The Southeast Asian Times
NEWS FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
LETTERS:


Ban on entry to US on human rights grounds
Not indefinite
The Southeasteast Asian Times, Friday 22 June 2018

We learn from The Southeast Asian Times article ' Cambodia's general Hing Bun Hieng banned from entry to US ' ( 18 June ) that the military general has been banned because his security unit had allegedly attacked protesters including members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, killing 16 and injuring dozens including a US citizen." General Bun Hieng has been implicated in multiple attacks on unarmed Cambodians for many years...".
How long will the US ban stay in place?
Will it remain until the general becomes a successful political leader?
We recall Narendra Modi was banned from entry to the US because of his alleged complicity in the Gujerat Riots which resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of Muslims.
What happened to the ban after he became the PM of India?
There is no ban against the North Korean dictator Kim Jong - un, is there?
Why not?
The hypocrisy and political expediency surrounding US bans stinks.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



No amount of fish from China is enough to cover
The shame and dishonour done to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 June 2018

First published in the Philippine Inquire, Tuesday 19 June 2018

I refer to the report China has given more ‘fish’ to the Philippines", says development expert, in Philippine Inquirer 13 June 2018, particularly the strange and utterly abhorrent contention of so-called “development expert” George Siy when he stated that: “Over a hundred million dollars have been waived in terms of the loans for the NorthRail project…”
I have serious doubts about the expertise of this person by virtue of the fact that he equated the honor of the country to economic aid and monetary benefits.
An individual who truly loves his country will never ever exchange for whatever benefit or compensation the integrity and sovereignty of his nation.
Sovereignty is not for sale, and people who disregard the importance of their nation’s dignity and honor have no right to be free and call themselves sovereign.
I vividly remember a scene in the film “The Last Samurai,” when Katsumoto (tribal lord and leader of the rebelling samurais) is about to rejoin the government council.
Katsumoto tells Minister Omura, who appears to be proforeigner: “We are a nation of whores selling ourselves.”
The same can be said about the position of that so-called development expert.
No amount of “fish” which, ironically, belongs to us in the first place, or economic aid packages and developmental projects from China or any other empire, would be enough to cover the shame and dishonor being done to us by the Chinese every day in our very own territory.

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega,
Manila,
Philippines



Joma Sison Philippines home coming
Could go the way of Benigno Aquino
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 June 2018

While U.S. President Trump and North Korean Leader Kin Jong-Un has already met up with a good concession with regard to the denuclearization issue, I can tell the difference between Kim Jong Un (a well-known communist) and another Communist wannabe in greater Southeast Asia - Joma Sison.
Although this week is the Europe trip of Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza, President Duterte summoned Sison to go home for the negotiation of peace talks to resume.
The conduct of conversation, as per President, is more beneficial than assessing everything in Norway.
One might say that this is another strategy of the current administration to counter the dominance of Sison on the foregoing negotiation.
Another might say that if Sison will come home, he might probably be killed in the Philippines synonymous with what happend with Benigno Aquino.
Meanwhile, Joma Sison will always be a forever coward in my eyes.
He is way older than our Constitution but his wisdom falls under the pit of hellish evil for personal interest.
If you are an effective leader of CPP, then why don’t control your men on their atrocities.
We cannot discount that there has been a good development between GPH and CPP-NDFP but NPA’s rebuttal has been pegged to corruption of the mind.
If only Joma Sison can be like Kin Jong Un on peace building resolution, things will roll differently.
I still believe that everybody’s gain is far from over if he will not be selfish enough on this.
Come on Joma Sison, man up!

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Phiipppines

 

 

Two kowtowing reasons in the Philippines
Why New People's Army are surrendering
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 June 2018

Once a traitor, always a traitor.
I don’t know okay but if you will give me a fair share of opinion regarding the recent slained New People's Army (NPA) in Misamis Oriental and septuagenarian New People Army (NPAs) who have been giving up the fight, I certainly will just repeat the nodding in favor with the government’ effort in combating insurgency in the Philippines.
On the other hand, I guess there are two kowtowing reasons why there are still surrendered NPAs.
One, they still have vested interests to unify New People's Army (NPA) conglomerates and the second, is to earn more money compare with the professionals in suburbans.
In relation with the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the national government, rebels who surrendered to the government with their firearms are given monetary assistance of P15, 000 and P50, 000 for livelihood projects coupled with trainings and technical support from appropriate government agencies which are also accorded to their dependents to ensure sustainability.
Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) focuses on integration of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front who decided to abandon the armed struggle and rejoined the mainstream society.
Meanwhile, I laud the local government units and partner agencies for jointly facilitating the release of the fund assistance to the former rebels; young and septuagenarians.
I encourage the public to denounce New People's Army (NPA)
Do not be like those people who tolerated extortion s and atrocities of New People's Army (NPA) like the recent 7 million that was being torched by the government.
They have all the luxury of time to start a new life, a changed and good one.
That sum of money probably be another source of fund in recalibrating their plans and organization to make it stronger.
Never again support or participate in any form of armed struggle or legal struggle they keep on pushing through.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



US-North Korean agreement
There is always hope
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 June 2018

Re: "Trump announces halt to US-S Korea war games", in Bangkok Post, June 12.
Critics of the US-North Korean agreement are right to tamp down expectations a
bit, but there is a big difference between cautious-optimism and outright
cynicism.
Time will tell what the true intentions of all concerned really are, but Buddhism teaches that there is goodness to be found in everyone if we are willing to look hard enough.
Tuesday's summit was a substantial, historic step towards world peace between
two very strong world leaders.
Many enemies have become great friends in recent years, but the process has never been instant or free of growing pains - a common excuse used by assassinaters of joy" who just want to kill any hope that things can get better.
They can, in fact.
World peace and progress towards it hinges on the growth of hope.
Never give up on hope.
There is always hope, and a lot of people went a long ways in this world on nothing but hope.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Conference of the States-Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention
All agree on one point
That the global regime of non-proliferation is in a state of deep crisis

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 June 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Tuesday 12 June 2018

By the initiative of the US, the UK, France and Germany, supported by Australia and Canada a special session of the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is to be held on June 26 – 27.
As these countries declare their intent to convene the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) for good purposes to condemn the use of chemical weapons in the UK, Iraq, Malaysia and Syria as well as to prevent such incidents in the future.
In fact, the western “quartet” is planning to use the special session of the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) for even greater incitement of anti-Russian and anti-Syrian hysteria around the so-called “Skripals’ case” and the Syrian “chemical dossier”.
There should be no doubt about this scenario.
Such a move can be partially explained by the desire of the Western group to compensate its loss of grounds in the settlement of the situation in Syria and in the Middle East as a whole.
At the same time they still dream to achieve their main goal - to discredit and topple the government of Bashar Assad.
To achieve these goals the opponents of the official Damascus would like to authorise the director-general of the Technical Secretariat to “identify” the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons - a mission that has nothing to do with the role and mandate of the director-general.
There are no relevant provisions in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) at all.
But it clearly specifies that in case of a serious violation of the CWC such information should be submitted for consideration of the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly.
What we see now is an obvious attempt to manipulate the Convention, to interpret its provisions in accordance with the selfish interests of a small number of countries. The situation is even stranger since the states-parties presumed guilty have long been designated by the Western countries.
The proposed idea about attributive functions is not new - it was “fully tested” during the work until November 2017 of the demised OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
The main goal of this proposal is the creation of a mechanism under the control of the Western group, which will make conclusions required by them.
So called “good intentions” declared by the US, the UK, France and Germany are a clear attempt to mislead the states-parties.
It is possible to only agree with one point proclaimed advanced by a number of Western States: the global regime of non-proliferation of chemical weapons based on the CWC is indeed in a state of deep crisis and needs to be protected.
OPCW suffers from the ongoing insinuations from the US, the UK, France and some other countries, their attempts to use the purely technical platform of the OPCW for the benefit of realising their own geopolitical intentions.
Washington, London and Paris repeatedly demonstrated their disinterest in conducting objective and professional investigations of cases of chemical terrorism in Syria and endless provocations with the use of toxic chemicals by militants and the NGO affiliated with them – like “White Helmets”.
Twice over just a year in violation of the UN Charter and other fundamental norms of international law, Washington first single-handedly, and then all three Western permanent members of the UNSC carried out an act of the military aggression against a sovereign state. They launched missiles at Syrian military and civil infrastructure sites.
They did not intend to wait for any investigation by the OPCW of self-orchestrated “chemical incidents” in Khan-Sheikhun on April 4, 2017 and in Douma on April 7, 2018.
Due to unprecedented pressure on the leadership of the Technical Secretariat, the US, the UK, France and Germany dictated the Fact-finding Mission (FFM) methods of its work and achieved the dominance of obedient representatives of NATO countries within the FFM.
The FFM is conducting its activities remotely, until recently without a single visit to the places of the alleged incidents, relying primarily on the falsified “evidence” provided by the opposition.
The situation was partially reversed only now –thanks to the efforts of the Russian and Syrian military forces that provided appropriate security conditions during the visit of the FFM specialists to Douma in April-May.
It is noteworthy that the states led by Washington ignored the briefing organised by Russia and Syria at the OPCW HQ on April 26 on one of the staged footages by the “White Helmets” related to the alleged use of toxic chemicals in Douma.
The allegations of the use of chemical weapons over there were completely denounced at the briefing.
The US was unable to obtain the endorsement of its anti-Syrian draft decisions at the extraordinary EC meetings in November 2017 and April 2018.
A significant number of states-parties decided not to associate themselves with those politically biased documents.
Now the US and the UK, with the support of France and Germany, seem to have decided to bring this issue to the CSP in hope to get the desired number of votes there.
It is important to take the current situation at the OPCW with all seriousness.
If the plans to authorise the director-general of the Technical Secretariat at a special session of the CSP to “identify” the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons succeed that could lead to the disruption of normal work of the OPCW as one of the most successful disarmament mechanism.

Embassy of the Russian Federation in Cambodia
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Justice for everybody
In the New Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 June 2018
Frist published in the Star, Tuesday12 June 2018

I refer to Tun Daim Zainuddin’s interview with Bernama on 11 June, when he announced, as Chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), that in economic and financial management, the Government should ensure justice for everybody.
This is indeed a welcome move in the Government’s economic policies. Interestingly, this was actually the original philosophy stated in the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970.
Unfortunately, this fair and reasonable thinking got distorted and derailed later due to abuse and cronyism.
Then income inequality set in and seeped right through the whole economic and financial system.
This unhealthy trend was then aggravated by corruption, expenditure wastage, inefficiencies and the politicisation of finance and economic management, as we now see from the red files revealed by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
The NEP aimed to eradicate poverty regardless of race, and it did, in all fairness, reduce overall poverty substantially; however, its poor implementation left too many Malaysians of all races in financial straits that made it exceedingly difficult for them to make ends meet and put food on the table.
Daim and the venerable CEP must be highly commended for addressing the punitive problem of income inequality, regardless of race and religion.
We have to now move more strongly towards income-based economic and financial policies and phase out race- based economic policies.
The poor of all races and religions must be shown the same compassion and care according to justice and our religious and moral values.
As Daim rightly stressed, “once you address inequalities, everybody will be happy.”
Yes, Tun Daim and the Council of Eminent Persons, we are mostly happy already by your breakthrough in introducing new policies and new planning in the new government.
We hope the pace of change gathers more momentum, but in cautious and prudent ways.
We all hope that Daim and the CEP will carry on with their fresh thinking and planning and better implementation, so that the New Malaysia will continue to move forward for the benefit of all Malaysians, and especially the less fortunate.
Like many, I also hope that the CEP will continue to serve as a national advisory and monitoring council even after the first 100 days!
All we want is for the Govern-ment, as Daim says, “To be fair to everybody and to take care of their welfare”, in the New Malaysia.
Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin to all Malaysians!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Chairperson Asli-CPPS,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



What does stand down mean
To communist rebels in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 June 2018

Casting doubt of shadows were highlighted when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, reacted separately to an Inquirer report that the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) may cease hostilities as early as next week under a preliminary truce proposed by government and rebel negotiators.
Lorenzana said the military might be the only party that would stand down under an agreement being finalized in back-channel talks between negotiators from the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
He said rebel documents indicated that the insurgents were “actually intensifying their expansion of their areas.”
Now, the stand-down agreement, which would require both sides to suspend offensive operations against each other, was meant to stimulate the atmosphere for peace negotiation two weeks before the resumption of the peace talks as per Joma Sison, CPP Founder.
We have to set questions like: What does stand down mean to communist rebels anyway?
We might assume coming from Defense Secretary’s mouth that stand down means cease operations.
Stand down for them might mean there would be no attacks but we suspect they will continue their recruitment.
They also have to stop that if there is a stand-down.
Now, although the military was doubtful about the rebels’ sincerity and apprehension is always there, we have to see the ends of all the means.
The question of sincerity will always be there because of our past experiences
I am still hopeful that the New People’s Army (NPA) abide by any form of ceasefire agreed by both sides.
Still, we have to be cautious he added. But we are hopeful, hoping this time they’ll mean what they say; like words that needed to be translated to genuine action.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines



Praise for the Mahathir government
For revistiting the Malaysian Indian Blueprint
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 June 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 June 2018

I refer to the report, “Task force meant to review projects for Indian community”, that appeared in the Star on Monday 11 June.
I laud the announcement by Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran that the new government will review all existing projects in two weeks’ time when it meets.
Malaysians of Indian descent comprise 2.2 million out of 32 million people in Malaysia.
Issues such as red identity cards, lack of citizenship, education in Tamil schools without adequate facilities - all this affects especially those in the B40 category, with a monthly income up to RM3,855.
This amount is insufficient to manage a family with the ever-increasing cost of living currently.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has repeatedly said “the Indians were nation builders who built roads, railways, schools, ports just like the Chinese who worked in the tin mines”.
Together they managed the twin pillars of the nation, rubber and tin, that supported the government of the day.
However, according to a report in the Economist magazine in 2003, Indians comprise 60 percent of urban squatters and 41 percent of beggars.
Over 800,000 Indians were displaced from the estates in the 1970s with promises that they would be reskilled and given outplacement – none of which took place. This resulted in a huge increase in urban squatters and a rise in gangsterism.
It’s good that the new government’s special task force is revisiting the Malaysian Indian Blueprint!

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for English competency test
For public servants in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian TImes, Weddnesday 13 June 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 11 June 2018

As a government servant for almost 20 years, I strongly agree with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to have high ranking government officers take an English competency test.
I would be even happier if it is made compulsory for all government servants.
Throughout my journey in a department that deals with the public, I have witnessed many high ranking officers who are unable to speak even basic English when dealing with foreigners.
The best part of it is, they would call the non-Malay office boy to do the explaining. Isn’t that embarrassing?
When applying for certain posts through the Civil Service Commission, one has to sit for online exams.
This is so that the commission can filter for candidates who are really qualified before the interview sessions.
My humble suggestion is to include an English test with the exams.
It will be more productive compared to current exams.
Another thing that struck me during my two decades in service is how some civil servants give more priority to functions and feasts rather than work.
Do we really need elaborate feasts during working hours?
Imagine, civil servants wrapping food or even cooking in the office pantry during working hours.
Do civil servants in developed countries do this?
I hope Tun M will change this work culture.
This is only a small part of what is happening in the government sectors.
I hope there will be a tremendous change in the civil sector within five years.
Kudos to Tun M and the team for making a huge impact in just one month.
But remember:
Change starts with each individual, not only with an entire government.

Servant for Government,
Seremban,
Malaysia


 

 

Future coups less about tanks in the streets
More about manipulation of voters through social media
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 June 2018

Re: "Fostering norms to sustain Thailand's democracy", in Bangkoik Post, Wednesday 6 June 2018.
Ken Lohatepanont surely knows that Thailand is not the world's most coup-prone
country.
That dubious honour goes to Chile and Haiti no matter how you adjust the figures.
The argument centres on how you define a coup.
Hun Sen in Cambodia came to power 21 years ago through a putsch, but most commentators have forgotten that.
Future historians may well deem Donald Trump has engineered a new type of coup in the US, especially if he wins a second term which is certainly possible.
He will have used electoral success to empower himself and his cronies - through use of his huge pardoning powers for example - and manipulated the agencies of the federal government to be his loyal lapdog.
It is comforting to think that a fostering of democratic norms can prevent
another coup in Thailand.
However, future coups worldwide may well be less about tanks in the streets and more about the manipulation of the voters through
social media.

Barry Kenyon,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Halt to hostilities between Philippine Government
And Communist New People's Army imminent
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 June 2018

Back-channeling in negotiation is as important as ever.
A halt to hostilities between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) ahead of an interim peace agreement and a formal ceasefire could start as early as next week, according to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison.
Interestingly, the coordinated unilateral ceasefires will be accompanied by an amnesty proclamation and the signing of an accord on agrarian reform and rural development, and a separate one on national industrialization and economic development, which are parts of the broader Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.
Also, the signing of the interim peace agreement (IPA) would soon follow the resumption of formal peace talks set for June 28.
The IPA will pave the way for a formal ceasefire between the military and NPA for the duration of the formal talks.
The President had promised to end the nearly 50-year Maoist insurgency, which has killed more than 40,000 people, by finding a political solution, but he abandoned the peace efforts last November, complaining of repeated rebel attacks.
His administration later petitioned a court to declare the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations.
It also sought to declare about 600 people, including about two dozen rebel consultants in the talks, terrorists.
A good strategy here is that said the government may ask the court to put its petition on hold if the talks resumed.
If a final peace agreement is signed, the petition could be withdrawn.
On the other hand, why talk to Joma Sison when he cannot anymore control the NPA's management for revolutionary taxes? It's a waste of money on the part of govt.
Meanwhile, the stand-down agreement, which would require both sides to suspend offensive operations against each other, was meant to stimulate the atmosphere for peace negotiation two weeks before the resumption of the peace talks. But then again, we cannot trust this.
It would glide to the coordinated unilateral ceasefires under a joint monitoring committee and with more elaborate terms to ensure the stability of ceasefire
Let’s wait and see.
Looks like Sison is not the only head or has the absolute power of the Communist party.
When an institution has enjoyed for a long time the benefits, comfort and holding power, it's hard for them to just give up.
How many peace talks already the government has entered with these groups and all went down to drain?
The same thing like the TRAPOS politicians.
They are not giving up easy that is why the political dynasty exist or hard to stop. The moment we assume that most of the member of the CPP-NDFP tagged along with NPA, shall need second look for a serious look; enough to affirmatively leverage with the government’s effort.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines



Appointment of non-Muslim Attorney General
No longer an issue in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 8 June 2018

The appointment of lawyer Tommy Thomas as the new Attorney General will hopefully send a signal of a significant shift towards meritocracy as a criterion for choosing the best candidates to hold top positions in the public service.
In the past, especially after the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1970, the main criterion was race.
After nearly 50 years of the affirmative action policy for eradicating poverty especially among the Malays and increasing their participation in the modern sectors of the economy, they have advanced in all fields to the level where they are today confident of their own abilities to succeed without the need for state crutches.
With their broader vision of a Malaysia that we all can be proud of, the appointment of a non-Malay Attorney General is no longer an issue because most Malaysians agree that it is for the good of the country that appointments to top positions in government, especially the judiciary, civil service, police and military, should be based on merit and not race, religion or political connections.
Most Malaysians agree with the Prime Minister that Tommy Thomas is the right man to make the change become a reality.
However, several Muslim groups opposed his appointment on the fear that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Council of Rulers would not get an Attorney General who can advise them on Islam and the application of syariah values in government administration.
Their fears are misplaced because the best values that need to be integrated at all levels of government and also among the royal households are integrity, transparency and accountability, especially in spending taxpayers’ money.
They are universal values that define a good government and which the country badly needs to revive the economy and give the young hope for their future.
This is the best advice any Attorney General can give to the Agong and all the Malay Rulers that there is nothing more Islamic than a country that is united, happy, free and prosperous.
Islam and the Rulers will get a good name when Malaysia becomes a true democracy where no one is above the law, in the same way that the monarchies in the United Kingdom and Europe have made themselves and their royal families more popular by shedding their feudal past and moving with the times to be accountable to their people in both their public as well as private life.
The people have voted for change to a more responsible government.
In this effort, the new government must honour its election manifesto, which includes a promise to create an independent director of public prosecution separate from the Attorney General’s Chambers so as to make the public prosecutor free from ministerial control, similar to the system in other democracies.
Parliament should also be reformed to establish select parliamentary committees with responsibility for providing oversight on the executive so that ministers and their civil servants can be held to account for mismanagement and abuse of power. These and other reforms such as on the judiciary, Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), police and the civil service as well as on political financing, as highlighted by G25 in its presentation to the Committee on Institu­tional Reforms recently, should be carried out as soon as possible to demonstrate the seriousness of the new government for change.
It is encouraging for us in G25 to hear the AG saying these reforms will be his priority to ensure separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive.
It’s this principle of checks and balance that differentiates between a democracy and a totalitarian regime or a religious autocracy.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



China cannot match
Philippine courage and nationalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 June 2018
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Thursday 7 June 2018

Even the country’s defense chief issued a statement implying that we don’t stand any chance against China.
There may be some truth to it in terms of our current military capabilities, but let us not forget to take a look at our valiant past.
Simply giving in to another country’s baseless demand without any sign of hesitation will be a big insult to those who offered their very lives for the sake of our freedom.
This is not to say that our lives should be put on the line, without having any practical means to defend ourselves.
We must not forget that there are plenty of alternatives we can take advantage of without resorting to conventional war.
Filipinos are well-known for their audacity and resilience, be it from man-made problems or natural calamities.
Our national heroes, despite the enormous lack of weaponry needed to defend our country on equal footing with their adversaries, were courageous enough to fight with whatever was left for them to utilize - because that is what their sense of patriotism urged them to do.
If there are things that China cannot match, these are our courage and nationalism. They may have greater powers, but unlike them, we have the delicadeza not to claim what is not rightfully ours.
Though we have been awarded the landmark UN tribunal ruling on the South China Sea, we remain amiable and decent enough not to retaliate against China’s tasteless bullying.
That, together with a thorough strategy, will suffice for us to win this war.

Kara Martina Pacumio,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for each Malaysian to contribute one Ringgit
Towards restoring Malaysia to its former glory
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 1 June 2018

I shall not beat about the bush.
The euphoria of having the elections go the way the victors wanted is over.
It’s the hard work now of rebuilding the country.
We cannot sit back and watch the Pakatan Harapan government roll up their sleeves and start the rejuvenation of our country.
It’s no more a matter of them, you or me. It’s a matter of we and us.
We cannot allow the country to bleed any more.
We, and I mean every one of us, have a part to play in this cleansing process of restoring Malaysia to her former glory of being united and less debt-ridden.
The Cabinet has taken a pay cut of 10 percent.
So do we sit back and say, “Ah, they can afford it. Let them. They will be able to get alternative returns anyway?”
What nonsense!
What are we going to do about it?
How are we playing a role in this restoration period?
Please let me forward some suggestions in my humble opinion.
I know one or two will definitely get the flak but remember, we are all in this together.
We have a population of about 31 million.
If everyone were to contribute just one ringgit, we would be able to gather RM31mil in just one day!
It’s simple but workable.
I am sure there will be others who will be willing to fork out even more. Malaysians are known to be generous.
At least we can fill up the coffers of the nation to a certain extent.
We have to help the government; after all, the end clientele will be the citizens, us.
Although it would be fantastic to abolish tolls, perhaps a second look at this is advisable.
Yes, this is going to get me some flak but would it not be better to reduce the toll rates to amounts that are more affordable?
In this way, at least the toll collections can be used to rebuild the nation and help perhaps in sectors which need a financial boost, such as healthcare.
Just check out the government hospitals and you will see what I mean.
With budgets cut by the previous government, fewer medicines are being dispensed and pensioners cannot claim for many medicines.
We are all Malaysians!
We need to be united and think of ways, no matter how small, to make the atmosphere more conducive and harmonious for peaceful yet aggressive development.
Our schools should be national schools where trust and respect should be the order of the day.
Children of different races mingling with each other in these schools would be able to cast aside their preconceptions about others.
It is time to tighten our belts.
Don’t expect bonuses for one or two years.
Let’s consider these bonuses to be a little financial contribution to our nation.
Our country is bleeding.
Let us all help to stem the bleeding.

Shobha,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippine Supreme Court Judges
Take their own sweet time to do their job
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 June 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 29 May 2018

The sluggishness of the Supreme Court in decision-making is already beyond redemption. There is nothing anyone can do about it given the impunity with which it has, since time immemorial, disregarded what the Constitution says for it to decide cases within two years only.
"Chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. to hold so many high magistrates liable for “culpable violation of the Constitution” rings too hollow to be taken seriously “Davide: 8 anti-Sereno justices may be impeached,” in Philippine Inquirer, 18 May 2018.
He was chief justice from 1998 to 2005.
He couldn’t do anything about it then, how could he expect anyone else to do so now?
That sluggishness is not only endemic among the high court magistrates who have incurable delusions of being too “supreme” to be held publicly accountable for anything they do or not do, but also among their employees who also take their own sweet time to do their job.
To illustrate, a resolution was promulgated by the Supreme Court in January 2018. It was mailed to the parties only in May 2018 as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope - or about four months thereafter!
My stepmother who practices law says that’s normal and has come to accept it in stride.
To law students like me it sucks!
If nothing can be done anymore about the behavior of senile magistrates who should really retire early, for love of country, there is no excuse for their clerks to behave the same way.
Why should it take them four to five months to process and then mail issuances of their bosses to the parties concerned?
Para bang mga langaw na nakapatong sa ulo ng kalabaw at akala kalabaw na rin sila!
That certainly aggravates the already never-ending infernal delays litigants have to suffer.
Alas, it is doubtful if the Supreme Court can discipline them since it is more guilty by far of the same sin.

Carmelan. N. Noblejas,
Manila,
Philipinnes



Thai University Central Admission System (TCAS)
To serve the wealthy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 3 June 2018

Re: "Complex education," in Bangkok Post, Friday 1 June 2018
I have to wholeheartedly agree with Baffled Mango that the Thai university
Central Admission System (TCAS) system is a disaster that should never have been implemented.
What I haven't heard is any rational reason from any government officials as to why they feel that this awful system is at all necessary.
On the face of it, the TCAS seems like just another government programme that is
ripe for corruption to serve the wealthy.
The thousands of worthy students who were denied placement under the TCAS, or placed in a university that doesn't suit their intended fields of study, will likely support this view.
Why the Thai government should choose to create a "middleman" sort of clearing
house to deal with college applications is beyond the imagination, other than to
ensure that the children of influential people are given preferential
consideration.
The Bangkok Post reported in its May 31st edition that "the Council of
University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) said the flaws will serve as a lesson for improving the system for next year."

That is hardly good news for this year's qualified graduates who have studied hard, some at the top of their classes, only to be denied their dreams to study at a university that they are certainly qualified to attend.
The whole concept of TCAS denies these students their right of access to the
universities of their choice.
It reduces gifted students down to the level of cattle to be fed through a chute and divided among the universities without much regard for their abilities.

Dave Proulx,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for credible opposition party to protect
Principles of democracy in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 25 May 2018

The party that many have given their votes to all their adult life failed miserably to see the writing on the wall and its leader had shown the classic example of the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand.
Furthermore, the sycophants around the leader did not have the courage to tell their “emperor” that he had no clothes on.
Now, the emperor has resigned as leader but will remain as a member of a party “yang tiada tolok bandingnya (incomparable)”.
True, the party has contributed tremendously to the development of our country, but no thanks to the erstwhile leadership which brought disrepute to Malaysia.
The blame should also fall on those around the leader for prevaricating and preferring to defend an individual rather than the party.
A new management team with no baggage and untainted by the disgrace of the old is needed to regain the confidence and support of the people even to become a credible Opposition.
And we do need a credible Opposition in order to establish a healthy two-party political system to protect the principles of democracy, parliamentary decorum and integrity. As the new government settles down to the task of governing, it will certainly welcome constructive debates on issues of growth and development.
We are still lacking champions for many causes at Parliament level.
For example, issues on science and technology affecting national development and those having implications on industry and business development are seldom debated, unlike in Britain where there is a science committee in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The call for the establishment of our own Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has not been heeded.
We need a credible Opposition to ensure a harmonious, prosperous, progressive and sustainable Malaysia moving into the future.
Parliament must not be allowed ever again to become a hotbed of hate, divisive and polarising politics.
Having a healthy political check and balance will go a long way towards ensuring this.

Tan Sri Omor Abdul Rahman,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Small political parties will matter more than before
In Cambodian July elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 June 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 28 May 2018

Competing political parties are vital to pluralism and liberalism.
Such is the hallmark of Cambodian democracy today.
The 6th general election scheduled to take place on July 29 will be an interesting political development as small political parties will matter more than before.
Some parties will receive more votes and get some seats at the National Assembly if they perform well.
Both the existing and new emerging parties can be proactive by engaging the grassroots and being innovative in their strategies.
They need to design practical policies to protect the interests of the working class, the farmers, the less privileged, and the marginalised.
Political vision and leadership are vital to small parties.
They need to be able to structure people’s electoral choices, articulate and aggregate public opinion and concerns, and transform public sentiments into votes and actions.
Alleging small parties as “puppets” of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is counterproductive to democratisation. Small parties pursue their own policy agenda, knowing that if they are just “yes men” of the Cambdoan People's Part (CPP) they will not get popular support.
The main threats to democracy in Cambodia are the extreme views and actions of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement that advocate for regime change in Cambodia by all means including a people’s revolution which is not a smart and sustainable solution; it will destroy hard-earned peace, development, and democracy.
Foreign powers should further encourage Cambodia to promote dialogue among the parties and encourage them to debate emerging national and international issues either at the national assembly or at public platforms.
Such a dialogue mechanism helps promote trust, consultation, and consensus among the different political parties.
Democracy is not only about elections but more importantly sustainable active participation of the people, either directly or indirectly.
Political parties, big or small, are instrumental in representing and protecting the people’s interests.

Suos Yara,
Member of Parliament,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Genocidal treatment of indigenous Australians
Indictment of the Australian State
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 June 2018

The son of legendary US civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., condemned Australia's treatment of its indigenous people in a speech in Alice Spring on Tuesday.
He said it was wrong, unjust, unfair and ungodly for an affluent country like Australia to do that ( The Southeast Asian Times 2/6/18 ).
That must stand as a serious and shameful indictment of the Australian State.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



China becoming stronger
In tie-up with ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 June 2018

If you are looking for China’s access point to ASEAN, this news is captivating.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, made the remark while meeting with his Laotian counterpart Bounnhang Vorachit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 30.
Focal points considered as area of cooperation are the following: as economy, technology, security, finance and national defense.
Notably, Bounnhang called Xi a close friend who is trusted by the party, government and people of Laos.
The important consensus reached by the two leaders during Xi’s visit in November is being implemented and it has led to a higher level of bilateral relations, he said.
I believe that President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts with Laos to build a community of a shared future for China and Laos to bring more benefits to the people of both nations.
From Laos’ perspective, China has been an ingredient of progress in economic development, social harmony, reform and opening-up and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
China has played an important role in global and regional affairs and made prominent contributions to the peace and development of northeast Asia.
This is why Laos feels gratitude for China’s selfless support and help.
This is the same narrative of China towards Philippines since 2016 even after The Hague Ruling tilted in favor with Philippines.
As on old ally of China, Laos will continually make a good connection with China same with Cambodia. Remarkably, China and Laos are communists and share the same value at different level of public governance.
Under one communistic ideology, the concept of a community of a shared future for China and Laos has been widely accepted by the two parties and countries, and the concept has drawn the blueprint of a bright future for bilateral ties.
Will this be a way forward of China in making joint efforts with the Philippines to translate the concept of building a community of a shared future for China and Philippines into action?
We see China becoming stronger when it comes to tie-up with ASEAN especially that there is an upcoming 15th China-ASEAN Expo from 12-15 September 2018 at Nanning, China that will be hosted by Cambodia.
I can say that China will continue to tie-up with Philippines to enhance strategic communication, strengthen common political ground and launch dialogues in various areas.
The grand narrative here is somewhat may make or break the political grounds between two states and among ASEAN regional bloc.
But let me remind that we do not compromise with China but we respect the guiding thought on building a community of a shared future for China and ASEAN in the coming years to come along with other old and new allies that my contribute to Philippine’s development.
We can assume that there will more boosting of exchanges of governance experience, enhance cooperation in all areas and push the building of the Belt and Road in the region.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Political correctness over intellectual acumen
In Malaysian universities
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 May 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 May 2018

Recent events involving the National Professors Council have brought to the fore the question of academic integrity and intellectualism in our higher education system.
The National Professors Council was originally envisaged as a think tank to advise the government through the Higher Education Ministry on pertinent educational matters towards achieving intellectual excellence.
At the same time, it was also to function as a watch dog in the implementation of educational policies as well as to further the interests of the academic community.
It was supposed to be nonpartisan and to serve as an interface between the Government (Higher Education Ministry) and academia. It was to be a professional body whose functions were based on the principles of academic integrity and intellectual competence.
However, this was not to be as the leadership used the platform to advance personal and sectarian interests.
It further degenerated into a partisan entity when it came under the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department.
From then on, the chairman and heads of clusters, who prioritised their vested personal partisan interests, abandoned the objectives of an independent academic think tank to pander to the powers that be.
The conduct of the National Professors Council reflects the malaise that has become endemic in universities with a culture that emphasises political correctness over intellectual acumen.
Top level management in the universities are selected based on political correctness rather than intellectual excellence.
Unfortunately, the attitude of the National Professors Council and universities are symptomatic of a declining intellectual acumen that would hinder the development of an inquiring and thinking mind.
Thus, there is a need to develop an ecosystem that functions without fear or favour among the academic community to foster intellectual and critical engagement.
In that respect, universities should be managed by professionals with sound academic credentials and managerial skills irrespective of race or creed.
Therefore, with the new government that promises a fresh mindset, it is hoped that the academic community and especially the universities will revert to the original pristine objectives in guiding and allowing the exploration of knowledge from various perspectives and be accommodating of differing views of both the lecturers and students that challenge political, cultural and intellectual traditions.
In short, the universities should be spared any intrusions that tend to put a caveat on intellectual freedom and expression.

Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Penang,
Malaysia

 


What would the Philippines do if Australia retaliates
Against deportation of Australian nun?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 May 2018

An utterly unconstitutional, immoral and super ridiculous act against Sister Pat of the evil regime.
This is in reference to the burning news concerning the struggle being waged by Sister Pat against the sinister powers that be.
We all know the relevant facts and the pertinent antecedent information with regard to the background and status of the said religious person.
She has been in the country for nearly three decades, religiously, persistently and relentlessly pursuing social justice, due recognition and human dignity for the people of Mindanao, especially those who belong to the lowest stratum of our society, specifically the indigenous and minority.
Though, she is an Australian, it is my form and so hold that due to the length of time that she spent here and the unexplainable super love that she has shown to our people and all those unlimited time fighting, struggling and standing up for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, the helpless, the hopeless and all those people who are oppressed and persecuted by the system - there is no shadow of doubt whatsoever in my mind that is she indeed more Filipino than some of our countrymen who does not contribute whatsoever for the development of our society in particular and the country as a whole!
The barbaric, utterly illegal and undeniably constitutional act committed to her by the powers that be specifically by the Immigration Bureau, with the connivance it seems of the so-called Justice Department through the egging and instruction of Malacanan is not only a mockery of justice, but undeniably the heights of absurdity.
In my view, the barbaric and utterly inhumane act committed and continuously being done by the nefarious and evil powers that to Sister Pat is a grave violation of the constitution specifically for not respecting the due process rule and the right of sister Pat to have her day in court.
The constitutional provision of Due Process is applicable to all, both the citizens and the foreigners.
Hence, there is a grim dangerous tendency in this case of Sister Pat, if the evil and sinister powers that be proceed in bastardizing the process and viciously violating her rights.
Besides the fundamental law, corollary to this case are the provisions of international laws, such as those Treaties, Conventions and Agreements that this country had agreed, signed and vowed to follow and observe.
Hence, there is a great possibility that this case may assume an international character by virtue of the question of the inner moral content of this specific case.
I just hope that those idiots from Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the biggest bastard, the “supreme evil lord” from Malacanan are well aware that sister Pat is an Australian citizen!
I hope that they are also ready for the possible backlash, at home and abroad, and the dire consequences of their evil and illegal actions.
What would they do, if Australia decides to retaliate?
Is this the kind of foreign policy that they want?
Before I end, I would very much like to ask: if Sister Pat is Chinese, will she suffered all of these sufferings?
The whole bloody “case” is a shame and a sham!

Jose Mario De Vega,
Assistant Professor IV,
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy,
University of Makati,
Philippines

 


China is not a threat
According to Malacanang
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 May 2018

China is not a threat - that is according to Malacañang.
From the given narratives of the President from the past few months, it is safe to say that the Philippines and China has already developed a sense of congeniality that is bounded by economic diplomacy over politico-military security.
On the other hand, the invoice of pluralists contend against the efficacy of too much close with China.
In fact, citizen and netizens are beginning to notice increasing number of young Chinese men and women filling up the condominium units, a times over 70 percent are rented by them.
With this, the offensives of China mainland tantamount to progress; from petty peddlers to shop owners to information technology and of course, to financial capital.
If China is not threat, I don’t know how this rhetoric explains the activities and happenings of Chinese; from low to high-profile locations.
Other Chinese companies are expected to be involved in land reclamation and development of various sectors such as in industry and electronics, industry parts, infrastructures, and construction.
In connection therewith, the Philippines will be joining for the first time in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime war games to be held in Hawaii next month.
This move by the Philippines does not necessarily a big deal with China.
For others, this might be symbolical especially to ASEAN and larger Asia Pacific observers but in my quest of analysis all throughout the time, China does not care. They see Philippines as a state still so they will probably respect our share in RIMPAC same way they join military drills.
But it does not follow that US can alter the reality of moves China in South China Sea.
Partners or Master.
Sovereign or vassal.
Independent or Dependent.
These comparative words can deduce what is the current stand of the Philippines in the foregoing issues in the contested maritime and territorial domain; whether we see China as a threat or not.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for opening of files on 1969
Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur
First published in the Star, Tuesday 15 May 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 May 2018

My mother’s family lived smack in the middle of the chaos that erupted on May 13, 1969.
I have lived all my life hearing stories of that dark episode in our history.
Among the stories of chaos and people who never returned home, one always stood out for me.
That day, their little village in the city rose up and looked after each other.
My grandma’s home was turned into a community cooking station as my uncles were the only ones who could go out and get food.
You see, my grandfather and uncles were cops and only they were allowed out.
So they, a mixed community, worked as one and looked after each other.
But they never forgot the fear.
I have been hearing about that fear my whole life.
The same fear stopped them from daring to make any changes to the government. The same fear made them convince their children to vote with care, which is why I never thought I would see a change of government in my country in this lifetime.
Every single analysis I have written in the past has never predicted this.
But I guess at some point, people decided enough is enough to being scared.
Forty-nine years after May 13, the country has finally stopped being afraid and changed its governing party.
And it happened in a democratic and peaceful manner.
Malaysians proved to the world that we can do it without rioting.
We have always prided ourselves on the importance of doing it the right way and this is one of our biggest achievements.
We have inspired people from around the world, and I have friends of various nationalities telling me this.
Change is important and inevitable.
Change must happen regularly to keep the governing bodies on their toes. Let us not allow our government to cultivate arrogance ever again.
The past few days have been unexplainable.
It doesn’t help that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has gone on his usual hyper mode and I’m barely sleeping because I don’t want to miss a thing.
My personal wish of this new government is that it would one day open the files of May 13 not to conduct a witchhunt but to give closure to the many folks who were present that day.
May we never be ruled by fear again.
For those who are still afraid of past fears that have been ingrained in you, it’s okay.
Many of us will continue to be neutral voices that question both sides.
I hope that from today, you will start believing that we are Malaysians first.
It is essential that we put the interest of the country and our brothers and sisters first before our personal beliefs.
More importantly, we now have a new date to never forget – May 9, 2018.

