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


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




Land reclaimation justified
In Singapore not Port Dickson
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 November 2017
First published in the Star, Friday 24 November 2017

It is shocking, indeed illogical, that the state government is prepared to pour in a large chunk of its development resources to reclaim a piece of swampy no-man’s land in Port Dickson for its proclaimed objective to “build more dwellings and create tourism products”.
The project is ill-conceived, to say the least.
Everybody knows land reclamation is a very costly business and justified only in extreme situations of land scarcity, as in the case of Singapore.
This is not the situation in Port Dickson, which has miles of pristine and beautiful beaches and large tracts of vacant land dotted only with numerous untenanted houses, apartments, condos and even bungalows and ugly skeletons of failed construction projects stretching from south of the town to the border with Melaka.
As a tourist destination, Port Dickson attracts a lot of weekend visitors but few staying tourists despite its close proximity to bigger towns and more populated cities.
What Port Dickson needs is not more land, especially reclaimed land, to construct more buildings that would eventually become white elephants, but rather investment projects to re-invent, resuscitate and re-validate the existing structures and further improve and intensify development along the coastal strip from the town to Pasir Panjang, connecting Melaka.
The state government is in a position, with the money allocated to reclamation, to do this to make PD a truly attractive vacation destination for holiday seekers from the rest of the country and overseas too.

Josen,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia



Observance of Thanksgiving
New to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 November 2017
First Published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday 27 November 2017

Here come the supermalls again, splurging on one-page ads in broadsheets proclaiming days of preparation and observance of “Thanksgiving.”
Since when did the Philippines have Thanksgiving Day?
I am a very senior citizen and I never saw any Thanksgiving Day celebration in the Philippines.
My parents had American teachers and they never even mentioned any Thanksgiving Day to us.
Christmas and New Year, yes, but Thanksgiving?
Never heard of it.
And that goes also for Halloween.
Both of these days are not and have never been a part of Philippine tradition and custom.
Our big malls have only one purpose in trying to impose Thanksgiving Day and Halloween on the populace: money!
These malls are just plain greedy for money that they would purposely bombard falsehoods on Filipinos.
The United States has an official Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of each November through a proclamation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.
The day is not just for the often-stated history that the pilgrim colonists and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated a bountiful harvest way back in 1621 (something that many American Indians do not believe in) and for other more serious reasons for celebrating like the end of the American Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln decreed that it be kept as a celebratory day.
The other nation I know that has an official Thanksgiving Day celebration is Canada but they hold it on the second Monday of October.
India, China, Malaysia and South Korea have their own thanksgiving day for celebrating a good harvest but they also have some folklore attached to the celebrations.
What folklore or harvests are the retail companies trying to impart to Filipinos? Greed for money is no folklore.
Of course these malls will harvest tons of money!

Rocky B. Denoga,
Manila,
Philippines




Similarities between Imelda Marcos in the Philippines
And Grace Mugabe in Zimbabwe
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 27 November 2017

This is in connection with the editorial, “‘Deja vu’ in Zimbabwe” Tuesday 21 November 2017
The similarities between the events that happened in the two countries are glaring.
To cite just a few:
Both countries had been under brutal dictatorial rule by their presidents who wanted to rule for life.
The wives of both presidents wanted to succeed their husbands.
The wives were notorious for their luxurious tastes that were bankrolled by the countries’ coffers: “Imeldific” in the Philippines and “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe.
The enforcers of the two presidents’ iron rule were/are lawyers who served as justice and defense ministers: Juan Ponce Enrile in the Philippines and Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe.
Their opponents have been killed, imprisoned or missing.
Plunder has transformed both countries from bread baskets to basket cases.
Both presidents were deposed in bloodless and peaceful revolutions.
But the similarities end there.
Former Zimbabwe vice president Mnangagwa, who was removed from office by deposed president Robert Mugabe over the latter’s plan to have his 57-year-old wife Grace succeed him, will become president instead.
Enrile did not succeed Marcos despite failed attempts by some of his allies in the military to unseat Cory Aquino in seven coup attempts.
Like Filipinos after the 1986 people power revolt, Zimbabweans sang and danced with joy as Mugabe’s resignation was read. Marcos fled to Hawaii but did not resign.
Though they have reasons to rejoice, there are some who expressed misgivings as to how Mnangagwa will lead his country.
His hands were bloodied by the thousands who were killed as the enforcer of Mugabe’s brutal, dictatorial and wicked 37-year rule.
John F. Kennedy’s dire warning that “one form of… control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny,” rings loud.
While there is hope for optimism, Zimbabweans have to wait and see what the future has in store for them.

Ramon Mayuga,
Manila,
Philippines




Impeachment of Chief justice Maria Lourdes
Attempt to undermine independence of Philippine judiciary
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 November 2017

The House of Representatives committee on justice created very dangerous precedents in ruling upon two important issues raised in impeachment proceedings on November 22 against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The first issue is the committee’s denial of the right of nonmembers of the committee to participate in the impeachment proceedings, rationalizing hidden means and ends by arguing mainly that allowing nonmembers would unduly impede the facilitation and purpose of the committee system and thus defeat the speedy disposition of the case.
This position goes against the basic principles of bourgeois democracy.
It is a suppression of the inherent right of each House member to represent their constituents in very important legislative matters.
Rather than an impediment to the committee system, open participation at the level of the committee deliberations actually facilitates and ensures optimum performance by the entire legislative branch of their constitutional tasks.
It allows the committee to appreciate all points of information and various perspectives.
The second issue is the committee’s decision to refuse the Chief Justice’s counsels to represent her in the proceedings, and to conduct cross-examination of witnesses on her behalf.
This action is a complete disregard of a person’s basic right to counsel.
The right to counsel is a fundamental right accorded to every person not only at the time of trial, but during the investigation of the case at the first instance.
These brazen acts only expose not only the supermajority’s intent to railroad the process, but also to cover up what appears to be the baselessness of the impeachment complaint itself.
Founded on arguably flimsy and trivial grounds and hearsay evidence, the Sereno impeachment complaint, stripped of its pretensions, is at the end of the day, essentially nothing but an attempt by the Duterte administration to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
It also presents an ominous threat to the citizens that if this Congress could disregard and stifle the basic rights of even high ranking public officials whose independence is beneficial to all, whether elected or appointed, the rest of us is fair game in this absurd game of thrones.

Ephraim B. Cortez,
Secretary general,
Manila,
Philippines



Ease of doing business in Thailand
Easier before the coup
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 November 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 Novemeber 2017

The junta is flapping and crowing about Thailand having moved up on the World
Bank's Index, "Ease of Doing Business for 2018", from 46th to 26th, a giant leap of 20 paces. Hmm...
But it didn't tell us that before the coup we ranked 18th on the index. Here's
the rundown of the rankings, year (followed by rank): 2006 (20), 2007 (18), 2008
(15), 2009 (13), 2010 (12), 2011 (19), 2012 (17), 2013 (18), 2014 (18) -- the
coup was that year, 2015 (26), 2016 (49), 2017 (46), 2018 (26).
Note that in 2014 we ranked 18th, then came the coup by "salivating patriots"
and we dropped to 26th, then nose-dived to 46th before crawling back to 26th
place again.
To make my point clear, the junta is like a kid who was ranked 18th in the
class, then dropped to 46th, then went up to 26th and bragged about improving by
20 places. Pathetic!

Somsak Pola,
Samut Prakan,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

 

Communist Party of the Philippines labelled as terrorists
After US president Trump's visit to Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 November 2017

It is worrisome to contemplate that shortly after US President Donald Trump’s meeting with President Duterte last week, several unpleasant pronouncements were announced by the latter.
Just days ago, Mr. Duterte made sudden shifts in relation to his prior statements of resuming talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Not only did he cancel the talks, he likewise raised the conflict to a new level by openly accepting the United States’ listing and recommendation of labeling the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
After this, Mr. Duterte openly threatened the arrest of all progressive individuals and likewise branded legal democratic organizations as terrorist groups, using the clichéd branding that the latter are mere fronts of the CPP-NPA.
We could not but condemn US meddling in the country’s internal affairs, especially after significant achievements in the past have already been reached in relation to the process of building peace.
Equally condemnable is Mr. Duterte’s hypocrisy in calling himself a “leftist” or “socialist” president when in fact he is unleashing the full force of state fascism.
Mr. Duterte’s open claim to fascist rule is seriously worrisome.
His more than a year of populist rule is actually tainted with charges of state brutality and fascism.
Three wars have been waged since then: war on drugs, war on terror, and war on insurgents.
The number of extrajudicial killings, tortures, harassments, displacements, lootings, and other human rights violations has reached an unprecedented level that Mr. Duterte is fearlessly criticized as someone using the same draconian methods of Marcos yet even far brutal than the former dictator.
And the truth of the matter is that the most vulnerable in this open state aggression are the poor.
Hence, as church people inspired by the principles of the Second Vatican Council, and the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, we remain as a “church of the poor.”
It is the imperative of our faith to fight state repression, to defend the poor, and build God’s kingdom on earth where justice and righteousness flow.

Regletto Aldrich Imbong,
Board secretary,
Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies,
Promotion of Church People’s Response,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Thai lese majeste law
Not violated in Ajarn Sulak's case
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 November 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 November 2017

Re: "Time to drop Sulak charges", Editorial, Bangkok Post November 15.
The two retired army generals who filed a complaint against Ajahn Sulak
Sivaraksa should realise that it is possible that they have no case against the
revered teacher - since commenting on the event that happened 400 years ago has
nothing to do with violating the lese majeste law.
Suffice it to say that Ajarn Sulak, in this particular case, is clearly a prisoner of conscience.
Release him, please.

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Why did it take so long to replace
Malaysia's Environmental Quality Act of 1974
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 November 2017
First published in the Star, Wednesday 22 November 2017

All Malaysian patriots would surely welcome the Government’s proposed new Environmental Protection Act (EPA), which would replace the Environmental Quality Act 1974.
Indeed, it would give new hope for our environment, which has been showing dangerous and even deadly evidence of rapid deterioration.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and his environment-friendly team must be commended for their strenuous efforts in pushing for this new legislation against destructive pollution which has been going on for so long, so widely and so carelessly all over our country, leaving us despondent.
The new law therefore gives us all fresh hope in the future of our environment and country.
But why did it take so long to materialise?
Were vested interests or politics or sheer indifference responsible for this delay in introducing a more effective law to combat pollution much earlier?
We have to give credit to civil society for urging the Government to act more forcefully against environmental criminals.
And to be fair, the Government also deserves appreciation for finally wanting to adopt tougher laws against polluters.
Will the new law come through and actually work?
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Public expectations have now been considerably raised and the Government must thus deliver.
Firstly, we earnestly hope the Attorney-General’s Chambers will approve and improve the 91 sections of the EPA, which includes 41 more provisions.
Let’s hope there will be no watering down of the effectiveness of the proposed law.
Secondly, we hope the new law will be updated to meet the new norms of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the global best practices. This will ensure that our laws are up to date.
State governments have to give their full support to this new law.
If they are reluctant to do so, then the whole legislative process can be badly delayed.
If this happens, the rakyat will hope that the highly influential Council of Rulers will step in to advise the state legislatures to be more progressive to save the day and Mother Earth as well.
Under the proposed law, the National Physical Development Council together with the National Land Council will be empowered to approve or reject high-impact projects.
This move will certainly make the difference as, at present, the Department of Environment can only give advice, and these tend to be ignored.
This has led to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, river silting and coastal erosion.
The new law will remove the approving authority, power and influence of the state and local councils.
The proposed Environmental Management Tools would make it compulsory for industries and developers to self-regulate.
This is a clever move as we cannot expect environment officials to be everywhere to catch prospective polluters red-handed.
Armed with just their smartphones, members of the public and environmental organisations can provide vital assistance to the authorities to arrest polluters fast and at little or no cost.
This would be the opportunity for civil society to give concrete support to combat pollution.
Will civil society take the challenge?
I am confident it will.
We have all suffered from rising pollution and the deteriorating environment in our beloved country.
Posterity will suffer even more if we don’t tackle pollution more firmly and aggressively now.
Thus, the Federal Government’s proposed new anti-pollution law is therefore most welcome.
We hope that with even more improvements from the AG and NGOs, this new law will be passed and implemented with a strong political will.
We also sincerely hope that our society will be fully consulted and their views diligently taken into account when finalising the new environmental law.
The rakyat must be assured that there is new hope finally for our environment with the early passing in Parliament of this law and they would have more confidence and faith in the future.

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

 



Call for socio-economic reforms
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 November 2017

It wasn’t only world leaders that gathered at the recently concluded Association
of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia summits in the Philippines, but there
were also mass movements from across the country.
Thousands of peasants,
workers, urban poor, indigenous peoples, students and professionals gathered at
the nation’s capital to assert our national sovereignty and resist the imperialist domination of our land.
Among the contingents from Southern Tagalog who joined the protests were
progressive groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Cavite, where patriots and revolutionaries like Rogelio Ordoñez and Armando Teng were born.
Braving police truncheons and water cannons, they echoed sentiments of the Filipino people clamoring for genuine change under the proimperialist Duterte administration.
Like most of our countrymen, the Caviteños suffer chronic poverty and gross
inequality while a handful of foreign capitalists prosper through the Cavite
Economic Zone.
Despite the increasing commercialization of the province, the masses remain poor and downtrodden as slum communities face constant threat of eviction and demolition.
Corruption, on the other hand, has penetrated all levels of government.
This was the case of Gardenia Valley Subdivision in Bacoor City until the residents and the local chapter of Gabriela Women’s Party ousted the notorious syndicate that had been in control of the subdivision for years, leaving the homeowners’ association deeply in debt.
No real development is possible until President Duterte shifts gear and pursues
socio-economic reforms that will benefit the broad majority, not just the few,
and lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace.
But as long as the government remains deaf to the demands of the Filipino people, we can expect more of these protest rallies - bigger and more creative than ever.
As the popular Buklod song goes: “Habang may tatsulok at sila ang nasa tuktok, ’di matatapos itong gulo.”

Daniel Aloc,
Gardenia Valley,
Molino,
Philippines



Philippine president accused of kow towing
To Chinese premier
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 20 November

I saw the picture of President Duterte bowing to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a
ceremony in Philippine Inquirer Thursday 16 November 2017 and was mortified.
He was bowing like a subordinate or a lowly servant to a dignified master.
All of China must be laughing at us, and especially all of Japan, and the rest of East and Southeast Asia.
The general custom, as I understand it, is for an inferior to bow to a superior
the lower his rank or social standing, the deeper his bow. The superior
responds with a slight and quick bow. There are important nuances. Equals lower
their heads to equal levels.
The Philippine president is a head of state. China’s premier isn’t.

Atis Altamirano,
Manila,
Philippines



Condemnation of use of sonic weapons
During ASEAN summit in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian TImes, Tuesday 21 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 November 2017

We at Agham - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People - strongly condemn the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) use of sonic weapon Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against participants of the mobilization coinciding with the Asean Summit.
This brutal attack is a manifestation of the increasing fascism of the Duterte administration and its readiness to use dangerous methods to suppress people calling for their demands.
Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is a sonic weapon which indiscriminately emits a loud sound way above the average human limit for hearing without damage at 85 decibels.
Its intense, high-pitched sound is proven to have health consequences, causing potential ear damage or permanent loss of hearing to activists, bystanders and members of the police force alike.
The PNP’s (PNP) indiscriminate use of such device placed all within hearing range of it in serious potential harm.
The use of Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is patterned after “US-style fascism” to suppress the people by
whatever means.Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) was first used to disperse a protest in 2009 during the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where victims sustained permanent hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), barotrauma, ear pain and disorientation
when the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) was activated without warning.
It is the people’s right to voice out their legitimate demands against the
anti-people agenda of the United States, China, Russia and other imperialist
countries in Asean.
For 50 years, Asean has served as a platform for these nations to keep control of their neocolonies, where the member-countries enter into multilateral and bilateral agreements on trade and security at the expense of sovereignty.
In concrete terms, Asean is one of the mechanisms that has led to the current
state of the country’s import-dependent and export-oriented economy where we
become a source of raw materials and cheap labor and a market for surplus
products.
At a time when science and technology is being used against us, we will
strengthen our collective action and raise our voices against President Duterte
and US President Donald Trump’s fascism and militarism.
We will continue to struggle for justice and genuine change, and for science that serves the interest of the people.

Dr. Giovanni Tapang,
Chair,
Advocates of Science and Technology for the People,
Manila,
Philippines





American expats say of the Philippine president
We are watching and we will desist
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 16 Nov 2017

With US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines our country of residence we, as American expats, would like to make our voices heard.
We are outraged and deeply concerned with the leadership of our country.
On Trump’s watch, corruption and racism have spun out of control and we refuse to allow these things to be normalized.", "articleBody":
"With US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines - our country of residence - we, as American expats, would like to make our voices heard.
We are outraged and deeply concerned with the leadership of our country.
On Trump’s watch, corruption and racism have spun out of control and we refuse to allow these things to be normalized.
Through his business dealings and properties abroad such as Trump Tower Manila, our nation’s wellbeing may be deeply compromised given his apparent reluctance to offload his interests and holdings in ways that will ensure no conflict of interest. Through his refusal to make public his income tax returns, he has kept the American public in the dark as to what his motives might be.
He has left little doubt that his policy is not made with our best interest in mind. Many of us have multiethnic families that transcend borders.
We understand very well that America is a richly diverse country and benefits profoundly from being so.
During his campaign,
Trump once referred to the Philippines as a terrorist nation and said of its people: “We’re dealing with animals.”
We stand in solidarity with our Filipino family in America and abroad.
We defy the racist and sexist rhetoric that Trump has dragged into our mainstream dialogue.
We demand that our elected officials represent ALL Americans.
Trump has sought to denigrate Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a brazen attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the investigation of possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government.
We call upon our representatives in Congress to protect the institutions that defend Americans from a compromised and authoritarian government.
We further call upon all our public representatives, at every level, to fight the xenophobia and tribalism that are designed to divide us along ethnic lines and to distract from increasing market capture, inequality of income, and concentration of wealth and opportunity for the benefit of the selected few whom Trump truly represents. We want Trump to know that we defy his message and his corruption by using our sacrosanct rights as voting Americans.
We are watching and we will resist.

Jeremy Slagle,
Lisa Pagkalinawan
Donald Goertzen
Manila,
Philippines

 




Philippine presidential spokesman
Accused of inability to reason properly
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 15 November 2017

"Harry Roque’s flagrant non sequitur", "articleBody": "His appointment as presidential spokesperson appears to have affected Harry Roque’s ability to reason properly. Knowing him for his well-crafted, logical and tenable public statements, I was aghast that even before he actually took his oath of office for his new job, he already started to sound like a rabid follower of President Duterte who does not hesitate to resort to fallacy when and if he thinks this will protect and promote the administration; Let’s take his answer to accusations that Mr. Duterte is a human rights violator during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “The President is a lawyer and was a public prosecutor for 10 years. I would say that it was never his intention to conduct a war on drugs that would violate the Constitution and fundamental human rights.”
This is a non sequitur.
It is just like saying that a priest could not be guilty of sexual offense because he is a priest and had been in the priesthood for 10 years.
Or that since the purpose of the police is “to serve and protect,” it is not possible
that a policeman could be involved in any crime especially if he has been a
policeman for some time already. Roque’s logic also wrongly assumes that Mr. Duterte lived by his professional oath and was exemplary in his conduct
as a prosecutor.
Where was Roque when Mr. Duterte said during a press conference on August 21, 2016, that as a prosecutor, he had planted evidence?
And even granting that that was one of the President’s outlandish jokes and that he was, after all, a model prosecutor, Roque’s statement assumed that Mr. Duterte could not have changed since then. Roque’s proof that his principal is not
a human rights violator is also like saying that a brilliant lawyer who graduated from and taught for 15 years in arguably the top law school in the land and is expected, therefore, to be a paragon of sound reasoning could never be guilty of a flagrant non sequitur such as this.

