Sam Rainsy’s moral dilemma


Sam Rainsy’s moral dilemma

“Sam Rainsy, as it currently stands, appears to be on the path to becoming a less formidable force than he once was. He is becoming no match for Prime Minister Hun Sen who continues to dominate Cambodian politics and deserves his role as a strong leader of Cambodia and the Kingdom’s peace builder, whether one agrees with it or not.”–Kimkong Heng

By Kimkong Heng

Sam Rainsy appears to be on the path to becoming a less formidable force than he once was. KT/Ven Rathavong

As Sam Rainsy vacillates between returning or not returning to Cambodia, one thing is certain – his integrity and reputation as head of the now-dissolved leading opposition party seem to be in tatters, argues Kimkong Heng.

Sam Rainsy, acting President of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), is facing a dilemma over his possible return to Cambodia. Living in self-imposed exile in France since 2016, he pledged to make a momentous return to Cambodia in 2019 to fight for real change and democracy.

He has appealed all Cambodians to rise up and join him as he prepares for his return to stand up against Prime Minister Hun Sen and to end what he perceives as Cambodia’s democratic backsliding. Sam Rainsy’s repeated calls for the military to disobey orders and for the Cambodian people to rise up to remove the elected prime minister from power have been condemned by the Cambodian government, many ordinary Cambodians, and senior members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen. They see Sam Rainsy’s incitement as a threat to Cambodia’s peace and stability.

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Recent rumours about Sam Rainsy’s return seem to have permeated Cambodian society. Many news reports and analyses have continuously appeared. While Sam Rainsy has again and again vowed to return to the Kingdom sometime in 2019, the CPP-led government has responded by implying that everything is ready for Sam Rainsy – the authorities are ready to arrest him and put him in prison for his convictions on defamation and other charges.

Sam Rainsy has even dared Prime Minister Hun Sen to a bet over the likelihood of the release of Kem Sokha, former CNRP president who was arrested in 2017 on charges of treason and is currently under house arrest while awaiting trial. Both, Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen, agreed to the terms of their political wager. If Sam Rainsy loses, he would return to Cambodia to face imprisonment and if he wins, Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to step down from power. Based on the current political development, Sam Rainsy is certain to lose; however, rather ironically, it is also certain that Sam Rainsy will not stick to the terms of the wager, one of his promises that he has repeatedly and expectedly broken.

Sam Rainsy’s integrity is now deteriorating, while he is also facing a moral and political dilemma. He vowed to return to Cambodia amid mounting international pressure on the Cambodian government. He might have seen this as the best time for him to make the pledge to return and resume his political career. However, he has recently said in a video interview with Radio Free Asia that he would only return at a favourable time. His change of mind clearly further undermines his already compromised integrity.

Sam Rainsy was dubbed as an “irresponsible politician” and “the people’s worst threat” in a recent opinion article in the Khmer Times. The author claimed that Sam Rainsy’s political record was “twenty years of vain attempts to inflict pain on Cambodians. To date, he has had zero success and it has all been just hot air.” The article also castigated Sam Rainsy for being a racist and ultranationalist demagogue. The CNRP’s acting president was also described as a “nation destroyer” by Hun Manet, the deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Late last month, political analyst Lao Mong Hay predicted that Sam Rainsy would face three scenarios if ever returned to Cambodia. He would either be jailed, beaten or killed. However, Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, denied the last two scenarios claiming that the predicted beating and killing of Sam Rainsy were possible only by the act of a “third hand” or perhaps by “a foreign power that does it to turn the situation chaotic in Cambodia in order to achieve their political agendas”.

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The predictions now appears to be credible, in particular following a leaked audio clip in which Prime Minister Hun Sen was heard calling for measures to weaken Sam Rainsy’s popularity and to dismantle the remaining networks of the opposition. In the leaked audio, the prime minister said that the authorities could use all means at their disposal to eliminate the opposition if there was resistance.

Despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to contain him and exterminate the remaining opposition, Sam Rainsy, defying Hun Sen threats, was once again reported vowing to return to Cambodia. His firm stance on his promised return, nonetheless, quickly altered just a few days later when he said his return would “depend on the situation”, referring to his hope for the Cambodian people or the military to rise up against Mr Hun Sen’s government, a hope that seems to be unrealistic, given a sense of calmness following the 2018 general election. Sam Rainsy may also hope that Western governments, the United States and European Union in particular, will support his return and his calls for change in Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy’s pledge for a 2019 return and his recent decision to set foot in Cambodia at a “favourable time”, not necessarily in 2019, clearly reflect his dilemma. He may be considering between making a return to fight for change in the face of imprisonment and living in exile to continue to call for more pressure on Cambodia from foreign governments but face further deterioration of his political career. Sam Rainsy may believe that 2019 is the most suitable time for his return, given the mounting pressure from the US and EU. He, however, may understand that his return will definitely result in him being arrested and imprisoned, if not worse. In the face of imprisonment, Sam Rainsy may opt for a “no-return” yet, as it is what he has tried to avoid imprisonment for years.

Thus, Sam Rainsy’s latest decision to return at a favourable time can arguably be seen as his rational choice since, before making a real return, he may have decided to wait for more international pressure on the Cambodian government, ideally until the EU completes its procedure to withdraw the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences from Cambodia. Alternatively, Sam Rainsy may wait until he is certain that his return would be supported by a substantial number of Cambodians, particularly those likely to be affected by the consequences of the EBA withdrawal if the suspension of Cambodia’s EBA status becomes the case.

Nevertheless, whatever Sam Rainsy is thinking and deciding, his frequent changes of mind and his promise-breaking streak do harm his integrity and reputation as head of the now-dissolved leading opposition party and render him irresponsible for his speech and actions. Consequently, albeit unwillingly, he is instilling trust issues into his supporters and the general Cambodian public. If he continues to break his promises and act inconsistently as he has done, his speech and actions will soon lose value and his calls will ultimately fall on deaf ears.

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Sam Rainsy, as it currently stands, appears to be on the path to becoming a less formidable force than he once was. He is becoming no match for Prime Minister Hun Sen who continues to dominate Cambodian politics and deserves his role as a strong leader of Cambodia and the Kingdom’s peace builder, whether one agrees with it or not.

Kimkong Heng is an Australia Awards Scholar and a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland.

 

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MALAYSIA: Mr. Prime Minister, At 93, you have made history. So, it is time to rise above politics. Be a Statesman


February 17,2019

MALAYSIA: Mr. Prime Minister, At 93, you have made history. So, it is time to rise above politics. Be a Statesman

Opinion  |by  Francis Paul Siah

 

COMMENT | At least, two English dailies have carried editorials on the ills plaguing Pakatan Harapan in recent days. This is not surprising at all. It is a given that all is not well in the nine-month-old Harapan government.

Some of my fellow Malaysiakini columnists have also waded into the issue and with good reasons too. I can agree with some of their pointers.

The parties at the centre of the storm are none other than Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his fledging Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

I am also guilty of criticising Mahathir over the past month. There were two issues I took exception to. The first was his decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country which ended their participation in the World Para-Swimming Championships originally scheduled to be held in Kuching this coming July.

The second was Bersatu’s intention to set up a chapter in Sabah, reneging on its pact before GE14 with Parti Warisan to not do so.

Yes, I am really disappointed with Tun Mahathir on these two fronts and I stand in total disagreement with him on these issues.

If public feedback on the social media can be taken as a yardstick, there is one which I would feedback to our Prime Minister, to inform him sincerely that his decision to bar the Israeli swimmers has triggered an international outcry. That decision has given Mahathir and Malaysia a bad Image.

My posting entitled ‘Sorry, Dr M, you don’t speak for Sarawak this time’ in the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) blog attracted a total of 31,755 unique visitors in a single day last January 28.

That was the highest number of visitors to our little NGO blog over the past eight months. Visitors were not only Malaysians but came from the US, Australia, other Asian nations, the UK and other European countries.

This is honest feedback to our Prime Minister. Many do not understand his strong anti-Semitic stand nor his inability to separate race,religion, politics from sports.

To speak from the heart, I feel bad for having to critique our Prime Minister at times and actually feel sorry for him. It’s not nice to speak unkindly of a man his age, no matter his wrongs, and especially so when I’m much younger than him. Guess we are only fallible humans.