Visithra Manikam,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia

 

 

Call for patience in Malaysia
Government in unchartered waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 25 May 2018

I am a Japanese novelist who has published more than 50 books in various countries.
I have lived in Malaysia for three and a half years and I am so impressed with the outcome of the 14th General Election and what Malaysians have achieved.
The coalition ruled the country for decades.
No one expected it to be defeated.
When people first saw the stunning result, almost everyone was at a loss for a while.
Then they realised it was the beginning of a new era. I am not writing about Malaysia.
I am writing about my own country.
Congratulations, Malaysians!
You have finally decided to change your government.
You have shown your ability as a mature democratic nation by making this decision.
When I saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declare Pakatan Harapan’s victory on TV at midnight, I was deeply touched.
To be honest, I had a little pain in my heart.
At that movement, I thought about my country.
As a person who has experienced a similar situation, I would like to share what I saw and felt back then even though it is somewhat bitter for me.
In 2009, I was excited as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defeated the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a general election.
The LDP and its allies had governed Japan since 1955 except for a very short period in the 1990s.
When I was young, it seemed the LDP would reign forever but then DPJ won the election with a super majority.
I believed my country had finally got a two-party system and that DPJ would introduce some measures which LDP had ignored for a long time, such as an effective child allowance system and open immigration policy.
Not only I but also all the people hoped that those measures would spur Japan’s sluggish economy.
Sadly speaking, this was a delusion.
What we saw after the election were endless internal fights within DPJ.
Our elected representatives immediately engaged in internal fights again and again.
The first prime minister from DPJ resigned a year after his inauguration.
The second prime minister also left his office a year after his appointment.
The third lasted only for a year.
We had three prime ministers in three years!
What was worse was that DPJ decided to increase the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 10 percent even though retaining the current rate was one of the most important promises they made in the campaign.
Many Japanese people felt betrayed and as a result, DPJ lost terribly in the next general election.
DPJ doesn’t even exist now.
The party dissolved like sugar in water, and so did our hope for a brighter future, the two-party system and a more democratic policy process.
Policies that once shone brightly were miserably dumped and drenched in muddy water and the Japanese people lost interest in politics.
LDP is back on the stage now and it looks set to reign forever again.
I feel like my country would never change the government even if the ruling coalition is extremely corrupt.
So, I am jealous of you, Malaysians. You have got a right to build a modern democratic nation.
Be patient, Malaysians.
Don’t make the mistakes my country did.
It will take a while to see your government work well as you are now in uncharted waters.
I hope your politicians will maintain order and cohesion and help each other to serve the rakyat.
If they start internal fights due to selfishness like the politicians in my country did, you should stand up and tell them that unity is crucial to building a better future.
Freedom, democracy and transparency are not given naturally, these are cultivated by all the rakyat.
Your beautiful country taught me about the importance of unity when I first came here.

Tsumugu Hasimoto,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Little prospect of outburst against Thai military rule
While its role is glamourised as saviours
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 May 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 26 May 2018

Re: "Lasting lessons from Malaysia for South East Asia", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday May 25.
There is a common thread that links all Asean members.
Historically speaking, some are autocratic, a few of them are authoritarian and others are ruled by a combination of corrupt elite and military rulers.
I am not sure what kind of lesson Thailand can learn from Malaysia where Mr Najib was on the top of the list of most corrupt politicians in the region.
What sort of lesson can Thai people learn from Malaysia when the duly elected governments in Thailand are uprooted, not at the ballot box, but by a junta?
There is a very little prospect of a tsunami or an outburst against the military
because its role has been glamourised as a saviour.
In a country where politicians are bundled together with corrupt civil servants, police force and mafia, there is little hope of cultivating any form of a democratic system.
Hence the use of force and fear will continue to shape its politics and culture.
Democracy is not just about conducting elections, it is about empowering
citizens.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Filipinos to celebrate
Liberation of Marawi
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 May 2018

Liberation is more important than the breaking point, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.
He will visit Marawi City on the first anniversary of its liberation by government forces from terrorists in October saying, “We will go on the liberation of Marawi not at the start of the siege on May 23. Why honor the anniversary of the siege?”
With President’s statement, I am also urging Filipinos to look back and celebrate their country’s triumph over violent extremism.
Marawi has been liberated.
If we have to look back to it, let’s do so to learn from it and move on.
As a critique, the military may not have been as prepared as the local police (as foretold by outsiders) but we have to take not that any initial information is always coming from the ground which means police personnel has always been the first taker of any reaction from the enemies since Philippine National Police (PNP) is under Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Meanwhile, toe backtrack, the Marawi City Mayor was very much aware of the situation, which led to the secured premises of vital infrastructure including the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the hospital at Amay Pakpak which was recovered after a short gun-battle.
The disaster response preparedness of the province executed their response immediately setting up command and control.
What was underestimated was the ferocity of the jihad mind set of the Islamists.
If there was an institution that was not prepared, it was the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The response to the capture and confirmation of the identities of the jihadists should have prompted them to raise the issue to the UN Security council of the presence of foreign funded Islamists.
The issue in Syria of the fate of the captured, the conditional surrender, the dead Islamist is whether to allow Shari’ah justice or the bill of rights to prevail Turkey is silent but that is basically the issue. In a democracy like the Philippines, where the bill of rights is supreme, we should have deported those ISIS Islamists to their home countries and have them deal with the problem.
Indonesia, for example, has publicly tried the Bali bombers and promptly sentenced them to death under a Shari’ah tribunal.
As of this moment, the situation in Marawi has stabilized.
Security forces are in full control of the situation.
The armed men we are dealing with are not ISIS but members of Local Terrorists Groups. Meanwhile, the Battle for Marawi underscores the complexity of urban warfare compounded by the unfamiliarity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to fight in cities but in the end, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wins the war for people’s security and welfare.
In line with this, we urge the public to pay tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of 165 soldiers who were killed.
One year thereafter, we recall memories and success stories.
This is for all Filipinos!

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




The Malaysian People's Party
Is watching Dr Mahathir
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 18 May 2018

Congratulations to the new Pakatan Harapan government and especially to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, our seventh prime minister.
It has been a tough and challenging time for Dr Mahathir and the other Pakatan leaders immediately after the 14th General Election as much groundwork has to be done in forming a new government.
Malaysians, and people around the world too, are amazed by Dr Mahathir’s strength and spirit; he has made the impossible possible in steering Pakatan to victory in the 14th General Elections (GE14).
Pakatan MPs and ADUNs, you must now stand united to rebuild the nation.
When you were the opposition, you were able to perform well even with the minimum allocation you received.
You did your part for your constituency and country.
Now that you are the government, we, the rakyat, are expecting more from all of you.
There are true leaders among you who have been fighting for change for many years, and the dream has come true at last.
But everyone is fighting for position now.
If you are a true fighter, position and fame will be given to you at the right time.
Meanwhile, please stop demanding for more positions just because your party won more seats in the election.
Remember that Malaysians voted for Pakatan Harapan.
Let Dr Mahathir decide the overall structure of the new government as he has been prime minister before.
His decisions are bound to be accepted by the Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM, Malaysian People's Party) raky at.
Together we stand, divided we fall.
And watch out, too.
We, the rakyat, are watching your action, reaction and your performance.

Thomas Zacharia George,
Banting,
Malaysia




China's naval power is seen as striving
To overtake U.S. power in Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 May 2018

China is getting bigger with its first home-built aircraft carrier that has completed five days of sea trials, putting it closer to joining its sister flattop in the country’s increasingly powerful fleet.
The still-unnamed ship completed all assigned tasks before returning to its construction yard in the northern port of Dalian, state media reported.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was bought as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine and was commissioned in 2012 along with its flight wing of Chinese J-15 fighter jets.
What is interesting here is that the carriers are based on the former Soviet Union’s Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for take-off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
This unveiling of power capability of China is seen as striving to overtake the U.S. as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world’s largest navy in numbers of vessels.
The ever unchanging narrative of China is that its aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, but they are also seen as backing up Beijing’s claims to self-governing Taiwan and virtually the entire South China Sea. Ironically, China’s narrative is widely accepted by its allied states.
China’s capability might be alarming I believe that even if we are synonymous like David, the Philippines is always prepared whatever the stake will be; cooperation, coordination or anything in between.
I do not see this as a threat but in case they go beyond the glib of language of security, we need to defend what we needs to be defended for our people.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Manila China relationship cannot be seen
To erode Philippine national security or sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 May 2018

In South China Sea, I can sense that the small power shifts from Westerlies to Easterlies will make a BIG impact in Southeast Asian security.
This has been clearly visible from the first two quarters.
Last April, China was seen to be aggressive militarily in the South China Sea but come this month (May), China made an unprecedented move in the contested region – landing BOMBERS on SCS isles with their famous H-6K from China’s military base on Woody Island in the Paracels.
While China has installed jamming equipment in the contested Spratlys Islands last month.
This kind of pre-positioning is somewhat alarming among ASEAN member states specifically for claimant states; deemed as militarization of the South China Sea according to some analysts and experts.
Before, there was a suspected communications and radar jamming equipment on Mischief Reef, the largest of China’s seven outposts that is located within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Now, we see a double edged sword of China’s defense diplomacy that has already put the Philippines in demise.
Whether we like or not, Duterte’s seemingly acting as alter ego and lapdog of Xi Jinping is technically working as hedging strategy too.
He could have forecasted since he took the seat that agitating China’s ego (soft or hard), will eventually leads to inevitable war (military or trade) or any sort of it.
On the other hand, US warships can only be determined as soft as it has been since former President Obama’s Pivot to Asia stratagem.
A lot see US as inept and can only perform its regular freedom-of-navigation exercises in the contested sea as its usual force projection, in an attempt to prevent a Chinese lockdown.
But to no avail, the creeping power of China is a strong renegade over US clout.
Lastly, for oppositionists (i.e. Congressman Alejano and Senator Trillanes), they only trigger the public to demonize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Executive Department to inject a unwarranted syringe of venom – a more chaotic rift they kept on insinuating.
Philippines must also be alert though and I know that we are mature as a state to allow such kind of caprices of self-centered propaganda.
At large, the AFP still knows that based on 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Article 1 that Manila’s improving relations with China cannot be used as an excuse to erode our own national security or sovereignty.
In this regard, the Philippine military has also have even bigger threats to address: threats like cyber security and terrorism.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Scale of justice tilted to the unprecedented
Removal of the Philippines sitting chief justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 May 2018

The Supreme Court being the Olympus of the country’s premier magistrates, the dream pedestal of every lawyer and aspiring law students, amidst all controversy of personal enmities and affairs with the executive, has bowed down to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in favor of the unconstitutional quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.
Voting 8-6, it is with great regret and disappointment that the scale of justice has initially tilted to the unprecedented removal of the sitting chief justice, not through the provision of the Constitution that limits such authority within the House of Representatives and the Senate, but through a circumvention of the proper process.
No one can deny that the decision is a blatant violation of the very integrity of the Constitution they vowed to uphold.
What has happened is a cop-out of justice seemingly fueled by their lack of personal esteem for Sereno. The last bastion of democracy has unfortunately started to fall.
The seeming disregard for justice that they have committed evidently tramples the authority and trust of the people vested upon them as signified by their dignified robes.
The dignity of their sacrosanct commitment to arbitrate with the dictates of jurisprudence has been blemished.
With the subversion of the checks and balances and with the impairment of their own institution, they have sunk the Supreme Court into a deep quagmire.
And now, how will the populace rely on the judicial independence of the Court if impartiality has been compromised despite all heads turned to them?
With all due respect, we implore the “supremes” to hold sacred once more their vow to defend the power of the Constitution and embody the paramount judicial independence in rectifying their final and landmark decision to the expected motion for reconsideration.
This is not about the recently removed Sereno and their personal disputes, but this is definitely about the future of the judiciary as an institution at stake. Please, be not on the wrong side of history!

Jay Ramos,
Manila,
Philippines




Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox
Ordered to leave Philippines by 25 May
The Southeast Asain Times, Monday 21 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 18 May 2018

There is only a week left before Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox’s stay in the Philippines will be considered undocumented with her missionary visa downgraded to a tourist visa.
The Bureau of Immigration has ordered her to leave the country by May 25 for being an “undesirable alien” who “interferes” in the political affairs of the Philippines.
Sister Pat’s case is only one of the many modes of the reactionary character of the Duterte administration in stifling dissent.
Sister Pat stayed in the Philippines for 27 years espousing selflessness in pursuit of her noble mission to help poor Filipinos.
She did not come to the Philippines aiming for a leisurely life as a tourist but went to the most remote and poorest areas where poor farmers, workers, indigenous people, and the urban poor continue to struggle.
By declaring Sister Pat as an “undesirable alien,” President Duterte, in effect, is implying that it is undesirable to help the poor and marginalized.
He has a twisted concept of “sovereignty.”
While he invokes “sovereignty” in the issue of Sister Pat’s alleged “interference” in the political affairs of the country, he cannot even raise a simple whimper of protest, and has instead offered the Philippines to be a province of China.
Sister Pat’s persistent fight to stay in the country is an example of enduring struggle for meaningful transformation.
She is a true Filipino by heart whose life is an affirmation of humility, compassion and love for the poor.

John M. Lozande,
Secretary general,
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Filippino's to think twice
About loan agreements with China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 May 2018

The country’s loan agreements with China for its infrastructure projects will not entail any collateral, according to the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team, allaying fears the Philippines will similarly fall into the mainland’s debt trap like other countries”,“DOF: No collateral for China loans,” In Philippine Inquirer 15 May 2018.
We must think twice.
Think of the Chinese government’s invasion of Philippine territories in the Spratlys and West Philippine Sea.
There is no need for us to see an official document marked “collateral” signed by officials concerned.
In the same issue of the Inquirer, and previous issues as well, we read updates on the aggressive and ominous Chinese military buildup going on out there on said Philippine territories.
No collateral?
Filipino citizens, think twice!
No need to think a third or fourth time.
Just twice.

Marissa Piramide,
OSB,
Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing,
Manila Priory,
Philippines



Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak
To be held accountable under PM Mahathir Mohammed
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 May 2018

With newly elected PM Mahathir Mohammed's order to lift the Official Secrets Act seal on the 1MDB, put in place by former PM Najib Razak, it appears that the former PM Najib Razak will now finally be held to account ('Malaysia's Official Secrets Act lifted on 1MDB audit report' The Southeast Asian Times 17/5/18).
Najib is alleged to have transferred US $700 million from the state fund into his private bank account when he reportedly was Finance Minister and Chairman of the state fund ( 1MDB ).
From its own investigation the US State Department reckons the amount involved is as high as $1.7 billion.
It's suspected a $250 million super yacht was bought with that fraudulently acquired money apart from other upmarket investments in Manhattan and Britain.
Democratic accountability and the rule of law has regained its rightful place in Malaysian society.
That is as should be.
In a democracy power is always held to account.
That's what makes a democracy qualitatively different to a dictatorship.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales
Australia



 

Malays trusted Dr Mahathir
More than they trusted United Malays National Organisation
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 May 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 14 May 2018

The one undeniable conclusion that can be drawn from the 14th General Election (GE14) is that democracy is alive, well and maturing in Malaysia. Despite allegations of bias in the various election machinery, the opposition coalition managed, for the first time in Malaysia’s history, to garner sufficient votes and parliamentary seats to set up a federal government.
Democracy, however, is a multi-faceted creature and travels with an entourage. Among others, the doctrine of separation of powers, the rule of law, meritocracy and personal freedoms accompany democracy.
It will be a significant challenge for the incoming ruling coalition to accommodate these travelling companions while not jeopardising the fragile balance among the multiracial, multireligious and multicultural masses which form the Malaysian people.
On the positive side, at the helm of our new government is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is probably the man most suited and capable to successfully pull off this daunting task.
Although touted as the coming of age of Malaysian politics, my personal view is that a mature democracy is not metamorphosed overnight.
And just to avoid misinterpretations, by mature democracy I mean a society which is able to accept and adhere to measures enacted by a democratically elected government even though some or even a majority of that society’s members do not wholeheartedly agree with these acts or policies.
Thus, once the euphoria of winning a historic victory simmers down and the real work begins, Dr Mahathir and his cabinet will have to decide on quite a few sensitive and all too real issues.
An example is to what extent meritocracy will be implemented in the immediate aftermath.
Please do not get me wrong, I support equal opportunities for all regardless of race, gender, religion or other differences inherent in a diverse society such as ours. I also believe that not implementing m eritocracy fosters laziness, corruption, feelings of disenfranchisement and intolerance.
On the other hand, I also believe that sincere and mutual respect must be the bedrock upon which a meritocratic society can be built.
Without this respect, the same feelings of disenfranchisement and intolerance may arise and perceived injustices would result in meritocratic policies being viewed as oppressive even though the opposite is true.
So, in implementing meritocracy and other well-developed democratic policies, the newly elected government must also concurrently seek to carry out measures which foster sincere mutual respect among Malaysia’s diverse society.
It is vital for the development of our democracy that all races, especially the majority race of the Malays, not be given the impression that they have paid too high a price to depose of an autocrat.
I acknowledge that in saying this I may be wildly presumptuous and am underestimating the voting maturity of the majority of the Malays.
If so, I apologise to those who take offence.
Needless to say, as I have a right to an opinion, I also respect anyone’s right to civilly disagree with me.
All Malaysians must also bear in mind that although both loose and formal opposition political coalitions have existed before, none had been viewed viable enough by a sufficient number of voters to break the Barisan National stronghold of the federal government.
I would submit that on this occasion, the viability only existed because of the elderly but brilliant politician leading the coalition. In truth, Malays trusted Dr Mahathir more than they trusted Umno.
Let us not take one step forward and two steps back in developing our democratic values.
Let us build a nation which will be, in time, immune to the vagaries of race, religion and other differences.
Let us not rush self-righteously into the future but tread carefully.
Above all, let us preserve the peace our nation has enjoyed, for only with continued peace can we concentrate on developing ourselves and ensuring our nation’s success.

Ahmad Zaki Ismail,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Call for respect and tolerance
Of non-Muslims in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 May 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 14 May 2018

Much has been made of the fact that our seventh Prime Minister and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali and the deputy prime minister are all doctors who appear to have come at the right time to heal the nation of the many things that have been ailing it.
In the days and months to come, economists, financiers and business people will be training their eyes on the fiscal state of the nation and making recommendations to address the attendant issues.
The newly elected government has promised a slew of measures to ease the financial difficulties of the rakyat as well as re-examine mega projects and deals. The lawmakers, meanwhile, are going to have their hands full with alleged legal and financial transgressions that have taken place over the past few years.
While all of these are taking place, I sincerely hope the new government will also pay attention to restoring the heart and soul of the nation.
Close to 13 million people or 82.2 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in an election that has changed Malaysia’s political landscape forever.
Many flew or drove miles to return to vote, and young and old patiently stood for hours for their turn at the polling booths to elect leaders that we hope will have the interest of the rakyat at heart.
We hope the leaders we elected will help us rebuild the nation with a culture that no longer solely emphasises material wealth.
We need our leaders and citizens to work towards the greater good and with a common sense of purpose.
The amazing outpouring of patriotism, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia and sense of pride and accomplishment that were seen in writings, postings and pictures in social media following the announcement of the results of the elections attest to the joy and hope of everyone for a new beginning.
Let this be translated into a renewed vigour by every citizen to work together towards rebuilding Malaysia without race and ethnicity defining us, backed by policies and programmes to ensure that.
Our doctors in charge will have to inject a large dose of respect and tolerance as necessary medicine into our society that has in the last few years seen an erosion of the harmonious and mutually respectful way of life that we once enjoyed in this multiracial country of ours.
After the episodes of inter-religious conflicts that have been fuelled by increasing conservatism and ethno-religious politics, such as the ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims and harassment of or attacks on non-Muslim houses of worship, policies and programmes to improve and promote religious freedom as enshrined in our constitution will need to be established or improved upon. The new administration will need to ensure that these policies are on par with international human rights standards, especially in terms of religious freedom and the right to religious expression.
In addition, respect and tolerance of sexual diversity and basic human rights and dignity need to also be practised. Practices such as the demonisation of transgenders and other sexual minorities must no longer be tolerated.
While the French national motto of liberty, equality, fraternity had its origins from the 1848 February revolution, we in Malaysia have proudly shown the world that the people’s desire for change can be achieved through a peaceful democratic process.
Fundamental to this desire for change has been the growing concern and impact of the large income disparity between the rich and poor and a desire for a just and caring society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably distributed.
While the need to fix the ever-increasing financial gap is essential and urgent, other forms of inequality will also need to be addressed.
Equality must be promoted and practised in every aspect of life.
Central to this is to recognise the equality of all individuals as citizens and as children of God.
Replacing the decades-long race-based policies with one that is merit-based and favours the poor in general regardless of race or religion will be one of the biggest challenges the new government has to face.
Much hope is being pinned on this new administration to right the wrongs of the last few decades and to rebuild the nation.
How­ever, change can only come if each and every one of us embraces a new culture that values integrity over dishonesty, excellence over mediocrity, and hard work over handouts.
Openness, transparency and accountability will be our new essential medicines. Malaysia has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, is free from natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, and is on a strategic geographic location.
Our diversity is our strength. Let us together move forward to heal and rebuild the nation and put it back on track to become a developed nation not just in our economic achievements but also in our moral substance and values.

Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman,
Dean,
Faculty of Medicine
Universiti Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for street names in Port Moresby
Ahead of APEC meeting
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 May 2018
First published in the National, Thursday 10 May 2018

Despite having lived in this city for over 30 years, I still do not know the names and locations of some roads and streets.
New roads and streets have been constructed and are in use, but they do not have names and signpost labels.
Port Moresby, being the nation’s capital and the gateway into the country, has fast becoming a modern metropolis and we expect foreign visitors to increase.
These visitors cannot even find the streets indicated in old city maps, because they have no signs to mark them.
Even worse are the new ones that have no names.
I understand the city commission, under Governor Parkop and the city manager, are responsible for these streets and roads.
It is imperative, therefore, that NCDC must promptly set side funding to have people name and label the streets.
This is in fact a national embarrassment, so the city administration must act quickly.
Naming and labeling of these modern roads and streets must be prioritised and completed
before the months of August to October.
This is because during that period we expect foreign visitors to flood the city to witness the Apec meeting in November 2018.

Lore Wani,
Boroko,
NCD,
Papua New Guinea




Call for adoption of science and technology
To improve socio-economic status of Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 May 2018
First published in the Star, Sunday 13 May 2018

The 14th General Election showed that Malaysians are politically mature and democracy is still very much alive in our country.
All parties showed responsibility and the Election Commission carried out its duties satisfactorily according to the law, rules and regulations.
Syabas to the new representatives who have been chosen; those who lost, please do not lose heart as you have done your part and will have opportunities in the future.
To the civil servants, continue your efforts to make Malaysia a well-managed country.
I had in a previous letter pleaded for a peaceful campaign and balloting.
At the polling centre at Bangsar, people were very friendly and the officials on duty carried out their work efficiently.
I would like to ask all the leaders to adopt the spirit of mandelaism, which I coined in December 2013, and resolve conflicts through perseverance, tolerance and peaceful negotiations unfettered by past bitterness.
We should continue to adopt science and technology to improve the socio-economic status of the country together with some old-fashioned moral and cultural ethics.
I have confidence in the experience and wisdom of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his team to manage the country. God bless Malaysia.

Ahmad Mustaffa,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



President of dissolved Cambodian opposition CNRM party
Accused of carryng out anti-China campaign
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 May 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, 9 May 2018

Sam Rainsy, president of the illegal Cambodia National Rescue Movement, is misleading the world and discrediting Cambodia for its fast development.
He is carrying out an anti-China campaign in order to damage the image of China as well as to challenge the legitimacy of the Cambodian government, which has cemented close ties with Beijing.
Mr Rainsy is not consistent and does not respect his own words.
In his interview with Phoenix Television in 2014, he said, “CNRP is ally of China”.
He even firmly expressed his support of “China’s assertion of sovereignty” over the South China Sea and claimed that “CNRP stands with China”.
China is not a threat to Cambodia and the region.
The rising power of China has benefited and will continue to generate opportunities for the whole region.
Cambodia has an advantage in seizing the opportunities due to the political trust it has garnered and its geographical proximity to the economic center of the world. Some concerns over the increasing economic presence and influence of China in Cambodia are legitimate.
However we need to understand that many Chinese investment projects generate job opportunities and incomes for our people.
For instance, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China in 2013 is a new catalyst of global growth.
BRI is an inter-continental economic venue for more than 60 countries to cooperate and connect.
Mr Rainsy has raised concern over the debt service issue.
Let’s apply statistics here.
Cambodia’s debt to GDP ratio remains low at 37 percent in 2017 – it is below the average ratio for a developing country that is at 40 percent.
From 1996 to 2017, the debt to GDP ratio was at 35 percent.
We should not be too much worried that about the fact that 60 percent of Cambodia’s debt is owed to China.
This is due to the economic size of China.
Such debt would not make Cambodia to become a “province of China” but instead will strengthen the complex interdependence between both countries.
China has more stakes in Cambodia. Both countries and people will benefit from a high-stakes bilateral partnership. Historically, China does not pose any threat to Cambodia.
There is no strong scientific proof that indicates Chinese investments adversely affect Cambodia’s ecological balance.
Concerning the hydroelectric power plants, the benefits overweight the costs. Cambodia needs cheap electric power supply to accelerate economic growth and of course it needs to compromise a certain degree of environmental cost. Environmental and social impact assessments were carried out before constructing the dams. The cost of electricity has continually dropped to less than 20 cents per KWH.
Energy security is critical for the development of Cambodia and China is also the main producer of solar panels.
Future cooperation on solar energy will help diversify the sources of energy of Cambodia.
Chinese investments in Cambodia concentrate on labor-intensive industries particularly the garment industry which provides about one million jobs to Cambodian workers.
The current minimum wage is $170 per month.
If a worker wishes to work overtime then he/she will earn nearly $300 per month. This salary is relatively higher than that of Laos, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
China has started investing more in the semi-skilled and skilled manufacturing sectors.
Technology and knowledge transfer is taking place, although at a slow speed.
China has a great source of knowledge to transfer to Cambodia as it is pursuing an innovation-led development model.
Chinese aid has significantly contributed to the improvement of the living standard of the local people.
For instance, early this year China pledged to provide 100 Cambodian children who have congenital heart disease with free surgery in three years in a programme called “China-Cambodia Love Heart Journey”.
Also every year, China provides about 200 scholarships to Cambodian students to pursue their higher education in China.
Cambodians should not be afraid of the rising economic presence and influence of China.
They need to adapt and explore ways to grasp the opportunities stemming from China’s economic powerhouse.
Of course to optimize the benefits from China – either through development assistance or trade and investment – Cambodia needs to strengthen its governance and capacity.
Both the public and private sectors in Cambodia need to enhance their capacity to better grasp the opportunities generated by China, particularly under the new initiatives such as Belt and Road Initiative and Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.

Suos Yara,
Member of Parliament of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia



Call for end of exploitation
Of Filipino domestice workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 10 May 2018

Since the Marcos regime, remittances from overseas Filipinos have grown in volume and value; the benefits of these inflows to our country cannot be overemphasized.
It must be recalled, however, that the deployment of workers beyond our shores was started only as a temporary measure during the Marcos era but the succeeding administrations failed to put a stop to it, particularly the placement of helpless Filipino women as domestic helpers in foreign households where culture, values and religion were alien to them.
Looking back, succeeding administrations after Marcos were blinded by the dollar sign at the cost of our country’s social fabric.
So what started as a temporary thing is now a permanent fixture of our socioeconomic life.
Today, no less than 10 million Filipinos - more than half of them deployed as household help - are sweating it out in foreign lands to help their families back home to survive.
Undoubtedly, Filipino women working as maids are the most vulnerable sector. Are our national leaders even aware that there are cultures in certain parts of the world where a woman, working alone in a foreign household, is looked down upon with utter contempt?
Given this cultural milieu, is it so difficult to imagine that deploying our womenfolk to such unfamiliar environment would be tantamount to sending lambs to the lion’s den?
Through the years so many “horror stories” primarily involving our women overseas workers have been occurring tragically on a regular basis.
They used to sleep on top of refrigerators; now they are being stored in them like meat.
President Duterte is on the right track in ordering a deployment ban to Kuwait.
It is hoped that before Mr. Duterte’s term ends, the sending of Filipino domestic workers overseas, particularly to the Middle East, would be terminated. I have no doubt that our President could do it.

Jorge B. Osit,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Malaysians not to vote for
Extremists, deviationists, racists and religious bigots
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 May 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 8 May 2018

On the eve of polling day for Malaysia's 14th General Election, we the voters are faced with a major dilemma.
Having had a reasonably and relatively peaceful, stable and successful country since independence, we now face the dilemma of voting for either continuity or change in government!
How then do we try to resolve it?
Firstly, since there are little real ideological differences in the electoral manifestos of the major political parties, we could fully utilise the power of the people’s vote on the careful choice of the candidate offered to us.
We should choose only the honest, able, service-oriented and dedicated candidates with a proven track record.
Secondly, we should reject outright those candidates who are known to be extremists, deviationists, racists and religious bigots who have run down other religions in our precious multicultural society.
Thirdly, all those candidates who have said or done anything to erode national unity should be rejected at the polls without hesitation.
We should vote only for the candidates who aspire to make Malaysia great, united and moderate, progressive and prosperous and, most importantly, united.
If we follow some of these principles and arguments, and of course your very own, we the voters will overcome the doubts and fears, and the dilemmas we face as we prepare to vote tomorrow.
But to choose the right leaders, we have to turn up in full force and vote wisely.
We all hope that we will have a clean, free and fair election that will give us pride and maruah (dignity). Jom undi!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Asli Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Was removal of comfort women statue due to
Fear of losing Japanese aid to Philippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 4 May 2018

I have never heard of anything more disgusting and cowardly than the report about the “comfort woman” statue, newly installed on Roxas Boulevard, removed after a mere four months “Removal of ‘comfort woman’ statue draws protest,” in Philippine Inquirer 29 April 2018.
The fact that the National Historical Commission, the Manila government and Tulay Foundation initiated the installation of the statue makes it laudable indeed.
But the report does not state if those organizations were consulted before the statue was removed.
On whose orders, and why was it done in the dead of night?
It reminds of the stealthy and nefarious way Ferdinand Marcos’ corpse was carted to Libingan ng mga Bayani not long ago.
The German death camps, like those in Auschwitz and Dachau, still stand in Europe to remind people of war crimes.
Statues on comfort women exist in the United States and some other places as reminders of atrocities committed by Japan during World War II.
But even though that country has acknowledged its past crimes, it still has not atoned properly on the matter of the forced prostitution of women in Asia.
Why is Manila behaving in such a pusillanimous manner?
Or is it just carrying out orders from the Duterte administration to remove the statue, fearful of losing aid provided by Japan?
The admirable Teresita Ang See and her group need more supporters to display true patriotism in this country, something which too many of our officials cannot do. The demand to remove Marcos from Libingan ng mga Bayani failed.
This time we should all demand that the statue be put back where it belongs.

Isabel T. Escoda,
Cebu City,
Philippines




If the opposition wins the elections
Malaysia will be sidelined from OBOR
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 4 May 2018

IF the Opposition wins:
1. ECRL, TRX, Country Garden and all the China projects will be halted and Malaysia will be sidelined from OBOR (One Belt One Road).
China will buy more palm oil from Indonesia rather than Malaysia. Malaysia’s palm oil industry, after being boycotted by the EU, will have more problems with China’s boycott.
Our port industry, especially at West Port and Port Tanjung Pelepas, will decline and many Malaysians will lose their jobs.
Shipping, logistics and even manufacturing will decline as Malaysia, strategically positioned between the East and West sea lanes via the Straits of Malacca, will lose its significance.
It will become cheaper for factories to relocate to Thailand. Industry 4.0 (the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies) will also take a bad hit, not to mention the DFTZ (Digital Free Trade Zone).
2. GST will be abolished and the Government will lose a huge income stream.
With Petronas not as formidable as it was in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the 2000s, the Government will have to find alternative income sources.
Privatisation will be increased to sell more assets to “friendly parties” via cheap loans guaranteed by the Government.
The national debt will go up like it did in the 1980s and 1990s. Remember the debt-to-GDP ratio back then?
3. Tolls will be abolished by the Government to buy back (highway) assets, as Tony Pua has said.
Without oil money, and with China and the Middle East not as strong as before due to the decline in oil prices (plus, they have been focusing on their own super projects like Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain) and with Saudi Arabia also modernising, Malaysia has nowhere to go except for borrowing money from, say, the United States, while at the same time privatising other assets.
Without GST, government employees will also be retrenched to work with corporations, which are already overburdened with high labour costs, with many moving overseas especially the Chinese tycoons.
So privatisation to cronies to hire these government servants will only make sense.
Crony capitalism will return where indirect taxes in other forms like in the 1980s and 90s will return.
Think about it, with the oil subsidy in the 1980s and 90s, the price of petrol at the pump was three to four times the price of Brent crude oil.
Now without the oil subsidy, the price ratio of pump to Brent is only 1.3 times.
If the opposition wins, they will gloss over taxes and call it a subsidy to hoodwink the rakyat.
4. BR1M will also be abolished and the B40 people (those in the bottom 40 percent of income) will be encouraged to work hard and be thankful to newly privatised companies.
However, to be globally competitive, these privatised companies will have to keep costs low and our high income nation dreams will be destroyed.
Foreign workers will return as in the 1980s and 90s to compete with locals. Industry 4.0 modernisation, which the whole world is going through, will not happen in Malaysia.
The NEP (National Economic Policy, affirmative action for bumiputra) will come back stronger.
Prior to the NEP in 1974, our GDP per capita was only behind Japan and Singapore in the whole of Asia. But by 2003, our GDP per capita had become lower than Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
If the opposition takes over, by 2023 we will be behind Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
This is because as China evolves, its manufacturing costs will be only 20 percent cheaper than the United States and China-friendly countries will inherit its low-cost economy. But remember, Malaysia will not be one of them.
5. All said and done, privatisation and crony capitalism will return, only that this time there will be little oil money to bail out mistakes.
The only way is to have fake subsidies funded by the rakyat. The rakyat will suffer but will still clap their hands.
The happiness index will be the key KPI, just like in some countries, where the poorest people in the world are also the happiest.

Ng Yeen Seen,
Ceo of Centre for Research, Advisory & Technology (CREATE)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Chinese investment in Cambodia
Lacks transparency
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 May 2018
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Monday 30 April 2018

Following The Phnom Pen Post’s article titled Hun Sen comes to China’s defence, praises investment and development aid (April 26), I would like to make the following remarks.
The main problem with Chinese investments is their complete lack of transparency, which favours corruption among both Chinese investors and Cambodian government officials.
These investments generally consist of “win-win-lose” arrangements, with the Cambodian people being the silent loser.
Foreign investments are expected to create jobs in the host country, which is not the case for Chinese investments in Cambodia because the needed workers are brought from China, where a portion of the money from the “investments” therefore returns.
Moreover, transfer of technologies - another benefit normally associated with foreign direct investment - does not exist.
With the import of Chinese labour, no Cambodian workers are trained to acquire professional skills and there is no opportunity to develop the human resources the country badly lacks, as pointed out by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself as an excuse for the omnipresence of Chinese workers.
The Hun Sen government is therefore developing a vicious circle that maintains Cambodia in ignorance, poverty and dependence.
We often notice that, when dealing with Hun Sen’s Cambodia, China generously gives with one hand but greedily takes back with the other immediate and disproportionate advantages in the form of mining, forest and land concessions as well as lucrative risk-free business contracts, for example in the production of hydroelectricity.
Massive Chinese tourism is organised around Chinese companies and the remaining money left in Cambodia hardly outweighs the ecological and social costs incurred by our country.
We know Hun Sen desperately needs China’s support to help defend and protect his regime because China does not pay any attention to the rule of law, democracy and human rights in countries where it “invests”.
By recklessly siding with China just to cling on to power Hun Sen shows his economic shortsightedness and his lack of consideration for Cambodia’s interests.

Sam Rainsy,
Former president of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party
President of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement



The Philippine government attack on sister Patricia Fox
Is an attack on the church of the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Damdaming Katoliko sa Teolohiya (DaKaTeo), also known as the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines, condemns the arrest, detention of and deportation order against Sister Patricia Fox.
Sister Pat, a 71-year-old regional superior of the international Catholic congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, follows in the footsteps of many foreign missionaries who have chosen to serve our people and who have shown what it means to be truly in solidarity with God’s suffering people.
She has been living in the Philippines for the past 27 years.
She headed the formation program of her religious congregation in the country in 1990.
Sister Pat, who is also a lawyer, has been involved in helping peasant and tribal communities in their fight for their right to life and right to land.
Her duty as a religious missionary brought her to places where there is great oppression and lack of recognition of basic human rights. She has tirelessly and selflessly dedicated her missionary life to accompanying the poor and spreading the Gospel of liberation.
To accuse her of engaging in “illegal political activities” is to misunderstand the demands that the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels her and other missionaries to enflesh.
To promote and defend the rights of the poor is an act of evangelization that is at the heart of the call for God’s Kingdom.
We believe the arrest and detention of Sister Pat is part of a large-scale crackdown of the government against church people and organizations that oppose antipoor government policies and that criticize its dubious human rights record.
The attack on Sister Pat is clearly an attack on the church of the poor and an attempt to silence dissenting forces against the creeping authoritarianism and increasingly oppressive policies of the present administration.
We urge the government to step back, respect the democratic space, and, in the name of religious freedom, let church people do their prophetic-missionary work for the upliftment and defense of the dignity of the poor.

Damdaming Katoliko Sa Teolohiya (DaKaTeo)
Manila,
Philippines



Development of Port Moresby
At the expense of the rural populace
The Southeast Asian Times, Sayturday 5 May 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Government’s focus now is being concentrated only on developing Port Moresby.
Papua New Guineans have witnessed Port Moresby changing overnight with huge projects such as sports stadiums, flyovers, bridges, huge buildings, etc.
Most of our leaders will say, “Port Moresby is the eye and gateway to Papua New Guinea”.
Yes correct, we understand that.
But the question is: Is Port Moresby the entire Papua New Guinea?
Is Port Moresby the only place contributing to the Government purse?
Why are we doing that while our rural populace is still struggling to see, feel and access basic Government services?
Government service delivery mechanism still has huge gaps to patch.
One example: Our provincial governors received provincial services improvement programme (PSIP) grants and all MPs received district services improvement programme (DSIP) grants.
Where is the LLG (LLGSIP) component for all our elected presidents?
Our rural population does not see any changes because the Government does not give direct funding to our local level governments.

