2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to ICAN–Congratulations

October  7, 2017

2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to ICAN–Congratulations

by Robin Wright


Image result for Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director


The dreamers won. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is still so green that, when the call came from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the group initially thought it was a prank. But, in the middle of two brewing crises over nuclear weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to a global coalition of young activists who defied the United States and the eight other nuclear powers this summer to win support at the United Nations for the first treaty to ban the world’s deadliest weapon.

With dogged determination, ICAN, which was formed just a decade ago, generated support from more than a hundred and twenty countries for the landmark accord. Fifty-three nations have signed it since the formal process began, on September 20th.

The Trump Administration led a boycott of talks on the ICAN initiative at the United Nations last spring. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

The Nobel committee cited ICAN, which is based in Geneva, for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

Arms-control advocates were jubilant on Friday. “A stunning achievement with profound impact on global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons,” Joseph Cirincione, the President of the Ploughshares Fund, told me. “No one but the members of ICAN thought they could succeed. They are dreamers in the best sense, people with a big vision and a big plan to match. Think John Lennon.” The Nobel committee’s message is clear, he said. “All nine nuclear-armed states are building more and newer nuclear weapons. The risk of nuclear war is at its highest level since the early nineteen-eighties, with impulsive, unstable leaders elevating the role of nuclear weapons in their strategies and playing nuclear chicken in Northeast Asia. The committee hopes that if the great nations won’t eliminate the one weapon that can destroy humanity, then the people themselves must force them to do so.”

In a statement, ICAN described the prize as “a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.”

In a video, Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director (pic above), described how she thought the call from the Nobel committee was a joke. “You just get so nervous that it’s not real. So, it wasn’t until the actual broadcast, when she spoke the name ICAN, that we really understood that it was real,” she said, shortly after the news broke. Asked if she thought the treaty or the Nobel Prize would change the minds of the world’s nuclear powers, she said, “It doesn’t work like that. The treaty is meant to make it harder to justify nuclear weapons, to make it uncomfortable for states to continue with the status quo, to put more pressure on them. That isn’t going to happen overnight, of course. But it is a huge boost to all the people who worked on this issue for a very long time, the new generations who are mobilizing around this issue, through our campaign and other work. It’s a huge signal that this is worthy to work on and this is needed and appreciated.”

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Beatrice Fihn, left, Executive Director of the International campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Actor and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas, right.

The Nobel decision comes amid growing tensions between the United States and North Korea, which this year has tested both a nuclear bomb and new missile-delivery systems. President Trump has repeatedly vowed that North Korea cannot be allowed to keep its advanced-weaponry program. Last month, he warned Kim Jong Un, whom Trump nicknamed “little Rocket Man,” that the military option is on the table to contain Pyongyang’s ambitions.

The Trump Administration will also unveil its strategy next week regarding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, negotiated between Iran and the world’s six major powers. President Trump is expected to announce that Tehran is not fully conforming to the “spirit” of the accord, even though the U.N.’s nuclear-watchdog agency has repeatedly reported that Iran has fully complied with the deal’s restrictions. The move would endanger the deal but not automatically kill it. It would open the way for Congress to re-impose the economic sanctions lifted as part of the agreement—and put Washington and Tehran on a collision course.

The Nobel Prize was not a message to the Trump Administration, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told reporters on Friday. “We’re not kicking anyone in the legs with this prize,” she said. Instead, it was to offer “encouragement” to all parties engaged in disarmament initiatives. The Nobel committee also recognized that a formal ban—enshrined in the treaty promoted by ICAN—would “not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear-ban treaty.”

Yet ICAN has generated growing support among non-governmental groups—now totaling four hundred and sixty-eight disarmament, humanitarian, and environment organizations worldwide—since it was founded on a shoestring in 2007. The movement began in Australia but formally launched in Vienna.