This week, I sent this message to my WhatsApp list of friends: “I have been criticising Dr M in recent days so much so that I feel malu having to keep on hammering the grand old man. I am thinking of penning another piece to be titled ‘If I were Dr Mahathir today at 94 …’. Tell me what would you do if you were in his shoes at 94 today?”

Here are some of their responses. Let them be feedback to our Prime Minister for what they are worth.

Be a statesman

  • Tun Mahathir should forget politics. He is not seeking re-election. Concentrate on running the country and turn the economy around. At 94, time is not on his side. So, better hurry. When he is gone, nobody will remember him or his legacy. But the country must be in good hands. Be a statesman, not a politician. Act on a bold vision that the nation will rise to eschew narrow racial politics.
  • Malaysia will be in trouble if Mahathir harbours these three myths:
  • 1. I set the direction, my son will carry on; 2 The Malays are incorrigible ; but I must save them at whatever cost; and  3. Islam  and Muslims/Malays mustremain dominant in Malaysia forever.
  • First of all, I sympathise with Mahathir that he is running a Harapan government that is weak and saddled with a huge debt from the previous regime.
  • These cannot be resolved in three years. Meantime, the people, rural folk, in particular, are suffering from the high cost of living. Unemployment is a serious threat from belt-tightening. During the three years of rough journey to reform the sociopolitical imbroglio, whoever is the PM has to persuade the people to swallow their bitter medicine that will do good later. So you need to wish that Dr M is blessed with good health to continue what he set out to do for the sake of the nation.
  • Mahathir has to concede that Malaysia is in a dire state of decline in living standards. He has to move quickly to arrest that. This is a monumental challenge for any leader and it is incumbent upon Mahathir, as the Pprime minister, to do the job.
  • Put Najib behind bars first. Then bring in the rule of law […] if I were him.
  • Tun Mahathir is an extraordinary man. Not many will live up to 94. If I were him, I would take a break and relax.. I bet he is not aware there is a more beautiful and wholesome life out there, away from power and politics.
  • You should be awarded the “Nobel P***k Prize” for badgering Dr Mahathir. I like him. He is doing his best for the country. Please accord him more respect.

No more pussyfooting

So what is my own take “if I were Dr Mahathir today”? The first thing I would do is to stay far, far away from politics, resign as Bersatu chairperson and allow Muhyiddin Yassin and Mukhriz Mahathir to run the show.

I would not worry about my son’s ascension on the political hierarchy. I should know that the Mahathir name alone would carry my next few generations very well and ensure a bright future for them.

I would also stop meeting former UMNO lawmakers, including those from PAS. I would avoid them like the plague. I should know that when they want to meet me, they expect something. There is nothing such “parasites” could bring to the table to help Harapan improve anything in the country.

I would reshuffle my cabinet. The under-performing ministers should go. Nine months is enough time for them to prove themselves. By now, I should know that some are just not minister-material. A spring cleaning is in order.

I would stop antagonising my Harapan colleagues and start listening to their concerns about accepting ex-UMNO parasites. Saying that they have changed sounds so shallow and feeble. So is telling Shafie Apdal that Bersatu is going to Sabah to help him and Warisan. I should be aware that those statements sounded hollow, childish even.

I would make sure that my promise to Anwar Ibrahim to pass the baton to him two years after Harapan’s victory is fulfilled. No more pussyfooting around on this.My friend is right. Mahathir must stop being a politician. He has to be a statesman.

That is what many would want our current paramount leader to be. Even those of us who have criticised him would badly want him to succeed for the sake of the nation and the people as he enters the final lap of his illustrious political career.

May the One Above continue to bless our dear Dr Mahathir with good health and we all wish him many, many happy years ahead!


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH head the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

7, 2019

 

Cambodian Minister: Incident should serve as lesson for everyone


February 17, 2019

Cambodian minister: Incident should serve as lesson for everyone

Bernama  |  Published:

The incident involving 47 Malaysians detained at the Banteay Mancheay prison in Cambodia should serve as a lesson for everyone, said Special Duties Minister in the Cambodian Prime Minister’s Department Othsman Hassan.

