The Southeast Asian Times

A new magic word in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 December 2019

The Future Forward Party (FFP) is the biggest advocate for democracy in Thailand and uses "democracy" like it is a new magic word in the Thai vocabulary.
The party also claims quasi-ownership over what "democracy" expresses.
Future Forward Party (FFP got it right in saying each and every vote should count the same, and that votes should determine politics.
But it got it wrong about money in politics: Just how democratic is the FFP when big money is pumped in, not for the election, but at the level before, for the party? How much leverage does the lender have over the party?
And what happens if the party can't pay the money back?
Does Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, as lender, get more or less dictatorial power over the party than Thaksin had (or has?) over Pheu Thai and its predecessors?
It's not enough to point fingers at others and shout democracy.

A Johnsen,

Aung San Sui Kyi says the charge of genocide
Brought against Myanmar is misleading
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 December 2019

Aung San Sui Kyi says the charge of genocide brought against Myanmar is
" misleading ".
I agree. Sui Kyi is the one doing the misleading ( read, the distorting of the truth, or just plain lying! ).
The evidence of attempted genocide is well documented by reputable international bodies and is overwhelming.
Sui Kyi is trying to pull wool over the eyes of people at the genocide hearing in The Hague.
I can't understand why she has not yet been stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize?
She has disgraced the award.

Rajend Naidu,


Foreign athletes in the Philippines
Not asking for the moon
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 December 2019

Senate President Tito Sotto claims that we are too hospitable and should not pay too much attention to the complaints of athletes from other countries.
Were the foreign athletes asking too much that they be fetched at the airport at the soonest possible time?
Was it a very extravagant request that they be brought to the right hotel and the rooms were ready?
Were they very demanding to ask that adequate and nutritious food be served to them?
They were not asking for the moon, they were simply requesting basic amenities that we, as host country, should provide.
Yes, we would like our athletes to win.
But as the host country, it is our obligation to be good, effective and efficient guest relations officers for our guests.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

Philippine Ombudsman dismisses plunder complaint
Against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 December 2019

We strongly condemn the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss the last plunder complaint against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) over the alleged misuse of P73 million of the PCSO’s intelligence funds.
The junking of the charges of plunder, malversation of public funds and graft against Arroyo came down while the Filipinos were busy watching the Southeast Asian Games and monitoring Typhoon “Tisoy.”
But we should not let a sports event or a severe weather condition divert our attention from national issues that affect us all.
Lest we forget, President Duterte offered pardon to Arroyo before the Supreme Court acquitted the latter of plunder charges in 2016.
The former president, on the other hand, thanked Mr. Duterte for the high court’s decision dismissing the plunder raps filed against her.
It’s no wonder that the Ombudsman recently junked that last plunder charges against Arroyo, and it’s impossible not to think that Mr. Duterte had a hand in the decision.
Evidently, the current administration has failed to give justice to the Filipino people and punish public officials who plundered the nation.Like Mr. Duterte, Arroyo should also be held accountable for imposing a fascist reign of terror through her counterinsurgency programs Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.
The human rights group Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), and thousands of illegal arrests and other rights abuses, under these programs. And as we commemorated last Tuesday the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners, we likewise condemn the special treatment given to known plunderers and human rights violators like the Arroyos and Marcoses, who enjoy freedom and comfort while hundreds of political prisoners are languishing in inhumane conditions in jail under the Duterte administration.
We also call for the immediate release of Jaime “Diego” Padilla, the 72-year-old spokesperson of the New People’s Army-Southern Tagalog, who was illegally arrested while seeking medical attention, in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which state that those hors de combat (outside the fight) should be treated with humanity.
Furthermore, Padilla is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guidelines, or Jasig in his role as a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Jail the plunderers!
Release all the political prisoners!

Bagong Alyansang Makabayab-Cavate


Aung San Sui Kyi to answer charge of genicide
As private citizen at the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 December 2019

Is Aung San Sui Kyi making her uninvited trip to The Hague to defend the indefensible ?
The Myanmar State is facing a charge of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims brought by Gambia.
The evidence for the charge is well documented.
Aung San Sui Kyi claims she is making the trip to answer the charge as a " private citizen" ( ABC News 9/12 ).
So is she paying out of her own pocket to make the trip?
Or, is she going there as a paid propagandist for the brutal Myanmar military regime?

Rajend Naidu,


Call for helicopters to save Filipinos
Stranded and isolated in floods
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 December 2019

Please take a look at the devastation wrought by flooding in Cagayan Valley.
While local government units are extending a helping hand to the flood victims, the assistance is still not sufficient, perhaps due to limited resources and inadequate capacities.
The government should send out helicopters to save stranded or isolated people who have been left homeless, as well as transportation to move food, medical and other necessary supplies to flood-stricken communities.
As the water continues to rise, Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela, also released water on December 6 at 7 a.m., adding more to the anxiety of flood victims as they struggle for their lives.
Cagayan Valley is on its knees, and it needs our help right now.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,

China bars Taiwan from the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

I am happy to read about what Taiwan is doing to fight global warming, and it is a shame that they have been barred from participating in the Conference of the Parties held under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on climate change.
Every country in the world needs to do everything it can to mitigate the effects of global warming.
It also sounds like the Taiwanese Minister for Environmental Protection is a lot more impressed with Thailand's efforts in this area than even our government since as far as I know no one from this government has ever come forward to tell us about any plan to fight global warming, if such a plan exists.

Let Our Children Live,

Call for Fiji to do the right thing
For West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 December 2019

The Southeast Asian Times front page article ' Fiji women fly banned Morning Star flag in solidarity with West Papua ( 6 Dec ) tells us there are people in Fiji who are prepared to do the right thing by standing with the oppressed people of West Papua in their long struggle to free themselves from the yoke of Indonesian colonial rule.
This show of solidarity by the Fijian people must mean a lot for the West Papuans in their fight to live as a free people.
A right denied them by the Indonesian State.
Hope the Fijian State too does the right thing and support the just cause of the West Papuans and not come under the sway of the Indonesian State.

Rajend Naidu

"It is not always the same thing
To be a good man and a good citizen"
- Aristotle
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

Re: "Elite hide behind phoney shield of 'patriotism'", in Bangkok Post Opinion, December 3.
Wrapping oneself in the flag is a fake and extreme way to love one's country.
Many have aptly defined true patriotism: "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen" - Aristotle,
"Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government when it deserves it" - Mark Twain, "To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism" - G Griffin, and "The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously" - Julian Barnes.
Certainly, ranting against one's nation is out of bounds, while showing pride in its achievements is nationalism and not patriotism.

Songdej Praditsmanont,


Call for much greater transparency
In Thai military spending
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 December 2019

Re: "Prawit defends army spending", in Bangkok Post, December 3, 2019.
I share Defence Ministry spokesperson Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich's concern that using incomplete information could cause misunderstandings and confusion among the public, and thus I propose much greater transparency be adopted. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon cannot get by with assurances that "spending of the military budget strictly adheres to relevant laws" any more than a SET-listed company's president can assuage shareholders by saying "your firm's spending strictly adheres to relevant laws" - and keep the company's books closed.
Since all funding for the military comes either from taxes or official work undertaken by soldiers, those monies properly belong not to the military but to taxpayers.
For example, if I have my driver open a car-washing business, using my time, equipment and staff, all revenues and expenses from the car-wash are mine, not the driver's.
Thus, to assure fund owners that their money is being used as intended, I suggest that, as with any listed company, the military be required to have its finances audited annually under the same standards and timetable as a SET-listed firm, by auditors authorised by the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission, with results including off-budget items posted on the internet.
The sole exception would be matters of national security, but even those must have controls, and we can look to how more transparent countries, like Singapore, control their military's finances.
Thus, for example, we should analyse income and expenses at military-controlled radio/TV stations, horse racing, etc, for their relevance to the armed forces' mission of defending us from external enemies, and at how we could get more value for money in achieving that mission.
Yes, Lt Gen Kongcheep, let's clear up public confusion through greater transparency.

Burin Kantabutra,

A tyrant cannot succeed without
A submissive citizenry in his grip
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 December 2019

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Decembe 7, 1941, killing around 2,000 innocent people - soldiers and civilians - and thrusting America to the world war. Soon, some parts of the Philippines were bombed, too.
Never again should such a grisly, inhuman atrocity happen.
In today’s world where strongman leaderships are menacingly flying high, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that one of the darkest chapters in history cannot have a repeat.
On account of megalomania, power is attained and maintained at the expense of human lives.
The innocent becomes the primary victim of a leader who greedily wants to have it all.
It is worth noting that, back then, the people of Japan willfully surrendered their freedom and dignity so as to devote their lives to their emperor.
The culpability lies not only in those who are in positions of power, but also in the citizenry who are blind to the evils committed glaringly.
A tyrant cannot succeed without a submissive citizenry in his grip.
Our arch-enemy - the passion of the few to rule the many and accumulate so much wealth - is actually ever present, quietly lingering among us.
This is why the crusade for freedom should never cease, for freedom is not free, but has to be fought for.
The attack on Pearl Harbor should remind us of the necessity of unceasing vigilance.

Ian Carlo L Aragon,

Graffiti is not the answer to change in the Philippines
But it sure is an effective way to register protest
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 December 2019
Firts published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 29 November 2019

This is a response to Winna Vista’s letter, “Vandalism wastes gov’t money” in Philippine Inquirer, November 20, 2019.
In her letter, Vista expressed agreement with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who threatened to make the members of the cultural youth group Panday Sining lick their graffiti on the walls of the Lagusnilad underpass and other public spaces “because it costs a lot of money to clean and repaint those areas.”
Strangely enough, some of our countrymen - especially the middle class - see the costs of repainting walls but not the human costs of the government’s war on drugs and crackdown against unarmed activists.
What is the good of being decent when we see only what we want to see, or hear what we only want to hear?
People are getting killed without due process and workers are being jailed for merely asserting their rights, while the Duterte administration is selling out the country’s sovereignty to China.
Yet we choose to focus our attention on Panday Sining’s graffiti act itself, rather than the message it is trying to convey?
Why can we tolerate spray-painted signs like “bawal ang umihi dito” but not political slogans that expose government injustice?
“Will it be acceptable if people spray-paint the walls in University of the
Philippines (UP)?
Will it be the right thing?” asked Vista.
I did not study at Philippines (UP), but I don’t think its administration would react in the same manner that Moreno did, but would rather respond accordingly. Besides, University of the Philippines (UP) is no stranger to “vandalism.”
Last March, University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu’s facade was spray-painted with the words “SALOT” and “CPP-NPA,” Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) obviously Red-tagging the University of the Philippines (UP) community.
Not only was such graffiti malicious, it also endangered the university constituents by making them target of harassment or persecution.
Unfortunately, the incident did not attract much media attention.
True, spraying paint on walls is not the answer to change, but it sure is an effective way to register protest, especially when the democratic spaces are being compromised by the state.
We should not be fooled by the rhetoric of traditional politicians and bureaucrats equating blind obedience with good citizenship.
In fact, we should be grateful to the progressive youth artists for - in the words of Paul Simon - daring to “disturb the sound of silence.”

Daniel Aloc,

China in control
Of Philippines power grid
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 2 December 2019

Our lawmakers need to take a look at the news that our power grid is under the control of the Chinese government and can be shut off in time of conflict.
It’s alarming to know that the Chinese government now has the capability to interrupt our national power system.
This poses grave risks to our public structures and national security.

Ann Aquino,

The proposal to reform military conscription
Has wide popular support in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 December 2019
First published in he Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 November 2019

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha failed to grasp Future Forward's strategic brilliance when he accused its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of running the "wrong campaign" by calling for the abolition of military conscription," in Bangkok Post, November 28.
Future Forward has, on the contrary, chosen its first reform campaign very sensibly, as proven by the Prime Minister's failure to present any sensible opposing argument.
Future Forward's proposal to bring an antiquated conscription system, which is unfit for national defence or any other service to the nation, into the modern era of small, professional, well-equipped troops trained and equipped to respond quickly and effectively, including as "first rescuers" in natural disasters, is exactly what the Thai nation needs from the defence budget it pays for.
The proposal to reform military conscription also has wide popular support.
Future Forward is, therefore, to be congratulated on its political acumen in choosing to wage this particular campaign.
That Future Forward's proposal is already separating the good people from the bad old men in the eyes of the electorate will prove a valuable collateral benefit come the next election campaign.

Felix Qui,



Rice is no longer the backbone
Of the Thai economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post. Monday 25 November 2019

Re: "Make Thai rice great again", in Bangkok Post Monday 25 November
I respectfully disagree with the positions advocated in the Bangkok Post's editorial calling for increased government support to the rice sector.
While it is understandable that national pride would motivate Thailand to try to maintain its reputation for producing the highest-quality rice in the world, policymakers are on the right track in focusing research and development on the digital economy and other more promising emerging economic sectors of the future.
It should be painfully obvious to all that rice farming is a poverty trap for farmers and a huge drain on the country's financial resources.
Successive Thai governments have rained billions of baht in taxpayers' money on farmers to subsidise a sector that otherwise cannot provide a decent income to rice producers.
Despite the handouts and support, most rice farmers remain poor.
The assertion put forth in the editorial that rice production has always been the backbone of the Thai economy - while perhaps true in the past - is no longer correct.
The 180-billion-baht value of Thai rice exported annually represents barely 2 percent of the country's total exports, lagging far behind at least nine other categories of goods shipped abroad.
Thailand will continue to produce outstanding rice well into the future.
But, the sooner more rice farmers are shifted to other more lucrative sectors, the better for all.
Current farmers may finally escape the poverty trap of rice farming and the country will escape from the burden of treasury-draining subsidies.

Samanea Saman,



Time for Thailand to establish modern military
That would include women
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 November 2019

Re: "Military draft to stay: Prawit", in Bangkok Post, November 26.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon's concept of the place of conscription in the Thai military seems completely inconsistent with the government's 4.0 modernising strategy.
Rather than helping to create a "stable, equitable and fair" society, maintaining military conscription simply perpetuates the same old social and gender divisions (why are women excluded from conscription?) that impede any real progress towards achievement of those national development goals.
Surely it's time for Thailand to create a fully modern professional army, along the model adopted by many developed countries.
As well as comprising of well-trained and equipped personnel, able to defend the country, that modern army would provide a career path and opportunities for occupational training for many young people, including women, who are disenfranchised by the current conscription system.
Gen Prawit worries that if conscription were abolished then there would not be enough soldiers to defend the country, but he contradicts himself by admitting that "conscripts represent a small percentage of all recruits".
But wouldn't the country be better defended by a well-trained body of professional soldiers than a motley assembly of men who don't want to be there in the first place, and many of whom have spent most of their time since recruitment assigned as household servants to high-ranking officers?
The general claims that "public opinion would also have to be factored in if conscription were to be abolished", but it seems to me that the majority of the public is actually opposed to conscription.
As one who is so passionate about watches, Gen Prawit must surely know that the time has come for Thailand to abolish conscription and move from the past into the present.

N. Parker,

Thai Buddhist heart has much in common
With a Christian heart
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 23 November 2019

Re: "Give the Gospel a Thai face, says Pope", in Bangkok Post, Saturday November 23, 2019
Pope Francis has a good heart and means well, but he's a little off base in wanting to give Christianity a Thai face.
It doesn't matter what kind of face Christianity has.
What matters is its heart.
The face is merely a superficial membrane.
The heart symbolically, at least is the core of one's being.
Insofar as the Thai heart is a Buddhist heart, it has much in common with the Christian heart.
The heart of Christianity, its primary virtue as taught by Jesus, is love.
The heart of Buddhism, as I understand it, is loving kindness.
If loving kindness (metta) is not the heart of Buddhism, as one of the four brahma viharas it qualifies at least as an auricle or a ventricle.
There isn't much difference between love and lovingkindness.
As near as I can make out, the major difference is that lovingkindness sublimates the element of attachment that we usually attribute to love.
So instead of focusing on what kind of face Christianity displays in Thailand, His Holiness would do better to focus on its heart.
If he does this, he will find that the heart of Christianity and the heart of Buddhism are pretty much the same.
Labels don't matter.
Buddhists don't need to become Christians, nor do Christians need to become Buddhists.
All that is needed is for both of them to become better exemplars of their own faith.

Ye Olde Theologian,

Graffiti not vandalism
But protest art
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 November 2019

I want to share my thoughts on the latest vandalism incident at Lagusnilad, Manila, where Mayor Isko Moreno challenged the members of progressive artist group Panday Sining to lick their graffiti.
Mayor Isko showed to the media how difficult it is to scrub off the graffiti on an electric box right in front of the Manila City Hall.
Members of Panday Sining said it was freedom of expression as art.
For purposes of discussion, what if we all go to their respective houses and spray-paint their fences, walls or vehicles?
They also quoted a University of the Philippines (UP) professor saying that it is legal and valid and should not be taken as a form of vandalism, but protest art.
Will it be acceptable if people spray-paint on the walls of the University of the Philippines (UP)?
Will it be the right thing?
I understand where Mayor Isko is coming from when he said that those who vandalized the walls in Manila should lick their graffiti, because it costs a lot of money to clean and repaint those areas.
In fact, that money could have been used for other purposes such as for indigent patients in the Philippine General Hospital, or relief efforts for quake-hit areas in Mindanao.

Winna Vista,



Judges and Justices getting killed
Left and right in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 November 2019

The Supreme Court has sent to Congress its draft of a bill creating the Philippine Marshal Service to gin up calls for special protection for all magistrates and their personnel.
It is virtually an admission that the Philippine National Police can no longer be expected to do its job of protecting everyone.
Judges and justices are getting killed left and right.
Come to think of it, so are lawyers.
Should not the Integrated Bar of the Philippines also draft its own “marshal plan”?
So how does that work, really?
Will judges, justices or their personnel under some kind of threat (imagined or real) be provided with such glorified security guards?
The proposed budgetary appropriation seems too paltry for such a gargantuan task.
Will the Supreme Court raise filing and docketing fees again?
Already, litigants are being forced to pay astronomically high court fees to fund astronomical increases in the salaries, allowances, etc. of judges, justices and their personnel without litigants perceiving any improvement in the usual snail-paced movement of their cases.
It is copycat legislation, patterned after models now in place in countries that have no problem footing the bill for such a cash-intensive scheme.
Let’s face it, it is a luxury that cash-strapped, Third World countries like ours can ill afford.
Besides, no one is really safe from a determined assassin.
Every citizen in this country is always in danger of being killed one way or the other.
Curiously, does not the Supreme Court-sponsored proposal violate the “equal protection” clause of the Constitution?
Are magistrates and their personnel more “equal” than the rest of us?
Obviously, the quality of law enforcement in this country sucks.
Police authorities are often seen as “sleeping on the job.”
We doubt, though, if transferring control of “special cops” to the Supreme Court will do the trick - given its already insurmountable problem of dealing with thousands upon thousands of unresolved cases.

Marcelo Jr., Garcis,

Malaysian government applauded for establishing
The Consultative Council for People’s Harmony
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 November 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 15 November 2019

The government should be applauded for the establishment earlier this year of the Consultative Council for People’s Harmony (Majlis Perundingan Keharmonian Rakyat).
This is an apt, wise and timely initiative to strengthen national harmony and begin a new narrative on race relations.
Over the past few months we have seen our unity and religious harmony fraying at the edges. Racial polarisation has worsened and ethnic divides have widened. It is time to heal the nation and bring our people closer together.
Hopefully, the Consultative Council will help overcome racial divides and promote closer relationships that are so vital for economic growth and continued prosperity, peace and stability. And, hopefully, the government will endorse and implement whatever recommendations the council proposes.
Having served on the previous NUCC (National Unity Consultative Council) and having been honoured to be one of 15 members appointed to the new council, I hope to be able to contribute constructively to the strengthening of national unity and harmony.
Growing up in the 1960s in a mixed multiracial school environment, I am reminded of moments of unity at school back then. I look forward to working with other members on the new council to recall such unity in strengthening national harmony.
To enhance national unity, I propose that we focus on the 4Rs and 4Ms. The 4Rs are respect, reciprocity, responsibilities of citizenship, and racial and religious tolerance. The 4Ms are moderation, morality, mechanisms to overcome conflicts, and middle Malaysia standing up for unity and harmony.
The silent majority must not stand silent when our unity and harmony are being threatened. They should stand up and speak up against intolerance and bigotry.
We must end ethnic and religious divides. We must not let polarising politicians from either side of the political divide to continue to divide us. Political leaders, whatever their political allegiance, must condemn and reject extremism and hate speech and promote policies that are just, fair and inclusive.
The government should also implement the Hate Crimes Bill that the previous NUCC had unanimously recommended.
There are several grassroots organisations that are committed to working towards national unity like Dialog Rakyat, Maju, G25 and others. We should support and applaud their efforts.
Moving forward, we should promote the values of acceptance, compromise and tolerance (ACT) and act boldly to enhance trust and confidence. National harmony can be further enhanced if policies are fair, just and inclusive.
Many people may be sceptical or cynical about what the new council can achieve, but give the council a chance to make a difference and place confidence in the Pakatan Harapan government to accept and implement what the new council will propose.
Let not our efforts be in vain. The time for national reconciliation is now and more important than ever.
Finally, we should uphold and practise the 4Cs: cooperation, confidence-building, consultation and upholding the Constitution as the bedrock of national harmony.

Tan Sri Michael Yeoh,
National Harmony Consultative Council,
Kuala Lumpur,

Many Asean countries
Kowtowing to China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 November 2019

Re: "Trump gamesmanship risks Asean ties", in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 15.
Khun Thitinan wrote: "If Asean-US relations sour in the near term, China will be a major beneficiary, putting Asean at a disadvantage."
Many Asean countries are already kowtowing to the Chinese.
They are placing themselves in a disadvantaged situation, a situation which will soon prove too late to escape.
China will "own" these countries.
The Chinese understand that the greed of leaders of several Asian nations makes them easy to manage.


Call for Thai Minister Thamanat Prompow
To be moved to an inactive post
The Southeast Asian TImes, Saturday 23 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 November 2019

Re: "PPRP MP Parina under fire for Ratchaburi poultry farm," in Bangkok Post, November 12.
I have no problem with Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Capt Thamanat Prompow ordering Alro to check on Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP Parina Kraikup's poultry farm which rests on Sor Por Kor land, a special public plot assigned to local farmers to make a living.
But "Thamanat, using the name Manat Bophlom, was arrested in Australia and charged with conspiring to import 3.2kg of heroin ... pleaded guilty, was released from Parklea prison on April 14, 1997 after four years' imprisonment and deported"
("Sinister minister: Thai Parliament to ask for Australia's help over politician's criminal past," The Sydney Morning Herald, October 10, 2019; emphasis added.)
"The Thai Constitution states that a person who has been involved in narcotics offences ... is prohibited from being elected as an MP", July 10, 2019.
On the other hand, DPM Wissanu Krea-Ngam said Capt Thamanat's "eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary", which seems to be contrary to what our constitution says.
Should crimes committed overseas help reveal a person's ethics and integrity, especially since the man claims innocence and no jail record?
Being a Thai cabinet member is a very high honour and we surely should not have a sinister minister in it.
While his case is being investigated, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should move Capt Thamanat to an inactive post, as is customary to stop him from interfering with the probe.
The facts should be readily available from the NSW Supreme Court, NSW District Court, and Parklea Prison

Burin Kantabutra,

Philippine government’s three-year drug war
Mostly targeted the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 November 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo has recently responded to the seemingly overwhelming challenge to overhaul the flagship “war on drugs” program of the Duterte administration.
This bravado shown by the second highest elected leader of the country must have concrete support from all sectors of society, or else we will all fail.
With the immensity of the problem, we are required to commit time, effort and resources and not to stand by the sidelines, or else we become counterweights to the solution.
How much more blood will be shed, and how much more mourning will happen, especially among the poor?
As a people threatened by this social malaise, “It takes a village to raise a child” should be our guiding mantra.
The task of going to war against drugs demands the sustained commitment of every Filipino in each household of the community.
We must exhaust all means of communication to inform and educate people on the malevolence of drug addiction, especially with the government’s three-year drug war resulting so far in a limited achievement.
Based on reports, drug-based arrests and killings have mostly targeted the poor as hapless victims.
Now is the time to act as one people in addressing the massive problem of poverty.
We must awaken our love for country and not wait for a social upheaval, as in the case of Lebanon, Venezuela, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Hong Kong, to name a few.
Our village, our beloved country, is in dire need of volunteers - wherever you are in the archipelago, there your mandate is to serve the poor, the marginalized and the needy.
VP Leni cannot do it alone.
She is only demonstrating for us that while she can stay comfortable and allow time to pass by without dirtying her hands, she has instead chosen to act now and provide the leadership we need very badly. Halina, tulong din tayo!

Jaime D. Raneses,
Kugos Bikol Inc.



Call for Malaysia Election Commission (EC)
To reject restrictions for door-to-door campaigning
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 November 2019
Firts published in the Star, Thursday 14 November 2019

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) questions the condition set by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) that requires candidates for the Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor to apply for a police permit for door-to-door campaigning.
We call on the Election Commission (EC) as the highest body for electoral management to reject the the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) proposed condition as it is not based on the law and restricts the freedom to campaign.
There has never been such a restriction in the history of elections in Malaysia.
Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind the EC and all, that it is mandated by the Federal Constitution to request assistance from public authorities to assist in the conduct of elections as provided in Article 115(2): “All public authorities shall on the request of the Commission give the Commission such assistance in the discharge of its duties as may be practicable.”
The police cannot go beyond the limit set out in Section 24B of the Election Offences Act 1954 which states that the candidate only needs to obtain a permit from the police if he wishes to organise any meetings, a rally, display, or such entertainment involving speeches or lectures.
It is unreasonable for the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to impose unnecessary rules to restrict the campaigning methods of candidates, more so when the rules are set midway of the campaigning period.
With the short campaign period, the requirement to apply for a door-to-door campaign permit is unreasonable and unfair to the candidates.
Given that there is no need for police permits to assemble under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, it is very unreasonable to propose this new permit.
In fact, Bersih 2.0 proposes that provisions on the need for police permits for political talks under the Election Offences
Act 1954 be abolished in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
Bersih 2.0, once again, urges the police and the EC to revoke this requirement for a permit for door-to-door campaigning and allow the Tanjung Piai by-election candidates the freedom to campaign in whatever way they feel is necessary as long as they adhere to the Election Offences Act 1954 and other related laws.

Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee,
Kuala Lumpur,

Prosecutors accused of colossal bungling in recovery
Of Marcos ill gotten wealth

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 November 2019

The news “Sandiganbayan: PCGG can appeal dismissal of case vs. Marcoses” in Philippine Inquirer November 13, 2019 showed us the colossal bungling on the part of the prosecutors of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) handling the P102-billion ill-gotten wealth case against the Marcos dynasty.
Are they really the best lawyers the government can afford?
How pathetic!
First, they screwed up the presentation of evidence during the trial by exhibiting only photocopies of vital documents.
A big no-no learned in evidence class in any law school.
Without the originals being produced, no court can give any credence to photocopies which are so easy to manufacture.
And then, even after shamelessly and shamefully losing the case, they still had the temerity to file a fatally defective motion for reconsideration of the dismissal order. It was court procedure 101, for Pete’s sake!
How dumb can they all be?
It is no comfort that the Sandiganbayan has taken back its ruling to junk the motion for reconsideration.
The fact still remains: No competent and credible evidence exist in the wake of mere photocopies being the ones the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) prosecutors are principally relying upon.
Alas, given President Duterte’s “love affair” with the Marcoses whose huge contribution to his presidential campaign in 2016 made him what he is now, we would not be surprised if he promoted those nincompoops or appointed them as judges - instead of firing them.
Heaven help us!

Grace Po-Quicho,



The Chinese communist state
Cannot be accused of being hypocritical
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 November 2019

China has rejected the visa for two Australian senators for a China study tour because they had made negative/ critical comments on China.
Now there is no real surprise there because that is consistent with the way the Chinese communist state behaves.
It tolerates no criticism of its conduct.
That tends to be true also for some third world democracies where the ruling mob find criticism unpalatable .
The case of the ban on historian Professor Brij Lal ( of Australian National University ANU ) and his wife Padma Narsey by the Fijian State is an example in point.
What I find surprising is why some western democracies behave in a not dissimilar manner?
I have been the victim of a visa rejection by the US. I am a pro- democracy activist.
I can't understand why the US has denied me entry.
At least the Chinese communist state cannot be accused of being hypocritical.
We can't say the same for American democracy.

Rajend Naidu,

Going after small-time wildlife poachers or traffickers
Is not the solution
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 November 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 November 2019

The latest revelation by the Inspector-General of Police that VVIPs are involved in the illegal wildlife trade and poaching is indeed cause for concern.
Stopping poaching requires action against these wealthy and influential bosses of often extremely well-connected organised crime gangs.
It is not just about catching and jailing poachers because there’s an endless supply of them. Going after small-time poachers or traffickers is not the solution; the focus should be on the big players in the poaching networks and corrupt government officials.
Among wildlife traffickers, these VVIPs are typically big business people who cover up their crime by exploiting their status to benefit themselves, those close to them, and their organisations.
They usually have legitimate businesses acting as a front for their illegal activities, such as trading or shipping companies or commodity-based businesses, all of which makes it easier for them to move cargo around.
These individuals, often with honorifics to their names, have powerful connections with government officials, politicians, the well-heeled, and the elite.
Criminal groups dealing in wildlife tend to include multinational players which further complicates investigations.
Governments often do not share information or effectively collaborate across borders.
The spike in poaching recently, with animals slaughtered inside national parks or conservation areas, shows that poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to end the killing.
They have no respect for borders; if one nation toughens its laws, they will move to a neighbouring country.
If protection is extended to one endangered wildlife population, they will target another species.
Corruption is another factor; and corruption among government officials, agencies and rangers has profound effects on the extent of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Corruption plays an important role in facilitating wildlife crimes, undermining efforts to enforce laws against such crime. Local communities, too, are often willing participants in the illegal wildlife trade.
Experts say it’s time to treat this billion-dollar illegal trade in the same way as other serious organised crimes, by adopting tools commonly used in fighting drug lords and other crime kingpins such as anti-money laundering techniques, and financial investigation.
There is virtually nothing done in terms of investigation into the financial side of the wildlife trade.
Money laundering experts should be involved in tackling wildlife crime.
Corruption and weak regulatory frameworks may offer several opportunities for criminal organisations to launder the proceeds of the crime.
A one-size-fits-all approach in tackling wildlife trafficking is unlikely to be effective and individual, case-dependent solutions must be developed if illegal wildlife trafficking is to be stopped and our animals saved.

Meenakshi Raman,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysia's Council of Rulers to promote
National philosophy of resistance and intolerance to racism
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 November 2019
First Published in the Star, Thursday 14 October 2019

Malaysians were recently blessed with sound advice on unity from our royal rulers.
Firstly, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Riayattuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, in his address at Maulidur celebrations last weekend, said that “the Prophet’s administration emphasised the feeling of love among each other, and could universally be used as a major example to generate solidarity among the people” “Respect and love key to solidarity”, in the Star, November 10.
Secondly, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, in his address at the National Islamic Affairs Council’s golden jubilee celebrations on November 7, said Muslims should not be passive spectators, as this would allow Islam to be hijacked by groups that manipulate the religion to fit their narrow purpose “Sultan: Islam is shaped by its people”, in the Star November 8.
Indeed, this could easily be applicable to all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.
These words from royalty could become a clarion call to all Malaysians to adopt their meaning to strengthen national unity.
It is my humble wish - and surely that of all patriotic Malaysians - to appeal to our illustrious Council of Rulers to more strongly promote this national philosophy of resistance to and intolerance of any form of racism, religious bigotry and the violation of human rights.
We should follow up with a national movement that could impose effective checks and balances on politicians and even some wayward academics who uttered sentiments that have harmed our maruah negara national dignity.
We are aware that these anti-Malaysian statements have caused much hurt to a large number of Malaysians and even shaken the confidence of friendly foreign investors in Malaysia’s future.
Many have asked whether this is, in fact, the deep state intention of the organisers of the recent “Malay Dignity Congress”.
If this negative perception is not corrected and put right in time, and before any elections, we may witness unfortunate consequences that could undermine our national well- being.
As a proud non-Malay Malaysian, and no doubt like many others, I feel sadly pained by attacks on my Malaysian identity and “Malaysianess”.
I ask my fellow Malaysians who uttered those hurtful words how they would feel in our shoes.
Where are the truly Malaysian values as reflected in our Constitution and Rukun Negara?
Actually, all our socioeconomic successes so far, and our hard-won peace and stability, could be easily wiped out by racial and religious extremists and corrupt leaders.
Thus we as patriotic Malaysians should stoutly rally around our royal rulers and supportive political leaders to build mutual respect and love for each other.
Let us all reject hatemongers in our elections.
We need to ensure that we will not be hijacked by extremists, as advised by our wise rulers, or we will easily self-destruct.
Hidup Malaysia dan semua warga negara patriotic Malaysia!

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

Why take Filipino American Kalei Mau off the national team
When SEA Games are just around the corner
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 November 2019

Since the announcement that the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will be held in the Philippines this year, Filipino volleyball fans have been very excited to watch the games.
The women power spikers in the national volleyball team to watch out for are Alyssa Valdez, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Kalei Mau.
Both Valdez and Maizo-Pontillas were standouts in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines during their collegiate careers, and in their stints with different professional volleyball leagues.
A good reinforcement is Filipino-American Kalei Mau, who emerged as the most valuable player and best scorer in the 2019 Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Conference.
Mau also helped the national team secure third place in the first leg of the Asean Grand Prix in September.
But on November 8, Mau was cut by the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) from the roster of the national team.
LVPI said Mau failed to meet the two-year minimum residency requirement to play for the national team in an international competition.
Mau began to play in PSL late last year.
She would miss the opportunity to play for our national team in the SEA Games this year.
But why release a lineup for the national team without first screening the eligibility of all the players?
And why the decision just now, when Mau has already trained with the whole team and when the SEA Games is just around the corner?
How come Mau was able to be part of the national team in an international competition like the Asean Grand Prix?
She would surely be a big loss to our national team’s bid for a podium finish in the SEA Games.
The last time the team won a medal (bronze) in the SEA Games was in 2005. Would we miss the opportunity to have another podium finish this year?
I hope not.
I do wish Mau could finally join our national team in the next SEA Games.
Despite this heartbreaking news, I hope this would not affect the preparation and performance of the national team in the SEA Games.
There’s still the home court advantage, anyway.
Let us support the women’s national volleyball team and the rest of our teams in the 30th SEA Games from November 30 to December 11.
As the Games’ official slogan goes, “We win as one!”

John Patrick F Solano,

Philippines activists are at the forefront
Of upholding the people’s basic human rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 November 2019

A wave of raids and mass arrests have descended upon Metro Manila and Bacolod City since October. 31, specifically targeting activists and development workers.
Among them are farmers, agricultural workers, trade unionists, cultural performers, community organizers and even minors.
A few days later, government officials red-tagged several humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation, and also organizations advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Cordillera region as fronts of the so-called “communist terrorist group.”
These organizations have already belied the government’s baseless accusations, and some have even subjected their offices to inspections by the Commission on Human Rights just to prove that they are not in possession of firearms and explosives.
With the threat to the lives of many activists, development workers and human rights defenders, the general public must realize that their individual rights are also endangered with the culture of impunity reigning in the country.
Development workers and progressive nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in providing social services to marginalized groups and strive to address maldevelopment issues such as unemployment, landlessness, hunger, illiteracy, lack of access to health services, workers’ rights, children’s rights, environmental protection and similar concerns.
However, with the success of their programs came the maltreatment of state security forces.
Many of the government’s actions are meant to criminalize persons involved in development work and to legitimize the harassment being perpetuated against them by the police and military.
The government justifies these brutalities by saying that development workers are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) or that their socioeconomic projects benefit the New People’s Army (NPA).
But the truth is that the beneficiaries of these projects are the poor rural and urban communities.
Moreover, activists are at the forefront of upholding the people’s basic human rights, are critical of unjust and dubious government policies and programs, and demand accountability from those in power.
Thus, every citizen benefits from their tireless determination and sincerity in serving the people.
Past Philippine presidents, and now President Duterte and his administration, continually fail to understand that genuine development happens when human rights are respected and enjoyed by the people, instead of being restricted.
The President’s efforts to silence his critics are failing miserably, and instead, their voices are growing louder with every human rights violation he instigates.

Bishop Dindo Ranojo,
Diocese of Tarlac, Iglesia Filipina Independiente,
Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network



Build, Build, Build and Belt and Road Initiative
Boldest and most ambitious infrastructure program
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 11 November 2019

This is in reference to your editorial “Downsized promise” in Philippine Inquirer November 6, 2019.
First and foremost, we wish to unequivocally state that the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program was never just a fleeting political sound bite of this administration - as your editorial seems to imply - but is the boldest and most ambitious infrastructure program for the future in order to sustain, and even accelerate, the country’s economic growth and, more importantly, make our people’s daily lives more comfortable.
This program was brought about by the urgent and dramatic need to build up our country’s infrastructure due to decades of neglect and underinvestment of past administrations.
As it stands, the country is at least 20 years behind and, as a result, the life of most Filipinos on a daily basis, especially in our urban centers, has become almost unbearable.
Yet, in the face of this glaring and real problem, your editorial even attempts to trivialize the program by framing it as a capitulation to China.
This completely false and narrow-minded view clearly demonstrates your failure or refusal to see that “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) is primarily for the Filipino people.
And any country - whether Japan, South Korea, China or the United States - is more than welcome to assist and participate for as long as the benefits will redound to our people, and without any strings attached.
Secondly, “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) was never just about the Duterte administration.
Following the President’s aversion to anything that smacks of self-promotion, we have never claimed these projects to be his nor that all the projects under the program would be completed during the President’s term.
The sheer scale of the program makes this impossible, a fact that should be obvious to anyone.
What we have committed, and this has been on record from Day One, is to start all of them, complete as many as we can and significantly progress on most of them in order to build momentum into the years after his term ends in 2022.
Continuity is what is most important to the President, especially at this stage in his term.
“Build, Build, Build” (BBB) is all about building momentum into the future so that whoever takes over will find it very difficult to discontinue these projects and will, hopefully, put the welfare of the Filipino above any political consideration.
Last Wednesday, the National Economic and Development Authority approved the revised list of 100 infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs), which is more reflective of our most urgent needs and also comprises projects that we can start immediately.
A significant number of these projects - more than half - will be completed, while some will be partially operational, by 2022.
That said, we strongly disagree with your assertion that there has been a downsizing in the Duterte administration’s promise of ushering in a “golden age in infrastructure.”
Please note that the estimated cost for the 100 projects, which cover five categories - transport and mobility, power, water, information and communications technology, and urban development and renewal - is P4.2 trillion, more than double the P2.4 trillion of the previous 75 IFPs.
More importantly, this only forms part of the P8-trillion budget for the whole BBB program composed of thousands of projects.
So clearly, there has been no reduction, rather we were simply rationalizing and prioritizing a portion of the whole.
Finally, of the total 100 projects, 26 will be implemented through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Unlike in previous administrations where contracts were riddled with provisions that exposed future administrations to potentially huge liabilities and exorbitant user fees, the Duterte administration will ensure that PPPs promote public interest and shall be for the people.
Building strong momentum and ensuring continuity are the keys to the success of “Build, Build, Build” (BBB).
The boldness of this type of long-view thinking is what separates the Duterte administration from previous ones, which focused more on politics instead of the much-needed infrastructure buildup that our people so desperately need.

Vivencio B. Dizon,
Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects,

It is not right for the Papua New Guinea police
To use violence against any citizen

The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 November 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 7 November 2019

It is not fascinating but very terrifying to hear and read about the increasing police brutality and abuse of constitutional duty daily.
The result is the loss of billions of kina by the State and hundreds of lives.
It is not right for the police or any disciplinary officer to use violence against any citizen, whether your family member or any other citizen for that matter.
Using maximum violence to carry out State duty is constitutionally erroneous.
We are seeing this happening in our country with policemen going rogue daily.
Police have statutory duties to perform which is the State’s right.
The right lies in the State and it controls the State’s institutions such as the Papua New Guinea Royal Constabulary.
The rights of the State lies in the hands of the public or citizens.
The institutions, especially the police and other disciplinary forces, should not see themselves as having the right to apply violence on anyone, anytime.
The police have the legitimate duty to protect the interest and rights of the people and have no right to apply maximum violence.
The powers of the police are primarily to maintain law and order through:
Arrest and charge lawbreakers and detain them in police cells so that they can face the law in courts;
ensure peace and good order in the community;
provide security to all citizens so that our rights and freedom and our properties are protected;
investigate criminal activities;
escort very important persons (VIPs) when the need arises; and,
Enforce court orders.
These are the main duties of the police and any activities contrary and apart from these are criminal. It doesn’t matter what social status or position or objective the officer has.
Their duty is to ensure that the law achieves its purpose.
Everyone should allow the law to operate as it is intended and these require a collective effort, whether the law achieves its purpose depends on actions and decisions they take.
Applying maximum violence will not achieve the purpose of the law, of our freedom, equality and the rule of law will be affected.
The consequence are escalating law and order problems.
The police have a duty to adhere to the law and act accordingly to the law.
If the law provides certain processes and procedures that require them to follow when carrying out State duties and activities, they have to abide by the sets of procedures.
They should also respect the rights of every individual.
Police have the constitutional duty to execute and not a legitimate right to apply extreme violence.

Eric Mumson Piuk,|
Gerehu Stage 4,
National Capital District (NCD)
Papua New Guinea

What will happen to Hong Kong?
Why has Beijing not interfered?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 November 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 5 November 2019

Suppose, in 1989, the tanks did not roll into Tiananmen Square in China.
Suppose, in that glorious summer, there was no crackdown and no deaths.
Would the students and workers’ protest have ended without incident?
More significantly, would the Chinese Communist Party have retained its power unscathed?
The answers are yes and yes.
Admittedly, counter-history is a rich fount of conjecture.
But these questions are not entirely hypothetical. Perhaps the most important consequence of Tiananmen is one missed entirely by foreign experts and historians. It relates to the Communist Youth League faction, and how it had, through Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, inspired and empathised with the protesters and how it had, through Hu Jintao and Li Keqiang, gone on to preside over the country’s pinnacle of power, the Politburo Standing Committee.
The aspirations and demands of Tiananmen, therefore, were in some way and to some extent fulfilled and subsumed by government following the event.
But what exactly were those aspirations and demands?
Here, we find another misconception the outside world holds about Tiananmen. The protesters had demanded democracy, it is true, but not in the form of de jure rights of liberty and property as the West believed.
Far from that.
The protesters had demanded protection for their de facto rights of person: protection from the avarice, corruption, and rapacity unleashed by the newly-liberalising Chinese economy – indeed, protection from the rights of individual liberty and private property itself.
Unfamiliarity with these two concepts of freedom is due to their nuance.
And three decades after Tiananmen, they are again confused by international observers of the protests in Hong Kong.
The people want democracy, the media reiterates – without first asking what democratic freedom might actually mean in a bastion of free trade in the Far East, where deregulated markets, private capital, and the rule of law survive in the shadow of state mercantilism and party rule.
Where is there no democracy in Hong Kong?
But, indeed, therein lies the problem.
The rights of individual liberty and private property have been so long sanctified in Hong Kong that they intrude upon the rights of the unpropertied and desolate classes to rest, eat, breathe, and exist.
Perhaps it is because of this that the propertied and law-abiding residents, though exasperated by the anarchy and destruction, have not turned on the protesters.
In fact, in an extraordinary solidarity incomprehensible to outsiders, they seem silently to empathise with their unhappy brethren – and are quick to tell foreign critics to butt out.
What, then, is really going on in Hong Kong?
Very simply, the unpropertied and desolate classes want security in their lives and livelihoods.
They want housing, welfare, healthcare, jobs, pensions – provisions traditionally (but no longer) administered by the secret societies.
In short, they are crying out for protection of their wellbeing – for good governance.
But the present government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), being from its historical legacy merely a non-interventionist overseer of trade, markets, capital, property, and the law, is unable to supply this protection and governance.
The result is deep-seated discontentment, directed with fury and loathing toward the government and its branches of judiciary and police.
Interestingly, the discontented seem to not begrudge their propertied and affluent brethren. Instead, they resent the Chinese mainlanders who, long their inferiors, have now both wealth and wellbeing.
The significance of this “human condition” context is the denouement it anticipates.
What will happen to Hong Kong?
This question is best answered with another: Why has Beijing not interfered at all?
Beijing, of course, knows perfectly what is going on and what lies ahead.
Social-political unrest is an intrinsic element of the Chinese state.
“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide.
Thus it has ever been.”
– the opening lines of the famous 14th century saga, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms. For centuries, what every ruling dynasty had feared most of all was the truth of the maxim, nei luan, wai huan, or “internal disorder, external threats”.
To hedge against this prophecy, the central government had long deployed negative liberties abroad as a relief valve for positive liberties denied at home.
Thence emerged the phenomena of the porous border on the southern coast and of the “Overseas Chinese”, who, frustrated and oppressed at home, were allowed to venture abroad and freely acquire wealth.
Thus grew Canton, Qing China’s relief valve, and the inheritance of the same function by colonial Hong Kong.
This circumstance, however, has come full circle. In years to come, Hong Kong’s protests will become known as its Cultural Revolution moment.
They signify Hong Kongers’ laying waste their institutions of government and law and clearing the way for new ones.
As in the 1960s, Beijing need not intervene.
For, as after 1989, the aspirations and demands of the protesters will become fulfilled and subsumed by the HKSAR government – not the present one but a government new in form and substance.
This new government will not involve the party, because it will, in its own exclusive way, exercise socialism with Chinese characteristics and intervene more fully in society.
It has long been said privately that the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement of 1997 was always an anachronism.
One generation after Hong Kong’s handover, we are now probably witnessing the irony of free trade and individual liberties being discarded, by popular choice, in the Far East.

Petaling Jaya,

ASEAN dodges hard questions
On Myanmar and West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 November 2019

Gerry Popplestone ( Southeast Asian Times 10/11 ) informs us that no one at the recent ASEAN leaders meet strongly criticised Aung Sung Sui Ky for failing to improve the conditions in Myanmar so that the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to seek refuge from the atrocities - mass murder, burning of villages, rape, looting - committed against them by the Myanmar State military force could return to their homeland.
Is anyone surprised by that ?
No one should be because it has become pretty much the norm for leaders at such international and regional meets to dodge the hard questions requiring of them to do what's right and to dwell instead on what is politically expedient.
We see a not dissimilar situation in the case of the West Papuan struggle for the right to live as a free people.
It's a shameful sidestepping of the hard issues.

Rajend Naidu,


Call for Aung Sann Suu Kyi to improve conditions
For return of Rohingya to Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 November

Aung San Suu Kyi must be rubbing her hands in glee!
Everyone at the Asean Summit is busy celebrating "Advancing Partnership for Sustainability".
So far, no one has strongly criticised her for failing to improve conditions in Myanmar, enough for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return safely to their old homes.
She must be happy that the crisis for her is slowly receding.
If she keeps holding her breath a little longer, then maybe the problem will disappear!
Except for all those stressed refugees still surviving in the camps in Bangladesh.

Gerry Popplestone,

Call for policy alternatives that will ensure
The right of Filipino nurses to just compensation
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 November 2019

This is in response to Maristela Abenojar’s letter, “Pass law on nurses’ minimum base pay” in Philippine Inquirer, October 14, 2019.
I am one with the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) in their call for higher wages for nurses in both the public and private sectors.
However, pushing for a P30,000 minimum base pay for nurses in both sectors will not result in the equality that the proposed policy is aiming for.
Currently, Salary Grade (SG) 15 is equivalent to P30,531.
Thus, nurses in the public sector are already receiving a base pay higher than what is being proposed.
When Congress decides to change the law, it usually does so prospectively. Therefore, rather than setting the minimum or base pay at P30,000, it might be more beneficial for private nurses if we lobby for equal pay for both private and government nurses.
Equal pay would mean pegging the salary of all nurses, whether in the private or public sector, at the base pay set by the law for government nurses, which is Salary Grade (SG) 15.
Hopefully, in the long run, any increase in the base pay of government nurses based on the salary standardization law and the General Appropriations Act would mean the same increase for those in the private sector, creating equal footing for all nurses regardless of the sector they are working in.
While this is a far-fetched policy alternative, with possible resistance from private health care institutions, it will guarantee private nurses salaries at par with salaries of government nurses.
I call on Filipino Nurses United (FNU) the Philippine Nurses Association and the Bayan Muna party list to review House Bill No. 3478 and look at other policy alternatives that will ensure the right of Filipino nurses to just compensation.

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo, RN,
Philippine General Hospital,



Philippines drug war a failure
Few big time drug lords brought to justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 November 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo was being too nice when she said that the drug war needs to be reassessed. In fact, it has been a failure.
Back in 2016, I, along with many, was surprised to find out how many Filipinos were illegal drug users.
I recall that half a million registered with the police to admit using drugs even before President Duterte assumed office.
Many seemed to want help with their problem.
But his efforts have been a failure.
He boasted that he would clean up the drug problem in three months, and now admits that it will take his entire six-year term.
Looking back, the administration jumped to conclusions, and used wrong methods to deal with the problem.
For instance: Our prison system wasn’t ready for it.
According to an Inquirer editorial citing the World Prison Brief, we have the most overcrowded jails in the world.
On the average, 40 men are crammed into a space meant for 10.
We have a judicial system that is constipated, cannot move the additional drug cases along.
Criminal litigation can take forever.
Those who are denied bail because they have a drug charge are jailed in eternal purgatory.
The Ampatuan massacre trial, after 10 long years, has yet to be resolved!
So many policemen are corrupt.
How can the police, the guardians of morality and law in the nation, enforce the laws when they themselves are the suspects?
The best way to solve a problem is to go to the source, but this hasn’t happened. Five thousand small-time suspects have been killed “resisting arrest,” while over 3,000 have been killed by paid assassins.
Over 200,000 have been arrested for drug abuse.
Yet few big-time drug lords have been brought to justice, and the police admit they are having a hard time arresting them.
We now live in the world’s fourth most dangerous nation, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Yet unlike the other countries on the list, we don’t even have a civil war.
And now our state-sponsored murders are being investigated by the United Nations, an embarrassing statement to a nation that was the leader in democracy in Southeast Asia.
No drug abuse study was done prior to the war on drugs.
Yet other nations have statistics.
The online journal Inside Indonesia indicates there are 850,000 Indonesian “shabu” users, and they smoke the substance six times a month on average.
Less than 10 percent are considered problematic users.
Are we different?
What are the statistics here?
The antidrug government agency says 1.8 million Filipinos are addicts, while the President claims 8 million.
These figures must have been pulled out of thin air.
Yet, if a study is done now, anyone who admits that they use drugs would be a fool, as they are likely to be shot!
Rehabilitation centers were not in place to deal with the thousands who admitted they were addicts.
How can society help them overcome their problem if there is no place to help them?
Instead of dealing sanely with drug dependents, the administration of President Duterte locked them up in overcrowded jails or shot them like they were zombies. And now, three years after the start of the drug war, the question remains: Are we better off?
There are many things to like about the administration, but the drug war will remain a dark stain on Mr. Duterte, on his allies and on all Filipinos.

Jonathan Foe,


Thailand is being sucked into
China's sphere of influence
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 November 2010
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 November 2019

Nauvarat Suksamran writes a wonderful article in "Time to push China for real Mekong partnership", (Opinion, Nov 2). The flaw is that China cares for no one except China.
Remember that song, Whatever Lola wants? Well, whatever China wants, China gets, whether it is by force, by subtlety or other.
China does not care about its friends or neighbours. China makes no concessions unless there is something to be gained… for itself.
Thailand is foolishly being sucked into the Chinese sphere and does somehow not understand or realise it. If Bangkok will be underwater as predicted in 2050, then China will have inherited a piece of soggy real estate.

Jack Gilead,


Majority of Asean citizens are unaware
Of the goals and activities of ASEAN
The Southeast Asan Times, Wednesday 6 November 2019
First published in the Star Monday 4 November 2019

It has been reported that with the Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Chile cancelled, global attention turned to the 35th Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) summit that took place in Bangkok over the weekend.
Formed in 1967, Asean has come a long way to be recognised as one of the foremost regional organisations in the world.
The five elder statesmen – representing Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – who gathered in Bangkok back then did so due to the fear of communism creeping down from Vietnam, following the “Domino Theory”.
The then US President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had put forth this theory that South-East Asian nations would fall like dominoes if they did not prepare to avert the inevitable.
These young nations, most of which had only recently become free of colonial rule, felt an urgency to come together and form a regional grouping to safeguard their independence and integrity.
Tun Thanat Koman, Thailand’s Foreign Minister, has been acknowledged as having played a central role in helping Asean to take off and succeed.
After more than 40 years of illustrious existence, Asean today faces many challenges that it needs to overcome lest it faces the same fate as the European Union which is grappling with the stark reality of breaking up thanks to Brexit, ie, Britain’s bid to leave the union.
Security and trade were the underlying necessities that prompted the formation of Asean.
For security, there was the declaration of Zofan – the Zone of Freedom and Neutrality – which kept in check foreign intervention or interference.
When it comes to the second reason for its formation, trade, Asean has done well. It is a leading trading partner of China, the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan and Russia.
According to Kishore Mahbubani, the noted scholar and diplomat from Singapore, the greatest challenge Asean faces today is the trade war between the United States and China.
The world is hoping for an amicable solution to emerge from negotiations that are going on presently.
If this trade war drags on or no solution is found, Asean would be greatly affected, states Mahbubani.
Another problem Asean faces is China’s claim to the islands in the South China Sea that have not been addressed in spite of diplomatic efforts by different member nations.
The United States has also warned that the South China Sea is a free highway and that any attempt to lay claim to this important seaway would lead to confrontations. Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have claims to several areas known to contain rich minerals resources.
The annual haze that engulfs Singapore, Malaysia and parts of Thailand is an example of a cross border issue that needs to be solved amicably.
During the intermonsoon period of June to August, the southerly winds that blow across Indonesia bring with it heavy smoke that affects the health of citizens of the affected countries.
The air pollutant index rises to alarming levels, forcing schools to be closed and citizens to wear facial masks.
Indonesia has been reluctant to accept aid from Asean member countries, and there is no mechanism to deal with this annual health hazard.
According to environmentalists, Asean should form an Asean Disaster Management Team to act in the event of transborder incidents.
When Asean was formed, the leaders specifically included the term “the Asean Way”, which enshrined the principal of non- interference in the internal affairs of member countries.
Principally, it emphasised that no member of Asean should interfere in the internal affairs of any other member country.
The acceptance of this principle helped to sustain a friendly atmosphere but it has also hampered certain necessary actions from being undertaken.
The plight and exodus of 700,00 Rohingyas from Myanmar to the borders of Bangladesh is an example.
Nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia that are also greatly affected by the Myanmar refugee problem could not act or say anything due to “the Asean Way”.
Furthermore, the concept of an Asean community has still not become a reality. The majority of Asean citizens are still unaware of the goals and activities of this grouping of nations in spite of its four-decade-long existence.
Asean faces many hurdles. It needs good leadership to overcome the many challenges ahead.

Dr HJ Ahmad,

Call for Malaysia to adopt
A laissez faire approach not bail outs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 November 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 2 November 2019

I am a Malaysian born and bred here, and I am proud to call this country my home. It is my hope that every Malaysian would be able to call themselves proud homeowners in this land of plenty where we have ample land and space.
For many years, the pricing of houses has been going up, which is expected given the economic situation over the years.
However, the somehow rather sky-rocketing prices also seem to be due to marketing gimmicks and/or marketing hype.
In fact, according to an article in an online portal in 2017, a real estate expert claimed that “the rise in property prices... was consciously brought about by developers and gurus, with a lot of help from the banking industry.”
I myself have encountered these so-called marketing “middlemen” who sell the units for developers.
Many times when we look at specific units, the middleman would say they were already taken up but would call back later to say the loan didn’t go through and they were available again.
I would really like to know how much profit these developers and middlemen are making.
Can’t the developers take over the process of selling their unsold units and reduce the prices while retaining reasonable profit?
It really angers many to know that developers are getting help at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Foreigners who can afford to buy properties have no issues taking up more than one unit costing over a million ringgit, as was the case of the lady from Hong Kong who was reported to own three properties in Penang, “No turning back for woman who bought condos in Penang" in the Star October 22.
Reduce taxes or provide tax relief to locals for a significant number of years to enable them to buy the properties.
If some remain unsold, foreigners can be allowed to purchase them, but they must be restricted to one unit only.
This is to curb foreign speculators, otherwise whatever the government is doing will just be one merry ride for foreigners at the expense of Malaysians!
Government must adopt a laissez faire approach, not bail outs.

Angry Malaysian
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Asean to face facts
On Rohingya in Myanmar
The SoutheastAsian Times, Monday 4 November 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 November 2019

Assoc Prof Panitan wants some credit for mediating the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine state, in Bangkok Post October 28, 2019.
What an insult to the Rohingya people both still there and the 800,000 refugees in Bangladesh.
You also point out that the United Nations Report last Tuesday warned that "there is serious risk of genocide recurring there....and, if anything, the situation.....has worsened".
When is Asean going to show some courage in facing the facts now, instead of wanting just more information?

Gerry Popplestone,

Call on PM to make Papua New Guinea
A rich Christian black nation
First published in the National, Friday October 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 November 2019

I commend Prime Minister James Marape for his declaration that his Government would strengthen and support church-government partnership programmes.
He made the comments while in Manus for a Seventh Day Adventists church programme.
However, I have a few observations that I would like the prime minister to take note of.
All denominations need to be supported because we all contribute to help improve the lives of people – both physical and spiritual.
The prime minister knows too well that real life starts in the spirit, the flesh profits little.
What would be the criteria of support, is it just churches that have schools and hospitals?
Former prime ministers and members of parliament are members of a church.
Members of parliament tend to favour their church in terms of random support.
All Christian churches that preach the gospel should be supported to continue and extend their good work.
All churches should be encouraged to furnish to the government through a proposed Department of Religion and Home Affairs, their corporate plans.
This would ensure the government is aware of the church’s data, statistics, strategies, plans, visions and achievements to provide support where necessary.
All churches should be represented by its leaders at an open forum with government representatives, where there can be open dialogue, for partnership in development.
The prime minister’s assertions on taking back Papua New Guinea making Papua New Guinea a rich black Christian nation starts with God.
God is represented on earth by the churches and the churches are people, as such how can the churches be further enhanced?
Marape believes in the Bible as the authentic word of God and that it has the power to changes lives.
I speak on behalf of all Christian denominations.
I oversee the Assemblies of God (AOG) church in the Highlands Region.
We are praying for the Marape-Steven government, asking God to make his vision to take back the country and for the country to become a rich Christian black nation a reality.

Ps Peter Ropra,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Plunderers have a field day
Under Philippines judicial system
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 November 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 30 October 2019

At the rate the Sandiganbayan has been dismissing ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses, it would seem that government prosecutors are either dumb or corrupt.
Any law student knows in just one class recitation that the production of mere photocopies of documentary evidence guarantees the dismissal of any case.
The originals themselves must be produced in court, either for marking as evidence or for comparison with the photocopies to be marked.
But it took more than 30 years for the court to see that?
What a waste of government money and time!
As government prosecutors are supposed to be topnotch lawyers, dumb is not the adjective everyone has in mind.
Is it any wonder plunderers are having a field day under our judicial system?

Arnulfo M. Edralin,



The Malay Dignity Congress
Widely condemned as a racist gathering
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 November 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 22 October 2019

The Kongres Maruah Melayu, or Malay Dignity Congress, held in a stadium near Kuala Lumpur on October 6 raised a furore among Malaysians.
Organised by four public universities – including Universiti Malaya, the nation’s premier institution of higher learning – the congress was attended by about 5,000 people, mostly students but also leading politicians from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Malaysia's biggest and main national opposition political party and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) Islamist political party in Malaysia.
Rather than a forum to discuss issues faced by Malays and ways to overcome them, the congress has been widely condemned as a racist gathering. In his speech, Zainal Kling, the chief convener of the conference, declared that Malaysia belonged to Malays and reminded other races of their “social contract” with Malays, claiming it was the basis for granting them citizenship rights which could be revoked if they breached the agreement.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad aroused public ire by attending the conference; critics saw his decision to participate as a betrayal of the ideals of the reformist Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which toppled the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government in a shock landslide victory at the polls last year.
Dr Mahathir made his mark as a champion of Malay rights early on.
In The Malay Dilemma published in 1970, he argued passionately that due to hereditary and geographical factors, the Malays could not keep pace with Chinese immigrants and advocated special rights for the Malays.
He became the chief architect of Dasar Ekonomi Baru, or the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was unveiled in 1972 for a term of 20 years and was designed to accelerate the development of the Malay majority (comprising circa 60 percent of the population of 32 million now through affirmative action.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), failed to achieve its stated goals, and Dr Mahathir stepped down as PM in 2003, but after 20 years in place, the New Economic Policy (NEP) privileges came to be seen as entitlement and could not be dismantled.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian economy trails behind smaller Asian territories with fewer natural resources such as South Korea, Taiwan or even Singapore 2018 GDP.
In his 50-minute speech at the dignity conference, Dr Mahathir pointed out that the New Economic Policy (NEP) failed “because the effort by the Malays was less than expected or hoped” and warned that “as long as we do not change our lifestyle, as long as we are unwilling to strive to face challenges at work, we will be left behind”.
He said, “Our dignity depends on our achievement, not on government aid. If we are capable of making good products and creating wealth, no one will look down upon us."
I believe that the Malay people have the capability but there is a difference between capability and willingness to work. They can do it but don’t want to do it, ” he chided. “We can build our dignity with our achievements in all fields, ” he declared. “Otherwise there will be another 10 dignity conferences and nothing will change.
What I am saying may be hard to accept... but this is the truth of what has happened and this is what will be inherited by the young generation of which there are many in this auditorium today.”
But his words fell on deaf ears and resolutions passed at the conference made no reference to his pleas.
There were calls instead for key government positions including the prime minister, deputy prime minister, finance, education, defence and home ministries and the attorney general to be reserved for Malay Muslims only.
Another resolution called for the abolition of vernacular Tamil and Chinese medium schools.
“Resolutions on five areas presented at Malay Dignity Congress, but PM says not all will be met”,
At 94, Mahathir has little need to make polite speeches to cling to power.
Time is not on his side.
He loves his people and deserves praise for his tireless efforts to change them but he forewarned in The Malay Dilemma that because politics created for the Malays a soft environment which removed all challenge to their survival and progress, “political power might ultimately prove their complete downfall”.
No other Malay leader has shown equal foresight.
To a significant degree, the previous government fell because of a massive corruption scandal involving the theft of billions of dollars by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
But, partly through a lack of administrative experience and partly due to foot-dragging by civil servants loyal to the previous government which had been in power for 61 years, the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has failed to deliver on much of its reform agenda and is far from certain to win the next general election.
Malaysia has often been held up as a model Muslim-majority country but in a society where it is all too easy to play the race and religion card, the economy will not realise its full potential and the political future of minorities will remain at risk.

Michael Tai,
Associate fellow at Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Author of China And Her Neighbors: Asian Politics And Diplomacy From Ancient History To The Present Day.

The last thing Malaysia needs is to be bogged down
By archaic mindsets or laws

As Industrial Revolution 4.0 sweeps the world
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 October 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 25 October 2019

I refer to the report “MTUC urges Dewan Negara to reject ‘rushed’ labour law amendments” in The Star, October 13, 2019.
I am perplexed by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress’ (MTUC) vehement opposition to the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177), which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat recently.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has kept harping on the fact that the amendments tabled were not endorsed by the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), a body comprising the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) and Human Resources Ministry, among others.
But the reality is that the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) has met nine times this year, whereas it only met about twice a year in the past.
This excludes various technical and sub-committee meetings.
The National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) is a platform for consultation.
Not only are the views aired there diverse, but some would also be competing given that the tripartite platform is made up of entities with different interests.
But at the end of the day, it is the ministry’s job to protect the welfare of the 15.19 million workers in this country.
It would be naive to think that the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) will be able to come up with a solution that pleases all parties when the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president, Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor, and his secretary-general, J. Solomon, cannot even see eye to eye on fundamental labour issues.
What is important is that the opinions of all parties are sought with a view to cultivating a robust labour ecosystem that is in line with the needs of Industrial Revolution 4.0.
In fact, Sarawak Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) secretary Andrew Lo had lauded efforts by the Human Resources Ministry in the amendments to the Industrial Relations Act, describing them as a “game-changer” for industrial relations.
This is evidence that even within Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) there are diverse views.
Lo also lauded the ministry for its comprehensive and robust consultations with not just the principal stakeholders, like Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF), but also with other workers and employer groups, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
This now begs the question of why the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) headquarters is so opposed to the amendments without even spelling out clearly the specific provisions it has a beef with.
Could it be because Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is afraid that its powers would be diluted by the “freedom to form unions” provided for in the amendments?
Or could it be because the trade union office bearers are posturing ahead of their upcoming internal elections?
Do they have the interests of the workers at heart or that of their posh posts?
When it comes to politics, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has never hidden its leanings.
Its president has roped in Partai Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) the Islamic Party of Malaysia in an attempt to torpedo the passage of the Bill in the upcoming Senate sitting.
Let’s not forget that Abdul Halim himself had called on Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) members to back ruling political coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) party during the last general election.
As Industrial Revolution 4.0 sweeps across the world, it is imperative that governments and trade unions are ready to adapt to the rapidly changing human resources needs.
The last thing we need is to be bogged down by archaic mindsets or laws that will hamper our readiness to embrace this technological wave.
If the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) is not prepared to rise up to this challenge, it is time we look for another body to champion workers’ welfare.

Leonard Hiew,



Call for training for Filipino's implementing
The public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 October 2019
First published i the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 19 October 2019

With the current challenges in our transport system, I have high hopes that the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program will address majority of the problems faced by Filipinos, and that it will offer the public an easier and safer way to commute in the years ahead.
Modernization is not bad at all, and this kind of progress must be embraced.
I am very positive that it will be a great opportunity to truly transform our public transport system.
But I fear that it will fail if the government only focuses on the vehicles and not on the people who will be affected and will be involved in implementing the program.
Most of the articles and even sentiments I have read and heard have been focused on the newly configured buses, vans and jeepneys, as well as on fleet management system, environment effects, passenger convenience and income of drivers.
But I have yet to hear plans on providing training for people who will be implementing the program.
Execution is very crucial in ensuring the success of the modernization program.

Aljane Largo,

Call for Public Private Partnerships
For all Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 October 2019

This refers to your article, in “Revive PPP” by Peter Wallace September 9, 2019, where you recommended that “public-private partnerships should be revived to ensure that all 75 programmed projects actually get started before President Duterte bows out,” and outsourcing of expertise needed.
The goal of the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program is to deliver basic services in order to improve Filipino lives.
This administration is not against PPPs, provided certain issues are addressed.
Like projects implemented through the official development assistance, PPPs also suffer bottlenecks.
For example, the four-kilometer project of the Aquino administration (Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway) took six years, from 2009-2015, to be implemented as a PPP.
The BBB program is not only about delivery of services, but also ensuring the Filipino people and government are not burdened with unwarranted obligations imposed in PPP contracts. In previous PPPs, external consultants recommended the following provisions which are detrimental to regulators, and more importantly, a disservice to the Filipino people:
Automatic rate increases, where government is forced to approve concessionaire-proposed, parametric formula-based rate increases without the regulator determining whether the increase is just and proper.
Commitments of noninterference, where government adopts and promises not to interfere with contract terms for any reason, even when public convenience is at stake.
Noncompete clauses, where government allows concessionaires to maintain monopolies even in a scenario where more than one player can realize profit beyond target returns.
These provisions, among others, encapsulate “regulation by contract,” where government is stripped of its regulatory authority and ability to demand that concessionaires improve services rendered to consumers.
These terms have also increased contingent liabilities, currently estimated at P309 billion, which will be paid from taxpayer money - money of the Filipino people.
Concessionaires must agree to risk transfer, commensurate with the returns they have enjoyed. We will not subsidize private sector interests to the detriment of serving the public. It’s not enough to roll out PPPs - PPPs must be PPPs for the people.
PPPs should not restrict government in addressing the needs of the people quickly and efficiently.
Public infrastructure cannot be left to the unregulated control of companies fueled primarily by profit motives.
Likewise, consultants engaged to get a deal done, “experts” with no liability and fiduciary duty to serve the interests of the people, should not influence the creation of these contracts.
We will ensure that PPPs do not expose the government to unnecessary financial burden, and will require PPPs to conform to standards that better serve commuters.
The Duterte administration remains steadfast in its commitment to fulfill its responsibility to the Filipino people.
The full statement can be accessed at the Department of Finance (DOF) website.

Karen G. Singson,
Privatization Group and Office of Special Concerns
Department of Finance


Philippine commuters wake up to
Shortcomings of Duterte government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 Oct 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 October 2019

This administration has failed, and continues to fail us.
There are so many issues our country is facing, but we see no concrete actions, we feel no improvement, we are left behind by the people we thought could save us and help us, and their incompetence and inefficient services are evident worldwide.
Take the transport crisis.
The commute that is supposed to be easy and fast takes hours and wastes so much time. Commuters can even take a long nap and yet when they wake up, they’re still stuck in traffic.
It seems that we commuters are the ones who should adjust to the shortcomings of our own government.
We suffer alone while our government is still caught up in denial.

Claudine Salvadaor,



State owned enterprises in Papua New Guinea
To return tithes to the church
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 October 2019
First Published in the National, Tuesday 22 October 2019

Prime Minister James Marape’s recent announcement for State owned enterprises to return tithes to churches should be applauded by all church leaders and members of the Christian denomination in Papua New Guinea.
The Prime Minister feels that it is a massive task to manage the affairs of the nation of 8 million people with over 800 dialects and diverse cultures.
Like in the biblical days, kings of Israel, prophets and patriarchs of God sought God’s advice and direction on a daily basis as to how they would manage the affairs of the country and its people.
In this difficult times of political strife, unfavourable economic conditions, natural disasters, violence, pestilences, our government certainly needs God for guidance, advice and blessing.
The worshippers of the true God of heaven faithfully practiced returning tithes and offerings to God.
Tithing is usually paid to workers in the church who are charged with the commission to preach the gospel. The Bible says “… the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:14 NIV)
Returning tithes to church signifies our relationship with God as His people.
The people, the government and the country are in partnership with the Sovereign God and King through the practice of tithing.
The tithing system as announced by the Government should remind every Christian of their duty to return 10 percent of their gross earnings to God.
And what is God’s promise to those who faithfully practice tithing? ‘Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse (church), that there may be food in my house (for His workers). Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’ (Mal 3:10 NIV).

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Supreme Court decision on protest by losing
Vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 October 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Wednesday 23 October 2019

This is in connection with the editorial, “Suspicious dilly-dallying” in Philippine Inquirer October 18, 2019
While we understand that the election protest lodged by losing vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) needs meticulous examination, we cannot comprehend why it is taking the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) so long to decide, or to release what they have discovered.
It has been over three years now and the whole nation has been like a rudderless boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
What is the Supreme Court waiting for?

Ramon Mayuga,



Branding opposing view as an enemy of the state
Is counterproductive and divisive
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 October 2019

Ajarn Thirayuth Boonmee is right to be worried about the recent political developments.
In response to army chief Apirat's comments, he pointed out the "enemy mindset" which is the main obstacle in any meaningful national reconciliation.
It's this kind of mindset that led to the bloodshed in the past.
If history provides us with any lesson, it's that the reconciliatory tone and actions were instrumental in healing the scars of the event of October 14, 1973 and its bloody aftermath of October 6, 1976.
Gen Apirat should be mindful of the fact that there are many ways for people to love their country.
To brand any opposing view as an enemy of the state is not only counterproductive, it can also further divide the country which needs more than ever all the reconciliatory efforts we can muster.
Remember that there are many shades of patriotism.
And the highest form of patriotism is the one that elevates the country as a whole, not only the benefits of any particular faction.