Rommel Mendoza,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Malaysia
To establish an ombudsman
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 November 2017
First published in the Star, Wednesday 6 November 2017

The public congratulate Chief Secretary Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa for setting up a committee to monitor the implementation of programmes and projects under Budget 2018.
We would also welcome the inclusion of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on this monitoring committee to combat corruption and leakages like the wastage of budget allocations.
But there are many questions to ask about the roles of this committee.
Will this committee only monitor the implementation of the Budget 2018 projects and programmes?
Should it not be clearly stated that this committee should be a permanent monitoring committee to oversee the implementation of all budget projects and programmes in the future?
Would this implementation committee also monitor the physical maintenance of past projects?
As we all notice, many government offices, facilities and programmes have been relatively neglected.
Maintenance in many government buildings have become inefficient, leaving some unsafe.
Will this implementation committee review and monitor the maintenance of government buildings?
Will the committee ensure that previously approved policies and programmes would also be monitored to ensure that delivery is done according to the original goals set for them?
Or have they gone off the track and are still being funded every year without too much scrutiny?
The Chief Secretary and the Civil Service will gain more support if this issue is clearly made known to the public.
While the implementation of budget projects can be monitored for effective and timely completion, what about the monitoring of the quality of service these projects provide to the public?
Can the implementation committee also monitor the quality of service and report back to the public?
The public has gradually become conditioned to accepting poor quality service in some government departments and offices.
The public often take poor government services as a given.
Unlike in the business sector, the public cannot avoid doing business with inefficient civil servants especially those who issue licences, permits, tax concessions and exemptions.
Passports are now provided so much faster (pic) but can the same be said of many other government services?
As we are aiming to become a developed country by 2020, is it not timely to establish the post of ombudsman?
The Chief Secretary’s new implementation committee could start even before the year’s end with its pioneering and laudable mission to monitor implementation.
But could the Government appoint an ombudsman and approve staff for his office to receive and independently advise the implementation committee and Parliament on all public complaints?
This move will serve the public interest in a more balanced, efficient and empathetic manner and earn much more public appreciation.
The rakyat will warmly welcome the innovative initiative by the Chief Secretary to set up this new implementation committee comprising some of the top officials in our country.
Public expectations for less corruption and expenditure wastages will now rise considerably.
We will now hope for faster and more efficient services to the public.
This desire for better quality in government services will also be raised by the realisation that the Govern­ment has been generous in providing civil servants with more rewards for their loyal service to our beloved country.

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




There is a concerted plan to sanitize, trivialize and ignore
The evils of Marcos and martial law in Philippine textbooks
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 15 November 2017

These are the many errors to be found in Education Secretary Leonor Briones’
response to my article “Kuri-kulam” Sunday 17 September 2017
Briones said: “While Philippine history, as a subject, is no longer part of the
junior high school curriculum, discussions of events in Philippine history,
especially on martial law, are ‘naturally integrated’ in several subjects,
among them Southeast Asian political landscape in the fourth quarter of Grade 7, and contemporary politics of Asia in Asian history (also taught in Grade 7), which focuses on the rise of dictatorship in Southeast Asia, e.g., Suharto and Sukarno of Indonesia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Marcos of the Philippines.”

None of what Briones stated with regard to “martial law,” “Marcos” or
“dictatorships” appears in the Department of Education’s (DepEd) K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum Guide of May 2016 for Grade 7. None appears in “Asya: Pag-usbong ng Kabihasnan,” the textbook recommended by the DepEd for the use of Grade 7 students in their subject Asian History.
Briones categorized the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew as
belonging to a group of Southeast Asian dictators.
Mr. Lee must be turning in his grave!
I wonder what his son Lee Hsien Loong, the present prime minister of
Singapore, who was in the country for the Asean Summit, must feel, knowing that
this atrocious and slanderous idea is being taught and imprinted onto the minds
of young and impressionable Filipino learners and students by no less than the
education secretary. Lee Kuan Yew was never a dictator like Sukarno, Suharto and Marcos!
Lee Kuan Yew was the longest-serving prime minister in modern world history -
for good, obvious reasons.
He virtually raised the city-state of Singapore from scratch. His strict, no-nonsense and mildly authoritarian but clean, efficient and incorruptible style of governance led to the evolution and transformation of that small island into Southeast Asia’s most prosperous and progressive nation.
Marcos’ dictatorship, by contrast, set in motion the process of the Philippines’
degradation and devolution, which eventually led us to where we are now: at the
bottom of a cesspool out of which we cannot hope to escape.
There’s a world of difference between the two - the former created, and the latter devastated and destroyed. It is unfortunate that this piece of fake news emanated from our education secretary, who should know better than to call the great statesman a dictator like Sukarno and Marcos.
Instead, Briones should have included in her rogues’ gallery of Southeast Asian
dictators that Grim Reaper of the killing fields of Kampuchea, Pol Pot, under
whose bloody Khmer Rouge regime a quarter of the entire population of Cambodia perished.
“Pilipinas: Bansang Papaunlad,” the first book I cited in “Kuri-kulam,” is a
public school textbook, proven by the fact that it is mentioned 14 times in the
DepEd Curriculum Guide as a “learning material” for the use of Grade 6 pupils of
public elementary schools in their subject Hekasi (Geography, History, Civics).
In this book, Philippine history ended on July 4, 1946, with the Declaration of
Philippine Independence. As a result, martial law and the Marcos dictatorship
are topics that have no way of being discussed in this book. It contains many
factual errors as well.
Thus, it is a grossly defective public school textbook.
While the other nine books I mentioned were indeed published by private
publishers, the DepEd cannot escape the fact that private textbook publishers
and their authors base the content of what they write solely and entirely on the
DepEd Curriculum Guide.
They may not write based on their whim, caprice, or the windmills of their mind.
Briones’ admission that “Philippine history is no longer part of the high school
curriculum,”
plus the existence of the 10 deficient and defective textbooks I
cited in “Kuri-kulam” which are presently being used by Grade 6 pupils studying
in both public and private schools, affirm my assertion that martial law and the
Marcos dictatorship are topics that are not discussed at all in both grade
school and high school. Kulang, ’di ba? (Lacking or deficient, isn’t it?)
Therefore: “Kurri-kulang-kulang!”
There is indeed a concerted plan to sanitize, trivialize and ignore the evils of
Marcos and martial law in Philippine textbooks. Briones should look into this if
she is responsive and responsible, rather than deny it. I take umbrage at what
the secretary implied when she said: “Antonio Calipjo Go’s assertions are
nowhere near the truth.”
That is tantamount to calling me a liar.

Antonio Calipjo Gp
Manila,
Philipines




Call for Philippine president Duterte
To give the environment top priority
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 14 November 2017

Dear President Duterte and the Filipino people:
With wind speed of 315 kph, Supertyphoon “Yolanda” caused destruction in the Visayas when the global temperature was 0.8°C. At 1.5°C, the wind speed could be twice as strong - maybe 600 kph.
With such a speed, one could be in Manila from Legazpi which is 600 km away in just one hour!
Will any structure be left untoppled with a 600 kph typhoon?
God forbid!
The scientists of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States and the Met Office of the United Kingdom have predicted that in nine years’ time or year 2026, the global temperature would be reaching 1.5°C.
While almost all the governments around the world have signed up in the 2015 Paris Agreement, concrete actions have not been as fast and for most people, the response has been slow - “business as usual” - perhaps due to ignorance, selfish interests or simply inertia.
For us, Filipinos, we cannot simply wait for what would happen in the next nine years.
The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries due to global warming. Yolanda has etched that in our consciousness.
The earthquake in Mexico, the hurricane in Puerto Rico and many more are enough signs to urgently respond to the call of Pope Francis for “ecological conversion.”
The action of 100 million Filipinos, individually and collectively, can contribute a lot to reverse global warming. But time is precious and we have to plan now to make our country carbon negative like Bhutan.
Under your leadership, Mr. President, let us make the environment our first priority.
We should start with a 360-degree paradigm shift from our present world view that treated the environment simply as a resource to be exploited.
The indigenous people experienced the earth as a mother that gave life and in turn, they took good care of the earth and lived simply using the earth’s resources with moderation.
A symbiotic relationship indeed! Similarly, St. Francis of Assisi even called the earth sister and mother, the sun as brother, and water as sister.
Influenced by that world view of indigenous people who kept the forests intact for centuries, we should automatically embrace a simple lifestyle, too.
This would also mean controlling our appetite for unlimited consumption.
Imagine how much electricity and water can be conserved when 100 million Filipinos become ecologically conscious.
We have to aggressively promote conservation of our forests and protect biodiversity of which we are so much blessed with but, unfortunately, we are losing our native species very fast and depleting the resources that belong to future generations of Filipinos.
The government with its vast resources has to make the environment its first priority and promote conservation of forests and biodiversity in our mountains and seas.
It has to close coal plants in due time, put an end to open-pit mining immediately and invest on renewable energies.
The review of environmental laws and their strict implementation are needed while the “build, build, build” policy has to be reduced drastically to what is just necessary.
What is the use of spending billions of pesos to build structures that can be wiped out in a few hours with a supertyphoon?
The mainstream and social media, schools, churches and organizations have to be involved in creating a paradigm shift among the 100 million Filipinos so that they get involved in whatever way each one can to protect the environment.
We should create a groundswell of eco warriors to secure our one and only country.
Again, Mr. President, make the environment the first priority of your government and convince the Asean countries to do the same.

Fr. Pete Montallana,
Chair,
Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc.
Manila,
Philipines




Philippine presidential spokesman
Uses threat of retaliation as tool of communication
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 13 November 2017

At a time that many Filipinos are calling out to “stop the killing, start the healing,” a positive-minded response would have been toward promotion of truth and clarity.
But the presidential spokesperson talks in terms of “throwing stones” and “throwing back hollow blocks.”
To do otherwise, however, would be out of character for this administration.
The previous spokesperson showed equanimity in dealing with the lack of clarity, lack of rational thought, and almost incomprehensible language.
Now the new spokesperson, a former law professor, uses threat of retaliation as tool of communication.
There was a time the title “professor” and even the description “former professor” - especially “UP professor” - commanded respect.
What happened?
There was also a time “human rights lawyer” conveyed a near-heroic or even near-saintly quality in a person.
Regarding this matter, I won’t ask what happened.
An example was set long ago:
A lawyer took on multiple Marcos-era human rights cases, especially those involving media persons, and immediately climbed from relative anonymity to being high profile.
Eventually, he gained very high executive power and, later, high legislative power. All the while, the media admired him.
What happens now?

Atis Altamirano,
Manila,
Philippines




Arcane book knowledge
And practical street smarts are not the same
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 November 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post , Thursday 9 November 2017

While we all would agree that nepotism and corruption are issues that should be
addressed in any nation's police reform efforts, Thailand's recent proposal to
have academics "supervise" and "recruit" new police cadets should probably not
get a passing grade.
As a foreign and internationally recognised research student, I feel compelled
to highlight a critical shortcoming in the plan as was reported by the Post.
It stems from the difference between theory and practice.
Academics with law degrees may seem to have all the answers on paper, but they have repeatedly shown they know little of the realities lurking outside their air-conditioned lecture halls.
I ask you, how often have these academics been in a foot chase?
Have they ever arrested anyone?
Have they ever been shot at?
Have they ever stepped outside their Mercedes Benz and even set foot in so much as one of Bangkok's slums?
The Royal Thai Police have hard lives out in the hot and smog-filled sois of
Bangkok.
The last thing that any of them need is some privileged, 24-year-old
so-called "scholar" from a hi-so university barking out theoretical solutions to
real-world problems. Arcane book knowledge and practical street smarts are not
the same.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Filipino students call for ban
On US president Trump visit to Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Friday 10 November 2017

In the coming days, US President Donald Trump is expected to visit the
Philippines for the East Asia Summit.
As the youth, students, and future of this nation, we strongly oppose this visit.
US imperialism has brought nothing but wars and destruction in its neocolonies such as ours.
In the Northern Mindanao region alone, lives have been displaced in ways much
worse than ghosts and mythical tragic stories.
The US-instigated war on terror has affected and displaced over 600,000 Maranaw in the Marawi crisis.
In Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon areas, the “lumad” were driven off, harassed, arrested, and even killed due to corporate aggressions in their land.
Even the vendors of Cogon market in Cagayan de Oro are battling the unjust and
inhumane demolition of the Road and Traffic Administration or RTA, which
prioritizes “clean and orderly roads” rather than the meager living of farmers
and urban poor.
All these socioeconomic and political problems are caused by neoliberal policies
that rule our country.
The aggravating crisis and unabated price hike of basic commodities are brought by this neoliberal globalization. Oil deregulation law, jeepney phaseout, tax reform program, privatization of basic industries like water and electricity supply, tuition and other school fee increase and K-to-12 program in education are the faces of neoliberal policies.
There is more to come with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or Edca, which allows the installation of US military facilities in Lumbia Airport in
Cagayan de Oro.
The presence of the US military will also open the market to prostitution like what happened in Olongapo/Subic that will endanger our women and children. Knowing that the United States is launching wars all over the world, we face grave threats of going into wars that are not even ours.
We are their victims - we are the ones deprived of our basic rights in exchange of
their profit from hospitalization to education, and other social services.
All these problems are a manifestation of how this “puppet government” conspired with its “imperialist boss” to exploit the nation and the people.
We shall not forget how our ancestors heroically fought for our land.
We shall not honor any foreign intervention much more US imperialism that preys on the poverty and hunger of the people to continue its hegemonic rule.
To let them take over our lands is a betrayal to our ancestors and heroes.
We condemn the government’s failure and neglect of its responsibility toward the
Filipino people.
We challenge the youth and students, and other progressive and concerned
individuals to stand with us.
Be one with our call to ban Trump.
Let us show the No. 1 imperialist power in the world our greatest indignation and opposition.

Kristine Cabardo,
Chair, League of Filipino Students,
Northern Mindanao Region,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine presidential spokeman
Has the president to back him up
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 November 2017

I knew that when I decided to accept the position of presidential spokesperson,
I would make an easy target, given my wide girth and my background as a lawyer
who has taken up many unpopular causes.
But I did expect that whatever criticisms may come my way - especially those from
respected media institutions - I would get a fair shake.
After all, even the law on libel requires that opinions and inferences still reasonably draw from established facts.
Such however may not be said of your paper’s editorial “Damaging the Court”
8 November 2017.
First, your editorial alleges that my questioning of Ronnie Dayan during the
congressional inquiry on the proliferation of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison
was “salacious” and “sexually charged.”
My line of questioning had to do with Sen. Leila de Lima’s statement excusing
her immoral and illegal affair as a consequence of her “frailties” as a woman.
Hence my question whether Dayan took advantage of her “frailties” in having the
relationship.
Not only does it smack of sexual harassment - hiring a driver and having an affair with him two months later - but reducing such a transgression as a “frailty of a woman” is an affront to those fighting for gender equality.
That one statement of De Lima is a disservice to every woman who said she was
one with her.
It is too convenient an excuse especially for a practitioner of law who has
possibly violated Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards
for Public Officials and Employees), RA 7877 (Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of
1995), and RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
As far as my other statements were concerned, “salat” was mentioned by Dayan
thrice in describing how he handled a package of money from Kerwin Espinosa:
“Sinalat ko at mukhang pera.”
Moreover, Dayan admitted to getting De Lima to appoint certain personalities to certain positions.
That is how I got to “nagsamantala” in that he took advantage of his influence
to get what he wanted.
The official transcripts will bear me out, but these finer details got lost in the media brouhaha over the hearing.
Second, your editorial also contends that it was my “unbecoming conduct” during the said hearing that caused my supposed expulsion from Kabayan party-list.
It is a mistake.
To be clear, I was never ousted from the party.
The Kabayan “board of trustees” that supposedly expelled me - formed by Ron Salo, the party’s second nominee - is illegal as its existence is not provided for in
the party’s constitution and by-laws.
Please check with the Commission on Elections whether Kabayan’s constitution and by-laws have been amended after submission in 2009.
I have in my possession a certification issued by the Comelec on May 4, 2017,
stating that “NO amendment of the Constitution and By-Laws of [the] Kabalikat ng Mamamayan (Kabayan) Party-List… was filed and received in the Office of the Clerk of the Commission, as of this date.”
If so, it is a big wonder how Salo’s group could claim to have any legal basis
for creating a board of trustees peopled with his handpicked nominees, when
under the party’s extant constitution and by-laws, it does not exist.
In fact, the Party Congress, the highest policymaking body of the party that
approves any amendment to its constitution and by-laws, has recognized and
affirmed my own nomination as party representative.
Also, Salo was expelled as a member of the party-list as decided by the voting
delegates during the Special Party Congress of Kabayan on February. 11, 2017, over “egregious and numerous violations of Kabayan party-list’s constitution and by-laws,” including his having set up his own board of trustees without warrant from the Party Congress.
That, and his hand in the P3.8-billion car plate scam at the Land Transportation Office, where he was both corporate secretary and counsel for the winning bidder PPI-JKG Joint Venture.
The decision to expel was also arrived at unanimously by 32 out of 43 Comelec-registered voting delegates who attended the Party Congress.
But Salo’s oft-repeated lie about his board of trustees has become media’s
gospel truth, apparently.
Although I remain a committed defender of free expression, the capacity of fake
news such as his to victimize even such a venerable institution as the Inquirer
makes me wonder whether the marketplace of ideas can ever survive its onslaught
in the digital era.
I find it ironic that your editorial was published on the same day your paper ran a story on my defense of press freedom.
Third, your editorial declared that I “sought to impeach” Chief Justice Maria
Lourdes Sereno.
Had due diligence been done, it would have been found out that I never endorsed any of the two complaints filed against the Chief Justice.
It was the impeachment complaint against former Comelec chair Juan Andres Bautista that I endorsed, and nothing more.
Finally, to argue that to save the courts, the Chief Justice should step down
and avoid an impeachment is not to overstep my boundaries as a spokesperson for the President.
There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits me from saying that.
It is a political solution to what is ostensibly a sui generis procedure that nevertheless carries with it the stark realities of the political realm.
And it is not idle speculation on my part, as I have the President’s words to
back me up, as your editorial itself noted.

H. Harry L. Roque,
Manila,
Philippines




Supreme Court orders logger to pay 16 trillion rupiah fine
For unlawful forest clearing
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 November 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 6 November 2017

Trees are vital.
As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise soil and give life to wildlife.
They provide us with materials for tools and shelter. Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present and our future.
The canopies of trees act as a physical filter, trapping dust and absorbing pollutants from the air.
They also provide shade from solar radiation and reduce noise.
Trees and shrubs have medicinal properties.
I am sure the cures for cancer and AIDS are in our jungles, waiting to be discovered.
Research has showed that within minutes of being surrounded by trees and green space, your blood pressure drops, your heart rate slows and your stress levels come down.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and the carbon that they store in their wood slows global warming.
They reduce wind speeds and cool the air as they lose moisture and reflect heat upwards from their leaves. It’s estimated that trees can reduce the temperature in a city by up to 7°C.
Trees prevent flooding and soil erosion, absorbing rainwater.
When young, they offer habitation and food to birds, insects, lichen and fungi.
When ancient, their trunks provide the hollow cover needed by bats, wood boring beetles, owls and woodpeckers and horn-bills squirrels.
It was reported that a logging firm in Indonesia had been ordered by the country’s Supreme Court to pay a 16 trillion rupiahs (RM5.3 billion) fine for unlawful forest clearing outside its concession area, the biggest penalty for environmental damage in the country.
It’s high time our country did the same thing. We must hit illegal logging companies where it hurts the most.

