Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within


June 14, 2017

Malaysia: A Lucky Country under Threat from Within

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong.”

– Abraham Lincoln

COMMENT | The Prime Minister has again made this extraordinary claim – “In the end, 10 people died because we had no loyalty. All there was is a readiness to betray who? Our rakyat” – with regards to the “Sulu incursion” while reminding uniformed personnel to be loyal in preserving the country’s security.

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Keep Praying, Prime Minister, your lucky streak is running out unless you treat Malaysians Fairly

I will repeat the same questions I had in an article I wrote when the Prime Minister first made this claim of betrayal – “This, of course, brings us to the next set of questions. Who were those covert agents? What sort of investigations and which agencies were involved in routing out these ‘covert enemies’? Why weren’t the press and the people of Malaysia notified that our soldiers were killed because of leaked information? Were the families of the soldiers who were ‘sacrificed’ notified that their deaths were the result of an ambush because of leaked intelligence?”

I expect no answer, of course. A few friends have written to me “explaining” that “civilians” may have compromised troop movements and that is what our prime minister meant by “betrayal”. If you believe that civilians had compromised troop movement, I suggest we have a far greater problem than most people believe.

Of course, in this particular rejoinder the Prime Minister claims – “When our own people betrayed their comrades, when they fed information to our enemies, our enemies surrounded and ambushed…” – which implies that our men were betrayed by their “comrades”, in other words, by security personnel, which is worse but yet again no explanation will be forthcoming.

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Perkida–The Militant Arm of Najib’s UMNO

What if the liberalisation of the public sphere since the Mahathir era paved the way for the emergence of civil surrogates of political parties? What if the so-called “civil society” was used as a veil to hide and promote the rise of militants who are in fact sub-contractors of political parties discourse and actions?

Were those families of the 10 people who died told that their loved ones perished because they were betrayed by their “comrades”? Was there an investigation into these treasonous acts? Was there accountability? It does not matter, does it?

And are the Malaysian uniformed services “Muslim” uniformed services? I get that the majority who serve are Muslims but why does the Prime Minister feel the need to draw on Islam to remind the uniformed services to be loyal for the security of the country? The answer to this, of course, is obvious. Non-Muslims are constantly told that we are not patriotic enough, that we shelter under the security provided by brave Muslims and most importantly, there have been far too many Umno politicians and “activists” who remind us that government institutions are in reality “Malay/Muslim” institutions.

So yes, the Arabisation process being what it is, the professional standards of our uniformed services at the level it is, and this constant need to remind Muslims that loyalty to country means loyalty to the political establishment, it is no surprise that religion would be used to bolster support. Of course, if you are a non-Muslim in the uniformed services, you could either learn from this Islamic analogy thrust upon you or tune out.

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BTN (Biro Tata Negara) cannot be allowed to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion, and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

I have said it before and I will say it again. I despise the propagandising of the state security apparatus. This happens all over the world. The Prime Minister’s rejoinder was delivered at a function organised by Wanita UMNO – a wing of a political party – so this was a political event and not a government event.

Of course, in this country, the lines are willfully blurred so I wonder what would happen if Pakatan Harapan, or God Forbid the DAP, organised a Ramadan event to honour the sacrifices of our uniformed services. Would these service people who embraced the “gifts” doled out at this Umno event be accepting to gifts offered by the opposition? Or would they be told by a government flunky not to intrude where they are not wanted?

I will just regurgitate what I wrote when another organisation was advocating loyalty to the establishment –

“Ultimately when we pledged to serve the king and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.”

‘We have been lucky’

The Prime Minister is right when he claims that peace does not happen by accident, but because of the work done by the security services of the state. However, he should be aware that peace happens because of luck, too. We have been lucky. While pre-emptive action is a necessary component of national security, the element of luck also plays an important part.

With all the propaganda spewed against non-Muslims, we have been lucky that external forces have far more insidious designs that merely slaughtering non-Muslims in this region. These designs target Muslims and is about a specific Islamic ideology and a war against Islamic plurality.