Anan Pakvasa

Universiti Malaya (UM) cannot revoke degree of graduate
Who staged protest at University convocation ceremony
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 October 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 19 October 2019

With utmost respect, the statement by the president of the National Professors Council (MPN) Prof Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose that Universiti Malaya (UM) has the right to revoke or withhold the degree of its graduate who staged a protest during the university’s convocation ceremony on Monday is misconceived in law. In particular, the University Senate cannot revoke the degree under its rules, as suggested.
The university is governed by the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.
It provides for the adoption of a prescribed Constitution, which reigns supreme. Any inconsistency with its provisions is invalid under section 8 of the Act.
Under section 53 of the Consti-tution, the board of directors may recommend the revocation of a degree that has been awarded.
But this power is circumscribed.
First, the board must be of the opinion that the graduate is guilty of “scandalous conduct”.
This conduct is defined.
It is when the graduate has given false information to obtain the degree.
Then too the recommendation must be made by not less than two-thirds of all members of the board.
The recommendation is made to the chancellor.
The chancellor must then give the graduate an opportunity to be heard before taking any action.
The protest by the student awarded the degree clearly does not fall within the misconduct for which his degree can be revoked.
Arbitrary action of the sort advocated by the National Professors Council is not only against the law but is antithetical to the values of academic freedom and the ethos of a society governed by the rule of law.
There are other ways of engendering appropriate and respectful behaviour.
In the final analysis respect has to be earned and not imposed.

Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar,
Former professor,
Universiti Malaya President,
National Human Rights Society (Hakam),
Kuala Lumpur,



Call for Thailand to reform education system
Immigration and investment policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 29 September 2019

Thailand is facing an unprecedented demographic challenge.
Its population is ageing quickly, while the birthrate continues to fall.
As a result, the number of college-aged students is expected to keep on declining until 2040. This will have a serious impact on the job market.
The solutions provided by Thitinan Pongsidhirak in his Sept 27 column "Developing by managing demographics" must be taken seriously.
Hence a multithrong approach is urgently needed.
Reforming the immigration policy should be the first priority.
Foreigners from Western countries with adequate financial assets must be given residency and the right to work.
Those who are married to Thai women and take care of their families and livelihood should be given a "Green Card", similar to what Thais and other immigrants get in the US.
Other Asean workers who have been working in the country for five years must be considered for residency.
Thailand must do what Japan has already begun doing: hunt for talent and recruit a highly educated and talented workforce.
I am afraid that initiatives such as "Digital Access 2030" or "Bilingual Thailand 2020" cannot be achieved without drastic changes in the Thai educational system. While expensive international schools located in Bangkok provide cutting-edge curriculum, the mainstream Thai educational system remains rooted in wai khru, meaningless rituals and stale curriculum celebrating its past glory.
The whole educational system from top to bottom must become bilingual.
Thailand cannot become a high-income country without reforming its educational system, immigration, and investment policies. And sadly, its political system will keep it in the same orbit where it has been for the last seven decades - corruption, cronyism, conflicts, and coups.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo works silently
Introducing alternative livelihoods to fishermen and farmers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 October 2019

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is admirable. Just days into his first term, he has accomplished what his predecessors, despite their brutish ways, had not.
For this, he inarguably deserves the accolades.
But Moreno just got lucky - largely.
He is at the right place at the right time, with the resources of one of the Philippines’ richest local government units.
And the reforms that the capital city needs are sexy issues in the eyes of a public that has grown jaded, no thanks to years of unfulfilled promises and false hopes given by unworthy politicians.
Whatever Moreno does, whether it is bringing back the streets of Divisoria or the bloodless ferreting of drug criminals, sells papers and precious airtime.
But in the time of Isko Moreno - a “rock star mayor” - may we not push aside to the sidelines leaders like Vice President Leni Robredo who have walked on the road not taken by other politicians, who address issues that are as pressing but rarely make it even to the inside pages of newspapers or get a minute of TV newscasts.
Robredo does not have a marketplace to do some spring cleaning and doing so is not the Vice President’s main job, but she has concrete programs that address poverty where it hurts most: the countryside.
But introducing alternative livelihoods to fishermen and farmers is not sexy enough to attract media mileage.
As a rookie politician, I’d be lying to myself if I would say that no part of me longs to have the popularity that Moreno enjoys now.
But I also prefer leaders, like Robredo, who work silently to address issues that force people to leave the provinces - to risk it all - to congest the national capital with nothing but hopes for a better life.

Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Camarines Sur


Socialism North Korean style is an embodiment of
“The people are my God”
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 October 2019
First published in the Phnom Penh Post Monday 7 October 2019

Amid the sanctions imposed by the hostile forces on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) gaining momentum, the country is reporting one successful event after another in its efforts to strengthen its defence capacity and build its-economy.
What has made the small country so invincible?
First of all, the people have been guided by great leaders.
The territory, population and economic power are not all that determines the strength and weakness of a country.
Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), who is carrying forward the cause of his predecessors, President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il, has come under the political limelight of the world as the most distinguished political leader of the modern era.
Kim Jong Un is a matchless master of ideology and theory, an attractive politician possessed of a high level of people-oriented art of leadership, a versatile statesman, a man who implements without fail and on the highest level what he has planned to do, a brilliant commander possessed of unexcelled courage and mettle and resolute and adroit temperament, and the supreme defender of the prestige of his nation–this is part of the comment by mass media of the world.
The history and reality of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) testify to the fact that if the leader of a country is great, the country, though small, can become powerful.
Second, the Korean people have achieved single-hearted unity with their leader.
United single-heartedly around their Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, they are demonstrating the prestige of their country with unprecedented strength and miraculous events.
The basis of the single-hearted unity of the leader, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the masses, which serves as the source of viability of the Korean-style socialism, has been the affection of the people cherished by the leaders of the country.
Socialism of the Korean style, which embodies the idea of “The people are my God” cherished by the President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il, is now being consolidated and developing thanks to the politics of loving the people administered by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
Third, the Korean people regard the socialism as valuable as their life itself.
Carrying forward the cause of his predecessors, Kim Jong Un is always concerned with the wellbeing of his people. Mingling with them, he listens carefully to what they have to say, and ensures that their thoughts and demands are reflected in the policies of the Party and state. And it is his iron rule to give top and absolute priority to people’s interests and convenience.
It is quite natural that the Korean people regard socialism as valuable as their life itself.
Fourth, the propellant of their advance is self-reliance.
The history of the Korean revolution is the one pioneered and advanced on the strength of self-reliance. Propelled by the spirit of self-reliance, the Korean people achieved the liberation of their country, emerged victorious in postwar reconstruction and realized socialist industrialization, thus building theirs into a socialist country equipped with solid foundations of an independent economy and strong self-defence capabilities.

Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK),
Phnom Penh,


Call for Papua New Guinea government
To address illegal mining
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 October 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 October 2019

Both Government and the operator of the Porgera Mine, Barrick, have to be blamed for not taking tough measures in stamping out illegal Mining activities in the Porgera Mine.
The effect of not addressing the illegal mining activities by the Government is contributing to the lawlessness and social problems in the communities.
Law and order problem is increasing in our communities.
Tribal fighting is a major problem that is costing a lot of human lives. There is no peace and harmony in the communities we are living in.
Government properties worth millions of kina, properties worth thousands of Kina and food gardens that are supposed to sustain the livelihood of the people in the communities are being destroyed due to unnecessary lawlessness issues caused by drunkards.
Illegal mining activities are contributing to social and moral decay, rise of HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, divorce, multiple marriages, killings, unnecessary untimely and avoidable deaths, unfaithful marriages, laziness and many other related issues.
According to Papua New Guinea’s Mining Act 1992, it states that all minerals existing on, in, or below the surface of any land in Papua New Guinea, water lying in any land in Papua New Guinea, are the property of the State.
This Mining Act 1992 needs to be comprehensively reviewed and amended, specifically that ownership of all minerals on and below the sea is vested in the province in whose waters minerals are located.
And maybe to minimise such illegal mining activities that will lead to reduction of social problems, landowners be given greater responsibilities over their resources.
Such issues are not addressed effectively and on time, we are leaving the door open for illegal miners, risking their lives at all costs, trying to grab a share of the benefits through stealing.
This is like a survival-of-the fittest game where only the strongest and the bravest men used to enter the state-fortified positions and grab themselves a gram of gold.
According to the law of man and of God, stealing is sin. And sin is the transgression of the law.
The wages of sin is death.
Many of our illegal miners have been killed by the security forces at the mine site.
Many illegal miners are creating social havoc in our communities.
Getting money through stealing has caused so much damage in our communities.
Getting money through stealing, buying alcohol and drinking, we are not responsible in our drinking behaviour.
We are getting drunk and behaving as animals with no human senses.
We are creating unnecessary avoidable problems that are damaging our social harmony.
Such issues needs urgent attention by the government.
More and more awareness needs to be carried out, educating people on how to respect the law and to behave responsibly.
Many are stubborn because there is no proper education.
On that, our illiteracy rate is very high and people do not know what appropriate actions to be taken.
Therefore, my life saving advice to the illegal miners is that it is better we refrain from risking our own lives. We need to think about the greater good of our communities.
Finally, the Government needs to urgently address this illegal mining issues because the longer it delays, the more problems are created by the illegal miners in our communities.

Bid Ambassi,
Muli City,
Papua New Guinea

Warrant for arrest of Papua New Guinea former PM
Comes as no surprise
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 October 2019

The news that Papua New Guinea police have issued a warrant for the arrest of the former Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill on corruption charges
( The Guardian 16/10 ), came as no surprise.
That's because it's a fairly common phenomenon. Peru, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea,to name a few in recent times, have had their former national leaders rounded up for corruption.
Power corrupts. And many leaders succumb to it.

Rajend Naidu,



Call for compensation for nurses in private institutions
To equal compensation for nurses in public institutions
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 15 October 2019

We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling that upholds a provision of Republic Act No. 9173, or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, stating that government nurses should receive compensation pegged at Salary Grade 15, not Salary Grade 11 as specified in Executive Order No. 811 issued by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
But our fight for just compensation doesn’t end here.
We urge Congress to annually appropriate funds for this, for the provision to be effectively implemented.
We also reecho our call for higher compensation for our fellow nurses in private institutions.
They deserve compensation that should at least be equal to the minimum set by the government for public health nurses.
The government will hear more of nurses’ voices as we gear for 2020, which is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It is high time our government saw the value of nurses in delivering quality health care services and improving the overall quality of life of the Filipino people.
The value of nurses should rise above the level of the hospital bed.
Rather than liabilities, nurses should be seen as valuable assets of the health care delivery system, and be given enough compensation for the essential work that they do.

Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo. RN,
Philippine General Hospital,



Call for introduction of law in Thailand
For passengers in pickup trucks to wear helmets
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 9 October 2019

The serious road mishap involving a pickup truck that overturned, killing more than a dozen of passengers who rode on the vehicle's tray was sad.
A recent study shows that the vast majority of people killed when they fall off pickup trucks were killed by their head injuries.
The current Thai legislation allows a maximum of six people to travel on the tray of a pickup, but you can see significantly more on a single pickup truck every day. The police say that "they do not prosecute violations of the law because the entire transport system would fail if you followed the law, because there is no available public transport!"
My suggestion is: the state should introduce a law requiring the use of helmets for those sitting on the tray and hold the driver of the vehicle responsible if the passengers do not comply with the law.
A fine of 5,000 baht for every passenger without a helmet should also be introduced.
It is a cheap and effective way to let the prevailing threat to security continue, without causing more fatalities on Thai roads.

Goran Femrin,

Call for cancellation of paid-parental-leave in Australia
To discourage massive population growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 October 2019

It is well known that we, in the developed countries, use far more of the Earth's resources and cause much more pollution than anyone else in the world.
So, if the climate change activists are serious, they should campaign specifically to get rid of the popular paid-parental-leave in order to discourage our massive population growth.

Jennifer Horsburgh,


Less economic growth not necessarily an option
In solution for climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 7 October 2019

Thank you Wasant Techawongtham for an enjoyably provocative read in "The girl who could just save the world", in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 5.
However, Wasant, we can agree Ms Thunberg's message is important while still disagreeing with some of her claims, and certainly with some of the suggested solutions.
There is no doubt that the climate is changing.
Even without our contributions, it would likely have happened anyway.
But Ms Thunberg is right that solid scientific evidence says that we humans are a major cause of the current levels of climate change, which is likely to accelerate irrespective of what we do now.
To dispute this, you have to have better evidence than the consensus of experts in the area.
The sincerely rabid deniers like Trump do not fit that description of informed dissenter.
It does not, however, follow that we should opt for less economic growth.
The poor of China and India have as much right to the lifestyle of Ms Thunberg as she enjoys in flitting around the world spreading her message of doom and gloom. We cannot in good conscience tell the poor of the Third World to suffer their meagre sufficiency, such an ugly ideological excuse for gross inequality, so that those of us from the First World can carry on comfortably at the top of the pile.
Better solutions might be to charge enough in taxes to offset harms from the production of cars, automobile trips, BTS trips, plastic bags, planes, flights to environmental conferences and the like.
But again, we who have the luxury of arguing about Ms Thunberg's message inherited our relative affluence on the back of the past environmental misdeeds pushed onto others in polluted rivers, ravaged forests, and poisoned air, all conveniently externalised economic costs that neither our ancestors nor us paid a just price for.
Now coming back to haunt us, these are the costs of our comfortable lifestyles as we sit, using my personal example, in a condo on Silom Road, typing on a computer while sipping the morning coffee, with the air conditioning humming silently to keep everything pleasantly cool.
It is not fair to expect the less-well-off today to pay a higher price than we and our hardworking ancestors did.
This suggests that the rich world has a moral obligation to pay very substantial tax arrears (not charitable donations, but owed debts) to help bring the rest of the world up to the same high standard of living.
And we should also prepare for the coming global reforms enforced by nature. Nature will not be susceptible to any coup by ignorant army generals who think they can thereby steal power, property and prestige for themselves merely by overthrowing the existing rule of law and system of government.

Felix Qui,Bangkok,

The Vagranacy Act is not the answer
For Papua News Guinea's rural-urban drift
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 October 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 9 October 2019

The Vagrancy Act as proposed by the Prime Minister James Marape, shows neglect and disrespect against human rights.
Any actions taking on that note will be barbarous for the citizens of Papua New Guinea.
Our human rights on freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state or provinces are protected by the rule of law.
Jobless people have the right to work.
The will or right of the unemployed people shall be the basis of the government authorities.
We have educated elites on the streets, struggling to look for jobs.
The Government should create opportunities for them rather than returning the jobless to their districts.
Whatever adversity that arises in Port Moresby between the public and the police, we have leaders and authorities who are there to handle it.
There are many ways to solve such problems in our own backwards. Vagrancy Act is not the answer for the citizens of this country.
When imposing the Vagrancy Act, the Prime Minister is inviting more problems to occur in the future – giving a very hard time to its own people.
Our population is rapidly growing and the earth is filled with human beings.
We are facing problems in the villages with limited land for farming, building houses and for developmental projects.
People flooding into our cities and towns have their own reasons.
Authorities have to do researches, investigate and find amicable ways to solve the problems relating to rural-urban drift. MPs are legislators; they should make policies to save the interest and welfare of the people rather than going after money.
Civil Registry and the national population census programme are good initiatives.
It gives us correct population figures that the government will use to plan budgets and draft policies on how to serve the people.
Not to use this system to oppress or suppress the people.
Despite being unemployed, some own businesses and properties.
They raise families in the cities, their children go to school at universities in the country and abroad.
One way or another, they contribute to nation building.
The place they are residing is their comfort zone.
The government should consider that.
The Prime Minister should have respect and faith in fundamental human rights principals.
Vagrancy Act is not the answer.

Jonathan Dege,
Papua New Guinea



Rubber manufacturers in Malaysia
On international radar for social justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 October 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 11 October 2019

The allegation of forced labour in the production process of glove manufacturing led the US Customs and Border Protection enforcement agency to block the entry of rubber gloves into the United States.
The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers’ Association (Magma) has rightly assured local manufacturers and American, European, and other international importers and consumers of our rubber products that only one company was affected.
Our government, the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council and Magma must be credited for handling damage control efficiently.
We urge all members of the Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association to take advantage of the various measures, incentives, and programmes introduced by Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council to raise social compliance, and especially to undergo training and compliance audits.
The matter is far from over, for rubber product manufacturers are now on the radar of international consumers and campaigners, as well as our competitors in the synthetic and plastic product manufacturers.
Furthermore, December 2019 being the centenary of the International Labour Organisation, matters related to labour will emerge in the international media arena to support social justice.
Malaysian rubber product manufacturers must be vigilant and treat matters related to labour, especially much needed foreign/migrant labour, cautiously.
There is no room for complacency when it comes to compliance with all socioeconomic matters related to employment and labour rules and guidance. Complying with the Code of Conduct initiative for the industry, the rubber product manufacturing sector will evolve to greater heights with increased productivity and sustainability in the marketplace.

Datuk Dr Ong Eng Long,
President, Malaysian Rubber Products Manufacturers’ Association (MRPMA)
Kuala Lumpur

Call for Thai MP's to spend time in their constituencies
Instead of finding faults with government officials
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 9 October 2019

I don't think it is correct for the chairman of the House standing committee on laws, justice and human human rights to criticise Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, a legal officer of Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) southern forward command, for filing a complaint with the police accusing 12 panelists at a Pattani forum on September 28 for distorting facts "in order to incite unrest and rebellion against the authorities in a way that will cause upheaval in the country or encourage people to violate the law".
Maj Gen Burin was simply doing his duty.
If either he or his superiors did not act responsibly when they were made aware of the situation, they could have been charged with delinquency of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code.
This carries a jail term of one to 10 years, hefty fines and/or both.
This criticism is tantamount to interference with the responsibilities of civil servants, and threatening them if they carry out their legal duties.
It is also presses government officers to take sides and play politics, as has happened in the past.
The 12 people who were charged could not automatically be considered guilty. They would have to legally contest the allegations, and prove without doubt that they had no intention to break the law.
Otherwise, people could say or do anything they wish, and uphold claims of "democracy".
Human rights and freedom of speech do not go hand in hand with sedition!
Members of parliament should concentrate on objectively reviewing the current legal processes.
In doing so, they should either seek to abolish or amend laws which are unfair or obsolete, or conversely, create new laws to ensure the security and wellbeing of their citizens.
They should also spend ample time in their constituencies to see and hear the needs and hardships of the people.
Finding faults with officials will achieve nothing.
The current government has only been present for two months.
Like any other, it needs time to work.

Dusit Thammaraks,

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus programme
Flights not always available for award travel
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 October 2019
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday 7 October 2019

I am a businessman who has lived in Thailand over 20 years.
I travel a lot on business, twice a month on long haul flights.
I am lucky enough to fly in first class if it is available, or business.
I am the kind of passenger airlines fight for.
Except for TG Thai Airways I have been a member of the TG ROP (Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus) programme for 20+ years and a Platinum member since they launched it.
I will no longer give TG (Thai Airways) my travel baht which literally runs into the millions each year.
They just flat out don't deserve it.
More than 50 percent of the time there is zero recognition of my Platinum status, which means that at times I do not get first choice of meals on flights, and, at times have my seat moved without my consent.
Some staff are very good, but the majority are too busy to bother.
The ROP (Royal Orchid Plus) mileage programme is also a joke.
I accrue hundreds of thousands of miles a year but I can hardly use them.
The ROP (Royal Orchid Plus) system at times shows flights as not available for award travel, but when I check on UA (United Airlines), with their miles I can find a flight on TG (Thai Airways) available.
How can it be?
The "taxes and fees" for the same "free" flights on TG (Thai Airways) are 2-4 times more than "taxes and fees" on UA (United Airlines) for the same itinerary, same class.
How can it be?
TG (Thai Airways) has old aircraft which are often delayed because they are unreliable.
Tomorrow Go, indeed.
When calling for service, I often have to wait on the phone for 20 minutes or more because I use the same number as the tens of thousands of Gold members.
UA (United Airlines) has a dedicated line for Global Services people like me.
Why doesn't TG Thai Airways?
Worst of all, I have written to them to complain, including to the lady who is "vice president of customer service" and I have been flat out ignored.
I suppose they have no excuse for their failure to serve.
Good luck on your way out of business TG (Thai Airways) .
Make sure to turn the lights off on your way out.

Disgusted in BKK Bangkok


Malaysian Bar calls on the police to reinvestigate
Death of fireman during riot in Subang Jaya
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 October 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 1 October 2019

In her finding of facts, Coroner Rofiah Mohamad announced that fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death due to injuries sustained during a riot in Subang Jaya, Selangor, last year, was the result of assault from unknown assailants.
Consequently, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador reportedly said that the police will reinvestigate Adib’s death.
It is pertinent that the police be given enough time and latitude to conduct their investigation professionally and in accordance with the country’s laws to ensure justice is served.
Only after the police investigation has been concluded can the investigation papers be sent to the Attorney General for his consideration.
The verdict of an inquest, unlike a criminal conviction, does not impute liability against anyone.
It is merely a way to find facts to determine how a victim died, if there were any criminal elements in it.
Any verdict that touches on the involvement of “crime” can only be acted upon based on concluded police investigations.
The Malaysian Bar calls on the police to conduct a more thorough and rigorous reinvestigation to identify the perpetrators.
The death of a public servant in the course of his/her duty should not be in vain.
The Malaysian Bar also calls upon the general public to exercise restraint and allow the police to conduct a fair investigation.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,

Malaysia stands to reap immense benefit
From tapping into China’s technological prowess
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 October 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 30 September 2019

Last week, the Human Resources Ministry’s Manpower Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) to enhance cooperation in the fields of technical and vocational education training (TVET) and technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).
The impact of this cannot be overstated.
As a Malaysian who has been based in Shenzen for the past 16 years, I can see the immense technological strides China has made in recent years.
I believe that for many Malaysians, China is all about the Great Wall, scenic tourist spots and a long chequered history.
China is all these but also more.
China has become a technological dragon in its own right.
The advances China has made in fields like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology and the like has made the traditional technological giants wary.
In fact, this is one reason why the Trump administration in the United States has engaged in a trade war with China and banned US companies from doing business with Huawei, which has led the globe in the 4G race.
Malaysia stands to reap immense benefit tapping into China’s technological prowess.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran made the right decision to enhance technological transfer via China’s CEAIE.
This will allow Malaysian workers to upskill and reskill themselves in fields in which China has a distinct advantage, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, and additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
As I shuttle between China and Malaysia rather frequently, I can see - and cannot help but worry over - our slow take-up of modern technology in areas like manufacturing.
The days of labour-intensive manufacturing is over. Malaysia needs knowledge workers to keep pace with the latest demands in a globalised, cut-throat economy. In this respect, having China as a strategic partner in TVET cannot be overstated.
I believe Kulasegaran’s pivot towards TVET began from the time he first took office and this is indeed a step in the right direction.
Countries like Germany and Japan are technological giants because of their emphasis on TVET.
China, with the advantage of a strong centralised government, has caught up.
We need to pull up our socks.
And tapping into this expertise from China is a game-changer that could propel us into the next level of technological mastery.

Au-Yong Hui Seng,


Thai Airways
Is a high price to pay for nationalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 October 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 1 October 2019

Re: "THAI may stick to renting after B156bn plane purchase axed", in Bangkok Post Monday September 28, 2019.
Thai Airways' (THAI) board decision to disapprove the 156 billion baht in new aircraft shows a real improvement in corporate governance at this basket case of a business.
Under past governments, new aircraft orders have been a big "cake" for the politicians.
THAI has been mismanaged and losing money for years.
They constantly change their CEO with new plans for turning it around which never materialise. Leasing is better than buying.
Purchasing ties up the airline's capital and weighs down its balance sheet.
Leasing will also enable it to buy newer aircraft, which means less maintenance costs.
The next step is to convert this airline to be a budget carrier.
Budget airlines like Air Asia are very well-run and are the wave of the future.
THAI has not offered to customers a value proposition for 20 years or longer.
A takeover by Air Asia would end the downward cycle.
Keeping this airline as it is because it is the "national flag carrier" is a very high price to pay for nationalism and it needs to be considered whether the airline is a credit to Thailand's image.