He said such a mistake should not be repeated in the future as the lucrative salary offered was too good to be true.

“If it is true that such lucrative salary to be paid, certainly the Cambodians will be employed first,” he said this during the symbolic handover of 47 detainees from the Cambodian government to the Malaysia and Sarawak governments in Siem Reap today.

Othsman represented the Cambodian government while Malaysia and Sarawak were represented by Sarawak Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah.

Also present were Santubong MP Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Temporary Charge de Affairs at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh Ruzaimi Mohamad and director of the Sarawak regional office of the Foreign Ministry Deddy Faisal Ahmad Salleh.

Meanwhile, Fatimah expressed her gratitude to the Cambodian government for providing good cooperation to the Malaysian government during the negotiating process to bring home all the detainees.

“With the power of Almighty Allah we have met with people such as Datuk Othsman and his friends who are sincere in helping us to secure the release of the detainees, as well as the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Foreign Ministry secretary-general,” she said.

Fatimah said the Malaysian government was in the midst of arranging the transportation to bring all 47 Malaysians home.

“Initially, we are planning to bring them home in stages, but it is better if all can return home in one group,” she said.

 

MP Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat


February 16,2018

Nik Nazmi brings back memories of the Anwar-led 2008  Pakatan Rakyat

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad  the MP for Setiawangsa.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/464186?fbclid=IwAR25cGcttcKWep_VuYlXm9uT0Vhj3nuWoO3kgVCarZFwiZ2X8e8PkOTaVB0

Image result for Anwar-led 2008 Pakatan Rakyat

MP SPEAKS | This week, seven former UMNO MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.

It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging UMNO-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of UMNO and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from UMNO the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

Image result for Anwar-led 2008 General election anwar poster

Negara ini bukan  Tun Dr.Mahathir punya. Ini adalah Malaysia–Negara kita semua. 2008 GE Tagline–UBAH SEBELUM PARAH

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

Image result for dr syed husin ali

Dr.Syed Hussin Ali-The Intelletual behind PKR

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE-14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because they believed that Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope. What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

Image result for dr syed husin ali

As I have said many times before, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank UMNO and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust our defend our Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While UMNO and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

EU and ASEAN: Advancing partnership for sustainability


February 16, 2016

EU and ASEAN: Advancing partnership for sustainability

By Francisco Fontan

https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50578204/eu-and-asean-advancing-partnership-for-sustainability/

 

The EU–ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels on 21 January. Cooperation, solidarity and prosperity have long been the hallmark of the EU–ASEAN relationship.

As global stakeholders, the EU and ASEAN have the responsibility to advance the international rules-based order and preserve their ‘global commons’, writes Francisco Fontan.

Image result for Federica Mogherini,

In January I joined Federica Mogherini ( pic above), the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in Brussels as she co-chaired the 22nd EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. It was an impressive occasion, and the best attended such gathering anyone could remember, with almost all the ten ASEANan and twenty-eight EU member states represented by their Foreign Ministers. Brussels was preparing for its first big snowfall of the winter, but the reception we gave our ASEAN partners was a truly warm one.

The debate inside the room reflected the depth and breadth of our relations, from conflict in the Middle East, to the importance of the South China Sea and the Rohingya crisis, to promoting trade, investment, or higher education. Much was said but there was also a unity of purpose – a common desire to strengthen EU–ASEAN cooperation including in new areas such as combating unregulated fishing, or launching a new high level dialogue on environment and climate change, and an agreement in principle to upgrade our relations to a strategic partnership.

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As Ms Mogherini said after the meeting, this was “a recognition of the strategic nature of the partnership we already have in many fields. It was an important signal showing that the two most advanced and most successful integration processes in the world stand firmly behind multilateralism and a rules-based global order.”

Image result for Fr Vivian Balakrishnan

Or as her fellow co-chair Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEAN coordinator for EU relations put it “we take our partnership to a greater height, we will continue to explore new areas in which we can cooperate and learn from each other, such as cybersecurity, maritime security, connectivity and climate change.” A close and deep partnership between the EU and ASEAN is thus of strategic importance for both regional blocs.

We are certainly pivotal economic partners already. Our private sector is, by far, the first investor in ASEAN, holding a quarter of total stock in the region, and we are ASEAN’s second largest trading partner. The EU has concluded or is negotiating free trade and investment agreements with a number of Asean members, building blocks for an ambitious region-to-region trade and investment framework.

We are working hard to increase transport links and our overall connectivity. If – as I hope – we soon agree the first ever region-to-region Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, millions of our citizens will benefit and the travel and tourism industry in particular stands to make great gains. We can build on this and establish a comprehensive EU–Asean Connectivity Partnership. While some question globalisation and are retreating into economic nationalism, it is important that ASEAN and the EU together seek to bolster global links, make them work for all and show their true value to our shared prosperity.

And as ASEAN says, we can leave no one behind.

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The EU remains the largest donor to ASEAN, helping the organisation and your governments to reduce poverty and spread opportunity, with over 200 million euros ($225 million) in support of ASEAN regional integration and connectivity, on top of over 2 billion euros of bilateral assistance to ASEAN member states, and the direct efforts of our 28 EU member states. We will also continue to stand by you after each major natural disaster, from tsunamis to cyclones, putting victims’ needs above any other consideration.

Cooperation, solidarity and prosperity have long been the hallmarks of our relations. And while they remain so, the rapidly evolving international scene is leading us to focus more on key strategic issues. Our shared ambitions can only realise their full potential in a rules-based, peaceful and stable environment. This is what makes ASEAN so important for the EU in Asia – not just as a community of ten, but being also the core of the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, or the ADMM+ process. And this is where ASEAN and the EU are already rightly expanding their security cooperation – from trafficking in persons to cyber-crime, from maritime security to transnational crime and counter-terrorism.

No one can achieve these goals alone. And thankfully that is something else we agree on – the Foreign Ministers spent more time talking about the environment, climate change and sustainable development than anything else. We agreed to deliver together on our United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

As global stakeholders, the EU and ASEAN have the responsibility to advance the international rules-based order and preserve our “global commons.” I have been immensely privileged, as the EU’s First Ambassador to ASEAN, to have seen our strategic relationship go from strength to strength. I am confident that it has even further to run and that, together, we will play a leading role in developing the global responses needed for the challenges of tomorrow.

Francisco Fontan is European Union Ambassador to ASEAN.

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman


February 13, 2019

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

  Our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.—Siti Kasim.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

COMMENT | For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in this country.

Whether fighting for the rights of women, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and political operatives in the establishment.

While most Muslims who do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.

In this interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the established order of things, and continues in her efforts to save Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a real threat to their dominion.

Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in these partisan times.

Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma?

Yes, being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on how a Muslim woman should be.

How do you cope with the harassment you receive?

I try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.

What do you think is the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) role in the current charges against you?

I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note: This interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me by certain quarters within the government.

How do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking and believe that sanctions against you are justified?

You have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they have those, the country will be torn asunder.

Yet our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.

Malay-Muslims are participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with extreme conviction.

Does being a “liberal” Muslim who appeals to a certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the Islamic discourse?

It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has the word ‘liberal’ in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don’t depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.

Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?

No. They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and UMNO has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay votes.

We need to change this mindset by changing education to go back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays progressive and more developed in the 80s.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?

First, I’d like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The ‘Orang Asal’ term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang Asli is for those in the peninsula.

The Orang Asli are largely forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the dominant population.

Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own fate.

The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people – that is, as distinct groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring ‘government’ on a different basis from that of the other communities.

But, as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.

The issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct people.

Using the ‘land rights’ problem as a strategy for Orang Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of much social stress for the Orang Asli.

With the recent suit which our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government, it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being appointed when they came into power.

From our engagement with the current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.

Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?

They have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in more detail on this subject in my column soon.

Do you think it is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic transgressions or does this make the situation worse?

Yes. We need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology, every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.

Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?

No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.

Why do think “moderate” Muslims are afraid to speak up?

Just look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to scare away and silence many Muslims.

Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?

Under ideal conditions, the answer would have been ‘no’, but in our environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That should be their job. We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessar