kim family at the KL International Airport 2, or the murder and C4 dismemberment of Mongolian ‘model’ Altantuya Shaariibuu (pic above) in Kuala Lumpur a decade ago.

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No wonder POTUS Trump is so mightily teed-off at the way he’s thwarted at every stroke as he strives to triumph over obstacles like that mother of all sand-traps, the Middle East, and looming water hazards like the South China Sea, while simultaneously trying to deal with domestic challenges ranging from hostile Democrats and disaffected Republicans to hostile news media and intractable courts.

At least you’d imagine that a golfer as avid as Trump so evidently is would be aware of Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial advice to himself and successive US Presidents to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.

But apparently not, as in the blustering press conference he held recently to praise his own allegedly ‘fine-tuned’ administration’s bumbling, stumbling performance in its first few weeks, he seemed rather to be still resorting to speaking glibly because he’s getting so much stick.

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Najib’s Team of Goofers

And if he’s even slightly sincere in his avowed desire to ‘make America great again’, he can look forward to getting even more stick in the future, in light of the fact that two of the principal principles that have contributed most to America’s self-perception as ‘great’ are the freedom of the press and the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the independence of the Judiciary.

And it is right here, of course, where Najib’s UMNO-BN regime, North Korea’s Kim dynasty, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-figure eaded Zanu-PF gang and the similar dominant players in countless other no-account countries well and truly have the wood on Trump attempts to run the US.

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Because while Trump can only endlessly and impotently repeat his lying refrain about the forces of ‘fake news’ that he claims are so ‘unfairly’ ranged against him, Najib, the Kims and Mugabes can, as they so efficiently have done, abolish independent news media, fake or otherwise, and create fake news in their own favour.

Thus, to refer back to the headline of this column, Najib easily trumps Trump in the management of negative or hostile news and views by the simple expedient of making sure there aren’t any. None that can be printed or broadcast, at least, as  UMNO-BN owns and controls all of Malaysia’s ‘mainstream’, or in other words, traditional news media. In contrast in the United States, freedom of expression is guaranteed by The First Amendment, making the media an independent and countervailing force in American society.

This blacking-out of bad news about Malaysia’s ruling regime is reinforced by an Official Secrets Act so severe as to cover virtually every activity of the government, the public services and crony based ‘government-linked corporations’ (GLCs), and of course backed-up by regime domination of the Judiciary which should by rights be Malaysian citizens’ final bulwark against the misrule of their country by the UMNO-BN ‘kleptocracy’.

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At least you’d imagine that a golfer as avid as Trump so evidently is would be aware of Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial advice to himself and successive US presidents to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.

But apparently not, as in the blustering press conference he held recently to praise his own allegedly ‘fine-tuned’ administration’s bumbling, stumbling performance in its first few weeks, he seemed rather to be still resorting to speaking bitingly because he’s getting so much stick.

And if he’s even slightly sincere in his avowed desire to ‘make America great again’, he can look forward to getting even more stick in the future, in light of the fact that two of the principal principles that have contributed most to America’s self-perception as ‘great’ are the freedom of the press and the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the independence of the Judiciary.

And it is right here, of course, where Najib’s UMNO-BN regime, North Korea’s Kim dynasty, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-figureheaded Zanu-PF gang and the similar dominant players in countless other no-account countries well and truly have the wood on Trump attempts to run the US.

Because while Trump can only endlessly and impotently repeat his lying refrain about the forces of ‘fake news’ that he claims are so ‘unfairly’ ranged against him, Najib, the Kims and Mugabes can, as they so efficiently have done, abolish independent news media, fake or otherwise, and create fake news in their own favour.

Thus, to refer back to the headline of this column, Najib easily trumps Trump in the management of negative or hostile news and views by the simple expedient of making sure there aren’t any. None that can be printed or broadcast, at least, as UMNO–BN either or both owns and controls all of Malaysia’s ‘mainstream’, or in other words traditional news media.

From left: Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin and Sen. Jeff Sessions have all been nominated to high-profile positions in President-elect Trump’s Cabinet. Alex Wong/Getty Images; F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This blacking-out of bad news about Malaysia’s ruling regime is reinforced by an Official Secrets Act so severe as to cover virtually every activity of the government, the civil services and crony so-called ‘government-linked corporations’ (GLCs), and of course  backed-up by regime domination of the Judiciary which should by right be Malaysian citizens’ final bulwark against the misrule of their country by the UMNO-BN ‘kleptocracy’.