I have talked about this briefly in my piece cautioning against snuggling up to the House of Saud but as far as domestic policy is concerned, I wrote about the corrosive effects of Islam as propagated by the state on the security of the nation.

If even Najib is not safe from Islamic enemies, two points need to be considered when it comes to our “luck” in avoiding the kind of carnage that other countries have faced from their home-grown Islamic extremists.

When it comes to propaganda against the non-Muslims –

1) “Just recently, instead of sanctioning the genocidal rhetoric of the Pahang Mufti, Najib, who portrays himself as a PM for the people, said, ‘we cannot compromise on the Islamic struggle in this blessed land. We reject those who dislike Islam and know who they are and their collaborators.’”

And when it comes to the enemies within, who would destabilise the security of the state and the state security apparatus.

2) “The UMNO state security apparatuses have acknowledged that IS (Islamic State) sympathisers could emerge from anywhere, even from UMNO’s bureaucracy, which has for years sustained an anti-non-Muslim sentiment for political reasons.”

Islamic extremism and terrorism do not happen in a vacuum. It happens in environments which are conducive to the kind of extremism that groups like IS propagate.

You can have all the pre-emptive action that you want but as long as there are citizens willingly to carry out terrorist acts, work with foreign agents to destabilise the government and have cover to spout their nonsense because it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between state-sanctioned propaganda and that which is advocated by foreign Islamic extremists, this is the environment that will eventually lead us to be another statistic in mass Islamic violence.

Now as far as foreign Islamic extremists are concerned, I doubt they would collaborate with non-Muslims, simply because they consider non-Muslims as filthy infidels – although the narrative has always been that non-Muslims corrupt Muslims, so perhaps there may be some non-Muslims who are susceptible to the money that these Islamic extremists get from the most mainstream of sources – so the obvious potential collaborators are those who are disenfranchised and been fed on a diet that Islam is under siege in this country.

Think about it this way. If there are people who are willing to betray their comrades in an incursion by foreign participants, how long do you think our luck will hold against the dark foreign Islamic cults aligned against us and their local proxies who are willing to betray the rakyat of Malaysia?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia


June 9, 2017

Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia

by Dr. K. John@www.malaysiakini.com

I am genuinely angry and tired of much “false religiosity” which is found in many cultures and belief systems in Malaysia. I call all such unexamined cultural beliefs, worldviews; whether one is consciously aware of the existence of such implicit beliefs, or assumptions, or lack thereof.

Recently two examples of false religiosity were made evident in the Malaysian public square. I have addressed one of them through a previous column. Find it here.

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Zahid Hamidi and other Disciples of Zakir Zaik (Dr Asri Zainal Abidin–5th Left)

It related to misinformation and misguided statements made by Dr Asri Zainal Abidin, the current Mufti of Perlis. If I am not wrong, the post of any mufti is a public service appointment on behalf of the state government and they usually act as formal advisors to their rulers.

In this column I will address the second example of the same kind and quality of false religiosity.  But, before that, let me state a more positive note.  One of my connections (a Muslim friend) sent me a good and correct teaching (by WhatsApp) about what is truth in Islam, as an Abrahamic religion. I am glad such clear teaching is available, and many thanks to modern technology. He was responding to that earlier column.

In January 2017, the media reported that Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam was found guilty of a charge by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department, or JAIS, in the syariah court case for “illegal preaching”. And, as a consequence of such a punishment, it was also reported by the media that he may also be disqualified from being an MP, according to Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, Shad Saleem Faruqi.

More recently, in a similar vein and mode, this past week, JAIS again made a statement criticizing a local mosque which invited another elected member of Parliament to address them publicly inside their local mosque. JAIS used the name of the Sultan of Selangor, saying that he was “angry” about the matter. JAIS also issued a statement publicising the matter and then decrying the so-called wrong-doing and highlighting the anger of the Sultan of Selangor. My question: is not anger also sin, especially in the month of Ramadan?

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What Offence Did MP S. Sivarasa commit doing his duty as Subang Member of Parliament? Matters can become ridiculous in Malaysian politics under Najib Razak

I have serious problems with such false or mislabelled religious jurisprudence which denies any human being the full rights of citizenship, and especially that of  Members of Parliament. Khalid Samad is a Muslim representative but the latest charge is against R Sivarasa who is MP for Subang, and the mosque is well within his constituency. Sivarasa was performing a formal function as a people’s representative disbursing public funds.