Lionel Perera,
Port Dickson,
Negri Sembilan,
Malaysia



In Buddha's own words
We are what we think
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 November 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 30 October 2017

I am highly moved by Kong Rithdee's excellent portrayal of the contradictions of Thai history and security in Opinion Bangkok Post 28 October.
Every country has its heroes and villians.
History is also about smoke and mirrors used by vested interests to keep masses inundated by exaggerations and propaganda.
People like Karl Marx dubbed religion as the opiate of the masses.
To many millions of others, religion is like a painkiller which helps them to deal with the pain and sufferings of life.
Highly ritualized practices are big constraints in developing a better understanding of Buddha teachings.
One of the distinguishing and very unique feature of Buddhism is that it emphasis the cultivation of the mind the intellect reasoning and self awareness.
In Buddha's own words, "We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts, we make the word.
He further said "Rule your mind or it will rule you."

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for Malysia to take head
Of Moody's warnings on high debt rate
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 November 2017
First published in the Star, Friday 3 November 2017

Mood's Investors Service, the reputable international ratings agency, has flashed red lights about the likely emerging weaknesses in our economy.
This warning has come on the heels of Budget 2018 which was announced by the Prime Minister last Friday. Moody’s Investors Service has given us a rating of A3 with a “Stable Outlook”.
This is good except that it also highlights the following warnings.
Moody’s is not optimistic that the budget forecast of 5 percent to 5.5 percent growth will be achieved.
It thinks that 5 percent growth is more likely.
This means there will be some slowdown in economic activities, with the implications of lower incomes and higher unemployment.
Moody’s cautions that our budget revenues as a share of our gross domestic product (GDP) is among the lowest in its rating category of A3.
It highlights the fact that Budget 2018 has no new tax proposals.
We are thus depending on just natural growth of revenues, which are estimated to continue to decline to 16.6 percent in 2028 from 21.4 percent in 2012.
This is not healthy.
Should we tax the higher income groups more?
Even this lower proportion of tax to GDP may not be realised as commodity prices and global demand for our exports may not rise as much as expected.
What if prices for commodities like oil and gas and palm oil decline to lower than our projections?
On the other hand, the budget expenditures have been significantly raised in the so-called election budget, especially in the operating expenditures, while still maintaining high development expenditures.
The budget could therefore come under considerable strain.
The struggle to achieve the budget deficit target of 2.8 percent of the GDP could therefore be very challenging for Budget 2018.
This would be a red light signal for not only the health of our budget but the economy as well.
The debt which is now estimated at 51.5 percent of GDP for 2018 could rise further to finance a worsening current account deficit. Already, Moody’s is warning that this debt rate is much higher than the A-Rated median of 40.9 percent for 2017.
Is this another red light warning to tell us to be more careful lest we get downgraded from Moody’s current rating of A3? Moody’s Report on our economy is analytical and frank.
Hopefully, we will take heed of their views, taking into account our own concerns.

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


 

No convictions 8 years after massacre
In Maguindanao Province, southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 2 November 2017

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) marked International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on November 2, with sadness and an undimmed sense of determination to help end media killings in our country and the whole world, and bring perpetrators to justice.
While the United Nations chose this date to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on November 2, 2013, it should never be forgotten that the worst killing of journalists in history happened in the Philippines and also in November.
The murder of 32 journalists along with 26 other civilians on November 23, 2009, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province, was dubbed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest event for journalists in the world.
The NUJP believes the Ampatuan massacre substantially contributed to the global advocacy to protect journalists and the freedom of the press.
The fact that no one has yet been convicted nearly eight years after the massacre underscores the fact that impunity reigns in this country.
Despite repeated promises to bring the perpetrators to justice, the Aquino administration utterly failed, with Andal Ampatuan Sr. escaping court judgment by dying before defense witnesses could even be presented.
Meantime, his son, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, who was Maguindanao governor at the time of the massacre, was granted bail by the Court of Appeals in January 2016, just in time for the election campaign where he ran for mayor of Shariff Aguak.
Impunity exists to this day under the Duterte administration, which is not doing any better than its predecessors.
In fact, Mr. Duterte himself justified the killings of journalists that contributed to more attacks against journalists.
Just last week, broadcaster Christopher Lozada was brazenly gunned down near his house in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur.
We note that Mr. Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 1 created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, which is looking into media killings and harassments. The fact remains, however, that media killings and crimes against journalists are still happening, as evidenced by five media workers killed under the current administration on top of murder attempts and harassment against media workers.
It is, thus, no surprise that the Philippines ranked fifth in the world in terms of impunity in killing of journalists in the 2017 Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
In its report, “Getting Away with Murder: 2017 Global Impunity Index” published last Oct. 31, CPJ said “no convictions have been achieved” despite the formation of a task force on media killings.
We demand that Mr. Duterte order a stop to media killings and impunity in this country. He can start by not encouraging others to kill journalists and prosecuting those charged once and for all.

Jo Clemente,
Chair,
Dabet Panelo,
Secretary,
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Manila,
Philippines




The Kalikasan People of the Philippines
Don't want open-pit mining
The Southheast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 2 November 2017

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment strongly condemns the recommendation to revoke the landmark ban on open-pit mining by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).
While President Duterte and his Cabinet still have a chance to not heed this recommendation, the unanimous decision of his handpicked henchmen Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, cochairs of the MICC, is as good as a stamp of approval from Mr. Duterte himself.
All the bluster about holding large-scale mines accountable has just been hot air.
Let us recall that the premise of Mr. Duterte’s appointment of ex-general Cimatu to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is his supposed military firmness in holding big mines and destructive projects accountable.
This is far from Cimatu’s actual subservience to mining oligarchs by repudiating the open-pit mining ban and other remarkable regulations instituted by his predecessor, the bold and fiery Gina Lopez.
Prohibiting open-pit mining in the context of the Mining Act of 1995 promoting the impunity of land-grabbing, plunder, and pollution should have been one of the clearest expressions of Mr. Duterte’s promise of social justice - his promise that change is coming.
We have seen numerous open-pit mines left abandoned and unrehabilitated, leaking toxics and slowly murdering surrounding ecosystems.
The argument that only pre-Mining Act open-pit mines are abandoned is belied by one of the earliest “flagship” large-scale mines under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s mining revitalization program, the Rapu-Rapu polymetallic mine in Albay.
A 2015 environmental investigation mission by scientist group Agham revealed that the Rapu-Rapu mine was left unrehabilitated even after its South Korean owner, Kores, spent P158 million.
Water tests demonstrated continuing toxic acid mine drainage generation in one of the creeks downstream from the abandoned mine, registering extreme acidity with pH levels of 3.25 to 3.42, far below the DENR standards for irrigation.
Various frontline communities in the country are struggling against open-pit mine projects to avert the risk of mine disasters and to take back the lands and forests in which their villages thrived.
In Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the indigenous Ifugao are protesting Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold’s Didipio mine.
Across four provinces in Mindanao, indigenous lumad communities have succeeded in delaying the Tampakan mining project.
We call on the Filipino people to stand firm in the principle that destructive mining is not welcome in our lands, and to fight tooth and nail against the Duterte regime’s attempt to sneak the country’s mining crisis past the public’s vigilance.

Clemente Bautista,
National coordinator,
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment,
Philippines




Two brothers shot dead by Armed Forces of the Philippines
While hunting in Barangay Cadalasan
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 November 2017
First published in the Philippines, Thursday 30 October 2017

My name is Violy Mendoza, I am a farmer from the municipality of Benito Soliven in Isabela.
I have seven other siblings, all of them are farmers.
Like many farmers in our place, we plant hybrid yellow corn to sell and raise chicken for food.
And just like everyone else here in our place, we are poor and hardly make both ends meet.
More so, though I am a farmer, I do not own any piece of land. I am a mere tenant and so are some of my siblings.
My two other brothers, who are the reason why I am writing to you, occasionally hunt in the nearby forest to augment their income from farming.
My elder brother Manong Ilyong or Rogelio, who is 61 years old, raised his seven children through such livelihood.
In the early morning of Aug. 28, 2017, my two beloved brothers - while on their way back from hunting - was mercilessly machine-gunned by elements of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
My brothers live in Barangay Baliao in the town of Benito Soliven, but the incident happened in the remote village of Sitio Lumalog of Barangay Cadalasan, which
is adjacent to our village and part of the municipality of San Mariano.
The Alpha Coy of 86th IB headed by Lieutenants Alog and Canizares are the ones responsible for the horrible untimely deaths of my brothers.
The soldiers have been in the remote farming community for already one week before their murderous action.
The soldiers, according to local residents, have taken temporary camp in a higher area very near the hut of my brothers in Sitio Lumalog.
The hut is well known to most people in the area and even to the soldiers, as a place where my brothers would rest and take shelter while hunting for wild boars in the nearby forested area.
Soldiers routinely conduct military operations in the said interior barangays of San Mariano and Benito Soliven.
Most people would rather stay away from their huts and farms when soldiers are conducting military operations because they are afraid. But because my brothers were certain that the military soldiers would leave them alone as they knew them, Manong Ilyong and Rolito went on hunting for food and something to sell later.
But my brothers were wrong.
The soldiers waited for them, carefully positioning themselves along the narrow dusty path leading to their hut. In less than a minute of bursts of gunfire, the cruel slaughter of my beloved brothers was over.
Their bodies riddled with nearly 15 bullets from the soldiers they thought would leave them alone.
One witness attested they heard Manong Roy cry out “…you are shooting civilians.” And then there was silence.
Local people living near the site of that fateful event heard the bursts of gunfire. Fearing it could be someone they know, a local barangay official waited along the path of the soldiers asking to please see the bodies the soldiers were carrying.
But the soldiers refused. Immediately there was news over the radio that there was an encounter in the interior barangay of San Mariano between the AFP and the New People’s Army, further saying that my brothers were rebel insurgents and that they were fatally wounded in the encounter.
My brothers were not fatally wounded in an encounter. They were ambushed and helplessly murdered.
It is difficult to have somebody dear to you die like they were chickens.
It is more difficult that the military and the government it serves do not seem to want to be responsible for the murderous act.
Several times already, elements of the 86th IB stationed at a nearby village in Barangay Tappa have figured in incidents violating human rights in the area.
Now fear is stronger among the people in our barrio.
It is like a virus that spreads quickly from household to household. Depriving every man, woman and child of oxygen, of free air, of dreams of freedom.
Now everyone seem to be afraid. This is not right.
It cannot be right.
So I write to your newspaper, to seek justice for my brothers.
So that people may know and they will help us and all other families like us find justice.Justice for the Mendoza brothers.
Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings.

Violy Mendoza,
Barangay Baliao,
Benito Soliven,
Isabela,
Philippines

 

 

Rejection of claim made by Jose Rizal
That purgatory is not biblically based
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 2 November 2017

I write this to express some concerns regarding the piece by Benre J. Zenarosa, titled “Spirited away” in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, 31 October 2017.
Though a good piece and interestingly about life, death, truth, and God, I must say that I disagree with some points the writer made.
The main thing to do when the Catholic faith is attacked is to defend it. I shall do so with the limited capacity and knowledge I have.
Jose Rizal is our national hero indeed.
But the heeding of his words as a premise is weak to substantiate the claim that purgatory is not biblically based.
First, even if Rizal said that the idea of purgatory is absent in the New and Old Testaments, even if Moses or Jesus did not mention it, the Bible is not interpreted literally.
In Catholic theology, there is exegesis and eisegesis: The former is the contextual and historical analysis of the biblical text, while the latter is the interpretation of the reader (in most cases, a scholar).
Zenarosa’s argument appeared to be a sweeping generalization of what the Catholic faith teaches.
The Bible began from Catholic tradition and is preserved through deep interpretation - not as baseless as “because Jesus or Moses said so.”
Whatever happened to Paul the Apostle?
He’s in the Bible. He had mentioned something about a cleansing “fire”. See 1 Corinthians 3:15.
How about Jesus’ parables and intimations?
Jesus implicitly stated something about purgatory in Matthew 5:25-26. Second, the Bible’s interpretation - especially on matters such as purgatory - is not based only on particular lines, which is in a sense selective or myopic.
Like literature or history, doing a reading or interpretation of the Bible comes with critical analysis and inference not to forget, divine inspiration.
No wonder Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas of Aquino, and other doctors of the Church produced tomes on Catholic doctrine and theology, including those on death and the existence of purgatory.
Therefore, they are still based on the Bible and not “invented teachings.” Perhaps Zenarosa is better than the Church fathers?
Concerning historical facts: It does not mean that because Rizal said something and is our national hero, his words are true per se. “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” are historical novels.
However, everything written there ought not to be taken as historical fact.
So what does Zenarosa mean by “Are we blind to historical facts?” Substantiate please.
What Zenarosa has presented goes something like this: Rizal said it, therefore it is true. First, Rizal is human, capable of mistakes like us.
Second, he is not a theologian and is probably not in the proper disposition to determine such matters of the Catholic faith, especially that the line Zenarosa stated is written in a novel and not a personal memoir. Third, even if we had the deepest or most profound ruminations on life, God, and religion, we are limited. Saints Augustine and Thomas, the greatest thinkers in Church history, would agree. And lest we forget: The devil is capable of sowing confusion in our minds.
Zenarosa has also asked the question: “Where did the doctrine of purgatory come from?” However noble the query, he has failed to give a precise answer. He just jumped from the said question to Pope Benedict XVI’s scrapping of the doctrine of limbo, making it look like it was nothing serious. Although limbo was not a Catholic teaching in the first place, it was only brought to light during the International Theological Commission of 2007 and gave more weight to the reality of purgatory.
Purgatory is real. How so, he may ask?
God is merciful. Period. He himself said it: “With God’s grace and mercy, someday I hope to talk to my father again… with the almighty Father in heaven, in his paradise.”
“But nothing unclean shall enter [heaven] (Rev. 21:27).” We can’t really expect that when we die we are absolutely free from all stains of sin. Sometimes it is inevitable to fall short.
Thus, the existence of purgatory so that the souls may be cleansed from sins to be able to enter heaven. This reality is a manifestation of God’s great love and mercy. It is a gift from God which we ought to cherish. That is why prayers for the poor, suffering souls in purgatory are necessary. That is why we commemorate the dead (and the saints) during “Undas.”
I agree that we should really “rethink our stand and course.” For “deception is rampant” and the devil is cunning. God bless.

Jose Martin V Singh,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Call for New Zealand and Australia to be fair
In recruitment for Papua New Guinea Defence Force
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 November 2017
First published in the National, Monday 30 October 2017

It would be better if New Zealand and Australian defence forces would conduct recruitment for Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) so everything is fair.
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) is a small force numbering around 2500 personnel consisting of air, sea and land elements.
The recruitment team has failed and there is a lot of nepotism involved in hiring of new soldiers.
If the training depot only caters for 150 recruits, then enlist among the 22 provinces.
My appeal to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) administration is to find better ways of recruitment.
It is important for our security purposes.
We must be honest in our work.

Frustrated ,
Goldie River,
Papua New Guinea


 

Call for Papua New Guinea's Labour Department
To explain their roles
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 November 2017
First published in the National, Monday 30 November 2017

Every now and then employees are abused, assaulted, underpaid, have their contracts breached, suffer accidents during working hours, get a pay cut, are not paid their finish entitlements, do not contribute to a superannuation fund, or are wrongfully suspended or terminated by their supervisors or employers.
They go to the Labour Department for assistance knowing that that it is a neutral Government department that knows all the policies.
It can say whether the employee/employer is right or wrong and then recommend on how best the issue can be solved.
Unfortunately, the process of waiting and follow-ups can take years.
From my observation, in the ongoing follow-up process, I see new clients coming after me and already being served.
I wonder what criteria the department follows.
Being a victim myself with my employer, I lodged my complaint in July 2016 (same time), and am still being told by them to follow up.
I am still doing the same currently. I would like someone from the elite public or the Labour Department to explain their roles and the kind of processes to handle clients’ cases.
How long it takes to work on a case?
Who should handle the case when Labour cannot do so?

FS,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



 

Proposal to turn bullet ridden Marawi City
Into a museum of ruins rejected
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 November 2017
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Friday 27 October 2017

The plan for the Marawi rubble of architect Felino Palafox Jr., who was quoted as saying that “the damaged buildings can be retained, especially those full of bullet holes, as a lesson for the future on how terrorism can destroy a peaceful city” in “Cost of war,” Property, 21 October 2017 is absurd, insensitive or even inhuman.
The Maranao have been suffering long enough to be constantly reminded of a recent horrible and bitter past.
All the Maranao need right now are the government’s sincerity and mercy to help them get back to a normal and peaceful life.
The stigma of the siege is incomprehensible to the Maranao, who do not
need a city-wide museum of ruins as a “Great Reminder.” Palafox should be a Maranao to have truly felt and experienced the full physical, social, cultural and psychological brunt of the siege.
Certainly, he has rubbed salt on a cultural injury.
His flight of imagination can further fuel violent extremism and terrorism and can deter the psycho-social rehabilitation of affected people who are the true losers in this Marawi siege.
The government should rethink its decision to tap Palafox in the comprehensive rehabilitation of Marawi.

Sittie Mariam Macapoon,
Manila,
Philippines



Marawi- the only Islamic city in the Philippines
Has been stripped of its rightful owners
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 November 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 28 October 2017

We, the League of Filipino Students Northern Mindanao, vehemently condemn the lies of US Defense Chief James Mattis regarding Marawi.
Clearly, the statement comes from an eagle-like predator preying on its victims from afar.
Numerous human rights violations are accounted all throughout the war in Marawi and even more undeclared abuses are being perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the direct orders of the United States.
Mattis stated in the two-day Asean Defense Ministers’ Meeting: “Here’s an army that had to go in a fight like that, and they had not one human rights allegation against them with any credibility.”
Either he is blind and deaf to the real situation of the Maranao in Marawi or this is a deliberate act of disregard for human rights.
The report of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission last July 26-28 stated: “Karapatan was able to record at least three extrajudicial killings, five cases of torture and two enforced disappearances. These are heavy cases on top of massive documentations of threat, harassment, intimidation, and previously recorded destruction of properties and aerial bombardment.”
One case highlighted is the illegal arrest and detention of mechanic Lala Arafat on July 23, 2017.
Arafat was a known leader in an evacuation center in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.
A man approached him feigning to have his motorcycle fixed and a few minutes later, he was arrested by the police.
Days later, the media reported that he is a member of the Islamic State (IS). As of today, the location of Arafat is still unknown to his wife and family.
Another case of arrest, detention, and torture is of a 36-year-old and his two sons. They were picked up by the military inside the evacuation center and were forced to admit that they are members of IS—all while handcuffed and with candle wax dripped on them.
These are just few of the real cases and stories of human rights violations during the war in Marawi.
Mattis made pure, grave lies to cover up what really happened during the war in Marawi. Clearly, he was trying to paint a glossy picture over the atrocious reality.
They have bombed the only Islamic city in the Philippines and slaughtered our people.
All for the entry of big corporations and foreign companies eyeing to expand their business, as well as paving the way for a military reservation.
The only Islamic city left in the country is being stripped off the hands of its rightful owners - the Maranao and the people of Mindanao.
Up to this day, more or less 600,000 displaced people continually struggle to survive daily in the midst of uncertainty, lack of sufficient socioeconomic assistance from the government, ethnic discrimination, and a threat of extinction of their cultural and religious practices.
We vow to stand by the Moro people and the Maranao.
We vow to support their demand for rehabilitation and justice for the widespread death and destruction caused by the US-Duterte regime.
We call an end to martial law!