Fihn, who is Swedish, said the movement was inspired by a similar coalition that mobilized support for a treaty to ban land mines. The U.S.-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and its American coördinator, Jody Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The land-mine treaty has been signed by the vast majority of U.N. members, although the big three—the United States, Russia, and China—have spurned it. Campaigns by civil society and grassroots movements have a growing profile on global issues—from the environment and human rights to the regulation or elimination of other weapons of mass destruction, despite pushback from major powers.

The new Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was voted on in July, prohibits nations from “developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons.” It also prohibits assisting, encouraging, or inducing any country to engage in these activities.

Any country that commits to destroy its nuclear weapons—in a legally binding and time-bound plan—is eligible to join. All nine nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israeli, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—have directly or implicitly rejected the treaty, which will not take force until fifty countries ratify it, the step after signing it.

“The ceremony to open signatures on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came a day after Donald Trump vowed to totally destroy North Korea if they attacked, which was followed by additional nuclear threats from North Korea,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, in Washington, told me. “At a time when nuclear dangers and tensions are rising, ICAN’s call to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons — and the Nobel Prize itself—is the appropriate rejoinder to those governments and leaders who continue to promote the role and potential use of these mass-terror weapons in the twenty-first century.”

ASEAN and women: Dealing with Gender

October 6, 2017

ASEAN and women: Dealing with Gender

by Kelly Gerard


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ASEAN countries are characterised by gender inequalities. With the exception of Lao PDR, women participate less than men in the workforce, with this gap greatest in the Philippines and Malaysia. Women are also far more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment across the region, and to be contributing unpaid labour to domestic work.

On political representation, all countries have far fewer women than men in parliament. All fail to meet the 30% threshold advised in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Gendered inequalities are captured most intently in the region’s high levels of violence against women. Over 40% of women experience gender-based violence. UN Women reports that gender inequalities, and an entrenched acceptance of men’s power over women, foster an environment in which violence against women is accepted and normalised. Eliminating violence against women, then, requires tackling the drivers of gender inequalities, and this means action on a variety of different fronts.

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The ASEAN Economic Community, however, is projected to intensify these inequalities. It was signed into existence in December 2015, with the objective of building an integrated market in Southeast Asia, with 622 million people and an economy of US$2.6 trillion. But regulatory reforms to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods, services, labour and capital are anticipated to negatively impact women. With a gender-segmented labour market and inequalities in labour market participation rates and the care economy, women are to be excluded from those sectors that are projected to grow.

A report published by the ASEAN Secretariat has consequently called for “targeted interventions”, and women’s empowerment has received support from ASEAN and beyond. Even President Duterte—who told soldiers they could rape women with impunity in the conflict against IS in Marawi—has noted the importance of this agenda in ASEAN.

ASEAN’s support for empowering women is characteristic of its broader reform since the late 1990s, after decades of being known as a “club of dictators”. Policymakers committed to the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, enshrined in pivotal agreements such as the ASEAN Charter. These commitments raise questions, given the tactics employed by both authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes to silence dissent.

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The main agency for tackling gender inequalities is the ASEAN Commission on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), established in 2010. It brings together representatives from diverse backgrounds to negotiate regional standards and norms on women’s and children’s rights.

But this network has key flaws. It has been established as a ‘Commission’ rather than a ‘Committee’, meaning its representatives do not necessarily have the capacity to influence domestic policy. The lack of clarity in its relationships with related networks, notably the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, has created challenges in defining distinct work plans and activities. Finally, the bundling of women’s and children’s rights is a highly paternalistic approach, with these issues requiring distinct policy responses. So while gender equality has received support within ASEAN, the key agency for this issue is constrained from doing so.

Support for tackling gender inequalities has also come from donors, development institutions, and companies. For example, the Japan ASEAN Women Empowerment Fund was established in 2016 by Japanese aid agencies and Blue Orchard, a microfinance intermediary, to invest US$120 million in “female micro entrepreneurs”.

Like women’s empowerment initiatives across the globe, the focus has been on increasing women’s market competitiveness. This is captured in the majority of projects focusing on women’s economic empowerment, and within this sphere, access to markets, finance, skills training, and business development services.