One tiny flaw

Admittedly this game-winning strategy has one tiny flaw, which is that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who devised and from whom Najib has inherited it, was so keen to create a world-class IT complex he grandly conceived as ‘Cyberjaya’ that he promised global players like Apple and Microsoft that he wouldn’t censor the Internet.

Cyberjaya, like so many of Mahathir’s alleged megalomanic projects, never really took off. But at least the Internet has surprisingly remained relatively free in Malaysia, and thus I can write what I like, or rather what my editors deem not so dangerously politically provocative as to get Malaysiakini raided or banned, in this column.

But Najib and his UMNO-BN accomplices and supporters are apparently quite prepared if not happy to tolerate this relatively minor annoyance, as it gives them a pretext on which to pretend they permit at least some slight degree of press freedom.

And in any event they must figure that however much bad news gets out about them, they can keep buying enough voters to keep them in power with money they SK1M from the public purse to fund annual hand-outs billed as BR1M, which Najib recently boasted increases in amount every year.

Or, to put this another way, there are always enough Malaysians prepared to be so D1M as to accept BR1M and in return to pretend that they’re unaware that Najib, like every one of his fellow UMNO-BN members and cronies, is a KR1M.

In short, though Najib Abdul Razak might seem to the embarrassed, embarrassing and deeply-embattled Donald Trump to be a winner in the contest between himself and the essential democratic institutions of truth, transparency and justice, the Malaysian people are the ‘sure-fire losers’.

Just as the American people will be if Trump and his goofers can’t be persuaded or if necessary forced to finally get themselves on the ball, stop playing around like dimwit banana-republic demagogues and realise that there’s as huge a gulf between their performance so far and true world leadership as between hit-and-giggle golf and the real thing.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

John Pilger: The Issue Is Not Donald Trump. It Is Us.


January 18, 2017

John Pilger: The Issue Is Not Donald Trump. It Is Us.

US president elect, Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore, Flickr).

Donald Trump. for all his flaws, is not Barack Obama, an American President who has set new lows in foreign slaughter and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the mega-rich, writes John Pilger.

On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation. “In order for us to heal and move forward…,” say Writers Resist, “we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favour of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy.”

And: “We urge local organizers and speakers to avoid using the names of politicians or adopting ‘anti’ language as the focus for their Writers Resist event. It’s important to ensure that nonprofit organizations, which are prohibited from political campaigning, will feel confident participating in and sponsoring these events.”

Thus, real protest is to be avoided, for it is not tax exempt.

Compare such drivel with the declarations of the Congress of American Writers, held at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1935, and again two years later. They were electric events, with writers discussing how they could confront ominous events in Abyssinia, China and Spain. Telegrams from Thomas Mann, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out, reflecting the fear that great power was now rampant and that it had become impossible to discuss art and literature without politics or, indeed, direct political action.

“A writer,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, “must be a man of action now… A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last.”

Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.

That the menace of rapacious power – rampant long before the rise of Trump – has been accepted by writers, many of them privileged and celebrated, and by those who guard the gates of literary criticism, and culture, including popular culture, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out, regardless of who occupies the White House.

US Democrat presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: Pan Photo, Flickr)

The Defeated Democratic Party Candidate Hillary Clinton who ran a Obama Copycat Policy Campaign–Americans want Change in Washington DC.

Today, false symbolism is all. “Identity” is all. In 2016, Hillary Clinton stigmatised millions of voters as “a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it”. Her abuse was handed out at an LGBT rally as part of her cynical campaign to win over minorities by abusing a white mostly working-class majority. Divide and rule, this is called; or identity politics in which race and gender conceal class, and allow the waging of class war. Trump understood this.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident poet Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

This is not an American phenomenon. A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then Professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”.

No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among today’s insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people… of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.

There is something both venal and profoundly stupid about famous writers as they venture outside their cosseted world and embrace an “issue”. Across the Review section of the Guardian on 10 December was a dreamy picture of Barack Obama looking up to the heavens and the words, “Amazing Grace” and “Farewell the Chief”.

The sycophancy ran like a polluted babbling brook through page after page. “He was a vulnerable figure in many ways…. But the grace. The all-encompassing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool …. [He] is a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again… He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side… … The grace … the almost surreal levels of grace….”

44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (IMAGE: Marc Nozell, Flickr)

I have conflated these quotes. There are others even more hagiographic and bereft of mitigation. The Guardian’s chief apologist for Obama, Gary Younge, has always been careful to mitigate, to say that his hero “could have done more”: oh, but there were the “calm, measured and consensual solutions….”