Khalid Samad was sharing his faith and virtues in terms of Islamic thought, philosophy, and his personal life experiences with Palestinians as a result of his recent visit to Gaza. I therefore ask, so what is wrong with what he or Sivarasa did in the mosque?

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Can someone explain to me, in serious theological or logical terms, what is wrong with such sharing of truths from his heart about his first-hand experiences learned in Gaza? Or, why could Sivarasa not be present as a people’s representative within a mosque?

Do mosques belong to JAKIM or JAIS?

Do these mosques actually “belong to JAIS”? Are all mosques then under their direct administrative jurisdiction? I was under the impression that there is no Islamic equivalent of ecclesiology. Where in our Rule of Law system is such a hierarchy of jurisprudence provided for?

If such mosques are in fact directly under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) which is a federal government department with a minister in cabinet, what is the legal basis of such provisions? Why and how then was the one green lung behind my house converted by JAIS into a mosque after the fact? (For more information on this issue, please refer to this article and a reply by the state legislative assemblyperson for Kampung Tunku.)

What can be there be any legal or religious basis of such thinking?  Are all mosques in Malaysia funded and therefore built by JAKIM with zero funds from federal income tax revenues? Or, is it totally and fully funded by zakat or other such funds?

How then would such a financial administration and authority system be established within the nine Malay states? What about Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak? Is there a specific state enactment which establishes all these mosques under the full control and determination of some form of state Islamic administration? I ask because I am now a Selangor resident; who is seriously upset about the state administration of both land and religion.

JAIS’s simplistic thinking too may be simply partisan and political. To them, Khalid Samad had no certification to preach at this mosque. Did he really preach or teach the wrong Islamic doctrine? Really, and is not every Muslim allowed to stand up and speak about his experience of faith after a standard prayer at any mosque?

My understanding of the history of Islamic thought is that such sharing in the mosque was always encouraged, while it was dependent on the listeners to ponder the accuracy of such preaching or teaching. Is not this human attempt to control and manipulate religious thought reaching serious and partisan levels? Is that true Islam?

G25 and a moderation movement

G25 is a community of ex-public servants of Muslim faith who publicly made a statement committed to pursuing a just, democratic, peaceful, tolerant, harmonious, moderate and progressive multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious society in Malaysia. They extolled two simple and clear Islamic principles or virtues:  ‘wassatiyah’ (or moderation) and ‘maqasid syariah’ (the higher intentions of a comprehensive well-being of the people) which affirms justice, compassion, mercy, and equity.

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The Gutsy, Outspoken and Moderate Muslim  Tawfik Tun Dr. Ismail (TTDI)

It was one Old Putera G25 member, Tawfik Tun Ismail who framed his personal views about JAKIM and then went to declare them publicly. TTDI, as he is fondly known among Old Putera, first questioned the role and full legal authority of JAKIM in its current capacity as a created and established federal department. JAKIM is a federal department set up under the Prime Minister’s Department of the government of Malaysia.

The then-media publisher The Malaysian Insider which published that story and raised the issue too has since been closed down. All these records of truths of interest can still be found on the internet though. I fully agree with TTDI and want to support G25 as a true movement for moderation.


KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

PAS–UMNO and The Death of Common Sense


May 2, 2017

PAS-UMNO and The Death of Common Sense

by Dr KJ John@www.malaysiakini.com

Time headlined a story for their April 3 issue entitled, ‘Is Truth Dead?’ Please see the picture below.

This column will focus on ‘The Death of Common Sense’, a book by a former Harvard Law School Dean, and reflect on today’s consequences of such a death of both the idea of objective truth and therefore also, common sense, at one and the same time in Malaysia. What is assumed to be common may not be familiar any more.

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The New York Times bestseller summary promotes the book with the following words: “We need a new idea of how to govern. The current system is broken. Law is supposed to be a framework for humans to make choices, not the replacement for free choice.” So notes Philip K Howard in the new afterword to his explosive manifesto ‘The Death of Common Sense’.