Kristine Cabardo,
Chair,
League of Filipino Students,
Northern Mindanao,
Philippines




China's financial assistance should not
Distract from dispute over West Philippine Sea

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 30 October 2017

As Justice George Malcolm put it: “To doubt is to sustain.”
As how I see it, this could be the very essence within which President Duterte’s independent foreign policy, vis-à-vis China, operates.
Just recently, it has been reported that aside from the P65-million assistance given by China to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it also gave additional humanitarian aid funds for the rehabilitation of Maute-Islamic State-stricken Marawi City.
Also, we cannot be remiss in accounting for all other previous financial assistance China has extended and popularly denominated as “soft loans.”
While these are good news, it is believed that these favors should not become a distraction for the Philippines’ claim over the West Philippine Sea, which was upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration more than a year ago.
What the Philippines can do in view of the status quo is to make the most out of the “outpouring” assistance and/or support of China.
While a warming nontraditional relation is emerging between the Philippines and China, the former should not forget to strike a balance among its neighbors and allies.
Consequently, President Duterte must always be mindful of his acts in order not to cause undue detriment or jeopardy of the Philippines’ existing relations with traditional/old allies such as the United States.
Sound foreign relations practiced by most progressive countries show and dictate that a good and independent foreign policy must be inclusive - not one that eliminates - to ensure optimum benefit of the state.
Finally, and more importantly, the Philippines must stay firm and unequivocal with its dealings with China.
In every transaction, the former should always put first the best interest of the state and prevent any act that would amount to a divestiture or cession of any of its rights to the latter.
This is because, at this point, we still don’t know and can’t validate China’s true intention toward the Philippines.
I can only hope that the current and succeeding administrations alike could concretize more unequivocal acts and relations, which are way beyond presumptions and suppositions. Indeed, what China would do as a manifestation of its acclaimed sincerity with its dealings with the Philippines is something no one but only time can tell.

Roberto Montoya,
Manila,
Philippines




Forget about regulations altogether
And let Malaysia's developers do as they please
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 October 2017
First published in the Star Tuesday 24 October 2017

It was reported in “DOE rejected developer’s application” in The Star, October 13 that “the developer’s application to build a residential project at the site of a massive landslide that took the lives of nine construction workers was rejected by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry”.
It was also reported that the Chief Minister of Penang said the “Penang
Commission of Inquiry will conduct a full and independent investigation to
determine the cause of the incident”,

"It was a construction site mishap", Lim insist.
Lim “added that until the commission issues its findings, the developer will be
blacklisted and will not be allowed to continue work”.

Whatever conclusion the investigation draws, it would seem that the developer
has been operating illegally, for which the owners or directors of the company
should be held accountable.
The fact that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry rejected the
developer’s application to build at the site means that, whatever the
commission’s findings, the developer should not be allowed to continue work.
Or am I missing something?
Hold accountable those found to be in breach of regulations. Alternatively,
forget about regulation altogether and let the developers do as they please.
Anything in between is merely a waste of time and money.

Confused,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



 

Proposed legislation for casino in Quezon City
Is a forgone conclusion
The Southeast Asian Times, October 2107
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Wednesday 25 October 2017

The disingenuous officials of the Quezon City government are at it again: Telling their constituents one thing and doing another.
In the October 20 Inquirer’s Metro report, the city council responded to an “open letter from concerned citizens” published on October 16, assuring QC residents that there is nothing to worry about the rumor that a humongous casino would soon rise in their midst.
Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, the presiding officer of the city council, said two things that discombobulated and made us wonder to what extent our city officials would go to hide the truth:
“There are no formal applications yet” for any casino operation in the city; and 2) The proposed ordinance - No. 20CC-247 -“was passed on second reading on Ocobert. 2, but would still be subject to another hearing… yet to be scheduled.”
Why on earth would there be any such “formal applications” or bids already if the ordinance permitting the establishment of a casino is still in the pipeline and not yet in the “market”?
Unless, of course, casino operators already know that the proposed legislation is a forgone conclusion, Belmonte and her PR people have got to really work harder on their communication skills.
Lame excuses or explanations like that insult the intelligence of QC residents.
But then again, what do they really know?
So the proposed ordinance was passed only on “second reading” and therefore still open for discussion in a “public hearing”?
Who is city hall kidding?
Recall only the “public hearings”
held in the past which were nothing but egregious exercises in futility.
They were just motions gone through on paper to meet the laughable requirements of the law.
For instance, those who attended the “public hearings” on the proposal to increase realty taxes in Quezon City were almost one in denouncing it as too burdensome and totally unnecessary because the city was awash with cash, outflanking even Makati City, which ranked a poor second to it in terms of income generated from taxes.
But what happened?
The city council passed that obnoxious ordinance anyway and the heck with public opinion!
It even dry-gulched senior citizens on its promise to grant a 20-percent discount if the real estate is still registered in their names!
Only those born yesterday would be clueless about what really is going on. Establishing a casino like those behemoths sprouting in Pasay City’s “entertainment center” is a mega-multibillion “marketable” deal. Just think how “capital-intensive” local elections in this country’s most populous city are. Get the picture?

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Loyola Heights,
Quezon City,
Philippines




The truth is that Philippine politicians are in it
For the money and influence
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 25 October 2017

If our politics is a garden, you would see butterflies changing their colors depending on the season.
In this country, politicians seem immune to embarrassment when they change political parties.
It is baloney to hear them say they entered politics because they wanted to serve the public. The truth is, they are there for the money and influence.
At least, for many of them.
They think they can take everybody for fools.
They switch political parties as if they are only changing neckties, depending on who is the tenant in Malacañang.
The current president, Rodrigo Duterte, carries the banner of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) so many want to be in this party.
In the early years, there were two main political parties: Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party (LP).
Now with the multiparty system, many of them go to where the side of the bread is buttered.
During the many years under Ferdinand Marcos as president, the majority were in the powerful Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
When Marcos went into exile in Hawaii and Corazon Aquino came to power, many became chameleons.
Fidel Ramos was partyless but wanted to run for president against Ramon Mitra, a close associate of Cory’s husband, former senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Ramos got the support of Cory; of course PDP-Laban members were furious.
Many thought Cory should have supported Mitra instead.
But just like in any drama, there was a twist.
Ramos was in need of a party so supporters founded one for him: Lakas-NUCD (National Union of Christian Democrats), a brainchild of his cabalen, Speaker Jose de Venecia. Those “furious” PDP members switched their loyalty to Ramos.
Then came Joseph “Erap” Estrada.
From the vice presidency, he was catapulted to the presidency under the Partido ng Masang Pilipino.
Many jumped ship and wanted to be identified with Erap.
Erap was ousted by Edsa II and was succeeded by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who stayed in Malacañang until 2010. Arroyo’s party was the Lakas Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino).
More than two-thirds of those in Congress sided with Arroyo.
When Arroyo’s administration ended, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III became president.
The outpouring of sympathy of the people was translated into votes for Cory’s son despite LP being a small party then. It only grew when Noynoy won the presidency.
Meanwhile, PDP-Laban has recently served notice that it will impose a cut-off in accepting members after many politicians—big and small—wanted to join.
The reason is obvious.
Can our country move forward with this kind of “leaders” we have in our midst?

Max L. Sangil,
Manila,
Philippines



Thailand is better off
With a military government
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 24 October 2017

Robin Grant should not be too quick to criticise Clara Holzer's remarks, ending
with, "there are none so blind as those who will not see".
Bangkok is not burning, there are no provincial seizures.
The streets are indeed a bit safer, there is no government sponsored religious persecution, and things are getting done.
Thailand is far better off with this military government, run by, yes, generals
in key posts, than neighbouring countries. No, the present government is far
from perfect.
Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda spends our money on nonsense like the
proverbial "drunken sailor on a spree".
The Red Bull scion is still enjoying life overseas, and, yes, people are tried
in military courts with no method of appeal.
Yes, some news stories in print carry the final line with, "edited to comply
with lese majeste regulations".

However, for all his faults, the prime minister is for the country as a whole,
not raking in profit for his personal financial or political gain.
If Khun Robin gives us a proverb, perhaps I should return the courtesy: Beauty
is in the eye of the beholder.
Clara Holzer, like myself, sees the good things, perhaps along with not only the
bad.

Buttercup,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Senator De Lima’s prolonged persecution and detention
Affirms travesty of justice under Philipine president Deterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 October 2017

The decision by the Supreme Court last October 10 to uphold the arrest and detention of Sen. Leila de Lima worsens the already deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines.
De Lima has been in detention at the police headquarters in Manila for nearly eight months on politically motivated charges.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed three cases against De Lima in February
for allegedly receiving bribes from accused drug lords incarcerated at the New
Bilibid Prison, for allegedly using the money to finance her campaign for the
Senate in 2016, and for allegedly violating the country’s antidrug trafficking
law.
The cases relied entirely on spurious testimonies from drug lords inside the
penitentiary under the DOJ, which De Lima previously headed.
In exchange for charges against them being dropped, these inmates became state’s witnesses and took turns testifying against De Lima during scandalous hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives late last year, alleging that she took money from the drug trade inside the prison.
But President Duterte specifically targeted De Lima in his political vendetta
because she initiated investigations into the summary killings in Davao City
when she was then Chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
She even presented in the Senate a former member of the so-called Davao Death
Squad who testified about killings directly ordered by Mr. Duterte and his
police force.
As senator, De Lima went on to expose the extrajudicial killings related to the “war on drugs” by Mr. Duterte.
As a result, she was removed as chair of the committee and her persecution and
demonization continued up to her arrest in February.
The Supreme Court’s decision this week prolongs De Lima’s persecution and
affirms this travesty of justice under Mr. Duterte.

Fr. Amado Picardal,
Convenor,
Network Against Killings in the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Thailand's lese majeste law designed to protect
The Chakri Dynasty from defamatory and unlawful criticisms
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 October 2017

The military government should reconsider the case in which two retired generals
filed lese majeste charge against Thailand's well-known academic and social
critic Sulak Sivaraksa for his comment about an elephant duel in Ayutthaya 400
years ago.
Historic events that happened such a long time ago should be open to questions
as well as reconsideration: since there are no living witnesses to verify such
events as truthful.
Furthermore, historic events that involved two countries should be accepted as
being based on facts by the living citizens of both countries - as well as
others.
Thailand's lese majeste law is widely perceived by people living in Thailand, as
well as the international community, as having been written to protect the royal
members of the Chakri Dynasty from defamatory and unlawful criticisms -
exclusive of any other dynasties in the country's ancient history.
Lastly, Arjahn Sulak is one of Thailand's most respectable elders.
Therefore, his critiques should be regarded as constructive and are meant to uplift our country's name - by way of constantly asking for the truth.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
To put their money where their mouth is
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 October 2017
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Saturday 14 October 2017

Whenever I hear and read news about the fervent advocacy of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on “human rights” and “upholding civil and political rights,” I can’t help but be reminded of the idiom “put your money where your mouth is.”
It couldn’t be more accurate on depicting how the CPP uses sugary words to deceive the Filipino people.
Being an “all talk, no action” group, I think it has no right to play human
rights champion for all of us because it, too, is a proven human rights violator.
For one, it keeps on reneging from its obligations under the Comprehensive
Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, i.e.,
not to involve noncombatants from armed conflicts.
This notwithstanding, it keeps on plundering and sowing terror in communities, which disrupt peace, order, and progress, especially of those located in far-flung areas.
Second, and which I consider as the most despicable of all, is it involves the
innocent and promising Filipino youth in the realization of its dastardly and
criminal objectives.
In a UN report released just recently, the New People’s Army (NPA), which happens to be the armed wing of the CPP, is still among those groups that have “not put in place measures… to improve the protection of children.”
I am convinced that the CPP-NPA is a wretched entity hiding under the cloth of
apparent and pretentious righteousness and principles. Indeed, if its members
seek the realization of the basic tenets and/or principles of “justice and
equity” or “equality,” which they are allegedly fighting for decades already,
they must stop all these stupidity, drop their arms like what the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front did, and sit down to discuss what could be done with their
sentiments with the government. If they are true to their words, they must
exhibit the willingness to declare a truce and stop waging armed conflicts.
It couldn’t be agreed more that it is only when the CPP’s lip service stops that
actionable and real peace negotiation starts.
With the escalating violence and contradictions manifested by the CPP-NPA, I
don’t know where on earth our government is getting its patience and tolerance.
Praying for a lasting peace for this nation,

Juan Paolo Galgo,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Thai elites
Object to minimum wage hike

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 October 2017

The statement by Labour Ministry inspector Viwat Jiraphanvanich in the October 9
report on how a minimum wage hike will hurt the economy clearly shows the
elitist disconnect within Thailand.
His defence analogy about how "high pricing" would destroy demand is a serious
distortion of reasoning.
His statement would mean then that minimum wage workers should only work "minimally" in alignment with the labour valuation, according to his logic.
The reality though is that people like him expect maximum work for minimum pay
which is a pricing structure contrary to consumerism. With consumerism, you
expect to get the "quality" you pay for.
I believe that the only way someone should be qualified to promote and develop
such social policies is through direct experience.
I challenge Mr Viwat to live for 90 days on the current minimum wage, then report and defend his position that there is no need to raise the minimum wage from real world experience, not elitist wishful thinking. Just having to get to work on the free bus every day might open his heart to the problems that institutional slavery creates.
To further state that higher minimum wages will drive away foreign investment
should be examined also.
If the only reason a company invests here is because of the exploitation of labour, then maybe their corporate model and philosophy is not needed.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines failure to create jobs
Means more drug users and pushers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday, 21 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 October 2017


While acknowledging the seriousness of our country’s drug problem, I maintain
with cogency that the bloody domestic war on drugs is not the only solution.
There are other viable alternatives available, in fact, more humane than killing
thousands of alleged drug users and pushers.
A paradigm shift is required away from the purported extrajudicial killings or drug-related violence, and the direction should be toward treatment and prevention.
As a suggestion, why not focus on supply and demand?
Demand creates its own supply.
This means that if there’s demand for drugs, there’s supply.
The national government’s drug policies and strategies are more motivated by
political interest and convenience rather than an understanding of the
complexity of demand and supply of drugs.
Drug kingpins probably made use of the demand and supply theory before conducting their business.
To know where the “demand” is, they have to have their demographic targets, determine who are their prospective clients, and keep a databank of their economic status, and education, among others.
The fact of the matter, in my view, is that the government is an “unwilling”
partner of drug lords in creating demand for drugs. Its failure to create job
opportunities for the unemployed may create more potential drug users and
pushers.
If people are unemployed, they will be enticed to engage in drug
business as pushers or users because the siren call of profits from the illegal
drug trade is alluring.
If the government promises treatment for drug dependents, rather than
incarceration or “death penalty,” they would be encouraged to yield and turn
over a new leaf because that would give them hope. The government should
establish drug rehabilitation centers in areas where there are drug dependents.
No amount of heavy-handed action like killing drug dependents will solve the
problem. We may as well look at alternatives as suggested. Remember, as long as
there is demand for illicit drugs, someone will provide the supply.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Asst. City Council Secretary,
Marikina City,
Philippines



Thai minimum wage hike
Has unintended consequences
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 October 2017

Re: "Minimum wage hike 'will hurt economy'," in Bangkok Post 9 October 2017.
I agree with the Labour Ministry that a minimum wage hike "would hurt" the
economy.
A minimum wage hike that politicians only care about to get votes does indeed have unintended consequences - that politicians don't care about once elected.
Here's an idea that both the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee and the Labour
Ministry may like.
MMTers proponents of Modern Monetary Theory suggest that the federal government should consider starting a transitional Job Guarantee (JG) programme that, here in Thailand, would pay 712 baht a day.
The idea behind the federal government providing a job to anyone unemployed is that it acts as a wage level "floor", or "buffer", which can be adjusted like an interest rate target set by the central ban.
It prevents any unemployed person from suffering through long periods of unemployment which hurts their chances of ever getting employed again; it could pay the unemployed to continue education, or to attend training, or perhaps even getting some kind of vocational certification.
In addition to the federal government acting as "lender of last resort"
monetary policy-making and "spender of last resort" fiscal policy-making, a
JG programme would also make the federal government "employer of last resort", which complements the central bank's price stability mandate and eliminates the politics of, and the need for, a minimum wage.

Eddie Delzio,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Armchair predictions following Thai King's death
Have proved groundless
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 October 2017

Re: "Royal transition explains military's grip", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, October 13
Thitinan Pongsudhirak's account of the 2014 coup, produced by the then-looming
royal transition and the utter selfishness of the Yingluck administration, is
indeed first class.
All of the armchair predictions about political and social chaos in the kingdom following the late King's death have proved groundless, largely thanks to the sure hand of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.
While military coups inevitably have their downside - power, once tasted, is
difficult to abandon and corruption exists universally - the history books will
likely be even-handed to the current prime minister.
He has achieved what most commentators had thought impossible, namely to steer Thailand through its most difficult political era since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

Barry Kenyon,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for the Malaysian Federal and State Governments
To review the Syariah Offences Acts and Enactments
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 October 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 12 October 2017

We, the members of G25, wholeheartedly support the stance taken by the Malay
Rulers in condemning the actions of individuals and groups who, in the name of
Islam, put the harmony that exists among Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multiracial
society at risk.
The actions by these individuals and groups reflect an ever-increasing move away
from a moderate Islam and a moderate Malaysia, contradicting the Government’s
international stance.
Indeed, these actions by the extremist few pose a very serious threat to peace, harmony and stability in our beloved nation and must be nipped in the bud right now.
Members of G25 are proud to have the Malay Rulers who stand united as leaders
against the extremism that is spreading in our country.
We are so thankful that our Rulers have not remained silent.
They have taken a crucial leadership role both in protecting the good name of Islam and to safeguard not only racial harmony but also against an existential threat to the nation.
We once again call on the Government to take a clear and firm stand against and
to urgently and decisively put a stop to the rise of religious extremism,
intolerance and bigotry not only among individuals and groups but also within
the religious enforcement agencies and the independent preachers.
We are concerned by the ambiguity of certain Syariah criminal laws and the lack
of accountability of religious institutions and authorities.
The time is opportune for the Federal and State Governments to review the Syariah Offences Acts and Enactments which give religious authorities broad powers and which are seriously lacking in clear definitions and can be abused and, indeed, have been abused.
The Federal and State governments need to urgently monitor their respective
religious departments to ensure that they do not abuse their powers and
perpetrate injustice.
Those who are guilty of abusing their powers must be held accountable.
Above all, religion comes under the purview of the Malay Rulers and this is
clearly spelt out in the Federal Constitution, and clearly the supremacy of the
Federal Constitution and the rights of the Malay Rulers must be upheld and any
previous transgressions be put right.
As religion comes under the Malay Rulers, it is also important that administrative support for the Conference of Rulers and individual Malay Rulers to be strengthened in order to restore confidence in the Syariah system of law as one which is just and not arbitrary and selective, and not be politicised.
Action also needs to be taken against those who promote hatred, mischief and
disunity. In our efforts to progress from a developing nation, it is indeed a
sad day when hate speech, bigotry and discrimination can take place with
impunity, thus encouraging offenders to influence others.
This attitude of racial and religious supremacy is not only divisive but will also have a negative impact on the social, economic and political stability of the country.
The whole nation needs to come together, from the Government to the people, to
promote unity and harmony through a renewed commitment to the principles and
spirit of the Rukunegara and the Federal Constitution in the workplace, schools,
communities and in the home.
The reputation of our country and of Islam as champions of moderation, respect and tolerance is at stake, as is the peace and unity of our people.
The diversity of our nation is our strength and our bond.
We urge all Malaysians who want to live in a nation where our differences are celebrated to join us in our call for a more tolerant, respectful and inclusive society. Let not our voices of moderation be drowned by those of the few.
The Rulers have spoken. Let us as citizens give our wholehearted support in
words and action.

G25 Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Gun control in Thailand
Will not prevent crime
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 October 2017

The planned arms control measure which targets foreigners will not help prevent
gun crime in Thailand.
A number of Thais possess various types of guns without a licence and so many of them are from illegal origin.
The authorities should keep . a close watch on local people, not foreigners.

R H. Suga,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Philippines is a state party to the International Convention
For the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday h16 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 14 October 2017

Please allow me to give my two cents’ worth on the matter of countering
terrorism in the Philippines.
I believe that addressing terrorism, including other acts involving violent
extremism and rebellion, is not just a matter of military operations and
prosecution of perpetrators under the Human Security Act of 2007.
It is also about looking into financing as a vital aspect of a good case management
framework.
While amendments to broaden the coverage and application of the Human Security
Act, as well as the institutionalization of a national ID system and SIM card
registration, are promising measures to counter terrorism, the defense sector
and the military should also consider cooperative or interagency measures to
implement our existing antiterrorism financing laws.
A major blow that could incapacitate, if not eradicate, any terrorist group is
to cut off its life support, i.e., resources or funds that sustain its unlawful
operations.
This would surely deprive the very means for which these entities are able to organize massive recruitments and purchase top-caliber weapons that
enable them to put up resistance against our military troops.
The Philippines has long recognized this fact, as manifested by its being a state party to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and a participant to other related UN programs and initiatives. Consequently, in keeping with its undertakings therein, the Philippines enacted the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.
Among the unlawful activities covered and addressed under the Anti-Money
Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, are: 1) terrorism and conspiracy to commit
terrorism as defined and penalized under Sections 3 and 4 of the Human Security
Act of 2007; and 2) financing of terrorism under Section 4 and offenses
punishable under Sections 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Terrorism Financing Prevention
and Suppression Act of 2012.
On the other hand, the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of
2012 has a provision on punishing “financing terrorism,” which pertains to the
possession, provision, collection or utilization of property or funds, or making
available property, funds, financial service or other related services, by any
person to carry out or facilitate the commission of any terrorist act by a
terrorist organization, association, group, or individual.
It is submitted that by looking into these laws and reconciling them with
existing legal processes and measures, our defense sector could come up with a
more holistic and encompassing approach to terrorism resolution.
It could also pave the way for new partnerships and increased cooperation among banking and financial institutions, community stakeholders, and other civil society
organizations.
In the face of current atrocities brought forth by existing and emerging
terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State-inspired Maute group, Bangsamoro
Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, and New People’s Army, it wouldn’t hurt
for our government to look at the flipside.

Adelaida Cabaddu,
Manila,
Philippines



 

Malaysia shows commitment towards
A nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian TImes, Sunday 15 October 2017
First published in the Star, Tuesday 10 October 2017

Citizens International congratulates the Malaysian Government on becoming a
signatory of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United
Nations in late September.
The passing of this treaty should be lauded as a solid step towards the complete
elimination of nuclear weapons.
Thus, we implore the Malaysian Government to ratify this treaty in working towards maintaining world peace without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
As party to the Treaty of Bangkok, Malaysia has shown its commitment towards
maintaining a nuclear-weapon-free zone in South-East Asia.
We invite the Malaysian Government to raise this matter of profound concern to other Asean members, and to support and encourage the signing and ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever developed,
posing a legitimate threat to the environment and human survival.
The process of developing nuclear weapons alone emanates high risk of catastrophes including contamination of food and water sources, deformation in foetuses, fatal diseases, famine and climate disruption, all of which will drastically worsen in the event of detonation.
Although deterrence is often used as a pretext for acquiring and developing
nuclear weapons, our society is not capable of addressing the humanitarian
crisis and providing adequate relief to victims in the aftermath of nuclear
disaster.
Hence, it is imperative that the international community prioritises human interest and cooperates to completely eliminate all forms of nuclear weapons to safeguard public resources, maintain positive socio-economic development and protect the health of future generations.
We encourage people to support the ratification of this treaty to ensure
peaceful coexistence on this increasingly interconnected planet.
We must allow the devastating consequences of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Chernobyl explosion to inform our attitude towards nuclear weapons as those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

S. M. Mohamed Idris,
Chairman,
Citizens International
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for Filipinos too purchase
Locally manufactured steel
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 October 2017

We thank Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) for taking up the cudgels for the local steel manufacturers in our fight against substandard imported steel, Support local steel industry,” Philippine Inquirer 20 September 2017.
Indeed, the quality of imported steel is a major concern for the government because substandard ones jeopardize the safety of the public.
As the government carries out its mandate to ensure the quality and safety of imported materials, rebar included, we would like to share relevant information to help the buying public be more aware of standards related to quality rebar.
Unlike imported rebar, locally manufactured ones undergo stringent testing to ensure that their quality adhere to the Philippine National Standards (PNS) set for a seismic region such as the Philippines.
The first sign of quality is the logo stamped on each rebar.
The website of the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) carries a list of approved logos—meaning, these manufacturers have been green-lighted by BPS to sell rebar.
Hardware stores and other resellers would also have posters of these logos displayed in their areas.
Other telling signs of quality are not readily visible to the naked eye and the consumer would have to physically examine the rebar.
First, there is the issue of underweight or undersized rebar.
There are imported rebar that are sold as a size or grade higher than their actual specification.
When buying rebar, the customer may ask the supplier eg. the hardware store to weigh the rebar and check the figures against the tags.
Quality rebar are also not easily bent with just one’s bare hands.
PNS dictates that rebar pass mechanical and chemical tests that assure consumers that the rebar will withstand a certain level of stress eg. tremors during earthquakes.
While the consumer ought to consider locally manufactured rebar over its imported counterpart owing to safety and quality issues, the choice between these two is also a matter of national importance.
Locally manufactured rebar equals more jobs for our countrymen.
SteelAsia alone has around 3,000 direct hires and 15,000 more are employed in support industries.
Filipino investors who pour money into local production facilities also contribute to the development of the country’s very own industrial sector.
Indeed, locally manufactured steel produced through the most modern technology and passing the highest standards of quality is the Filipino consumer’s best
choice.

MA. Teresal, Pacis,
AVP,
Corporate communication,
SteelAsia,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Conference of Malay Rulers
Call for moderation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 October 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 12 October 2017

I refer to the report “Unity first, say Rulers” in The Star, October 11.
In view of the recent cases of bigotry and extremism, it is an absolute relief that our
beloved Rulers have come out to state clearly that, among others, Malaysia is a
multireligious and multiracial nation.
The Rulers have also reminded us to abide by the principles of the Federal
Constitution and the tenets of the Rukunegara, our national philosophy.
How many times do we have to be reminded that moderation is the way forward for our country?
Throughout our six decades of independence, we have been able to enjoy
continuous harmony and prosperity because we acted in accordance with the
principles of our Federal Constitution, which was drafted upon the understanding
that all citizens regardless of race, religion and culture would enjoy fairness
and justice.
Therefore, whatever we do, we must never go overboard in our thoughts and
actions.
Many countries have high regard for Malaysia because of the ability of its
people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds to live in harmony together.
Everyone has a place under the Malaysian sun as long as they work hard and with
integrity.
In fact, we always boast of our vibrant economy, the fruit of decades of
industrial growth and political stability as a result of close cooperation and
understanding among the people.
Surely, our Rulers’ call for moderation, tolerance and respect will resonate
among all Malaysians. We must respond positively to prevent extreme individuals
or groups from derailing our social and economic transformation programmes.
Daulat Tuanku!

Thomas Kok,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Filipinos recieve a Centenarian gift
On their 100th birthday
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 8 October 2017

We celebrate the annual Elderly Filipino Week on Oct. 1-7, with the first Sunday this month as “National Respect for Centenarians Day” pursuant to Republic Act No. 10868 or the Centenarians Act of 2016.
Under this law, any Filipino citizen who reaches the age of 100 years old shall be entitled to the “Centenarian gift” of P100,000 from the national government with a Certificate of Felicitation from the president and with corresponding cash incentives from and determined by the city or municipality where the elderly resides.
Thus, in line with this nationwide celebration, we, the senior citizens, would like to propose the following incentives for the consideration of the President and our lawmakers:
Section 4(c) of RA 9994, which grants to elderly persons “five percent discount on their water and electric bills provided the water consumption does not exceed 30 cubic meters and electric usage does not exceed 100 kWh” be amended to the effect that the discount should be applied to the first 30 cubic meters of water consumption and to the first 100 kWh electric usage. I already sent letters or proposed bills to our legislators and to date I have not yet received any action.
When an item is on “promo” authorized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the coupon or advertisement should not only state the “promo price” but shall also include the price if purchased by an elderly or senior citizen. This is so because there are times when the “promo price” is higher than what an elderly would get if he would apply his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount. Likewise, if the “promo” goes beyond the period allowed by the DTI, the “promo price” shall be treated as the regular price of the item on promo to which the elderly should be entitled to his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount.
The DTI should clearly emphasize that when a “promo” is not allowed by the DTI or the “promo” is a personal undertaking by the firm or establishment, the elderly shall still be entitled to his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount over and above the said promo price. The DTI should also stress that said discounts on “promo” should include the so-called “package promo” offered by hospitals, laboratory clinics, restaurants and similar establishments selling combination of items in special price offered to nonsenior citizens and the senior citizens at the same price.
The requirement that promotional discounts should be approved by the DTI is imperatively necessary, otherwise some dishonest firms would just say they are “on promo,” which will render naught and meaningless the purpose of the Senior Citizens Law.
And the same benefits should likewise be extended to persons with disability since they receive the same benefits enjoyed by Filipino senior citizens.

Romulo B. Macalintal,
Advocate for rights of senior citizens,
Las Piñas City,
Philippines



Rohingya in Malaysia
Receive distressing calls from relatives
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 October 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 2 October 2017

The atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in Myanmar in the
recent escalation of violence has caused much suffering to those there and the
Rohingya diaspora, many of whom are living in protracted displacement as
refugees and asylum seekers in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
The decades-long persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar has led to hundreds of
thousands fleeing Myanmar.
The latest wave of violence has affected the Rohingya in Malaysia, many of whom
continue to receive distressing reports of relatives who have been killed, are
missing or are struggling with hunger and exhaustion in their journey to safety.
Many have also lost contact with relatives and are gripped by anxiety.
Some community members have considered turning to human smugglers to help their
loved ones make the journey out of Myanmar, thereby increasing the risk of them
being trafficked.
For others, the feeling of relief after family members have crossed over to
Bangladesh is short lived, as they face distressing reports of the lack of
access to food, sanitation and shelter.
The Rohingya in Malaysia with families in Bangladesh and fleeing Myanmar to
Bangladesh are having their meagre resources depleted as they spend exorbitant
amounts of money to communicate with their loved ones and try to support their
flight from violence back home.
Additionally, their fears, uncertainties and dilemma, and the stress of having
to make difficult decisions that impact their lives here and the lives of those
in Rakhine State and Bangladesh have led to a community exhausting their
resources and reaching the end of their tether.
Community members report a deepening sense of helplessness, hopelessness and
desperation.
One community member reported that the only respite from her daily
anguish is the call from her family to communicate to her of their whereabouts.
She said: “Otherwise, what is there to hope? There is no hope.”
This sense of despair and stress exacerbate the distress of a vulnerable
population.
The traumatic preflight and flight conditions of the Rohingya in the
preceding years have resulted in acute and chronic health problems.
For others, the perilous journey has also resulted in post-traumatic stress
disorder and other mental health disorders.
Health Equity Initiatives is concerned about the heightened anxiety and stress
of the Rohingya in Malaysia that is caused by the violence in Rakhine State.
We call on the international community to condemn the human rights violations in
Myanmar and work to stop the atrocities in Myanmar.

Kuala Lumpur,
Malayalsia


Any definitive statement by ASEAN on the Rohingya
To be reached by consensus
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 October 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 4 October 2017

The Rohingya issue is a crisis that Asean is grappling with, both as an entity and as individual countries.
The crisis is worsening by the day.
Every state must define its position in accordance with its distinct geopolitical situation and within the context of the country’s values.
Any definitive statement by Asean must be reached via consensus.
The statement by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman gave voice to the sentiments of Malaysians, who are deeply concerned about the Rohingya and who are every day welcoming refugees from Rakhine State as their brothers and sisters.
The perspective of Malaysia on this issue must be given weight proportionate to the nation’s engagement with the crisis, which is greater than any other Asean member state.
Malaysians reject any attempt to obscure the reality of what is taking place, and no one is better positioned to know this reality than the Rohingya themselves.
We applaud the minister for his bravery and honesty, and for affirming the sovereignty of Malaysia in defining the correct narrative on the violence in Rakhine State.

Azril Mohd Amin,
Chief executive,
Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Millions of Philippine fishers and coastal settlers
Threatened by land reclaimation projects
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 October 2017

We, the small fisherfolk under the banner of Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Roy Cimatu as secretary to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Cimatu has completely aborted the positive gestures of his predecessor Gina Lopez in the environment department, particularly Lopez’s stand against land reclamation projects because of its disastrous effects to the environment and the people’s livelihood.
Contrary to Lopez, who refrained from issuing environmental compliance certificates to reclamation projects, Cimatu in one interview said that he will allow reclamation activities to proceed for it is “allowed by the law.”
With more than 100 reclamation projects covering almost 40,000 hectares of fishing waters approved throughout the archipelago, millions of fisherfolk and coastal settlers are under the threat of widespread community displacement in exchange for eco-tourism hub, commercial business districts, and even government projects that only benefit the private sector.
Reclamation not only threatens the people’s socio-economic rights, it also poses serious damage and destruction to abundant marine resources such as seabed, corals, and mangrove areas resulting to ecosystem imbalance and reduction of marine productivity. Such activity has been legalized by the Philippine Reclamation Authority, an attached agency of the DENR, through the crafting of the National Reclamation Plan.
We fear that keeping Cimatu in his position would expedite the completion of all reclamation projects, and will effectively wipe out productive fishing communities and millions of hardworking fisherfolk from the Philippine map, like what happened to more than 6,000 fishing families in 2002 upon construction of the Entertainment City project in Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard in Parañaque City.
Cimatu is bringing back the traditional orientation of the DENR as the number one facilitator of destructive projects at the cost of the environment and the welfare of the people.
As a known corrupt former military general who was also a notorious defender of environmental plunderers, Cimatu is morally and politically not suitable to head the environment department.
Instead, we want no less than the likes of Gina Lopez in order to continue the positive reforms on the environment that are also beneficial to the Filipino people.

Fernando Hicap,
National Chair,
Pamalakaya-Pilipinas,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for governments to address climate change
At United Nations climate summit in Germany
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday 8 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer 4 October 2017

News of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the US were hard to ignore.
The devastating impacts of these hurricanes hit me deeply and resonated with my memories and experiences.
On this side of the world, in 2013, we endured the most intense storm to ever make landfall in recorded human history when Haiyan or Yolanda as we called it struck the Philippines.
It’s not a coincidence that many of the most powerful storms in history have happened recently.
We are seeing these storms because of climate change - global warming means higher sea surface temperature which means more powerful storms.
Climate change is not a natural phenomenon.
It’s the predictable result of emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a massive scale.
And one of the biggest causes of these emissions is energy production.
This is what is doubly heartbreaking in the Philippines.
Our energy system is based on burning coal, oil, and gas.
These technologies have been around for hundreds of years but still, almost 20 percent of people living in rural areas don’t have access to electricity.
This poverty makes us even more vulnerable to super storms.
We know that coal, oil, and gas are driving climate change, contributing not just to super storms but to drought, crop damage, and ocean acidification, too.
And we know that these old systems of energy production don’t actually deliver for millions in the Philippines and almost 3 billion worldwide.
That’s why this October, we’ve joined with other organizations in Asia and across the world to push forward an initiative called Reclaim Power.
Reclaim Power is a catalyst for organizations, which don’t normally think about “climate change” or “energy,” to take action and highlight the urgent need for a transformation of our energy systems.
There is already abundant technology that can provide energy to all without burning the planet.
What is needed is a shift in the systems we use to deliver that energy.
We need to direct public (and private) finance and subsidies to encourage 100 percent renewable and clean energy instead of giving handouts to dirty energy companies.
We need to ensure community and public control of our energy systems to ensure that people’s access is prioritized over profit.
And we need to ensure that local and long-term sustainability is considered. Substituting food crops to grow biofuel or flooding the Amazon forest to make a mega dam is not a real solution to climate change or lack of energy access!
To drive this message home to our governments, we are planning over 500 actions across the world, on every continent.
We will create a wave of pressure on our governments before the UN climate summit in Germany in November.
We will host public education events and protest actions in India and in the Philippines, justice caravans in Kenya, memorials in Bolivia, occupations in England, some good old-fashioned tweeting at the World Bank in Washington, and many other actions in many countries across the globe.
All of these show that not only hurricanes can super-charge climate change, but that movements can, too.
People are rising across the world to say our energy systems are broken and that we know how to fix them. I hope you will join us. I know our governments are starting to listen.

Lidy Nacpil,
Manila,
Philippines



Critical thinking remains the best-known antidote
For gullibility
The Southeast Asian TImes, Saturday 7 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 3 October 2017

Gideon Lasco wrote an interesting piece in his September 28 column on Filipino gullibility, citing as one example the recent gathering of thousands at the UP Los Baños Freedom Park to collect their promised share of the Marcos loot, but not before they shelled out P30 each for a pamphlet that extolled the virtues of late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Other examples of gullibility cited were the pyramid scams, and false and misleading testimonials and advertisements for medicines that do not work (notice how the annotator rushes through, like an express train, that part where the manufacturer disclaims any therapeutic value of their product like they don’t want you to hear it?). Don’t forget the rush of get-rich-quick scams.
To be fair, however, Lasco stated that the malady affects citizens of other countries as well.
One example of gullibility that Lasco failed to mention, however, is the myth of religion and the gullibility of millions of believers.
Hypocrites hide behind the cloak of religion: Imelda Marcos on her knees in Quiapo church as if saying ‘I believe in god, hence I am not guilty of stealing’;
Manny Pacquiao, in a recent incident with a couple of ladies in social media suggesting improper behavior, saying it was done with no malice (His proof? “I fear God.”);
John Paul Solano, the principal suspect in the death of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo, clutching a large crucifix hanging from his neck, purposely holding it up for all to see while he was being interviewed on television.
So, those who believe cannot be evil?
What does that make of the doubters?
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, our ancestors worshipped the sun, moon, stars, earth, trees and rivers; things that gave them light, nourishment and life.
The tragedy occurred when Spanish priests and conquistadores came to our islands and introduced Christianity with their yarn of an invisible man living in the sky who loves you but if you do not love him back, off you go to hell.
Don’t forget the priests, too, who came with their DNA!
Lasco is right: critical thinking remains the best-known antidote for gullibility.

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,
Manila,
Philippines



God bless Japan
And it’s people.
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 October 2017
First published in the Japan Times, Friday 29 September 2017

I was on holiday with family in Japan and on Sepembert 24 I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome. When I was praying for peace and choked with emotion at the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims, my kids who were quite restless in the heat found a much-needed light blue Alice in Wonderland umbrella hanging from my backpack!
It was definitely not mine; some really very kind person must have seen the agony my kids were in and put it in my backpack silently so that I could use it for them.
So adorable and how thoughtful and kind.
To that noble person, I’m indebted to you. Arigato from the bottom of my heart. At the place where such a terrible disaster happened, you gave the message of love, kindness and hope. My kids and I learned lot from you … humanity and kindness.
God bless Japan and it’s lovely people.

Monica Munial,
Canberra,
Australia



Thailand has not gone from bad to worse
Under martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 October 2017

In his September 30 comment, Kong Rithdee said: "But still, history tells us that
when a prime minister has been driven out, the country has gone from bad to
worse, from one uncertainty to more uncertainties…"

Perhaps in the past.
Actually Thailand has not gone from bad to worse, but bad to much better than it was before.
At least there are less uncertainties, less corruption, and hopefully, it will get better and better, the longer Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remains.
Sure, lots of reforms are a long way off, but they were a longer way off with
those past prime ministers who focussed on themselves rather than focusing on
the country.
If Prayut is quite a benevolent dictator in many ways.
Thailand could have had a Hun Sen, a Suu Kyi, (talk about wishy-washy indecisiveness), or even, someone akin to that blob who rules his personal fiefdom called North Korea.

Devilish Mango,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Imprisonment of former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Could have led to civil war
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 October 2017

I would venture to suggest the disappearance of Yingluck Shinawatra to avoid a
jail sentence does not fit in the same category as other examples of criminals
escaping justice in the Land of Smiles.
Whether she is guilty or not is surely irrelevant.
The reality has become clear that to imprison such a personable and inoffensive
lady who enjoys, rightly or wrongly, the passionate support of at least half the
population would have been an act of folly that would have invited divisions
that could have led to unintended consequences, including civil strife and even
civil war.
Frankly, I would hope that all people concerned would appreciate that Yingluck's
departure, from a pragmatic point of view, is by far the best outcome and should
be gratefully accepted as such!

Tony Ash,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for law to make public health
Accessible and available to Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 October 2017

We write to express our earnest support on the passage of House Bill 2475 or “An Act Prohibiting the Privatization of Public Hospitals, Public Health Facilities, and Public Health Services” filed by Bayan Muna party list and the rest of the Makabayan bloc in Congress.
The bill is important in a country: where hospitalization in the Philippines can cost three months’ worth of a worker’s wage; where six out of 10 patients die without ever seeing a doctor; where scores of patients have to line up before the break of dawn in the out-patient department of public hospitals only to be told that the limited slot for charity has already been filled up; where preventable and curable diseases continue to top the leading causes of morbidity and mortality; where it is virtually impossible for people from far-flung areas to consult a health worker because no public health facilities are present and transportation to the “nearest” hospital or clinic is worth a week’s income; or where the sick could hardly get the treatment they need because of user and service fees; and where public healthcare becomes a commodity with a price tag for every service.
The dismal public healthcare service is further aggravated by the continuing adherence of the government to the policy of privatization and corporatization of public hospitals and health facilities.
No less than Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial declared that at least 33 of the 72 public hospitals will be corporatized to gain financial autonomy.
The National Center for Mental Health will be sold and transferred to Rosario, Cavite; Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital will be transferred and corporatized. Even without any legal basis, government hospitals like Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and Corazon Locsin Montelibano Medical Center have increased fees making it unaffordable for the poor.
Thus, it is high time to pass a law that will make public healthcare more accessible and available to the people and make it illegal to make business out of health in public hospitals, public health facilities, and public health services; that will ensure a public healthcare system fueled by government fund and not indebted to any profit-making entity.
The passage of HB 2475 will bring the Filipino people closer to the healthcare system they truly deserve - free healthcare services in a unified public health system. Under such system, the government assumes full responsibility in the provision of free health services to all people, and provides essential medicines for free. From the national level down to the smallest unit, the government shall ensure adequate funds and resources are allocated using only public money.
The exclusive utilization of public funds for public health facilities will guarantee that healthcare is provided for free and will never be profit-driven or used for income generation at the expense of patients.

Eleanor A. Jara MD.,
Coconvenor,
Coalition for People’s Right to Health,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Laos accused of lacking protection
For foreign investoers
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 October 2017
First published in the Vientiane Times, Monday 18 September 2017

Re: “Laos prevails in Hongsa power plant court case”, in Vientiane Times, The
Nation,
Monday September 18.
The Lao Ministry of Planning and Investments presents a completely false picture
of the facts and legal status of the arbitration, according to the claimant,
Thai-Lao Lignite Company Limited (TLL), a company of Thailand’s Nganthavee
Group.Thai-Lao Lignite discovered the lignite mine and was awarded a mining concession from the Lao government’s Foreign Investment Management Committee in 1992 and a second power concession in 1994.
The Nganthavee Group was in the process of developing the project and, in 2005, entered into a joint venture with Banpu Plc.
After TLL terminated Banpu in August 2006, the contract required the project to
revert solely to TLL. Instead, Laos terminated both contracts with TLL in
October 2006 and awarded the deal to Banpu in a no-bid concession in December
2006.
TLL presented evidence that Banpu used confidential documents and information
invested in and developed by TLL.
The Lao government statement quoted by your newspaper falsely states “the
government, therefore, was compelled to terminate the project concessions in
2007” (the year was 2006) and also further falsely says that Laos requested
proposals from “other potential contenders”, when the truth is that the deal was
quickly given to Banpu.
In 2007, according to the 1994 contract, TLL filed for arbitration against the
Lao government and, in November 2009, won the case and was awarded $56 million – not $25 million, as the report incorrectly claims.
The report correctly admits that “the Lao government refused the enforcement of the” award and refused to pay even $1.
The report says that it “requested the Malaysian court, where the arbiter was
seated, to set aside’ the award in 2013”.

This would have been years after the award was issued in TLL’s favour and far beyond the 90-day statute of limitations contained in the Malaysian Arbitration Act. Nevertheless, the Malaysian court improperly allowed the Lao government to proceed and ruled that TLL had to file two separate arbitration cases for the mining and power agreements, rather than combining them.
It did not rule on the merits.Laos then incorrectly states that the Malaysian court’s 2017 ruling brought “the long case to an end, with a clear and important victory for the Lao government”.
In fact, the Malaysian courts made a purely procedural ruling and never
adjudicated the substantive issue at the arbitration, which was Laos’ illegal
termination of TLL’s concession and award of the deal to Banpu.
TLL has hired a new legal team and is presently filing new arbitrations,
litigations and other proceedings against Laos.
The case is not over and only has to be refiled.
Far from being “a clear and important victory”, Laos’ actions during the 11-year period from 2006-2017 show its lack of protection for foreign investors and
consistent refusal to pay arbitration awards against it, despite Laos being a
signatory of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign
Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).
On June 29, the latest US State Department 2017 Investment Climate Statement
about Laos said: “Investors report that corruption at all levels of the public
sector and government administration remains a major concern.”

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the
country 160th out of 176 countries.
Sanum Investments in Singapore is another example of the Lao government’s
expropriation and refusal to pay, as is the infamous Gem Mining (“Danes”) case.
It has never honoured or paid an award or judgement made against it.
Even worse is that the Lao government profited financially from the termination
of TLL and delivering the project to TLL’s partner, Banpu. Under TLL’s
contracts, Laos was prohibited from owning shares in the Hongsa project.
But this time the Lao government required Banpu to give it a big share after taking
the project away from TLL.
According to the website of Hongsa Plc, www.hongsapower.com, the hareholders
are Banpu Power Plc (BPP) with 40 per cent, RH International (Singapore)
Corporation Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding
Plc (RATCH) with 40 per cent, and Lao Holding State Enterprise (LHSE) with 20
per cent. Thus, Laos gained 20 per cent of a $3.5-billion project, or Bt23
billion, from its illegal acts.
Now that the extent of the damages to TLL are more clearly shown by Ratchburi’s
recently announced doubling the size of the project and Banpu Power’s IPO, TLL
is confident that the future proceedings will be able to award the correct level
of damages to the plaintiff.

Nganthavee Group
Thai-Lao Lignite,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Call for construction of railway
From Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 September 2017

It is good news that the railway project that links Bangkok and Nakhon
Ratchasima is moving ahead in November in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 September.
But there is one curious question: If the railway is meant to link the Sino-Lao-Thai railway system in order to increase the flow of traffic between China and Thailand, why don't we build the Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima line first?
If so, Chinese tourists can come down through Laos and open up the unexplored
tourism industry for the great Isan area, not to mention that many Isan goods,
especially agricultural products, can become competitive by travelling via the
new rail line to China.
Instead of shunting the Isan region which is widely believed by the regime to be
the political base of their opposition, it should build up credit among the
people there by implementing solid projects that can enhance the region's
economy, not the other way round.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Thailand
To get worked over
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 September 2017
First published in the Nation, Wednesday 27 September 2017

Re: “Premier’s US itinerary confirmed amid human-rights concerns affecting Thailand”, The Nation, Tuesday 26 September 2017.
Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Susan Thornton
said “the US wanted Thailand to crack down on North Korean companies in the Kingdom as well as put pressure on its diplomatic mission”.
They will pressure the good general to do more to stifle North Korean business
in Thailand.
If he does not agree, the US will threaten trade sanctions.
The problem with being the all-powerful leader is that Trump can ask him to do
things knowing that Prayut need not to worry about a parliament or Thai public
opinion. Prayut’s desperation for recognition will be used against him.
He is going to get worked over.

Yellowboat,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Rankhin conflict in Myanmar
Beyond the blame game
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 September 2017
First Published in the Myanmar Times, Monday 25 September 2017

Coverage of the Rakhine crisis in The Myanmar Times since 25 August has diverged substantially from that of the international media.
I have, however, been somewhat reassured to read editorials in your paper such as “Rakhine conflict: beyond the blame game” in 15 September Myanmar Times and “Rakhine situation: fact versus fiction” in 22 September Myanmar Times.
These editorials urge a balanced, research-based approach to reporting on the crisis which is clearly welcome and required.
I was therefore aghast after turning to page 7 of Friday’s Myanmar Times edition and reading the opinion piece by Daw Khin Thidar Aye titled “Truth about Rakhine will prevail”.
The piece almost entirely comprises dangerous contentions which are not supported by a shred of evidence.
To give but five examples:
“The world is being deceived by fake news and biased analysis of the conflict in Rakhine State.” “As a result, international policy and investment are supporting the villains and fertilizing terrorist breeding grounds.” “The mainstream media is exaggerating the exodus of Bengalis from Myanmar to Bangladesh”. “ARSA terrorists have burned tens of thousands of houses to the ground, driving their own people to the other side of the border. Meanwhile moderate Bengalis are threatened and forced to lie to the media that the human rights abuses and destruction were committed by security personnel.” “ARSA planted landmines in conflict zones”.
In “Rakhine conflict: beyond the blame game,” your editorial team writes
“misinformation about the situation could have serious repercussions and cause further delays in humanitarian assistance”.
Daw Khin Thidar Aye has produced the most egregious example of misinformation that I have read in an edited publication since the escalation of the Rakhine conflict on 25 August.
I would hope, though I do not expect, that The Myanmar Times’ editorial team will
distance itself from this piece in Monday’s edition.
Rather it seems likely that I will choose to cancel my subscription, active since May 2014.
I will continue my subscription to the Global New Light of Myanmar.
It at least makes no secret of the fact that it is a government mouthpiece.

Name withheld by request
Sanchaung township,
Myanmar




Marist Brothers in the Philippines
Denounce extrajudicial killings
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 September 2017

We, the Marist Brothers of the Schools in the Philippines, denounce the use of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) as the most expedient way to solve peace and order problems.
Summary killings will never ever make our communities safe and secure!
Killers - state-sponsored or not - who wield their guns and oftentimes covered with bonnets - freely roaming around without being made responsible for their crimes - are phantoms lurking in the night.
And no doubt, this state of impunity brought about by the blithe disregard for life will leave a trans-generational trauma in our national consciousness.
Invoking the primacy of the Abrahamic faith principle of the sanctity of the right to life, together with the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, religious congregations and faiths, academic circles, human rights and peace networks, we therefore urge:
All the major branches of the government executive, legislative and judiciary to adhere to the protocol laid down by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of which the Philippines is a signatory.
The Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Bureau of Investigation to professionalize and cleanse their ranks of rogue elements;
The media and journalists to be factual and impartial in reporting incidents of crime and abuses without fear or favor.
The citizenry to be proactively involved in preventing crimes and human rights abuses in their respective communities and report occurrences of the same to authorities.
The ethico-spiritual leaders to always speak truth to power.
The academic community to continue to form our faculty’s and students’ consciences in the light of our cherished values as Filipinos;
The civil-society to link and partner with authentically democratic institutions, parties and social movements which can press for reforms in peace and security policies and programs;
The national and local leaders to refrain from using rhetorics of death, hate and violence, but instead promote a culture of peace, filial respect and solidarity.
Those who are involved in “demonic” acts such as production, proliferation and use of dangerous drugs; Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) violent extremism and terrorism, extortions, abuse of women and children, kidnapping for ransom, robbery, bribery, corruption, and exploitation, that they will have genuine conversion, for crime does not pay.
All peace-loving men and women of goodwill to earnestly Pray for Peace in our fragile land and let not the forces of darkness triumph by our inaction due to fear of reprisal.
As a positive and pro-active response to the prevailing national situation, we the Marist Brothers, commit to make our communities, schools and pastoral ministries as centers of peace.

Br. Lindley Sionosa, FMS,
Philippine sector coordinator,
Br. Manuel V. De Leon, FMS,
Kidapawan Community,
Superiors’ Group chair and 10 others heads of the Society of Martys in the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines




The injustice of the war on drugs in the Philippines
A
ffects all Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 September 2017

In the light of recent events concerning the Commission on Human Rights budget, we can’t help but recall the unjust killing of Kian delos Santos as if it were some sort of foreshadowing on the horrors that have already begun to dawn upon our country.
Kian was a 17-year-old boy who pleaded for his life last August but was still mercilessly shot dead - not by criminals nor the feared drug abusers - but by law enforcers themselves.
However, Kian was not the only one who suffered this fate.
There were thousands before Kian, and thousands more now, who are subjected to these unjust murders.
People tend to turn a blind eye to what is a clear violation of human rights as they believe that this is what it takes to build a safer community.
However, that’s what is peculiar about human rights:
You can’t expect to justify the violation of the rights of one, without degrading the value of rights for everyone.
Now, what seemed to only affect alleged criminals loitering on the streets has affected us all. Because we deemed their lives to be worthless, our rights were reduced to the worth of a lousy P1,000 bill by our own congressmen.
(The Lower House has since restored the CHR’s budget.—Ed)
That is why when we hear about these killings we should no longer let ignorance get in the way. Instead, we should get angry, we should be mad, and we should fight because we are affected as well.

Mia Abalos,
Alexa Abaya,
Rianne Igao,
Chinkee Naagas,
Brianna Sarile,
Kaye Trindad,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Malaysian government
To monitor fake claims
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Thursday 14 September 2017

Many may remember the Lynas issue and its rare earth business that was raised at the last general election.
The issue of Lynas almost took centre stage then.
The opposition made all kinds of claims on rare earth, all in the interest of securing votes.
One claim was that the processing of rare earth would be disastrous for the public, especially those living near the Lynas plant.
They produced fake evidence linking rare earth to cancer and other side effects. Their exaggerated claims somehow caused some unease among the people there.
The public took the opposition’s bait mainly because they were ignorant.
Rare earth processing is a new business in the country, although rare earth itself is not entirely new.
During the era of tin mining, waste from tin processing comprised rare earth.
And, children, including some among the vocal critics of Lynas, used to run around such tin mining waste, including a few of our colleagues at the Academy of Sciences.
They are all fine despite the exposure.
It was a pity such an issue was exploited at great cost. It was, to some extent, a waste of public money. At the academy, we spent time and money building factual information on rare earth.
I was sent to visit a thriving rare earth facility in La Rochelle, France. The aim was to gather evidence on the safety aspects of rare earth processing. To my surprise, the facility has been operating for decades with no harm inflicted on the environment.
In fact, La Rochelle itself was, and still is, a thriving tourist destination, attracting visitors from the European Union and the world.
Fellows of the academy appeared on television and radio to explain to the public that rare earth waste was not like nuclear waste. The radioactive level was extremely low, oftentimes lower than the natural background levels around Kuantan.
There are lessons that we can learn from the Lynas incident.
We should never take things for granted when it comes to bringing in investment to the country.
Rare earth processing is a good example where those opposed to the government’s well-meaning intention to bring in foreign direct investments and jobs twisted facts to confuse the public.
They hoped to derail the project.
That would have been unfortunate because the demand for rare earth in the new digital economy is expected to continue rising.
At the academy, we have even produced a report urging the government to initiate our own rare earth industry.
Our studies have shown that we do have healthy deposits of the more expensive heavy rare earth that is ready to be mined.
We have even drawn up a plan on how to move that industry as another source of revenue for the country.
Admittedly, the nation needs to diversify its revenue streams.
Though the government has, over the years, done much to diversify the economy, moving away from total reliance on oil, we need to be on the constant lookout for emerging opportunities.
With the advent of the new global economic order revolving around Industry 4.0, the rare earth business will, undoubtedly, be prominent in the coming years.
The other lesson from the Lynas incident is that we need to monitor scientific claims in the media.
Many errant parties are spreading fake scientific information to dupe the public to buy their products.
The palm oil industry is aware of such tactics.
There are also those peddling all kinds of medicines, spreading false science.
We need to have a group of scientists working closely with the media to monitor such fake information.
The academy can host this group.
With the 14th General Election looming, the government should monitor the emergence of fake claims, as was the case with Lynas.
For matters related to science, the academy has the expertise to do so.

Professor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim,
UCSI University,
Fellow Academy of Sciences Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



China trying to challenge the US
Over the South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 September 2017
First published in the Nation, Wednesday 20 September 2017

The Pentagon on Friday Septemmber 15 said it was concerned about an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter between two Chinese fighters and a US surveillance plane over the South China Sea.
The Chinese J-10 warplanes intercepted a US Navy P-3 that was operating in international airspace on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross said.
As a defence analyst/researcher, I believe that China is trying to challenge the US after a US destroyer sailed in disputed South China Sea waters near a reef claimed by Beijing in the first freedom of navigation exercise under President Donald Trump.
The manoeuvres come ahead of a major regional security summit in Singapore next week.
It is a good strategy by China to signal a warning to Asean and the US about the latter’s defence posturing.
Meanwhile, the aircrew deemed the intercept unsafe and unprofessional.
There was no proper channel that China went to for the operation.

Jumel G Estranero,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Friendship with China is a pillar
Of Philippine foreign policy.
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 September 2017

It has almost been over a year since President Rodrigo Duterte declared his
“independent foreign policy”.
His policy has been variously described as “isolationist”, “anti-American”, and
even “pro-Chinese”.
Some suggest that the anti-American slant is a result of just a petty personal grudge by the president over the rejection of a US visa application some years back. Former national security adviser Jose Almonte tried to put some sense into it.
He defined it “as not for or against anybody but equidistant to everyone”.
If Almonte’s definition is accepted, then we have, effectively, a policy of nonalignment.
Whatever may be the true intentions of its architect, where has this policy led
us to so far?
President Duterte has continually badmouthed our American and Western European allies.
He rejected their aid and loan offers for “interfering in our domestic affairs” through their calls for a stop to the drug war killings and for full observance of human rights. At this point, it is still unclear whether investments from our (former) allies have shied away from the country, but it is reported that a number already doing business here are withholding expansion plans. A wait-and-see attitude appears to be in place.
This is not good news for our economy.
It was reported that President Duterte was not invited to the G20 Summit in
Hamburg, Germany, last July 7-8 even as tradition holds.
On the other side of the ledger, friendship with China is an avowed pillar of
Duterte’s foreign policy.
And how better to prove this than the package of loans totalling $24 billion that Duterte came home with from his state visit to China.
But as the saying goes: Beware of friends bearing gifts. Socioeconomic Planning
Secretary Ernesto Pernia announced that China’s Official Development Assistance
loans will carry a rate of 2-3 per cent (where Japan’s ODAs will charge less
than 1 per cent).
We should hold no illusions that we are now on the friendly side of China.
Far from it.
China wants nothing from us but the following: Disavow the Arbitral Ruling favourable to us issued by the Tribunal Court in The Hague on July 12, 2016, so that our loss of reefs and shoals now occupied by China becomes permanently lost to them.
It is that simple.

Mariano S Javier,
Manila,
Philippines




Thai students at English language classes
Converse in Thai
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 September 2017

Re: "Language lesson for Thailand," in Bangkok Post, Sunday 10 September 2017
I have seen similar enthusiasm in young school students in Vietnam. While going
around the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, I found many students striking a casual
conversation with a foreigner just to talk and improve their English.
On the other hand, many Thai youngsters who spend millions to attend
international universities located in Bangkok shun English. It seems they just
want to socialise and feel proud of attending a hi-so university. While
attending English-language classes they tend to converse in Thai.
Sooner or later, they graduate mastering a few sentences, such as, "same, same
but different", "I go with you", "Why you no happy?" "I happy", or "I am so
exciting". Many Thai instructors also use the same lingo.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Thai PM and government officials
To live on minimum wage
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 September 2017

The refusal by the government and industrial sector to raise the minimum wage to
700 baht per day is telling.
If the economy and "Thailand 4.0" can only be sustained by paying a poverty wage instead of a living wage, than there is really no hope.
It smacks of elitism when those at the top believe the ones at the bottom must suffer so they remain in their levels of economic comfort.
To say that labourers being paid 700 baht would make "as high as 20,000 baht per month" and positioning this as a negative because it would be higher than the
monthly 15,000 baht for college graduates exposes two major problems instead of
justifying the action.
First is the assumption that labourers must work seven days a week since that is what they are forced to do at 350 baht per day for survival.
That is how the figure is arrived at.
It is really 14,000 baht a month.I wonder if the industry leaders and government officials responsible for this "refusal" work seven days a week with no vacations or leisure.
Second, if college graduates are only being paid poverty wages, then what is the
incentive to go to school and incur debt/cost?
Something is wrong with this scenario.
If the skilled are not valued in the economic model, what real hope is there?
How about having the PM and all future elected government officials be not only
paid, but forced to actually "live" on the prevailing minimum wage?
This is the only action that would force a true change in the economy that would allow everyone to thrive instead of the lower classes just surviving.
This might reduce the prevalence of coups and actually promote stability.
You want an example of a nearby country with a living wage and decent healthcare
and a thriving economy?
Look no further than Australia for the naysayers.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Freedom of speech in the Philippines
Challenged by threats and intimidation
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 September 2017

Free expression thrives well in a democracy.
This includes raising questions and criticisms to check perceived abuses by those in power. But now, this freedom is utterly being challenged by threats and intimidation from the administration.
This is best illustrated by the fate of those criticizing and disapproving some actions and intentions of the present administration.
For instance, when Vice President Leni Robredo condemned in a video message the extrajudicial killings in connection with the drug war, she was threatened outright with impeachment (for treachery) by administration henchmen led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, acting in accordance with constitutional mandate to cite legal points, met impeachment calls from the same quarter who thought that she was interfering with the executive turf.
The likes of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch Duterte critic, naturally, could not escape the harangues of administration defenders whenever he expounds on the issue of the day.
But among them, Sen. Leila de Lima suffered the worst as a dissenter.
She has been critical of President Duterte since the latter was Davao City mayor, when at the time — as chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) — she conducted an investigation on the mayor’s alleged human rights violations.
Mr. Duterte considered that occasion too unforgivable that he relentlessly pursued the imprisonment of De Lima who he dubbed as protector of drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison.
Even the Court of Appeals got the ire of Speaker Alvarez when it ruled on the release of the “Ilocos Six” from detention in the House of Representatives.
The overreaching speaker threatened to abolish the court, unmindful of the constitutional crisis it may create.
In the meantime, President Duterte, bristling from the inquiries of the CHR on his drug war, has sent warnings to abolish the entire organization, without deference to the value of human life. Anyway, the President would not take heed of this great concern of humanity!

Nesty Reyes,
Bacoor City,
Cavite,
Philippines

 


Call for private religious schools in Malaysia
To be accountable
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 September 2017
First published in the Star, Friday 15 September 2017

G25 welcomes the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister for an immediate inquiry into the tragedy at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school and hopes that a special committee will be formed to investigate the matter without delay.
G25 has among its members retired senior judges, civil servants and diplomats who can volunteer to sit as members of the committee.
They are willing to assist in finding out how and why the tragedy happened and the lessons that can be learnt so that the religious department in all states can exercise proper regulatory control over these private religious schools.
The religious authorities should not resist the open inquiry into the manner in which private religious schools are run.
Indeed, all parties should support the setting up of the special committee proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister because it is in the public’s interest to ensure that the founders and principals of these schools be made accountable for any failures to provide safety for the children under their charge.
This is normal practice in democratic and civil societies, and reflects a caring and responsible nation.
Malaysia should not exempt religious schools from the principles of common justice or hide the underlying problems of religious education from public scrutiny as this will only lead to similar tragedies recurring in the future.
All private religious schools should be subjected to minimum standards for boarding institutions, including a proper teacher/student ratio and adherence to fire and safety standards.
It has been reported that more than 200 fires have occurred at tahfiz schools nationwide since 2015.
With a problem of such magnitude these schools, whether they come under the purview of the Education Ministry or otherwise, should as a minimum be immediately subjected to an inspection on the fire and safety standards before another tragedy occurs.

G25 Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



US hand in friendship
A huge boost to Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Saturday 16 September 2017

The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the United States reflects the long-running mutual commitment to further cement the solid foundation of ties.
The recent visit by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the US on the invitation of President Donald Trump will elevate the current state of warm relations to a higher level. Bilateral relations between the US and Malaysia certainly have improved over the past decade with back-to-back visits by former president Barack Obama to Malaysia.
The importance of this long-standing relationship with the world’s biggest superpower encompasses a wide range of areas, including commerce, trade, defence, security, education and science and technology.
We have been benefiting immensely from the superior technology and know-how of the Americans, strong economic and technological cooperation and mutual collaboration.
The US is a crucial partner to us in continuing to boost our economic growth and stability.
The end of the Cold War brought about a seismic shift in global security, bringing with it new threats and challenges that are non-traditional in nature.
A close global cooperation and sharing of expertise and know-how between the two countries will go a long way in ensuring a stable and manageable regional and global security.
The US can provide the much- needed counterbalance against the growing influence of China, as well as act as a partner in counterterrorism in the region.
With security threats and challenges coming in various forms and from different sources, there is no better time than now to seize the day to work together in providing a mutually beneficial partnership.
With growing tension over North Korea and the potential catastrophic ripples and instability that it will create, as well as the unresolved Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, there is an urgent need to push for a careful and delicate strategy in striving for regional stability and security.
Actions and steps taken to address these crises are not to be directed from a single source or a superpower alone. It requires the right support, understanding, input and actions of all regional actors and players.
If mismanaged, these crises will result in a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.
This is where the presence and support of the US in extending the hand of friendship will be a huge booster. Malaysia has taken the leadership in the past in working with American counterparts and is doing so now through the prime minister’s visit to the US.
We have been at the forefront of extending a helping hand to mediate and to lend our support in providing peaceful solutions to regional conflicts.
This proven track record can be used to push for a moderate and peaceful solution to conflicts in the region and trouble spots elsewhere.
The prospect of the region being the next driver of global political and economic arenas will surely invite greater scrutiny and interest from outside players, but through the principle of moderation, Malaysia and the US can bring about a peaceful solution to conflicts and, at the same time, preserve regional peace.
It is time Malaysia used our exceptional legacy of being a moderate and tolerant nation as a positive example for all to emulate.
We should extend the reach of moderation to the global arena, starting with the forging of closer and enhanced ties with our old friends in the Americans and to leverage on their support to continue to push for voices of tolerance and peaceful coexistence and the spirit of humanity and compassion.

Collins Chomg Yew Keat,
Universiti Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Homes in Malaysia
Are simply not affordable.
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, 6 September 2017

What does the term “affordable homes” mean?
After all, what determines whether a house is affordable is based on the income of the targeted consumers.
According to Khazanah Research Institute and Bank Negara Malaysia, the sign of a well-functioning and affordable home market is when the median price for the housing market is three times the gross annual household income.
Bank Negara would add that the monthly payment for the house should not be more than 30 per cent of the income. Payments of more than 30 per cent would be considered overburdening for the consumer.
Based on the above criteria, Bank Negara would suggest that an affordable home in Malaysia, based on the monthly median income of RM4,585 and the annual median income of RM55,020, is between RM165,000 and RM242,000.
In Malaysia, house prices are 4.4 times the median income.
Further, zeroing in on the states, house prices in Kuala Lumpur are 5.4 times, 5.2 times in Penang Island, 4.2 times in Johor and in Selangor, four times the median income.
While, according to Bank Negara, the affordable home is priced at RM242,000, in actual fact, the average price of houses in Kuala Lumpur is RM490,000; in Selangor RM300,000; Johor, RM260,000; and Penang Island, RM295,000.
To put it simply, houses in Malaysia are simply not affordable.Efforts should be made to reduce the prices of houses to an affordable range of about RM250,000 to RM300,000. Yet in 2014, only 21 per cent of new housing launches were priced below RM250,000.
There was a gross oversupply of houses above RM500,000 and an undersupply of houses below RM250,000. No wonder there is a mismatch between demand and supply.Bank Negara would suggest that between 2012 and 2014, there was a housing supply average of 85,000 units, while 118,000 households were formed.
Instead of putting policy interventions into place to reduce the prices of houses, developers are putting pressure on banks to give loans to consumers who cannot afford these expensive homes.
They want banks and Bank Negara to ease lending practices to make it easy for house owners to own properties.
The principle seems to be not to build houses that consumers can afford, but to build overpriced houses, and then put pressure on the lending institutions to give loans to the consumers.
Never mind the risks to the banks and the financial burden to consumers. Developers want to sell the overpriced homes that they have built.
There have even been proposals to set up a fund so that consumers can save early to afford overpriced homes.
The risks and burden is being pushed to the banks and consumers, while developers can continue to build overpriced homes.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) calls on the government to ensure that priority is given to homes Malaysians can truly afford.
The number of 1Malaysia People’s Housing (PR1MA) homes being built is way below the demand for new households.
The government needs to intervene and regulate the private sector to supply more affordable homes.
The government also needs to strengthen measures to eliminate speculation in the market, which inflates home prices. Polices should make speculation expensive to protect first-time home buyers.
Housing is a basic right of consumers. It is the government’s role to ensure that all Malaysian have access to affordable homes. The government should also focus on promoting a thriving rental market so that renting becomes a viable option for consumers.
Fomca proposes that government invests more in financial education for all consumers, especially young workers, to create awareness and build knowledge and skills on prudent financial management and making informed decisions in the market, including purchasing major assets such as houses.

Datuk Paul Selva Raj,
Secretary-general,
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Enactment of the free college education law
An inexcusable faux pas
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 September 2017
Philippine Inquirer 5 Sept 2017, Tuesday 5 September 2017

Current media reports disclose that the recently-enacted Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931) does not provide the funding support for the government subsidy that will underwrite the payment of tuition in state colleges and universities.
It is reported that the law does not even have any working estimate of how much money is to be spent for the purpose. Nor does it identify the source of the funds to be allocated as government subsidy.
Now comes President Duterte who openly admits that the funding for the government subsidy is problematic because according to his economic managers who had opposed enactment of the law, the government just does not have the money to implement it.
Such absence of fund support creates a vacuum that renders the law inherently flawed, an oddity in public finance that should be eschewed.
To the extent then that government subsidy from public funds is needed to underwrite the payment of tuition in state colleges and universities, the free college education law partakes of the nature of a special appropriation law within the ambit of Section 25 (4), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution that states: “A special appropriations bill shall specify the purpose for which it is intended; and shall be supported by funds actually available as certified by the National Treasurer, or to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposal therein.”
By failing to indicate where the funds will be sourced from, the law does violate this mandate of the Constitution and, hence, is deemed as constitutionally noncompliant.
As it is then, so long as the law under scrutiny, in its present form, remains unfunded, it is unimplementable and likely to be reduced to a dead letter.
From the constitutional perspective, I view the enactment of the free college education law as an inexcusable faux pas.


Bartolome C. Fernandez Jr.,
Retired senior commissioner,
Commission on Audit,
Manila,
Philippines



Malaysia calls for economic sanctions
On Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017

The atrocities committed by the Myanmar authorities on the Rohingya in Rakhine and other parts of Myanmar are well known to the international community.
Despite exhortations from Asean, world leaders and Nobel Laureates, there seems to be no redress or reduction to the conflict.
Malaysian non-governmental organisations and professional groups like the Muslim Professionals Forum have lucidly highlighted the situation and also reiterated possible measures to contain, if not solve, the problem.
These ideas seek to call on Asean and global organisations like the United Nations to pressure the Myanmar government to immediately and positively address the issue.
The Rohingya, pushed to a corner and deprived of basic necessities, have tried to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and to nearby Asean countries by sea but even these attempts are fraught with risks, forcing them to retaliate in a futile way, only for the Myanmar authorities to increase their atrocities.
Therefore, urgent, specific and concrete measures are needed to alleviate this tragedy.
It is with great admiration that I read Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offering to pay for the costs borne by Bangladesh in accepting and hosting Rohingya refugees temporarily until a more lasting solution is found.
I hope other rich countries can be magnanimous.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should actively get more support for such measures.
Granted, there may be bad elements in the exodus, and UNHCR should vigorously help host governments filter and channel the refugees to manpower-deficient countries.
Malaysia, for instance, has a large pool of legal and illegal workers.
Accepting the refugees to work legally in sectors with labour shortage like in plantations, construction and the service sector, should be a priority.
Workers from Myanmar, including the Rohingya, are visible in the Malaysian labour force, but there is room for them, especially after the repatriation of illegal foreign workers.
Rohingya women should be prepared to work as domestic helpers as the demand for maids is high. In due time, it is hoped that other Asean countries and also other countries in the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Region may emulate the Malaysian model, which we hope will be fruitful and be recorded by history as the management of one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century.
Since the Myanmar government is not yielding to world pressure, it is time the world community imposes economic sanctions on Myanmar.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




Call for Malaysia to sign
1951 Refugee Convention
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 September 2017
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 September 2017

If Malaysia is serious about helping the Rohingya who have been refugees and asylum seekers in our country for many years, the Government must consider signing the convention on refugees along with its protocol relating to refugees.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled their home country over the past few years to seek refuge in neighbouring countries including Malaysia.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were some 149,100 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia as of June 30 this year.
Of these, some 132,100 are from Myanmar, comprising 61,000 Rohingya, 38,200 Chin, 9,900 Myanmar Muslims, 4,200 Rakhine and Arakanese, and other ethnic groups.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines a refugee and sets out the right of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
The Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which recognises the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
A refugee may also enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Convention.
The Malaysian Government has till now not signed the Convention along with its protocol.
So far, 145 countries have become parties to this Convention. If the consequences of becoming a signatory member to the Convention are bad, why were these countries willing to sign this Convention in the first place?
As such, the Malaysian Government should reconsider its position on this issue.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


Prosecution of fugitive former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Covered under new law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 September 2017
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 September 2017

Re: "Aim for the statutes," in Bangkok Post PostBag, Friday 8 September 2017
One does not need Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's power of Section 44 to exclude the
period during which someone is on the run from the statute of limitations.
It applies to all crimes committed in the area of public affairs, Section 24/1
Criminal Procedure Code relating to politicians.
That does not apply to the Red Bull case.
This was a quick amendment made by an unelected government in response to
outcries about so many corrupt political and official convicts fleeing Thailand
in style.
Ms Yingluck will be the first case covered under this new law if she is convicted on September 27.
At least, that is one nice thing about being undemocratic for a change - the
power to ensure a quick response for real justice!

Songdej Praditsmanont
Bangkok,
Thailand




Turkey offers to pay for costs borne by Bangladesh
To accept and host Rohingya refugees from Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017

The atrocities committed by the Myanmar authorities on the Rohingya in Rakhine and other parts of Myanmar are well known to the international community.
Despite exhortations from Asean, world leaders and Nobel Laureates, there seems to be no redress or reduction to the conflict.
Malaysian non-governmental organisations and professional groups like the Muslim Professionals Forum have lucidly highlighted the situation and also reiterated possible measures to contain, if not solve, the problem.
These ideas seek to call on Asean and global organisations like the United Nations to pressure the Myanmar government to immediately and positively address the issue.
The Rohingya, pushed to a corner and deprived of basic necessities, have tried to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and to nearby Asean countries by sea but even these attempts are fraught with risks, forcing them to retaliate in a futile way, only for the Myanmar authorities to increase their atrocities. Therefore, urgent, specific and concrete measures are needed to alleviate this tragedy.
It is with great admiration that I read Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offering to pay for the costs borne by Bangladesh in accepting and hosting Rohingya refugees temporarily until a more lasting solution is found.
I hope other rich countries can be magnanimous. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should actively get more support for such measures.
Granted, there may be bad elements in the exodus, and UNHCR should vigorously help host governments filter and channel the refugees to manpower-deficient countries. Malaysia, for instance, has a large pool of legal and illegal workers.
Accepting the refugees to work legally in sectors with labour shortage like in plantations, construction and the service sector, should be a priority.
Workers from Myanmar, including the Rohingya, are visible in the Malaysian labour force, but there is room for them, especially after the repatriation of illegal foreign workers.
Rohingya women should be prepared to work as domestic helpers as the demand for maids is high. In due time, it is hoped that other Asean countries and also other countries in the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Region may emulate the Malaysian model, which we hope will be fruitful and be recorded by history as the management of one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century.
Since the Myanmar government is not yielding to world pressure, it is time the world community imposes economic sanctions on Myanmar.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya
Malaysia



Philippine youth ready to fight
For those who cannot fight for themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 September 2017

We are the youth and we are afraid.
The killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos has created a frightening atmosphere for each and every one of us. President Duterte’s “advocacy” is not the change that we wanted because these extrajudicial killings do not only execute lives, but also murder justice.
If we continue to live in a country built upon violence and inhumanity, what will our future be?
We are the youth and we are angry.
We are angry because ordinary people are accused of crimes and are killed without having the right to due process.
Life is being played with, and our lives are being held in the hands of those who do not seem to value it.
Our national police is sworn to protect each citizen, yet recent events have illustrated the lack of moral authority.
From our perspective, the government hopes to reach an ideal future for our country through these executions, yet this completely takes away that possibility for many.
We are the youth and we are ready.
Although these actions fill us with anger and fear, these sentiments will not hinder us from battling these unjust measures.
We are ready to be the change that we believe is necessary for our country.
With a lack of protection and welfare from those accountable of it, we shall ensure that the power of our speech will restore dignity back to our nation.
We are ready to take a stand against the measures on the war on drugs in order to bring back the humanity that has shamefully been lost.
We are the youth and we are ready to fight for those who can no longer fight for themselves.

Trini Daco, Bella Gironella, Chesca Sarmiento, Andy Velasco, Amaya Lacson and Juliana Salazar
Manila,
Philippines

 



Call for Myanmar government to change
It's behavour towards Rohingya Muslims
The Southeast Asian Times Monday 11 September 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 7 September 2017

The Rohingya, or at least some Rohingya, are now being projected as terrorists who are out to kill Myanmar soldiers and civilians.
Myanmar leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi have spoken along these lines.
This view of the Rohingya is being propagated by the Myanmar government with greater zeal since a small armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security forces on October 9, 2016.
These attacks have continued in recent weeks.
In this new wave of violence, it is alleged that 12 security personnel were killed while the Myanmar military and border police have killed 77 Rohingya Muslims.
The way Aung San Suu Kyi and her government colleagues have framed the clashes ignores the brutal massacres committed by the military over a long period of time.
The oppression and persecution of the Rohingya by the State and other forces have been thoroughly documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other independent human rights groups.
It is well known that as a community, the Rohingya were stripped of Myanmar citizenship in 1982, deprived of basic human rights, tortured, imprisoned and forced to flee their home province of Rakhine.
This is why there are tens of thousands of Rohingya living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh or struggling to survive in a number of countries from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia.
They have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Simply put, the Rohingya are the victims of a slow genocide, to quote Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen.
To condemn the violence of a minuscule fraction of the Rohingya without taking into account their massive marginalisation and severe oppression is a travesty of truth and justice.
It is extreme desperation and hopelessness that has forced some of them to resort to violence.
Of course, violence is not the solution.
It will not help to restore the rights of the Rohingya, especially their right to citizenship.
Our concern is that the violence will escalate.
The signs are already there. Given the underlying religious connotations of the conflict - though the conflict itself is not rooted in religion per se – it is not inconceivable that the violence will spread beyond Myanmar’s borders and engulf Muslim and Buddhist communities in other parts of South-East Asia.
This would be catastrophic for Asean, a regional grouping in which 42 percent of the population are Muslim and another 40 percent are Buddhist.
Finding workable solutions to the Myanmar-Rohingya conflict is therefore of utmost importance.
It is in this regard that the “Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State” under the chairmanship of former UN secreta­ry-general Kofi Annan deserves the urgent attention of all stakeholders.
Announced in August 2017, the report calls for a review of the 1982 citizenship law and notes that “Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world”, and urges the government to abolish distinctions between different types of citizens.
Other recommendations pertain to reduction of the poverty rate in Rakhine state which is 78 percent, improving the socio-economic condition of the people, enhancing access to health services and education, ensuring freedom of movement and encouraging people’s participation and representation.
Though the report is worded with a great deal of caution and diplomacy, it does send a clear message to the powers that be in Myanmar that the status quo cannot be allowed to persist.
That message is significant considering that the commission was actually initiated by the Myanmar government.
Will it take heed?
So far, there is no indication that it would respond positively to the recommendations, which is not surprising.
It is the harsh authoritarianism of the go­vernment embodied in the power of the military that is prima­rily responsible for the targeting of the Rohingya as the “ethnic other”, resulting in the genocide we are witnessing today.
Even if the Myanmar government does not act of its own volition, the Kofi Annan report can be used to persuade other governments to pressurise Myanmar to act. Apart from Asean governments, civil society groups and the media should also initiate special efforts to convince Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Islamabad, Washington and London to demand that the Myanmar government protects all its citizens without discrimination.
If they fail to do so, these capitals should review their economic and/or military ties with Naypyidaw.
It is with the aim of persuading the leadership in Naypyidaw to change its behaviour that the Permanent People’s Tribunal is holding its concluding session in Kuala Lumpur on the treatment of the Rohingya, Kachins and other minorities in Myanmar from Sept 18 to 22.
As more voices plead for justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed in Myanmar, they may eventually pierce the walls of Naypyidaw.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
President,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Is it still the same old trickle-down effect
In the Philippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 7 September 2017

We are now a nation being challenged once more with several issues emanating from the present administration’s policies concerning its war on drugs and corruption. The latest word war among government officials - appointed and elected - has created more problems than solutions.
Filipinos are fed up with such bickering and endless “he said, she said” rhetoric in the midst of high prices of commodities and utilities that affect the daily life of an ordinary Juan dela Cruz.
Pundits are asking: “Where are the promises pertaining to a better life for every Filipino especially the poor?” Even middle-class families are slowly inching toward lower class status.
Are we seeing a repeat of the past administration’s promises that were never fulfilled, particularly the supposed positive economic results of foreign investments? Is it still the same “old trickle-down effect” or BS taking this country for a ride?
News of investments that will bring jobs via “build, build, build” seems to be stuck on the drawing board.
Some analysts observe that we are being herded (like cattle) into a debt trap.
Which is which?
Are we really moving toward industrialization, meaning more jobs, more buying power for the needy and more opportunities for growth?
President Duterte can possibly feel the heat this time.
Our peso is on a free fall, prices of commodities were compromised by bird flu hype, there is the ongoing Marawi crisis as well as the shocking control of top Chinese drug lords of our political system; even the Marcoses are attempting to dupe him of the fool’s gold and stale gold certificates to avert the global class suit the family will face soon.
President Duterte has been advised to implement a revolutionary government which will surely fail due to the infighting among his political party mates.
The President should think and act out of the box if he wants to survive this crisis by design.

Erick San Juan,
Manila,
Philippines



War on drugs in the Philippines
Is a fascist war on the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 7 September 2017

In response to the latest hogwash statement made by Rodrigo Duterte that the brutal murder of young innocent victims Kian Loyd delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz will not be the last, we say the war on drugs is in fact a fascist war against the poor and the youth.
Mr. Duterte said in his latest response to criticisms from the United Nations that a halt in the drug war will further imperil Filipinos, adding that this war is an existential struggle for the nation to “usher in real, lasting and meaningful change.”
We strongly condemn Mr. Duterte’s myopic and delusional obsession on the drug problem. We emphasize that this is not the root of the country’s social ills.
The mad President is putting the cart before the horse by thinking that drugs are the cause of poverty.
Mr. Duterte deviously uses such one-dimensional and outrageous description of Philippine society to rationalize the unjustifiable by calling for the senseless killing of more youths in his bloody drug war.
Following the death of Kian Loyd, the fascist US-Duterte dictatorship has again claimed the life of another youth, UP Diliman interior design student Carl Angelo. The unceasing spilling of blood ultimately points to the utter absurdity of the antidrug campaign which Mr. Duterte himself admitted will not be resolved by the end of his six-year term.
Bloodthirsty Mr. Duterte continually encourages the police to kill without due process while deceitfully shielding big capitalists and smugglers involved in various drug deals, even to the point of protecting his son, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, who was linked to the drug-smuggling “Davao Group,” which is now at the center of a P6.4-billion shabu scandal.
We twit as absurd Mr. Duterte’s repeated insistence of drugs as the root problem of Philippine society. Imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism, which Mr. Duterte’s regime now willfully serves, are the real reason for the continuing exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people.

Vencer Crisostomo,
National chair,
Anakbayan,
Philippines

 


Call for drones to support
Forest management in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 6 September 2017

Re: "Mangrove-planting drones ready for mission", Bangkok Post, Sunday 27 August 2017
Environmentalists should enthusiastically embrace modern technology - such as
drones - to support forest management.
At the same time, however, resource managers must not be blind to the real issues constraining forest conservation.
Drones and other high-tech tools are not "silver bullet" solutions to bypass the
difficult challenges of managing mangroves and other forest resources.
Mangroves have been severely depleted in Myanmar, Thailand and throughout
Southeast Asia, as investors have converted millions of hectares to fish and
shrimp ponds, local people have overused mangrove trees for fuelwood and
charcoal, and so-called development banks and organisations have perversely
encouraged expansion of rice production in mangrove-covered river deltas.
Undoubtedly, major efforts are needed to restore dwindling mangrove forests
wherever feasible. These endeavours could potentially include use of drones and
other technology, but unless the underlying causes of forest loss and
destruction are addressed, all the drones in the world will not result in
restored mangrove forests.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Malaysian Muslims call on ASEAN
To stop violence against Rohingya Muslims
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 4 September 2017

 

The current genocide of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s forces has captured global attention. Civil societies around the world are outraged by the daily images of the atrocities flooding mainstream and other media.
In a chilling report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dated Feb 3, mass gang rapes, slaughtering of babies and children, torture and inhumane treatment were detailed.
The past week has witnessed yet another wave of military crackdowns on the Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which has killed an estimated 3,000 civilians, while 10,000 homes and shops were razed to the ground, creating thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).
Forced to flee their homes to the nearest country, scores of Rohingya are now trapped between two countries and wanted by neither.
The devastating cruelty described by the UN as “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” follows a long-standing and systematic persecution of the Rohingya.
Decades of abuse, violations, discriminatory policies, exclusion and marginalisation have rendered them the most persecuted people in the world.
The deafening silence of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government’s repeated refusal to allow the OHCHR unrestricted access to the worst affected areas of Rakhine bring into question her commitment towards human rights.
The Muslim Professionals Forum urges the Malaysian government to:
Urgently call upon Asean leaders to step up their efforts to ensure the government of Myanmar immediately stops the massacre and the grave human rights violations against the Rohingya, and to safeguard their safety and access to justice and reparations;
Call on the nation’s Asean neighbours to urge the UN to pressure the government of Myanmar to fully comply with the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s commission or face economic sanctions, regional and international isolation;
Call on the Asean community to stop the cycle of violence against the Rohingya and facilitate a sustainable, just and peaceful resolution to the humanitarian crisis;
In the interim, organise relief missions into Rakhine State to provide urgent medical and humanitarian aid to the victims; and,
Call on all Malaysians to extend their solidarity and assistance to Rohingya refugees, either directly or indirectly, through non-governmental organisations that have been supporting them regularly over the years.

Board of Directors,
Muslim Professionals Forum,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"
Says Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 September 2017

President Duterte was quoted as saying “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” Exodus 21, 23-25, the “lex talionis” or the law of the talion.
He mischaracterized it as “the law of the jungle” “Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” News, 1 September 2017.
A very common misconception.
Before the lex talionis, the law of retaliation, the exchange rate was 7:1, even 77:1, not 1:1, in the time of Lamech in Genesis 4, 23-24. In effect: “You kill one of our tribesmen, we’ll kill seven, even 77, of yours.”
Lex talionis brought equivalence or parity, one eye for one eye, and was therefore a liberal progressive step.
Of course the new testament is suffused with lessons on love and charity; Jesus teaches us to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and to be kind and compassionate. We are not to give up on anyone but sadly, “Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” the same Inquirer article blares.
We attended the same law school but we simply seem fated never to understand each other on human rights addiction and the one thing we can ever be in life: to be kind.

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



Ferdinand Marcos hero status
Now the law of the land in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 30 August 2017

We have set Aug. 21 as a holiday to honor the martyrdom of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. whose body rests in a private cemetery. It was his family’s self-effacing choice to bury him there among ordinary people for whose sake he sacrificed his life.
The wax? body of his tormentor - and the people’s - rests ingloriously in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Thanks to a Supreme Court beholden to the family of the late tyrant, Ferdinand E. Marcos has been virtually proclaimed a “hero!”
The Supreme Court has thus spoken it is now the “law of the land!”
Can an annual holiday to “honor” that stinking “hero” be farfetched?
And we now might want to rethink and erase that ridiculous saying etched in some monuments around the country: “The Filipino is worth dying for,” and replace it with an apt, more honest-to-goodness one: “The Filipinos are a crazy people,” or so the Supreme Court thinks!

Jeremias H Tobias,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Malaysia to make education
More affordable
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 30 August 2017

I write based on my experience of having being a school teacher, a university
lecturer and facilitator for thousands of executives here and abroad, spanning
35 years.
I refer to the debate on university education and unemployed graduates.
For as long as we are unable to admit our faults, but look for scapegoats or are
bent on keeping a safe distance from our paymasters, we are doomed.
We will never resolve our education predicament.
Firstly, parents are to be blamed.
They have competed with their neighbours to make sure they can announce that
their kids are in university.
To most Malaysians, getting enrolled in a university is the ultimate measure of
great parenthood, a mark of having brilliant children.
Many look down on themselves and others if the kids are going to pick up a trade
or skill upon finishing schooling.
To belong in this category is shameful and a mark of failure.
We fail to recognise that being purposeful in life and to society is the greater glory of civilisations.
Adults have come to peddle the notion that in order to survive in this world,
one must get into a university at whatever cost.
And so, throughout the schooling years, much is invested in tuition classes.
As long as we keep the private tuition industry thriving while schools hand over
this commitment to teach to tuition classes, we are to be blamed.
The argument may be one of wanting to make education more affordable or to
create enough room for the growing demand.
The fact is university education is becoming more expensive.
There is no university that is happy to just break even or operate at a loss.
Profits, expansions and grand facilities are all wrapped into a marketing
bundle.
Proclaiming excellence through glossy bro-chures and advertisements is
the order of the day.
Thirdly, let us be honest if we are serious about remedies that can work.
The quality of lecturers and faculty members is not something we can be proud
of.
I have encountered so many of them who have stopped reading even a book a year, let alone do research to boost their knowledge.
Getting by, doing routine tasks, was all that mattered.
It was this survival mantra that had taken root. Keeping your job and promotions mattered more.
And, the justification that prevailed was that the need to fulfil administrative
requirements, cramped teaching hours, preparing for examinations, plus marking
and grading, left hardly any time for them to read.
Fourthly, some students who enter universities are cut-and-paste material.
The majority of them can hardly write a two-page essay to demonstrate their
understanding, comprehension and thinking abilities.
Gone are the days where teachers were respected for their passion and pursuit of
knowledge and for being an authority on their subject. Gone, too, are the days
when teachers wrote well, read well and spoke well.
For as long as parents run the race with blinkers on, we will continue to suffer
this fate of unemployed graduates, unemployable graduates, misfit graduates,
declining standards of professionalism and acute shortage of skilled workers.
A lot needs to be done to see a change or set the education system back to its
glory days, where schools and universities were the hallmarks of excellent
education.

J. D. Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Call for Islamic mosques in Malaysia
To go green
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 September 2017
First Published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 30 August 2017

Thank you, Dr Zorina Khalid, for your letter titled “Let fresh air flow through
our mosques”
in New Straits Times, August 25.
It was an excellent piece.
The points raised and suggestions are not only applicable to mosques but also to
schools, colleges, other places of worship, community health, hospitals and
private organisations.
Environmentally-sustainable architecture to maximise use of natural light,
ventilation and rainwater, besides recycling and reusing, are necessary to
manage global warming and human sustainability.
Therefore, incentives provided for installation of solar panels for generating
electricity and rain harvesting systems for water conservation should be promoted by the authorities.
I am a member of a mosque management committee and am also involved in other
organisations where I have been trying to persuade initiatives like installing
solar panels, which not only give free electricity and reduce costs, but also
obtain additional revenue through Tenaga Nasional Bhd.
Reducing air-conditioner usage, especially on cooler and rainy days, and opening
the windows for air are other initiatives I am working on.
However, I encounter apathy and disinterest among committee members in these
attempts.
Perhaps it is good if state Islamic departments institutionalise these ideas
into guidelines for mosques or surau.
The Education and Health Ministries should work on guidelines for schools,
learning institutions, and hospitals.
The impact of greening these organisations is immense for the community, country
and world.
Other countries may follow successful Malaysian initiatives in workable,
eco-friendly and sustainable ways.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Prison for former PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Likened to William Addis
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 31 August 2017

Re: "Yingluck's flight is no win-win deal", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday August 30.
Soonruth Bunyamanee ably pinpoints the reality that fleeing a jail sentence
dooms political hopes. In contrast, being locked up is absolutely no barrier to promotion.
Ho Chi Minh, Hitler, Mandela, Stalin, Lenin, Gandhi, etc were all examples of eaders who had been in prison earlier in their careers.
Another incidental bonus of prison is that you might do something useful.
William Addis invented the toothbrush whilst in his cell and Cervantes managed to write the immortal novel Don Quixote.

Barry Kenyon,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Illegal foreign workers are flooding
The Malaysian labour market
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Sunday 27 August 2017

Workers should be treated with fairness, dignity and equality without distinction, irrespective of whether they are locals or migrants.
All forms of exploitative and abusive practices against workers are prohibited by
international and domestic legislation.
Slavery and forced or compulsory labour is prohibited by the Federal Constitution and the Penal Code.
The growing pace of economic globalisation has seen a hike in the number of
foreign or migrant workers entering the country.
Malaysia has increasingly relied on them to address its labour shortages, especially in the manufacturing,
construction and plantation sectors.
Despite the trend, over the past year, to restrict the number of foreign workers
and hire local labourers, foreign workers continue to enter Malaysia in large
numbers.
Foreign workers hired legally are accorded equal treatment and have the same
working conditions as locals, in line with the United Nations Convention on the
Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The primary objective of this convention is to foster respect for migrants’
human rights.
The Immigration Act provides, among other things, that the employment of a
foreign national must be upon the issuance of a valid employment permit.
The employment permit so issued is only valid in respect of the particular
employment and, further, the employer specified therein.
Unfortunately, illegal foreign workers are flooding the labour market and they
are posing greater risks to public safety and national security as some are
engaged in criminal activities.
In certain sectors, they are subjected to physical, verbal or psychological abuse.
Exploitation of illegal foreign workers is not uncommon.
Poor and hazardous working conditions, excessive and unreasonable demands, excessive working hours, inadequate rest days, non-payment or low wages, forced labour, child labour, sexual exploitation and verbal or physical abuse are some of the usual grouses of these workers.
These are often highlighted by the international media, which tarnishes the country’s image and creates tension between the host and the labour-supplying countries.
Hiring an illegal foreign worker or even harbouring such workers is an offence
under the Immigration Act.
If found guilty, the punishment is a fine of between RM10,000 and RM50,000.
Where it is proven that the person has, at the same time, harboured more than
five of such persons, that person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of
not less than six months but not more than five years and shall also be liable
to caning of not more than six strokes.
This country has many illegal or undocumented foreign workers. Many refuse to
take up the government’s amnesty offers, which would lead to their repatriation
or legalisation, because unscrupulous employers keep hiring them.
Vigorous enforcement of the law is required and employers found guilty of hiring
illegal workers should be subjected to maximum fines, imprisonment and caning.
The proposal to raise the fine to RM100,000 and to impose caning for each
illegal foreign worker employed is commendable.
This will ensure that legally hired foreign workers do not violate the terms of
their contracts by absconding and discourage employers from hiring illegal
workers.

Professor Dr Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed,
International Islamic University Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia