‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’


January 11, 2017

‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’

Netizens, including politicians, speak highly of the Sarawak chief minister who died at 1.20pm today.

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By popular acclaim, the late Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, was a strong leader who stood up for the rights of all Sarawakians. He will be sorely missed. Dr. Kamsiah Haider  and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.

His passing will no doubt have decisive impact on the politics of this fiercely nationalistic state. My inclination on this sad day is to dedicate Al-Fatihah to the Late Tan Sri and pray (doa) that there will be a smooth transfer of power. I also hope that Sarawak will have a successor Chief Minister who will be strong enough like Tun Taib Mahmud and Tan Sri Adenan to resist any move by UMNO to establish  a branch in Sarawak.–Din Merican

Tributes have begun pouring in from netizens, including politicians, following the news that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem passed away at 1.20pm today.

Many Twitter users spoke highly of the PBB President. Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) president and local government minister Sim Kui Hian said: “We have lost a great son of Sarawak who devoted his whole life to the rakyat.”

Political leaders from the Barisan Nasional poured out their grief on Twitter with Prime Minister Najib Razak revealing that he would be heading to Sarawak.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai echoed similar sentiments saying: “Malaysia lost a great leader today.”

Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan tweeted: “Greatly shocked. Great loss to all #Malaysians. My sincere condolences to the family and the people of Sarawak.”

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin expressed condolences to Adenan’s wife Jamilah, family and Sarawakians. Sabah lawmaker Rahman Dahlan said Adenan’s struggles for a better Sarawak would be continued.

“Our sincere condolences to the family members of CM Adenan & the people of Sarawak. His struggles for a better Sarawak will be carried on.”

The public, too, have been taking to Twitter to express their condolences over Adenan’s passing. One user with the Twitter handle Ahmad Tarmidzi described Adenan as a true Sarawakian fighter.

“He fought for us, Sarawakians,” he tweeted, adding that he prayed the senior politician would be placed with the pious.

Another user Miz_PhinzSJ said it was a sad day for Sarawak because the state had “lost a good leader”. Meanwhile, Twitter user syazwan said Adenan was his own man.“I actually like Adenan Satem. He is more his own man than I thought he would be as CM. Great loss.”

The Passing of John Glenn, the last genuine American hero–A Tribute


December 10, 2016

The Passing of John Glenn, the last genuine American hero–A Tribute

by Dale Butland

Columbus, Ohio — World War II and Korean War hero. First American to orbit the Earth. Kennedy family friend and confidant. The only four-term senator in Ohio history. An astronaut again at the age of 77.

Newspaper writers and evening news broadcasters will detail John Glenn’s one-of-a-kind biography — and most of them will surely observe that his passing on Thursday (December 8, 2016) at the age of 95 marks “the end of an era.”

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“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend. John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay. …

“The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.”–President Barrack Obama

To me, John actually personified an era — one that, like him, has largely passed from the scene and may never again be recaptured. It was a period whose values were forged during the Great Depression, tested in the bloodiest war and expressed most clearly at the personal level by the interlocking virtues of modesty, courage and conviction.

Beginning in 1980 and continuing for nearly two decades, I was lucky enough to work for him, including as press secretary and director of his final re-election campaign in 1992. We were also friends, and I will cherish having been able to speak with him shortly before he died.

Despite his international celebrity, the ticker-tape parades and the schools and streets named in his honor, John never let any of it go to his head. He dined with kings, counseled presidents and signed autographs for athletes and movie stars. But he never pulled rank, rarely raised his voice and remained unfailingly polite and conscious of his responsibilities as a hero and a role model until the day he died.

The courage John displayed wasn’t merely physical, though he certainly had plenty of that. Anyone who flew 149 combat missions in two wars as a Marine fighter pilot — and then volunteered to become a Mercury 7 astronaut at a time when our rockets were just as likely to blow up on the launchpad as they were to return home safely — obviously had physical courage to spare.