“Here Howard offers nothing less than a fresh, lucid, practical operating system for modern democracy. America is drowning – in law, lawsuits, and nearly endless red tape. Before acting or making a decision, we often abandon our best instincts. We pause, we worry, we equivocate, and then we divert our energy into trying to protect ourselves.

“Filled with one too many examples of bureaucratic overreach, ‘The Death of Common Sense’ demonstrates how we – and our country – can at last get back on track.”

My column thesis will argue that the death of common sense will happen, especially because of the death of truth, as questioned by Time about today’s mainstream Republican worldview, especially after their original fake worldview hypothesis with the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) or their public lie about the matter.

I do believe that there may be some kind of a newer global liberal conspiracy to lie or promote fake news, and we need to find what it is all really about. I am not sure of its potential origins but Israel and US maybe be colluding; that is only my guess. The son-in-law.Jared Kushner appears to be a link.

Trump’s America

United Airlines also became headline news through a misadventure for the world to see and hear. The unfortunate reality is that it also enabled every global citizen to experience the indignity of physical abuse; especially those of us who identify with Asian Americans.

Denial of human dignity by anyone should never be tolerated any more, anywhere in the world; especially now, thanks to modern media information capabilities. Evidence dissemination is today as simple as a click on social media technology.

Now, Corporate Capitalist America (CCA) or Centralist Communist China or (CCC), and all global organisations like United Airlines who ignore basic human rights and related concomitant truths, cannot continue such abuse of human dignity anywhere in the world. That is also why Aung San Suu Kyi is now under the media spotlight; although a Nobel Prize winner.

Whether it is the alleged killing of babies by rogue actors in Syria, or public abuse by security personnel at the Chicago airport, or missing citizens which our police ‘appear to know nothing about’, global citizenship and all mainstream human rightists will not tolerate such ignorance and abuse, any more. We demand full accountability from all publicly responsible actors.

They have to accept responsibility for roles assumed and it is not be merely playing a role; this is real life and not just media entertainment.

Politics as art of the ethically plausible

If objective science-based truth is in fact dead, or can be reduced or limited by one’s subjective interpretative worldviews; maybe then Time’s question is valid and 1MDB objective truths do in fact actually and really matter.

But, as Time magazine argued that in the world of material reality, objectives truths can quite easily be documented in writing or recorded with sufficient modern forms of evidence-gathering. Let us see what fake or false news is; in our beloved Malaysia.

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No Objective Truth, No Common Sense, only lies with these fellas

Therefore, whether it is President Donald Trump, or  Prime Minister Najib Razak, or Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang; objective truths about Malaysian life are already well-documented in our recent political history and lived life. The concerns of most moderate Malaysians is that there is ‘a lot of righteous-type anger rather than forgiveness’ being expressed for careless and human mistakes made by the government of the day.

The fact is that it is only truthfulness which can guarantee good and clean or clear politics, what some call ‘new politics’. Most of these unforgiving critics or ‘so-called political pundits’ appear not to understand one simple fact. They do not put themselves into their ‘objective evaluations’, but instead conduct themselves ‘as white knights on a white horse’.

Or, in even simpler language, these commentators pretend they do not live in glasshouses. Or, to quote Jesus, “Let him who had not sinned cast the first stone.” Or, as quoted on a Dalmatian dog poster, “I am not spotless; only forgiven”.

In fact just this past weeks there was great furore and a lot of political anger against a DAP exco member who “apologised for a badly worded non-Muslim faith codes and guidelines”, which he overlooked and did not review before it was issued. They have since withdrawn it, and in fact their deputy chairperson for Selangor DAP even issued a statement to clarify the matter.

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DAP’s Hannah Yeoh, Selangor Speaker (centre) said it was unbecoming for the columnist to say such things as she felt she was not betraying the Chinese community by adhering to the dress norms of another religion. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

That truth did not stop the so-called political pundits from turning on and attacking Hannah Yeoh for weighing in on such truth matters within a pragmatic policy-making framework for guidelines or codes of conduct.

Therefore, I find that most black and white purists do not understand the grey areas in between which frame and form much of real-world politics. In their world of actors and clowns, they try to deploy their limited analytical capability (framed and formed with black-and-white glasses) to evaluate pictures with multiple colours.

They fail to understand the newer reality of multiple and merged media from the convergent technologies facilitated by the Internet-worked world as recorded by new media forms and formats.

I say shame to all of them as they fail to realise that if they have not truly and really been involved in the ‘pol-aspects’ of life and reality; they should not be so brazen to comment from their higher grounds of intellectual or academic worlds of ideas and ideals, but without reality.

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Politics today is the absolute deployment of power premised upon legal or legitimate authority, but which can be abused or abusing towards all other realities. That is made worse when media begin to take sides or close one eye towards newer evidence and newer modes of communicating with and capturing truths vide evidence.

Politics of strange bedfellows

Similarly, my moral and ethical question to the President of PAS is, why allow yourself to be apparently deceived by the UMNO leadership whom you publicly appear to go into bed with? Is such a cleansing of PAS now almost complete with the ridding of Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s son and introducing of your son as a replacement? Is this a new kind of nepotism we all cannot decry?

To our middle moderate Malaysians – how did we allow PAS to evolve such an ‘agenda-driven, party-dictated and clergy-owned interpretation of Islam’? Does their reason and logic have no place for thinking professionals in our non-secular model of governance?

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

When a sophisticated Jordan trained Islamic Scholar becomes a Bigot and Racist: Taking on the Malaysian Indians/Hindus


April 24. 2017

When a sophisticated Jordan trained Islamic Scholar becomes a Bigot and Racist: Taking on the Malaysian Indians/Hindus

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

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Dr Maza–Zakir Naik bootlicker

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but when a supposedly learned religious man makes an ‘incorrect’ analysis of another faith, the damage he causes is worse than if the remarks had come from an ignorant oaf.

Of all the muftis in Malaysia, the one from Perlis, Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (Maza), was considered the most progressive and respected, whose insights resonated with many Malaysians.

His views on Act 355 were applauded when he said that this ruse was just another political ploy by PAS and UMNO Baru. He disagreed with the use of khalwat squads to test people’s morality. He said that non-Muslims had a right to use the word ‘Allah’.

Maza opposed forced conversions of children, when one parent decided to convert to Islam. He blasted the syariah courts for taking years to reach a decision on divorce cases. He courted controversy when he said that religion should not be forced on Muslims.

Whilst Maza’s reputation soared, that of other muftis plummeted. The respect Maza enjoyed ended when he published his poem on Facebook last week. He allegedly claimed the Hindus worshipped cows and practised ‘suttee’.

Maza exposed his poor understanding of Hinduism and its practices. Hindus do not worship cows and suttee has been outlawed for almost two centuries. We cannot say the same about some ‘Muslim’ practices, like female genital mutilation.

Maza’s back-pedalling did not help him. First he said that his poem was directed at Narendra Modi, the nationalist prime minister of India. That simply exacerbated the problem, so he said that Malaysian Hindus should ignore his remarks, because they did not apply to them.

He also alluded to “our preacher” being handed over to a tyrannical government. Was he referring to Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim preacher who is purportedly seeking refuge in Malaysia to escape two arrest warrants issued by the Indian authorities? Why does Maza harbour a soft spot for Zakir, who seemingly likes to stoke religious fires amongst Malaysians?

Maza’s work and opinions are highly valued and sought after. He is also human and it is possible he made a mistake, and should apologise. The only positive aspect of Maza’s debacle is that he has put the spotlight on Malaysia’s marginalised Indian community.

When government-linked companies (GLCs) took over British rubber estates, they converted land into housing developments, golf courses and oil palm plantations. The displaced Indians drifted to urban areas to form Indian ghettos, which became breeding grounds for gangsters.

Bumiputra policies and quotas denied Indians access to education and work opportunities. Places in local universities were limited and Indian graduates claimed they face discrimination when applying for jobs.

Lack of self-confidence

With so much against them, is it any wonder that the Indian community suffers from a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, the highest rates of suicide and low performance in business, equity ownership and employment in professional sectors and the civil service?

A few have escaped the poverty trap, and at the other end of the social spectrum, there are many qualified and successful Indian professionals, who form a large proportion of the country’s top lawyers and doctors.

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Restrictions on places of worship mean that Hindu temples are forced to be built without planning permission. The Indians could only watch in silence when Hindu temples of historical and cultural importance were demolished.

In 2000, TimeAsia reported that Indians had the lowest share of the nation’s corporate wealth – 1.5 percent compared to 19.4 percent for the Malays and 38.5 percent for the Chinese.

In 2003, The Economist reported that Indian Malaysians comprised “14 percent of juvenile delinquents, 20 percent of wife and child abusers, 14 percent of its beggars, and that under 5 percent of successful university applicants were Indian.”

In 2011, the erstwhile MIC Deputy President, Dr S Subramaniam, claimed that Indians were ashamed of their community, were looked down upon by the other races, and that 45 percent of the country’s crimes involved Indians.

The Indians are viewed as an afterthought, because if Chinese or Malay communities were treated as badly, there would have been a severe backlash; but with Indians, the common response, is “Who cares? They are only Indians. Even their own politicians fail to promote their cause.”

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Zakir Naik granted PR status by Nalaysian authorities

Zakir Naik was granted permanent resident (PR) status, but many Indians remain stateless, and do not have birth certificates or identity cards. The Indians form the highest percentage of deaths, whilst in police custody. The poorest Indians survive on a ‘hand to mouth’ existence.

Ironically, Maza’s faux pas has highlighted the plight of Indian Malaysians/Hindus. Will he help make Malaysians understand that we cannot alienate the Indians? Issues which affect the Indian community are not solely an Indian problem; they are a Malaysian problem.

Trump’s militaristic Foreign Policy


April 22, 2017

Trump’s Militaristic Foreign Policy

by Carl Bilt

http://www.project-syndicate.org

Carl Bildt was Sweden’s foreign minister from 2006 to October 2014 and Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994, when he negotiated Sweden’s EU accession. A renowned international diplomat, he served as EU Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, UN Special Envoy to the Balkans, and Co-Chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference. He is Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe.

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After a series of foreign-policy U-turns, there is now talk of a “new” Donald Trump who is far more inclined to use military power than the Trump we saw during the 2016 US presidential campaign. That earlier Trump seemed to regard any use of US military force in Syria as pointless and dangerous, and called for the United States to ensconce itself behind new walls.

Now, suddenly, the Trump administration has launched a missile attack on one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air bases, hinted at taking military action against North Korea, and dropped the “mother of all bombs” on an Islamic State redoubt in Eastern Afghanistan. All of this was accompanied by tweets from the president himself, declaring that the US will pursue its own solutions to key issues if other countries do not offer to help.

The international community – including China – seemed to understand why the US would strike the Syrian air base from which a hideous chemical-weapons attack was launched. But the Trump administration is still following an “America first” agenda. Having awoken to global realities, the administration is now adjusting its policies, sometimes so abruptly that one might reasonably worry that diplomacy is taking a backseat to bombs and tweets.

That concern is reinforced by the dramatic cuts to the US State Department budget, and to US funding for the United Nations, that Trump has proposed. At the same time, many key positions in the US diplomatic apparatus remain unfilled. Even America’s friends recognize that this is a dangerous trajectory. Bombs can only destroy. To build lasting peace requires compromise and coalition building – in a word, diplomacy.

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Is Henry Kissinger doing deals with Donald Trump now that Hillary Clinton out  of the picture? The Butcher of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam is a much sought after Foreign Policy advisor. Trump is a danger to America and the rest of the world. –Din Merican

Another issue that demands diplomacy is North Korea, which is developing nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic weapons needed to deliver them. So far, Trump has tried to pressure China to find a solution, by threatening to take dramatic unilateral action if the Chinese fail to rein in their client. But whether the Trump administration actually has any specific strategy with respect to North Korea, or the means to realize it, remains unclear.

Beyond North Korea, the UN recently warned that the ongoing conflict in Yemen, which rarely makes headlines, is “rapidly pushing the country toward social, economic, and institutional collapse.” The humanitarian situation is already dire for 60% of Yemen’s 30 million inhabitants: an estimated seven million people could be close to famine; and almost 500,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition.

The war between Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-backed government and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rebel Houthi coalition has been raging for years, with no military breakthrough in sight. Former US President Barack Obama’s administration made repeated but futile efforts to broker a ceasefire; but it also reluctantly supported Saudi Arabia’s air campaign by supplying bombs. Trump appears set to provide such support far more eagerly.

One simplistic explanation for the Yemen conflict is that it was engineered by Iran. According to this view, US and Saudi intervention is meant to stymie the Islamic Republic’s geopolitical ambitions. And now that Trump has tacitly accepted the Iran nuclear deal, some of his advisers believe that it is necessary to apply pressure on Iran from elsewhere. As a result, US raids and sorties in Yemen have become more frequent in recent months.

But, in reality, Iran’s support for the Houthis is often exaggerated. And Iran, for its part, probably welcomes a scenario in which the US and Saudi Arabia are bogged down in the Yemen quagmire.

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After al-Qaeda in Yemen?

 Another possible justification for US engagement in Yemen is that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has found a foothold there. But AQAP thrives in an environment of destruction and despair, so there is little that can be done about the group so long as Yemen is being ripped apart by war.

Even as the UN issues stark warnings about an impending catastrophe in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition is preparing an offensive to capture the coastline around the port of Hodeida – a move that the International Crisis Group has warned would aggravate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

Rather than stepping up the fight, the US should be pursuing further diplomacy and humanitarian-aid efforts. Indeed, the latter go hand in hand with the former. And, after all, it was Hadi and the Saudis who rejected the UN’s last attempt to broker a ceasefire.

To resolve the conflict, the rebels and the government need to re-engage immediately with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, who has furnished a roadmap for talks. In addition, the UN Security Council should do its part to support a political solution, by adopting a long-overdue resolution demanding that both sides agree to an immediate ceasefire, grant access to humanitarian aid, and return to the negotiating table.

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A Yemeni Shite Rebel

Diplomacy will require that all parties compromise. No one – except, perhaps, Iran – has anything to gain from further escalation. If Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe leads to a total collapse, millions of desperate people might flee the country, enabling AQAP and other extremist organizations to profit from disorder and despair.

America’s re-engagement with the world should be welcomed, but not if the Trump administration continues to view conflicts solely through a military lens. Yes, fighting is sometimes necessary; but diplomacy always is. Nowhere is this more obvious than in places like Yemen. The complete collapse of yet another country is the last thing the world – including Trump – needs.

Xenophobic Najib Razak, where is Reverend Koh?


April 19, 2017

Malaysia: Xenophobic Najib Razak, where is Reverend Koh?

by Manjit Bhatia

http://www.newmandala.org

Manjit Bhatia asks who bears the answers to the Malaysian-Chinese Christian preacher’s disappearance.

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Is the Face of an Enlightened Leader or a Philosopher-King? No, he is known for the company he keeps

Eight weeks after the February 13 abduction of 62-year old Malaysian-Chinese Christian preacher Raymond Koh Keng Joo – in broad daylight on a busy outskirts Kuala Lumpur street – Malaysia’s Police still claim have no clue of his whereabouts. That’s in spite of nabbing a suspect six weeks ago who curiously, demanded only one-third of the $A29,500 offer for the pastor’s release.

Also curious: the kidnapping happened 70 meters from the Selangor state police building in Shah Alam. More curious still: it was filmed, as if the cameraman lay in wait, and the video was quickly uploaded to social media sites. By whom, nobody knows. Despite CCTV footage, Malaysia’s coppers can’t seem to identify the 10-15 criminals or their motive.

In Malaysia, where bigotry rules alongside traditional patrimonialism,  the   kidnapping hasn’t caused a ripple among Malaysians, who fear state retribution.  Religious xenophobia has been fueling political violence, especially as Muslims soon could be living under sharia and hudud – laws already before Parliament.

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So where is Reverend Koh?

So where is Koh? Is he alive? Or has he been killed? The case quickly became frigid. Police, however, are questioning Koh’s family and his “past”. Nothing unusual for Malaysia’s Police to pass the buck. But its history of unexplained deaths in custody speaks volumes about the rise of institutional criminality. So, too, the link between Police and Islamic authorities.  

Most early speculations about Koh’s kidnapping can be ruled out, including ransom demand by common thugs, and rogue military elements or Islamic terrorists having kidnapped the Christian pastor. The earliest speculation – that Koh is being held in a government gulag, undergoing “re-education” prior to his release – is improbable. It will give Koh opportunities to speak out. And the beleaguered UMNO regime wouldn’t chance its crooked arm on more damning exposés.

It’s no secret Koh has been proselytizing Christianity to Malay-Muslims while providing basic needs to all races, not just Malays, through his Komuniti Harapan charity. The gravest accusation against him is his converting Malays – a definite no-no in Muslim-majority Malaysia. To deter Koh, Islamic authorities raided one of Koh’s charity fundraising dinners. Koh also received a bullet in the mail.

Though one persistent speculation about Koh’s kidnapping won’t fizzle – his abduction was a calculated operation. The criminals drove black SUVs with heavily-tinted windows – the sort favoured by Malaysia’s Police. Several unmarked cars and motorcyclists accompanying the SUVs herded traffic procedurally like Police.

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If he does not care, why is he still Malaysia’s Top Cop?

The attackers wore hoods – attire favoured by Police on such operations. Recall 1998 when former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad ordered balaclava-clad police to invade the home of and arrest his ex-protégé Anwar Ibrahim. Recall also the murder of Mongolian socialite Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was blown up by army-grade C4 explosives in a jungle near Kuala Lumpur. The military-guarded explosives fell into her killers’ hands, two of whom were “high-level” Police bodyguards to VIPs.  

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Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister

Malaysia’s Police has a record of a slew of abuses of power and criminalities – from unexplained and uninvestigated deaths in their custody amounting to murder and abuse of human rights to extortion, racketeering and unbridled corruption. Locals aren’t surprised by any of the Police’s antics. In 2013, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, to whom the Police answer, praised the outlawed Malay criminals Tiga Line – without consequence to his position. It’s another sign of the growing criminalisation of Malaysia’s institutions by the ruling political elite and its doxy economic class.  

But Police wouldn’t have acted alone against Koh. JAKIM has been headlining Malaysia’s turn towards ultra-conservative religious intolerance. JAKIM is the federal Islamic religious department under Premier Najib Razak’s purview. JAKIM is renowned for its political ideology and racist recklessness. Like its lesser sister organisations JAIS and MAIS, JAKIM, with Najib’s blessings, has been actively pushing for the greater Sunni Arabist Islamisation of Malaysia, bankrolled by Saudi largesse.

JAKIM has banned Christians from using the term “allah” – apparently the exclusive preserve for Muslims. Since the 9/11 terrorists attacks, non-Islamic religious practices in Malaysia have been frowned upon, scrutinised and gradually proscribed through threats by Umno-funded ultra-rightwing racists, like dumping cow heads at Hindu temples and vandalising churches.

Besides the Police, Islamic bodies also help to anchor the Najib regime’s soft authoritarianism. In 2015 JAKIM’s junior partner JAIS, which operates in Selangor state and is answerable to the sultan, raided a Christian society warehouse. It confiscated mainly Malay-language bibles while police provided JAIS protection. JAIS escaped criminal charges but issued an edict against Christians using the “Allah” word.

Koh’s proselytisation of Christianity to Muslims and their conversion is no greater a crime than the UMNO regime’s band of Sunni Islamic “authorities” engaged in “body snatching”, mostly of deceased Hindus who are then proclaimed as Muslims and whose names show up on electoral rolls to protect the Najib regime’s moral bankruptcy and political illegitimacy and criminality. Police and JAKIM bear answers to Koh’s disappearance.

 Manjit Bhatia is an Australian research scholar who specialises in the economics and politics of Asia and international political economy. He is also research director of AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk consultancy.