This is why Lee Hsien Loong is so respected!


August 24, 2016

This is why Lee Hsien Loong is so respected–We in Malaysia can learn from LHL’s Leadership style (Din Merican): Singapore first before self

by Wan Wei

I’m proud of my Prime Minister! And how many citizens of the world can say that of their Prime Minister?–Wan Wei

This is why Lee Hsien Loong is so respected!

lhl

Wow, I was watching the live streaming of the National Day Rally 2016 from Helsinki, and my heart skipped a beat at this moment, when our Prime Minister basically paused awkwardly and felt ill.

Loong created by SE Wong

So today I just want to write a brief note about why Lee Hsien Loong (LHL), the Prime Minister of Singapore, is so respected in and outside of his own country.

It is because as the head of the little red dot, he really does put Singapore’s interest before his own.

Tonight GBA’s event is testimony of that– he could have chosen not to continue the speech. But knowing that this event would probably appear on the global press the next day (well, it IS a big deal that Singapore’s prime minister sort of “collapsed” briefly during its own National Day Rally), he had to and wanted to finish the speech.

And he did! 

The position of Prime Minister of Singapore–in spite of its perceived huge pay cheque– is hardly enviable. For one, Prime Minister LHL probably has to worry about the issues of this small country all the time– will we survive another 50 years? Will we be the next targets of terrorism? etc. It doesn’t take much for Singapore to suddenly perish as a country–after all, small cities have risen and vanished in the past.

Then anti-government folks always complain about lack of freedom of expression, lack of support for local arts/sports/entrepreneurship, lack of human rights in Singapore. Oh yes, and huge income gap of course. Then it is always the Prime Minister’s fault and of course the 69.9% (including me since I vote for PAP) who are blamed.

I don’t think the “Singapore system” will ever change in the next 20 years, but apparently for most Singaporeans, it works fine. And to head this system as Prime Minister with no doubt, with compassion and with the utmost mental strength is absolutely admirable.:)

Oh yes and as a sidenote, haha, LHL actually is a great photographer and coder as well. I’m proud of my Prime Minister! And how many citizens of the world can say that of their Prime Minister?

After South China Sea Ruling – Good Fences or Good Neighbours


August 22, 2016

After South China Sea Ruling – Good Fences or Good Neighbours: Implications for Maritime Boundaries

by Sam Bateman

https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/co16199-after-south-china-sea-ruling-good-fences-or-good-neighbours-implications-for-maritime-boundaries/#.V7q_CSRQTTp

The 12 July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling in The Hague has specified that there are no islands in the Spratly group capable of generating a full set of maritime zones. This has theoretically helped agreement on maritime boundaries in the South China Sea but many problems still remain.

Commentary

THE WORLD was a simpler place when countries could only claim a three nautical mile (nm) territorial sea. All this has changed. Countries now require maritime boundaries if they have territory within 400 nm of each other – and more where there is an entitlement to an outer continental shelf beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Maritime boundary-making is especially difficult in semi-enclosed seas, such as the South China Sea with numerous overlapping zones of jurisdiction. Few maritime boundaries have been agreed so far in the South China Sea. There are some continental shelf boundaries but few EEZ boundaries.

Good Fences or Good Neighbours?

Despite the old adage that “good fences make good neighbours”, sometimes it is impossible, for a variety of reasons, to build good “fences” in the sea. Agreement on further boundaries in the South China Sea is complicated by geography with the mainland states of China and Vietnam looking across to the offshore states of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and the consequent need for tri-points where pairs of bilateral boundaries intersect. The extant claim by the Philippines to Sabah also prevents boundary agreements between Malaysia and the Philippines.

While the recent ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague on the dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea has theoretically “cleared the air” with some aspects of maritime boundary-making, in practical terms it may not have helped the situation.

Islands and Rocks

The surprising feature of the ruling was the judgment that there are no “fully entitled” islands in the Spratlys. There are numerous ramifications of this judgment, including for the status of other islands in the South China Sea. Islands in both the Paracel and Pratas groups are much larger than in the Spratlys and likely to satisfy the criteria to be regarded as “fully entitled” islands. Maritime boundaries near the Paracels are also not possible while sovereignty over this group is disputed between China and Vietnam.