Seeking to economically empower women by improving their ability to compete in markets is problematic. It reflects an understanding of markets as neutral spaces, overlooking how markets can exacerbate inequalities and reproduce patterns of exclusion or discrimination. There is also only limited evidence indicating that dominant project types do economically empower women.

Finally, by promoting individualising measures to address structural challenges, these projects fail to address the complex interplay of institutional, cultural, economic and political factors through which women are discriminated against in workplaces, in politics, in public life, and in the home. These may be explicit, such as divorce laws that are gender-biased. They may also be implicit, where institutions are gender-neutral on paper but gender-biased in practice—such as the Indonesian government subjecting female police recruits to virginity tests to apparently ensure the morality of applicants.

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Tackling gender inequalities requires collective responses. Women’s empowerment projects could do this by building movements for gender equality, rather than shifting the burden onto individual women. For example, seeking to build alliances—such as between women’s groups and trade unions—would reframe the high number of women in vulnerable employment as connected to poor working conditions, and drive targeted policy responses.

Much potential lies in the increased funding for women’s empowerment in Southeast Asia. Moreover, support from ASEAN has created a crucial leverage point for advocacy, while its reorganisation has established new spaces for advancing gender equality. The challenge now is developing holistic, and effective, approaches to women’s empowerment: substantively empowering women by building collective responses to eliminating discriminatory structures and practices.

Dr Kelly Gerard is a senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia. Her research has focused on the political economy of development policy in Southeast Asia, specifically civil society organisations’ attempts to shape the ASEAN Economic Community.

This post is based on the content of her keynote speech at the 2017 ASEAN forum hosted by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney.


Remaining Silent is no longer an Option, say Johan Ariffin, Art Harun and Zaid Ibrahim

October 4, 2017

Remaining Silent is no longer an Option, say Johan Ariffin, Art Harun and Zaid Ibrahim


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Keeping silent is no longer an option, a member of the G25 group of prominent Malays (ex-Civil Servants mainly) said today.

Johan Ariffin (pic above), in saying that he empathised with human rights lawyer Azhar Harun (better known as Art Harun), said he understood his frustrations.

The former Deputy Director of the Sabah Foundation said the call for action does not have to be violent or aggressive. It could be in the form of a pressure group to express their displeasure, using the right channels.

“The so called ‘silent majority’ have been silent for too long. They are the first to complain while sitting in their comfort zones.

“Whatever happens, they are all affected by the current political, economic and religious over-zealousness on the part of the authorities.

“Perhaps they fear losing their jobs or business by speaking out. But they must remember their future is at stake here and their comfort is just short term,” he told FMT.

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Johan was asked to comment on Art’s Facebook post yesterday, where he voiced out his frustration at the lack of gumption by the silent majority in the country to make a stand.

Alluding to the sense of apathy among a majority of Malaysians over issues affecting their lives, Art had said “the silent majority is a wasteland”.

‘Nothing to glue the nation as a people’

Former Minister Zaid Ibrahim also concurred with Art’s observations, but lamented that Malaysia was a nation devoid of common aspirations, values and morality.

Zaid said there was nothing to glue the nation as a people, and there were many whose priority is defending God, “as if God needs it on a daily basis”.

Image result for Zaid IbrahimZaid Ibrahim and  Turkish Public Intellectual Mustafa Akyol


“They are not interested in the human condition and the values of humanity.Then there are others who value money and positions above everything else. Political leadership does not provide guidance. Naturally, it becomes a quest for the selfish interests of the group, and to each his own becomes the norm.”

Zaid believes Malaysians have partly become who they are due to the education system and “what we teach the young”.

“The selfishness of the majority is also blinkered by material desires.It would be hard to break the cycle until the political leadership sees the light,” he said.

Art had also criticised those whom he said had chosen to remain out of the picture, saying they should stop complaining.

“And while you are what you have voluntarily and consciously chosen to be, stop your whining and get back to bed.”