Hanam Bill Sandu,
Concerned Citizen,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea




Business in Port Moresby and Goroka
Taken over by foreigners
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 May 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 2 May 2018

It would not be a surprise if foreign businesses operating in Papau New Guinea are operating without an ‘IPA Foreign Enterprise Certificate’ but with only the ‘IPA Company Incorporation Certificate’ or ‘IPA Business Name Certificate’.
And, if they have one, then was it given when they had an initial bank balance of K100,000?
What is the shareholding sharing percentage with the nationals if any are involved?
It would be interesting to do a massive inspection and auditing on this right throughout the country.
Send them packing out of the country, and punish those aiders.
I am in Goroka now, and it seems like what is happening in Port Moresby is also happening here: All the trade stores, tucker shops and business are taken over by foreigners.
These foreigners should have their visa checked as well.
Foreigners with work visa permits should not do or own businesses in Papua New Guinea.
Foreigners with dependent visa permits should not get employment, do businesses or own businesses in Papua New Guinea. Period.
This also includes foreigners doing health businesses in Papua New Guinea.
Is this how leaders and employees of the Government and business sector aid foreigners to come and do this in this country?

Dr James Naipao
President
National Doctors’ Association
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Motive for killing of anti-mining priest
In the Philippines is apparent
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 April 2018

It quite frankly is sickening to learn that a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Mark Ventura, known as an anti-mining priest, was shot dead as he was blessing his parishioners at a church service at a gymnasium in the Phillipines early Sunday morning
( southeast Asians times 1/5/18 ).
Another priest, Fr Marcelito Paez, was similarly executed by unindentified gunman in December 2017.
The killers might be unindentified but the motive for the killing is apparent : to silence influential critics of corporate greed and political patronage.
And, we in the democratic world had come to believe that the Phillipines was heading towards becoming a good democratic country with the end of the brutal Marcos dictatorship.
That has not happened, has it?
The saying that the more things change the more they remain the same seems to apply aptly to this troubled country.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Call for education in forest ecology for those
Responsible for the destruction of Doi Suthep forest
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 May 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 30 April 2018

Re: "Regime must forget 'face' and do right thing", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 28.
A person doesn't have to be a legal scholar, a judicial expert, or even a forest ecologist to know what is the "right thing" to do with respect to the judges' housing complex carved out of the forest on the lower slopes of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.
Even a cursory glance of the aerial photos of the ugly gash inflicted on the Doi Suthep forest screams, "This is not right!"
This affront to one of the last remaining bits of intact forest around Chiang Mai should be bulldozed and restored to forest immediately, and the people responsible for wreaking such destruction should undergo some basic education on forest ecology and environmental values.
And, please park the goofy idea of allowing the houses to be occupied for 10 years and then assessing the situation.
We all know that if these villas are occupied now, they will forever be occupied.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Rural activists and agrarian reform advocates
Under attack in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 April 2018

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines denounces the decision of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to forfeit the missionary visa of our former national coordinator, Sister Patricia Fox, NDS.
Sister Pat has been here in our country for 27 years doing missionary work with the rural poor.
She has seen the miserable conditions of Filipino farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people.
Called by her faith, Sister Pat supported the plight of the rural poor for genuine agrarian reform.
The decision of the BI is hasty, baseless and unjust.
As a rural missionary, Sister Pat is merely extending her solidarity with the Filipino rural poor and fulfilling servant leadership through collective witnessing and prophetic action.
Under the Duterte administration, rural sectors, activists, and agrarian reform advocates have come under increasing attack.
This is part of the administration’s effort to terrorize and silence those who are speaking up against the worsening state of human rights in the country and to suppress the growing dissent of the Filipino people amid antipeople policies of the government.
We rebuke this attack against Sister Pat and against her Christian missionary commitment.
We enjoin the Church people and other sectors to stand with Sister Pat in her plight against this injustice.

Sister Elenita Belardo, RGS,
National Coordinator,
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines



Don't be surprised if Marcos propagandists
Join the present Duterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 April 2018

Did you know that as early as the middle ’70s, former president Ferdinand Marcos and his cohorts already considered him a hero together with Imelda Marcos?
This was done when they were included on the list of heroes in books published by the Marcos regime’s education ministry for the subject Araling Panlipunan (social studies).
With their pictures, the write-ups about Mr. and Mrs. Marcos were placed alongside the country’s authentic heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar and Francisco Balagtas.
Textbook writers from the education ministry’s home office on Arroceros Street and later in Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros where the Commission on Elections’ office is now located were reportedly afraid to defy the order to include the Marcoses in the roster of heroes of the Philippines, while others readily agreed to the project to ingratiate themselves to the Palace occupant.
That’s only one scheme where Marcos tried to fool the people, especially the students.
But these unprincipled people - especially the writers and peddlers of lies, falsehoods and half-truths - did not succeed in their evil scheme to mislead the people.
They later reaped the consequences of their bad intentions.
The judgment was very clear.
The Filipino people became fed up with gargantuan cases of corruption, oppression under a tyrannical rule, wanton disregard for human rights, freedom, truth and justice, cruelty to opposition leaders and unimaginable abuses of the dictatorship.
And it happened.
Filipinos staged a peaceful four-day revolution which reverberated around the world.
On February 22-25, 1986, they ousted the regime which ruled the country for 20 years, 14 years of which was under dictatorial rule.
And the rest was - and is - history.
The Filipino people became known and acknowledged by the international community for their contribution to the cause of justice, freedom and democracy. “People power” became a byword and model, especially in Eastern Europe.
What happened to the paid hacks who masqueraded as “writers” of textbooks in the public schools?
Many of them became silent and kept a low profile away from public eye.
The thick-skinned among them tried to ingratiate themselves to the new administration which replaced the unlamented martial law regime.
The cowards sought refuge with the scoundrels.
We won’t be surprised if, after their hiatus, they will surface again and join the present administration.

Pakapalan lang! Nakakahiya!
Eusebio S. San Diego,
Founder,
Kaguro and former president,
Public Teachers Association,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Thai education is limited to
Cram, jam and pass the exam
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 April 2018

Re: "Education sandbox: Reforming the way to reform", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday 25 April 2018.
Reforming education in Thailand will require removing people who have their
heads buried in the sand.
In the name of reforms, there is a lot of talk but no "walk the walk".
Most Thai state-run schools, colleges and universities still proudly use the "big brown envelope" approach for face-to-face teaching.
The instructors are given brown envelopes by the principal, directors and deans with the syllabus, teaching instructions, test and exams.
The instructors open the envelopes and teach to the tests, that too, in a way that half the class goes to sleep. In a nutshell, Thai education is largely limited to "cram, jam and pass the exam".
The educational reforms in Singapore are based on two major factors - the use
of English language and embedding of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) at all levels and using technology in the delivery of the curriculum or the
teaching methods.
In addition, extensive training of teachers as well the educational innovation and practices has led to creating a world-class educational system.
The Singaporean model makes it clear that all teaching and learning should focus
on excellence.
Pride, identity, jobs, careers and success will follow.
Hence, any educational reform in Thailand should focus on the three major components: the teachers, the curriculum and the mode of delivery for which competent visionary professionals are needed.
Thailand needs more highly trained teachers in the areas of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) and English.
Thailand 4.0 will require policy makers and teachers with vision, not bureaucrats with their eyes or heads in the sand.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Boracay tourist Island cleanup
Does not include solutions for stray animals
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 April 2018

First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 25 April 2018

We represent the Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (AARRC) based in Kalibo, Aklan. AARRC is a local animal welfare organization for cats and dogs and we specialize in disabled animals.
Our mission is to serve the community in which we operate by providing sustainable solutions for stray animals and associated issues.
As far as we are aware, none of the communications about the proposed Boracay cleanup released so far addresses animal-related issues.
We strongly believe that a cleanup wouldn’t be complete without a sustainable, animal-friendly and effective method of stray animal population control.
Although we have unsuccessfully tried to convince local authorities of the need for a continuous program, the cleanup will further increase this need as we expect that a significant portion of migrant workers leaving the island are going to leave their pets behind.
In cooperation with the Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation and other welfare organizations, as well as local government units, we intend to organize a spay/neuter/vaccinate/deworm program that efficiently addresses issues related to stray animals.
However, the clearly earmarked animals that go through our program should not be harmed or detained by the local authorities because this will jeopardize the continuity of the program.
In addition to this program, we also intend to rescue a number of dogs and cats for adoption at a later time.
Our request to you is two-fold: Firstly, we implore you to consider promoting the only proven and efficient method of stray animal population control, spay/neuter, which in combination with vaccination and deworming, will form the basis for future work and a healthy future for both animals and residents and visitors to the island. We offer to help organize and implement this program in cooperation with the cleanup authorities.
In return we ask that the animals in our program be exempt from capture and euthanasia by local authorities to safeguard the continued participation of both foreign and national sponsors.
Secondly, to be able to help the cleanup effort, our people all based in Aklan and helpers will likely require occasional access to the island and we ask for your cooperation in granting them this access.

Michel J.L. Van Der Kleij,
Emmy Karnot,
Ralf Schatz,
Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine Benedictine Sisters cannot comprehend
Government capitulating sovereignty to China
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 26 April 2018

We, the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of the Manila Priory and the academic community at St. Scholastica’s College, express our deep concern over the disturbing events happening in our country that pose a serious threat to the democratic and moral foundations of our society.
We protest the continued killings, mostly of poor people in relation to the war against drugs even after the change in command of the Philippine National Police.
We are ashamed of the invectives spewed by President Duterte against international bodies and officials who have expressed concern over these killings, and those who have declared their intent to investigate them in the performance of their duties.
We are alarmed at the suppression of dissent, critique and opposition in the following cases:
The unjust detention of Sen. Leila de Lima using fabricated evidence and testimonies of compromised witnesses.
The impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno without citing any impeachable offense and the attempt to unseat her unconstitutionally through quo warranto.
We are appalled by the disrespect for the law by those who are supposed to enforce and protect it.
The attempt to silence Rappler through the withdrawal of its license to operate and by the discrimination against its reporter.
The recurring threats against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
And lately, the arrest and detention of Sister Patricia Fox who has spent over 27 years in the Philippines helping to protect the rights of the poor especially the farmers.
We cannot comprehend how a supposedly “independent foreign policy” has our government virtually capitulating sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea to China.
We strongly oppose the changing of our Constitution through a constituent assembly and without thorough study, especially of provisions that would repeal the protection of our patrimony.
We unite with all freedom-loving citizens in standing up to oppose these threats to democracy and the erosion of our moral fabric.

Sister Mary Francis Dizon,
OSB President St. Scholastica's College,
Sister Adelaida Ygrubay,
OSB Prioress Missionary Benedictine Sisters
Manila,
Philipines

 


Cronyism means giving important jobs
To your pals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 17 April 2018

Re: "Cronyism 'typical'?" in Bangkok Post, Friday 13 April 2018
Khun Korn Chatikavanij said, "First, we need to establish that governments are in power to do a job and the civil service is the manpower it needs to use to effect its policies".
Surely you must have excluded Yingluck's government?
Two weeks before the coup, the Constitutional Court sacked Yingluck, then caretaker prime minister, and nine of her ministers for "improperly" sacking National Security Council secretary-general Tawil Pliensri.
About the meaning of "cronyism", I think Khun Korn is too picky.
It is generally accepted that the word means the practice of giving important jobs to your pals, siblings, including people you can trust, regardless of their qualifications.

Somsak Pola,
Samut Prakan,
Thailand



The Ati Negritos are the victims
Of Boracay tourist Island habitat destruction
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 21 April 2018

In recent weeks, much has been written about the environmental disaster borne out of greed wrought on tourist magnet Boracay.
We would like to point out one aspect that, thus far, seems to have been minimally discussed.
The Ati Negritos, the original inhabitants of the island, are primary victims of the habitat destruction and pollution in this location and it has become increasingly difficult for them to make a decent living the traditional way.
In 2012, the Ati were awarded a certificate of ancestral domain title, comprising of a plot of a mere 2.1 hectares in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.
However, this tiny piece of land is not only insufficient to cater to the community’s needs, encroachments on it also have continued to take place.
A win-win solution could be giving what is left of the island’s public timber lands Philippine Indigenous Communities Conserved Areas (ICCA) status. This would imply, that the Ati community is made the steward of these lands.
In this capacity they could help conserve the natural resources therein, with actual use limited to “light” traditional occupations, such as the gathering of wild foods, medicinal herbs and other nontimber forest products.
This is not a new idea.
Way back in 2012, during the “Dimgo Ke Eata Ribo” cultural revival festival and development forum held in Malay, Aklan, a senior officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources suggested exactly this option.
Now appears to be the right time for considering implementation.

Conchita C. Calzado,
Chair,
Melvin R. Guilleno,
National program coordinator,
Sentrong Pagpapalakas ng Negritong Kultura at Kalikasan,
Philippines



Australian missionary, Sister Patricia Fox
Target of Philippine political persecution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 22 April 2018

The Church in the Philippines lives in perilous times as an increasing number of clergy, religious and church workers face unspeakable violence and whose rights are violated by President Duterte’s administration.
Church people who join the pilgrimage of poor communities and support their struggle for justice, peace and human dignity suffer state-perpetuated political persecution.
The assault against Sister Patricia Fox, who is an Australian religious missionary and the regional superior of Our Lady of Sion Sisters in the Philippines, is the most recent blow against church workers and religious institutions.
For the past 27 years, she has immersed herself in the arms of the toiling Filipino masses and worked hand-in-hand with farmers, supporting through her prayers and selfless service their struggle for land and life.
Sister Pat, as she is known in the ecumenical community, was illegally arrested by elements of the Bureau of Immigration at her residence in Quezon City.
She was detained for two days, from April 16 to 17, following allegations of her participation in political actions against the Philippine government.
The soft-spoken and good-natured missionary nun was released, following strong condemnation from faith communities, human rights defenders, and members of civil society groups and peoples’ organizations.
We cannot comprehend why church people become targets of political persecution.
When has it become a crime to accompany the poor and the oppressed in their struggle?
When has it become a crime to preach the words of God and live out the works of Christ?
Recent events manifest a systematic state-sponsored attack on church people.
Last December. 4, Catholic priest Marcelito Paez was killed after facilitating the release of a political prisoner.
On May 11, 2017, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and peace advocate Carlo Morales was arrested, detained for nearly a year, and was recently released upon the granting of his bail plea.
We hold the Duterte administration accountable for the many cases, documented or otherwise, on the persecution of church people.
We demand that this administration stop the increasing and increasingly hostile attempts at silencing church people who accompany those that experience far greater historical and structural injustices.
We call upon all Christians and people of good will to boldly resist state violence and political oppression, and continue to stand up for and work in solidarity with the poor, deprived and oppressed, so that justice and peace may reign and life, in all its sanctity and dignity, can be enjoyed.

Bishop Deograacias S. Iniguez Jr.,
Rt. Rev. Felixberto L. Calang, IFI.,
Co chairs,
Ecumenical Bishops Forum




Philippine president Duterte
Given royal treatment in China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 April 2018

In light of the presence of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea, the “royal treatment” accorded President Duterte during his recent visit to China brings to mind Francisco Balagtas’ “Florante at Laura” that I learned in high school:
“Kung ang isalubong saiyong pagdating ay masayang mukha’t may pakitang giliw,
lalong pakaingata’t kaaway
na lihim siyang isaisip na
kakabakahin.”

Joe Laynes,
Manila,
Philippines

 


It wasn't the Chinese who said
Chinese and dogs not allowed
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 April 2018

This is regarding the Inquirer’s headline, "China military planes land on Philippines reef" 18 April 2018.
President Duterte said it does not make sense ruining our relationship with China as the Chinese are our friends.
Really, what is the sense in challenging China while it lands planes in some territory that it claims as its own?
Yet, we allow the United States, Japan, Australia, Russia, India and many other countries to anchor in our ports.
China and the Chinese have been our friends since years back.
Many other races have inflicted hardships, murder, rape, slavery and other crimes upon us.
The Chinese in our country were also victims.
Whoever said: “Chinese and dogs not allowed” or “Filipinos and dogs not allowed”?
Certainly, not the Chinese.
By pursuing an independent foreign policy, we are a friend to everybody and we get aid from China, the United States, Japan, Australia and Russia.
We need all the help to improve our lives and make our internal security strong, for as long as the aid has no strings attached.

Antonio E Sotelo,
Retired Lietenant General,
AFP,
Manila,
Philippines

 



May the best candidate
Win in the Malaysian elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 April 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 17 April 2018

As a former senior civil servant (secretary-general, Transport Ministry) and thus like all members of the G25, I humbly congratulate my former colleagues warmly for their excellent letter “Current reality in Malaysian politics” in The Star, April 16.
I sincerely believe that the deep patriotic and nationalistic sentiments expressed in the G25’s timely message have the full support of most former and current civil servants, the armed forces and police, other uniformed services and members of the entire public service like teachers and those under the big Cuepacs umbrella.
Indeed, the vast majority of the 1.6 million public servants would surely support fully the brave message from G25, which has appealed to all eligible voters to come in full force to vote.
This clarion call is particularly pertinent as we, Malaysian citizens, have a great opportunity to exercise our sacred duty to vote wisely instead of, as some plan to do, irresponsibly wasting or spoiling our precious votes.
Too many Malaysians also just grumble and won’t vote.
Please do so and feel better for it!
G25 has requested employers to liberally grant leave to their employees to encourage them to vote.
This is essential as the Election Commission (EC) has made it somewhat difficult for voters by not holding election day on a Saturday to help the out-of-town voters to cast their votes.
The business sector must also realise that they can only prosper if there is an able government with good governance.
So please do your part to make sure that we all get the best, honest, efficient and compassionate government for all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.
G25 has also urged the Election Commission (EC) to be free and fair in conducting General Elections 2014 (GE14).
Already, the Election Commission (EC) has created some public doubts with their latest redelineation exercise, the choice of Wednesday for election day and inability to reduce or erase some public concerns of possible malpractices on polling day.
As G25 has well cautioned, international and local observers will watch with eagle eyes all the happenings at the polling stations and maybe the EC itself too.
So let’s work hard for legitimate election results to justify a legitimately elected government that we can all be proud of.
G25 has already mentioned the need to “restore confidence in the future of the country as a stable and mature democracy”.
Will GE14 be able to restore this confidence?
G25 has called for all political parties to avoid “exploiting the issues of race and religion”.
Any candidate who stoops so low as to use racial and religious sensitivities for their parochial political gain should be rejected by the voters.
This will teach irresponsible politicians and candidates a good lesson and enable us to show that Malaysians are now mature.
We all, especially youths, have a special responsibility to do good on this matter.
G25 also called upon the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police to ensure that all candidates obey the law in their campaigns.
This is vital as any disrespect for the law can lead to lawlessness and even instability, which can seriously affect the social sustainability and unity of our beloved country.
As an honorary commissioner of the MACC, I would also stress the need for the Commission to effectively combat and control money politics.
This alone could corrupt the whole election process and distort or destroy the whole foundation of our electoral system.
The MACC and police must be more determined to fight money politics and any corruption or bad practices during the elections.
GE14 provides the best opportunity we’ve had so far to strengthen the growth and development of a more meaningful “two-party electoral system” that is less race- and religious-based.
There should therefore be more national socio-economic and political structural issues to debate and discuss during the election campaigning.
We have to ensure that the best candidates are elected to serve our people fairly and justly and on a sustainable basis.
We hope and pray that we will all strive to fulfil the amanah which the Almighty has blessed us with to do our duty to fully support the G25 stand and message to serve God, King, country and our Malaysian society to the best of our abilities.
May the best candidates, political parties and promises prevail. And God bless Malaysia!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Asli Chairman of Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 



China or England
Who is the real thief ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 17 April 2018

Re: "A thief is a thief", in Bangkok Post Friday 13 April 2018
Jack Gilead tried to claim that China is as greedy as the UK, by saying "Chinese
forcibly marched uninvited into Tibet in the 50s."

Can J Gilead answer me who invited the Briton to cross the ocean to usurp India
also the Australian continent, Falkland island, Gibraltar, etc.?
While Tibet has been a part of China off and on for thousands of years, it
wasn't long ago when British troops lead by Col Francis Younghusband marched
into Tibet of course uninvited after occupying India.
In the process,
thousands of innocent Tibetans who only had ancient weapons to defend themselves were slain.
Can J Gilead answer me who is the real satanic thief is, China or
England?

Prasan Stianrapapongs,
Chon Buri,
Thailand




Call for learning centre to teach Thai History
In opposition to self determination
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 13 April 2018

Re: "Army chief: Turn Doi Suthep complex into learning centre", in Bangkok Post Wednesday 11 April 2018
I like army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad's suggestion that the "housing project
for judicial officials at the foot of Chiang Mai's Doi Suthep be turned into
learning centres."

The most appropriate learning centre is one devoted to teaching the history
of the supreme pillar of the Thai nation from which all other laws and institutions derive their legitimacy, the constitution, and the sad history thereof at the hands of those opposed to the Thai people determining their form of society and its government as though they were a free people.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine indigenous communities attacked by military
Under the guise of “Oplan Kapayapaan.”
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 April 2018

Agriculture paved the way for the civilization of the world, but without land tillers, it would be impossible to cultivate millions of hectares of lands to produce food and materials that sustain the world until today.
Yet, no matter how essential lands are in producing and sustaining the necessities of the people, farmers are not given equal importance in order to enjoy their rights as land tillers, at least in the Philippines.
Seven out of 10 farmers still remain landless due to land monopoly by oligarchs and landlords.
Lands tilled for agriculture are either in the form of haciendas owned and operated by landlords and politicians, or owned by foreign investors as plantations.
Thus, farmers continue to be farmworkers, silently enduring the low wage from farming and high debt from usurers and their landlords.
Further, when farmers start to collectivize themselves and push for their right to land and just compensation, they end up being tagged as rebels or allies of the New People’s Army, hence killing them is so easy.
A current study of human rights group Karapatan has documented 126 victims of extrajudicial killings as of December 2017; 110 of them were peasants and leaders. The majority of these killings happened in Mindanao.
Various human rights violations were also filed such as illegal arrest, torture, forcible evacuation, threat, harassment, and intimidation.
There are also cases of indiscriminate firing and forced/fake surrender of farmers as rebels.
Indigenous communities are also affected due to militarization.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the primary force of counterinsurgency in Mindanao, attacking peasant and indigenous communities under the guise of “Oplan Kapayapaan.”
All these violations are seen as the government’s tack to secure lands for local and foreign investors and to pave the way for foreign loans from international financial institutions for President Duterte’s “Build, build, build” infrastructure program.
The infrastructure projects will require thousands of hectares of lands to be converted, thus displacing more farmers and indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
Using the rights-based approach, all these cases clearly violate human rights using its three principles - respect, protect, fulfill.
As a duty-bearer, the government has the obligation to refrain and prevent others from interfering with the enjoyment of the rights of the people.
The government also has to adopt appropriate measures toward the full realization of the people’s rights.
But with the present administration, the state vividly prevents the farmers to enjoy their rights.
Economically, farmers are still deprived of their land, and their wages are still low. Socially, they cannot access basic services due to inadequate government services especially in rural places. Politically, they are silenced when they voice out their needs and demands to call out for adequate support.
They are robbed of self-determination, human rights, and social justice.
The vicious cycle of a farmer’s life must be stopped.
A farmer’s life is not a toy that can be played with by a powerful entity any time.
A farmer’s life is precious as it sustains the people of the world.
If they die and cease to exist, who will feed us in the future?

Sarrryna Gesite,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for inclusion of environmental conservation
In Malaysia's general election
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 April 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 13 April 2018

We would like to remind the leaders of every political party in this country to include environmental conservation in their election manifestos for the 14th General Election.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 countries including Malaysia in September 2015 at the United Nations Summit encompass environmental, social and economic dimensions.
These are now considered as universal goals for development and indicators of a country’s wellbeing.
We believe that environmental conservation deserves greater emphasis in your aspirations for our country.
Sustainable development should be a goal that ensures a win-win situation in the environmental, social and economic dimensions.
By telling voters of your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you will allow them to make informed decisions about their candidates.
Please recognise the environmental aspirations of the citizens of Malaysia, especially the youth, by including these concerns in your party manifesto and also ensuring that they are given top priority to ensure sustainable development for current and future generations.
Also, please inform voters how you will work towards realising these aspirations in the first 100 days of successfully forming the next government.
Malaysia is recognised as one of the top 12 countries in the world for mega-biodiversity.
Blessed with tropical rainforests, mangroves, peatland and montane forests, Malaysia is ranked fourth in the world for having the most tree species.
Our surrounding seas are important parts of the Coral Triangle, which contains more than 75 percent of the world’s known coral species.
Our biodiversity is certainly one of the reasons why many tourists come to Malaysia.
As we all know, humans cannot survive without nature.
While development is meant to improve our standard of living and grow our economy, unsustainable development will inadvertently destroy the very element that provides the services we take for granted such as our clean air, fresh water, food and protection against extreme weather.
In the end, we would be left worse than expected.
But this need not be the case.
We must aim to achieve development in a sustainable way to balance our aspirations for economic growth without compromising our natural capital (environmental assets, social systems, cultural resources).
Only then can we ensure higher standards of living for our current and future generations.
In the absence of sustainable development and without proper protection of nature, the risks of flash flood, air pollution, landslides, shortage of clean water resources and expanding urban heat islands will increase.
We have already seen instances of this happening and the frequency and intensity will only get worse due to the pressures of increasing population and changing climate.
The forests, wetlands and oceans play vital roles in providing food, nutrients and recreational space for humans, regulating the climate and buffering against extreme weather.
We are putting forth this appeal in a neutral and non-partisan manner on behalf of our supporters – your constituents.
They expect us to engage with the political system to advocate sustainable development and to urge political leaders to make this a priority above party politics.
Announce to the voters your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia and allow them to make informed decisions with their votes.

Biji-Biji Initiative
Civil Society Organisations for Sustainable Development Goals (CSO)-SDG) Alliance Ecocentric Transitions
Ecoknights
Environmental Protection Society Malaysia
Friends of Sarawak Museum
Hunger Hurts Malaysia
Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral
Malaysian Nature Society
Powershiftmsia
Reef Check Malaysia
Sabah Women's Action Resource Group
Sabah Environmental Trust
Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society
Sarawak Eco-Warriors
Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Treat Every Environment Special (TREES)
Wetlands International Malaysia
WWF-Malaysia


 

 

It's fine saving the environment
But don't people's livelihoods matter
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 April 2018

In dealing with Boracay and the aftermath - feared chaos, massive layoffs, business losses - we ought not to forget, as Lon L. Fuller said, that: “…government is a human affair, and that men are ruled, not by words on paper or by abstract theories, but by other men. They are ruled well when their rulers understand the feelings and conception of the masses. They are ruled badly when that understanding is lacking.”
Here we know what conquering former generals Roy Cimatu and Eduardo Año, and their commander in chief want.
Have they factored in what Boracay’s poor masses, local officials, and civic, business and religious leaders, want?
What they want, hardly reported, should have been factored in to avoid another confusing fire-aim-ready decision.
It’s fine to save the environment but don’t people’s lives, livelihood and well-being also matter?
Given what President Duterte does in thrashing the Chief Justice, no local court in a terrorized judiciary would meddle.
Absent the reign of terror, a tough and fair-minded judge could have patiently guided the parties to an expedited win-win solution, not one imposed by outsiders or “dayo.”
On the timing for instance, maybe closure should not be on April 26 but a few months later so everyone would have a chance to adjust and avoid unemployment and starvation, or resort to crime - survival is the first law of mankind - and bankruptcy.
A truly independent judiciary can decide on the least restrictive alternative to arrive at the greatest good for the greatest number.
In his mythopoetic “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers,” Fuller also said: “I must confess that as I grow older I become more and more perplexed at men’s refusal to apply their common sense to problems of law and government.”
So if I may ask, with Mareng Winnie Monsod, “How was close-Boracay decision made?” in Philippine Inquirer 7 April 2018, "Get Real".

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Palanan,
Makati City
Philippines

 

 

Bonds forged between New Mexico National Guard
And Philippine Scouts are unbreakable
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 April 2018

My name is James Alderman, a retired American soldier living in Bacolod City with my Filipino wife, Lynn, since 2009.
Ramon Farolan’s column, “Bataan revisited” 4 September 2018, was true and factual. I have read Stanley Falk’s book.
The only thing I disagree with is what he wrote in the final paragraph.
Farolan is perhaps unaware that the US Army does remember Bataan and Corregidor. Perhaps the largest ceremony outside the Philippines takes place at White Sands in New Mexico every year.
The Death March is reenacted through the desert and almost every major unit in the US Army sends participants.
Last year over 23,000 people, soldiers and civilians took part.
I took part in two of these marches while I was assigned in Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Philippine Scouts are honored with a statue at the main entrance to White Sands.
The bonds forged between the 146th Coast Artillery Regiment of the New Mexico National Guard and the Philippine Scouts are unbreakable.
We do remember the “humiliating defeat.”
Pearl Harbor would be another example.
From the ashes of total defeat comes a stronger bond and lessons learned in order to not let it happen again.

James Alderman,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Why shouldn't the Pacific Islands
Have Chinese military bases?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 April 2018

If China is to build a military base in Vanuatu (as is being claimed by Australia)
then it shows Vanuatu and indeed other Pacific island countries have wisened up and no longer put their eggs in one basket, the basket of the surrogate of their European colonial rulers in the region.
Australia is guided by its own national interest in the adoption of its foreign policy. Why shouldn't small Pacific island countries do the same in the post colonial era?
What gives the Australian state the right to bitch about who is building a military base where?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Philippine rice farmers call for food security
Through food self-sufficiency
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 April 2018

We, small Filipino rice farmers, call on the government to immediately incease the support price for palay to enable the National Food Authority, the alternative buyer of our produce, to ensure sufficient buffer stocks, and to reduce dependency on rice importation.
Palay support price is the government’s guarantee for a fair return of our little investment.
Yes, the current farm gate price of palay may be high but the harvest of many from our ranks is procured at a lower price as loan payments to traders - the real benefactors of this price escalation.
We are not delighted at the present high retail price of rice in the market since we are also at the losing end as consumers.
As a result of inflation, we also suffer from the erosion of our purchasing power.
In Indonesia, for example, rice farmers are assured of a fair price of their produce through a government support price that is higher than the prevailing world market price.
Its government also subsidizes the price of farm inputs and provides budget for research and development, infrastructure and credit.
President Duterte is pursuing an aggressive infrastructure investment under the “Build, build, build” program.
Soldiers and the national police, other public sector employees including Cabinet officials and legislators, have benefited from salary increases (and relief from income taxes), while minimum wage earners from the private sector are free from income taxes resulting in an increase of their take-home pay.
Yet we, in the farming sector, are deprived of the same preferential attention from the government.
Our country must not just rely on the kindness of neighbors and other developed countries for our food security. Instead of spending taxpayer money on projects that benefit only a few, the government should not ignore farmers.
There has to be adequate farm funding and other farmer support programs to increase income and consequently improve the country’s food production.
Pursue food security through food self-sufficiency!
Increase the government support price of palay from P17 to P22 per kilo!
Implement policies to reduce cost of production and price of farm inputs!

Edwin Y. Paraluman,
Chair,
Philippine Farmers Advisory Board,
General Santos City,
Philippines



Call for Malaysia's politicians to return
To the fold of country and nation first
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 April 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 9 April 2018

I wrote a letter to the editor on December 11, 2012 to urge political leaders and eligible citizens of Malaysia to campaign peacefully so that the old and young could cast their votes in the 13th General Election without any fear.
In the short time of about six years, the mode and spirit of campaigning has evolved from the festive-style atmosphere back then to the rancorous events of the present where opposing sides hurl personal assaults against each other.
The democratic process we have been practising has been taken to the streets. Political speeches are no longer subtle and light-hearted but threatening and vulgar, especially at branch level.
Leaders of all political parties and their lieutenants who intend to deliver speeches in public should be reminded that 99 percent of Malaysians are literate and are now exposed to news from multiple sources, including from outside the country.
It is time the egoistic characters return to the fold of “country and nation first.”
The mature leaders must remind themselves and their over-zealous spokespeople to use respectable words and phrases and that the election campaign is not war or a fight with enemies.
It’s a once-in-five-years’ opportunity for the rakyat to choose a leader whom they think is fit to govern the country.
Try to campaign with dignity this GE14.
It doesn’t mean campaign speeches have to be mundane or delivered without gusto.
I am for a boisterous gathering myself but speeches must be factual and stay within the political arena.
Do not cook up tales that hurt innocent people.
There are so many issues of importance to the people and the environment to talk about, including food (availability, affordability and accessibility), health, education, income disparity, environmental destruction, sensible spiritual guidance and so on. Peaceful campaigns also reflect the intellectual nature and maturity of the party and candidates.
I pray for justice and peace, and all the best to the parties that put the rakyat before self.

A. Mustaffa Babjee,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


 


Call for Thai PM to look into threats made
Over posting of ancient kings wearing pollution masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 9 Apr 2018

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should look into the case in which the Chiang
Mai governor has threatened the editor of a Chiang Mai magazine with criminal
charges - for posting on Facebook a student's painting of ancient kings wearing
pollution masks.
Most Chiang Mai people regard the editor in this case as one of our city's
leading citizens.
He has been fighting for the preservation of the city as a peaceful locality as well as a popular tourist attraction.
Chiang Mai governors are appointed by the central government.
They come and go as per the government's command.
Hence unavoidable misunderstandings and conflicts sometimes occur between the governor and locals.
The government should be reminded that governors are transitory; while we the
people of the city are destined to die here - along with our children and
grandchildren.
With that said, the government should be careful not to allow the
misunderstanding between the city governor and the local citizens to develop
into a large-scale conflict.

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thai ancient kings today
Might appreciate wearing masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 8 April 2018

Re: "Magazine sued for 'blasphemous' kings painting", in Bangkok Post, March 31.
Chiang Mai governor Pawin Chamniprasat said that the Three Kings Monument is
"very sacred", but other than in obligatory state-sponsored rituals, older Lanna
folk may not choose to propitiate this site in preference to others.
Designed by a Bangkok-based artist and inaugurated in 1970, the monument represents a Bangkok version of Lanna history.
King Ramkhamhaeng is depicted on the auspicious north side in accordance with his perceived senior status, his right hand gesturing as if in authority.
The apparel of the three kings portray them as akin to Devas before whom others
might become mere specks of dust, probably of less than 2.5 microns given how
many float around the city these days. Like many of the city's residents, were
the kings alive, they might appreciate having masks.

Kuntree Bumkhin,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Low standard of workers in Malaysia
Due to wage stagnation
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 April 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 7 October 2018

I refer to the letter “More guides for workers” in The Star, April 4.
I would like to thank the writer for the thorough overview of the initiatives undertaken by the National Institute Of Occupational Safety And Health (NIOSH) to ensure the safety of workers, particularly those in the construction industry.
I believe that if accidents in the workplace continue to occur despite all the good and appropriate steps taken by the authorities, then they must be due to the workers’ own disregard for their personal safety.
This could mean that the standard of workers is lower now that it was in the past, a situation brought about by wage stagnation.
A contractor will now get lower quality workers rather than pay higher wages.
The person himself /herself must have the first line of defence.
A worker must be able to judge when the situation is safe for him, and thereby determine whether he can or cannot do a job.
He can refuse to do the task if he feels it would put his life in danger.
Workers who both need the money and also want to live will take any job without considering their personal safety.
Employers will take advantage of this situation.
Language skills here are crucial.
A person cannot value his life unless he/she has good language skills.
By the same token, an employee, and an employer too, cannot understand the instruction unless he/she understands the language.
Although courses are conducted for employers and employees on safety measures to be undertaken while at work, is the course instructor sure that his/her audience has sufficient language skills to understand the information being delivered to them?
It is possible that most workers just nod in approval, get on with the work and so get their pay even though they haven’t really understood what has been said.
Punishment is also crucial.
A good one makes the culprit understand the gravity of his/her offence and make him decide never to commit the offence again.
Contractors and sub-contractors who do not meet safety standards as directed by the relevant authorities and thereby endanger the lives of their workers, while also compromising the quality of the work they do, should be instructed to do the same work they told their workers to do, for a certain time under the same conditions and circumstances.
This should give them a feel of the situation and make them learn to treat their workers with respect, justice, and conside­ration.

Marisa Demori,
Putrajaya,
Malaysia



Police reports on extrajudicial killings
To be admitted in Philippine court
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 April 2018

On behalf of the petitioners and all family and kin of victims, CenterLaw thanks the Supreme Court for rejecting Solicitor General Jose Calida’s appeal to rescind its 5 December 2017, order requiring the submission of official police reports on the killings of drug suspects during the implementation of “Oplan Tokhang.”
This is an important step in the search for accountability for the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Tokhang operations.
We are fortified by this triumph of the rule of law.
The Supreme Court has demonstrated with this initial order that it will perform its role as our people’s beacon and bastion of justice.
We hope that the information that will be gathered from these documents will help not only the families of EJK victims, but more importantly the authorities, to file the necessary cases against those responsible for the killings.
The information the Court requires the Philippine National Police (PNP) to submit are what it is actually required to produce under the PNP’s own Manual of Operations.
These are no national security documents.
These are documents meant to ensure that the PNP’s officers and men faithfully comply with the rules of due process and the human rights of the subjects of their future operations.
In fact, these are documents that loved ones of anyone killed during police operations are entitled to have under the PNP’s own rules.
It is in the best interest of the PNP and its top officers to comply with the Court’s order, if only to show that the government is willing and able to prosecute unlawful deaths arising from Tokhang operations.
We hope that this will start the police in doing what it should be doing for each and every crime, regardless of the perpetrators.
CenterLaw trusts that this directive by the Supreme Court will help save lives and promote the rights of the Filipino people.

Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Manila,
Philippines



Claims of racial and religious discrimination rejected
In Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 April 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 4 April 2018

There have been reports about Malaysians using racial and religious discrimination to seek asylum in other countries after failing to fulfil the stipulated immigration conditions for permanent stay there.
Their claims of racial and religious discrimination are lame excuses as there are many Indian, Chinese and other races holding senior positions in government and public organisations in Malaysia.
You can find mosques, churches, and Indian and Chinese temples everywhere here for people to practise their religious beliefs freely.
So how can these people claim that they are being discriminated against because of their race or religion?
I agree that there are some extremists here who have uttered discriminatory remarks on religion and race but these are in the minority and their views are rejected by the majority of the population.
There are a few extremists advocating white supremacy in the United States of America and Australia, so are we going to believe that there is widespread racial discrimination in these countries?
There are many Malaysians with vast experience in their profession who have migrated to countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Unable to obtain jobs in the same field in their adopted country, they cried discrimination even though the real reason might be because their experiences were not relevant.
A senior bank manager with vast experience in Malaysia may have to start as a junior executive in his or her adopted country in order to acquire the necessary local experience to become a senior executive.
Similarly, a senior Malaysian advertising executive may face the same problem obtaining a senior position in Australia.
This is not discrimination. .
Those who use racial or religious discrimination in Malaysia as grounds to obtain permanent residence in other countries should be rejected.
I know a few people who were holding good jobs in other countries who have returned to Malaysia for good.
They are highly educated professionals who would not have returned if there was widespread racial and religious discrimination here.