None of them, however, could surpass the American writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the recipient of a “genius” grant worth $625,000 from a liberal foundation. In an interminable essay for The Atlantic entitled, “My President Was Black”, Coates brought new meaning to prostration. The final “chapter”, entitled “When You Left, You Took All of Me With You”, a line from a Marvin Gaye song, describes seeing the Obamas “rising out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity”. The Ascension, no less.

One of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, who expanded America’s favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads (“special operations”) as no other president has done since the Cold War.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day. He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday – reported the New York Times – he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the “terrorist target”. A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama’s drones killed 4,700 people. “Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that,” he said, but we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda.”

Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor. “Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically…. In the propaganda system… it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

Take the catastrophe in Libya. In 2011, Obama said Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew… that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

This was the known lie of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. It became the media story; and Nato – led by Obama and Hillary Clinton – launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed]were under the age of 10”.

Under Obama, the US has extended secret “special forces” operations to 138 countries, or 70 per cent of the world’s population. The first African-American president launched what amounted to a full-scale invasion of Africa. Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

It was Obama who, in 2011, announced what became known as the “pivot to Asia”, in which almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to the Asia-Pacific to “confront China”, in the words of his Defence Secretary. There was no threat from China; the entire enterprise was unnecessary. It was an extreme provocation to keep the Pentagon and its demented brass happy.

In 2014, Obama’s administration oversaw and paid for a fascist-led coup in Ukraine against the democratically elected government, threatening Russia in the western borderland through which Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, with a loss of 27 million lives. It was Obama who placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia, and it was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a level higher than that of any administration since the cold war – having promised, in an emotional speech in Prague, to “help rid the world of nuclear weapons”.

Obama, the constitutional lawyer, prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in history, even though the US constitution protects them. He declared Chelsea Manning guilty before the end of a trial that was a travesty. He has refused to pardon Manning who has suffered years of inhumane treatment which the UN says amounts to torture. He has pursued an entirely bogus case against Julian Assange. He promised to close the Guantanamo concentration camp and didn’t.

Following the public relations disaster of George W. Bush, Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision was part of this: the kind of cloying reverse racism that beatified the man for no reason other than he was attractive to liberal sensibilities and, of course, American power, if not to the children he kills in impoverished, mostly Muslim countries.

US president Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama has pardoned Chelsea Manning

This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded, especially “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne put it. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.”

William I. Robinson, Professor at the University of California, and one of an uncontaminated group of American strategic thinkers who have retained their independence during the years of intellectual dog-whistling since 9/11, wrote this last week:

“President Barack Obama… may have done more than anyone to assure [Donald] Trump’s victory. While Trump’s election has triggered a rapid expansion of fascist currents in US civil society, a fascist outcome for the political system is far from inevitable…. But that fight back requires clarity as to how we got to such a dangerous precipice. The seeds of 21st century fascism were planted, fertilized and watered by the Obama administration and the politically bankrupt liberal elite.”

Robinson points out that “whether in its 20th or its emerging 21st century variants, fascism is, above all, a response to deep structural crises of capitalism, such as that of the 1930s and the one that began with the financial meltdown in 2008…. There is a near-straight line here from Obama to Trump…. The liberal elite’s refusal to challenge the rapaciousness of transnational capital and its brand of identity politics served to eclipse the language of the working and popular classes… pushing white workers into an ‘identity’ of white nationalism and helping the neo-fascists to organise them”.

The seedbed is Obama’s Weimar Republic, a landscape of endemic poverty, militarised police and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under his presidency, prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street.

Perhaps his greatest “legacy” is the co-option and disorientation of any real opposition. Bernie Sanders’ specious “revolution” does not apply. Propaganda is his triumph.

The lies about Russia – in whose elections the US has openly intervened – have made the world’s most self-important journalists laughing stocks. In the country with constitutionally the freest press in the world, free journalism now exists only in its honourable exceptions.

The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves “left/liberal”, as if to claim political decency. They are not “left”, neither are they especially “liberal”. Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations – such as Obama’s.

US president elect, Donald Trump.
45th US President (wef January 20, 2017) Donald Trump.

America’s political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right. The “left” are homeless renegades Martha Gellhorn described as “a rare and wholly admirable fraternity”. She excluded those who confuse politics with a fixation on their navels.

While they “heal” and “move forward”, will the Writers Resist campaigners and other anti-Trumpists reflect upon this? More to the point: when will a genuine movement of opposition arise? Angry, eloquent, all-for-one-and-one-for all. Until real politics return to people’s lives, the enemy is not Trump, it is ourselves.