Theoretically the ruling that there are only ‘rocks’ in the Spratlys provides a basis for a system of EEZ boundaries in the South China Sea with a number of enclaved territorial seas around the “rocks”.

There may even be a patch of high seas in the middle of the sea although this may be closed off in part by the outer continental shelf claims by Vietnam and Malaysia. Vietnam could also help “clear the air”, as well as bolster ASEAN solidarity, by dropping its claim to features within the EEZs of Malaysia and the Philippines.

Complications

The importance the tribunal attached to EEZ jurisdiction may reinforce the nationalistic attitude the littoral states attach to their EEZs. They will be looking for “fences in the sea” rather than recognising that maritime boundaries are not an end in themselves but rather a means of effectively managing maritime space. This should be the basic objective of all the littoral states to the South China Sea. It is also their obligation under Part IX of UNCLOS dealing with cooperation in semi-enclosed seas.

There are other issues which complicate maritime boundary agreements in the South China Sea. Negotiation and adoption of a maritime boundary is fundamentally political, and the politics of maritime boundary-making restricts effective governance of the South China Sea. A country’s negotiators will be influenced by national sentiment and reluctant to concede sovereignty or sovereign rights over maritime space that the community regards, rightly or wrongly, as part of their own country.

Unfortunately this is the situation now in the South China Sea where the national media of claimant countries, including the Chinese media, have given wide coverage to the disputes. The recent ruling may reinforce these sentiments.

Another issue in determining maritime boundaries in the South China Sea is whether or not EEZ and continental shelf boundaries should coincide. Different approaches to this issue are evident around the world, depending as much as anything on the state of the bilateral relationship between the neighbouring countries. If the relationship is sound, overlapping jurisdiction may be feasible, but if it is not, the parties are unlikely to achieve the necessary level of agreement and cooperation.

While the general trend is to have coincident continental shelf and EEZ boundaries, this is not always possible, and states with overlapping claims may adopt separate boundaries for the EEZ and the continental shelf. This may be the case where a continental shelf boundary was agreed, largely on the basis of geological considerations, prior to wide acceptance of the EEZ regime under UNCLOS.

This issue is already a problem in the South China Sea where Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed a continental shelf boundary east of the Natuna islands, but no EEZ boundary. Malaysia wants the EEZ and continental shelf boundaries to coincide, but this is opposed by Indonesia. Similarly, Indonesia and Vietnam have agreed a continental shelf boundary but no EEZ boundary.

Need for Changed Mindsets

The South China Sea situation will only be settled when the bordering countries change their mindsets from one of sovereignty, sole ownership of resources and seeking “fences in the sea” (i.e. establishing maritime boundaries between neighbouring countries) to one of functional cooperation and cooperative management.

A cooperative management regime is the only solution to the problems of the South China Sea. The most acceptable framework for such a regime would be a web of provisional arrangements covering cooperation for different functions with perhaps even different areas for each function.

These functions include joint development of oil and gas resources, fisheries management, marine safety, marine scientific research, good order at sea, and preservation and protection of the marine environment. Regardless of whether or not maritime boundaries are agreed, urgent safety, resource and environmental problems dictate the need for increased dialogue and cooperation.

About the Author

Sam Bateman is an Advisor in the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is a former Australian naval commodore with research interests in regimes for good order at sea.

Malaysia: No end to discrimination of the Other


August 19, 2016

Malaysia: No end to discrimination of the Other

by Farouk A. Peru

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

One of the most despairing things I dread reading every year is news on how members of the rakyat are denied their rightful places at local universities.

They do everything right, tick all the boxes but when it comes to reaping the fruits of their labour, they are short changed. Instead, their rightful places are given to Bumiputera students. Those whose grades are good but not comparable to those who score stellar grades but are not of Bumiputera status. My question to my fellow Bumis is this: Can we live with ourselves while supporting this policy?

I was moved last Saturday when I read the plight of a young Indian woman. She scored straight As in her UPSR and PMR. In her SPM, she did equally well and she was also a high achiever in her extracurricular activities. Yet she was denied a place to do dentistry and was offered a place to do bio-medical engineering.

Some may say she has a lot to be grateful for and I would agree but that is hardly the point. The point is rather to ask the question: “Is she getting what she deserves?” Would she get the same offer if she was a Bumiputera?