Thomas Foo,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia



The Jabidah massacre
Signaled the legitimacy of the Moro
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 April 2018

As our forefathers did five decades ago, the Moro youth and students vow to continue the fight for the right to self-determination in defense of the Bangsamoro, even as the government continues to disregard the civil and political rights of the Moro people and wages wars that destroy people’s lives and communities.
Akin to the Jabidah massacre on March 18, 1968, and a long list of mass killings by the Marcos regime, the Moro people - the Maranao in particular - were subjected to the same situation: Marawi City was bombed incessantly by the military under the pretext of capturing international terrorists.
Our fellow Maranao were subjected to various human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests, forced evacuations, and their houses and properties destroyed and looted.
The Jabidah massacre reminds us of how the Philippine government plotted the taking of Sabah, through a covert military operation -“Oplan Merdeka”- that used the Moro youth as soldiers to stage an attack that would claim Sabah.
Defying the operation, these youth were killed and evidence of the operation were covered up.
The Jabidah massacre signaled the legitimacy of the Moro people to take up arms in defense of their communities and people, and wage the struggle for right to self-determination.
As the government continues to commit wars and a genocidal campaign, the fervor to continue the arm struggle intensifies.
The massacre that happened decades ago paved the way for the rebirth of the Moro people’s armed struggle, and the present situation of the Bangsamoro might again ignite the need to revolt.
We must be reminded of the tragedy and significance of the Jabidah massacre in the history of the Moro struggle and the challenges that lay ahead of us.
Let us continue to fight amid martial law in Mindanao and the government’s bogus war against terrorism.
Justice must mean liberation of the Bangsamoro from discrimination, land-grabbing, militarization, and national oppression. Justice must mean our right to self-determination.

A-Jay Datun,
Chair,
League of Filipino Students,
Mindanao State University (MSU)
Philippines



Thai Lese Majeste law stops
Anti-smog campaign in Chiang Mai
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 April 2018

Re: "Magazine sued for 'blasphemous' kings painting", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 31 March 2018
Yet again the knee jerk reaction in Thailand to any criticism is to kill the
messenger rather than fix the problem.
Your report says the governor of Chiang Mai wants criminal charges laid against
a local magazine for posting a "blasphemous" painting on Facebook showing
ancient kings, Mengrai, Ramkhamhaeng and Ngam Muang, wearing pollution masks as part of a campaign to protest against hazardous smog.
The English-language magazine Citylife Chiang Mai posted the illustration by a
local teenage artist to promote a rally urging authorities to tackle the toxic
haze that plagues the northern province annually.
The charge of blasphemy, if correctly translated and reported, is ludicrous as
these three long historical kings were mortals, and the use of the Computer
Crime Act to press the charge is risible.
We can only hope this case will be treated with the contempt it deserves and be thrown out.
So to governor Pawin Chamniprasat: Do the job you are paid to do and clean up
the pollution and stop acting like a petulant child.

David Brown
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for boycott of zoos
That hold animals captive for profit and entertainment
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 April 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 30 March 2018

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is concerned about the alleged shooting of a chimp at a zoo in Langkawi, which was highlighted by animal rights activists.
Why was the chimp shot?
Because it made a daring escape from its night den, into its enclosure and into the open?
Adult chimps can be very dangerous and they can be a threat to people in zoos, if they escape.
But zoos must also be prepared with humane options or non-lethal methods of subduing a chimp, such as a tranquilliser dart or net, for cases of escaped wildlife. At the time of this escape, the zoo was closed to the public.
In this case, serious questions need to be raised immediately about how an adult chimp managed to escape, and why the animal was shot dead.
Zoos are required to ensure that enclosures and boundary fencing are designed and maintained to prevent escapes.
In the wild, chimps live in large groups.
It is psychologically damaging for them to be in small barren cages because they lack mental stimulation and the company of their own kind.
Action should be taken against the zoo’s management for any psychological abuse suffered by the chimps.
Often, animals’ normal behaviour is seldom discussed, much less observed, and their natural needs are rarely met.
The Zoo Licencing Act should be amended to force zoo managers to ensure the psychological needs of the animals are met.
The only welfare protection zoo animals have is not to be treated cruelly.
The fact that an animal is not able to behave in a normal way for its species is not considered cruelty.
This means that local zoos can continue to house animals in a space likened to a “menagerie from the last century.”
Wildlife officials need to heed increased public awareness of the suffering of captive animals and listen to wildlife experts who recommend that zoos be phased out. SAM believes that visitor experience at zoos should not be considered more important than animal welfare.
If one is truly concerned about the impact that zoos have on animal welfare, it is best to stay away from zoos and businesses which hold animals captive for profit, and as a source of entertainment.

S.M. Mohd Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Penang,
Malaysia




Philippine divorce bill
Passed with avalanche-like speed
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 March 2018

As I read the editorial about the divorce bill in Philippine Inquirer, 24 March 2018, I recalled what Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, a Polish poet, rightly said: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
The avalanche-like speed with which the divorce bill went through Congress was timed with the publishing of a survey which claims that more than 50 percent of Filipinos are in favor of divorce.
If the task of lawmaking is now a matter of following the party line and clamor of surveys instead of the pursuit for society’s good, then citizens have reasons to be afraid.
King Henry VIII, having been denied a divorce by the pope, proclaimed himself head of the Church of England, followed by a cruel persecution of those who opposed him.
Thomas More, although he was the king’s chancellor and friend, was no snowflake. Of course, he was beheaded; but his head now wears the halo of a saint.
As to the king, he married five other women after dumping his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Two of them, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, ended up decapitated, accused of infidelity.
History’s snowflakes pass into oblivion, but it is their descendants who will have to extricate themselves from all sorts of social avalanche.
It would be wise not to attempt to bend the arm of the Church to get from her what we want (which we know to be wrong, like divorce) - the purpose of that arm is not to strike but to pardon, and to pull us out of the muck into which we thoughtlessly jump (quite frequently).

Fr. Luis P. Supan
Quezon City,
Philippines




Call for environment crime verdict in Indonesia
To serve as a model for ASEAN and Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 April 2018

The Indonesian anti- corruption court's decision to send the Sulawesi governor
Nur Alam to jail for 12 years and to fine him $US 72,000 for misuse of authority - for bribery in the granting of mining licences that led to environmental destruction -
( The Southeast Asian Times 31/3 ) should serve as a model for other countries in the region that corrupt leaders will be held to account no matter how high your status.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Philippine government, Catholic Church and Business
To reduce poverty
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 March 2018

A report showed that there are now 26 million people who are under the category of “poor” and half of them are living under “extreme poverty.” in "Earning less than $1 a day, that is equivalent to P30 per kilo of rice and one small can of sardines."
In a “talipapa” or wet market in Taguig City, I witnessed an 8-year-old girl haggling with a rice store owner if she could buy one-half-kilo of rice.
I was luckier because my money was good for buying a kilo of rice for my six children. A day after, I saw that same girl riding a jeepney with her tambourine, singing a plaintive song and begging for money.
We are familiar with dramatic scenes of poverty in the Philippines.
Our priests preaching in the holy altar have been pontificating the neglect and deprivation of people who are destitute, lacking the basic necessities of life and how our better-off brethren should share their blessings.
Pope Benedict XVI said: “There are clear signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have huge resources for disposal. Given the dramatic nature of the problem, reflection, and analysis are not enough—action must be taken.”
Poverty causes the breakdown of life’s values.
This is one situation where our Church hierarchy is having difficulty in imparting to indigents the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
How can you explain succinctly our Catholic faith to people who have “empty stomachs”?
Instead of avoiding the issue, this is one of the challenges for our laypeople and Church authorities: How to motivate, reach out, and nurture the virtue of faith. Instead of discouragement, this is the best time to sow good faith because a lot of Catholics are moving out from our camp to join other sects.
A fast-growing sect employed a recruitment method by providing employment, job promotion, and feeding programs to these poverty-stricken Catholics. And instantly, many have forsaken their Catholic faith.
The head of the family is under pressure for providing the needs of his family under a Catholic’s faith versus a new faith.
A solution to this economic crisis, according to Pope Benedict XVI, is to strengthen the family, the fabric of our society.
The government, Catholic Church, and business sector should work together to reduce the poverty gap in the Philippines.

Isidro C. Valencia,
Manila,
Philippines




Slower economic growth and less investment
As Malaysian talent moves to Singapore and Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 28 March 2018

The National Transformation Programme (NTP) is successful but will this success be sustained?
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak presented the NTP Annual Report 2017 with much justified fanfare last week.
He was also interviewed by the NTP adviser Datuk Seri Idris Jala on a wide range of socio-economic issues raised in a survey of thoughtful Malaysians.
The PM said that “Malaysia is now at the cusp of rapid change” and stressed that “the Government is determined to drive the country’s development to greater heights in the future.”
He also “urged Malaysians to place their confidence in the efforts undertaken.”
All this is well and good but there are many Malaysians who believe that while we can celebrate our NTP successes now, future progress can be questioned unless we adopt new and fundamental development strategies.
Even the past successes can be qualified as they have shown some weaknesses that are not highlighted in the NTP Report.
In fact, the report should have shown more balance and indicated plans on how to overcome our current structural weaknesses to ensure sustainable success as well. Let’s examine how the NTP Report could have been better balanced.
Firstly, while it is true that the economic growth rates, especially the 5.9 percent expansion last year, have shown much success, what assurance is there that we will be equally or more successful in achieving high rates of growth in future?
What new strategies do we envisage to attain faster and sustained economic expansion?
Even the wide public consultations on TN50 do not indicate the vital need for major changes in our socio-economic sector.
It seems to be more of the same and this is unwise for future sustainability.
How can we then assume that we are “no longer stuck in the middle income trap” given our reluctance to introduce more essential competitive policies to take on our economic rivals in Asean and all over the world?
The NTP has to undergo more structural changes in order to sustain its laudable successes!
Secondly, higher growth rates have not sufficiently raised the standard of living and quality of life of Malaysians in the bottom and middle income groups.
In fact, the rakyat have been suffering from low salaries and steadily rising prices of goods and services.
The Happiness Index for Malaysia does not show that our people are really happy. Will the Government use this UN-sponsored Happiness Index more extensively in our annual budgets and the five-year economic plans to ensure that high-growth rates bring greater benefits to the middle and bottom income groups?
What is the use of high-growth rates when the rich gain more than the poor? Instead of being confident in our economic growth, the rakyat could become more depressed and even feel relatively neglected by public policies!
Thirdly, unemployment should decline with higher economic growth.
But among youths, especially fresh graduates, unemployment is rising.
There must be many things wrong in our economic planning and implementation for this sorry state of affairs.
Our education system at school and tertiary levels should take some criticism for this. Is there an avoidable mismatch in our labour market?
Are our new graduates weak in critical thinking, subject content and communication in English?
Are we churning out graduates who meet the rapidly changing demands of the digital economy?
If this is the case, can the unemployed feel confident of benefiting from the projected “greater heights” in the future?
We have to be careful to avoid social unrest emerging from this dissatisfied sector of our society.
Fourthly, our national institutions are vital for our survival and further success.
The sustainable success or failure of our institutions was unfortunately not emphasised in the NTP Report.
Economic growth, better income distribution, higher quality of life and indeed greater happiness cannot be built up and adequately sustained without having stronger national institutions.
Thus, more strenuous efforts have to be made by the Government to strengthen our national institutions as a high priority.
The parliamentary system, judiciary, Election Commission, Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commis­sion and the entire civil service, among others, must step up the fight against money politics.
This is essential to strengthen and sustain national unity, peace and security and racial and religious harmony.
The NTP Report should focus on the soft side of development as well to achieve sustained success.
Fifthly, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Goals, including our environmental protection, could have been given more prominence.
Again, what use is our emphasis on economic growth if we inadvertently and carelessly destroy our earth?
We hope future NTP reports will stress not only growth and infrastructure projects but also the means of providing basic needs and human rights and attaining the UN Sustainable Goals to directly benefit all Malaysians.
We need a more bottoms-up, less top-down approach in our socio, economic and even political development.
Malaysian talent and skilled workers who are now in very short supply will then be encouraged to stay at home and contribute to a more progressive nation.
If our talents continue to move to Singapore, Australia and elsewhere, there will be slower economic growth and even less investment.
The NTP report is most welcome because it lists down many successes.
But unless more structural and long-term reforms are introduced soon after GE14, these successes will not be sustainable.
We cannot afford to follow past policies that served us well before, particularly in the future.
We have to transform more radically and change direction to truly break out of the middle income trap.
If we don’t do so soon, our economy will just chug along like an old and tired locomotive!
In fact, as a nation, our prospects for further progress and national wellbeing may decline.
These structural reforms must be introduced by the NTP as soon as possible to meet our national challenges and aspirations for TN2050!
For this reason, we must all vote wisely.
God bless Malaysia’s future!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Chairman Asli Center of Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Malaysia is rightly concerned about
Security personnel in schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 26 March 2018

Writer James Campbell and those whose work he quoted in his opinion piece in the New Straits Times, “Consequence of increased security in schools”, March 23, rightly observe that the more non-white students a school has, the more likely it is to have security on campus and to have students arrested.
But, this is no doubt because more crime, especially violent crime, is committed in these schools by non-white students from impoverished backgrounds with multiple problems like absent fathers and criminal parents or siblings.
The problem among ethnic minorities is not unique to America.
Look at the knife crime statistics among black teenagers in London.
Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect their pupils from crime, and security personnel are a regrettable, but, reasonable solution.
What matters is how they are used and how they are presented to students and parents.
Firstly, I feel they should not be seen as the bogeymen to be avoided.
They should be integrated into the school community so that children feel free to engage with them at any time, as with a neighbour or neighbourhood police officer.
Secondly, it should be made clear to students and parents on joining the school community that crime will not be tolerated but will be dealt with.
And herein can lie a problem.
In my home city, Melbourne, Australia, we have, for some time now, had a problem with theft and violent crime committed by immigrant youth to whom the courts give a verbal slap on the wrist and release.
When they re-offend, the process is repeated many times over in some cases.
So, the judiciary needs to be brought on board so that there is consistency in sentencing, insofar as it can be achieved without being unfair.
Thirdly, programmes where youth of concern are taken to prisons so they can see what awaits them have had a measure of success.
Campbell is right to be concerned about security personnel in schools, but the solution is not to wish them away, thereby leaving students at more risk, but to bring them into a planned and integrated programme for the benefit of the school community.

Anthony J. Whitmarsh ,
Victoria,
Australia

 



Catholic Church preoccupied with self preservation
No time to prepare couples for marriage
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 March 2018

In his column on “Irregular Families?”, 23 March 2018, Michael Tan revealed some very significant government statistics on Filipino marriages i.e., declining number of marriages in the last decade, a third of the female population that were never married, a significant percentage of women in live-in relationships.
They constitute a disconcerting set of factual realities that can explain the acceptance by the majority of our predominantly Catholic nation of the divorce bill and should jolt the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy from its complacency and ivory-tower dogmatism.
If the state of many marriages in the country is so distant from the permanent, stable, and sacred state that is envisioned for couples bound together by the sacrament of matrimony, something must be wrong with the way Catholics are being formed and guided by the Church.
This explains why Catholics can have a casual and dispassionate attitude toward divorce and the dissolution of marriage bonds.
As a Filipino Catholic, I think that our institutional Church has been generally remiss in guiding its members, particularly those facing distressed marriages, and providing them pastoral care and doctrinal formation.
It has been too preoccupied with self-preservation and maintaining physical and bureaucratic structures to even have time to prepare couples for marriage and resolving marital difficulties.
More fundamentally, it has for centuries routinely shepherded a community of believers that has not gone past ritualistic practices and self-oriented spirituality owing to its own ministers’ neglect of the spiritual formation needs of the faithful.
The result has been a church of unthinking, passive and doctrinally and spiritually undernourished members, who believe that being a Catholic in good standing merely entails attending church services on Sundays and major liturgical feasts (Lent, Advent, feast of patron saints) and for more enthusiastic members becoming church servers of the parish priests (lay ministers, lectors, etc.).
I am saddened as a Catholic by these developments and close to losing hope in ever seeing the Church recover from its sick and lethargic condition.
No wonder many erstwhile Catholics (here and elsewhere) have either stopped practicing their religion finding it irrelevant in their personal lives, joined other non-Catholic Christian religious sects which are able to offer greater fellowship and spiritual dynamism, or simply became an agnostic or atheist.
Sadly, the Church hierarchy and ordained ministers have much to do with these tragic outcomes because they have not seen and addressed the growing uneasiness and deterioration in the faith of their flock that they are supposed to shepherd.
They seemed content and even pleased with the status quo for as long as church coffers are overflowing, Mass attendance is high, church buildings are constantly being added or improved, and lay leaders are kept at bay and submissive in parish pastoral councils.
Despite being 80-percent Catholic (at least nominally), the Philippines remains to be immersed in widespread poverty and endemic corruption, and the majority are not morally disturbed by, or at least tolerant of extrajudicial killings, and now, are even in favor of having divorce in the country. This should be a huge wake-up call for the institutional Church!

Donato P. Soliven,
Antipolo City,
Philipinnes

 


Call for the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the
Human Rights of Older Persons as model for Asia-Pacfic
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 15 March 2018

Re: "Showing our age" in Asia Focus, March 12.
If, indeed, "ageing is a privilege" or even a "most glorious opportunity",
because not everybody gets to age, is it possible to extend the privilege of
longevity in the future?
While a universally acceptable answer is still on the waiting list, Asian
countries could take useful inspiration from the practice of Latin America in
this field.
The adoption of the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons (2015) might be used as an encouraging model for negotiating a similar Asian-Pacific legal instrument on the matter.
The Inter-American Convention (41 articles), in force from January 11, 2017,
defines ageing as a gradual process that develops over the course of life and
entails biological, physiological, psychosocial, and functional changes with
varying consequences, which are associated with permanent and dynamic
interactions between the individuals and their environment.
The lifetime knowledge of senior citizens, their talents and competence are an added value for society and should be seriously taken into account and strictly protected by law.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine president Duterte
Wants to pull out of International Criminal Court
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 25 March 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 March 2018

As a history teacher, I must object to President Duterte’s order to quit the International Criminal Court (ICC)
With it, we lose our dignity as a nation.
The ICC is part of the United Nations, and the Philippines is part of the United Nations. Back in 1945 when the UN was founded, there were only three other Asian nations that participated.
Our officials signed the original charter, hoping that we would become an upstanding member of this important organization.
The UN and the Philippines both grew up together.
Since 1945, our soldiers have been actively involved in peacekeeping missions. Our dues have helped other nations, and during catastrophes, the UN has helped us.
We have gotten advice from Unicef on Filipino child health and welfare.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea backed us up in the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.
Our government and nongovernment officials have become leaders in the organization.
Carlos P. Romulo was elected president of the UN.
We have been president of the Security Council seven times.
The UN and its judicial wing, the ICC, put pressure on nations to uphold human rights.
We agreed to these human rights.
We agreed to uphold the goals of this body.
Yet now, President Duterte wants to pull out of the ICC, and put our good reputation in the trash bin.
If he does not have anything to hide, why is he afraid?
Why must we tear up our agreement with the rest of the world?
Obligations are obligations and should not be thrown away, just because of the bad behavior of one president.

Jonatgan C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines




Friends of the Earth Malaysia call on the government
To protect critical water resources
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 March 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday, 22 Mar 2018 Thursday 22 March 2018

This year’s theme for World Water Day, “Nature for Water”, explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
The central message is that nature-based solutions such as planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains and restoring wetlands are sustainable and cost-effective ways to help rebalance the water cycle, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods.
The Eleventh Malaysia Plan recognises forests as the nation’s natural capital due to the ecosystem services they provide.
This can be exemplified by the importance of the forest reserves in Ulu Muda, Kedah which are vital sources of water for Kedah, Penang and Perlis, supplying 96 prcent, 80 percent and 70 percent of the daily water needs in the respective states.
In conjunction with World Water Day, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) is calling on the Malaysian Government to protect critical water resources in this country to ensure water security.
This requires classification of permanent reserved forests for protection purposes, proper management of wetlands and intensifying efforts to harvest rainwater.
A permanent reserved forest (PRF), unless classified under Section 10, subsection (1) of the Forestry Act 1984, is deemed to have been classified under Section 10 (1) paragraph (a) as timber production forest under sustained yield.
Failure to classify the PRF means that state governments can issue permits to take forest produce from the PRF, hence threatening its ecosystem.
The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve situation, where logging and mining activities have been approved, is reflective of the need for a uniform national policy to protect forests in Malaysia as national water catchment areas.
Rivers are the main source of raw water in this country. In Peninsular Malaysia, the major rivers flow from the Main Range, which forms the backbone of the peninsula. The major rivers that flow towards the Straits of Malacca include Sungai Muda, Sungai Perak, Sungai Bernam and Sungai Linggi. Sungai Pahang, Sungai Rompin and Sungai Kelantan flow towards the South China Sea. The sources of all these rivers are inevitably enveloped in tropical rainforests that catch water for the rivers.
Under the Federal Constitution, the governance and protection of the rivers as raw water resources come under the jurisdiction of state governments. Classification of forests as soil protection forest, flood control forest, and water catchment forest is crucial to protect water resources.
However, when it comes to the governance and protection of forests that catch water for the rivers, very few states have passed state enactments. In Penang, a total of 62.9km2 of forests have now been gazetted and protected as water catchment areas. Other states appear to be reluctant to pass similar laws, possibly due to potential losses in revenue from premiums and royalties from logs and other forest products.
The sixth Sustainable Development Goal commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution. Hence, Malaysia’s rainforests must be protected as national raw water catchment areas to ensure sustainable water supply for the people. We strongly urge that the power of protecting critical water catchment areas be brought under Federal legislative powers. This is because if the rainforests are destroyed, the rivers will eventually run dry, causing a national water supply crisis that would affect millions of people and disrupt economic activities.
Rain water, an accessible and sustainable water resource, is an important component in attaining water security. In this context, protecting the forests, rivers and wetlands which are natural water catchments should be regarded as a matter of national interest.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Penang,
Malaysia

 


Chinese community in Malaysia has realised
That hoping for fairness will get them nowhere
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 23 March 2018

In his recent editorial about Chinese votes in Barisan Nasional’s equation, A Jalil Hamid, in my opinion, penned an interesting point: “The reality is that the Chinese could probably have made up their mind long ago.”
This is worthy of deeper appreciation, taking into account how the Chinese community reacted to certain issues that cropped up recently.
Several political analysts echoed similar observation about the relative calmness among Chinese voters this time around compared with the previous two general elections, the last one being emphatically labelled as “the Chinese tsunami” that reduced MCA and Gerakan representation in BN to the lowest in BN history, with the cheeky catchphrase “apa lagi Cina mahu?” coming along later.
The observation about calmness, however, may not be credible when measuring the reaction of the Chinese community when issues close to their heart are being scrutinised.
A case in point, the sudden and unsubstantiated accusation against billionaire Robert Kuok by a blogger.
The Chinese community viewed the attack as “blasphemy”, given Kuok’s stature in the global Chinese community.
The testimony about Kuok’s contribution and the legacy that he built stamped the journey of an ordinary man who worked his way to the pinnacle of success.
It accorded Kuok the status of a living legend.
Credit to the prime minister for putting an end to an issue that many believed should not have started in the first place.
Nonetheless, those who have observed the development of the issue would find it difficult to justify that the issue was to BN’s benefit, especially from Chinese voters’ perspective.
Moreover, the reaction from the Chinese community also serves as a chilling reminder that while it is true to suggest that the Chinese community seems calmer and more sensible, but when the wrong button is pushed, it will unleash a tidal wave that will slam through any structure that stands in its way.
That issue taught all parties a lesson, but it also exposed what matters the most to the Chinese community - the aspiration for fairness.
This aspiration may sound general, but, throughout many generations of struggles and sacrifices, the Chinese community has realised that hoping for fairness would get them nowhere.
To realise that aspiration, they would have to earn it, which motivated many into making political choices that they believe were correct and relevant to the aspiration, even if it meant siding with an unproven political alliance over an established one.
Fairness also means not living in denial and not practise double standard.
These are the 101 of Malaysian Chinese political behaviours worthy of attention if one is to make further assessment of the Chinese sentiment.
It is not without reason why some opposition leaders thrive in political debates with emotional rhetoric because they know which issue would rally the Chinese sentiment the most.
Looking beyond the Chinese vote bank, many studies have been conducted about Chinese voting trends, mixing it with the political inclination of other communities.
Research houses and think tanks have also revealed their numbers on what they believe is the baseline figures of Chinese support for BN after dissecting the below 15 per cent registered in the last election, which contributed to the triumph of the opposition in Penang and Selangor.
The next general election promises a different battle ground.
The Penang government is no longer scandal-free as it once proclaimed; Selangor has its own issues to deal with, including the water crisis; the dissolution of Pakatan Rakyat after bitter squabble with Pas; DAP forging another political marriage with a leader it once chastised for decades; the peculiar emergence of spoil-vote movement; and, the birth of many small political parties that called themselves the third force.
Due to the conflicting chemistry in the opposition pack, some analysts are confident that the instability of the pack would irk the Chinese community, hence, returning 10 to 15 per cent of Chinese votes back to BN.
This is good enough to deliver additional parliamentary seats to MCA and Gerakan.
DAP did not take that equation as a reliable indicator, judging from its decision to shift party big names to contest in Johor and taking the fight for Chinese political hegemony to top MCA leaders’ stomping ground.
Some say this daring strategy was fuelled by the DAP leadership’s confidence that the opposition alliance, with Bersatu in the mix, would deliver enough Malay votes to make up for a loss of Chinese support.
That sense of supreme confidence by DAP about a Malay vote swing is the reason why DAP leaders are singing the praises of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 92.
They hope to create a Malay tsunami led by the former prime minister to offset a loss of Chinese votes.
And, that is why Lim Kit Siang, the “Mursyidul Am” of DAP, who spent a few decades condemning Dr Mahathir, is embracing him in what many bill as Lim’s final attempt to dethrone BN.

Lim Chee Wei,
Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Philippine President Duterte accused of eliminating competition
To facilitate Chinese business and capital investment
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 March 2018

We in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment decry the recent
statements of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to allow Macau gambling company Galaxy Entertainment Group to push through with the
construction of a casino, one of two pending, in Boracay.
It smacks of hypocrisy, if not duplicity, to sensationalize the crackdown on tourism
establishments aggravating ecological carrying capacities on one hand, then
allow large-scale entertainment facilities on the other.
Foreign big businesses trump environmental and people’s interests once again
despite the bombastic pronouncement of President Duterte to blow up erring
establishments.
This is hypocritical especially in the context of apparently clearing the beaches only to eliminate competition for incoming Chinese business and capital investments whose entry into this country the government has been facilitating.
Local government data show there is an average of 781 visitors per day over the
past six years.
A 1998 study by tourism scholar William Trousdale already indicates that even at that level of visitors’ number in those years, the island has already been loaded with garbage pollution, e-coli contamination, and water depletion.
Almost 10 years ago, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources called for a “tourism limit.”
These two megacasinos are clearly two steps backward from the ongoing tourism
crackdown.
Just imagine what would happen to the island if the 781 average number of visitors per day is increased by another 4,224 visitors per day, twice the average number of visitors an individual casino in Macau receives in a day.
The average rate of 345 visitors per day has already been shown to be
detrimental, what more with the influx of tourist-gamblers should this push
through?
The Duterte administration, especially its environment and tourism agencies,
should go beyond its “papogi” crackdown and ensure that the development of
tourism hubs especially in critical ecosystems should be sensitive to local
ecological boundaries, cultural development, and community development.
We reiterate our call on the Duterte administration to strictly enforce a
moratorium on new tourism construction projects and issuance of business
permits, including the planned casinos.

Leon Dulce,
National coordinator,
Kalikasan Peoples's Network for the Environment,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Infighting among justices of the Supreme Court
Makes you wonder if the Philippines has gone to the dogs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 13 March 2018

John Nery’s March 13 column, “Enrile is proof of politicized Court,” seemed to speak the truth about how easy it is to make “fools” of supposedly brilliant minds dispensing justice and passing final judgment upon the lives and fortunes of the people of this benighted nation - if “considerations” outside the merits of the case come into play, as they often do where VIPs are involved.
Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile got the full benefit of a friendly majority in the Supreme Court who granted him bail in a nonbailable plunder case “on grounds that Enrile did not even raise!”
For so-called “humanitarian” reasons, those justices handed his freedom over to him on a silver platter.
Nery omitted to mention the case of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo whom the majority of the Supreme Court justices too eagerly did the huge favor of acquitting before trial could be terminated by a lower court.
What do Enrile’s and Arroyo’s cases have in common?
Special consideration was apparently given to their political and social status and, of course, their “pitifully poor state of health.”
Enrile was portrayed to be almost dying and, if his detention continued any longer, to surely die!
Arroyo was portrayed as about to physically and mentally fall apart but for the ubiquitous neck brace she was wearing during photo opportunities.
And as soon as the Supreme Court set them free, Enrile became the picture of spectacular health.
He even went campaigning for his favorite candidates during the 2016 elections. On the other hand, Arroyo immediately shed off her neck brace and was herself the picture of an old lady still in the pink of health.
Special treatment from the Supreme Court, not medical attention from doctors, was all they really needed to bring them back to “normal.”
Did the Supreme Court justices whose hearts supposedly bled for them realize they’ve been had?
It would be very naive of everyone to think that those justices were fooled at all. To paraphrase Nery: Supreme Court justices have no problem bending over “backwards and sideways and upside down”- in deliberately mocking all laws of the land where favored parties are concerned.
What kind of rotten justice regime is this?
The present infighting among the justices of the Supreme Court themselves, and the battle lines drawn between “red” and “purple” among lower court justices and judges and instigated by Court Administrator Midas Marquez himself who is shamelessly using the influence of his office, make the people wonder if this country has already gone to the dogs!

Romano M Montenegro
Manila,
Philippines

 


Under the equal protection clause of the Phillipine Constitution
There is space for LGBT couples
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 20 March 2018

Oscar Franklin Tan frequently likes to skewer - unsuccessfully - in his columns
the fact that I challenged alone, without a partner, the unconstitutionality of
the Family Code’s exclusion of same-sex couples from the definition of marriage.
He tries to poke fun at the supposed basic violation of legal procedure in
challenging a law.
He is entitled to his armchair criticism but the critic must also be critiqued lest the criticism misleads the public.
We must ask the hard questions.
Has he attended the latest Mandatory Continueing Legal Education (MCLE)
on political law discussing the trends about legal procedure in constitutional law? Does he know about the newest doctrines on the expanded power of judicial review?
Has he read the latest jurisprudence where petitioners successfully challenged laws such as the Reproductive Health Law and Cybercrime Prevention Act, even if the petitioners were not personally and directly injured?
Most worrisome, has he read the petition in full?
The petition has been uploaded by different news sites but it doesn’t seem he has read the procedural parts arguing that the Supreme Court should adopt Justice Arturo Brion’s “fresh approach” in his separate opinion in the case of Araullo v. Aquino.
It’s understandable that he calls “vigilante lawyering” what is legitimately accepted in other liberal countries as public interest litigation.
He has never been a pro bono advocate in court for issues involving public interest and has never appeared before the Supreme Court for oral arguments to the best of my knowledge.
The role of advocacy is to push the boundaries of what is possible within a
given framework.
Advocates do not bend or break the law.
Advocates find spaces of inclusion.
And under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, there is a space for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) couples.
Oscar Tan himself argued as much in his past column on October 22, 2014.
Of course I am not the best petitioner.
The best petitioners are the gay and lesbian couples.
But no one dared to file a case until after I filed mine.
Tan seems to not have read or learned about the latest news.
A petition-in-intervention was filed (almost a year after my petition) by gay and
lesbian couples - Rev. Crescencio Agbayani and Marlon Felipe, and Maria Arlyn
Ibanez and her partner.
And they have trusted me to represent them as well.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court will hear the case through oral arguments on June
19.
If Tan thinks many lawyers are engaging in “vigilante lawyering,” he should show
them what the proper way of lawyering is by appearing in oral arguments before
the Supreme Court.
Otherwise, his columns will forever remain as extrajudicial opinions.

Jesus Nicardo Falcis111,
Same-sex marriage petitioner,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Filipinos to speak up
On the killings
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 March 2018
First published in The Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 March 2018

Alarmingly, yet another minor was killed recently.
As was expected, a cop is the alleged culprit.
I could not help but wonder what has become of this country and of our government.
Indeed, we have been baffled since July 2016, but from my point of view, the situation is becoming increasingly worse that even a boy in his teens could fall as victim.
What if one of these days the victims’ age would get even younger?
Do we have to wait for that horrifying circumstance to happen?
I am not inciting, but rather imploring citizens to speak up, because it seems that we are again being cloaked by the evils of an autocratic leadership.
Not since the regime of Marcos have we witnessed how uniformed men could be as bloodthirsty and ruthless, and how the state is inclined to blatantly commit atrocities against its own citizens.
The statistics alone corroborates our continued degeneration.
Should we expect the worst in a few years or so?
Is it plausible, should these killings continue, that we would soon be regarded by the international community as the summary execution capital of the world?
It couldn’t be denied that impulsive pronouncements were likely behind this mess that has already cost the lives of thousands.
Had the words been weighed carefully or had we witnessed statesmanship, the war that was “meant for the future of the children” wouldn’t have resulted in unwanted casualties.
Yes, tolerance of the disparities of our beliefs is everyone’s responsibility in a democracy.
But isn’t the danger of being misguided also a price one has to pay for democracy? If those millions of followers of Mocha Uson are all existing individuals, I really feel sorry for them.

Ian Carlo Aragon,
Manila,
Philipines

 


Cambodia is not a federal state of Australia
And not a colony of Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 12 February 2018

Dear sir,
The Phnom Penh Post reported in an article on 07 February 2018 mentioning about the motion raised by Australian lawmaker Mark Butler, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, to press the Australian government to take action to defend Cambodia’s “fledgling democracy”.
“Cambodia has reached a point of deep political crisis”, “I call on this Parliament to acknowledge that Australia has an important role to play in the safeguarding and furthering of Cambodian democracy”.
His speech was commended by Mu Sochua, whose delegation will visit Australia for the full month of March, and will meet with Butler and other members of Parliament personally, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
He raised this motion in an almost empty chamber with the presence of eight people including himself.
He did make some other speeches regarding Kem Sokha’s arrest.
In his previous speech on 23 October 2017, he said: “In September I spoke in this chamber on the arrest of Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodian opposition party, the CNRP, on charges related to a speech he gave here in Australia…Last month I met with the former opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, and several leaders of the local Cambodian-Australian community. There are now very serious doubts about any prospect of free and fair elections being held when they’re due, in mid-2018. This silencing of the voice of the people is of deep concern to the Labor Party.”
His motion raised the question who is Mark Butler?
What is his connection with Cambodia?
Why all of a sudden has he made headlines about Cambodia?
He is definitely not John McCain, whose father had a bloody connection with the US invasion of Cambodia, and McCain himself had a bloody hand owing to his cooperation with Islamic terrorist groups within the framework of the “Arab Spring” in Libya and Syria and with extreme-right groups during the “Colour Revolutions” in Eastern Europe, according to Khmer expert Raoul Marc Jennar. McCain is still haunting Cambodia as if Libya and Syria’s blood is not enough for his thirst for global regime changes.
From his background, he does a have superficial connection with Cambodia that can be seen through an international network of opposition parties.
One would wonder whether he had ever been to Cambodia.
When the Southeast Asian region is now more concerned about humanitarian crisis such as the Rohingya issue, Mark Butler has not made any headlines raising concern about this issue.
This questions his ability to get himself updated about the current regional trends, not to mention the ability to grasp the complexities of Cambodian politics. Such background does not give him the slightest credibility to comment and make judgments on Cambodia’s democracy.
His own party in fact is facing a “democratic crisis”.
He said in one of his January speeches that Labor “remains a party that gives ordinary members fewer rights than any other Labor or social democratic party I can think of”.
Troy Bramson wrote in an article of The Australian on January 30, 2018, that “When Mark Butler was elected Labor’s national president in 2015, it was on a platform to bring sweeping changes to Labor’s structure, philosophy and culture…Almost three years on, Butler’s presidency has been one of unmitigated failure. He has not achieved anything that he spent years pushing for – greater internal accountability, transparency and democracy. And he did not even try. He has been a president missing in action. He has not led any debate, formally proposed any reforms or used his authority in any noticeable way…Butler has been a useless national president. If there is a backroom buffoon, it is Butler.”
For Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, Mark Butler is a hypocrite for his criticism on the government’s energy policy.
In February 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled South Australia a “socialist paradise” that needs home generators to keep the lights on and called the state’s approach to renewable energy “absurd” and “hypocritical”.
“Does the honourable member (Mr Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide) have a backup generator at home?
Does he really do that? I think he probably does.
“I think he has got it hidden under a tarp in the garage because he knows that in that socialist paradise, you can’t keep the lights on.
“The minister suggests maybe he has a bicycle. Maybe he has become a political version of a squirrel, running around keeping the lights on in his place there in South Australia.”

After all, Cambodia is not a federal state of Australia and definitely not Australia’s colony.
By demanding Cambodia reverse our judicial decisions, he is rudely provoking Cambodia’s judicial sovereignty.
This is driven by the “colonial mentality” that was commonly seen in imperialist powers, which such countries should be ashamed of themselves.
Some countries obstinately view Cambodia’s legal measures as inferior to theirs and Cambodia’s refusal to act on their demands as not being on legal differences but as political differences, with their fixed mind that they are representing the world’s only source of political correctness.
Defining Cambodia’s domestic legal measures as political persecution and arbitrarily demanding Cambodia to act according to their will with a clear contempt toward Cambodian law, if it is not a colony then what is?
MP Mark Butler should clear the “democracy” mess in his own party first, address challenges in his state and Australia, and try to learn more about Cambodia probably from former Australian peacekeepers who might have a better ability to compare Cambodia in the 1990s and the current Cambodia.
Finally, he should awake from his colonial mindset for such a mindset is no longer a noble enterprise of civilisation as conceptualised and justified in the “The White Man’s Burden” by Rudyard Kipling.
Cambodia is not Australia’s backyard and Cambodians are not Australian aborigines.

Chan Kunthiny,
Political analyst,,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 



Philippine withdrawal from International Criminal Court
Will plunge the Philippines deeper into the quagmire of impunity
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 March 2018

President Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court gives the false impression that government agents, especially our police force, can continue to perpetuate a culture of impunity and that they can evade international accountability for crimes against humanity.
CenterLaw shares our people’s fear that this attempt to withdraw from the ICC will plunge the country deeper into the quagmire of impunity - one that has already claimed thousands of lives.
Contrary to the President’s claim, the Rome Statute became effectual as domestic law when the Senate gave its concurrence to the Rome Statute in 2011.
Said concurrence by the Senate is a necessity provided for under Article VII Section 21 of the Philippine Constitution.
This is a point well established in our constitutional jurisprudence as the “doctrine of transformation.”
There is no further requirement of publication in any newspaper of general circulation to make the treaty binding upon the Philippines, as the President contends. In fact, the Philippines now has an International Humanitarian Law Act, Republic Act No. 9851, which allows our courts to try cases cognizable by the ICC under the principle of complementarity.
The President’s claim that we embraced membership in the ICC on false representations of complementarity by its international proponents is erroneous. The country in fact had a leading participation in the establishment of the ICC, as the Philippines actively participated in the drafting of the Rome Statute.
The Philippine delegation brought with them to the Rome Conferences in 1998 our rich jurisprudential heritage in international criminal law, borne of our country’s tragic experience in World War II, and embodied in the landmark war crimes cases of top generals of the Japanese Imperial Army - Tomoyuki Yamashita and Shigenori Kuroda.
The ICC’s initiation of preliminary examination on his drug war does not deny him his right to due process and his right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Even if the process progresses to the investigation proper, he will be accorded his right to contest the charges, or even disclaim the court’s jurisdiction to try him.
The principle of complementarity triggers the ICC’s jurisdiction over a situation in a state party if that state party is unable or unwilling to prosecute international crimes happening within its territory that are cognizable by the ICC.
The attempt to withdraw from the ICC will not save anyone responsible for crimes against humanity from the ICC’s jurisdiction. The rules of the ICC are clear that it has jurisdiction over crimes committed in a state’s territory while the latter was a party to the Rome Statute.