But for me, even more impressive was John’s personal and political bravery, especially when it came to defending the values and friends he held dear.

Perhaps the best example of what I’m talking about occurred in an incident that, to the best of my knowledge, he never publicly disclosed.

Following his 1962 spaceflight, John and Robert F. Kennedy became such close friends that their families sometimes vacationed together.

By 1968, John had retired from the Marine Corps and taken a job as president of a major American corporation’s international division.

“We were living in New York, and they were paying me $100,000 a year, which at that time was real money,” he told me. “For the first time in our lives, Annie and I didn’t have to worry about putting our kids through college or helping our parents financially as they got older.”

That spring, Mr. Kennedy decided to run for president and John readily agreed to campaign for him.

John’s employer, however, wasn’t keen on having its highest profile executive publicly supporting Mr. Kennedy. So John was soon summoned to an “emergency meeting” of the corporate board where a resolution was to be passed barring any board member from “engaging in partisan politics in 1968.”

When the meeting was called to order, John rose from his seat to say that there was something his colleagues should know before taking a vote.

“Bob Kennedy asked me to campaign for him and I told him I would. And I will, because he is my friend. And if keeping my word means I can’t be associated with this company any longer, I can live with that.

“But if that’s what happens, we’re going to walk out of this room and you’re going to hold your press conference and I’m going to hold mine. And we’ll see who comes out better.”

No vote was called and the meeting was quickly adjourned.

John’s politics, of course, aren’t the point of this story. To me, it was his fierce determination to keep a promise to a friend, even at the expense of sacrificing the first real financial security he and his family had ever known. It’s the kind of courage we don’t see much anymore.

When John passed away, we lost a man who many say is the last genuine American hero. Not because others won’t do heroic things, but because national heroes aren’t easily crowned or even acknowledged in this more cynical age.

He belonged to an earlier and more innocent era — when we trusted our institutions, thought government could accomplish big and important things, still believed politics could be a noble profession, and didn’t think that ticker-tape parades were reserved for World Series or Super Bowl champions.

But the last “good” war ended almost 70 years ago. The Cold War is almost 30 years past. The space program has lost its luster. The clarity with which John saw honor and moral responsibility seems almost quaint today. And the time when we could all cheer for the same national hero may now be past.

Congratulations to the People of Thailand


December 3, 2016

Congratulations to the People of Thailand

by AFP

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn becomes Rama X of Thailand’s Chakri Dynasty, but will not formally be crowned until after his father’s cremation, which is expected next year.

King-Rama

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn became the King of Thailand late Thursday, opening a new chapter for the powerful monarchy in a country still mourning the death of his father.

The 64-year-old Prince inherits one of the world’s richest monarchies as well as a politically febrile nation, 50 days after King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death.

After weeks of complex palace protocols the Prince was invited by the head of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to ascend the throne in an event broadcast on all Thai television channels.

“I agree to accept the wishes of the late King… for the benefit of the entire Thai people,” said Vajiralongkorn, wearing an official white tunic decorated with medals and a pink sash.

The sombre, ritual-heavy ceremony at his Bangkok palace was attended by the Chief of the NLA, junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha, and the powerful 96-year-old head of the privy council, Prem Tinsulanonda.

Red-jacketed courtiers looked on as a palace staff member, shuffling on his knees, presented the new King with a microphone through which he delivered his few words of acceptance.

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His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn then prostrated himself, hands pressed together in respect, to a small shrine topped by a picture of his father and mother —Her Majesty Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara.

He becomes Rama X of Thailand’s Chakri dynasty, but will not formally be crowned until after his father’s cremation, which is expected next year.

Bhumibol’s reign, which ended on October 13, spanned a tumultuous period of Thai history pockmarked by a communist insurgency, coups and street protests.

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It also saw breakneck development which has resulted in a huge wealth disparity between a Bangkok-centric elite and the rural poor.To many Thais, Bhumibol was the only consistent force in a politically combustible country, his image burnished by ritual and shielded by a harsh royal defamation law.

The United States offered its congratulations to the new King, saying it looked forward to strengthening ties with Thailand. “We offer our best wishes to his majesty and all of the Thai people,” the State Department said.

“His father, King Bhumibol, ruled the Kingdom of Thailand with vision and compassion for 70 years and was a great friend of the United States. The United States and Thailand enjoy a longstanding, strong, and multifaceted bilateral relationship, and we look forward to deepening that relationship and strengthening the bonds between our two countries and peoples going forward.”

Into the limelight

Monks chanted blessings at Buddhist temples to mark the new monarch’s ascension — an era-defining moment for most Thais who for seven decades knew only Bhumibol as their King.

His Majesty Vajiralongkorn does not yet enjoy the same level of popularity.He spends much of his time outside of the public eye, particularly in southern Germany where he owns property.

He has had three high-profile divorces, while a recent police corruption scandal linked to the family of his previous wife allowed the public a rare glimpse of palace affairs.

Thursday’s ascension ends a period of uncertainty since Bhumibol’s death prompted by the Prince’s request to delay his official proclamation so he could mourn with the Thai people.

Thailand’s constitutional monarchy has limited formal powers but it draws the loyalty of much of the kingdom’s business elite as well as a military that dominates politics through its regular coups.

Analysts say  His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn, untested until now, will have to manage competing military cliques.

In a brief televised address after the ceremony, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who as army chief led the 2014 coup, praised the new King “as the head of the Thai state and heart of the Thai people.”

The Thai monarchy is protected from criticism by one of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, carrying up to 15 years in jail for every charge of defaming the King, Queen, heir or regent.

That law makes open discussion about the Royal Family’s role all but impossible inside the Kingdom and means all media based inside the country routinely self-censor. Convictions for so-called “112” offences — named after its criminal code — have skyrocketed since the Generals seized power in 2014.

Experts say most have targeted the junta’s political opponents, many of whom support the toppled civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The emergence of Yingluck’s brother Thaksin in 2001, a vote-winning billionaire seen by many of the rural poor as their champion, prompted the recent round of political conflict. The army and royalist establishment have toppled two governments led by the siblings, accusing them of nepotism and corruption.

 

More on Freedom Fighter Fidel Castro


November 27, 2016

More on Freedom Fighter Fidel Castro

Why black Americans love Fidel Castro

When it came to matching words with deeds on the topic of racial equality, the most stalwart leader of the Western hemisphere, over the course of the 20th century, was Fidel Castro.

I say this as a black American who came to bond closely with Latin America as an adult, living in Mexico for almost two years, traveling and staying with families in the Dominican Republic, and making more than half a dozen visits to Cuba, where I strolled through its enchanting cities and drove into the far reaches of the countryside, forging relationships with its people, especially those of darker hue. The author with Fidel Castro (Photo courtesy of Ronald Howard)

Now we are again feeling the heat of the burning topic, the man, who bonded black Americans to his Caribbean island. Yes, it was Fidel Castro who—even though out of power now for years—is angering so many Americans, especially police officers, over his signature action three decades ago.

It was Fidel who gave amnesty to Joanne Chesimard, known now as Assata Shakur, still wanted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper, Werner Foerster, in a highway shootout. Shakur was convicted but was busted out of prison in 1979 by comrades. As a leading figure in the Black Liberation Army, which took bolder actions than even the Black Panther Party did, not only getting into gun fights with cops but holding up banks, Shakur became a legend in her time, a Robin Hood of the black masses.

On December 17, in an historical moment, President Barack Obama announced he would seek to normalize relations with Cuba. On the same day, federal and New Jersey police officials repeated their offer of $2 million for information leading to the capture of Shakur. Last year the feds made Shakur the only woman on the FBI Most Wanted Persons list.

You can be sure on black websites and newspapers there will be attention given to the increasing calls for Shakur’s capture or negotiated return. That attention will come with a history.

Castro did not just provide a haven for fugitive revolutionaries, who made the argument, accepted by perhaps a majority of Cubans under Fidel Castro, that blacks were an oppressed people fighting for fair treatment and an end to police abuses in their communities.

No, he was a kind of Martin Luther King with power. For example, before the Cuban revolutionaries led by Castro took over Cuba in 1959, there was fairly rigid racial segregation through the country, including, for example, Santa Clara in the interior of Cuba.

When I was in Santa Clara in early 2001, a woman there told me how black and white Cubans in the 1950s and earlier had walked along different paths around the beautiful downtown Vidal Park. (All it took in Cuba to be white was to have straight hair, be fair-complexioned and not want to be called “negro.”)

This racial division largely ended under the government of Fidel Castro. Moreover, Castro made an effort to reach out to blacks in the US.

When he came to New York in 1960 for a United Nations meeting, Castro got upset at the management of the hotel where he was staying, the Shelburne, and he packed his bags and took his entourage up to the Theresa Hotel in Harlem, where he famously leaned out of the window and waved to the black residents of the community. Thousands of Harlemites called out his name in a bonding-with-power they were totally unaccustomed to.

In the 1980s, before the end of the Cold War, Fidel sent some 25,000 troops to fight in Angola, on the side of those opposing the then-apartheid government of South Africa. This aspect of Castro’s time in power was little reported in the US media. Fidel militantly opposed racist South Africa at a time when the US was diplomatically supporting it.

It was I who in 1987 first reported that Shakur had actually escaped to Cuba and was residing there, protected by Castro. I spent several days with Shakur at her apartment and walking along the Malecón; my Newsday colleague, photographer Ozier Muhammad, photographed her as she posed provocatively outside the US Interests Section, hands up in victory.

As you know, things have changed since then.The Soviets stopped supporting Cuba; and then the Soviet Union collapsed to the ground. For two decades there has been speculation that one day a liberal American president might move to end the now-half-century embargo against trade with Cuba and allow Americans to travel there freely.

Republicans and many Democrats were outraged at what they called a concession by Obama to the communism they said Cuba—through the retired Fidel’s brother Raul—still represents.

Muffled in the discussion on cable channels are the feelings of kinship and appreciation that black Americans hold for Fidel Castro.

Many of those who harbor such tenderness toward the bearded one do not shout it into microphones because they don’t wish to be accused of being anti-American. But sympathy with Fidel can be seen in decades of blacks voting in Congress. Harlem’s Congressman Charles Rangel, for instance, has been among the most progressive of all representatives when it has come to policies toward Cuba, over the year having proposed an easing of the embargo. And few on the national scene have been more militant in opposing the embargo than black California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

In the coming days, Assata Shakur will be mentioned more frequently in news stories about Cuba, especially in the northeast. There are growing demands that the United States find a way to bring her back and to put her in jail. And in their stories, New Jersey newspapers are noting how Assata Shakur is being treated as a heroine by many in the black communities of America.

Federal officials and others are aware of how Shakur has become a kind of folk hero among black Americans and even blacks in the Caribbean, with a number of parents over the past 25 years naming their daughters Assata.

Adding to the appeal for blacks is Assata Shakur’s connection to the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who is related to Assata through his male ancestors (though not by blood) and is considered a nephew.

When I wrote about Tupac Shakur for a now defunct black weekly newspaper (the City Sun) I spoke with a top New York federal official, Ken Walton, who said Assata Shakur damn well better be careful of her every move—then, in 1996, and for the rest of her beating-heart life.

“He told me in measured, angry words that he ‘or somebody like me’ will one day capture Assata and bring her back to the States.”

This I know to be true: Every time a fist was raised for Assata Shakur, sympathy was expressed also for the now old Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

By the way, Assata is not the only revolutionary received by Fidel with open arms. He also gave asylum to Nehanda Obiodun (formerly Cheri Laverne Dalton), the only person still wanted in the early 1981 $1.5 million Brinks armored vehicle holdup in Nanuet, New York, in which two police officers were killed.