If we are indeed practising pure meritocracy, then the only way this young woman would be denied her place is if there were other candidates with equally perfect scores and who did equally well in extracurricular activities. This is highly doubtful. What is probably the case here is that she is the victim of the racially segregating quota system. Her non-Bumi status had put her at a disadvantage.

As a Malay-Muslim, I am appalled by such policies. It is not because I do not want people of my own socio-culture to progress. Of course I do and we have over the decades. There is now a clear strata in Malay-Muslim society who are highly educated professionals and clearly above and beyond the abysmal politics of UMNO and PAS.

However, the majority of us are still clinging to the crutches to which we have acclimatised ourselves over this time. Remember the protest by UITM students when it was suggested non-Bumis be allowed entry? It is that kind of mentality that impedes Malay-Muslims from achieving further progress.

Then there is the matter of religion. As Malay-Muslims, our Islamic identity is becoming increasingly important to us.

In Malaysia, we are proud of our high place in the Islamic index. We have grand mosques and our lifestyles are becoming more and more Arabicised (or Islamised, as the priesthood would have us believe). But are segregating Bumiputera policies actually Islamic?

Let us consider the following: The Quran is replete with commands to believers to perform acts of goodness. In no less than four places (Chapter 2 Verse 83, 4/36, 6/151 and 17/23), this command is connected with the actual worship of Allah which is the main point of the Quran.

Yet, in not a single of these commands is there a pre-condition that good deeds be towards believers or even Muslims. Rather, good deeds are generally to parents (not one’s own necessarily but parents in general), near neighbours, orphans, the socially stagnant and travellers.

Not only that, there is an entire chapter of the Quran (Chapter 83, Al-Muthaffifeen) which is dedicated to the event in which all our deeds is accounted for. The eponymous “muthaffifeen” is a unique word used only once in the first verse of this chapter.

It refers to people who extract a particular measure of benefit but refuse to give the full measure of effort required. Needless to say, the Quran is against such an act. It tells us that we will made to pay for this sin on Judgement Day.

So while we expect non-Muslim Malaysians to contribute to the development of the nation, we refuse to give them equal rights. We will have to answer for this disparity on the day of reckoning, according to the Quran.

It is very clear from these and numerous other principles from the Quran that there is simply no justification for racialised policies. Yet, we have not even heard a peep from the Islamic priesthood about them.

While they are busy pronouncing Pokemon Go as forbidden and making sure wives submit to their husbands even while riding on camels, they are deafeningly silent on this very fundamental teaching of the Quran. I urge Malay Muslims to ask these priests at every opportunity.

Malay Muslims need to realise that these preferential policies not only hurt our relationship with the rakyat, they also compromise our religion as well as our capacity for competition. The sooner we let go of these policies, the sooner we can take our place as members of the rakyat alongside the others.

The Horrors of the War in Syria– Failure of Diplomacy


August 18, 2016

The Horrors of the War in Syria–Failure of Diplomacy

by Elle Hunt

http://www.theguardian.com

A photograph of a boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo has highlighted the desperation of the Syrian civil war and the struggle for control of the city. The child has been identified as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was injured late on Wednesday in a military strike on the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood.

The startling image shows him covered head to toe with dust and so disoriented that he seems barely aware of an open wound on his forehead. He was taken to a hospital known as M10 and later discharged.

The image is a still from a video filmed and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre. The anti-government activist group has been contacted to confirm details about when and where the footage was shot. The group posted the clip to YouTube late on Wednesday, shortly after Omran was injured.

The fight for control of Aleppo has intensified in recent weeks following gains made by rebel groups battling the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

The fighting has frustrated the UN’s efforts to fulfil its humanitarian mandate, and the world body’s special envoy to Syria on Thursday cut short a meeting of the ad hoc committee chaired by Russia and the United States tasked with deescalating the violence so that relief can reach beleaguered civilians.

The UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said there was “no sense” in holding the meeting in light of the obstacles to delivering aid. The UN is hoping to secure a 48-hour pause in the fighting in Aleppo.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/18/boy-in-the-ambulance-image-emerges-syrian-child-aleppo-rubble?CMP=soc_567

Book Review: ‘War Porn’


August 10, 2016

Review: ‘War Porn’ Widens the Field of Vision About the Costs in Iraq

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey


August 8, 2016

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey

by Zainah Anwar

http://www.thestar.com.my

WHERE is the light and hope for change in the Muslim world today? The Arab Spring of five years ago has turned into an endless winter of despair.

The optimism of a long-awaited democratic transformation in the Middle East brings us today authoritarian rule in Egypt, civil war in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and the barbarism of Islamic State (IS) on the global stage. Only Tunisia remains a source for hope with a peaceful democratic change of government, and an active civil society determined to push the reform process forward.

But what is even sadder is that the two Muslim countries that many Arabs saw as models of the kind of democratic developmental state they aspired to in 2011 are also today in turmoil.

Turkey and Malaysia are no longer a source of hope to the Muslim world as their leaders become mired in political and financial turbulence and their governing institutions undermined.

In 2011, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey went to Egypt and promoted the compatibility of  Islam with democracy and pluralism. He presented his party and government as the model that Arabs should be looking to emulate. The world welcomed the success story he was touting.

Similarly, Malaysia’s success story in economic development and a political framework to govern an ethnically divided society was another model touted to the Arabs to follow.

But how fast hopes are dashed. Even before the failed military coup, Turkey was already isolated in the Middle East as Erdogan was accused of taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, and aligning himself with conservative forces, and undermining his own rhetoric on democracy, pluralism, and rule of law.

And now, Turkey is in chaos as all major institutions of government, judiciary, military, police, schools, universities and media outlets have been purged of much of their leadership and staff or forced to shut down.  A party and its leader that had aspired to turn Turkey into a global player and leader of the Muslim world as the country approaches 2023, the 100th  anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, is today decidedly authoritarian, and wrecked with instability and uncertainty.

Erdogan’s grandiose Vision 2023 seems illusory in the light of a colossal purge of tens of thousands of leaders and personnel that will have long term effects on its people and its governing institutions. How do you rebuild and bring together a country ripped apart at all levels towards your vision of a Grand Turkey by 2023?

In Malaysia, the politics of race and religion is the only antidote this government knows to counter the avalanche of evidence of malfeasance in office. This government has all but abandoned any pretence at pursuing a reform agenda to address long festering disgruntlement among the urban middle class and its eroding popular support.

As he took office in 2009, the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia ominously warned his party to change or perish. He called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separate us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed.

But the top news story on the BBC World service on August 1 ominously implied that Malaysia was heading the way of Turkey. From the promise of reform in 2009, we have instead adopted the National Security Council Act which gives the Prime Minister unprecedented powers to declare security zones where troops may be deployed, citizens may be evacuated, search and arrest can be made without a warrant, curfew can be imposed, force can be justified and inquest into deaths can be dispensed with. And no judicial action can be instituted against any act of the National Security Council.

A leader who knew if the party did not change it would perish in 2009 found little courage nor will to bring real change. For the first time in its history, it lost popular support winning less than 50% of the votes in the 2013 general elections and it performed from bad to worse in two successive elections.

The signals are clear. The last poll conducted by the Merdeka Centre in October 2015 saw support for the government among Malays down to an unprecedented 31%, plummeting from 52% in January that year. The government’s overall approval rating also nose dived to 23%, the lowest ever since polling began in 2012. In 2013, the Barisan Nasional went into the general elections with a 43% approval rating and saw its worst electoral performance ever.

If at all, things have gotten from bad to worse since then as investigations into 1MDB and individuals and companies linked to it in the United States, Singapore,

Switzerland, Hong Kong, and reportedly six other countries promise to reveal more evidence documenting all manner of violations and transgressions. Now, if only the Barisan can look at the transformation that has taken place in Taiwan and South Korea.

It is possible for strong and dominant ruling parties in the face of defeat to transform themselves, embrace democratic values, remain a major force in a new democratic era, and even win again in freer and fairer elections.

But by now, we know this government and its leadership is devoid of will and courage to do what is right, even for its own long-term survival.

So is the only alternative then a headlong plunge into emergency rule? Are the Red Shirts priming for chaos should Bersih 5.0 take place, thus providing the perfect opportunity to declare an “emergency” in all but name and elevate the National Security Council into power?

As desperate citizens and civil society gather together to prevent what they see as the inevitable, is there any institution that they can depend on to do what is right for this country before we lose forever the path – no matter how flawed – so painstakingly negotiated and treaded by our past leaders?