Center for International Law (CenterLaw),
Makati City
Philippines




Thailand imports fish products from Japan's
Nuclear meldown Fukushima coast
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 March 2018

Your March 9 editorial, "Fretting over fishy business", justly criticises the
Thai government's impetuous commitment to being the first overseas importer of
fish products from Japan's Fukushima coastline, which was devastated by a
nuclear meltdown in 2011.
To make a melancholy addition, Thai consumers have long been exposed to
pathogenic and toxic microorganisms that cause food-borne diseases.
I allude to filth and poor hygiene practices in dirty premises where food is prepared daily, which might sadly include most of the restaurants and street stalls throughout
the country.
Rodent and cockroach infestations are prevalent, sparing no luxurious department stores or buildings, an alarming fact customarily brought under general notice but tolerated perhaps by the majority of Thai people.
Negligence in this matter is as unwise as it is malicious.
The infection of food is an avoidable evil.
The government can no longer afford to be complacent about food safety and sanitary regulations.
Food businesses are obligated by their professional conscience, too, to ensure that high standards of cleanliness are maintained.
Those who fail safety inspections and endanger consumer health must receive harsh punishment.

Kusala Dhamma,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for change to ruling that foreign workers
Can only work as cooks in Malaysian restuarants
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 March 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 15 March 2018

The Immigration Department’s ruling that “Foreigners can only be hired as cooks” in The Star, March 13 and not as front liners such as waiters and cashiers need to be addressed urgently by the Government.
This is especially in view of the fact that some 2,000 Chinese coffee shops and 400 Indian-Muslim and banana leaf restaurants ceased operation last year, “Eateries seek urgent govt help with labour problems” in The Star, March 12.
Eating out is a great Malaysian tradition which also provides a relatively affordable outing for time-restricted working families.
These budget food outlets are good, too, for our tourism business.
It is common knowledge that frontline jobs in these food outlets are not popular with local workers.
Thus, it is rather fortunate that we have a willing and ready foreign workforce who are happy to do these jobs that take up many hours of the day.
Local workers demand much higher pay and better working conditions than can be afforded by the budget of Chinese and Indian coffeeshop-style outlets.
It is only a practical and common sense option to allow these food outlets to employ foreign workers for any role they are deemed suitable, be it waiters, cashiers, cleaners or cooks.
The Government has always prided itself on looking after the interests of the ordinary rakyat.
Therefore, please review and change the Immigration Department’s ruling to make life easier for these food outlet operators and, by extension, for the rakyat.

Sze loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Malaysia



Ask not what Papua New Guinea can do for you
Ask what you can do for Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 March 2018
First published in the National, Tuesday 13 March 2018

If you are someone who thinks that success will come and find you at your doorstep, then you are wrong.
Wake up Papua New Guineans, hard work is what you need in order to succeed. Show me someone who does not work hard and I’ll show you a lazy person who begs all his life.
We can never change this country if we are expecting everything to be given to us.
John F Kennedy, the late American president, said it well. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
We were all born with a purpose.
There is something that you can do that others cannot do.
No matter where you are, no matter how many people look down on you, you are an important to humanity.
See it from this perspective: If all we have in this country are doctors and engineers, who will teach our children?
Who will produce our food in the garden?
Who will drive us around?
And most importantly, who will be our patients.
So now I believe you can see the importance of every human being on this planet.
Being a film director does not make me better or worse than a bus driver.
Being a journalist does not make me better than the mother who is selling food in the market.
We all need each other to make life possible.
You should find the courage wherever you are to find the best in yourself and give it all out to the world.
Be the best you can be.
Never rest for something low.
If you are a security guard, be the best security guard this country has ever had.
If you are a cashier, be the best cashier this country has ever had.
Take pride in whatever you do even if others don’t see it.
Know this for sure: Whatever you are doing is helping humanity .
Don’t live to die my friend but die to live.

Glen Burua,
Divine Word University,
Madang,


Gun deaths in Thailand
More than double of that in America
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 March 2018

It is incredibly frustrating to read on a continual basis the product of
media-programmed minds regurgitating the latest liberal agenda in the Bangkok
Post. Thai and foreign contributors alike are now parroting the need for gun
control in the United States, cued by media hyper-attention to the latest school
shooting in Florida.
The fact is the rate of gun deaths in Thailand is more than twice that of
America, yet Americans own more than six times as many guns per capita as Thais!
There is no second amendment in Thailand, carry permits are uncommon, and
hunting is a minor occupation, so gun control is presumably in effect in this
country. So how does one explain the fact that Thais kill more than twice as
many of their fellow citizens with guns as Americans, (who have by far the
highest rate of gun ownership in the world)? Furthermore, the overall murder
rate in both countries is quite similar and approximates the global average.
Gun control is not the antidote to overwhelming anger. A solution which resorts
to happiness as an alternative to anger may have a better chance of success.

Michael Setter,
Chon Buri,
Thailand



Philippine president accused of blatant distrespect
For the Magna Carta of Women and the 1987 Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 11 March 2018

Change is not coming when even the frontrunners of supposed change become the bearers of discrimination against women. The President’s series of anti-women remarks and rape jokes are a blatant disrespect to the Magna Carta of Women and the 1987 Constitution.
Female critics are unceasing subjects of sexist slurs in online spaces. These remarks are a reflection of a sexist and misogynist culture that targets and punishes women for being women, and contribute to the invisibility and normalization of sexual violence against women and girls. This makes access to justice for women and girls challenging and elusive especially when the judicial institutions that are supposed to ensure legal remedies are also being threatened.
We cannot and never will be silenced. We must not fear these attacks against women and girls by any individual or institution.
We continue to resist the continuing disrespect to women and girls’ rights, dignity and freedom.
We call on all women, allied individuals, organizations, and social movements to continue to challenge and expose institutions and agencies that reproduce a sexist and biased culture against women and girls.
We are in solidarity with those who continue to fight for human rights and justice, with those who detest this administration’s war on drugs, with those who oppose the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, with those who continue to fight for their ancestral lands, with those who are relentless in fighting for women’s human rights.
As long as discrimination and sexual violence against women and girls persist, women will continue to rage and resist.

Jelen C. Paclarin,
Executive director,
The Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thai government to prohibit
The catching and marketing of crabs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 March 2018

I was pleased to learn about the government's policy for crab banks for pou ma
for conservation reasons as well as boosting the fishermen's income in Bangkok Post, March 7.
I believe the policy does not go far enough to conserve the crab as long as
female crabs are allowed to be caught.
As mentioned in the article, only about 1 percent of crab eggs survive the natural process to become adult crabs.
I suggest a policy to prohibit catching and marketing female crabs as being done in the USA where female blue crabs (Callinectus sapidus) along the East Coast of the USA are not allowed to be caught.
For info, male crabs are bigger in size and have more meat for consumption.
The situation is even more critical for mud crabs or pou talay as it is a common
practice among many Thais to consume crab eggs.
As a result, mud crabs become so scarce that the price is around 1,000 baht/kg as most of the bigger size being marketed have to be imported from Myanmar.
As a crab lover, I request the government to issue a policy in prohibiting
catching and marketing female pou ma and pou talay so we and our children will
have plenty of crabs in the near future at an affordable price.

Paisan Loaharanu,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for Malaysians to vote wisely
In Malaysia's 14th general elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 March 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 7 March 2018

I recall as a 13-year-old listening to Datuk Zainal Alam singing that catchy, simple but so meaningful song “Vote... vote... vote... everybody vote.
When you vote, you must vote wisely.
What people say, you jangan peduli. Use your head. Think very carefully”
over the radio.
This was before the first General Election in 1955.
So the question for the 14th general election is what are our standards for electing those who will lead us.
We must elect women and men known for their wisdom, who stand for reason, are courageous, honourable, upright and not tainted by self-preservation or aggrandisement.
If in the next 60 years we are not a great nation, it will be because we failed to demand these high qualities from those who represented us in our legislature and because our culture and morality were not able to control the political forces that governed us.
We need leaders with understanding and foresight who will commit to improving the quality of education in the country.
Such an endeavour requires cultivating the minds of our children and youths.
It will require investment in people more than infrastructure or hardware and not just financial allocations but our time, energy and genuine dedication.
It must be channelled not just for the acquisition of knowledge but, more importantly, to build character, cultivate competencies and the entrepreneurial spirit, inspire creativity and critical thinking and develop problem-solving capabilities too.
Our leaders must also be prepared to work cohesively to ensure we have quality human capital to match the challenges of the times.
Of course, major societal issues we face, such as drug addiction and trafficking, abuse of human sexuality, inequality and poverty (even if only certain segments of society are affected), and crime in all its manifestations must be addressed as these can easily deprive us of the quality human capital we need.
At the macro-level and in our mutual relations across borders and globally, we must be an active part of the effort to deal with the challenges of protecting our security in the face of internal and external forces, climate change, conserving the environment and our natural resources, and addressing the issue of migrant labour upon which we have become overly dependent, and undocumented migration. All these require leaders with vision.
We are now standing at the crossroads. As Zainal Alam exhorted us more than six decades ago, come GE14 let’s vote wisely.

Rueben Dudley,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Letter to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte
In defence of Rafael Baylosis
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 March 2018

Dear President Duterte,
As a defender of truth and justice, I write in behalf of Rafael Baylosis whom I have known for many years as an intellectual. He is not the person that the military and police claimed him to be just to back up the illegal and warrantless arrest they effected.
Despite my age (I am 82), allow me to participate in establishing the truth about him. His objective in all his activities has all been for the good of the country to be attained in peaceful ways and means. And I pray for continued strength for him and for “small people” like me to attain this objective.

Remedios C. Balbin, Phd.,
Foundation for Social Justice.
Manila,
Philippines

 


Decentralisation in Cambodia
Is a roadmap to improved governance and democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Thursday 22 February 2018

Decentralisation gives more power to districts and communes.
In the past two decades, the government has transferred about $2 billion to lower level administrations in an effort to decentralise.
The figure was revealed yesterday during the first day of a two-day conference on decentralisation on Koh Pich.
“Based on these resources, lower level administrations implement many small infrastructure plans including rural roads, irrigation systems, rural sanitation construction and water supply construction, along with schools and health centres,” a statement released after the conference said.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who presided over the meeting that included thousands of commune officials, said that decentralisation reform has helped increase the capacity of lower level governance.
“Decentralisation is a roadmap to better governance and democracy,” said Mr Kheng."
The funds given to districts and communes allow those administrations to manage their own affairs and provide good public services.
“Commune council members are the main people to implement democracy and decentralisation,” he added.
Sak Setha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said the budget transferred to lower level administrations has increased every year.
In 2017, the government transferred $97 million to the commune level and we transferred $108 million to the commune level for 2018,” said Mr Setha. “We hope that the lower level administrations will use the budget to aid the people.”

Mai Vireak,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia



Advice wanted on what colour shirt to wear
In Cambodia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 28 March 2918

I am a foreign retiree and have been living in Cambodia for several years now after becoming fed up with Thailand, where I tried to retire to quite a few years ago.
My life as a retiree started well enough in Thailand and it was certainly cheaper than living in my own country, England.
At first the hot and spicy Thai food didn’t agree with my stomach and I needed to get a good pair of running shoes, but then I discovered a lot of Irish and English pubs with real food – fish and chips, toad in the hole and bangers and mash.
Then there was some sort of political trouble and thousands of people took to the streets wearing yellow shirts.
They set up stages, made speeches and generally made a nuisance of themselves.
Not too long after they disappeared, another group of angry people wearing red shirts took over the centre of Bangkok.
It was dangerous to go to that area and eventually Thailand’s army got rid of them, but not before buildings were burned and a lot of people were killed.
I saw it all on the BBC from the safety of my apartment.
My English-speaking landlord had advised me to throw out all my yellow and red shirts so I wouldn’t get mistaken for a local with a political agenda.
Then another group of angry people took to the streets, mostly wearing yellow shirts again, and blew whistles non-stop and nearly drove everybody crazy.
So I decided to move somewhere more peaceful and came to Cambodia.
There’s English and Irish pubs here and the bangers and mash is cheaper than Bangkok. And so is the beer.
But now I read in the papers that there’s warnings about a colour revolution in Cambodia.
I don’t have any interest in politics anywhere, but I want to be sure I don’t wear the wrong colour shirt when I venture out.
Can you advise me on a neutral colour so I’m not mistaken as one of the rabble rousers?

G Raffe (ret),
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Cambodia calls on Council of the EU
To respect Cambodian sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 March 2018
First pulished in the Khmer Times, Friday 2 March 2018

Your Excellencies,
Cambodia’s democracy is on the right track, with the presence of a multiparty political system, freedom of the press, and respect of civil and political rights.
It is not fair and just to see Cambodia only from one negative angle.
The statement of the Council of the European Union on Cambodia is flawed – it does not reflect the realities in Cambodia and violates Cambodia’s sovereignty and self-determination.
Cambodia is a sovereign country and this sovereignty must be fully respected.
It is a UN member state along with your countries and the UN charter very clearly stipulates that “no state has the right to intervene directly or indirectly for any reason whatsoever in the domestic affairs or in matters affecting the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
The Paris Peace Agreement that you raised in your statement also mentions about non-interference in any form, whether direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of Cambodia.
In the agreement, all signatories have the duty to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality and national unity of Cambodia.
We express our sincere gratitude to countries that have assisted Cambodia in restoring and rebuilding Cambodia.
However, we need to live in dignity as an independent and sovereign state. Cambodia has experienced and is now confronting again the pressures and attempts of some foreign countries to impose a new type of colonialism.
Cambodia is a fully independent state and a responsible member of the international community.
The Cambodian people have suffered enough – going through three decades of civil war and foreign intervention – and we will take all measures at any cost to maintain peace and stability.
We don’t want to see a return to the country’s tragic past.
Your conclusion based on the inputs from the opposition movement does not reflect realities on the ground.
You have been politically manipulated.
Most voters casted their vote for the Cambodia’s People Party and they are confident the ruling party will carry on with its development mission, as promised. However, the Western-backed former opposition party with lesser votes has been trying to take the ruling party and the Cambodian people as hostages, hindering Cambodia’s democratic process and causing setbacks to the country’s development and people.
The Cambodian people do hope that the Council of the European Union would continue to support peace and development in the country through your official aid assistance programmes.
We also hope your investment and purchase orders from Cambodia would continue.
We urge you to castigate the outlawed opposition movement and advise them to behave responsibly and professionally.
They should not hurt their beloved country.
The Cambodian people are against any form of violence.
They know what it’s like to live in blood and tears that has caused families to be separated for decades.
The pain, till today, lives on.
Orchestrated regime change by the West only has one result: it ends up in war and tragedy.
If you decide to cease aid, investments, or impose a ban on Cambodian products, based on the opposition’s call, it means you are taking sides to destroy the Cambodian people’s livelihood and to kill our country’s thriving democracy.
The Cambodian people strongly believe that the Council of EU will respect Cambodia’s self-determination and continue to support the democratic process that is evolving and thriving in the country rather than imposing conditions that require Cambodia to violate the will of the majority and rule of law. Democracy does not work unless peace and development prevail.

Pol Peanorin,
Political researcher,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia


 

Singapore
Is a good friend of both China and the US
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 12 February 2018

I refer to the commentary by Chan Kunthiny, titled “Can Singapore be an honest regional broker?”, published by Khmer Times on 1 February 2018.
The commentary seems to suggest that Singapore has taken sides against China.
I am writing to correct this misperception.
Singapore is a good friend of both China and the US.
The 2017 visits of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Beijing in September and to Washington DC in October highlight the importance Singapore pays to broadening and deepening ties with our major partners.
Other Singapore leaders also regularly visit both China and the US to better understand the respective government’s priorities and perspectives. Economically, Singapore has been the largest foreign investor in China since 2013 and is the second largest Asian investor in the US, which is a testimony to the confidence we have in both economies.
Our cooperation with China has been longstanding.
Our multi-faceted cooperation with China has constantly evolved to keep up with each other’s changing developmental priorities and capabilities.
Aside from our three government-to-government projects of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city and the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, we have many high-level bilateral mechanisms for both sides to discuss existing and new areas of cooperation.
Singapore has consistently supported China’s peaceful development and welcomed China’s active participation in a rules-based international order. We are an early supporter of Chinese initiatives such as the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
This is because Singapore believes that a successful China is not only good for its citizens but for the region and the world.
At the same time, we also support continued US engagement in the region. As a major investor and security guarantor in the region, the US has undergirded peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific since the end of World War Two.
As previously articulated by my Prime Minister, Singapore believes that the Asia Pacific region is big enough to accommodate both China and the US. We do not see a growing Chinese role in the region as being at the expense of US contributions to regional stability, security and prosperity.
We fully agree that the US and China should “cultivate common circles of friends” and Singapore is part of this common circle of friendship.
Singapore seeks to be a friend to all and an enemy to none. We are a founding member of Asean and will always advocate for Asean’s unity and centrality. As Asean 2018 Chair, Singapore will continue to promote an open, transparent and inclusive regional architecture and act as an honest broker to build trust between all regional stakeholders.
It would be most appreciated if Khmer Times can publish this letter in full, in the interest of professionalism, objectivity and openness, so that your readers can be accurately informed.

Michael Tan,
Singapore Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 


Call for Phillipine government to answer
For killings in war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 March 2018

The assertion by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that critics of the government’s “drug war” have “politicized” and “weaponized” human rights in Philippine Inquirer 1 March is totally without basis.
It only serves to frustrate calls by many on the Duterte administration’s accountability for atrocities related to the so-called war on drugs. The truth is, the Philippine government needs to answer for the more than 12,000 lives lost without due process in this brutal campaign across the country. The government should stop depicting itself as the victim.
The Philippines should heed Iceland’s call to cooperate with a mission of experts mandated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UNHCHR should take all the necessary measures to help end extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war and bring those responsible to justice, including establishing an independent international body to investigate these abuses, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

Carlos Conde,
Philippine researcher,
Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Filipinos say of the proposed divorse bill
"Till death do us part"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 March 2018

And so, a divorce bill is now being cooked in Congress.
A grandson of mine asks me why I am against divorce, even if we are today the one and only remaining country in the whole world that does not allow it.
My answer is plain and simple. I do not wish to lose or remove this time-honored vow—as well as the rings, which symbolize unending relationship—in our wedding ceremonies:
“…In sickness or in health,
In happiness or in sorrow,
Till death do us part…”

Or else, let the couples and the solemnizing priest or other authority altogether indulge themselves in monumental hypocrisy!

Rudy L. Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

UNESCO in Papua New Guinea
Is awaiting appointment of a head
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 March 2018
First published in the National, Monday 19 February 2018

I am writing in response to Papua New Guinea Tauna’s ‘Government questioned’.
Thank you for your sentiments shared in light of the matter.
With regards to the Papua New Guinea National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was created under three National Executive Council (NEC) decisions to be a standalone organisation from the Department of Education.
These decisions supported it to be given autonomy status.
The agency currently is in impasse due to political manoeuvering and other issues unbeknown.
The agency is still awaiting the appointment of a head.
While this is ongoing on, certain individuals have been apppointed and are being paid.
I am speaking for and on behalf of all current staff who are the original substantive position holders since this organisation was granted autonomous status in 2008.
We are currently in the dark as to why we are not given access to normalcy.
Why there is also another office created against National Executive Council (NEC) directives with people placed against our positions?
They do not know their job descriptions and most of all, the roles and functions of Unesco in the country.
Respective authoritative bodies such as National Executive Council (NEC) and Department of Personnel Management are still confused with Unesco’s mandates and its role in member states.
This is causing inconvenience to projects that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), should be implementing in the country.
We are all professionals in our jobs in each field of competency that Unesco covers.
We were selected through the correct Government selection process.
We feel we need the rightful authorities to step in and assist us.
We cannot just shut down an international organisation which was in Papua New Guinea before Independence and has played an important role in the development of this country.

UNESCO
Cie Vous,
Port Moresby,
Papua News Guinea




Thai PM changes his mind on southern Thai
Coal-fired power plants
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 24 February 2018

Re: "Ministry downplays need for southern power plants," in Bangkok Post, Friday 23 February 2018.
What a difference a day makes!
For years, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Energy Ministry have insisted that the southern coal-fired power plants were absolutely essential for the energy security of the country.
They repeatedly warned of dire consequences for the economy should the
power plants not be built.
Now that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reluctantly agreed to put the
southern power plants on hold, suddenly the story has changed and energy
officials report that power needs can be met with biogas and other renewable
energy.
It really begs the question of what kind of energy expertise the country
possesses and/or alternative motivations for building power plants when the
political winds are so favoured.

Samanea Saman
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for removal of PNG Church Health officials
On Integrated HR Payroll system Management System (Alesco)
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 Feb 2018
First published in the National, Thursday 15 February 2018

To clarify, Unesco does not have an office in Papua New Guinea.
Its regional office is in Apia-Samoa which manages the affairs of the 16-member states, including Papua New Guinea.
Any member state around the world has what is called national commission for Unesco (Natcom).
The national commission for Unesco is established in a country by the government of the host country.
As a constituent element of Unesco and a unique network within the United Nations system, national commissions are a very special resource for the organisation.
They contribute significantly to the pursuit of its objectives and the conceptualisation and delivery of its programmes.
National commissions are crucial to forging partnerships with civil society, local authorities, the academic community, the private sector and other core stakeholders.
They are vitally important to enhancing the visibility of the organisation and protecting its image.
They are also actively helping to strengthen Unesco’s action in the field, as well as in UN-common country programming exercises.
For Papua New Guinea, this has been lagging since assuming its autonomous status in 2008.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand have national commission as a programme unit under their departments of foreign affairs.
I can’t understand why Papua New Guinea Government wants it as an autonomous status when it, in its wisdom, amalgamated it with the Education Department.
Let it be in its current form and remove the 30-plus officers on the Integrated HR Payroll system Management System (Alesco) payroll.
This is a total wastage of taxpayer money which can be saved and used for purposeful development for the people of this country.


Midnight Owl,
Post Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

 


Charges against Senator Leila de Lima changed from
Illegal drug trading to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 February
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 25 February 2018

Today marks the first year of Sen. Leila de Lima’s unjust detention.
She was arrested not because the government has a case, let alone strong evidence
against her, but because she adamantly opposed its murderous war on drugs making her the first high-profile political prisoner of the Duterte administration.
She is also a victim of a vicious political vendetta because she questioned
President Duterte’s abuse of power and approval of extrajudicial killings since
he was mayor of Davao, and now his failed war on drugs.
Powerful personalities now affiliated with the current administration whom De Lima pursued as justice secretary are also likely behind her persecution.
Government resources are continuously being used to brainwash the public to
believe that De Lima is an evil woman, corrupt and a conduit in the illegal drug
trade in the New Bilibid Prison.
But almost a year after her arrest, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has affirmed that drug trade in the state penitentiary continues to flourish.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the President are suspiciously silent on this issue because we suspect they have an “ex-deal” with these convicted drug lords in exchange for their false testimonies against De Lima.
Three hundred sixty-five days after her arrest, government prosecutors just
recently amended their charge against the lady senator from “illegal drug
trading”
to “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading,” meaning, she was
detained for the wrong accusation.
This is a violation of her constitutional right and the “grossest injustice” as described by Justice Antonio Carpio.
Three hundred sixty-five days and counting but De Lima’s vindication will come
in the same way that justice will come for the families and victims of thousands
killed in this administration’s bloody and shady war on drugs.
The Free Leila Movement challenges every Filipino to actively seek this justice.

Regina Mabalatan,
Convenor,
Free Leila Movement,
Manila,
Philippines



Cambodian senate and legislative elections to go ahead
Without Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 February 2018
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Thursday 22 February 2018

Editor,
Cambodia’s Senate election is to be held on February 25.
According to the Constitution, out of the 61 senators, two are to be nominated by the King, two to be chosen by the National Assembly and the remaining 57 must be elected essentially by a college of commune councillors who are themselves elected through universal suffrage at local elections.
The problem with the new Senate to be formed next Sunday revolves around the legal status of 5,007 Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-affiliated commune councillors out of a total of 11,572 (43 percent) who are called to participate in the vote even though they have never been elected through universal suffrage: those 5,007 councillors affiliated with the ruling party were actually “given” their seats which originally belonged to 5,007 councillors affiliated with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who were duly elected at the June 4 commune elections.
The seat “redistribution” immediately followed the much-decried dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on November 16.
If the Senate election is to proceed the way the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-led government plans it, the consequences will be as follows:
The will of 3.05 million Cambodian citizens (representing 43.8 percent of the electorate) who voted for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) at the last local elections, will be totally ignored.
With its 5,007 elected councillors being stripped of their positions and their rights to elect senators, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) will be deprived of up to 25 senator positions (out of the 57 up for grab) it is entitled to.
By expediently and timely dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and “redistributing” to itself the 5,007 commune councillor positions originally won by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) through universal suffrage, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will secure 100 percent of the 57 senator seats up for grab, which concretely announces the return to a one-party system as before the signing of the 1991 Paris Agreements on Cambodia.
The world community of democratic nations must denounce and condemn such an electoral farce, which is to be followed by another one: the legislative election due to take place on July 29 this year.
This is an important test of consistency and firmness for the international community. Those who will condone Cambodia’s February 25 Senate election are likely to condone the July 29 legislative election which is going to take place without the participation of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as the only parliamentary opposition party representing half the nation.
But those who uphold democratic rules and principles will condemn both polls as undemocratic and the ensuing government as illegitimate.

Sam Rainsy,
President of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement and former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party

 



The International Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
Performance in Malaysia worst in five years
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 February 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 23 February 2018

As the former president of Trans­parency International Malaysia and now an honorary commissioner in the MACC, I am deeply disappointed with Malaysia’s poor performance in the International Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
We have dropped seven places from 55 to 62 out of 180 countries.
Our CPI score has declined to 47/100, well below the perceived passing mark of 50/100.
This is the worst result in the last five years.
It’s not only deeply disappointing but gravely disturbing and damaging to Malaysia’s aspirations in building the image of a developed or high-income nation.
Why did the CPI fall so fast?
MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, the whole of Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and indeed the Government and the minister in charge must be very upset with the result.
The reasons for the fall have been partially provided frankly by Dzulkifli himself in an immediate and knowledgeable response.
He says that it’s the overall perception of the country.
It’s not corruption per se in its narrow concept but the decline in good governance. He is surely right.
This means that too much politicking, growing racial and religious intolerance, wastage of public funds, a weakening of morality and some big scandals are also responsible for the bad Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
And don’t forget money politics which will be rearing its ugly head soon.
All the good work done by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to robustly fight corruption has been negated by the apparent inability to do more to contain grand corruption.
Although medium-sized and petty corruption could have been reduced, it is the grand corruption that matters to Transparency International in Berlin.
What can be done now to improve the Corruption Perception Index (CPI)?
Many recommendations made by TI Malaysia and other NGOs have been presented and pushed for a long time.
But they have been dashed in the hope that we can combat corruption within the current framework of governance.
This mild approach can’t achieve much, as the latest depressing Corruption Perception Index (CPI) result has shown.
What is needed are more radical and meaningful structural reforms.
For example, the MACC should be made responsible only to Parliament and report directly to Parliament.
The Whistleblower Protection Act must be improved.
This will encourage more whistleblowers to come out without fear of being charged and convicted themselves.
The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should also be a more independent body with full powers to hire and fire its staff who would not be beholden to government employment.
There are many other global best practices to adopt if we are really serious about combating corruption more effectively.
There is no need for the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to ask the Government for feedback or direction on what to do next to get out of this corruption trap.
The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is fully aware about what has to be done.
Let’s hope it will give the Cabinet a full and honest appraisal on what has gone wrong and what needs to be urgently done to prevent further deterioration in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
Then let the rakyat judge the future direction to fight corruption which is causing inflation and undermining national unity and destroying our national soul.
God bless Malaysia!

Tan Sri Ramon Vavaratnam,
Chairman,
Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI),
Center for Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 



US embassy in Phnom Penh denies US involvement
In attempt to overthrow Hun Sen government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 February 2018
First Published in The Khmer Times, Thursday 22 February 2018

Dear sir,
Do you know what is “plausible deniability”?
It is, in the American law, the ability of senior officials to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy.
In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves. The expression “plausibly deniable” was first used publicly by CIA director Allen Dulles.
In 1956, the US National Security Council decided to support with money, arms and ammunitions the Khmer Serei, an extreme right militia based in South-Vietnam and Thailand and opposed to then Prince Norodom Sihanouk. But in 1956, Washington vehemently denied any support to these rebels.
In 1959, there were three attempts to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk and even to kill him.
Traitors like Son Ngoc Thanh, le leader of the Khmer Serei, Dap Chhuon and Sam Sary, all against the policy of neutrality and all passionate supporters of the USA, were the operators of the CIA, as it is proved today by the archives.
But in 1959, the Americans denied that the USA was involved in the plots for a regime change.
In 1963, the Khmer Serei activities increased dramatically as they were integrated partly in Special Forces under US command.
But in 1963, the State Department informed the Cambodia’s Ambassador that there was no evidence of American involvement with the Khmer Serei.
When all the CIA activities against Norodom Sihanouk during the previous decade have been confirmed and explained to President John Kennedy, he decided to send Dean Acheson, his special envoy, to Cambodia to normalize the relations between the two countries.
But he was assassinated two days later.
The 18 March 1970 coup led by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, (soon joined by Son Ngoc Thanh), was coordinated by the CIA station and American military intelligence in Saigon, with the implication of Khmer Serei in deadly anti Vietnamese demonstrations in Phnom Penh. Of course, Nixon and Kissinger denied their involvement in the change of regime.
These are facts and there are undisputable.
Reacting to the recent accusations and indictments about a US-backed plot by the CNRP to overthrow the Cambodian government, the Embassy of the United States of America in Phnom Penh called this accusation "absurd" and “without a shred of serious credible evidence”.
A strong denial, indeed.
Like in 1956, 1959, in 1963, in 1970.
No doubt, on behalf of “plausible deniability”.

Raoul Marc Jennar, PhD, is a Political scientist.
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 

 


Rampant poaching biggest threat
To pangolins in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 February 2018

Pangolins, the majestic ant- and termite-eating secretive, solitary and nocturnal mammal, are facing an alarming decline in number in the wild.
There are eight species of pangolins known to zoologists: four from the continent of Africa and another four from Asia.
In the Philippines, the endangered pangolin can be found in Palawan.
The biggest threat to pangolins has been rampant poaching, which is the single biggest factor for their rapid decline across China and Southeast Asia.
Pangolins are currently the most trafficked and poached mammal on the planet and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has listed them as one of the species that is in immediate need of maximum conservation efforts, or else they run the serious risk of becoming extinct.
The massive trafficking and killing of pangolins in China and Vietnam for their scales (believed to have medicinal properties, with no scientific foundation) and bush meat as a delicacy in several high-end restaurants are posing serious threats.
If the Chinese, South and Southeast Asian governments do not take appropriate steps in the conservation of pangolins, the majestic mammal has very little option left.
Asian countries need to work jointly in cracking down on illegal wildlife markets.
A multination joint management of fringe, remote border areas, natural forests and wildlife could help in pangolin conservation.

Saikat Kumar Basu,
Lethbridge,
Canada

 

 

Papua New Guinea citizens
Pitted against each other

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 February 2018
First published in the National, Monday 19 February 2018

Papua New Guinea’s youths can become agents of change or they can become a very destructive force in our society.
You just have to walk the streets of our overcrowded cities and towns to get an impression of what good or evil our youngsters are capable of in a very tough economic environment.
The youths are a force to be reckoned with nowadays.
Their youthful energy has an uncanny ability to multiply itself into a myriad of ugly encounters on the streets where they congregate every day.
Recently, while waiting for a Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) at the Mt Hagen bus stop, a drunk young man walked up to me and pulled out a bush knife tucked under his trouser belt.
I put on a bold face and did not give in to his malicious intent.
He left me and instead grabbed an elderly woman nearby who was also waiting for a Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) bus.
The poor woman was scared out of her wits.
The incident I had witnessed is a scenario that repeats itself across Papua New Guinea towns every week.
The experience is not new to me, but what is profoundly disturbing is that ordinary citizens are pitted against each other in their never-ending struggle for survival.
The masses are battling against each other for survival, all the while wallowing in the muddy waters of a very stifling socio-economic environment created by sinister forces from both within and beyond our borders.
Like a flock of sheep bound for the slaughterhouse, the masses are being dragged deeper and deeper into the abyss of insecurity and social disintegration.
The common folks are battling against each other all the while, not caring or seeming to know that we can find a way out of our dilemma if only we can channel our collective energies against the institutionalised injustices prevalent in this country.
We can find a way out of our dilemma if only we can seriously fight against corruption, which is the most-serious impediment to progress in our country.

Paul Waugla Wii,
Wandi,
Chimbu,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte
To lift martial law in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 February 2019

I recently heard three lumad women give their testimonies on their experience in Mindanao.
They are sending a plea to President Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao.
Apparently, the military is using that as an excuse to harass the villagers.
The lumad people had decided to establish their own school in their locality as there was none and they felt the need of education for their children.
However, the military started accusing them that what they did was illegal, harassing the teachers.
At the same time, the military was using drones to spy on them, limiting the amount of rice that they can bring to their village.
When the harassment continued, they decided to evacuate the place and settle somewhere else.
The women also fear that putting a price of P20,000 for each alleged member of the New People’s Army could incite violence and create division among the lumad people.
Anybody can point out anyone allegedly to be an NPA. In my opinion, such a strategy is a devious manipulation on the vulnerability of people who are poor.
It is also reminiscent of the Pharisees paying 20 pieces of silver to Judas to point out Christ - a betrayal. Training their youth to become Cafgus (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) makes no difference, or at most, just complicates the
ituation.
So, Mr. President, if you truly love Mindanao as you have always claimed, it is imperative that you lift martial law in Mindanao.

Sr Nenita Tapia, MM,
Manila,
Philippines



A Philippine federation
A brighter model for the Philipines indigenous
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 12 February 2018

The Inquirer’s editorial, “Where will the lumad go?” 8 February 2018 is a question applicable to other indigenous Filipinos like the Dumagat of Sierra Madre
Mountain Range, Aeta of Caraballo, Igorot of the Cordillera, Mangyan of the
island of Mindoro, and many others, when claimed ancestral domains and lands are
offered by the government as collaterals in enticing multinational investments.
I am an Igorot who is like any “lumad” whose sense of being is tied to a claimed
ancestral home territory.
Culture and history are results of creative interactions in these home territories.
Such bodies of knowledge are transmitted by one generation to another through
dialects and languages.
That bodies of knowledge form part of the Filipino heritage which President Duterte and minions of Imperial Manila need not destroy.
Destroying it would contradict his proposal of turning the Philippines into a
federal republic, which I think is a brighter model where indigenous people
could federate in order to have stronger representation in building a federal
state.

Manila,
Philippines


Fiji police track record
Far from exemplary
The Southeast Asian Gimes, Monday 19 February 2018

Editor,
In his/her illuminating letter (The National 2/2/18, Southeast Asian Times 5/2/18 ) Nongli Eniil Ngalkhay informs us that in PNG " The majority of our people are now in great fear of police, rather than criminals" and appeals " to the police hierarchy to train and their officers to treat and talk to the people with respect, according to the laws of this country. We hope to see change in the near future".
Is that change to come from the cooperation in capacity building and institution strengthening between the PNG Police and the Fiji Police as reported in the Fiji Times article ' Fiji-PNG sign MOU for police cooperation' ( Feb.16 )?
I hope it does because Fiji police own post-coup professional track record is far from exemplary .

Sincerely,
Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia


Call to free Mali the elephant
From Manila zoo
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 February 2018

Thirty-five-plus years ago in a lush forest in Sri Lanka, Mali, a barely past-weaning baby elephant, was stolen from her mother.
She was transported to a zoo in Manila where she continues to languish to this day. Elephants are intelligent and very familial.
Can you imagine being separated so young from your mother?
Mali has led a sad life in captivity, alone, no other elephant for company.
Jeered at by onlookers, Mali has no veterinary treatment and paces daily in her small captivity area.
Thousands of caring people around the world have petitioned to have Mali moved to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand for rehabilitation.
The powers who run the zoo refuse to let Mali live the natural life she was intended to live. Mali deserves to roam free and smell trees, leaves and walk in grass.
Her feet are sore and cracking from pacing the dry dirt in her small enclosure.
Many animal organizations have tried to purchase Mali to release her.
The Manila Zoo refuses to let Mali live naturally.
It is so sad to see her hold her own tail for comfort.
Is there no humanity that can be compassionate for a poor neglected elephant such as Mali?
Peta Asia has worked hard for her release.
Please live with compassion.
Speak up for Mali’s release to Boon Lott.
Contact the zoo, tell them how you feel.
Contact local officials who can help free Mali.
Go see Mali if you can, it will bring tears to your eyes.
Animals suffer at the hands of humans who only think of their ego and greed.
Please help free Mali. She deserves to live the life she was intended to live as a free elephant.

David Knightly,
United States



Call for decentralization
Of Philippine government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 February 2018

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are mandated by our Constitution to make legislation.
To do their job, the same Constitution allows them to conduct “hearings in aid of legislation.”
Invited to these “hearings” are resource persons - not accused persons who need to be investigated or cross-examined.
These are not and should not be “investigations,” or worse, “trials” - which are unconstitutional.
And many of these “hearings” or “investigations” or “trials” do not result in the creation of legislation.
Because of the free, nationwide TV coverage, our publicity hungry senators and congressmen really grandstand in verbal bullying in aid, not of legislation, but of titillation and demolition.
We have enough laws. And we’ve had enough of senators and congressmen who waste taxpayer money in pursuit of personal political glory.
It is time to remove one layer of national politicians - replace them with the new legislature of governors and mayors - thus decentralizing our government and saving billions.

Amanado Munda,
Manila,
Philippines






"I disapprove of what you say
But I will defend to the death your right to say it
"
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 February 2018

President Duterte’s threat to UP student ralliers sends repressive signals.
Is it only the administration’s bloggers who may invoke Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?
The youth’s hearts and minds are part of the shaping of Philippine democracy - indeed a very human journey of both faith and doubt. But, as Wilson Mizner once said, “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.”
One hopes that even now that we have made some progress from a state of democracy which Aristotle observed as “… a government from the hands of men of low birth, no property and vulgar employments.”
On a lighter vein, for there is wisdom in occasionally laughing at ourselves, we could enjoy the humor of Logan Pearsall Smith: “The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists the circulation of the blood.”
Youthful vitality might be flawed, but a society transforming itself needs it: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” (Aphorism). May I paraphrase J.B. Priestley as a last sobering thought: “Like its politicians, and its war, so society has the youth it deserves.”

Virginia Calptura,
RCSJ,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for United Nations to investigate
Drug war killings in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 11 February, 2018

A Philippine court filed murder charges against three police officers for the alleged summary execution of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos during an antidrug operation on August 16, 2017, in Caloocan City, north of Manila.
The killing of the teenager prompted mass protests.
Police antidrug officers claimed they killed Delos Santos after he fired on them during an antidrug operation.
However, both witness accounts and close circuit television camera footage indicate that police executed the unarmed youth while he was in police custody and dumped his body in an alley.
This case is a rare instance in which the Philippine justice system has taken genuine steps to prosecute anyone for killing suspected drug users and dealers under President Duterte’s “war on drugs,” launched in June 2016.
The handful of previous prosecutions of police personnel implicated in the thousands of alleged drug war killings have not resulted in convictions.
In July, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa reinstated 18 police officersfacing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera, Leyte. Dela Rosa announced that those officers, released on bail in June, “can be utilized again by the PNP for whatever assignment.”
This, despite compelling evidence that the officers committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a jail cell on November. 5, 2016. Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by Mr. Duterte that he was a drug trafficker.
Accountability for drug war killings has been hobbled by the refusal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the government to allow for an independent inquiry of those deaths.
Dela Rosa has dismissed calls for such an investigation as “legal harassment” and said the demand “dampens the morale” of police officers.
In August, Mr. Duterte vowed to pardon and promote any police personnel implicated in unlawful killings.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has sought to deter calls for accountability by deploying blatant falsehoods to whitewash the antidrug campaign as lawful and rights-respecting.
These challenges underscore the need for a United Nations-led investigation to help provide accountability for all drug war victims, including Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Phelim Kine,
Deputy Director,
Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch




Philippine grandmothers ask questions about
The administration of the deadly Dengvaxia vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 February 2018

My grandson Isaac is one of the 830,000 children administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine. Ordinary layman that I am, I think the core of the problem emanated from political intervention with the consent of former health secretary Janette Garin.
Some questions:
Who gave the order to Garin to purchase and implement?
Sino kaya ang “tirador” if she is not the one?
Who gave the assurance for funding?
Who gave the legal basis that it does not  violate election laws?
Why did then President Noynoy Aquino give the go signal after the Sanofi meetings?
For and on behalf of the 830,000 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, my grandson included, I want to know:
How long do we have to wait for the vaccine to do damage?
One, two, three years ?
Does anyone feel the pain of the parents whose children died?
Can you quantify the cost for the loss of a loved one?
What is this we hear that drug companies are funding government personnel from the Department of Health, (DOH) Food and Drug Administration, etc.?
Is this country already under “mafia-controlled” multinational drug companies?
Will the government correct the situation?
To Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Budget and Management officials under P-Noy, among others, have you considered the future of the 830,000 persons who are still in a quandary until now?
We just hope that your conscience will bother you daily with sleepless nights coupled with nightmares for the next 2,274 days (830,000 vaccinated individuals divided by 365 days) if ever you live that long.

Roy Agbayani,
Manila,
Philippines




Senate investigation to start into
Philippine acquisition of war ships
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 February 2018

This is in response to “That sinking feeling: The story behind Navy chief’s sudden fall” 28 December 2017 by Nikko Dizon regarding the alleged anomalies of the frigate acquisition project of the Philippine Navy.
I have been following this issue with great interest since I am really alarmed with how powerless we are in international disputes.
We need warships to give us a certain measure of confidence in dealing with other countries that wish to intrude on our sovereignty.
As a concerned citizen, my view on this is simple.
Let me throw out a few questions which have been bugging me to start the discussion. Why are some people so hellbent on insisting that a certain brand be used for the so-called combat management system for the warships we want to buy? As I understood it, isn’t this against our procurement law?
To add to all these, it seems to me that the words used in the arguments are mere “copy-paste” of each other, from news sources, blogsites, to statements of politicians.
I am not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but the similarities are really obvious. Is this nothing more than an elaborate PR operation or “operation giba”?
It makes me wonder who would benefit the most should the project fail. I hope that the people behind all of these realize what they are doing.
They are endangering the security of the Filipino people by blocking a very important modernization project.
I can’t wait for the Senate investigation to start so we can finally shed light on the matter.

Nonie Arasa,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Philippines demand reimbursement
From Sanofi Pasteur for Dengvaxia vaccine
The Southeast East Asian Times, Monday 12 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 8 February 2018

The Department of Health has finally come to its senses by demanding a full reimbursement of P3.5-billion-worth of Dengvaxia vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, bought under the Department of Health (DOH) massive immunization program.
I fully blame Sanofi for withholding its advisory during the contract signing that the vaccine, when given to subjects who have not been previously infected by the dengue virus, can develop a more serious form of the disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever with overall bleeding tendencies to vital organs like the brain, liver, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and skin. With uncontrolled bleeding, the patient goes into hemorrhagic shock or syndrome and ultimately, dies. Corticosteroids had been tried but were not successful.

Eliseo R. Reblando, MD.,
Past president,
Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for LGBT to be included
In Japan school curriculum
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 February 2018
First published in The Japan Times, Friday 26 January 2018

It’s time to make a change!
Regarding the January18 story, Kojien dictionary criticized for ‘inaccurate’ entry on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT).
A vast majority of Japanese citizens are still uneducated about these existing communities.
The inaccuracy in defining the term LGBT by the publisher of Japan’s most authoritative dictionary is certainly an issue that should not be taken lightly.
However, the bigger problem revolves around the fact that school administrators and educators have yet to expand awareness of the LGBT community and modify their current ineffective school curriculum.
As Mameta Endo states, “the mistake by the authoritative dictionary reflects the reality of Japanese society, where many are still uninformed on issues related to sexual minorities.”
The most simple solution is for school administrations to start organizing an LGBT-inclusive school curriculum, teaching students about homosexuality as part of sex education. Doing so will not only help educate students on the topics of the LGBT community, but will also spread awareness and safety to those regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Japan certainly has a long way to go, but education is our best solution.

Kaho Toyoyama,
Ashiya,
Hyogo Prefecture,
Japan

 

 

Call for the USA to apologise
For support given to Pol Pot
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 February 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 7 February 2018

To ignore or to rewrite the past are efficient tools for governments that want to fool the people.
The US embassy in Phnom Penh on Sunday gave a new example of such “diplomacy as the patriotic art to lie” (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce).
In a statement about January 7, the US embassy wrote that “Phnom Penh was liberated from the notorious Khmer Rouge regime”.
You read well: the representation of the US government is calling January 7, 1979, a liberation.
More: they “celebrate the ingenuity, courage and perseverance with which the Cambodian people have emerged from this period of darkness…”!
Who are they kidding?
What was the US reaction in 1979 about that liberation?
A strong condemnation of “the military violation of Kampuchean sovereignty and replacement of the government by force”. They said that the Pol Pot’s government was “the only legitimate government of Cambodia”.
In 1979, not that word about a liberation.
They decided that the legitimate ambassador of the Cambodian people at the UN was a representative of Pol Pot.
The victims were represented by one of their torturers.
They decided to support a decision that prohibited any aid for the development of Cambodia, a country devastated by the US bombing and a population of survivors from one of the worst criminal regimes in the twentieth century.
In 1979, the USA denied the right of Vietnam to protect its own security as it was, since 1975, under violent and bloody attacks by the Pol Pot regime that had caused thousands of casualties.
They denied to Vietnam the exercise of a right recognised by article 51 of the UN Charter.
In 1979, the USA denied the request for liberation expressed by thousands of Cambodians that had fled to Vietnam to escape the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. The US that pretended to defend human rights refused to recognise the fundamental right of the Cambodian people to overthrow a regime of terror and to request the assistance of a foreign country to achieve such a goal (a right yet recognised in 1971 to the people of Eastern Pakistan that became Bangladesh).
The US position lasted 12 years.
A delay in the reconstruction of a Cambodian society and the recreation of human resources that has still consequences today.
Instead of giving the impression that they used to support the Cambodian people after the 1979 liberation, the USA should apologise for their diplomatic and military support given to the Pol Pot’s movement during the 12 years that followed the fall of this barbaric regime.

Raoul M. Jennar, PhD,
Doctor in Khmer Studies,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia





Call for China to assure ASEAN
That China is not pursuing an expansionist policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 February 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 7 February 2018

China’s growing influence is not welcome by Asean member countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Within the increased power competition between China and the US, when Cambodia is seen as China’s vessel state, Singapore is seen as the protector of the American international order.
The Philippines is seen as the hypocrite that cannot cry foul in its own house.
Vietnam is seen as the “complicater” or like pills that give everyone sleepless nights at every multilateral forum.
Indonesia is seen as the big brother without followers.
Malaysia is becoming invisible.
Laos, Myanmar and Brunei are voiceless.
Lastly, Thailand is seen as the number one escaper that no one can ever catch.
In the good old days, Indonesia used to have big clout when it was holding a neutral position that could accommodate and give space for maneuvering for both big and small states in Asean.
It no longer does that once it became one of the actors in influence and competition.
Externally, the US is dividing Asean.
According to the National Security Strategy of the US published in December last year, the US will strengthen “quadrilateral cooperation” with Japan, Australia and India and will “re-energise alliances with the Philippines and Thailand and strengthen partnerships with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and others to help them become cooperative maritime partners”.
The US has shown assertiveness at the beginning of the year and shows no restraint in instigating China. Its rationale is “all operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”.
For this year, it is likely that the US, India, Japan and Australia will gear up their mutual coordination within “quadrilateral cooperation” to give an impression that China’s containment policy is heating up.
This will create tension in the region unless North Korea once again diverts regional security attention.
If such tension between China and “quadrilateral” alliances lasts, coupled with a partially unwelcoming Asean, China’s image will likely suffer.
Amid such an unfavorable environment, maybe China should start rethinking its Asean policy to give less focus on multilateral engagement and promote more bilateral dialogues. It is in the interests of China and all Asean member states if China diverts its focus to promote trust and confidence not through “money”, but through bilateral dialogues and practical cooperation with the understanding that some states see China as a “money-bags” to be exploited and blackmailed by their unfavorable positions.
Should China wish to use Asean platforms to promote its image as a benign superpower and that its growing influence is to everyone’s benefit, China needs to assure all the suspicious states that it will not pursue an “expansionist” policy that it once endured and was humiliated as a victim of Japan’s aggression and expansionism.
For the current environment between China and Asean, trust is elusive and a mere illusion and China needs to accept this inconvenient truth.

Soun Nimeth,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia


 

Sorcery
A growing concern in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 February 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 7 February 2018

Sorcery is becoming more common in all parts of Papua New Guinea and appearing on our daily media.
People are blaming and accusing each other for practising sorcery.
I say that the practice of sorcery is real.
This is due to my personal experience, which I was one of the victim of sorcery-related illnesses.
Medicine could not help me cure me, so I had to travel all the way from Pangia Secondary School in Southern Highlands to the north coast of Madang for a witchdoctor to treat me.
And I got better after the treatment, which would have cost my parents almost K2000 to seek treatment in a hospital.
Of course there are lack of conventional evidences, but the practice is growing.

Philemon L. Piriwi,
Yamba Village (RAKS)
Ialibu,
Southern Highlands
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Rohingya or Bengalis?
In Thai government report on Rakhine state
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 February 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 6 February 2018

Former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai says one of the objectives of the
government-appointed advisory board he heads in Myanmar is to narrow the "big
gap of international interpretation and domestic interpretation of what happened in Rakhine state".

It is a challenging objective because the Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw
are obviously in denial about the violence in Rakhine.
That's why they banned independent media, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations from northern Rakhine after the latest violence began in August.
The access ban creates a delicate issue for the board led by Mr Surakiart.
Its role is to provide advice to another panel formed by the Myanmar government to implement recommendations on Rakhine state made in August by a commission headed by former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan.
Noting that "full transparency is the most effective way to dispel false and
inaccurate representations of the situation on the ground",
the Annan commission recommended "full and regular" access for media to all areas of Rakhine.
It is this recommendation that raises questions over State Counsellor Aung San
Suu Kyi's reportedly "furious" response when Bill Richardson raised the issue of
the two Reuters reporters on trial in Yangon before his dramatic resignation
from the board.
Mr Richardson cites her as saying that the decision to charge the reporters
under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, after they were arrested in unusual
circumstances with documents about the security operation in Rakhine "was not
the work of the advisory board".

How can that be if the Annan commission specifically recommended media access to Rakhine?
As the commission noted in its final report, policies based on media restriction that inhibit the flow of information are counterproductive.
It added: "More than anything, they undermine trust in the Government, and give the impression that Myanmar has something to hide."
Mr Surakiart said he believed the credibility of the advisory board was intact
despite Mr Richardson's departure.
Many will be watching to see if the board's final report to the Myanmar government uses "Rohingya", or if it acquiesces to policy and calls the victims of violence "Bengalis", because Nay Pyi Taw wants the world to believe they are all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Geoffrey Goddard,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Duterte administration
Accused of authoritarian rule
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 5 February 2018

The present administration seems to be rattling impulsively toward authoritarian rule.
See how it appointed former military and police officers to key government or civilian positions.
What expertise did these men in uniform learn to make them competent in the field of civilian posts like environment, ecology, food authority, irrigation administration, etc.?
Recent events show how this government gradually tries to destroy the check and balance roles of its coequal branches in government including the Fourth Estate, the bedrock of a working democracy.
It coerces into submission through a supermajority coalition, like in the case of the House of Representatives, which is currently becoming too subservient with what the executive branch wishes.
Apparently unable to stand the continued independence of the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the helm, the minions of this administration ran roughshod into stockpiling a mountain of cases out of trumped-up molehill issues.
All these were done ostensibly to shame, maim and coerce into compliance or at worse, force the lady Chief Justice to vacate her position out of pressure or fear for her life and her family’s.
Once it succeeds to overthrow CJ Sereno, a new and more submissive chief justice would then be handpicked by the President assuring him of a Supreme Court that kowtows to his whims and caprices.
The recent radical decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission against Rappler canceling its registration to continue operating as an online media entity without due process is a bad omen to the independence and objectivity of the press as the Fourth Estate.
It proves the present dispensation is dead serious in maiming and killing dissent at all costs.
Earlier threats hurled by the President against critical media are worrisome indications that this administration abhors the plurality of opinions, which are hallmarks of a good leadership and a vital element in forming best decisions in a strong democracy.
Exchange of opinions and ideas whether positive or negative are primordial ingredients for an intelligent, enlightened, morally guided presidency.
As citizens of this country who benefited from over 10,000 brave young men and women who had shed their blood against the Marcos dictatorship to regain our lost democracy and freedom, let us learn from our darkest lessons and experiences by being vigilant.
Lest it would be late to learn that our hard-earned democracy has been snatched away from us by those in authority who profess to defend the democratic constitution.
But they lied.

Romy O. Ponte,
Manila,
Philippines




Papua New Guinea people fear police
Rather than criminals
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 February 2018
First published in the National, Friday 2 February 2018

The police force is an important institution in any country.
It protects and guides citizens accordingly.
Once a person commits a crime or breaks any law, police then step in to deal with him or her.
Some police officers act beyond standard practice.
They take advantage of ordinary people, destroy their properties and worst of all, spit betelnut on someone’s face.
That is a very animalistic behaviour.
I witnessed this on two different occasions at Gerehu.
The first one was between a taxi driver and police officers next to the main bus stop.
An officer spat a mouthful of betelnut right onto the face and body of a taxi driver who stand helplessly.
Members of the public who saw what happened were shocked.
The other occurred on the opposite side of the same bus stop at Gerehu.
It happened to the driver of the Route 9 bus, I was in.
I saw officers on this Chinese-donated vehicle approach the bus driver, ask him if he knew how to drive, hurled verbal abuse at him and then landed a punch on his face.
He then copped a mouthful of betelnut spit from one of the officers s we watched helplessly.
The majority of our people are now in great fear of police, rather than criminals.
This is so unlike the past.
This is an appeal to the police hierarchy to train and their officers to treat and talk to the people with respect, according to the laws of this country.
We hope to see change in the near future.

Nongii Eniil Ngalkhay,
Dulumb Koiyange,
Papua New Guinea

 


Philippines give green light for Malaysian
And Indonesian vessels to enter Philippine waters

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 February 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 2 February 2018


Last Saturday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave the green light for Malaysian and Indonesian vessels to enter Philippine waters in pursuit of pirates, kidnappers and militants.
The clearance to enter our neighbours’ waters is part of a trilateral maritime security agreement discussed by Malaysia’s defence and foreign ministers with their Philippine and Indonesian counterparts.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) chief Hazani Ghazali welcomed this new development.
The opening of the maritime borders between the three countries will cut the lag time between when a Malaysian vessel has to halt its pursuit at the border and when the neighbouring country continues the chase.
Before this, criminals and terrorists were able to seek refuge upon reaching Philippine waters because entry by foreign armed vessels without permission is an intrusion into the nation’s sovereignty.
Esscom oversees security in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), a special security area spanning some 1,700km of coastline in the east coast of Sabah.
To boost the security of Esszone even further, vessels used by Esscom should be able to outrun the fastest speedboats, or carry a high-speed helicopter on its deck, to drive fear into any intruders and inspire confidence for safe passage in the Sulu Sea.
Crime or corruption occurs when perpetrators think they can get away with it, including snatch thieves on motorcycles, as it is common for many of them not to stop at red lights.
Likewise, if the escape routes are cut off, it would not be just another day in the office for pirates, kidnappers and terrorists should they strike again.

CY Ming,
Ampang,
Malaysia


 


Call for amendment to Local Government Code
For Philippines under federalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 February 2018

As an American living in the Philippines, please allow me to give advice on the federal system.
Although many Americans like how the federal structure works there, they have a different history.
The United States of America started out as 13 separate states, not one nation. People identified first with their state, and after decades, identified primarily as an American.
This is not the Philippine experience.
There is a bigger problem.
Depending on which state you live in of course, Americans pay about one-half of their taxes to their city and state, and the other half to the federal government. People like it because the local people best know where their money should go, and it is easier to keep track of government projects.
Here, federalism plans are vague.
But it’s easy to see the big financial problem.
According to the National Statistics Office, the National Capital Region and Calabarzon together produce 53 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Under federalism, why would the local elected officials of these rich areas fund projects in needy South Cotabato or Eastern Samar?
Even if the infrastructure is needed in these provinces, why would the local elected officials be generous to outsiders?
Clearly, underfunded Mindanao and Samar will sink.
Saying this, I realize that when I go to the province, people complain about the arrogant rules made by our national government.
Their complaints seem justified.
But there’s no need to change the Constitution to address that; it can be done by amending the Local Government Code and professionalizing the system.
The provinces should be are of the false promises of their local officials.
Under federalism, the needed money will not be shared.
Be careful what you wish for!

Jonathan. C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines





Call for mandatory death penalty
In Malaysia for corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 February 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 31 January 2018

Social media has become a hobgoblin that’s running amok with its swiftness and ease of use.
It has become the playing field for calumnious postings without much regard for human etiquette and respect.
The Malaysian political arena has not been spared either.
One of the favourite allegations among the cyber troopers is corruption. Corrup­tion allegations have been directed at both the Government and Opposition. Half-baked “evidence” are presented to prove the allegations.
This is not good for most of the rakyat who do not have the capacity to vet through such allegations.
This letter is written in the hope that corruption will be totally wiped out and no further allegations will be made.
Like it or not, being exposed to such unrestrained propaganda can leave a bad impression on the rakyat.
It has become deeply ingrained among some that Malaysia is not a country of law and they feel the leaders are able to carry out whatever they desire.
I beg to differ.
Malaysia is still governed by law.
Our nation’s leaders still have to toe the line set by our Federal Consti­tution.
As such, to prove that the Government is sincere in combating corruption, I implore it to introduce a mandatory death penalty for corruption.
We stifled drug trafficking in Malaysia via the mandatory death penalty.
We can do the same for corruption.
Let us make Malaysia a respectable country with zero tolerance for corruption.

Mohamed Hisham Yahya,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




Call for Philippine senate to ensure
Charter change for federalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 30 January 2018

Senators insist that they should vote separately for or against Charter change.
Big question: What happens if the Senate cannot get the three-fourths majority vote?
It will mean that all the “blah … blah … blah …” as well as the work of the consultative committee headed by former chief justice Reynato Puno would go down the drain.
The House of Representatives leadership is correct that the voting must be three-fourths majority of both chambers to ensure that Charter change for federalism shall push through.
Consuelo de amor propio - allow the senators to vote separately, but in computing the three-fourths majority, the total must be the entire Senate and Congress membership.
We should not allow the Senate to trap Charter change.

R.T.Agbayani,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Obesity increasing in Thailand
But not in Laos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 February 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 29 January 2018


Re: "Fast-food track to obesity"
, in Bangkok Post, Monday 29 January 2018
I'm not sure how PostBag contributor Eva Redelinghuys has managed to come up
with her unsupported observation that "since about 2010 the number of fat people - especially in Bangkok - has increased yearly", which she attributes to fast food outlets here.
She then suggests Laos has acted better in never allowing fast food joints into
that country, resulting in "hardly a fat person in the street".
Perhaps dear Eva is unaware that Laos is a communist state with its poverty-stricken people unlikely to be able to afford fast food, or fattening food for that matter.
Is that the price she would want for slim people?

Martin R,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Malaysia allows colonial heritage buildings
To run-down
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 January 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 26 January 2018

I was driving past the old Railway Station in Kuala Lumpur when I noticed that this national treasure was in such a poor state.
There was even a tree plant growing in a crevice that was very visible to passers-by.
This is an iconic building and a national treasure.
How can the responsible authority allow such deterioration to occur to such a magnificent building that has framed the covers of numerous books and featured in calendars, postcards, etc?
Surely there is sufficient funding to maintain and care for our country’s heritage buildings?
Some four years ago, I enjoyed high tea at Seri Carcosa with several family members.
A few days ago, I went back to make a reservation for tea at this beautiful colonial property hotel only to be informed that it is no longer a hotel and had stopped serving tea since last year.
I was also utterly disappointed when I saw just how run-down this national historical property was.
Someone with a sense of responsibility needs to take stock of our national heritage buildings and maintain them with the care and love they demand.
Otherwise our future generations will have nothing but concrete offices and malls to call their nation’s heritage buildings!

A very troubled and disappointed observer,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Outbreak of rabbies in Bali
Due to quality of vacine
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 January 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 18 January 2018

I refer to the letter “Learn from Bali to contain rabies” in The Star, January 13.
Yes, the initiative outlined and initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) when the outbreak occurred did reduce rabies significantly among the stray population in Bali.
However, in the past three years, the outbreak of rabies on the island has spiked and the government of Indonesia has reinitiated the culling of strays.
The main reason for this outbreak was the source of the rabies vaccine used.
Instead of getting the vaccine from the international source, the government opted for those produced within Indonesia.
The quality of the vaccine was not of international standard.
This shows that unless one is going to carry out an effective “Trap-Neuter-Release” campaign of all stray dogs, the reoccurrence of a rabies outbreak will be very high.
A “Trap-Neuter-Release” and rabies vaccination campaign needs to be carried out over a span of at least two years in order to reduce significantly the population of strays as well as the risk of a rabies outbreak.
Kalimantan has an open border with Sarawak and Sabah. Until one can concretely prevent stray dogs from crossing the border, both states will be constantly challenged with a rabies outbreak.
Zoonotic diseases are of significant and serious importance across the world, and until one can eradicate these diseases we have to be alert at detecting as well as controlling a possible outbreak.

Dr Amreet Singh Gill
Penang,
Malaysia





Hopefully Filipino millennials are intelligent
And think straight
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 January 2018

It is so revolting and disgusting how politicians act and speak, showing how interested they are to hold on to their positions.
They leave a legacy of greediness, even to their children and grandchildren.
The Filipino people will always despise and remember them with hatred, even their own families, I hope.
Millennials are intelligent and think straight.
They can’t be fooled.
May the Lord bless and guide those who are true servants of the people.
I’m already sickly and old and cannot participate in rallies.
Please fight for us who voted for and trusted deserving public servants.

MA. Luisa Cruz,
Manila,
Philippines


Call for Malaysians to adopt and practise
The Dialog Rakyat code of ethical conduct
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 January 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 16 January 2018

The increasing tide of divisive rhetoric and actions, which threaten our national harmony and make a mockery of our proclaimed adherence to moderation, is causing alarm among concerned citizens.
As the 14th general election approaches, this tide is becoming a tidal wave.
Now, hate politics is also coming into the picture so much so that the Prime Minister has recently come out strongly against it.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam has given an excellent list of proposals on how to combat this hate politics in his letter, “Keep hate politics out of GE14” in The Star, January 9.
For sustained national harmony and to minimise the impact of hate politics, I think Malaysian citizens should adopt and practise a certain code of ethical conduct.
In this respect, I would urge concerned Malaysians to adopt and practise the Dialog Rakyat code of ethical conduct and make it our New Year resolution.
The code of ethical conduct is as follows:
We, the concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia, undertake to adopt a set of behavioural patterns that embody moderation, respect, understanding, trust, transparency, tolerance and accommodation that reflect:
Respect for one another regardless of ethnicity, religion, geographical region, status or political leaning; and Recognition of our similarities and acceptance of our differences.
We, the concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia agree to:
Respect the Federal Constitution and uphold the Rukunegara so as to preserve the independence and sovereignty of our nation;
Promote activities that nurture civic consciousness, civic nationalism, patriotism, national cohesiveness, harmony and unity at all levels of society;
Advocate justice and fairness, transparency and integrity in all aspects of management and governance;
Resolve contentions and differences through constructive engagement, always seeking for equitable, mutually beneficial outcomes;
Refrain from actions that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others;
Reject any form of discrimination, bigotry, extremism, unjustified acts causing harm to any individual or group, including any action that can disrupt harmony and cohesion; and Fight corruption and kleptocracy at all levels and in all its manifestations.
We, the concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia, resolve to:
Adhere to and promote the Code of Ethical Conduct, and to Mobilise citizens towards a Citizen Movement for National Cohesion and Unity.
This code of ethical conduct is the outcome of the first Dialog Rakyat on National Cohesion and Unity held in December 2016. Since then, three other dialogues have been convened to translate the code of ethical conduct into “actionable practices” respectively for individuals, universities and community groups such as residents associations and rukun tetanga.
Dialog Rakyat is an initiative of seven organisations initially, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE), Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), Malaysian Invention and Design Society (MINDS), Nation Building School (NBS), G25, Inter-faith Spiritual Fellow­ship (INSaF) and Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI). They were joined later by Yayasan 1Malaysia and the National Council of Women’s Organisations, Malaysia (NCWO).
The dialogues have been jointly convened by a number of universities, residents associations and rukun tetanga.
More are planned for 2018 to get the support of other organisations and citizen groups.
We can continue to express concern and assign blame about the unhealthy development in our country but we cannot control the action of those with selfish agendas.
It is better therefore to focus on what we can control – ourselves – and together we CAN make a difference.

Tan Sri Omar Abdul Rahman,
Chair,
Organising Committee,
Dialog Rakyat for National Cohesion and Unity
Kuala Lumpur ,
Malaysia



Call for Philippines Supreme Court justices
To behave with cold neutrality
The Southeast Asian Times, 26 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 17 January 2018

I really find it very amusing how the current Supreme Court justices are falling all over each other in giving derogatory testimonies before the House justice committee investigating the impeachment charges against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The justices are not supposed to blabber about their decisions outside of their own conclave.
Once promulgated and sent out for public consumption, the decisions (the Supreme Court’s, not theirs individually) speak for themselves.
Further pontificating and editorializing about them by any sitting justice or even the writer thereof is uncalled for and erodes the integrity of the high court’s decisions.
In contrast to the time when the late chief justice Renato Corona was the one in the dock for betrayal of public trust and his own cabal of associate justices was circling the wagons to protect him, the point the public is perceiving right now is, the justices who have gleefully denounced Sereno really hate their chief that much!
Politics is written all over the entire scenario.
And we thought all along that Supreme Court justices can rise above themselves and behave at all times “with cold neutrality!”
But the picture we see is a cat that just ate the canary!

Arnulfo Magisreado,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Concern in Malaysia of increasing number
Of elephants killed on the road
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 January 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 22 January 2018

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is astounded by the death of another wild elephant in Gerik, Perak.
In the incident on January 3, a 40-year-old female elephant was electrocuted at a construction site.
Elephants enter populated areas to search for food. These pachyderms have lost their natural habitats due to land clearing.
According to an elephant expert, natural habitats are lost when roads are built across grasslands, causing automobile traffic.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) other non-governmental organisations and the public have expressed concern over the increasing number of roadkill involving elephants and other species.
However, it appears that the Malaysian Highway Authority has not addressed the issue, as many letters from Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) have gone unanswered.
Elephants are exposed to dangers from poachers, automobile accidents, poisoning, and are shot or killed by plantation workers.
The electrocution of this lactating female elephant brings to mind a similar incident in Sabah, where seven pygmy elephants died in an abandoned quarry pond in 2016.
It is irresponsible to leave work sites that are hazardous to humans and animals.
Which government body, department or agency is responsible for putting up the cabin and later abandoning it upon completion of the project without disconnecting its electrical supply?
Who will be held responsible for this unsafe work site?
What if a person had walked near the cabin and stepped on the live wire?
The loss of one elephant is a number less, but what about its baby?
It may follow the herd, but what are its chances of survival without its mother?
This death should not be taken lightly by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Given this situation and neglect of safety protocols, SAM urges the department to probe into the incident and release the results of its findings to the public.

S.M. Mohd Idris,
President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia,
Penang,
Malaysia




Call for stand-alone law
For workplace dress code in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 January 2018
First published in the Star, Wdnesday 17 January 2017

Recently, the Human Resources Ministry announced that the proposed draft of an amendment to the Employment Act 1955 to address the issue of workplace discrimination is being finalised.
The move was initiated in light of the ban on women wearing headscarves as frontline staff in some hotels.
However, it is worth noting that the Employment Act 1955 only applies to certain categories of employees, namely those whose monthly salary does not exceed RM2,000, workers engaged in manual labour regardless of their salary or in the operation or maintenance of mechanically propelled vehicles, those who supervise or oversee other employees engaged in manual labour, employees engaged in any capacity on a vessel (subject to certain other conditions), and domestic servants.
Furthermore, multiple parts of the Employment Act do not apply to domestic servants, including termination benefits, hours of work and maternity protection.
Also, for employees to come within the purview of the Employment Act 1955, they must be employed under a “Contract of Service” as opposed to a “Contract for Services”.
In addition, the Employment Act 1955 is only applicable in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan. Sabah and Sarawak are governed by their respective Labour Ordinance.
As such, it would be difficult to address workplace discrimination under the existing legislation.
Another option which the Government could consider is to have a stand-alone legislation to address the issue.
Under a stand-alone law, various aspects of workplace discrimination could be addressed clearly and properly, including employees’ dress code, age, individual disability, health, genetic information, national origin, and personal beliefs.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Faculty of Syaria and law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Decentralised governance in the Philippines
Not in conflict with federalization
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 January 2018

I am pleased to read Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco’s commentary, “Decentralized governance is the goal,” in Philippine Inquirer Wednesday 10 January 2018.
I agree with him and I hasten to add that an improved, enhanced and perhaps an “expanded” decentralized governance is now necessary.
Many countries have long been working on decentralized governance.
The Philippines is a recognized leader on decentralization in the Asian region, yet ours is not a perfect model, and many arising challenges make it imperative to take a second look at the Local Government Code of 1991.
That’s what the Senate committee on local government under the chairmanship of Sen. Sonny Angara is working on.
I am privileged to be part of the technical working group of this committee.
Initial scoping by the group shows that “patches of good governance” do not suffice anymore.
There is a need to upscale and expand local governance to meet the complex challenges, such as disaster and climate risk management, the consolidation of solid waste management, and the horrendous management of traffic, infrastructure development and connectivity - all of which cut across towns and cities.
Disasters such as typhoons do not choose towns or cities to hit because natural calamities know no political boundaries.
There is a need to go the way of a bigger territorial development or an interzonal development cooperation especially if the country wants to manage natural resources.
Watersheds, for example, cut across towns or even provinces.
These natural resources are the bases of wealth and revenues, and as such, it is necessary to manage and sustain them.
All these need a targeted, shared management of wider territories beyond voluntary interzonal cooperation.
A robust, well-thought-out and expanded system of local governance is not in conflict with federalization, as the Swiss put it. Still and all, decentralized governance remains the goal and the challenge.

Edna. E. A. Co.,
Director,
Cifal Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines



The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act
Response to neoliberal push
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 January 2018

The new TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Act will bring about the reverse of President Duterte’s electoral promise of encouraging overseas Filipino workers to go back to the Philippines for good.
Instead of sending us home, TRAIN will keep us abroad for a long time while also sending millions more just so we can answer the needs of our families.
Yet again, the burden of President Duterte’s kowtowing to foreign lords and local oligarchs will have to be borne by poor and ordinary Filipinos including OFWs who are mostly the main breadwinners of their households back home.
Touted as the Duterte administration’s “best Christmas gift to Filipinos,” TRAIN took effect earlier this year.
The generated income from TRAIN will be used for the “Build, build, build” program of the administration that is set to benefit rich contractors and foreign companies who will be involved in the megainfrastructure projects that are to be built not in poorest regions but mainly where big foreign companies are operating.
Immediately, TRAIN’s impact on prices is already being felt. In the next months, rates of public utilities, as well as transportation are also set to increase. Food prices will also be soaring up as additional taxes on oil impact production and distribution.
Such increases will have grave impacts on OFWs who are already facing indebtedness, high recruitment fees, depressed or minimally increased wages abroad, high fees for government requirements and difficulties in ensuring the education and health needs - social needs that are not provided by the
government - of their children.
To add insult to injury, TRAIN doubles the documentary stamp tax (60 centavos now from 30 centavos) for every P200 of remittance sent to the Philippines.
This will definitely eat into the usual amount we send to our families already challenged to make ends meet with the effect of TRAIN on prices of commodities.
To supposedly mitigate the impact, a cash dole-out program is going to be implemented which, with the current rotten corrupt system, will be just a source for more plunder and anomalies.
It will also be a temporary patch as the strategic economic capacity of the people is not enhanced.
TRAIN responds to the neoliberal push of foreign powers, chiefly the US government, who want to lessen the costs of business transactions and pass it on to the consumers.
In the end, President Duterte’s TRAIN will lead the Philippine economy to more wreckage and further perpetuate the country’s dependence on remittance and overseas labor export: another broken promise of the President in the interest of new and old elites in the country.

Eman Villanueva,
Chair,
Bayan Hong Kong and Macau,
Manila,



Call for Rukun Negara as the guiding compass
For Malaysian elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 January 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Saturday 13 January 2018

As the 14th General Election draws close, and the various political parties go all out to woo the voters, Malaysians should pay close attention to the manifestos of the actors, their present and past records, and the issues and concerns that are shaping the political milieu as they prepare to make some critical decisions about their own future.
Pakatan Harapan, a grouping of four political parties - Parti Keadilan Rakyat; Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia; DAP; and Parti Amanah Negara - announced its manifesto on January 6.
While the 13-point manifesto contains some commendable elements, it is deafeningly silent on one of the greatest challenges that has always confronted our nation - the challenge of promoting unity within our multireligious and multicultural society.
In the last few years, this challenge has become even more pronounced with the decline of social interaction among people of different ethnic backgrounds, especially in Peninsular Malaysia, and the intensification of exclusive attitudes adopted by fringe groups in all communities which have had an adverse impact on the social fabric.
These exclusive attitudes assume many forms. Among them are the antics of certain vocal groups who claim to speak on behalf of Islam when in fact their pronouncements and actions undermine the universal essence of the religion and alienate the large non-Muslim population in the country, including those from Sabah and Sarawak.
Some of these exclusivists even argue that since Islam is the religion of the federation as provided for in Article 3 of the Malaysian Constitution, the syariah should supersede existing laws and their interpretation of certain Islamic precepts should be accepted by all without question.
Beyond espousing respect for the Constitution, the Pakatan Harapan manifesto does not take a clear stance against narrow interpretations of religion or religious authoritarianism.
By the same token, the manifesto appears to be oblivious to the danger posed by chauvinistic thinking that shows very little appreciation of the role of the Malay language as a channel for effective inter-ethnic interaction or the position of the Malay sultanates in shaping the nation’s character and identity.
In this regard, Pakatan Harapan has not even acknowledged the one document that was presented to the nation as its unifying ideology and its instrument for nation-building by the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong on August 31, 1970.
Recently, on Oct 10, the Conference of Rulers urged everyone - leaders, administrators and the people as a whole - to uphold the five goals and five principles of Rukun Negara.
It is significant that the rulers described Rukun Negara as the “guiding compass” for the nation.
At a time like this, when divisive tendencies are getting stronger, a guiding compass that articulates inclusive goals and principles becomes imperative.
Our rulers realise this, which is why they reiterated their commitment to Rukun Negara in its entirety a few months ago.
The least that political parties like the component parties of Pakatan Harapan can do is endorse the clarion call of our Conference of Rulers.
If Pakatan Harapan had emphasised Rukun Negara, whose first goal is national unity, it would not only have shown that it was serious and sincere about one of Malaysia’s foremost challenges, but would have also demonstrated that it was crystal-clear about the direction we should take as a people.
It is a lucid articulation of national goals that the people demand and political parties should live up to this expectation if they intend to give hope to the rakyat.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
Board of Trustees chairman
Yayasan 1Malaysia,
Petaling Jaya
Malaysia



Call for legalisation of cross-border transport service
Between Thailand and Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 January 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Saturday 13 January 2018

I refer to the New Straits Times report on December 19, titled “Thais flouting International Circulation Permit (ICP) rule”.
May I humbly point out that the action of “flouting” the International Circulation Permit (ICP) is not one-sided.
In fact, every day a number of the so-called “excursion buses” have been offering scheduled services shuttling between southern Thailand and Malaysian cities, including to and from Kuala Lumpur, all serving beyond the 2km exemption as well, none of which have permits from the Thai authorities.
There are also many trucks operated by Malaysian companies registered both in Malaysia and Thailand carrying goods across the border into Thailand.
Most of them serve beyond the 2km exemption, while some go even as far as the northern part of Thailand. Rarely have these “illegal” services been in the news, and for the benefit of people on both sides of the border, the Thai authorities have all along exercised leniency and been casual in the implementation of the rules.
In fact, every day a number of the so-called “excursion buses” have been offering scheduled services shuttling between southern Thailand and Malaysian cities, including to and from Kuala Lumpur, all serving beyond the 2km exemption as well, none of which have permits from the Thai authorities.
I should also point out that these services, which flout the rules, have existed for decades and proved to be popular among tourists and locals alike.
This shows strong spontaneous demand in cross-border services between Thailand and Malaysia.
It is hoped that we will find a mutually agreeable arrangement that allows the services to operate legally.
To this end, I should point out that since last year the two countries have been working on a memorandum of understanding on the cross-border transport of goods and another on the cross-border transport of passengers.
We hope we can conclude the MoUs, under which such cross-border services are duly recognised and legalised as soon as possible.
We believe that they will contribute to cross-border trade and tourism activities and a much better understanding between the peoples of both countries.

Nipa Nirannoot,
Minister counsellor,
Royal Thai Embassy,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Pakatan should look at itself
Before criticing the government
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 January 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Saturday 13 January 2018

The articles on Selangor and Penang government property related taxes in the New Straits Times and Berita Harian on Monday and Tuesday are a reminder to the people in both states and also the country that the higher cost of living is not entirely due to the Federal Government’s policy.
The writer, Isham Jalil, put forward a convincing argument that the issue of cost of living should be put into the proper context and that there are also other reasons for the high cost of living.
The fact is we have been overwhelmed by so many unverified opinions that labelled the Goods and Services Tax or some other government policy as the reasons for the higher cost of living that precious little spotlight is shone on the opposition-ruled states.
I would be very surprised if the Pakatan governments will continue to deny or even blame others in light of this expose by such a highly trained person with a professional background.
The facts and figures are there for all to see.
Most damning are the two graphics showing the raising of property related taxes by the two states which started before the implementation of GST and more hikes as time passed.
I noticed that even the recent Pakatan manifesto mentioned taxation.
I support Isham’s contention that Pakatan should look at itself first before criticising the government.

Mohammed Salim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




ASEAN guided by ASEAN Charter
In its relationship with China
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 January 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5 January 2018

Re: "Reinventing the Asean-Sino relationship", in December 29.
There is no doubt that the 10 Asean members will have to move beyond self-serving diplomacy and opt for more far-sighted approaches in their relations with China.
It demands a well-shaped multilateral diplomacy, fully adaptable to a world characterised by global vulnerabilities, perplexities and discontinuities.
The guiding light for such complex diplomacy is expected to be provided by the
Asean charter, which came into force on December 15, 2008.
Indeed, in accordance with this multilateral legal instrument Asean shall be the
primary driving force in arrangements that it initiates and maintain its centrality in regional cooperation.
Moreover, in the conduct of their external relations Asean member states shall,
on the basis of unity and solidarity, coordinate and endeavour to develop common
positions and pursue joint actions.
It should be also remembered that the strategic policy directions of Asean
diplomacy are being set by the Asean Summit, upon the recommendation of the
Asean Foreign Ministers Meetings.
This year will offer persuasive illustrations about the capacity of Asean to
give tangibility to its diplomatic objectives in its relationships with China.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Sale of souvenirs made from ivory products
Are not permitted in China
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 January 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 3 January 2018

It is heartening to read about the Chinese government’s decision to impose a total ban on the sale of ivory products to prevent the unnecessary killing of elephants.
Even online sale of souvenirs made from ivory products are not permitted in China now.
Chinese are also not allowed to bring home souvenirs made of ivory.
This ban has reduced the price of raw ivory by 67 percent, and seizures of ivory entering China have been cut by 80 percent.
We hope other countries will emulate the Chinese government by imposing a ban on products made of ivory.
This will save the elephants from being killed for their tusks.
Sharks are also savagely killed for their fins because of the demand for their cartilage to make soup.
The cartilage in shark fins is tasteless, but the addition of crab meat and other ingredients in the cooking makes the soup tasty.
Shark fins, which were difficult to obtain in the olden days, were dishes on the tables of the rich and imperial families in China.
And now, many people are consuming shark fin soup.
But cruel methods used by fishermen – cutting the fins of live sharks and throwing them back into the sea – are disgusting.
People should stop eating shark fin soups to prevent the brutal killing of sharks.
We hope that the Chinese authorities and other governments will ban the sale of shark fins as well, to save the killing of sharks for their fins.
Another novelty dish is the braising of bear paws in China, which has led to bears being killed for their paws.
The cruel ways of extracting the bile of the bears for making Chinese medicine is another inhumane treatment of animals.
But not to forget, feeding geese to artificially increase the size of their livers for food in the West should also be discouraged to prevent cruelty.
We hope that people will refrain from using and consuming products or foods derived from animals using cruel methods.
We also hope that all governments in the world will ban the sale of such products.

Thomas Foo,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia


Former Thai MP's
Told to stop interferring
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 January 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 12 January 2018

The media report of a group of former MPs from the Northeast paying a visit to
three of their party's "respected elders" should be a cause for concern for
democratically minded Thais.
The first "elder" is Thailand's former prime minister and former army chief.
This man is now 86 years old.
Some 20 years ago, the government under this PM was responsible for the 1997 economic crisis that affected many countries across the world.
Many blamed him for the tumult that took place in Thailand in the 1990s.
The second "elder" (85), is the caretaker leader of Thailand biggest party.
He is another elderly Thai who cannot say with pride that he has done anything good for society.
The last is a notorious politician (84) who came to prominence by acting as a local boss in the Northeast - after becoming owner of a fleet of transport trucks operating in the region.
During his time as a cabinet minister in the early 2000s, this person was
alleged to have ordered for a piece of land that belonged to a Buddhist temple
to be transformed into a privately owned golf course.
Be that as it may, he could not be brought to trial because of a lack of evidence.
It looks like Thailand's road to democracy is doomed as long as these three octogenarians keep interfering in politics - instead of taking care of their great-great grandchildren!

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine media seems to shy away
From criticism of the Duterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 10 January 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ceres Doyo’s column, “SOS for police’s mistaken targets,” in Philippine Inquirer 4 January 2018.
As a former naval officer and also a Boy Scout, it was good to see how she used that traditional signal.
Sadly, it does not seem to matter what the innocent do, the use of deadly force seems to be in the institutional culture of the Philippine National Police!
I was most impressed by Ceres’ willingness to call a spade a spade, so to speak. So many media commentators seem to shy away from criticism of the Duterte administration and its armed forces on the streets.
With trigger happy police, encouraged by a buffoon for chief of the PNP, and the encouragement of the President who seems to wish to solve so many issues with violence, Mandaluyong was an accident waiting to happen.
Thanks so much for making that point so cleverly.

Gill Boehringer,
Former Dean,
Macquarie University Law School,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Papua New Guinea landowners call on government
To release Gulf infrastructure development grant
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 January 2018
First published in the National, Monday 8 January 2018

We impacted landowners of the oil and gas pipelines in Kikori are calling on National Government, through the National Planning Minister Richard Maru, to release Gulf infrastructure development grant (IDG) balance of 2013 of K6.7 million.
This is to fund badly-needed infrastructure projects in Kikori which has the footprints of the two pipelines.
We also have outstanding Gulf infrastructure development grant (IDG) for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Grants like Gulf infrastructure development grant (IDG) are part of our landowner benefits under oil and gas agreements.
We demand that these monies are spent on Kikori projects through landowner contractors.
We look forward for development action in 2018.

Ronnie Alfie,
Leader,
Kikori Oil and Gas Pipeline Landowners,
Papua New Guinea





Australia sticks to the U.S. line
Rather than recognize the reality of China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 January 2018
First published in the Japan Times, Friday 29 December 2017

I found Ramesh Thakur’s opinion piece on Australia’s approach to its foreign policy with China interesting, though with questionable arguments, “Australia charts a flawed foreign policy course” in the Japan Times December 8.
Correctly, Thakur notes that the U.S. has exercised coercive power far more than any other nation over the past several decades.
Given Iraq and other misadventures it is difficult to dismiss this criticism; however, great powers historically have coerced other nations in their perceived self-interests.
Who is to say that China would be any different?
An interesting paragraph reads: “The vision outlined is of the rear-view mirror of a world already fading from memory, namely the liberal international order created and underwritten by the U.S.-led West. This would deny China agency as the rising power to write global rules, and design and control the institutions of global governance. An editorial in the South China Morning Post, ‘Australia turns its back on the new Asia with white paper,’ correctly concluded that Canberra has chosen to stick to the U.S. line rather than recognize the reality of China, work to improve relations with Beijing and commit to global organizations.”
Seems to me that this simply reflects China’s desire to assert its dominance on the world stage and supplant the “West.” I have to ask, why is that a good thing if China rewrites the rules without compromise?
I trust that many of us wish for a prosperous, stable and secure China.
This does not, however, require a China that rewrites the rules of global governance solely to its liking.
China may have never been a “global power” during its history, but that is very likely due to limitations on its reach due to insufficient technology at the time.
It has historically been a regional hegemon and has never shied away from force to achieve its goals and ambitions.


Eric (Rick) Lewis,
Chapel Hill,
North Carolina,
USA

 

 


Call for straight railway lines in Malaysia
To prevent rail kills
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 January 2017
First published int the Star, Thursday 4 January 2017

There has been concern over the possible impact of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project on wild animals, some of which are endangered.
The ECRL, which links Port Klang to Kota Baru in Kelantan, is a totally new railway line.
As such, the project would encounter less constraints and fewer problems compared to ­widening the present coastal line to the east coast, and proper planning would enable it to have the latest features for the betterment of the environment, humans and wild animals.
One of the more effective ways to prevent wild animal accidents (rail kills) is to ensure that the railway line is constructed as straight as possible, especially in areas where endangered animals like elephants, seladang, tigers, leopards, bears, tapirs, etc are found.
A straight line would ensure that the train driver is able to see from afar whether these animals are on the track and thus slow down to prevent an accident.
The driver could also use a telescope as an aid for this purpose during the day.
Since the railway line will be electrified, motion detection cameras can be placed in some sensitive areas to detect the presence of animals crossing or straying on the tracks.
An electrified fence would be of limited use to keep wild animals off the tracks.
It can be dangerous to small animals and could also be destroyed by the larger ones like elephants and seladang.
Power cables for the railway line need to be placed higher as well to ensure that animals such as elephants can cross the track without getting electrocuted.
Viaducts, which would be components of the ECRL, close to the habitats of endangered animals need to have trails or roads on either side to enable wild animals to cross over to the other side safely and without any obstacles. The trails should be between 1km and 3km deep into the forest on either side of the viaduct. Animals, like humans, are accustomed to habit and prefer the path of least resistance; and when animals such as elephants, seladang and tigers start to use these trails, they would avoid the tougher paths to cross the tracks. The Wildlife and Forestry Departments can offer their inputs on these matters.
The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) has immense potential as a tourist attraction too, as it would be passing through densely forested areas, scenic landscapes and over large rivers.
One way to enhance its tourist appeal is to plant beautiful flowering trees of Malaysian and tropical origin along the railway reserves.
When these trees bloom profusely, they would be a wonderful sight to behold. Imagine gazing at beautiful flowering trees for tens of kilometres on end; it would be like seeing the world- famous cherry blossoms in Japan.
It is hoped the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) would have safety features for wild animals and also be a big tourist draw for the east coast.

V. Thomas,
Sg Buloh,
Selangor,
Malaysia

 



Call for eduaction of Papua New Guinea
To be job-orientated
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 January 2018
First published in The National, Monday 8 January 2018

Unemployment is a serious problem in the country.
It is becoming more and more serious by the day.
The problem of unemployment will create difficulties for the development of the country.
Many established businesses are not able to cope with the changing demands.
The economy is down and retrenchment is taking place.
When there is a slump in business, many people find themselves without jobs.
From my knowledge and findings, I suggest a few points that could be considered.
Family planning scheme should be made popular.
People should be educated about the importance of having small families.
The education system should be made need-based.
The education of our country should be job-oriented.
It must make our student self-dependent.
Changing the mind-set the young is necessary, as many of them do not want to take risks.
A desire for doing something for one’s own may solve, to some extent, the problem of unemployment for both the uneducated and the educated people.
To sum it up, we have to solve the problem of unemployment on a war footing.
We need educated people in the Government and private sector not to manipulate the system for their own good, but to build the nation based on reliance, equality and transparency.

Kennedy Topints,
Nongii Emiil Ngalkhay,
Dulumb-Koiyange,
Papua New Guinea

 


Call for education not killing
Must be the shot for the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 8 January, 2018

The Dengvaxia controversy in the country has reportedly “affected” some 830,000 schoolchildren.
That of course involved people’s money to the tune of P3.5 billion.
We are lucky enough that the Bicol region was spared from its troubles as no Dengvaxia vaccines were distributed to children here.
Understandably, there was no dengue epidemic in our region that time.
The Sorsogon Provincial Health Office (SPHO) and the Department of Education were instead awarded by the Department of Health (DOH) as “best implementers” of school-based immunization programs.
The SPHO was also a hall of famer in terms of best health practices.
Here’s the rub: What if dengue was a serious problem during Dengvaxia’s procurement and planned distribution?
Health, education, as well as local government officials would naturally have consented to the use of those deleterious vials, too!
In such a case, I wouldn’t blame them.
No one should blame them; when an emergency arises, or when a situation is a “matter of life and death,” people whose conviction on the curative value of medicine (many people concede even if it is prescribed by a quack doctor) will always act in accordance to their “faith,” more so if it’s part of their mandate. Worth stressing is the fact that parental waivers were obtained prior to inoculations.
Revisiting how our government effectively educates people and eliminates dengue prior to or following an outbreak must be given premium - education , not killing people must be the shot!
Learn from the experience of Sorsogon so as to parry the infectious Dengvaxia and still garner DOH awards amid the said issue.
Look, if we can fire the shots to kill drug personalities, or terrorists, why can’t we target the virus-carrying mosquitoes - so that people will survive, and no Dengvaxia would be prescribed.

Joey L. Gois,
Sorsogon,
Bicol,
Philippines



Call for ban
On sale of ivory in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 January 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3 January 2018

Re: "Beijing enacts sweeping ban on entire ivory trade", in Bangkok Post December 28.
Plaudits to China for outlawing all sales of ivory.
As the main consumer market for ivory in the world, the ban on all sales - if strictly enforced - will go a long way toward ending the senseless slaughter of elephants around the world.
Pressure should now be placed on Thailand, and all other countries that still
allow the sale of ivory, to enact and enforce similar bans.
Only when the sale of ivory is completely ended will the poaching of elephants stop.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Climate change denial
Should be considered a crime
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 January 2018
Fisrt published in the Japan Times, Monday 29 December 2017

The future demographic picture of the world is billions of climate refugees storming across borders to seek water and to find shelter from the searing heat and deadly drought conditions.
Climate change deniers like U.S. President Donald Trump will have wealth and power to live in secure walled, gated communities with an army of guards to keep the refugees out.
Actually that wall along the U.S.-Mexico border begins to look very sensible given the fact that millions upon millions of refugees from Latin America might seek safety in the United States as climate conditions in their own countries goes from bad to worse to life threatening.
Drought could kill off all the livestock and destroy crops.
Famine is a very real risk.
The heat will prove devastating to poor everywhere, many succumbing to heat related illness and death.
The elderly and the very young will be at greatest risk.
And there’s the plutocratic Trump telling everyone that climate change is no threat, that it’s “fake science.”
What an evil man he truly is. Sorry, but he is.
I look upon the threat of global warming much as the Jews in Europe looked upon the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Denial will end in tragedy for millions upon millions of human beings and the Earth itself.
Climate change denial should be considered a crime.
It’s much worse than denying that smoking tobacco is linked to cancer and other deadly diseases.
Smoking is an individual act and smokers are stupid or suffer from addictive personality disorder by nature.
The industrialized world is collectively responsible for global warming, but it’s the third world that will suffer the most in the first stages of global climate collapse. Wars could be triggered by climate change when countries begin to fight over dwindling water supplies or good farmland.
Oh well, a merry Christmas to all the Trump klan.

Robert McKinney,
Tama,
Tokyo




Wishing Filipinos a Hopeful New Year
Instead of a happy New Year
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 January 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 4 January 2018

It is with apprehension and impossible hope that I will be wishing anybody “Happy New Year” for 2018. 
It will be merely lip service.
On reading the recent Reuters report on the existence of the “Davao Boys,” I have only two questions:
Why did it need Reuters, with foreign-sounding names of reporters, to write this report?
Are we going to let these Davao Boys to continue their executions with impunity?
I am very sad for our country.
Our President continues to fire appointees who show promise trying to run their departments or commissions with honesty and sincere intent for the common good.
We have members of Congress who merely echo the wishes of the President, who approve P1,000-budget of human-rights-related committees, or none at all for opposition lawmakers.
We have a Supreme Court which allows Marcos a place in our heroes’ cemetery, which weakens the reproductive health law by making it hard for poor women to have access to pills for family planning by their amendments.
So I will just wish us all Filipinos a “Hopeful New Year” instead.

Nenita Tapia, MM,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for Malaysia for openess of government
In management of economic, social and religious policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 January 2017
First published in the Star, Tuesday 19 December 2017

Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, in their regular reporting on our country, have made encouraging forecasts about our economic prospects, stating that the GDP growth momentum will continue into 2018 on the back of world economic recovery, strong export performance and expanding domestic demand from the private and public sector.
They attribute this favourable outlook to the good policies which the Government has implemented, including the introduction of GST and removal of wasteful expenditures on fuel subsidies.
Their forecasts on national and household debts indicate that these are manageable and therefore unlikely to cause a risk to the country’s financial health.
Their assumption is that the contingency liabilities of 1MDB and the other GLCs will not materialise to fall on the Federal Government’s shoulders.
These two international organisations typically do not discuss in their published reports, although they agree in closed door discussions, the need for structural reforms for Malaysia to get out of the middle-income trap and become a fully developed country.
And while investors and financiers are encouraged by the various reform measures taken in Malaysia in recent years, they also notice that the structural reforms recommended in the New Economic Model (NEM) report to the National Economic Action Council have not made much progress, particularly on the race-based economic policies and the large presence of government-linked companies (GLC) in the marketplace.
Although the Government has introduced high standards of corporate governance guidelines for GLCs to make them operate along commercial lines, private businesses remain sceptical that there is a level playing field especially for young entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Entrepreneurship and risk-taking need to be encouraged by freeing the economy from restrictive policies and reducing government presence in commercial activities.
The recent G25 Report on Invigorating Economic Confidence in Malaysia also covered the same issues raised in the NEM study.
In discussing the economic and financial issues, it focuses on the current concerns on inflation, cost of living and disposable incomes, drawing the same conclusion as in Bank Negara and other reports about the need for wage levels to increase through labour market reforms, higher quality of education and training of school-leavers and graduates, and stricter control over the influx of cheap foreign workers, particularly illegal and undocumented workers, which is causing social and security problems for the country.
More importantly, the easy access to cheap unskilled foreign labour acts as a disincentive for businesses to change their methods of production from labour-intensive to automation and their lines of business from low to high value-added goods and services.
Malaysia cannot remain a labour-intensive economy if it wants to be a high-income country.
Virtually all reports on Malaysia from local and foreign analysts stress on the urgency for a wide range of institutional reforms to create openness of Government and transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s economic, social and religious policies.
Many from developed countries and our own well-educated middle class tend to be suspicious about corruption, nepotism and cronyism when the government of a country is shrouded in mystery and secrecy at the official level.
Business leaders are more comfortable with an open system of government that can deal with issues like 1MDB, syariah laws or English as a second medium of instruction in schools in a transparent manner.
Institutional reforms for responsible government should begin with Parliament setting the tone for public institutions to be professional and independent in carrying out their management and regulatory functions.
As an example, Parliament can establish select parliamentary committees to exercise oversight responsibilities on the executive functions of government such that ministers and their civil servants are made answerable for the management of their ministries.
The committees should sit in open sessions with professional advisers, assisting the members of parliament in raising relevant questions and evaluating the annual and special reports of government agencies such the Auditor-General, police and MACC.
As financial issues have become controversial matters of wide public interest, the committees should also conduct hearings on the GLCs by instructing the Finance Ministry and Khazanah Nasional Berhad, or bumiputra development agencies like PNB, Felda, Mara and Tabung Haji to appear before them for briefings, with permission for the public to also attend and listen to their discussions and debates.
The two agencies that need to be closely monitored by the Auditor-General and Parliament are Jakim and Iksim in view of the secrecy surrounding their budgetary allocations and expenditures and their activities.
They must be made publicly accountable like other government agencies and not exclude themselves from public scrutiny.
Appointments of officials to key government posts should be based on merit irrespective of race and religion and open to independent scrutiny by the relevant service commissions to ensure they are not favoured based on political affiliations or business connections.
This should apply especially to senior positions in the civil service, the legal and judicial branches of government and the regulatory agencies as they must be seen to be clean of any suspicions and speculation.
These are some examples of the best practices which are important for ensuring that whatever the political changes, the country has strong institutions to lead its development and maintain high standards in upholding the rule of law for justice and fairness.
Malaysia is eminently capable of becoming a high-income country in a few years’ time because of its rich resource base, well-developed infrastructure, cultural diversity of population and its geographical location in the fastest growing region in the world.
To achieve that goal, it must quickly get its governance system right, with checks and balance among public institutions to prevent abuse of power and make the authorities accountable for any mismanagement and injustice in the implementation of its economic, social and religious policies.
A government that is open and accountable will generate confidence that Malaysia is a progressive Muslim-majority country with good economic and social strategies for the inclusive development of its people.
It will be a government that cares for the rights of all races not only for their basic necessities of life but also in their access to the democratic values of freedom and liberty as enshrined in the Constitution and expressed in the Rukunegara, the national ideology for uniting Malaysians.
That’s the way forward to becoming a fully developed country in the true sense of the word.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




“If you have a garden and a library,
you have everything you need”

The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 3 January 2018

The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero famously stated: “If you have a
garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Inarguably, that would nearly be a complete life.
I say nearly because it is beyond contestation that in order for us to have a good and meaningful lives and worthwhile existence, we utterly need those necessary elements.
They are vital ingredients that we need to use for us to fully harmonize, develop further and ultimately complete ourselves and our humanity.
Nonetheless, in light of the present era, I would very much like to add, in my
view is another utterly indispensable need or element and that is no other than
public parks.
Today, I am sad and disappointed to note that in our country, the state and
well-being of our parks are decaying. Worst, their numbers are not only dwindling but miserably limited.
When I was working a couple of years ago as an expatriate (I taught philosophy,
ethics and anthropology at Nilai University in Malaysia), I was enamored and
enchanted by their numerous and spacious public parks and recreation sites.
The same is true of Singapore.
That nation-state is truly amazing.
They are so small yet the number of their public parks is outstanding.
Hence, every day after my work and lectures, I just change my clothes at my
hostel, put on my sneakers and go to their padang (park) either to play
basketball, walk or simply sit at one of many tables where I could write my
notes on a piece of paper or to simply enjoy the scenery and surroundings.
Here in our country, I am utterly dismayed.
Do we all have to go to Luneta to enjoy our right for a public park?
Why can’t the central government order the local government units or better yet,
the LGUs themselves have the initiative, imagination and will to create their
own public parks?
The world today is becoming more and more compartmentalized. It seems that we
are (de)limiting our already squeezed public spaces in the name of “modernity,”
instant satisfaction, fast-paced “lives,” tap-and-go “mentality,” on-the-spot
“pleasure,” etc.
Consider the case of the malls. Prior to their arrival and eventual proliferation, we already have monstrous traffic woes.
Now the future of our public metropolis is even bleaker.
Malls seem to have contributed in no small way to the destruction and decimation
(at least in aesthetic terms) of our cities and communities.
Because “everything” is already there or available at the mall, people would
rather go to the supermarket instead of the local market (palengke).
This seems to be a nonissue but think about it in the long run.
What will happen to our palengke in the future?
Palengke is one of our childhood’s beloved public spaces.
Will we also say goodbye one day to the talipapa (wet market), too?
Another utterly important thing that I would like to highlight is the playground. Because of our limited or lack of public parks with playgrounds for
our kids, a great number of parents today are patronizing “playgrounds”
available at malls. Again, if we will look closely, this will pose some problems
in the immediate future.
As a philosopher and an educator, it is my belief that our children should play
outside/indoors, in the full view of the world, not in an encampment, a closed
space, in short, in a given structured box - subject to monetary and time
regulation.
To a child, playing is everything and time for that matter does not exist for
them.
I call on all the relevant authorities and agencies of this government to look
unto this matter with utmost and utter urgency.
In conclusion, public parks are utterly necessary in order for us to further
develop ourselves.

Jose Mario De Vega,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine government hitting on organisations
Fighting for economic rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 28 December 2017

The government, in its drive to end the decades-long armed rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, has stuck to its militaristic campaign in the decision to extend martial law in Mindanao. Unfortunately, in the past months since its proclamation, it has done more damage to civilians than to the armed group it has vowed to target.
The solons once more turned their backs on the Filipinos in Mindanao who exist on the fringes of society, who time and again are the sacrificial lambs to political and economic agendas.
They have forgotten that these sectors too are part of their constituency the sectors that compose the country’s “expendables.”
Who are the terrorists targeted by martial law?
From the documentation of the Mindanao Observatory on Human Rights, the pattern of the state’s targets is obvious - they are hitting organizations and communities that have been fighting primarily for economic rights. These are the people and organizations that have criticized the government’s development agenda that does not respect the rights of the poor sectors. These are the people and organizations that have been calling for access to basic social services.
These are the terrorists the government is “protecting” the Filipino people from. And people supporting martial law conveniently forgot that the society we live in now is actually on these expendables’ backs.
The economic benefits we enjoy now have been built on the toil of millions of laborers who had taken to the streets decades ago, demanding for just labor practices. Had they been silent, had they accepted their oppression and exploitation as fate, most of us would still be slaving day and night in cramped quarters, unable to access any opportunity of rising beyond meager daily existence.
The civil liberties we have had been paid for with blood—from our colonizers, from repressive and tyrannical governments. Had they not dare fight, we would have continued to exist as second-class citizens of our country which we could not call our own.
The diminishing power of the people to freely express their opinions and complaints against state policies is an affront to our democracy. Democracy is not only a matter of being able to participate in elections. Democracy means the power is held by the people —not by a few politicians, nor economic elites, and definitely not by the military.
We continue to stand against martial law.

Czarina Golda Musni,
Spokesperson,
Mindanao Observatory for Human Rights,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 


Golden Rice
To be tested on Philippine children
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 29 December 2017

As the Philippine Senate grapples with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, a new type of rice never before consumed by humans is already set for testing and eventual release in our country, if approved.
“Golden rice” is genetically modified to force the rice plant to express beta carotene in its grains. Hailed as an answer to Vitamin A deficiency, an application to field and feed test the GM grain is now lodged under the Bureau of Plant Industry, an agency tasked to regulate GM applications.
The Golden Rice Project is hauntingly similar to Dengvaxia as the target sectors are our children. Its proponents, Philippine Rice Research Institute and International Rice Research Institute, have applied a permit under Direct Use, wherein target populations will be fed with golden rice to test if the genetically modified rice is effective in providing Vitamin A.
Most likely, the target sector of the Golden Rice Project are children aged 0-5 years old and pregnant and lactating mothers, the sectors where Vitamin A deficiency has been observed.
The Golden Rice Project, however, is fraught with problems.
The application for Direct Use will subject unknowing populations, most likely children, to golden rice feeding tests whose potential risks are unknown.
In a public dialogue held by the National Anti-Poverty Commission last August, medical doctors warned that there are not enough data presented to establish safety of golden rice to human health thus warranting the disapproval of human feed trials.
They are saying that more information is needed as the risks of eating golden rice are not yet known.
Civil society organizations, including the Resist Agrochemical TNCs network, have also pointed out that the protocols, risk management plans and guidelines to ensure the protection of the public against the possible risks of golden rice remain wanting.
In China, the public was outraged when grade school children were subjected to golden rice feed studies.
Three Chinese officials were sacked for allowing the said feeding trials without informed consent among the parents or schoolteachers.
The project did not even state that the rice the kids were consuming is genetically modified, nor did it state uncertainty around the potential risks of ingesting genetically modified rice.
Apart from an application for Direct Use, the proponents have renewed an application to open field test of golden rice in the municipalities of San Mateo in Isabela and Muñoz in Nueva Ecija.
In a recent study, scientists from India showed that the derived lines of golden rice produced phenotypic abnormality and poor yield performance making it unfit for commercial cultivation.
Farmers are worried that the trait can transfer to other rice varieties or weedy relatives through cross-contamination once the open field testing is approved.
Interestingly, while golden rice is planned to be distributed among farmers royalty-free, its patents are still owned by agrochem giant Syngenta, a Switzerland-based company whose products include genetically modified crops and pesticides. Syngenta was recently bought off by ChemChina, one of the largest chemical corporations in China.
Golden rice is said to be a Trojan Horse that will further open our agricultural sector to seeds and inputs owned by huge agrochemical transnational corporations, including Syngenta and ChemChina.
The problems surrounding Dengvaxia are no different from golden rice.
However, Dengvaxia’s effect can be minimized once the vaccination program is terminated or regulated. Golden rice differs because, once in the market, it will be very difficult to monitor its effects given that rice is a staple food consumed by most Filipinos. Golden rice is also a living organism that, if released in the environment, has the possibility to increase exponentially due to cross-contamination of other rice varieties.
As rice is a staple of Filipinos eaten three times a day, the extent and coverage of golden rice will be far reaching than Dengvaxia.
Liability and redress will also be difficult to establish.
Such are the problems of the parents whose children have become victims of this Dengvaxia fiasco.
Many times the golden rice proponents, and even government regulators, have assured the public of the safety and efficacy of the genetically modified crop and putting paramount importance to Filipino’s health and the environment.
However, if not for the vigilance of the public, golden rice would have been approved as early as 2015.
We should learn our lessons from the current Dengvaxia controversy, where the health of the people has been put at risk because the proper safety processes were not observed by the very authorities who should have been safeguarding our health. We implore our regulatory bodies to not commit the same mistake that might result to even graver harm to the people.

Alfie Pulumbarit,
Masipag Advocacy,
Manila,
Philippines


PM's list of Thai values
Are self-contradictory
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 January 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 1 January 2018

As the example of Jatupat Boonpatararaksa and others constantly remind us, the
PM's list of 12 Thai values are self-contradictory:
Thai law often criminalises honesty, making it impossible to legally practice both value number 2 (honesty) and value number 8 (respecting the law).
But this is no surprise: The PM's 12 values of Thainess were made up to reform education by replacing solid virtues such as critical thinking, respect for facts and healthy truth seeking, things the Buddha calls "right understanding", with mindless respect for authority based on tradition.
The 12 values of traditional Thainess as listed by the PM are not fit for decent
people to live by, but are, like so many hoary traditions serving a repressive
status quo, themselves in urgent need of critical reform.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Suggestions to cushion the impact
Of typhoons in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 January 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 27 December 2017

This refers to the editorial, “Need for permanent evacuation centers” 21 December 2017.
It noted how “local government units continue to house evacuees in makeshift tent cities or in multipurpose halls and public school classrooms with inadequate facilities and water supply and limited space.”
In order to enhance further our disaster preparedness and response to these typhoons, I humbly offer the following suggestions, concrete and practical as they are, to cushion their negative impact:
Relief goods should be distributed to would-be victims before the onslaught of typhoons.
It would be difficult and risky to distribute them when a monster typhoon turns communities into wasteland littered with fallen trees and electric poles, blocked roadways or landslides.
Incorporate disaster risk factors in comprehensive land use plans (CLUP) of local government units to analyze land use patterns of their respective areas given the LGUs’ exposure to natural hazards.
CLUP should serve as a tool in decision-making by local officials concerning which areas of the LGUs are habitable and not prone to flooding.
Barangay, municipal or city-owned gymnasiums should be designed not only for sports activities as their main feature but to also be considered as typhoon-proof shelters for calamity victims.
Strictly speaking, schools are meant for academic instruction and are not designed as safe evacuation centers.
When the sanggunian cannot muster a quorum during a session to declare the LGU under a state of calamity, then they could consider the “correspondence session” of the Marikina City Council as an option to be adopted.
This is a special session that requires the use of cell phones while conducting a session.
However, it shall only be resorted to as a last option if the council is unable to muster a quorum 30 minutes after the presiding officer called the special session to order.
The correspondence session shall last at most 24 hours from the time it was called and shall be conducted only during the occurrence of disasters with the sole purpose of declaring the LGU under a state of calamity.
Others, I am sure, have their own splendid suggestions to advance.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council should solicit proposals from all sectors on how to improve our disaster preparedness and response to calamities like typhoons.

Reginald B Tamayo,
Assistant city council secretary,
Marikina City,
Philippines

 

 

Southern Philippines says thankyou to Japan
For help in aftermath of tropical storm Vinta
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 28 December 2017

I would like to thank Japan for their gesture of kindness to the victims of recent Tropical Storm “Vinta” (international name: Tembin) that hit Mindanao last week.
In a bid to outdo China whether newfound ally or not, our next best friend Japan is stepping up and doubling down on aid to our country.
We thank PM Shinzo Abe and the Japanese people for their prayers and help.
When Abe visited Davao last January 2017, he shared with us fond memories Japanese migrants had of Davao.
There used to be an enclave of Japanese migrants who cultivated and exported abaca from Davao, which later became known as Manila hemp.
Our relationship with Japan has improved after World War II. Indeed, Japan stands with the Philippines in overcoming difficult times.
To Abe-sama and our Japanese friends, welcome to Davao, your furusato (hometown).

Ricardo E. Catindig,
Associate professor,
Arellano University
Mindanao
Philippines

 

 

"Mr Marcos does not work here anymore"
Said senator Saguisag in 1986 on first day in the job
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 27 December 2017

Power corrupts,” is how you began and ended your characteristically insightful and felicitous editorial, “Ben Diokno’s ‘political tool’” 22 December 2017, on Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s hypocrisy.
I was in power from 1986 to 1992.
Was I corrupt?
My children should be reminded that what Lord Acton actually said was that “power [only] tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And that in my six years in power, I never validated what Oscar Wilde said, that he could resist everything, except temptation.
In my first week in Malacañang, someone called offering P3 million up front and P3 million when a certain shipment I was to facilitate arrived.
I said “sorry, Mr. Marcos does not work here anymore.”
In my first week in the Senate, somebody said a wealthy businessman would give me P50,000 in cash, no receipt, at a time when I was to take home P14,612.50 monthly.
I told him where to go.

R.A.V, Saguisag,
Palanan,
Makati City,
Philippines




Open letter to former PM of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad
On Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) losses
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 December 2017
First published in the Star, Wednesday 27 December 2017

Dear Tun,
Many of my friends who are readers of Tun’s blog have contacted me for clarification regarding Tun’s latest writing titled “Dear Mr Johari” on the issue of speculative foreign exchange transaction.
At first I told them that I have already said enough about the subject matter and I do not want to prolong the discussion on this issue, especially since there is already an independent team at PDRM investigating this matter.
The subject of foreign exchange activities can sometimes be too technical for the ordinary man on the street to understand, particularly in relation to the role of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in the management of the country’s international reserves. However, I felt it best that I try to hopefully close the discussion by putting the matter in simple perspective for ease of understanding.
It is very important for the public at large to understand the difference between speculative foreign exchange activities and orderly management of foreign exchange market.
The speculative foreign exchange activity, to put it in simpler words, is a kind of “gambling” activity with the hope of quick returns.
The orderly management of foreign exchange market, however, is very much different in that it is a facilitation of liquidity by BNM to market participants in the country for the purpose of mitigating imbalances with respect to the ringgit’s supply and demand in the market.
To put the matter in perspective, it was highlighted in an Internal Audit Report prepared by BNM’s Internal Auditors dated Jan 21, 1994, that the Foreign Exchange Operation Division of the Banking Department in BNM was involved in voluminous foreign exchange trading activities, so much so that the monthly maturing buy and sell foreign exchange transactions which amounted to an average of RM140bil in 1992 increased to a staggering RM750bil in 1993!
The substantial portion of such transactions was very speculative in nature and did not reflect BNM’s mandate to maintain orderly condition of the foreign exchange market as per Section 4 of the Central Bank of Malaysia Ordinance 1958.
The said Internal Audit Report also highlighted that the magnitude of such foreign exchange speculative transactions was considered very excessive, given that the shareholders’ fund of BNM was only RM4.4bil and the country’s international reserves were merely RM43.98bil at that material time.
These speculative activities had caused BNM to suffer foreign exchange transaction losses amoun­ting to RM31.5bil during the period under review.
The Audit Report also stated that the voluminous speculative foreign exchange trading activities that the central bank had undertaken during that time were carried out by the Foreign Exchange Division of the Banking Department of BNM, headed by its adviser/manager then, a Mr Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who later became the country’s Minister of Finance II.
Because of the scale of these foreign exchange speculative activities losses, the Government was forced to transfer its shares in Telekom Malaysia Bhd and Tenaga Nasional Bhd to BNM at the nominal value of RM1 per share and these shares were immediately revalued by BNM at RM22.10 per share and RM19.30 per share for Telekom and TNB respectively. In addition, BNM had to dispose of its Malaysia Airlines shares to a third party at the price of RM8 per share and MISC Bhd shares at RM10 per share to Kumpulan Wang Pencen in order to realise the gain.
If these speculative foreign exchange losses were not real, the Government would not have taken these drastic actions in order to cover the BNM losses at that material time.
BNM and the country have since come a long way, particularly in instituting the necessary reforms and check and balance with regard to its foreign exchange forward transaction activities.
As a result of these reforms, despite volatility of capital flows and the ringgit in the recent period, our economy continues to remain resilient and BNM’s ability to safeguard the financial and economic stability remains uncompromised.
In fact, our international reserves continue to strengthen ever since and as at end November 2017, the reserves amounted to US$101.9bil and were able to support 7.5 months of retained imports.
I have said enough on this subject and if understanding of the truth is not the objective of the discussion, then there is nothing more I can say on this.
I wish Tun and family the very best of health and a very Happy New Year; may the New Year be peaceful and prosperous for all of us Malaysians.

Yours sincerely,
Johari Abdul Ghani
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia




Call for Malaysian PM to urge US to reverse decision
To recognise Jerasulem as capital of Israel
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 December 2017
First published in the New Straits Times Tuesday 19 December 2017

The status of Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE is a major subject of debate.
Jerusalem was then a small village in the Judean hills, not a national capital.
According to the Hebrew Bible, the kingdom of Judah resulted from the break-up of the United Kingdom of Israel (1020 to about 930 BCE) after the northern tribes refused to accept Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, as their king.
Then, the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel circa 722/721 BCE.
It was followed by the Persians and Romans.
Large Jewish communities disappeared or were expelled by the Romans.
In the 7th century, the entire Jewish population of Galilee was massacred or expelled, following the Jewish rebellion against Byzantium.
Under Islamic rule (638–1099), Jewish communities began to grow and flourish.
Caliph Umar Al-Khattab allowed and encouraged Jews to settle in Jerusalem.
It was the first time after almost 500 years of oppressive rule that Jews were allowed to enter and worship freely in their holy city.
The waves of crusades destroyed hundreds of Jewish communities in Europe and in the Middle East, including Jerusalem. Later, the Jews were expelled from Bavaria, France, Italy, England, Spain and Portugal.
Sultan Bayezid II, who ruled the Ottoman Empire (1481-1512), welcomed the Jews who were expelled from Spain under the Alhambra Declaration.
The British conquered Ottoman in 1917 and ruled it until 1948.
The Jewish State of Israel was then proclaimed, which was made possible by the Zionist movement and its promotion of mass Jewish immigration.
It is to be noted that during World War II, the US government turned away thousands of Jewish refugees, fearing they were Nazi spies.
At the end of World War II, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were violently turned away from the shores of Palestine.
The Jewish Agency and the Haganah continued to smuggle Jews into Palestine.
Underground cells of Jews (the Irgun and Lehi) engaged in open warfare against the British and their installations.
The British could no longer manage the Jews and transferred the issue to the United Nations (UN).
The British mandate over Palestine officially terminated at midnight, May 14, 1948.
David Ben-Gurion, a major Zionist leader, proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister.
The US was the first to recognise Israel.
The Arab-Israeli conflict ensued.
We have heard about the Camp David Accords, the Oslo I Accord and the Israel–Jordan peace treaty. Despite these efforts, the conflict continues.
In the Quran, “Israel” means the servant of Allah. Originally, this was the name of Prophet Ya’qub (Jacob), from whose 12 sons evolved the 12 tribes of Israel.
Later, Prophet Moses released the Israelites from the bondage of the Pharaoh.
The Quran speaks of the Jews as incurring Divine displeasure in various chapters and verses.
We strongly urge our prime minister to call on President Donald Trump to reverse his move.
Demonstrations will not achieve the desired results.
Malaysian students locally were the first to express their support for and solidarity with the Palestinians and Arabs in 1973. Thousands of students, me included, demonstrated peacefully in front of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to oppose the US role in the Middle-East war.
Another historic demonstration a few days later headed towards the Lincoln Cultural Centre, allegedly a centre involved in espionage. It was an anti-American demonstration.
The US has always be supportive of Israel, despite opposition from freedom-loving people all over the world .
We can also propose for the UN to set up a commission to deal with this issue.

Saleh Mohammed,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





Thais warned against
Buying Chinese submarines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 December 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 December 2017

As a farang I try to stay out of Thai politics, but as a retired world history
teacher I would be wrong not to remind my friends that buying Chinese submarines
and letting them build train tracks to more easily exploit your natural
resources looks a lot like giving away Laos to the French during colonial times.
Maybe it's a Buddhist thing but China will tear down your temples and ship them
back to turn them into tacky hotels.
Please don't give away your home to them.

A Farang Reader,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Let's celebrate Christmas
With simplicity
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 December 2017

I read Ceres P. Doyo’s “Christmas trash and ‘Christmasaya,’” Opinion, Philippine Inquirer, 14 Dec 2017 and liked the term.
It suits me well because I belong to the “kuripot” sector of society.
Our culture is full of wasteful consumers who do not realize that their being careless results in millions going hungry.
On the matter of simplicity Doyo was advocating/recommending, this is one virtue hard to define not only on Christmas but during celebrations, fiestas, birthdays, weddings, etc.
Where is the boundary between simplicity and extravagance?
I wish one can provide the formula especially against the backdrop of a poor nation like ours.
Our library decoration now is made of waste materials - used cartolina or bits of it.
No foils, silver dust, and other hazardous materials or pollutants.
No Santa Claus, no stocking, no white Christmas motif.
The main focus is a 6”x8” tarp depicting the Nativity.
This is not bragging but seemingly along the wisdom of Doyo’s article on simplicity.
Let’s celebrate Christmas with simplicity.

Arturo O. Barboso,
Koronadal City,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Importation of high fructose corn syrup
Responsible for decline in price of sugar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 16 December 2017

It is not surprising that the price of sugar continues to decline by 21-26 percent in the current milling season.
This despite the increase in the sweetener’s demand by more than 30 percent.
Surely there is something amiss with the law of supply and demand.
The culprit?
The Department of Agriculture and the government’s continuous importation of high fructose corn syrup as approved by the agriculture secretary and the President.
They have been encouraging the use of HFCS because of its low price and the reduction in the production process, thus maximizing profits.
The effect?
Sugar farmers, factory workers and small landlords are definitely affected. On the other hand, big landlords remain unaffected because of the arriendo system wherein they’re sure of the land rent by the arriendadores, usually on a 3-5 years term lease.
Sugar farmers (sacada) and factory workers are the ones most affected because the milling season is not a whole- year activity.
During the off-milling season, which lasts for a few months, farmers and workers are in debt because they don’t have work.
During the milling season, they are just paying their debt (with interest, of course) incurred during the off-season.
So for the whole year, farmers and workers are in debt which keeps on piling up.
We are witnessing, once again, the sugar industry crisis that started in 1974, when the United States’ law on sugar quota expired, and Philippine sugar was sold in the open market.
The unfortunate consequence was the dramatic decline of sugar shipments to the United States.
The surplus supply was stored in basketball courts, bowling alleys, warehouses, even in backyards.
Years later, one sees the face of poverty in Negros with that of Joel Abong, the severely malnourished child of a sacada, who made international headlines.
And now, the social volcano of poverty is ready to erupt any time in Negros.
That is the problem with monocrop agriculture.
This agrarian problem of hacienda system has been going on for centuries since the Spanish colonial period and yet, no Philippine president has tried to solve it.
If only sugar farmers and workers could have a piece of land they can cultivate for their partial subsistence, especially during off-milling season, then there will be poverty reduction.
How is that for inclusive growth?

Jeremy Ang,
Political detainee,
Camp Crame,
Cubao,
QC,
Philippines




There are no winners
In a nuclear confrontation.
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 December 2017

North Korea built the ICBMs in response to the proximity of US presence, the
“defense” missiles in their South Korea bases.
If the Americans left, which they will never do, there would be no need for Pyongyang to build ICBMs. American presence breeds war and their absence breeds peace.
You have a gun, I get a gun. You have a bigger gun, I get a bigger gun.
It is a never-ending vicious cycle of escalation by the determined bully and the defiant bullied until it explodes on all our faces.
The basic principle is there are no winners in a nuclear confrontation.
You cannot say the United States is absolutely safe.
The scenario is not absolutely predictable.
ICBMs are not meant for South Korea or Japan.
They are peripheral.
They are meant primarily for the United States.
The US policy since Hiroshima and Nagasaki has always been from a position of superiority, because they were successful in ending World War II.
Let the small fries cower, “or else.”
But this time, their “or else” falls on deaf ears.
This time, the United States may ironically trigger World War III.
That is the North Korea dilemma.
The United States will never pull out of South Korea. Pyongyang will never stop the ICBM program, which is in reply to US presence.
A preemptive strike is dangerous.
So let’s all get ready for World War III.
North Korea may never concede even if the sanctions are quadrupled.
If it is obliterated, it may take down with it the entire planet.
It is suicidal geopolitics for both the United States and North Korea to toy with nuclear diplomacy.
God can permit World War III to happen the way he permitted World Wars I and II.
He sent floods in Noah’s time, fires in Sodom and Gomorrah.
He permitted terrorists to destroy the twin towers of New York, as He permitted the Tower of Babel to crumble.
The North Korea impasse has the imprint of a biblical cataclysm.
All this is related to our becoming arrogant and ignoring Him.
The love principle, which speaks of bread as a response to a stone, is the Christmas message.
Dismantle the sanctions.
You will be surprised how much it can soften hard hearts.
The solution to the North Korea impasse is not threats, intimidations, sanctions.
Diplomacy will no longer work.
Too much bad blood has caused distrust.
Just withdraw unilaterally from South Korea.
Yes, you say, “Never!”
Then let’s prepare for World War III.
You say, if you withdraw, North Korea will conquer Asia.
No way.
It just wants to be left alone, believe me.

Bernie V. Lopez,
Manila,
Philippines


Philippines women condemn acts of violence
By the state on the people
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 December, 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 December 2017

We are women from all walks of life and from various regions of the country.
We condemn attacks on human rights, and the deployment of state power to curtail basic freedoms and suppress calls for social justice.
We speak on behalf of women who stand to suffer the most from acts of violence by the state on the people.
We particularly speak for our Moro and Christian sisters in Marawi whose lives were devastated by the destructive war launched by the Duterte administration.
We likewise rise for our indigenous women, especially the lumad, who are experiencing the worst forms of abuse in the hands of the state, and whose children are being deprived of their fundamental right to education.
We express grave concern over the continuing assault on human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines.
We oppose the unconstitutional and anti-democratic extension of martial law.
We are likewise alarmed by the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao that we know paves the way for warrantless arrests.
We believe that this lays the groundwork for a declaration of martial law in the entire country and we call on all concerned Filipino women to join us in our fight to resist the evil descending upon our beloved Inang Bayan.

Voices of Women For Justice & Peace Network,
Diandra Dita Macarambon,
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis,
Sorhalia Latip-Yusoph,
Gert Ranjo-Libang
Voices of Women for Justice and Peace,
Fay Cura,
Babai Women's Network,
Feminista Ph,
Filipina Pen and Ink,
Gabriela Network of Professionals,
Gantala Press Inc.,
Good Food Communty,
Jovenes Foundations,
Me & My Veg Mouth.




Philippine congress has the power
To revoke martial law proclamation or extension
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 December 2017

If only the critics of President Duterte would realize the nature and limitations of the chief executive’s constitutionally-conferred power of proclaiming and extending martial law in Mindanao, they would not be as unnecessarily resistant, aberrant, and “frightened” as they are at the moment.
First and foremost, now that Congress has concurred with the President’s
sought-after martial law extension, one of the main apprehensions I observed is
the most-feared “executive arbitrariness” that may accompany such extension.
While this may be a valid concern, it is however suggested for Filipinos to take
the initiative of informing themselves of the dynamics of martial law proclamation under the 1987 Constitution before entertaining this unfounded apprehension and spreading malicious opinion about this subject matter.
The Constitution made it quite clear that the President’s exercise of his discretion in proclaiming martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is limited.
This is manifested by the fact that Congress actually has the power to revoke any martial law proclamation or extension.
Otherwise, President Duterte could have just proceeded with the proclamation of
martial law, as well as its extension, and dispensed with the required imprimatur of Congress.
Accordingly, people should also realize that the legislature, just like the judiciary, is a separate, independent, and equally powerful branch of government accorded with powers that are designed to institute check and balance in our jurisdiction.
Therefore, we may say that any martial law proclamation and/or extension is always safeguarded and accounted for.
Second, it must again be noted that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the
public safety requires it,”
President Duterte is empowered under our
Constitution to proclaim martial rule and seek for its extension.
Thus, as soon as presented with the exigencies present in Marawi City and the
whole of Mindanao, President Duterte resorted pronto to exercise this
constitutionally-sanctioned power of his as chief executive.
As someone who is mandated by his public office to secure the safety and
protection of the Filipino people, without diminishing the civilian supremacy
and liberties enshrined by the Constitution, I opine that he cannot be faulted
for doing so.
As a matter of fact, President Duterte’s exercise of such prerogative has
already been upheld by no other than the Supreme Court.
Finally: Does the current milieu sanction the granting of extension of President
Duterte’s martial law?
In my unsolicited yet ardent opinion, I am one with the legislature in favoring
the grant of said extension.
It is too apparent for anyone to neglect that factual bases exist in the form of terrorism and ongoing activities of communist takeover, which are even greater and graver than the (actual) rebellion required by the Constitution.
Suffice it to say that the status quo that necessitated the proclamation and
extension of President Duterte’s martial law has been duly substantiated by no
other than the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the martial law administrator
himself, the secretary of defense.
In addition, the President’s vast network of intelligence, including third-party
defense analysts, has revealed that other than the ongoing violent activities of
the New People’s Army, an emerging number of Islamic State-inspired groups are
in continuous effort to strike back with the same atrocious war as the Marawi
siege - or even worse.
This is not merely an imminent danger as alleged by Mr. Duterte’s critics and it
would be a shame on the part of the government to ignore such an alarming
occurrence.
I believe that the framers of our Constitution, in providing for the President’s
martial law powers, did not intend to limit its operation in a way our
government would be too incapacitated to address exigencies, whose gravity and
implication to our national security may be far worse than those they have
contemplated at the time they drafted the organic law.
In view of the actual threats and challenges against our national security, may
we allow the Duterte administration to use its constitutionally-sanctioned
prerogatives within this premise.

Luciano Tumaliuan,
Manila,
Philippines



Retired general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Salutes Philippine president Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 16 December 2017

President Duterte in his closing presscon at the Asean Summit last November14 reiterated his pronouncement to double the salary of soldiers next year because of their sacrifices.
His concern for the morale and welfare of our soldiers and veterans is not matched by any president before him.
He has previously released P4.7 billion in unpaid disability pension and P6.5 billion for veterans’ pension differentials.
To double the base pay of soldiers in active service will also mean to double the pension of retirees and veterans as provided under Presidential Decree No. 1638.
Hopefully, the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of National Defense will find means to support such increase in our pension.
Mr. Duterte, the retirees and veterans are forever grateful to you for all the benefits you have afforded them in the twilight years of their retirement. Again, we all salute you, sir.

Joel R Hinlo,
Retired Brigadier General,
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)


 

Call for Philippine police who kill
To go to jail
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 16 December 2017

I was reading your news about a policeman who shot two security guards in a restaurant in Pasay City “Drunken shooter in resto a PO1 from Parañaque,” 14 December 2017.
According to the report, the said policeman also has a pending case in Cavite for illegally discharging his firearm and may have been jailed for discriminate shooting in Manila.
Then there is the case of the two policemen charged for the murder of an anticrime crusader in Mindoro but are now back on the job “2 Mindoro cops in slay of crime crusader back on duty,” 7 Novemebr 2017.
How about the killers of Jee Ick-joo, the Korean businessman murdered in Camp Crame?
Are they all back on the job and promoted as well?
This is a very alarming trend.
These perpetrators are out and out criminals and terrorists.
Why are they not in jail?
In fact we have to hold policemen to a higher standard because they were specifically hired to keep peace and order.
If our culture is to reward or enable criminal behavior, then what have we become? Do we now plunge ourselves into deeper chaos?
Are these law enforcers serving the people or are they involved in organized crimes that victimize and keep the country down?

Jose Santamaria,
Manila,
Philippines



Hypocricy abounds
In Thai antisex campaign
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 December 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 11 December 2017

Re: "Sex campaign set to backfire", in PostBag Sunday 10 December 2017
I see a letter by RH Suga that alerts me to a Thai anti-sex campaign that I was unaware of.
This is apparently separate from America's War on Sex and America's Trafficking in Persons Report.
Thailand can make a difference on their own.
Maybe any Thai campaign against sex work should backfire.
There is a huge potential for harm in it.
In Thailand, tourism is important and remittances to poorer village areas are also important, yet hypocrisy abounds.
Bars which are obviously places to meet sex workers are licensed and legal but prostitution itself is technically illegal.
Sex work should be decriminalised. Germany, Holland, New Zealand,and other places where sex work is decriminalised are also great family tourist destinations -- without hypocrisy.

Bangkok,
Thailand




Corruption and crime persists in the Philippine government
Because perpetrators are able to get away with murder
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 December 2017

First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Inquirer reported that President Duterte is set to abolish an entire commission due to corruption “Rody to fire entire commission tomorrow” 10 December 2017.
Does the President naively think that giving these government officials the easy way out - assuming they are indeed corrupt by simply firing them or asking them to resign when found to be corrupt without taking the further step of prosecuting them and meting out punishment if found guilty, will solve the problem of corruption in government?
Corruption and crimes including extrajudicial killings in government persist because the perpetrators are able to get away with murder so to speak, and with absolute impunity for example, those government officials who, in conspiracy with drug lords, allowed P6.4-billion-worth of shabu to pass through Customs.
Firing or asking them to resign will not end corruption in government.
What will deter these crimes is the certainty of investigation, prosecution and eventual conviction of their perpetrators; that is, for everyone to be made aware that an investigation will be conducted without fail, with the suspected perpetrators subsequently prosecuted and those found guilty thereafter meted out the punishment due them.
The President just recently created an Anti-Corruption Commission tasked to investigate and/or hear administrative cases primarily involving graft and corruption against all presidential appointees.
Why have we not heard from this commission yet?
Besides, does the President not know that it is the system itself which allows these government officials to abuse or misuse their public office or the power entrusted to them solely for their private interest or gain? How many morally upright men, once in power, end up becoming corrupted by the system? The system is characterized by lack of transparency and lack of people’s participation in decision-making. Just imagine corruption taking place behind a stone wall. We cannot prevent it because we do not see it. But imagine the wall to be transparent. We may not also be able to prevent it if there are no mechanisms for us, the public, to intervene and participate in decision-making.
If our President is indeed serious in crushing graft and corruption in government, he should take the lead in amending our laws and administrative procedures so that these structural causes of graft and corruption will be addressed. Sadly, all he knows are facile solutions like killing crimina ls and giving the corrupt a slap on the wrist by merely firing them, which casts doubt on his sincerity in fulfilling his campaign promise of ending crime and corruption in our country.

Severo Brillantes,
Manila,
Philippines




US decision makes the Palestinian peace process
An even more difficult task to achieve
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 December 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 11 December 2017

Muslim countries and American allies are shocked and dismayed that US President Trump has defied their advice and gone ahead to implement his campaign pledge to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US Embassy there.
As Jerusalem is a Holy City to Muslims just as it is to Jews and Christians, Trump’s decision will have a destabilising effect on the already volatile region, making the Palestinian peace process an even more difficult task to achieve.
By his stubborn behaviour of acting to please his electoral base, he has effectively destroyed whatever confidence the Palestinians and Arab nations had on the sincerity and reliability of the US as an honest peace broker for the two state solution of creating an independent state of Palestine existing alongside the state of Israel.
Trump’s decision will reverberate across the Muslim world and raise anxiety even in South-East Asia as to whether this will give the militant Islamic extremists a propaganda tool to legitimise their random jihadist attacks on innocent citizens in retaliation for what they see as US injustice to Muslims and their Holy City.
The prospects are it will embolden the extremists and make our security situation much more difficult for the police to handle.
The majority public opinion in America is that the US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli state capital at this juncture is not in the best interest of their country because it will throw a spanner into the peace process, prolong Muslim anger over the Israeli occupation and make Americans more at risk abroad.
It’s clear that President Trump does not care about American public opinion too.
Having seen how Trump behaves to honour his campaign promises, and keep himself popular with the extreme right of the political landscape, we hope that Americans will now realise that their military chiefs should not trust him with the nuclear button because he may suddenly wake up one morning in an angry mood and decide to fulfil another of his wishes - destroy Iran and North Korea and show leaders in other countries who insult him what he can do to them.
Trump is clearly a menace to world peace and only the American people can teach him to change his vengeful mentality.
I hope that with the recent outburst of public outrage over the widespread occurrence of sexual harassment of women by the men who had control over their career, making the women submit to humiliation for fear of losing their jobs, Americans will realise the need to make their president accountable for the allegations that several women have made against him for touching and grabbing them in an indecent manner.
The president and his close family members are also under suspicion from the FBI investigations into their links with Russians during the last elections.
As we understand it, when it comes to Russia, all Americans from the left to the right, will put their country first, no matter what they feel about their president.
We hope that when the investigations prove that Trump has conducted himself in a disgraceful manner in his sexual advances on women and has compromised the security of his country by his secret dealings with the Russians, all Americans will rise to demand that the US Congress take the appropriate steps to censure their president and put him out to pasture.
With a new president in office, we hope that the Palestinians will then have a new chance to return to the negotiating table to work out a lasting peace with the state of Israel.
With peace in the Middle East, Malaysia too will have a stronger hand in dealing with militant Islamic extremism.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Proposal for extention of Martial Law in Mindanao
Comming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 12 December 2017

It is not about President Duterte’s prerogatives.
The proposal of martial law extension in Mindanao is coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and local government units themselves.
They know what’s best for the country’s security situation because it is their field and they have the information on what is really going on in there.
Let us set aside politics here.
Safety of our people in Mindanao is what we are all after.
If we don’t put Mindanao under martial law, groups with evil motives will feel free and confident to plot another siege there.
They would think that what happened in Marawi could be easily staged somewhere again because the focus of the government is now elsewhere.
They should feel that they are still being carefully monitored, and what they did in Marawi will not be allowed to happen, ever again.

Lindsay Cristine Antonio,
Manila,
Philippines

 


US president Trump's action
Can have serious implications in the Middle East
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 December 2017
First Published in the News Straits Times, Monday 11 December 2017

United States President Donald Trump has made the most foolish decision thus far in his presidency by recognising Jerusalem (Baitulmaqdis) as the capital of Israel on Wednesday night.
Such a decision will not only create chaos in the Middle East and other parts of the world, but would also affect the battle against terrorism.
Militants and terrorists will certainly use this unilateral recognition as an excuse to cause more violence.
Trump needs to be smart when it comes to international and diplomatic relations.
It is not like running a company, which he used to do before becoming president.
A simple action by him in his capacity as the leader of a country can have serious implications for people, especially in the Middle East.
He needs to be more cautious and think deeply before taking any action, especially one as serious as this.
When its comes to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, the US president needs to be just and exercise a higher standard of professionalism to solve the protracted disagreement peacefully and satisfactorily as it involves highly sensitive issues concerning race and religion.
Trump cannot make a unilateral decision on his own without consultation with and getting the agreement of relevant parties. Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will not solve any problems. Instead, it will lead to many problems in the future, and Trump will have to bear the responsibility for all the consequences.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Senior Lecturer,
Faculty of Syariah and Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia

 


Tendering a forged medical certificate
For sick leave application is a serious misconduct
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 December 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 7 December 2017

There must be complete trust and confidence between an employer and an employee.
Dishonest acts to defraud the employer - such as tendering false academic certificates to support a job application or promotion, falsification concerning work, falsification of medical certificates to support sick leave claim, telling lies to cover up work errors or for other reasons, being untruthful on the reasons for leaving previous jobs, withholding information on past criminal conviction and disciplinary action – are workplace misconduct.
Falsifying or faking certificates to support a job application is a criminal offence.
A single dishonest or deceptive act of an employee may warrant dismissal if the conduct deals with a serious enough matter.
Making false entries in the official records or certifying receipt of goods which were never received are examples of serious acts of dishonesty that would entail dismissal.
This is so because dishonesty inevitably reflects on the fitness of the employee to continue in office. Dishonesty of a less serious nature, such as submitting a falsified medical certificate to support the sick leave application, unless it is a repeated offence, may not warrant dismissal from service but would be punishable by a warning or suspension from service for a certain period.
An employee who tendered false certificates to secure a job is taking a serious risk of immediate dismissal once the fraudulent deceit is uncovered after months or even years of employment.
Likewise, a misrepresentation on qualification and skills is sufficient to warrant dismissal even if this was uncovered after a lapse of several years, irrespective of the employee’s satisfactory work performance.
Again, tendering a forged medical certificate to support the sick leave application is a serious misconduct.
In Ibrahim Bin Ab dul Hamid v Malaysia Airline Systems Bhd (MAS), the employee was dismissed from his job after the domestic inquiry panel found him guilty of tendering a forged medical certificate purportedly issued by Hospital Putrajaya.
During the trial, the employee admitted that he had bought the said medical certificate. The Industrial Court found that the company had a valid reason for terminating the employee due to his dishonest and fraudulent conduct.
Even obtaining sick leave or medical leave on false pretences of being ill and then using the leave to do other errands is workplace misconduct. This would also include making false representation to the company as to the reason for leaving the company’s premises during working hours.
The action of employees affects the implied trust and confidence as employers expect their employees to be honest and trustworthy.
In Azali Elias v Crown Jewel Hotel [2013], the claimant, who was supposed to be on sick leave, was seen participating in a football game.
The company dismissed him for abusing the company’s sick leave policy.
It must be noted that when the medical certificate was issued to the employee, it was assumed that he was sick and unfit to work and thus, would not be fit to be involved in sports activities.
In short, an employee is expected to act with complete honesty and integrity, no matter what position the employee holds in an organisation.
Once an employe
e exhibits dishonesty or a lack of integrity, the trust and confidence reposed in him by the employer can no longer subsist and it justifies the employer discharging the employee from employment as his act was detrimental to the best interest of the company.

Prof Dr Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed,
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws,
International Islamic University Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Look what happened in 1986
When Cory Aquino declared a revolutionary government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 6 December 2017

Mendiola has been a melting pot of shared and even unshared voices.
Last week, I was there when Mula sa Masa Duterte Movement was shouting for revolutionary government.
At the same time, opposition groups shouted anti-Duterte sentiments.
To the supporters of “RevGov.”
I hope you know what you are fighting for.
It is unconstitutional and might result in the withdrawal of the international community’s diplomatic recognition of the Philippines.
In our country’s history, no constitutionally elected president has ever junked his constitutional legitimacy in order to install himself as an “extra-constitutional president.”
Look what happened in 1986.
Cory Aquino declared a revolutionary government after the military, supported by civilians on Edsa, ousted Ferdinand Marcos.
To the leftists, I hope they also know this: As far as I witnessed in Mendiola, emotions were just the basis of most militants without examining the implication of being too hardcore with their twisted belief of a Maoist-Lenin ascendancy.
Far from the noble cause of fighting what is just, a lot of them are merely bandwagoning.
They warn about absolute dictatorship, but I do not think we are going toward that political climate.
There is no such thing as an overwhelming demented belief that the only way to save our failing state is to raise its head to the summit of tyranny.

Juanito E Damaso,
Retired principal,
Manila,
Philippines



As Jesus Christ said in John 8:7:
Let the man who has no sin be the first to cast a stone
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 December 2017

Government officials from the lowest village councilor to the highest elected official of the land are public properties.
Such being the case, they are expected to work for the public’s interest - not against it.
I have watched and followed past and present goings-on in Congress, where many representatives appear like “Mr. Clean” probing or, as some quarters say, persecuting fellow officials who are either critics of President Duterte or simply in the firing range just because they were appointees of the past president.
These unlikely undertakings involving government personalities with their own record of graft charges, if not convictions, will never help refine the image of the said chamber.
For they reek of malice and political vindictiveness, hence, bereft of credibility and moral ascendancy.
As Jesus Christ said in John 8:7: “Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”
This applies to the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Who among the lawmakers can look St. Peter in the eye and claim innocence on the use of the previous Priority Development Assistance Fund or the national budget?
Keep throwing stones at others as you may, but just be very sure that your hands are clean.
Or else, your showing would simply smack of arrogance and hypocrisy.

Mark E Paras Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines




Chinese language to unseat English
Not anytime soon
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 December 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 7 December 2017

On December 3, The Star published an article, “Sway of the Chinese language”, detailing the rising popularity of learning Chinese.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, US President Donald Trump’s granddaughter and billionaire investor Jim Rogers’ daughter are among some of the famous people or their family members brushing up on their Chinese language skills.
Tourists from China are splashing their cash all over the world. In some countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, the Chinese can also go cashless by making their purchases through Alipay.
Meanwhile, economists predict that the GDP of China, currently the world’s second largest, would surpass the United States’ within 10 years.
As the economic value of the Chinese language grows, it will unseat English to become the world’s leading language.
Or so we are told....
But if history is a clue, this may not happen so soon.
In the heyday of the Roman Empire, as the great Julius Caesar and his successors conquered the Mediterranean, Latin became the dominant language of the European continent.
The Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the fifth century. Latin, however, remained relevant for many centuries to come. (The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantine Empire, survived into 15th century, but its capital was in Constantinople, and its official language was Greek.)
In year 1215, the unpopular King John of England, pressured by rebel barons, issued Magna Carta.
The document established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law.
It is considered one of the first steps taken in England towards establishing parliamentary democracy.
The Magna Carta was initially written in Latin.
In year 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published three papers which were collectively known as Principia Mathematica.
These works form the foundation of classical mechanics. Principia Mathematica, like the Magna Carta, was written in Latin.
That was more than 12 centuries after the demise of the Roman Empire.
In ancient times, Malay language was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago. Then the Western powers came, created the modern states of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Post-independence, Javanese, who make up 40 percent of Indonesia’s population, dominate the republic’s politics and economy. Somehow, Bahasa Indonesia is based on Malay rather than Javanese.
By 2050, China will become the world’s largest economy.
The US will drop to second place. In the third spot, as economists believe, will be India. Like Malaysia, India was a British territory.
And like our country, English, the language of the former colonial master, is still widely spoken.
By mid-century, the combined GDP of English-speaking and English-as-second-language nations, which include US, India, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, will likely be larger than that of China.
I do not doubt that Chinese language will get more important every year, and I encourage everyone to learn it if conditions allow. However, it would be foolish if we, in the advent of “China’s Century”, neglect English.

Chew Kheng Siong,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Russian embassy in the Philippines
Refutes Russian militant presence in southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 6 December 2017

Having read “Foreign fighters seen in North Cotabato” in Philippine Inquirer 19 November 2017, I was most surprised to see that the author, Edwin Fernandez, put Chechnya on the list of countries whose nationals were among foreign militants that took part in the attack on Marawi last May 23.
This statement is wrong on so many levels that an explanation is in order to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
Let us begin with the simple fact that Chechnya is not an independent country and, as such, not a subject to international law. It is a constituent unit within the Russian Federation and therefore on the international level, people from Chechnya are Russian.
Furthermore, representatives of the Department of National Defense (DND) have issued several statements confirming that no Russian citizens were present during the attack on Marawi. The Inquirer, on the other hand, has been known to specifically emphasize the presence of Chechen, which would be very difficult to determine since if the people in question were actually present in Mindanao, they would carry Russian documents identifying them as citizens of Russia.
I assure you that if DND were to determine the presence of Russian citizens among the militants, they would most definitely have approached the embassy and such facts would have been very thoroughly investigated both by the Russian and Philippine sides. For now, however, neither the DND nor any other Philippine agency has contacted us regarding the matter, which makes one question the credibility of those reports of Chechen fighters in Marawi and wonder why the Inquirer would publish such questionable information.
Please kindly refrain from publishing material that distorts the current international situation and cast a shadow on friendly relations between Russia and the Philippines.
The embassy would gladly provide advice on the current state of relations between our countries or the Russian position on any international issues.

Natalia Naumova,
Press attaché,
Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 


Malaysia has the opportunity to lead the world
When it comes to the treatment of animals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 December 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 27 November 2017

Malaysians consume chicken meat and eggs on a daily basis yet hardly a thought is given to the horrendous conditions in modern livestock raising systems known as ‘factory-farming’.
Malaysia is largely self sufficient in poultry meat production with over 81 percent of the local domestic demand for meat and more than 111 percent of the country’s demand for eggs met by the local poultry industry.
However few are aware of the way in which most eggs are produced by hens crammed in small wire cages, sometimes in tiers in dimly lit sheds, without access to sunlight or natural surroundings, and so denied the ability to exercise even the most basic natural instincts.
The extreme confinement denies or seriously restricts the birds’ freedom to express patterns of behaviour.
Deprivation of basic needs and behaviour such as walking, turning, exploring, interacting with or avoiding others, or being able to lie in peace and comfort endanger the physical and psychological health of animals.
Under such unnatural confinement the birds are under enormous stress resulting in feather pulling and pecking.
Beak trimming or de-beaking in poultry management is done to prevent such acts of frustration.
They are bred as egg producing machines, the aim being to obtain the optimum production from each bird regardless of its real welfare.
And what happens to hens that no longer can produce eggs after about two years in the battery cages?
They are then sent to slaughter to be turned into chicken soup and emulsified chicken products such as frankfurters and bologna and in canned products such as soups, sauces, stews and gravies. A tragic end for a hen who spends its
life producing eggs to feed the masses.
The other purpose of a chicken is to produce excessive flesh for the meat industry called broiler chickens. They are crowded by the thousands and confined along with their waste on a small piece of land. Though not confined in cages, they also experience a crowded confinement, poor air quality and stressful handling.
In addition to intense confinement, they are subjected to massive doses of antibiotics. They have the potential of exposure to various viruses and bacteria via the manure and urine in their environment.
When finally grown large enough, the birds are packed tightly into crates, stacked high on top of each other onto trucks, and transported over many miles through all weather extremes, typically without food or water, to the markets for slaughter.
Consumers are unaware about cruel practices under the veil of secrecy that has protected animal abusing industries for a long time. These industries operate outside the public spotlight because the way they treat animals would not be condoned by those concerned about animal welfare.
Malaysia has the opportunity to lead the world when it comes to treatment of animals. Yet we are behind other developed nations shows how clearly change is needed.
It is about time the Ministry of Agriculture look into a enacting a Farm Animal Act prohibiting the rearing of birds in cages, crates or other forms of intensive confinement that violates the Animal Welfare Act 2010, with acceptance of best practices and continuance for changes in regulation with animal welfare being a strong driver for increased regulation.
Change is needed, not only for animals but for farmers who need to be able to plan for the future with certainty and confidence.

S M Mohamed Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia


Refute of Philippines shoot-to-kill order
Does not apply to armed rebels
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 December 2017

We would like to correct your banner story titled “Duterte shoot-to-kill order illegal - Robredo” December 1, 2017 written by Vince F. Nonato, Philip Tubeza, and Nikko Dizon.
The first paragraph of the article states: “President Duterte’s shoot-to-kill order, even if aimed at suspected armed rebels, is not in accordance with the Constitution, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Thursday.”
This misrepresents what the Vice President said as she did not refer to armed rebels, as a transcript of the said interview attests.
We underscore that terrorism is a crime against the Filipino people and must be dealt with in a wholistic manner, including use of force when necessary.
The Vice President was emphasizing that the proper process prescribed in the Constitution and our laws should be followed when force is to be used by the government.
It was not a categorical statement that all use of force is illegal.
The due process enshrined in the law for those suspected of violating it is there for a purpose: to make sure that the allegations are correct and to make sure that the penalties given are fair.
The Vice President reiterates that strong institutions like the Philippine Constitution are critical in protecting peoples’ lives and society’s wellbeing.
She calls on every Filipino to nurture, strengthen, and protect institutions to maintain peace and order in the country.

Philip Francisco U. Dy,
chief of staff,
Office of the Vice President,
Manila,
Philippines



Blinded belief in Communist Party of the Philippines
Making a fool out of all of us
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 December 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 December 2017

I find it absurd when some uninformed Filipinos find President Duterte’s
Proclamation No. 360, “Declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army” a disappointment while caring nothing about the attacks, extortion and other atrocities these Maoist rebels commit.
If they find the termination of peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP-NPA
horrendous, then I don’t know how they are supposed to make sense of the deaths
and destruction of properties and communities brought forth by them.
Most Filipinos don’t have any idea how hard it is to thrive in far-flung
provinces and communities like ours while facing threats of violence and attacks
made by these communist rebels.
They don’t know how painful a struggle it is not to enjoy one’s life to its fullest potential as we are compelled to periodically relocate just because some Maoist rebels and bandits are destroying and plundering barangays and other innocent lives.
But then, I can’t blame the uninformed majority for having misplaced confidence
toward the NDF-CPP-NPA and its organizational units. I find this “blinded
belief” owing to the communists’ success in making a fool out of all of us when
they conducted and disguised themselves in a manner that would make them appear
as the “champion” and “hero” of the oppressed and the poor. In previous decades,
both thriving and struggling “Juan dela Cruz” believed that they had been
fighting only for magnanimous causes such as the so-called “liberation of the
masses,” “equality,” and “progress.” Consequently, most Filipinos fail to see
the NDF-CPP-NPA’s true colors and the deceit it continuously employs in order to
justify the attainment of its selfish objectives, which obviously never
really included Filipinos’ welfare in the first place.
As someone who has witnessed the NDF-CPP-NPA’s atrocities despite decades of
peace talks spearheaded by the government, I do believe it is high time
to put an end to these communists’ existence.
The NDF-CPP-NPA is but a mere scintilla of this peace-loving and progressive
country. We should not let this amalgamate of unscrupulous criminals ruin the
aspirations of our present and future generations and hamper the peace and
development, which our far-flung communities equally deserve.

Raymundo Cuntapay,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Filipino-only owned corporations
To extract minerals
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 December 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 December 2017

Many of the problems that hound the mining sector, including the recent ruckus
over the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining, can be solved by a proposed new
law: the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).
The measure, crafted in consultation with environment NGOs, indigenous peoples,
and mining-affected communities, provides the answer to the controversies and
issues surrounding mining today.
The House of Representatives’ committee on natural resources has wrapped up the Technical Working Group discussions on the bill, and it will be up for second reading in the plenary.
The AMMB, or the proposed Philippine Minerals Resources Act, will repeal the
Mining Act of 1995 so that the people affected by mining projects can share the
power to participate in the approval of mining permits through the creation of a
multisectoral mineral management council.
The bill changes views on mineral resources, from simply profiting from their
extraction to actually benefiting from them.
The extraction should fuel the country’s industrialization through the development of manufacturing and downstream mineral industries.
Correcting one of the flawed provisions of the Mining Act, the bill will not any more allow the extraction of ore minerals for export.
Under the AMMB, only Filipino-owned corporations will be allowed to extract
mineralsa - complete opposite of the current mining law that allows large-scale
mining, mostly operated by multinational corporations.
The criteria for areas where mining is prohibited are clear.
The no-go areas include those declared no-mining zones by the local government; densely populated, especially residential areas; head waters of watershed areas; those with potential acid mine drainage; critical watershed; critical habitat; disaster-prone areas;
geo-hazard areas; key biodiversity areas; prime agricultural lands; old growth
natural or primary and secondary forests; watershed forest reserves; and
wilderness areas, among others.
The bill intends to protect small island ecosystems, such as Manicani Island in
the Leyte Gulf, from mining.
Residents of Manicani have camped outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources offices to oppose the new application of Hinatuan Mining Corp.’s mineral production sharing agreement on Manicani, which expired last October. 27.
The communities bear the brunt of the destruction and harm caused by these
mining projects.
Aside from instituting clear-cut conditions on the mining that will be allowed, the AMMB allows allocation to local communities from the mining taxes collection.
Based on the figures of the 2016 Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative
report for fiscal year 2014, only 17 percent of total revenue payments goes to
the local government.
This amounts to P1.8 billion of the P11.1-billion total revenue collection from mining.
A provision in the proposed bill is the increase of the excise tax on minerals
from the current marginal rate of 2 percent.
It is not surprising that revenues from mining and mineral products account for a mere 2.4 percent of the country’s total excise tax collection.
The Philippines is the fifth most mineralized country in the world, yet mining
contributes only 1.1 percent of the gross domestic product, 0.4 percent of total
employment, and 0.6 percent of the government’s total revenue collection.
The landscape of the mining industry is definitely inequitable and unjust.
The harm and destruction caused by mining on the environment, the people, and the economy are not worth the supposed benefits.
I hope that my colleagues in the legislature will hear the cry of neglect and
destruction.
It is time to replace the current system while we still have time.

Rep. Teddy Baguilat,
Lone District of Ifugao,
Philippines

 


ASEAN for ASEAN's
In ASEAN lanes at ASEAN airports
The Southeasr Asian Times, Saturday 2 December 2017
First published in the Myanmar Times, Wednesday 27 November 2017

As part of ASEAN solidarity and identity, Myanmar set up ASEAN lanes for visitors arriving at Yangon International Airport’s Terminal 1 early this year.
Nay Pyi Taw wants to implement the ASEAN Charter, which stipulates that all member countries should set up an ASEAN lane to facilitate people-to-people exchanges within the group.
So far, most of its members have arranged exclusive lanes for ASEAN citizens, but Malaysia is the only country that strictly enforces it.
Any ASEAN visitor arriving at its airports must only queue up in an ASEAN lane, even though at certain times the line in it could be longer.
Likewise, non-ASEAN visitors who line up in the ASEAN lane must move to a foreign passport lane if caught.
Malaysian immigration officials are strict and outspoken. In contrast, other ASEAN members, such as Thailand and Vietnam, allow foreign visitors to get in any lane, even the one reserved for ASEAN citizens.
Thai Immigration officials never turn away queuing visitors even though the sign in their lane says “ASEAN passport holders only”.
At Yangon International, there are three ASEAN lanes, but they are not properly labelled.
The word “ASEAN” is displayed on a TV monitor in front of the immigration counter, but tourists appear to mistake it for an advertisement for ASEAN.
It is imperative to have clear signs that reserve the ASEAN lane for ASEAN visitors.
The airport authorities should inform non-ASEAN passport holders about these special lanes.
Recently at 8pm, I waited for nearly 70 minutes at passport check-in at Yangon International because foreign passengers were lined up in the ASEAN lanes (nos. 11-15). Airport officials made no attempt to tell non-ASEAN passport holders to get in the proper lane.
The ASEAN Charter states clearly that all member countries should have ASEAN lanes to increase public awareness of ASEAN identity.
This is the least that a member country can do to help realise the goals set forth in ASEAN Vision 2025.

Mayangone township,
Myanmar