These days it is not easy to find out where Assata Shakur and Nehanda Obiodun are or even what they are thinking. I hung out with Obiodun and wrote about her in Cuba in the 1990s, but I was blocked at every turn when I tried to get her and Shakur to meet with me and a group of Stony Brook University students I took to Cuba in January of 2012.

Obiodun has been almost completely off the radar in recent years, out of mind. But Assata Shakur has not been. “New Jersey hopes Cuba-US relations thaw will help extradite former Black Panther,” screamed a headline of Atlantic City News on December 18.

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And so, given all this as background, black Americans are not only reflecting nostalgically on Fidel Castro. Some, perhaps many, black police officials publicly declare their desire that Shakur be captured and returned to jail in the US. But other blacks have respect for the courage she showed as she lived in exile for some 30 years, bearing in her torso the remnants of a bullet she took during that shootout in 1973.

Most of all, you can bet, there is a broad agreement with Barack Obama—that the time for hostility with the Cuban government—no longer headed by Fidel Castro but largely by his brother Raul—should be over.

 We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

Remembering my contemporary Tom Hayden of the Vietnam War Era


October 24, 2016

Remembering my contemporary Tom Hayden of the Vietnam War Era

by Robert D. McFadden

Tom Hayden, who burst out of the 1960s counterculture as a radical leader of America’s civil rights and antiwar movements, but rocked the boat more gently later in life with a progressive political agenda as an author and California state legislator, died on Sunday. He was 76.

His wife, Barbara Williams, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. Mr. Hayden had been suffering from heart problems and fell ill while attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

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During the racial unrest and antiwar protests of the ’60s and early ’70s, Mr. Hayden was one of the nation’s most visible radicals. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, a defendant in the Chicago Seven trial after riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and a peace activist who married Jane Fonda, went to Hanoi and escorted American prisoners of war home from Vietnam.

As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college and university students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.

Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention.

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Tom Hayden after announcing he would run for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate from California in 1976. Credit Walter Zeboski/Associated Press

In 1974, with the Vietnam War in its final stages after American military involvement had all but ended, Mr. Hayden and Ms. Fonda, who were by then married, traveled across Vietnam, talking to people about their lives after years of war, and produced a documentary film, “Introduction to the Enemy.” Detractors labeled it Communist propaganda, but Nora Sayre, reviewing it for The New York Times, called it a “pensive and moving film.”

Later, with the war over and the idealisms of the ’60s fading, Mr. Hayden settled into a new life as a family man, writer and mainstream politician. In 1976 he ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate from California, declaring, “The radicalism of the 1960s is fast becoming the common sense of the 1970s.” He lost to the incumbent, Senator John V. Tunney.

But, focusing on state and local issues like solar energy and rent control, he won a seat in the California Legislature in Sacramento in 1982. He was an assemblyman for a decade and a state senator from 1993 to 2000, sponsoring bills on the environment, education, public safety and civil rights. He lost a Democratic primary for California governor in 1994, a race for mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 and a bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in 2001.

He was often the target of protests by leftists who called him an outlaw hypocrite, and by Vietnamese refugees and American military veterans who called him a traitor. Conservative news media kept alive the memories of his radical days. In a memoir, “Reunion” (1988), he described himself as a “born-again Middle American” and expressed regret for “romanticizing the Vietnamese” and for allowing his antiwar zeal to turn into anti-Americanism.

“His soul-searching and explanations make fascinating reading,” The Boston Globe said, “but do not, he concedes, pacify critics on the left who accuse him of selling out to personal ambition or on the right ‘who tell me to go back to Russia.’ He says he doesn’t care.”

“I get re-elected,” Mr. Hayden told The Globe. “To me, that’s the bottom line. The issues persons like myself are working on are modern, workplace, neighborhood issues.”