The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide

September 30, 2017

Book Review:

The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide

by James T Davies@www.newmandala.org

Image result for The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide Azeem Ibrahim

Newborn babies crushed under the weight of a soldier’s heavy boot. Children having their throats slit as they try to protect their mothers from rape by security forces. Women and girls facing rape or sexual assault and humiliation. The elderly and infirm burnt alive in their homes. 1,000 killed and another 75,000 displaced to Bangladesh. These atrocities were documented in a disturbing February 2017 United Nations report which concluded that they are ‘very likely to amount to crimes against humanity. More recently, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Yanghee Lee has named them ‘definite crimes against humanity’.

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The most recent reports have not emerged in a vacuum. In 2015, the Yale Law School found ‘strong evidence of genocide against the Rohingya’. The same year, the International State Crime Initiative from the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London concluded that genocide was taking place in Myanmar. In 2013, Human Rights Watch identified crimes against the Rohingya which it argued amounted to ethnic cleansing.

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The government of Myanmar has denied this charge. U Win Htein, a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s now more than one year old National League for Democracy (NLD) government, rejects claims of crimes against humanity, and says this is an internal affair that has been exaggerated. This rhetoric is eerily close to that of the previous governments that the NLD vowed departure from.

Certainly, this is not a popular concern domestically. The Rohingya are not recognised in Myanmar, and are instead called Bengali. Their history in Rakhine State and rights to citizenship are heated issues of contention. While the NLD has appointed several commissions to investigate the situation in Rakhine State, they are lacking either the mandate or capacity to deal with the situation that has arisen since October 2016.

Given this, there is a need for an accessible publication which brings together the complex history and discussion of the increasingly brutal persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar today. Unfortunately, Azeem Ibrahim’s The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide is not that book. Instead it is hastily written and poorly considered, offering an inaccurate rehashing of history, no new arguments and a failure to engage with current debates.

Image result for The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide Azeem Ibrahim

A large section of the book summarises convenient arguments from the contentious debate over the origins of the Muslim community in Rakhine State and the Rohingya ethnic label, despite recognising that the discussion is peripheral. There are numerous factual errors throughout not just this section but the whole book, such as the claim that most rulers of the Arakanese Mrauk U dynasty were Muslim (p. 24). There are other claims which would be significant if any evidence was provided. Rather, unreferenced passages assert that the 1784 Burmese invasion of Arakan was ‘in part as there were so many Muslims in Arakan’ (p. 65); and that the British never used the term ‘Rohingya’ in their records because the administration was in the habit of categorising the population by religion, not ethnicity (p. 31) — the latter simply an untenable statement. Errors such as these are surprising, given the author’s extensive academic qualifications.

There is little discussion of genocide before the reader arrives at the chapter devoted to the topic. Here, we find that the book is not actually arguing that there is genocide underway, but that the Rohingya are ‘on the brink of genocide’ (p. 99).

While invoking the term genocide is sure to attract interest, the discussion is lacking in depth. The 2015 Yale Law School report noted, significantly, that it was difficult to establish intent for genocide on the part of the Myanmar state. However, this book does not engage with this report or the question of intent, despite it being crucial to any allegation of genocide. Instead, outcome appears to be equated with intent. The overwhelming focus on the crime of genocide could perhaps have been substituted with a discussion of other crimes against humanity in relation to the Rohingya, as noted by the UN and others.

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One of the most striking flaws of the book is its failure to consider Rakhine perspectives. This is reflected not only in the considerable confusion and misinformation about contemporary Rakhine political parties (p. 121). The author appears to have spent very little time in either Rakhine State or Yangon, and not to have consulted the Rakhine communities who have long lived alongside the Rohingya. In a chapter devoted to solutions there is little mention of the Rakhine, despite the fact that any resolution must include both communities. Instead, solutions offered refer primarily to international pressure, reflecting the publication’s target audience.

In this respect, the book makes an important point about the failure of the international community to address this issue. Western governments’ vision of what is occurring in Myanmar has been blurred by their ‘indulgence’ of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, the book argues (p. 133). There is a reluctance to pressure her government, which was hailed in the US as a foreign policy success of the Obama administration. Ibrahim pushes back both against the argument that Aung San Suu Kyi is doing her best as well as claims that the plight of the Rohingya is a hiccup to be expected during a difficult transition from military rule to democracy. The book rightly notes that such a perspective flies in the face of evidence that Aung San Suu Kyi has proved herself unwilling to show leadership and to prioritise the Rohingya issue — and that ultimately she must hold responsibility.

Therefore, the book argues, international pressure is going to be crucial for the Rohingya. We are told via a ‘Media Pack’ on Ibrahim’s website that he has an address book to rival a Prime Minister’s. If the book serves to bring attention to this desperate situation, then it may redeem itself somewhat.

James T Davies is a PhD candidate researching Myanmar at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.


MAS Fleet Modernization–Massive Investment for Malaysia

September 19, 2017

COMMENT: Managing a national airline is demanding business. Buying  and selling planes is an integral part of it.  Buying an aircraft, in my opinion, is not like buying groceries in a supermarket.  It involves judicious financial and technical evaluation. Planes have to be replaced from time to time and old ones sold. Safety of passengers is always a major consideration and that is why we should not make a political issue of the recent announcement by the Prime Minister Naib Razak in Washington DC  at The White House of the massive MAS-Boeing deal and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between them on September 12, 2017.

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The MAS-Boeing Deal during Prime Minister’s recent visit to see President Donald J. Trump at The White House.

I used to be Sime Darby’s representative when we were consultants to Boeing on aircraft sales to MAS. It was during the time in 1980s when Tan Sri Aziz Abdul Rahman was the Chairman and Dato Kamaruddin Ahmad was Managing Director. My Boeing counterparts were Jim Chorlton and Walter Nielsen.

The Boeing representatives (I knew both Jim and Walter well and held them in high esteem) were thoroughly professional and so were my counterparts in Malaysia Airlines  who were competent and tough negotiators.

I know for a fact that MAS Board never authorised the acquisition of new planes unless the management made a solid commercial and financial case for them. I do not think that this practice has been abandoned today.

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Boeing–The Next Generation 737

I know also that Boeing was not interested in selling planes unless they are also convinced that MAS needed them. The fact that MAS and Boeing have a long term relationship is because Boeing is respected and trusted as a reliable and technically competent business partner.

As recently as late July this year, I flew on a  MAS Boeing 737-200 aircraft to return to Phnom Penh. It was an old aircraft, at least 10-20 years old. So I think, MAS is making the right decision to take an option for 25 Boeing 737 aircraft. It is because their fleet of 737s needs to be replaced for economic, financial and safety reasons.–Din Merican

MAS Fleet Modernization–Massive Investment for Malaysia

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | Among Prime Minister Najib Razak’s puzzling announcements in his much-heralded meeting with US President Donald Trump was that Malaysia would spend US$10 billion, or a massive RM43 billion, purchasing passenger aircraft from US’ Boeing.

Flanked by top advisers in the Cabinet Room, Najib told Trump that Malaysia Airlines would buy 25 Boeing 737 jets and eight 787 Dreamliners, and would probably add another 25 737s in the near future – a deal he said would be worth more than US$10 billion within five years.

These came as a bolt from the blue as the purchase of the eight 787s is something which Malaysia Airlines Bhd, the government’s wholly-owned airline through Khazanah Nasional Bhd, has not announced before while the airline is actually in the process of cutting down on its narrow-bodied 737 fleet.

It is still making losses while it maintains it will turn around to profit in 2018. Reports put the loss at over RM450 million in 2016, at a time when airlines worldwide were making money.

According to the International Air Transport Association, airline industry profits reached a cyclical peak in 2016 of US$35.6 billion (US$153 billion), and is still strong at an estimated US$31.4 billion (RM135 billion) for 2017, expected to be the eighth year in a row of aggregate airline profitability.

That Malaysia Airlines is making large losses at a time when many airlines are making good or even record profits does not bode too well for the company. Contrast with low-cost leader AirAsia which made a net profit of over RM2 billion for 2016, up from RM541 million in 2015.

Over the past few years, Malaysia Airlines has been scaling back operations under a RM6 billion rationalisation programme which saw it cut back many routes and mothball some of its existing aircraft while laying off thousands of staff.

Its Chief Executive Peter Bellew even told Reuters in April that its six Airbus 380s, the largest passenger aircraft in the world, are being put into a new airline that will use it to fly passengers undertaking the Muslim pilgrimages of haj and umrah.

The news agency reported that Malaysia Airlines has been trying to find a use for its A380s since it failed to sell them. The airline previously said the A380s do not make economic sense at a time when it is cutting costs.

The airline has flip-flopped from its earlier policy of becoming a regional carrier and announced a change in its wide-body aircraft policy. According to CAPA Centre for Aviation, Malaysia Airlines is planning to launch a new long-haul route in 2018, using its new A350 fleet.

“Destinations in continental Europe are under evaluation. London has been Malaysia Airlines’ only destination in Europe since early 2016, when the flag carrier suspended services to Amsterdam and Paris as part of the last phase of its network restructuring project.

“Malaysia Airlines plans to use four A350s to replace A380s on its twice-daily London service under a recently accelerated schedule which includes transitioning the first London flight in 1Q2018. The other two A350s were initially intended for medium haul routes within Asia Pacific, including Auckland, but are now earmarked for a new not yet decided long-haul route.”

As a result, Malaysia Airlines will be reducing capacity on the Kuala Lumpur-London route by over 40 percent before the start of the 2018 peak summer season. First class capacity will shrink by 50 percent, and business class capacity by nearly 50 percent, while economy seat capacity will be cut by approximately 40 percent, CAPA quoted Bellew as having said.

Confusing policy

Malaysia Airlines is also planning to nearly double the size of its passenger widebody fleet over the next few years – from 21 aircraft to 36 aircraft, CAPA said. The lease of approximately 15 additional A330s will enable Malaysia Airlines to upgauge several routes from the 737-800 as it shrinks its narrow-body fleet.

It is clear from this that Malaysia Airlines plans did not include the purchase of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. That raises the question of whether Najib is taking into account the interests of Malaysia Airlines, whose confusing policy, flip-flops and extreme lack of transparency already are major problems for an airline already under rationalisation.

Also confusing is the addition of up to 50 Boeing 737s to the purchase at a time when Malaysia Airlines has been widely reported to be cutting its reliance on narrow body aircraft, those typically used for short trips with limited carrying capacity.

While Malaysia Airlines plans to expand its widebody fleet by approximately 15 aircraft over the next three years, it plans to reduce its narrow-body fleet by a similar number. Bellew told CAPA in June that Malaysia Airlines had completed negotiations covering the return of six 737-800s in the second half of 2017, resulting in a reduction in the narrow-body fleet from 54 to 48 aircraft. He added that he expects the 737-800 fleet will be reduced by a further eight aircraft over the next few years, to approximately 40 aircraft.

Commitments to purchase 25 narrow-bodied Boeing 737s with further commitments to purchase another 25, are clearly contradictory to what Malaysia Airlines had planned to do just three months ago.

Najib’s announcements were made to garner Trump’s support in the US and to brighten up an increasingly gloomy image he has in Malaysia. They are not in the interests of Malaysia Airlines and the country in general, continuing upon other bad, desperate decisions he has made recently which are downright dangerous to the country.

He should have left the decision on buying aircraft entirely to the management and board of Malaysia Airlines. The problem is not necessarily government ownership but bad appointments by government compounded by ill-informed government interference.

P GUNASEGARAM is an independent consultant and writer. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.


MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia

September 13, 2017

MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia

by Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP

Nurul Izzah Anwar is a member of the Malaysian Parliament and Vice President of the People’s Justice Party. She is a Graduate of SAIS, John Hopkins University


Image result for Najib I am not a crookThe Donald is hosting this Malaysian Prime Minister at The White House. A slap in the face of all freedom loving Malaysians–the unintended consequence of his invitation


On Tuesday (September 12), President Trump will host Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in the White House. The two men will discuss cooperation on counterterrorism and economic development. But what should be foremost on the agenda is the hatred and fear fueled by Najib’s own party’s support of extremist groups that routinely harass and frighten the country’s significant Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. Any conversation with a purported partner against extremist violence who fails to address these concerns at home is pointless.

As a Malaysian, I am sorry to say that my country faces a desperate situation. For the 60 years since independence, we have been under single-party rule. The corruption scandal surrounding our sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, the largest of its kind ever investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that Najib’s government routinely pilfers public funds for its own enrichment and the funding of its political survival. Our political leaders are so accustomed to power that they will do anything to keep it. Our elections are routinely corrupted just enough to maintain the ruling status quo. Print and broadcast media are more than 95 percent owned or controlled by the ruling party, and peaceful political protest is routinely a cause for detention under laws meant to fight terrorism.


I know this from first-hand experience. As an opposition member of Parliament, I was arrested under sedition laws and imprisoned with actual terror suspects simply for daring to raise questions in the legislature about the political imprisonment of my father, detained opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Before he was thrown in jail, my father championed a multi-ethnic and multi-religious opposition movement in Malaysia that garnered 52 percent of the votes in the 2013 parliamentary election — a victory set aside because of gerrymandering. His arbitrary detention has been condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Delegation are staying at Trump International Hotel Washington DC 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC, 20004, United States of America. What a coincidence!


All the while, a growing cohort of educated young people facing high unemployment is growing deeply mistrustful of their leaders. These energetic young men and women are frustrated by the absence of democratic institutions. That they may feel compelled to seek recourse for this dissatisfaction outside the political system represents a major threat to Malaysia’s future.

Tensions between different ethnic and religious groups have also reached alarming levels. Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party has not just turned a blind eye to extremism — they have actively encouraged it. Religious extremists are permitted to promulgate their views with impunity, and the government has actually incorporated those views and personalities into its own platform. As if this weren’t astonishing enough, in 2014, Najib himself encouraged his own party followers to emulate “brave” Islamic State fighters.

If Najib’s autocracy and extremist actions are not condemned and resisted, all of us are at risk.

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Yet despite our challenges, I love my country and I know that we have incredible potential. In fact, that is what makes this issue so important. Unlike many autocratic Muslim-majority countries, Malaysia can be a true functioning pluralistic democracy with real economic strength and growth potential. Our coalition of opposition parties follows the leadership of our imprisoned leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in asserting that the only acceptable way forward for Malaysia is as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic and freedom-supporting state.

But to achieve this, the Malaysian people need the help of true friends and partners around the world. Najib must hear from every nation that his actions are a threat to international security and undermine genuine efforts at countering violent extremism.

President Trump has the opportunity to deliver this message. As a former golfing buddy of the prime minister, he has an established rapport with Najib. And Trump set a precedent in his recent recalibration of aid to Egypt, where he laudably recently recognized the opportunity to stress civil society reforms by cutting some U.S. aid to Egypt. The same frankness should be applied when assessing Najib as a potential recipient of anti-terror funding from the United States.

To advance his foreign policy goals and the mission of international security cooperation, Trump must hold Najib to account. Trump must make clear that Washington will no longer be silent when U.S.-Malaysia cooperation on countering violent extremism is undermined by the Malaysian government itself. To start, Najib should immediately cease persecution of journalists and opposition leaders, and release all political prisoners, including my father. Trump must also make clear that the United States does not tolerate partners who harbor and protect terrorists, much less partners who actively encourage such behavior.

Without reforms, the Malaysian government is not a reliable partner on counterterrorism, international security or economic development. A clear message, followed by strong action, is the only way to transform Malaysia from a liability to a credible ally.