Larry the Liquidator,


Call for Philippines legislators to rid themselves
Of the greed for power and ill-gotten wealth
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 October 2019

There have been recent reports on multimillion allocations for lawmakers. Obviously, these serve more the interests of congressmen than the welfare of their constituents.
Not only do these funds offer opportunities for corruption, they become a tool for any self-serving autocratic leadership to lure a supposedly independent Congress into embracing political patronage, wielding the “tyranny of numbers” at the expense of the truth - and the electorate they have sworn to serve.
Thus, our “honorable” congressmen would continue to justify, even fight for, their pork allocations, saying these are needed for “countryside development” or for the “good” of their districts.
If only the millions or billions of taxpayer money at their disposal for so long a time now have been judiciously spent solely on important projects such as housing for the poor, well-equipped and staffed classrooms and medical centers, farm-to-market roads, etc., our countryside would have been truly developed, and the lives of these lawmakers’ constituents less miserable.
Why do vital government programs get insufficient or “reduced” funding, while billions of pork barrel money or dubious budget “insertions” seem to go unabated, and corruption remains unchecked?
This leaves this ordinary taxpayer wondering whether it’s a hopeless prayer for our “respectable” legislators to have the heart to finally rid themselves of the greed for power and ill-gotten wealth.
After all, their constitutional mandate is mainly to craft laws that uplift the plight of our people, not to handle or mishandle public funds for personal aggrandizement.

Manuela A Collao,



Time for Papua New Guinea to talk about
Transfer of sovereign powers to Bougainville
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 October 2019
First published in the National, Friday 4 October 2019

The Prime Minister during his launching speech on the Bougainville referendum writ in Arawa, stated that Papua New Guinea will transfer all revenue raising powers to Bougainville.
He made a similar speech during his address to the Bougainville House of Representatives in Buka two weeks ago.
The question is, has the Prime Minister James Marape read the Bougainville Peace Agreement?
For those who provide advice to the Prime Minister, have they provided necessary advise to him or not yet?
Someone should inform the Prime Minister that income generating powers were already available to Bougainville under the current autonomy arrangements.
Under autonomy, Bougainville has powers relating to fisheries, forests, minerals, land, or even the powers to raise its own taxes.
The reason why Bougainville has not seen full potential in implementing the current autonomy comes back to the National Government.
The Papua New Guinea government failed Bougainville by delaying the transfer of those powers to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).
It failed to provide necessary funding to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) so that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) could use those funds to achieve fiscal self-reliance.
Thus, there is no time to discuss this issue of transferring economic powers to Bougainville.
That period transferring economic powers to Bougainville lapsed in between 2005 to 2018.
As for now, what is there for both governments to discuss is the transfer of sovereign powers to Bougainville.
These powers includes foreign relations, international trade, international civil aviation and shipping, emigration, telecommunication, Central Bank etc.
It is time now to talk about political independence and not economic independence.
The issue of discussing economic independence for Bougainville belongs to the period of 2005 to 2018 during which the PNG Government failed to address.
Now, the time has come to discuss issues relating to transferring sovereign powers to Bougainville.
Bougainvilleans want to be assured of their political independence by the Papua New Guinea government.
Then from there, they can work out how they can achieve economic independence as a separate independent nation.
Can someone advise the Prime Minister?

Hia Tokunoi,
Papua New Guinea

Catholic Filipino Youth, strongly plead against
Reimposition of the death penalty
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 October 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 1 October 2019

We would like to ask you to take a moment and imagine this: sweaty hands and staggering knees, and a clammy, overwhelming fear.
The clock is slowly ticking, similar to a heart monitor counting a person’s dwindling heartbeat.
A powerful voice echoes throughout the room: “I hereby sentence you to death.” Silence fills the air.
At that moment, injustice is delivered under the guise of justice.
If there’s anything that ignites the fire of violence, it is violence itself.
And our government appears bent on fueling this destructive cycle, intensifying the harmful flame of death with its push to reinstate the death penalty.
As part of the country’s youth, we are disheartened to see our President neglect the rights of fellow Filipinos and taint our country with the blood of its citizens, when his primary duty as our leader is to protect us.
We, Catholic Filipino Youth, strongly plead against the reimposition of the death penalty in our country.
Envision a world where violence serves as a blanket that swathes everything in darkness - this will become the norm for us Filipinos once we are under a death penalty regime.
We will fall victim to injustice, robbed of our humanity, once we are subjected to such remorseless treatment.
A more appropriate solution in place of the death penalty would be to enforce and strengthen rehabilitation efforts.
We strongly believe in condemning the crime, but for the perpetrator’s life and dignity to be protected.
We must never fight fire with fire, for it will lead to a remorseless cycle of desensitization to violence and bloodshed. In the same way that everyone receives forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, rehabilitation provides people with the chance to reform themselves into better human beings, even those under life imprisonment.
It is ironic that President Duterte has said, “We are our own tormentors - we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless…” The President’s demand for the reimposition of the death penalty will precisely lead to such a situation, where human life becomes compromised and much cheaper. The inhumane act of state killing will only breed harm and destruction in this country, for violence only begets violence.

Jamie De Luna,
Anne Dispo,
Bettina Granda,
Mika Ong,
Patty Ginzaga,



Call for responsible Malaysians to report negative postings
To the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 October 2019
First published in the Star, 27 September 2019

The Inspector-General of Police (IPG) warning that “Stern action will be taken against those who spread fake news or make irresponsible comments on social media” in The Star, September 26 is timely.
Online fake news uploaded or shared by irresponsible parties can easily spur hate and misunderstanding.
Hence, his strong reminder should be closely heeded.
Most right-thinking Malaysians will accept the reasonable notion that freedom of speech carries some responsibility with it.
The online medium, especially, should not be used as a shield to hide behind while you say and do anything you like.
Online news portals and owners of media organisations need to have clear guidelines to regulate and manage comments by the public and their journalists.
For example, perhaps do not let commentators hide behind a cloak of anonymity – it is, after all, an inherent requirement of free speech that people take full responsibility for statements they make.
Healthy debates do not preclude taking responsibility for the comments published.
Simply put, media agencies and commentators need to be responsible and accountable just like on WhatsApp, Facebook, etc, where writers are usually known to and judged by their groups and peers.
As a maturing democracy, most Malaysians would understand the need for reasonable speech or comments and not resort to name calling, bad language and insults.
And, by way of setting a good example, our politicians and social media leaders, too, should focus on making responsible comments.
Slander or harmful speech is just disappointing political expediency that can disrupt harmony, peace and law and order.
Responsible netizens should be proactive in promptly reporting insensitive and negative postings to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,


Call on Papua New Guinea government to involve
Landowners in development of LNG industry
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 October 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 26 September 2019

Baimuru district in Gulf is made up of nine tribal groups naturally bounded by seven big rivers which are connected to the Purari River.
In fact Purari River has seven mouths - Aivei 1 and 2, Panaroa, Urika, Arae’e, Varoi and Pie.
Well before the Papua liquefied natural gas LNG came into play, people were already living along the corridor of the river Purari - living freely of the land, river and sea for food and shelter, gardening, hunting and fishing.
The river system provides channel for transportation and movement.
These will soon be affected when the project begins.
I appeal to the government and the developer, Total, to involve landowners in any matters concerning the Papua liquefied natural gas LNG project development process.
Our leaders, especially Kikori Member of Parliament and Governor, should take a leading role in addressing most of these issues by educating the people on the status of the project and the impact and benefits that will follow.
Right now we are in the dark and wondering where and how we will participate as traditional tribal groups from this district.
The Baimuru people want to see the project go ahead without any delay because it will bring tangible development to the people.
However, we would like the parties involved to consider:
Wide range of consultation and awareness programmes throughout whole district;
request 100 percent involvement of landowners in any project participation in the process in partnership with Government and Developer; all spinoff benefits to be prioritised to the project areas and nearby neighbouring districts and provinces for fair and equal participating; project should not be bulldozed unless and until all outstanding land issues are solved properly; and,
Be reminded that land, river and sea are the only natural assets that people will turn to, for the basic daily needs after the project and should be taken seriously.

Adam Omae
Koriki Tribe,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for resignation of environment ministers
In Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 October 2019
First published in the Star Friday 25 September 2019

I refer to the report “Yeo shrugs off calls for her resignation” in The Star September 25, 2019.
For me, it is justified to call for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin’s resignation.
Indonesians and Singaporeans must also ask for the resignation of their respective environment ministers because of the total lack of urgency and resolve to solve the haze problem that has been occurring for decades now.
Am I right in saying that after each episode, everything is forgotten?
May I know what concrete measures are being considered and actively pursued?
It is the same story every year: Malaysia and Singapore blame Indonesia while Indonesia blames Malaysian and Singaporean companies operating in Indonesia. At the height of each episode, ministers and heads of government would utter something politically correct to placate the situation.
But I am prepared to wager nothing will ever happen.
I think Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians must all ask their respective environment ministers to resign if nothing concrete is being done now.
This is the only way for them to get the message.
Imagine the amount of resources wasted fighting forest fires, and the inconvenience and health risks inflicted.
Can the governments see that not everyone works in air-conditioned areas or have air purifiers at home?
I suggest the governments of this region get their house in order.

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for high rise buildings
To stop urban sprawl into forests
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 October 2019

With our ever increasing population, we must encourage as much high-rise building as possible.
If we continue to allow developments to sprawl out into our beautiful forests, there will be no trees or wildlife left.
If we can't control our population, then we need to build up!

Jennifer Horsburgh,


Thank you Vanuatu for speaking up
For West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 October 2019

I applaud the government of Vanuatu for standing up and speaking out at the United Nations against the political repression of the people of West Papua by the Indonesian State acting as their colonial masters.
The repression of the West Papuans is reminiscent of the repression of East Timor by Indonesia.
These people are suffering, they are dying and under threat of ethnic cleansing. History is repeating itself.
And yet again the international community has largely ignored the plight of the West Papuans as they struggle to live as a free people.
That's why Vanuatu's stance stands out as a beacon of hope for a long oppressed people.
I congratulate Vanuatu for doing what's right when many others stay quiet because it's politically expedient for them to do so.
Shame on all who remain silent in the face of the atrocities suffered by the West Papuans at the hands of the Indonesian State.

Rajend Naidu,

Malaysia retains a mere 18 percent
Of its virgin forest intact
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 September 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 25 September 2019

The truth is we really don’t have to clear any more jungles; not in South-East Asia, not in the Amazon or anywhere else for that matter.
We have cleared enough land for food and timber to last us for generations to come.
On the other hand, the jungles and all the life they support need to be given a respite to heal and restore, now and not later.
A new documentary series, Our Planet, offers compelling suggestions on exactly how we can save our jungles.
It reports that more than 75 percent of virgin jungles around the globe are gone by now due to human activity.
It is apparent then that there is no scarcity of land as such.
So instead of chopping down more trees, we must use the existing land more efficiently, which includes restoring or re-purposing degraded soils for replanting.
It is also possible to help rain forests regenerate their ecosystems naturally, even if not in their original richness.
Efficiency in plantations and timber harvesting promises sustainability. Big companies, first and foremost, have to commit to sustainable use of land and effectively shift their business models.
In turn, the impetus for change ought to come from the players down the supply chain - the food manufacturers whose products end up in the hands of end consumers.
Their membership in groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) can be taken as a sign of their pledge to support sustainable deforestation-free practices at the source.
Eventually, even the small farmers and producers would become open to adopting the new more sustainable operating procedures in their operations.
As individuals, we too have a role to play. For that, first of all, we need access to true information.
The government, notwithstanding its protection of the palm oil industry for economic reasons, has to disclose all environmental data transparently, which it has failed to do till now.
Pressure group Klima Action Malaysia says the country retains a mere 18 percent of its virgin forests intact, in stark contrast to the official government figure of 50 percent. In Borneo, we lose a hundred orang utans every week. With dire statistics such as these revealed in the open, the civic movement toward climate action could grow stronger.
This could in turn shift the cultural priorities of environmental indifference in many people who seem to be unable to care about the world beyond their own lifetime.
Of course, local action alone will not solve the climate problem; concerted global efforts are essential.
However, we can start where we are, at home, by realising the immense wealth we possess in the biodiversity of jungles and by doing everything we can to protect them for the health of our planet and ourselves.

Salsabil Gul,



Call for Thailand to develop program
To combat global warming
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday, 29 September 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 25 September 2019

Re: "Prayut hails Thai health system at UN", in Bangkok Post,
September 25.
I find it highly ironic that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha went to the United Nations to boast about a healthcare system that was started by the person who is probably number one on his "sabotaging the nation" list.
And as I recall, Gen Prayut used to do a fair amount of moaning and groaning about how much this healthcare system was costing, preferring, to spend our money on armoured personnel carriers and submarines, no doubt.
But since we don't have any programme to combat global warming to speak of,
I guess he had no choice.



Polio reemerges in the Philippines
After two decades
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 26 September 2019

The country is again the subject of global headlines with the news that polio has reemerged in the Philippines after almost two decades of being declared polio-free. This is another blow to the country’s debilitated health system, which has yet to recover from the declining trust in the Department of Health’s poor distribution of medicines, and the public’s fear of vaccinations.
I strongly believe that all parents have the purest intentions of doing what is best for their children.
However, pure intentions thwarted by misinformation or lack of access to quality information results in poor decisions and actions.
It is not helpful at all to simply put the blame on parents, when the problem of not vaccinating children is a systemic social issue.
Despite the immense efforts of grassroots health workers in educating and re-educating the public on the effectiveness of vaccines, it is still disconcerting that the vaccination coverage rate is worsening.
It was only in February this year that a measles outbreak was declared, and it only took less than a year for the resurgence of yet another vaccine-preventable disease. Do we still have the luxury of time when children’s lives are on the line?
What are we doing wrong?
Why are many parents’ attitude toward vaccination still unchanged?
Are we conveying the message in one language and in unison, that it’s critical for children to be vaccinated?
Communicating the need to vaccinate children should not only be expected from the Department of Health.
This message should be prioritized by all government agencies, and across all levels.
Vaccination messages should be geared toward protecting the community.
When we vaccinate our kids, we help build the immunity of our family, our barangay and our nation.

Jessica Virnna Antipolo,


Duterte's closeness to China makes Filipino's
Suspect that the President is sleeping with the enemy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 24 September 2019

This is in connection with the news item, “‘Recipe for disaster’: Intel official warns vs. China-backed telco in PH,” in Philippine Inquirer September 17, 2019.
The report included a photo showing three military officers standing beside President Duterte’s friend, Dennis Uy, owner of Dito Telecommunity Corp., after signing a memorandum of agreement allowing the installation of telecommunications infrastructure within military camps.
It was a stomach-churning sight!
What made me puke even more was an earlier report stating that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not know about the agreement, which at least three of his officers were party to.
How could these military men, whose job is to defend and secure this country against threats, do such a thing behind the back of their superior, the secretary of defense at that?
Wars are won or lost depending on the knowledge of what opponents think and do.
Intelligence-gathering is essential in preventing wars and keeping the peace, or win if it cannot be prevented.
The job of officials and agents in the community is to gather information through the employment of human assets or human intelligence (humint) and through signals culled from transmitters and listening posts called sigint (signals intelligence).
It may also be possible that some of those Chinese workers and tourists coming to the country are intelligence agents.
Mr. Duterte’s closeness to China, as evidenced by his many statements, his frequent visits there and his elbow-rubbing with his Davao City-based Chinese friends, make many of us suspect that he may be sleeping with the enemy.
It makes us shiver in fear over the realization that we are not only seeing the enemy at the gates, that we are not only surrounded by them, but that the enemy has already penetrated deeply in our midst.

Ramon Mayuga,

The California University FCE foreign credentials evaluation
Is not a degree
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 September 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 20 September 201

Here are some facts about California University FCE.
In the US the term "university" is not legally protected.
It means, for example, if I were to open a fried chicken restaurant or a massage parlour in the US, I can name it Chicken University or Massage University without a legal hitch.
Meanwhile, FCE stands for foreign credentials evaluation which is a legitimate service in the US, whose job is to evaluate - with fee, of course - educational background, working and life experience that a person achieves outside the US to determine an equivalent degree.
So, California University FCE foreign credentials evaluation is an evaluation service, not a real university that's approved to grant degrees.
Apparently the Deputy Minister of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry of Thailand, Capt Thamanat Prompow, has paid California University FCE foreign credentials evaluation to evaluate his overall academic background and working experience and it determined that he is "worth" an equivalent degree of PhD in public administration. Nothing is wrong with that.
But I think he was duped into believing that the degree is real.

Somsak Pola,

After 44 years of independence Papua New Guinea
Should be able to stand on its own two feet
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 September 2019
First published in the National, Friday 20 September 2019

While a lot of people including the National Research Institute (NRI) analyst have missed them, there are more positives than negatives for both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville for the upcoming referendum and its aspirations.
This is not to ignore the open secret that Bougainville now has a huge lack of credible administrators who will be able to chivalrously manage Bougainville and carry the burdens if their aspirations for independence is achieved.
Moreover, there is a mistaken belief that Bougainville has world class leadership.
Many good leaders were decimated by the crisis and what they have now are nothing but unproductive and borrowed story tellers from New Ireland, who need good directors and actors to exhibit the epitomes of their stories to their people.
Indeed, Bougainville has a lot of resources, just like Papua New Guinea, but it now lacks the expertise to develop them because it has been unable to train any due to the disruptions by the crisis.
First and foremost, Papua New Guinea will cease to be copycats of Bougainville’s childish behaviour of always crying for milk from the mother.
Even now, there are many in Papua New Guinea who are also desirous of more autonomy, akin to what Bougainville is asking for.
Papua New Guinea should stand up and be creators rather than be copycats of Bougainville.
Playing second fiddle to Bougainville all the time is not good for the image of Papua New Guinea, because it genuinely has some world class leadership from some provinces and is not respectful to them.
After, 44 years of independence, Papua New Guinea should now be able to stand on its on two feet and forge its own way forward instead of copying from Bougainville’s idealism all the time.
Bougainville’s aspirations are based on their own unique values and principles which is derived from their own unique historical circumstances and should not be blindly envied and copied by any country.
Secondly, thankfully, Bougainville will always support Papua New Guinea on the international forums where there are issues and concerns which affect both of them.
As Melanesian brothers, this is to be expected.
Thirdly, Bougainville’s budgetary drawdowns will cease and allow Papua New Guinea to concentrate and develop its other least developed provinces and districts because Bougainville now will be able to finance itself from its own resources.
Fourthly, there will be increase in tourism income for both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea because travelling between both countries will be much easier and justifiable as people from both countries will have relatives visiting each other and no racial issues and bigotry will tamper their movements.
It is always easier to travel to places where you feel more at home than otherwise.
Fifthly, there will be more opportunities for Papua New Guineans in terms of employment when Bougainvilleans leave the mainland once they attained their independence.
Nowadays, there are lots of Bougainvilleans occupying jobs that Papua New Guineans could be doing.
Papua New Guinea has a huge unemployment problem and cleaving Bougainville may assist to reduce its unemployment problem.
In fact Papua New Guinea will not miss Bougainville because the latter is nothing but a small portion of Papua New Guinea in terms of both land mass and population, not forgetting its current contribution to the economy of Papua New Guinea..
Papua New Guinea now has many world class projects making huge impacts internally and internationally.
Hence, it will be good if Papua New Guinea can happily remove Bougainville from its cravings.

D Eiso,
The neutral assessor,

Papua New Guinea calls for Pan-Melanesian
Freedom and liberation
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 September 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 18 September 2019

A national flag is a sacred item that holds great significance and is the most visible symbol of statehood.
Ours designed by a school girl Susan Karike on July 1971 reflects the ideals, beliefs and values that we stand for as a nation amidst our rich and diverse cultural make-up.
It forms a crucial element of our national identity and as such, the national flag is to be treated with dignity and honour.
Likewise every flag says something and evolving as history changes.
Mozambique has an AK47 (assault rifle) on their flag signifying the struggle for independence.
It was the main weapon used in their bitter struggle.
When communism fell, eastern European countries dropped the communist symbols from their flags.
A national flag often works as a national symbol and is meant to represent a country as a whole.
We can have individual provincial flags but the national flag is the flag of all provinces at the national level.
Internationally, national flags represent their country.
For example, in the Olympics, the Star-Spangled Banner represents the US, the Union Jack represents the UK, the Red Maple Leaf represents Canada and etc. We are yet to give a name to our flag.
West Papua’s flag, The Morning Star, is flown by independence movements and supporters in many places in our country and across the world.
In prelude to our 44th Independence celebrations the West Papuan question again came to the fore as thousands of Papua New Guineans marched through Port Moresby in support of West Papuan freedom on Sept 10, 2019.
This follows weeks of protests by West Papuans, as well as unrest, in the neighbouring Indonesian-ruled territory.
Led by two prominent MPs to what is dubbed as the largest demonstration of Melanesian solidarity in the nation’s capital – the national capital governor, Powes Parkop, and Northern governor, Gary Juffa – the protesters condemned recent cases of racism towards West Papuans in Indonesian cities which sparked the wave of mobilisations across the border.
While we have the freedom of demonstration and assembly we should also understand that flying the Morning Star is seen by Indonesian authorities as advocating independence and thus challenging Indonesian sovereignty.
If PNG had to involve, then raising flag alone is not enough to the West Papuan issue, which is as old as our own independence or even goes more than 50,000 years and has confounded successive governments for many years.
PNG as an emerging leader has to reassert its position to its sub-regional affiliations such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group and Pacific Island Forum as a start.
And can become a strong voice in regional and international forums.
Its time PNG takes an affirmative role in sensitising the West Papuan question which is at many times is mistaken as a human right issue.
The West Papua is not a case of human rights violation but it is a question on decolonisation and modern day imperialism.
New Caledonia is another case of France’s modern-day imperialism.
And it won’t be necessarily military pressure as we do not match the might of Indonesia but it can be done through diplomacy.
Diplomacy has played a crucial role in the de-escalation of international crises, and PNG can fine tune its foreign policy to pursue a diplomatic cause on
Pan-Melanesian freedom and liberation.

David Lepi,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Papua New Guinea to give
Bougainville referendum for independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 September 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 19 September 2019

Bougainville conducts its referendum in three months time when Papua New Guinea turns 44 years old.
In 2001, when Papua New Guinea was only 26 years old, it granted Bougainville the option whether to become independent or to stay with Papua New Guinea.
That right to determine a political future given to Bougainville was made through the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) and subsequently through the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea Constitutions.
Today, Papua New Guinea is 44 years and I think being a 44-year-old year old nation, Papua New Guinea is old enough to let go of Bougainville if Bougainville votes for Independence other than Greater Autonomy.
What do you expect a 44-year-old man to do to his son who wants to get married and live on his own?
If the son of a 44-year-old man wants to get married, but his father does not allow him to get married – despite giving him the right to make his decision, you will expect to see a rebellious son.
Yes, you will expect a rebellious son who in return will cause more inconveniences to his father if his father does not allow him to live on his own. Obviously this will cause more instability between the father and the son.
On the other hand, if the 44-year-old father lets the son to live on his own it will create peace between both of them.
The son will still remain a son of the 44-year-old man although living as a separate married man.
Obviously, the son will always try to assist the father if the father needs any assistance from the married son.
This means an independent Bougainville will surely assist Papua New Guinea if Papua New Guinea needs help. Furthermore, the father will still assist his married son if his son requests some form of assistance from his father despite both living separately.
That is why Papuan New Guinea, being a 44-year-old nation, is old enough to let its son – Bougainville – live an independent life in order to satisfy the wishes of the son (Bougainville) if Bougainville decides to live on its own.

Pau Piahe,
Aitara Village,
South Bougainville,
Papua New Guinea

32 of 58 massacred in Ampatuan in 2009
Were media workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 18 September 2019

It has been 118 months since 58 persons - 32 of them media workers - were waylaid and butchered on a hilltop in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
All because the leading members of a powerful and wealthy political clan could not countenance any challenge to their almost absolute rule over their province and believed they could get away with mass murder.
Nine years and 10 months on, with the trial finally wrapped up, we are told we can finally expect a verdict before the 10th anniversary of the slaughter, the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever.
While convictions will surely be welcome, we cannot shake off the fact that taking close to a decade - though we have to stress, through no fault of the judge - to resolve a case involving so heinous a crime is already a gross injustice to the victims’ families, and an indictment of our still badly damaged justice system.
We also cannot overlook the fact that many of the close to 200 accused remain at large after all these years and may ultimately evade the accounting they deserve.
And, as several kin of our fallen colleagues themselves have said before, while resolving the Ampatuan massacre may bring relief, it will not even begin to solve the festering culture of impunity that encourages not only the murder of journalists - we have thus far lost 186 since 1986, 13 under the current administration - but also the resort to violence for everything, from shortcutting the judicial processes, to the suppression of legitimate criticism and dissent, to the settling of personal scores, because so many more killings remain unresolved, so many cries for justice unanswered.
The quest for real justice and democracy in our country remains a long, hard struggle, but it is one we cannot afford to lose.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,
National Directorate,

Doctors Without Borders call on Asean
To help the Rohingya
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 September 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 13 September 2019

Two years on, Asia is no closer to ending its worst refugee crisis in decades.
Over 900,000 Rohingya are in Bangladesh alone, including 759,000 who fled a campaign of violence by the Myanmar military in Rakhine State that began in August 2017.
Hundreds of thousands had already left in earlier episodes of violence, fleeing to Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as in India and further afield.
This is an Asian crisis, but South-East Asia should show stronger leadership.
South-East Asia’s leaders will come together on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this month and during the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit in November.
Asean has been one of the few actors able to engage the Myanmar government since 2017.
The region’s leaders must show compassion for the Rohingya and push Myanmar to take steps to end the violence, discrimination and persecution that forced out the Rohingya.
Otherwise this tragedy will continue.
As a medical humanitarian organisation providing healthcare to Rohingya in Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh, MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders) witnesses the daily struggles they face.
In Bangladesh and Malaysia, the Rohingya do not have refugee status and need some form of temporary legal stay.
In Myan-mar, they are denied citizenship and treated as foreigners. Stateless-ness is the root of their vulnerability.
In Malaysia, MSF treats Rohingya patients badly injured in work accidents who are deterred from seeking medical care at public hospitals due to fear of being reported to immigration.
Yet recent research demonstrates that including refugees in the legal workforce could add millions to gross domestic product and tax revenue, as well as create jobs for Malaysian citizens.
The Pakatan Harapan manifesto promised legal status and work rights to refugees; the government should fulfil these commitments.
Malaysia can lead by example on the question of status by granting Rohingya some form of temporary status to stay in the country legally.
In Bangladesh, MSF teams see how the Rohingya languish in squalid camps, unable to build a future for themselves without formal education or work. Bangladeshis’ generosity is wearing thin and refugees in the camps face growing curtailment of rights.
They are barred from independently accessing public health facilities due to movement restrictions, and there is a lack of specialised services for mental health and sexual and gender based violence, despite high needs.
The only legal avenue to reach healthcare providers in Cox’s Bazar is through referrals by humanitarian actors, such as MSF.
Rohingya in Bangladesh and Malaysia tell MSF that they feel suspended in time, unable to move beyond daily survival simply because of their identity.
They say that while they dream of returning home, they currently see no pathway to a better life there.
In Myanmar, the situation continues to worsen.
Since January 2019, an upsurge in fighting between the military and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic Rakhine insurgent group, has displaced tens of thousands. This new wave of violence is affecting all communities.
A curfew and restrictions on humanitarian assistance have been imposed across central and northern Rakhine.
In addition, the estimated 550,000 to 600,000 Rohingya still in Rakhine State endure discriminatory restrictions on freedom of movement, which limit their access to basic services, such as healthcare.
In northern Rakhine, it is costly and potentially dangerous for Rohingya to seek medical treatment: they must pass police checkpoints on the way to hospital that require paperwork and bribes.
Meanwhile in central Rakhine, more than 128,000 Rohingya and Kaman (another Muslim minority) have been effectively detained and segregated in displacement camps for seven years since widespread violence in 2012.
Rohingya cannot travel to seek healthcare on their own; MSF is required to transport them with a police escort to hospital, where they are kept in a segregated ward.
Asean’s Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) is supporting the government’s preparations for repatriation. This is a positive step forward, yet AHA cannot independently assess the situation in northern Rakhine.
As a result, a report released by AHA in June did not convey the reality on the ground, such as the limited access to healthcare.
At the political level, Asean should support Myanmar in implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, led by the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
If realised in full, in the spirit they were drafted, the recommendations will benefit all communities.
The Rohingya – those still in Myanmar and those who have fled – need clarity on their citizenship rights.
Asean can engage Myanmar at a technical level on issues such as birth registration, while pushing for a citizenship verification process that meets international standards.
Asean needs to have a broader conversation with the Myanmar government. Member states should place the exclusion and discrimination towards the Rohingya at the centre of their discussions.
Rakhine State must stay on the agenda, in Asean meetings and at the UN General Assembly.
In these gatherings, South-East Asian leaders should say with one voice that inclusion, not segregation, is the solution.

Beatrice Lau,
Head of Mission, Malaysia
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières,
Kuala Lumpur,

World Bank says Malaysia can gain
From Sino-US trade war
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 September 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 7 September 2019

"Winter is coming" was once used by President Joko Widodo (a.k.a. Jokowi) at the height of his electoral campaign against his opponent Prabowo Subianto.
When Jokowi used it, he created a major storm in Indonesia.
All Indonesians went wild: Their President actually likes the Game of Thrones.
That phrase 'winter is coming' was a warning by President Jokowi earlier this year that if Indonesia does not buck up with reforms and more reforms, the country would be affected by the wintry conditions of global economy due to a combination of Sino-US trade war and economic turbulence.
So is "winter" coming to Malaysia too?
Yes, the global economic situation will affect Malaysia in four ways:
First, as long as the Sino-US trade war continues creating a pattern of peaks and valleys in stock markets, digital start-ups will find it difficult to raise the necessary level of funds through their initial public offering (IPO).
When there are fewer start-ups or less access to capital that can spur the creation of a digital economy, Malaysia will lose out from the lack of such connectivity, whose prime goal is to reduce the cost of any redundant economic activity.
Malaysia, in this sense, will be affected by the Sino-US trade war and its impact on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).
Second, if the global economy is not conducive to higher growth, as driven by digitisation and Sino-US deregulation, but is instead susceptible to a structural cycle of booms and burst in Sino-US trade, then Malaysia will not have the right external stimulus from these two countries to become a high-income nation itself.
Third, while Chinese factories can and will relocate to Malaysia, largely to avoid the onerous tax burdens imposed by the United States, this is not something that can happen overnight.
Even if Chinese factories are in Malaysia, the high-end manufacturing of these products can still be subject to higher Western and US scrutiny too.
Therefore, while Malaysia is considered by World Bank as one of the four countries that can gain from the Sino-US trade war – the others being Vietnam, Chile and Argentina – the gains will be short term.
There is no telling when the benefits of China will accrue or when they will end. Malaysia itself has to buck up.
Fourth, China has insulated itself from the global economic turbulence by relying on domestic consumption, of up to 72.8 percent.
Now, while Chinese consumers still have a craving for Western products, increasingly, they are shopping online to get their own high-end cellphones, clothes, food and the works, all Made in China.
In order to benefit from the affluence of Chinese consumers, Malaysia has to make them feel welcome; at the least, sufficiently attracted to the "Malaysia as a destination of choice for investments" programme to want to be a top investor here.
Indeed, Malaysia can only avoid the global economic winter triggered by the Sino-US trade war if the country itself is focused on four things too:
First, students must be trained in robotics and automation as this is a wave of the future that cannot be avoided.
Even if new Chinese factories are relocated to Malaysia, robotics or automation remains increasingly critical in the original engineering of all manufacturing.
Second, Malaysians from all walks of life have to take artificial intelligence seriously at school.
Malaysians must have a basic understanding of the supply chain of new knowledge.
Artificial intelligence is now a part of this supply chain, which no one can do without.
Third, while algorithms have been covered in the secondary syllabus of Malaysian education system since the 1980s, students have to understand the concept of algorithms from their commercial standpoint or usage.
Without this understanding, the Malaysian economy will not be able to make it to the top.
Thus, students must know how algorithms are applied in the real world and consequently, to sustain and create the Internet commerce in various apps.
Lastly, Malaysians have to get ready for the revolution of data science and big data.
The latter comes in different varieties, volumes, veracities and velocities. Unless all Malaysians understand the importance of these "4Vs", the country will indeed face the full impact of the global economic recession.
As of now, a global economic recession in 2020 is not a certainty yet.
This is due to the collective response that has been taken.
Some 30 central banks across the world, for example, have lowered their interest rates.
As it is, the China's Central Bank has reduced the bank reserves of all banks in the country by a basis point of 0.50, which can allow all commercial banks in China to borrow and lend more than US$160bil (RM667.7bil) to shore up the Chinese economy.
Yet such monetary measures cannot last forever. Malaysia needs to always be sturdy and ready economically to brace for more Sino-US economic friction.

Dr Rais Hussin,
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia strategist,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysian Election Commission
To implement new electoral system
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 September
First Published in the Star, Saturday 14 September 2019

The decision to adopt the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system was made during independence in 1957 for the purpose of ensuring a stable government.
There are two broad differences between the FPTP and other electoral systems, mainly the proportionate system.
The main advantage of FPTP is its ability to provide a strong and stable government. However, it does not provide for a fair and democratic representation of minorities.
The proportionate and other electoral systems are better able to give a fair representation to minorities but they normally fail in providing a stable government.
The FPTP system was also chosen because it is suited to a country that is divided by distinct geographical areas with different ethnic groups.
Above all, the system is simple, practical, easy to tabulate and less confusing to the average Malaysian.
However, with the public becoming more informed and educated, particularly about other electoral systems, there are individuals and groups who now feel that the proportionate, or multimember proportionate system (hybrid system), is better and should replace the present FPTP system.
Having said that, we have to ask ourselves whether we have made a thorough study of all the systems, their advantages and disadvantages.
There are proponents of the proportionate system who highlight its benefit of protecting minorities and encouraging smaller political parties to participate in the democratic process.
There are those who are of the opinion that more parties would mean more conflicts and disrupt the decision-making process.
For those supporting the FPTP system, they are of the opinion that the system despite its failure to represent minority parties will ultimately bring about a two-party system for checks and balances.
Furthermore, in Malaysia where the parliamentary system is bicameral, the minorities are also represented in the Senate (Dewan Negara).
The Election Commission (EC) should have no qualms in implementing any new electoral system in accordance with a law passed by Parliament.
In countries where people opt for a particular system, it must gain public support through political representatives (the Legislature) and later obtain a mandate after a debate in Parliament.
There are also countries which use a referendum to gauge public opinion and support before discussing the issue in Parliament. If after the debate, there is a consensus or majority decision, the new electoral system can be passed into law.
Only when the Election Commission (EC) and its officers have familiarised themselves with the new system, will the body be able to implement it.
The Election Commission (EC) should consider all the recommendations made for the improvement of electoral processes to ensure that democratic principles prevail.
In the long-term, the Election Commission (EC) should be transformed from an electoral management body to a global democratic entity with international status and standing.

Mohamed Mokhtar Ahmad Bajunid,

Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution
Lacks enforcement mechanisms
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 September 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 14 September 2019

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) welcomes the move by the Prime Minister in reaching out to his Indonesian counterpart in addressing the transboundary haze problem which is affecting Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.
We hope that urgent measures will be taken by the Indonesian authorities to halt the forest fires stemming from Indonesia, as monitoring data from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre has shown that the majority of hotspots are in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
The recurrence of the haze problem raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution which came into effect in 2014 and the implementation of the ‘Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control,’ which envisions Asean to be haze-free by 2020, which now seems like an impossible task.
It has to be acknowledged that the Asean Agreement lacks enforcement mechanisms or instruments for dispute-resolution and is therefore rather weak and not effective enough.
It is premised mainly in promoting cooperation among the Asean member states and expects each country to undertake efforts at preventing forest fires in the respective countries, without infringing on the national sovereignty of a member state.
Given its inherent weakness, more effective measures are needed urgently, including expediting the establishment and operationalisation of the Asean Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control (ACCT-HPC)
in Indonesia to intensify further cooperation and action to combat the problem.
Since it is up to member states to ensure the prevention of forest fires in their respective countries, it is also vital to address why governments are not able to prevent the occurrence of forest fires.
Several reports have shown that there are serious systemic governance issues in Indonesia in relation to the forestry and plantation development sectors.
The governance framework for plantation development involves different levels of government, making central monitoring and enforcement a difficult challenge.
Further, serious concerns have been raised by Indonesian civil society in relation to the lack of transparency in governance and existence of corruption in the forestry and plantation sectors.
To compound the problem, companies involved in monoculture plantations such as oil palm and pulp and paper, often fail to comply with Indonesian laws and resort to the use of fire in land clearing activities.
Without accepting these facts, it is indeed a challenge for Asean governments to ensure a haze-free vision in 2020.
There must be regional recognition that large corporate oil palm and pulp and paper plantations are not only causing deforestation but are also responsible for the forest fires in Indonesia.
It is the large corporations and not the small farmers who are the real culprits.
It is therefore important for us to stop the common false narrative that blames the fires largely on local farmers, where the cultivation of crops is on land areas which are typically small.
In order to help support Indonesia to put a stop to the forest fires permanently, three basic steps must be undertaken by Asean countries, including our own government.
First, there must be a clear understanding about the systemic causes of the forest fires and the corporate activities which are largely responsible for them.
Two, the Asean mechanisms of cooperation must be stepped up and improved to be effective, including through the establishment of the ACCT- HPC.
Three, there must also be willingness for Malaysia and other Asean countries to ensure that corporations owned by their citizens are not involved in destructive and unsustainable activities abroad.
We therefore urge the Federal Government to lead the process in tackling the source of the problem and in ensuring that the region will never have to see another forest fire raging again, and make a haze-free Asean a reality and not a pipe dream.

Meenakshi Raman,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,


Papua New Guinea to celebrate Independence Day
The Melanesian way
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 September 2019
First published in the National Wednesday 11 September 2019

I wish you all a Happy 44th Independence Day!
It is 44 years of political sovereignty and our country is progressing, despite negative criticisms being made by our own countrymen and women.
We don’t need to point fingers at each other for one’s wrong doing.
No need to rush and knock on our sovereignty for fast transformation.
We have to know that Rome was not built in one day.
It takes time.
The upcoming generations will see the real development and they will pay homage to what we are doing today, while we are under six feet.
Do what we could do now and leave rest for upcoming generations to continue.
Our government can’t do everything to develop Papua New Guineas (PNG) like Vatican City within five years.
Development takes time.
We have to know that, many countries got independence on bloodshed but we got it on the golden plate.
Let’s sit back and see how our Melanesian Brothers (West Papua) are strugglling to liberate themselves from Indonesian hegemony.
The struggle for freedom is like a hell.
We have to be proud of ourselves and fly the Papua New Guinea (PNG) flag high to show that we are united in diverse cultures.
We put regionalism and ethnicity aside.
Let’s put our hands together and celebrate this memorable event under the theme ‘Unity in diversity’.
We celebrate in Melanesian way.

Tokai Waru,
Papua New Guinea

Philippines Bishops say prayer is best defence
Against sedition charges filed against them
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 September 2019
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 10 Septemeber 2019

We address you as your brothers in the faith.
When we received the news about our inclusion as respondents in the case of sedition and other crimes filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - Philippine National Police(CIDG-PNP) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) our first response was prayer.
We held no press conferences together.
We begged off from interviews.
We attended no rallies.
We chose to pray.
Prayer is our best weapon against every evil. Prayer is power.
This is a good time to be reminded of this.
We prayed instantly, even until now, for our accusers.
May they meet the God of all Truths, be touched by His grace and stay away from the prince of lies.
We invite “Bikoy” to turn back to God, whose offer of mercy and forgiveness is without limits.
We have been praying fervently, too, for the team of prosecutors tasked to evaluate the case.
May they be guided by nothing but the spirit of justice and truth.
There can be no justice without truth. Justice without facts is no justice at all.
We cling to the belief that our officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) adhere to these values.
Indeed, there is separation of Church and State, but there must be no separation between God and country.
We have been praying, too, for ourselves and for you, our brothers and sisters in the faith, that none of us may be led into confusion, upheaval, error or sin by these charges.
Our land needs healing, not turmoil.
We cannot and we will not participate, and we will never help, in anything that will bring about social change through illegal means.
We thank our brothers and sisters who have offered prayers, sacrifices and legal assistance to us your bishops and the others accused with us. We thank you all for your kindness in this time of need.
Now that all respondents have filed their respective pleadings, we renew our faith in the power of truth to set us all - accusers, accused and justice officials together - free.
And we renew our appeal to those who accuse us.
There is joy and peace in living in the truth.
We reach out to you in peace.
We are shepherds of God’s people.
The Lord did not send us to defend ourselves; He promised to do that for us and we trust in the Lord. But as citizens, we comply with the due processes of law.
We renew our commitment to serve, to teach and to bless without relent, without repay.
We will not allow this splinter from the cross of Christ to distract us from our mission, to dampen our zeal or to intimidate us.
This cross we carry now is nothing compared to the agony and passion of the Lord and the pains and aches of the poor.
Our defense for human life and the sacredness of marriage remains.
Our message of peace based on truth will not be perturbed.
Our zeal for souls will not falter.
Our mission is yet incomplete.
We will not be discouraged.
We are your brothers in our love of God and country.
Pray for us.
Together with you, we place our trust in the Lord.

Teodoro C. Bacani Jr., Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches,
Honesto F. Ongtioco, Bishop of Cubao,
Pablo Virgilio S. David, Bishop of Kalookan,
Socrates B. Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan,

What would the Buddha do? or what would Jesus do?
But what would Confucius do?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 September 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 11 September 2019

Re: "Questioning Buddha", in Bangkok Post PostBag, September 10.
The letter writer notes people often ask themselves: "What would Jesus do?" or "What would Buddha do?".
I always ask myself, "What would Confucius do?", since he told us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Every moral position I take, such as my position on the Rohingya or the Palestinians, is based on how would I like it if people treated me that way.
Or in regards to animal rights: "How would I like it if a cow ate me for dinner?"
If we could only put ourselves in the shoes of those suffering, virtually all injustice to humans and animals would end.

Eric Bahrt,

West Papuan killings not dissimilar
To Indonesian invasion of East Timor
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 September 2019

The four Australians who were deported by Indonesian State authorities for supporting the West Papuan pro-democracy and independence protest
( ' Indonesian deports Australians from West Papua for taking part in protest ' Southeast Asian Times 4/9/19 ) are lucky they did not meet the fate of the Balibo five Australian journalist who were deliberately killed by Indonesian special forces on the eve of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 ( Wikipedia).
But the killing of the West Papuans by Indonesian security forces continues in a manner not dissimilar to what the East Timorese had encountered following the invasion.
How many West Papuans would need to be tortured and killed before the international community acts?

Rajend Naidu,

What would the Buddha do?
Or What would Jesus do?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 September 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 10 September 2019

Re: "National artist defends student after scandal", in Bangkok Post 9 September 2019
Some time ago, Christians in the United States coined the acronym "WWJD". That meant "What would Jesus do?"
It was the question Christians were supposed to ask themselves whenever they faced a moral issue.
In the case of the Ultraman Buddha, Buddhists might want to ask themselves, "What would the Buddha do?" or WWBD.
It may be presumptuous, and even hubristic, for us ordinary mortals to speculate on how Jesus or the Buddha would react in any given situation.
But it provides useful mental exercise and stretches the brain.
In the case of the Ultraman Buddha, I suspect that the Buddha would have laughed.
If readers will kindly indulge me for using some imagination, a dialogue between the Buddha and a householder devotee might go like this:
Lord Buddha: Why Ultraman? Why not Superman, Batman or Spider-Man?
Householder: Too retro, Lord. We want a superhero who is up to date and will appeal to youth.
Lord Buddha: Ah, yes, we must always appeal to youth. Otherwise they may grow up to be just as thick-headed as their elders. Now, is this Ultraman Buddha conducive to liberation?
Householder: No, Lord.
Lord Buddha: Will it increase people's bondage and further delay their liberation?
Householder: Probably not, Lord.
Lord Buddha: Then is it neutral, neither bringing them closer to liberation nor further delaying it?
Householder: It is probably neutral, Lord.
Lord Buddha: Then, householder, you should also be neutral toward it. The Tathagata, householder, has no ego. If he had an ego, he might feel offended by this Ultraman Buddha. But since he has no ego, he is indifferent toward it. Be you likewise, and do not let yourself be drawn into petty quarrels. Contentiousness has no part in the doctrine of the Buddha.


The world is still reeling from
The aftermath of the industrial revolution
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 September 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 7 September 2019

The fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) roles inexorably on.
Artificial intelligence, machine- learning, big data and blockchain are some of the jargon words widely used now.
IR 4.0 is enabling innovation and “disrupting” existing business models.
However, while these are exciting times, the world is still reeling from the aftermath of previous industrial revolutions.
Pollution, mass destruction of natural resources and climate change are some of the side-effects of industrialisation, and only time will tell the downfalls of IR 4.0 – the widening gap between those with access to knowledge and those without, perhaps, or the loss of many menial jobs to machines?
Meanwhile, there is another revolution brewing quietly.
Technology is connecting people globally, allowing the sharing of thoughts and ideas through social media.
Those with similar interests are banding together to create impact.
This connectivity is helping communities that want to right the damage done.
There are zero-waste communities trying to stop the use of plastics and encourage recycling; minimalists groups that advocate against gross consumption that is the bane of societies surrounded by shopping malls, and others greening concrete jungles to fight climate change.
It was based on these ideas that a small group of neighbours in Taman Subang, Petaling Jaya, decided to grow our own food in a community garden.
We are living in a world where our food is genetically modified and contaminated with pesticides.
We are disconnected from our food sources, not knowing where it comes from or how it is grown or processed.
Our objective was simple: to learn how to grow food the natural way and to maintain our garden sustainably by selling our organic produce to fellow residents.
Although the community garden was started with a seeding fund from the Resident Association of Taman Subang, soon neighbours started to join in with their own plants.
We have planted brinjal, ladies fingers, papaya, and spinach as cash crops.
Our herbal garden is ever expanding with a myriad of herbs.
The idea is to name these plants and their medicinal properties to ensure this knowledge is not lost to the younger gene-ration.
The overall experience has been enjoyable, as we work the land together, experimenting with germinating seeds and learning about potting soil and effective microorganisms.
We were also lucky to get expert advice from the Agriculture Department on the type of soil to use and composting.
Although the garden is still growing and we have yet to harvest our first produce, it has definitely created a friendly camaraderie among us neighbours as we reach for our cangkul in the evenings.
To reiterate my points earlier, we are always enamoured with the latest technology and the next revolution and we forget to value what is most important, like clean air, water and food.
These fundamental needs may soon become scarce if we continue to exploit the earth.
To quote a native Indian American saying, “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realise that you cannot eat money”.

Dr Kulsanofer,
Syed Thajudeen
Petaling Jaya,


Call for Philippines student activists
To observe simple school policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 September
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 September 2019

This is in response to the letter of Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan where they justified why some students become activists “Why we are activists: An open letter to all parents,” August 29, 2019.
I understand that many young people are “awake.”
Activism for me is not bad; however, it should have boundaries and limitations. Student activists should know when and where not to cross the line.
Fighting for the rights of minorities, supporting gender equality and the like are all valid concerns.
But then again, they cannot just push their advocacies and violate other people’s rights.
What irony!
You want your voice to be heard but most of the time you violate simple traffic laws?
How can you convince others to support your cause if you cannot follow a simple rule such as no vandalism?
How can you prove to the people that you are fighting for a cause greater than yourself, when you cannot observe simple school policies?

Regine Mamagat-Agapay


Yet to be determined if Chinese miner in PNG
Soley responsible for chemical spillage into Basamuk Bay
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 September 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 5 September 2019

The multibillion kina Ramu Nickel and Cobalt Project in Madang cannot be closed down unless the Chinese developer, Ramu Nico Management (MCC) Ltd, is identified as solely responsible for the chemical spill into Basamuk Bay from the company’s refinery site last week.
Until facts, figures and responsibility levels are identified the closure of this huge project should not be an issue yet.
The issue of the effectiveness of the Deep Sea Tailing Placement (DSTP) at Basamuk was contested in both the Madang National Court and the Supreme Court starting in 2009 and both courts stopped further development of the Ramu Mine but eventually the court injunctions were dismissed in 2011.
With that background, it remains to be seen if all stakeholders in this project, inclusive of the state agencies, had sufficiently exercised due care on the environment issue not only at the coast but also the mine site at Kurumbukari in Usino-Bundi.
However, the real issue on hand now is raised by the Madang Governor Peter Yama.
Yama claims that such incident of chemical spillage has happened at a time when the developer is deemed to be operating outside the mining laws, because the mining agreement expired in April 2019 and a new agreement must be in place.
On the lighter side of everything serious, 2019 is the ‘Chinese New Year of the Pig’ in which Chinese mythology speaks of wealth and fortune for persons and communities alike.
With that background maybe the Chinese developer can take the lead in cooperating against confrontation to solve the current Basamuk community based issues and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government should not prolong the need for new a mine agreement now well overdue.

Joe Koroma
Chairman, Guiyeibi Nogoi Yowo
Omowo Clan
Kurumbukari minesite area


The Martial Law Museum will remind Filippino's
Of the horrors of Marcos dictatorshop
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 5 September 2019

This is a reaction to Nikka G. Valenzuela’s article, “Martial Law Museum to rise by 2022, on 50th commemoration” in Philippine Inquirer August 26, 2019.
As part of a team that made it to the semifinal round of the Freedom Memorial Design Competition, I must thank and congratulate the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission (HRVVMC) for organizing this successful event.
Its awarding ceremony, appropriately held on August 21, Ninoy Aquino’s 36th death anniversary, was an enjoyable evening affair that was well planned, executed and hosted.
Of course, congratulations as well to the five finalists, especially to the eventual grand winners, Mark Anthony Pait, Wendell Crispo, Mark Angelo Bonita and Audie Palma.
After consoling each other for not having reached the final round, my teammates and I later on were all in agreement that their team was most deserving of the top prize.
That they were not yet born during the martial law period makes their victory all the more impressive and inspiring.
May their story and victory arouse in many of today’s youth the desire to pore over the pages of legitimate historical books, so that they (re)discover on their own what really happened during that bloody period in our country.
In this day and age, the youth should take time to research, considering all the falsehoods being perpetuated online in the name of historical revisionism.
Allow me to also praise all our fellow participants for collectively showing the amazing artistry and design skills of Filipino architects young and old.
I have to admit that many design entries, even those from among the semifinalists, blew me away and made me feel prouder of our profession and our nationality, as well as the richness and diversity of our culture. I was a proud semifinalist that night at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
I look forward to that day in 2022 when the Filipino public (and even foreigners) can enter the Freedom Memorial Museum, which will help us remember the horrors that many of our countrymen went through and died of during the dictatorship.

Name withheld upon request,

Call for construction of walk way
Between Malaysia and Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 September 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 5 September 2019

I note that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has taken cognisance of the horrific traffic congestion at the Johor-Singapore immigration checkpoints both at the Causeway and Second Link, and that he is now personally chairing the committee set up to resolve the nightmare that hundreds of thousands of people have to endure on a daily basis.
I am particularly heartened that the committee has included a proposal to construct a sheltered pedestrian link way to enable commuters to walk across the Causeway to ease the congestion problem.
I have been promoting the idea of building an elevated air-conditioned travelator linking the two CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) facilities between Johor Baru and Woodlands. The proposal would consist of a four-lane travelator similar to that used at most large airports.
Depending on traffic demand, these travelators could be turned on either way to facilitate traffic flow, that is three lanes could be switched on to run from Johor Baru to Woodlands in the morning and the reverse can be done in the evening.
This elevated walkway could be built over the existing railway line and designed as a dome-shaped semi-circle wide enough to accommodate four travelator lines in the centre and commercial space on both sides for kiosks or small food and beverage outlets.
The travelator link way is feasible for the following reasons:
Cost of construction is a fraction of the mass rapid transit rail system proposed. There is also minimal maintenance cost compared to the MRT;
Distance is only 1.3km and there is no requirement for land acquisition since it can be built over the existing railway track; It can operate 24 hours and there is no waiting time.
A commuter can get from one point to another within 10 minutes;
It would be totally self-financing as commuters could be charged a token fee of, say, RM1 from JB to Woodlands and S$1 from Woodlands to JB. With revenue from the lease of the commercial spaces, the payback could be recouped within five years; and
It could be a joint venture between Malaysia and Singapore by way of a special purpose company to build and manage it.
An alternative could be to hire a private company to build it on a BOT (build, operate and transfer) basis if government funding is an issue.
Whichever system is to be adopted, congestion at the Causeway must be resolved quickly for the well-being of commuters.
I hope the governments on both side of the Causeway would take a more proactive stance to seek a resolution for a better tomorrow.

Freddie Lee,
Chairman, Southern Region.,
Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Kuala Lumpur

Philippines children become activists because
They live in a world divided by unbridled capitalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 September 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Thursday 29 August 2019

These are undoubtedly scary times.
All fingers from our government and mass media seem to point to student activists as “salot ng bayan” at best, and recruiters for communist insurgent groups at worst.
We know that you may feel that you have to protect us from the hands of our military, police and other state elements by discouraging us from taking to the streets… but we wish you would take time to understand why your children have become activists in the first place.
Your children live in a world where in each corner of their eyes, they are surrounded by the results of a society that has been divided by unbridled capitalism.
On their right, they are faced with politicians who think nothing of the people they are supposed to serve.
Time after time, they are failed by those who’ve made public service a career, the primary trade of which is serving the elite minority: capitalists, hacienderos and foreign capitalists and politicians.
On the streets, state elements roam around to kill unsuspecting poor citizens, whether they are drug users or not, under the name of a drug war that serves as a guise for its antipoor nature. In our beautiful nature, massive multinational mining companies suck the earth dry of resources at the expense of displacing hundreds up to thousands of people.
And to top it all off, at the top of our political system, we have the most vile, misogynistic, elitist reptiles, such as President Duterte, who enable all these atrocities to happen by defending a status quo that is profoundly oppressive and undemocratic.
On their left, they are faced with the vast ranks of the toiling masses, who in the worst of conditions have stood up and fought for their rights collectively in an oppressive society ruled by the few.
From labor unions and women’s groups to environmental groups, LGBTQ+ groups and more from the oppressed sectors in society; animated by the dire circumstances brought upon by the fascist Duterte administration, they defend their rights against all forms of violence inflicted upon them - whether it be black propaganda, psychological warfare or physical violence.
Though they may be strong, they are outnumbered and overpowered by an enemy who has all the money and political capital to thwart most of their just and legitimate calls.
In a society of oppressors and oppressed peoples, whose side will you choose? This is the basic question that we as student activists are faced with every day.
We engage in student activism precisely because of what we’ve been learning from the very start: that we’ve been taught to love our fellow countrymen and stand for what is right.
We may not ever come fully to understand each other, but we hope you understand that what we fight for as student activists is greater than us.
We hope one day- once the struggle has ended, and the old world of violence, greed and oppression has been replaced by a world of genuine peace, love and empowerment - you will be able to look back at us, your children, and be filled with pride for what we’ve done.

Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan,

Call for Beijing to pay compensation
To Filipino fishermen for sinking their boat
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 30 August 2019

With the overwhelming concern of the people over the Recto Bank sinking incident involving Filipino fishermen, it is good that the fishing group behind the Chinese vessel has issued an apology for the incident after three long months.
However, I believe it should not end with a mere apology.
The Philippine government should represent these Filipino fishermen to demand just compensation from Beijing and the Chinese fishermen.
I understand that President Duterte is once again in China to talk with President Xi Jinping, and has vowed to invoke the 2016 Hague ruling.
Then again, anything could happen in that state visit.
I am hoping this visit would be more fruitful than previous ones and result in a favorable outcome for the Philippines.
Most of our countrymen are expecting something constructive upon the return of Mr. Duterte.

Maria Teresan Ancahan,


Philippine public officials likened to
Bayong-wearing Makapili during the Japanese Occupation
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 September 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Friday 30 August 2019

Raoul Manuel correctly observed that it is difficult to teach law enforcement and rights awareness and patriotism when public officials commit unpatriotic acts that rival the treachery of those bayong-wearing Makapili during the Japanese Occupation.
No less than President Duterte has shown us how to be anti-Filipino as he unabashedly plays the role of vassal of Imperial China with his cowardly, subservient stance on the West Philippine Sea issue.
He enthusiastically engages Chinese President Xi Jinping in a dance of surrender so that when Xi takes one step forward, Mr. Duterte takes two steps backward.
In the Senate, there’s Sen. Ronald dela Rosa spewing holier-than-thou statements and finger-pointing at a young activist, conveniently glossing over at least 5,000 victims of extrajudicial killings of the drug war he had led as well as the children caught in the crossfire of police operations because well, as he said, “Shit happens.”
Trusting in the sincerity and idealism of the youth, I humbly urge the National Union of Students of the Philippines to reject the result of a survey showing 80-percent approval of the revival of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, and instead call all student councils to a general assembly and draw up plans to conduct campus-wide simultaneous surveys on the issue.
Let their voices be heard in the halls of Congress and in the consciousness of the Filipinos.

Evelyn Silay,

Palm oil plantation in Malaysia
Are not jungles
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 September 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 28 August 2019

I refer to the letter “Oil palm plantations are jungles too” in The Star, August 26.
I find it extremely disheartening that oil palm plantations are being touted to be as good as primary jungles.
Any plantation or farm which replaces the primary virgin forest no longer has the rich biodiversity of species which is present in the primary forest.
Our tropical rain forest has one of the richest ecosystems on Earth, and to compare it with the monoculture of oil palm, durians and rubber is simply outrageous.
About 80 percent of the world’s documented species can be found in tropical rain forests, even though they cover only about 6 percent of the Earth’s land surface WWF, 2019..
In that sense, we are essentially raping the landscape.
I hope the author was being sarcastic when he suggested that other countries should actually congratulate us for clearing our primary forest for monoculture plantations.
I understand the need to defend Malaysian palm oil from detractors but the people must be given a balanced view of the situation instead of an obviously biased one.

Ng Di Lin,
Sungai Buloh,

Call for the United Nations to respect
National Repentance Day in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 September 2019
First published in the National, Friday 30 August 2019

The National Repentance Day that falls on August 26 every year is a national public holiday that is duly sanctioned by the National Parliament.
However, our good friends from the United Nations (UN) system in Papua New Guinea (PNG) do not respect this very important day in our nation’s calendar.
Instead the United Nations take two Muslim holidays in PNG to observe the start of Ramadan and end of it.
It seems the UN forgets that Papua New Guinea (PNG) is by constitution a professed Christian nation.
We have nothing against Muslims or any other religions and beliefs.
But given that you are operating in Papua New Guinea (PNG), constitutionally Christian, you would have the courtesy to respect the country, the people, and our belief system.
The nationals who are working in the United Nations are given the option to either be at work or take annual leave to attend National Repentance day’s events.
I understand this has been raised by national staff on numerous occasions to replace a Muslim holiday with the National Repentance day but has never gained any traction.
From what I understand, the United Nations system is operating in the country at the request of the Government for the various UN agencies and programmes.
Part of the condition is to support the government in technical areas and observe the laws, rules and customs of the country, even if you don’t like it.
But they continue to defy an important public holiday observed across the country for many years.
I would like to request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to summons the UN Resident Representative to explain why they continue to disrespect our National Repentance day?
The UN is made of all the member states and country offices are only an outpost or secretariat.
The continual disrespect of a duly sanctioned national holiday is a total disregard of the host country.

Digani Nosanamba
National Capital District (NCD),
Papua New Guinea

Why does incarcerated former Philippines
Lord mayor Sanchez deserve a second chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Who deserves a second chance?
The recent news about the planned release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez was appalling, in every sense of the word. It is an evident representation of our flawed justice system, which benefits the haves over the have-nots.
But another disheartening thing about this development were the remarks of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, that the former mayor “deserve(s) a second chance in life.”
His reaction is ironic, given the fact that he is a strong proponent of reinstituting death penalty in the country. Why does Sanchez, who was also caught with P1.5 million worth of shabu in his cell in 2010, deserve a second chance and other people do not?
Senator Bato, who won the recent 2019 elections with his tough stance on criminality and his leadership of the PNP and President Duterte’s drug war, should have known better about second chances.
Thousands have been killed, including minors, in his crusade in the name of cleansing the streets of drugs.
While police always claim that the suspects fought back, the death of someone like 3-year-old Myca Ulpina means that some will never get any more chances in life.
“Shit happens,” according to Senator Bato.
We’re hoping he reflects on what he said, because thousands have been deprived of a second chance.

Aljan Quilates,
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila,

Why does incarcerated former Philippines
lord mayor Sanchez deserve a second chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 September 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 27 August 2019

Who deserves a second chance?
The recent news about the planned release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez was appalling, in every sense of the word. It is an evident representation of our flawed justice system, which benefits the haves over the have-nots.
But another disheartening thing about this development were the remarks of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, that the former mayor “deserve(s) a second chance in life.”
His reaction is ironic, given the fact that he is a strong proponent of reinstituting death penalty in the country. Why does Sanchez, who was also caught with P1.5 million worth of shabu in his cell in 2010, deserve a second chance and other people do not?
Senator Bato, who won the recent 2019 elections with his tough stance on criminality and his leadership of the PNP and President Duterte’s drug war, should have known better about second chances.
Thousands have been killed, including minors, in his crusade in the name of cleansing the streets of drugs.
While police always claim that the suspects fought back, the death of someone like 3-year-old Myca Ulpina means that some will never get any more chances in life.
“Shit happens,” according to Senator Bato.
We’re hoping he reflects on what he said, because thousands have been deprived of a second chance.

Aljan Quilates,
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila,

Australian decision to deport Tamil family
Is a blot on the Australian state
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 August 2019

The security guard who assaulted girl,3, at shopping centre to be deported ( Yahoo News Australia 28/8 ).
There can be no disputing the correctness of that Australian state decision.
The Iraqi immigrant has proved himself to be an unfit person to be a part of the Australian community.
By contrast the decision to deport the Tamil family from the small Queensland town of Biloela despite months of lobbying by good, ordinary Australian citizens for them to be permitted to stay because they have been good members of their community is unfathomable ( Yahoo news Australia 29/8 ).
It's a blot on the Australian State.
The beauty of Australian democracy is the existence of an independent judicial system that can review the decision of a state official and overturn it.

Rajend Naidu,


Eight reasons why the Department of Education should not
Be allocated the lions share of the Philippines budget
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 August 2019

The Department of Education (DepEd) will be getting P673 billion, a lion’s share of the proposed budget of P4.1 trillion, for 2020.
I urge the two houses of Congress to deliberate thoroughly on whether the sleepy giant that is the DepEd deserves to be given this much money to spend as it pleases.
Here are eight questions for Education Secretary Leonor Briones to answer at the forthcoming budget hearings:
1) The DepEd did not publish any invitation to bid in the 11 months from September 2018 to August 2019, which means that it is purchasing all the products and services it needs without the requisite open and transparent public bidding. Is this not against Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act?
2) Why did the DepEd order P1.2 billion worth of science equipment for Grades 1 to 3 when public schools do not have a science subject in Grades 1 and 2? Where did all the science equipment go?
3) Why did the DepEd order P333 million worth of worthless textbooks, the Grade 3 Araling Panlipunan Learner’s Material, which I have shown to contain 1,308 errors? What is the DepEd intending to do with the very expensive lemon that it bought?
4) Eight years after the passage of the K-to-12 Enhanced Basic Education Act, Grade 5 and Grade 6 public school students still do not have textbooks that conform to the new curriculum.
5) Why did the DepEd publish its own textbooks when it violates RA 8047?
6) Why are DepEd-published textbooks full of errors? By trivializing, justifying or denying the errors, is the DepEd intending not to correct them?
7) What is the Bureau of Learning Resources doing? Shouldn’t its job be to ensure that public school textbooks are error-free?
8) Why keep a buffer stock of books when the public school students for whom they were bought don’t have books to use inside their classrooms? Is it not criminal to just allow these books to rot and decay inside the dilapidated and rat-infested warehouses of the DepEd? That is why many public school students cannot read, because it is the rats that are given books to read.

Antonio Calipjo Go,
Academic Supervisor,
Marian School of Quezon City

Being gay in the Philippines
Does not stem from a lack of faith
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 August 2019
First pulished in the Philippines, Tuesday 27 August 2019

I both cringe at and feel annoyed with some people’s belief that one’s homosexuality is a choice, or a result of having been influenced by another homosexual, or caused by a lack of faith in God.
Here’s why I, as a homosexual, disagree with any of those notions.
I grew up in a Catholic household surrounded by a fair amount of straight men and straight women of varying ages, and spent an equal amount of time with both genders.
I was the only gay kid (was unaware at the time that I was) for some years in elementary school, and had only straight male and female friends.
I even spent most of my time with the guys doing the usual “boy stuff” back then.
The majority of my childhood relatives and friends with whom I spent a lot of time were boys.
And among my relatives, there were only a few female contemporaries of mine with whom I mingled.
Yet, here I am, a homosexual for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, I was never attracted to women.
For a time, I pretended to be.
But I really developed an attraction to men early on.
I’ve been a regular Sunday churchgoer ever since I was a child and even studied in a Catholic school.
In my childhood, I was exposed only to straight couple movies and books and was not aware of the idea of homosexuality.
Also, no relative influenced me to become gay, because as far as I know, I am the only gay person from either side of my family.
My point is that no one in my life ever told me that I should be attracted to men or women, so my sexual orientation is not a choice.
It is also not a case of having been influenced by somebody else, because I never saw a same-sex couple when I was younger.
Same-sex couples were not (yet) showcased very much (if at all) in the media in the early 2000s.
Lastly, I go to church regularly and believe in God, so me being gay did not stem from a lack of faith.
Being a homosexual is something one would really feel within himself/herself, usually at an early point in his/her life.
This is something most straight people will never understand.

Name withheld upon request,

Call for law prohibiting sales of motor vehicles
To persons without a garage in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 Aug 2019

Our traffic problems, particularly in the metropolis, are caused not so much by a lack of appropriate laws as by the government’s failure to implement existing laws.
The proposal of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian to pass a law prohibiting the sale of motor vehicles to persons without garage is rather impractical, even an unnecessary one.
It will simply add another law that is not only difficult to implement, but may also create a new source of corruption or other under-the-table deals inside the Land Transportation Office or other government agencies that will be tasked to implement it.
Let’s get real.
Most, if not all, of the vehicles that daily constitute the heavy traffic in the metropolis do have garages.
But garages are private parking spaces for vehicles not in use, or whose owners are in their respective homes, resting. In other words, at any given time, every vehicle in any given street has a rightful purpose to be there, not necessarily because its owner has no garage.
It is true that vehicle owners whose houses do not have a garage are forced to park along city streets or right in front of their houses.
But this generally happens during the night, when the traffic situation in that area is not as intolerably heavy as it is at daytime, so as to cause our legislators undue alarm.
If at all, the more acceptable solution to problems like this is strict implementation of the no-parking rules, definitely not legislation.

Rudy L. Coronel,

Call for more government funding
For research in combating dengue
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 August 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 24 August 2019

In light of the alarming increase in the number of dengue cases recently, World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar has called for more government funding for research in combating dengue.
He also reiterated the need to educate the public on containing the disease by actively using insect repellents to prevent family members of infected persons from mosquito bites.
Amid an integrated approach in patient care, environmental (fogging) and biological control on mosquito reproduction, there is still no sign of the disease abating.
In a letter headlined “National research on dengue” in The Star, August 12, the writer, Dr Manimalar Selvi Naicker, stressed the need for in-depth clinical research on dengue which is currently lacking.
Information from existing research on dengue was the basis of the 2015 Adult Dengue Clinical Practice Guidelines drawn up by the Health Ministry in collaboration with the Academy of Medicine Malaysia. However, as Dr Naicker pointed out, there are still some gaps that need to be filled with regards to possible treatment options.
There are currently several natural therapies that are being researched to treat dengue.
Two of the most researched are the papaya leaf extract and tongkat ali extract.
The papaya leaf extract has been found to increase platelet counts which typically reduce during a dengue viral attack, reduce viral loads and hasten recovery.
In a study conducted at the Tropical Infectious Disease Research and Education Centre at Universiti Malaya, a propriety tongkat ali extract (Physta) developed by Malaysian researchers was found to inhibit the replication of new virus progenies. This could potentially reduce the intensity of the infection published in Tropical Biomedicine, 2019.
The same tongkat ali extract has also been found to increase platelet production and is an effective immunomodulator, as observed in another clinical study conducted at Orthomedico Inc Japan published in Phytotherapy Research, 2016, which is key to faster recovery from the disease.
While there are testimonials of faster recovery from dengue with tongkat ali ingestion, there are no clinical studies to ensure and document the therapeutic dose and rate of recovery to suggest it as a potential treatment or adjuvant therapy.
It is also important to use an extract that has been standardised for consistent quality and safety.
Approval to conduct clinical studies is either met with extreme caution or cynicism, impeding progress to develop the product to the next level.
Funding for the studies is lacking as well.
Unless medical practitioners, who are the first point of contact for treatment, understand enough of these natural therapies that could act as adjuvant therapy to current treatment methods, they would be unwilling to prescribe or recommend them to their patients.
Hence, a concerted effort to invest in research and innovation to treat dengue, especially in clinical research, could help to fill in the gaps and provide the necessary information and education to medical practitioners.
This will eventually contribute to the improvement of the 2015 Adult Dengue Clinical Practice Guidelines, making it effective in reducing the spike in dengue cases.

Dr Annie George,
Biotropics Malaysia Berhad,
Kuala Lumpur,

Proclamation of Merdeka
In Malaysia August 31, 1957
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 August 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 20 June 2019

I recall with pride and patriotic fervour that I was at the newly-built posh Merdeka Stadium on our first Merdeka Day on August 31, 1957.
That was 61 years ago!
I was an undergraduate at our only university for Malaya and Singapore.
I was home on holiday at my father’s government quarters in Kuala Lumpur.
We lived a stone’s throw from my old school, the outstanding Victoria Institution (VI), and Merdeka Stadium itself.
Naturally, I had a burning desire to see the Merdeka celebrations, but I had two problems to overcome.
Firstly, my dear father was reluctant to let me attend the ceremony.
He and many of his friends thought riots were likely to be caused by anti-Merdeka dark forces.
However, my dear mother managed to persuade my father, who reluctantly allowed me to go to the stadium.
But how would I, a mere university student, get into the stadium?
I went to VI and looked for the big hole in the fence that my friends and I had used to escape from school occasionally.
And from there, I was able to see the impressive stage with Tunku Abdul Rahman leading all our distinguished Sultans and the British leaders who were ready to hand independence to Malaya in grand pomp and ceremony!
I joined the joyous vast crowds that had excitedly gathered to witness history unfold.
We shouted ourselves hoarse as we followed Tunku Abdul Rahman’s proclamation of “Merdeka” seven times.
We were all euphoric.
It was there that I decided to study harder to graduate with an honours in Economics and to apply to serve in the elite Malayan civil service.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Centre for Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for laws against
The discriminatory practice of Landlords in Penang
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 August 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 21 August 2019

I am highlighting the discriminatory practice of landlords renting out their property in Penang. Most landlords here prefer to rent out their property to Chinese tenants only.
While this is happening, there are others who capitalise on this discrimination and rent out their properties at a higher price to non-Chinese.
Despite being well-educated individuals who hold respectable jobs and are financially independent, other Malaysians, Indians especially, are still being discriminated against purely due to their skin colour.
Saying that our cooking would stain the house is ridiculous as many Chinese also like to eat Indian food. Wear and tear incurred by any tenant is similar except for outliers who damage properties, hence it is unfair to punish the whole race for the mistakes of a few people.
We most certainly need laws to curb this form of discrimination, which causes unrest and robs us of peace.
Discrimination against foreigners, especially Africans, is a different issue altogether and enforcement would be more challenging. But I suggest that we first address the plight of our citizens as progress of the nation depends on the well-being of every Malaysian.
There are certain measures that can be taken so that worthy tenants are not discriminated against. I suggest that landlords ask for proof of employment and a copy of the tenant’s identification card and get him or her to sign a simple agreement detailing the potential consequences in the event that property damage is incurred.
Let’s make Malaysia a thriving place to live in due to diversity.

Discriminated against,

Call for papua New Guinea Health Department
To purchase its own medical products
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 August 2019
First published in the National, Tuesday 20 August 2019

No one had realised that there was big money to be made from health until 2010.
After that, at the expense of people’s life, importers of medicines, consumables and non-consumables in this country have made “mountains of profit” with the assistance from the government.
Can the Department of Health have a purchasing unit that would enable it to purchase its own medical products directly from manufacturers than outsourcing it to middle players?
Is this difficult?

Dr James Naipao
National President
National Doctors Association

Call for Philippines Senate and House of Represenatatives
Not to pass death penalty bill
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 21 August 2019

President Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona), showed commendably strong political will, a sense of urgency and a consistent resolve to eradicate corruption, drugs, poverty and criminality.
But what truly hit me in his speech was the urgent call to the men and women of the Senate and House of Representatives to immediately pass the death penalty bill.
As a baptized Catholic, like the majority of citizens in this country, I cannot simply keep my silence.
The death penalty bill, if approved, would endanger more human lives, considering the spate of killings of more than 5,000 suspected drug users, peddlers and protectors that has been reported in the last three years.
No doubt, the death penalty violates the precious dignity and sacredness of human life, the most fundamental right of all.
Pope Francis, in one of his many messages, declared his strong opposition against the death penalty.
“The death penalty, no matter how it is carried out, is in itself contrary to the Gospel,” he said, explaining that it’s a decision voluntarily made “to suppress the rights of a human being which is sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which only God is the true judge and guarantor.”
The Pope put emphasis on the fact that the “death penalty not only extinguishes human life but also extinguishes the possibility that the person recognizing his or her mistakes will have an opportunity to ask forgiveness and start a new life.”
Anchored on our faith, it is my ardent prayer that our leaders in government, as well as law enforcers and legislators, will practice prudence, compassion and fairness in their approach to solving the drug problem.
Let us be considerate in dealing with drug dependents and give them opportunities to be heard, to heal and to be socially transformed, so that they can be accepted back to society.

Dr. Ricardo S.D. Ledesma,
Past President,
Council of the Laity of Manila,

Call for United Nations Secretary General
To pay interns and expenses for presentations
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 August 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 20 August 2019

This is a request to the UN Secretary General and heads of UN offices to include two items in ongoing UN reforms and respond effectively, namely, its treatment of interns and of local participants helping UN activities, especially conferences.
First, interns. Currently, UN interns are mainly unpaid.
This unfair treatment has been going on for a long time.
Many of these interns are young people who recently completed their studies and their basic expenses should at least be covered.
However, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which is a member of the UN family, is decent enough to pay its interns.
It also resonates with the recently adopted ILO Convention No 190, which calls for protections not only in regard to employer-employee relations but also in the "world of work", covering interns and other persons linked with the work.
Second, local participants.
Where local participants contribute to UN-supported activities, such as lecturing, preparing or making presentations, and appearing on panels, their expenses should be covered.
This should be automatic; they should not have to ask the UN for funds.
The UN should also bear in mind any copyright on work which should be paid for.
I took up this matter with a couple of UN offices in Bangkok a few years ago, and at least one of them was willing to offer expenses.
However, a UN staff member responded to a more recent enquiry thus: " UN … rules do not allow the payment of honorarium to speakers nor can we provide reimbursement for travel of participants/speakers who reside in the province where the event is being organised."
I completely disagree with that position and urge the UN system to set an example and respond in a more fair, equitable and ethical manner to ensure decent and considerate treatment of all persons in the "world of work".

Vitit Muntarbhorn,
Professor Emeritus,
Law Faculty, Chulalongkorn University,
Formerly UN Special Rapporteur,
UN Independent Expert and a member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on human rights

Malaysia calls for ethnic bridge builders
Not ethnic heroes
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 August 2019
First published in the Star , Tuesday 20 August 2019

“Break the wheel of race politics” Nathaniel Tan, "All The Pieces Matter", Sunday Star, August 18 is most timely, as Malaysians will soon be celebrating our National Day on August 31.
There is strong evidence that race politics are still being practiced, even in the New Malaysia where the desire for greater inclusiveness saw the historic election of a new administration.
Racial remarks based on ethnicity or religion are not instantly and firmly called out by all sides of the political divide.
Perhaps this is why recent research by the Merdeka Centre found that greater “efforts must be made to find ways to bring Malaysians from different racial groups together to form meaningful and enduring ties”.
Extreme or irresponsible rhetoric that divide people into racial boxes must not be tolerated.
Perhaps our Parliament needs to remember that they are the “government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people”.
Ordinary Malaysians play a critical part too by practising tolerance.
The advice that “peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity” is most relevant to multiethnic and multicultural Malaysia.
It highlights the fact that when we are united, we learn to see through the same eyes, and together, we can do so much more.
As the Malaysia Unity Foundation puts it “we need ethnic bridge-builders not ethnic ‘heroes’”.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,

Draconian Thai censorship laws
Contradict Buddha's prime teaching
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 August 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 15 August 2019

Re: "Secular solution", in Bangkok Post PostBag, August 13.
A Bangkok Atheist, while I have to agree that theistic religions have serious problems that inevitably follow from their insistence on blind faith in or other or many of a motley panoply of gods, Buddhism in the Buddha's version escapes this inherent failure of the set of all ideologies that are theisms.
Bangkok's Buddhist temples often are, and more could be, green places of peace in Bangkok.
Nor do the Buddha's wise teachings, which were not a religion, inherently fall afoul of the ideological pits that characterise religion.
Indeed, his teachings show the Buddha to have been one of the deep thinkers who offered insightful philosophical guidance for a good life, as did Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others in the Western tradition, and Confucius among others in the Far Eastern traditions.
The problem is that Gotama's wisdom has too often been traditionally subverted by self-serving old men into nationalistic religions that are profoundly un-Buddhist in intent and effect.
How else to explain the mass slaughter of animals for no better reason than to satiate the lusts for tasty flesh of those ordering the daily killings whilst kidding themselves that they are good Buddhists?
How else to explain the corrupting notion of bribing karmic forces by gifting gold to adorn temples?
How else to explain draconian censorship laws that directly contradict the Buddha's prime teaching that the good life demands the right understanding?

Felix Qui,

Call for Malaysia to visit
Rare earth processing plants in China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 August 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 6 August 2019

China’s Chairman Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) once said, “The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth.”
In 1987, he predicted that one day, rare earths will replace oil in lubricating the world’s economy - an economy driven by sustainability where fossil fuels were no longer critical.
Finding solutions to the climate change dilemma is a key global agenda.
All the polls show there are more believers in climate change than deniers now, even in the United States.
Globally, countries have embraced low-carbon economic development policies.
In Malaysia, we have created a ministry to tackle climate change.
In fact, Kuala Lumpur has announced plans to become a low-carbon city.
Kudos to the government.
I hope this will be reflected in the 12th Malaysia Plan.
The much talked-about Industry 4.0 aka the Fourth Industrial Revolution is also a global approach to supporting a sustainable fossil-fuel-free economy.
There is no stopping the deployment of robotics, artificial intelligence and digital technologies in the coming years.
And as predicted by Chairman Deng, rare earths are now critical to this new economy.
Many of the devices and components of Industry 4.0 need rare earth elements.
The production of super magnets is another growing sector in which rare earths are critical.
No wonder China gives these elements such high priority. At the moment, it dominates global supply.
In the early years, rare earth extraction and processing was haphazard, and issues of public and environmental safety were largely ignored.
This created serious environmental problems that were highlighted by the Western media.
Things have changed.
Now China enforces very strict environmental and safety regulations, pushing rare earth processing plants to change the way they operate.
Not many countries have large deposits of rare earths like China.
The only other country with reasonable quantities is Australia.
However, economics does not favour Australia when it comes to processing rare earths.
It would be economically better for processing facilities to be closer to countries such as Europe, Japan and the United States where demand for these elements is high.
This is why Australia chose to site one of its processing plants in Malaysia, apart from the attractive investment package.
Lynas is the biggest rare earths processing facility outside China. According to US expert Jack Lifton a guest at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, the facility at Lynas is in a class of its own.
In meeting international standards for public safety and environmental well-being, Lynas stands above all others, winning awards for efficiency and safety.
Since rare earths are so in demand by the global economy, the business of their extraction and processing is politicised.
In the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, it has been reported that rare earths offer China a bargaining chip.
Especially as some rare earths are critical in weapons development.
The European Union countries and Japan also worry about supply cuts.
In the EU, there is active research to find alternative materials and Japan is exploring the marine environment for rare earth deposits.
While others are concerned about rare earth supply cuts, we seem oblivious to the opportunities.
Instead of thinking of how to best gain from the supply right on our doorstep, we keep arguing about how to deal with Lynas.
It is time we admit the fact that rare earths processing is not a threat to public safety, as exaggerated by some.
I have always said that the only way to convince critics is to arrange visits to China’s plants.
Or if they prefer somewhere closer, go to Paris and visit La Rochelle where a 25-year-old rare earth plant is operating right smack in a tourist area!

Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim
Fellow, Academy of Sciences Malaysia
University College Sedaya International (UCSI)
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysia to think like US presidential hopeful
In call for Universal basic income
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 August 2019
First Published in the Star, Saturday 10 August 2019

Andrew Yang, a United States Democratic Party presidential hopeful, has proposed a universal basic income (UBI) of US$1, 000 per month to all Americans aged 18 years and above for life if he becomes president.
It might sound outlandish to some, but to me it does make sense to some extent. With most governments being inefficient or corrupt, the taxes collected and the natural resources exploited are usually squandered by bureaucrats and politicians or wasted on programmes and sectors that bring no direct benefits to the people.
The idea is for the government to do less on social, welfare or other “equity” programmes.
Instead, transfer the budgeted money directly to the people and let them decide how, where and what they want to spend on.
The aim is to generate multiplier effects from the bottom up.
Of course, an important question is where the money to pay for this scheme is going to come from.
In the US, Yang has proposed the technology dividends for this.
A huge amount of wealth generated through technological innovation, which has displaced workers of their jobs, has not been shared with the people who were adversely affected by it.
The practice of dishing out UBI is actually not new.
In Alaska, the state has been paying dividends to every Alaskan from its oil revenue.
I believe we should think along the same line for Malaysia.
It is pointless to have multiple subsidy schemes, welfare payments, preferential loans and state-sponsored “equity programmes” that are mostly not efficiently managed.
Big government allocations have often resulted in pilferage and assistance falling into the wrong hands.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry is now in the final stage of introducing yet another subsidy scheme – petrol subsidy for the B40 group.
It is my opinion that the scheme will lead to more problems.
Malaysia is never short of schemes, programmes and projects to help the so-called poor and marginalised.
But it is time to look at the results.
A high number of Malaysians are being displaced and unable to find work.
Many of those who work full time are not making ends meet.
University graduates can’t get suitable employment and are unable to pay off their education loans.
Household incomes are not enough to enable families to save to pay for the downpayment of a house or to qualify for a housing loan.
Based on this situation, I think it is worthwhile to consider paying UBI to every Malaysian above 18 years of age.
Give people the money and let them decide what to do, which in turn will create jobs and market-driven economic activities.
We have so many sources of revenue which we can tap to pay UBI to Malaysians. It is just a matter of reallocation.
We have oil revenue, foreign labour levies, royalties from natural resources and technology and digital dividends.
It is time to think outside the box. The subsidy programmes, welfare payments and targeted and sectoral assistance are all too cumbersome, costly and inefficient. Often, the assistance is lost in transit and the target groups are side-lined.
Give UBI to all Malaysians above a certain age regardless of their economic or financial status.
Those who do not need it can voluntarily donate to others.
This is an idea worth considering.

Kuala Lumpur

Call for Philippine Senate to conduct inquiry
Into slow sinofication of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 15 August 2019

This refers to the column “No to ‘smart cities’ on our islets” August 8, 2019.
It is indeed alarming that Chinese investors are allegedly targeting Fuga Island in Cagayan, and Grande and Chiquita Islands in Zambales, “to be developed into economic and tourism zones as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative” - a plan that, as the column noted, “has raised concerns among Philippine security officials.”
On the flip side, there are also alleged Chinese-manned fishing vessels conducting dredging or mining operations in our rivers, which result in erosion and environmental problems along coastal areas and communities.
Reportedly, operators of many of these dredging activities have yet to secure dredging permits and show dredging plans to legitimize their operations.
Is this not to be viewed as a creeping invasion of our country by China?
Why is the government seemingly dilly dallying over what to do?
I respectfully ask the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the slow “Sinofication” of our country, with the end view of strengthening government mechanisms to enforce Philippine maritime and mining laws, and safeguard our national interest and resources.

Reginald B. Tamayo,

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program
Has left rice farmers without workers
The Southeast Asian Times Friday, 16 August 2019
First published in the Philippine InquirerMonday 12 August 2019

That the World Bank has approved a fresh $300-million loan to finance 4Ps until 2022 in Philippine Inquirer Business, June 29, 2019 is not something to be happy about.
If only such a huge amount of money was put to better use.
It is high time the current administration reviewed not only the policies of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), but also the rationale behind it.
No offense meant to the true beneficiaries of 4Ps, but in a recent visit to my hometown in Eastern Samar this summer, I saw rice fields teeming with rice stalks ready for harvest.
The problem was, only a handful of farmers were out working in the fields; in some places, there were none.
The scene was shocking to me.
Harvest time, during my younger days, was a happy gathering of farm workers, neighbors and friends.
When I inquired as to the scarcity of workers, I was told that the culprit was the 4Ps allowance that people now receive on a regular basis.
It is time to purge the 4Ps beneficiaries list. Are they to receive such an allowance for eternity?
Would they become lazy in improving their lives and end up solely depending on the government?
How are the funds audited?
The 4Ps funds have become a reason for patronage politics in my home province. People feel they owe those in power, as they are included in the list as legitimate beneficiaries.
I have heard of ATM cards of 4Ps recipients being pawned to some enterprising individuals, who take advantage of the regular amounts that are put into their account.
Instead of giving cash to individual beneficiaries of 4Ps, could we not allot funds for other income-generating projects in which the people could work and not be encouraged to become lazy by just waiting for the regular amounts they receive? Any form of allowance or subsidy from the government must be earned by deserving families.
By the way, Eastern Samar has idle lands that remain untilled because of the absence of irrigation.
Our poor farmers rely purely on rain. It is shocking when rice fields are ready for harvesting and 4Ps beneficiaries who used to plant and help on the farm are nowhere in sight.
Are we teaching our people to be lazy? And aren’t 4Ps funds a channel for corruption?

Belen Docena-Asuelo,

Thai's fearful of proposed
Nuclear reactor in Nakhon Nayok
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 August 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 12 August 2019

Re: "Govt defends plan for nuclear reactor", Bangkok Post, August 11.
Forget the risk of a US war with North Korea or Iran. Ignore global warming. Let Thailand's plan to build a nuclear reactor in Nakhon Nayok strike fear into your hearts.
We all know from Chernobyl what can happen when things go wrong. Thailand has a long history of enthusiastically spending on large capital projects, costs suitably inflated, followed by a failure to then properly service and maintain them.
Remember the fast airport rail link to Suvarnabhumi Airport that had to be stopped because there was no budget for maintenance? The expensive blimp that could not fly because of lack of funds and other problems? An aircraft carrier without planes? What percentage of military vehicles and aircraft are actually functional? Even the drains and canals in Bangkok cannot be cleared each year before the monsoon comes. Build anything lads, but please, please, not a nuclear power station.

Phil Cox,

Call for Malaysia to address
Baby dumping crises
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 August 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 6 August 2019

In Malaysia, where baby dumping occurs once every three days, the government seems set on addressing the crisis: “Wan Azizah: Baby dumping cases need to be tackled urgently”, The Star, August 5.
From 2010 to May 2019, 1, 010 cases of baby dumping have been recorded, according to yesterday’s report. Out of those, 64 percent of the babies were found dead, and the majority of the others died shortly after they were rescued.
The last recorded case was when a cleaner found a newborn girl in a plastic bag while she was sorting rubbish.
The baby’s umbilical cord was still attached to her belly button, there was no heartbeat, she was cold.
It is hard to grasp this sickening trend of living human beings, filled with potential, discarded like trash.
How have we arrived here?
And does Women, Family and Com-munity Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s campaign aimed at addressing the problem go far enough?
So far, according to the news report, the ministry’s campaign has provided a number of ways to curb this toxic reality, including “locality mapping” and “strategic intervention” in areas that have become hot spots for baby dumping. Also, women with unplanned pregnancies can contact the ministry’s “Talian Kasih” hotline, and awareness posters have been put up in male and female toilet cubicles in rest areas nationwide.
There is no doubt that this is a start, but it seems more like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound than an attempt to get to the root of the problem.
Problems like the shame put on women who get pregnant out of wedlock, the taboo of premarital sex, the difficulty of getting access to contraception, and, of course, the poor quality of sex education among young Malaysians.
First, there are legal amendments that must be implemented.
The majority of baby dumping cases are a result of unwanted teenage pregnancies. Research shows that 18, 000 teenage girls get pregnant in Malaysia each year, and the vast majority of the pregnancies are unplanned “50 teenagers get pregnant daily”, The Star, Oct 29, 2015.
All of a sudden, these women find themselves in a totally punitive environment where they can be persecuted under various laws, including religious laws. Abortion is not an option since it is heavily regulated and allowed only in “life or death” cases however, I’ve heard that many doctors will still refuse to perform abortions on religious grounds.
These pregnant women are left feeling like lepers, unsure about where to go for help and who they can confide in.
They are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, between raising an unplanned child with no support, or having an illegal and unsafe abortion that could cause serious health complications in the future.
Then there is the problem of our attitude towards sex education. A recent survey reported in another daily showed that one in every three Malaysian men believe sex education will lead to more sexual activity.
This is a microcosm of the larger problem.
Without proper education, our youth, especially young women, are incredibly vulnerable.
They do not have the knowledge nor the legal ability to obtain contraception if needed, they feel alienated from a community that would rather ignore their “uncomfortable” situation than “get their hands dirty” with education and information, and they are left totally desperate.
Last but certainly not least is the stigmatisation of and discrimination against teenage and unmarried women that fall pregnant.
Such attitudes are evident not only in society at large but also within the girls’ own families. A proverb I’ve heard that says “Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat”
Let the child die but not tradition) portrays very well, I feel, the anger and total betrayal felt by parents when they realise their teenage daughter is pregnant.
And so, instead of providing support, the family focuses on handling the embarrassment and shame if people find out about the pregnancy.
Just imagine finding yourself in a situation where legally, you are committing a crime, socially, you are a pariah, and physically, you are vulnerable and confused – all while being a teenager trying to find your place in the world.
This is the reality for many young women in Malaysia that is, I believe, the leading cause of this increasing trend of baby dumping.
I thank you, Dr Wan Azizah, for beginning the dialogue on this topic, but I urge you, the government and society as whole to push for more.
Address the root causes to heal this sickness so that no woman shall feel that dumping a baby is ever a valid option.

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines attitude towards China
Deemed as capitulation
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 11 August 2019

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case the latter filed against China.
Ordinarily this cause célèbre, which the Philippines won, is a reason for national jubilation, owing to the precedent-setting, high-profile lawsuit and worldwide attention and support the case generated.
After the present administration took over, however, it did not hide its lukewarm reaction to the ruling and reluctance to enforce it, even if only in areas covering the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, Vietnam howled in protest over an oil rig (Haiyang Shiyou 981) that China pulled into what it considered its territorial waters.
Several Chinese factories were set on fire by irate Vietnamese.
After that, China did not attempt to bring back its oil rig, much less wage war with Vietnam. Just recently, around nine Vietnamese vessels trailed the Chinese vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 as it conducted hydrographic surveys in the South China Sea near Vietnam’s East Sea.
Indonesia, on the other hand, fired shots at a Chinese trawler when it did not stop fishing in Indonesian waters despite warnings.
Indonesia also seized the vessel and its crew.
In another incident, its naval corvette fired a volley of shots at 12 Chinese fishing boats close to Natuna islands when these did not heed the Indonesian warnings. Did China retaliate and engage Indonesia in a shooting war?
It did not.
In fact, China may have felt Indonesia’s seriousness to shoo them out of and fight for its territorial waters.
China repeatedly warns that it will retake Taiwan by force.
Has this warning deterred the tiny island from coming out with its own vitriolic rhetoric aimed at its menacing neighbor?
What China, thus far, can do is saber-rattling; Taiwan remains undeterred. Beijing knows that carrying out its threat of brute force is like giving the United States an excuse to come into the armed defense of Taiwan and gaining the world’s condemnation.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, fights off a proposed extradition bill that it warns will give Beijing grounds to meddle in the judicial independence of the former British colony. There have been calls for the pro-Beijing chief executive to resign, with street protests continuing over the past weeks and recently turning violent.
This only goes to show that China faces great odds in winning the hearts and minds of Hong Kong citizens.
In contrast, the Philippines shows off a pliable attitude toward China, which some deem as capitulation.
While it’s true that the country does not have the firepower to engage China in a full-drawn war, neither is China prepared to start any even if it has the means to unleash one.
The government must heed, or at the very least consider, the counsel of the nation’s elder statesmen and women, as they only have the best intentions in giving out advice, before we totally lose the chance to save not just our claim to the vast ocean but also our collective dignity as Filipinos.
We can’t afford to have future generations of Filipinos calling this piece of the ocean the “Waste Philippine Sea.”

Ted P. Penaflor,

Philippine business grows from contractualization
But not living standards of workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 August 2019

After an overnight flip-flop by Malacañang on whether a presidential veto is coming out or not, the security of tenure (SOT) bill was finally declared dead on arrival, right before it lapsed into law.
We did not expect that even a weak version of the security of tenure (SOT) bill would suffer judicial killing by President Duterte.
The security of tenure (SOT) bill is just the latest victim of slaying in this country.
Between labor’s demand to end “endo” and the employers’ call to veto it, Mr. Duterte has clearly surrendered to the capitalist blackmail.
We do not accept the President’s excuse that employers can outsource jobs even if they are directly related and necessary to their business.
That simply opens the floodgates to the abusive system of contractualization that is happening today.
Contrary to the wild claim of employers that the security of tenure (SOT) bill is superfluous because endo had been ended with Department Order No. 174 and Executive Order No. 51, numerous loopholes still allow the proliferation of contractual workers.
Without a strong anti-endo law, all types of work in the country are a candidate for various forms of contractual employment arrangements.
Businesses may grow from this exploitative model, but not the living standard of workers that social justice demands.
It is as clear as day that President Duterte wants to maintain the country’s exploitative yet competitive status quo - our being a republic of endo.
Workers will not forget this definitive betrayal by Mr. Duterte of his promise to end endo.
Very early in his administration, he forcefully warned employers that he would kill them if they continued with the practice of endo in “Digong: End ‘endo,’ or I kill you,” 8 May 20116, Philippine Inquirer.
But now, three years into his term, he is parroting the lame capitalist alibi that businesses will die if workers are made regular.
Mr. Duterte’s promise to end endo is dead.
In the class war between workers and capitalists on contractualization, Mr. Duterte has revealed that he is an enemy of the working class and the CEO of the capitalist class.
The labor movement should now prepare to campaign for a strong version of the security of tenure (SOT) bill in the new Congress.
We need a law that will ensure that regular jobs are the norm in employment relations.
No ifs, no buts.

Rene Magtubo,

Women's dress codes in Thailand
Include the burka
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 August 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 9 August 2019

Re: "Thailand needs more 'wonder women''', in Bangkok Post, Opinion, August 7.
If the concern is how women's dress codes in Thailand reflect their submissive or inferior role, how can Ms Pannika and Ms Pattamawan not see the more and more strict forms of hijab women in southern Thailand have to wear?
How can they not see and protest against the state imposing the hijab on primary school girls in the country?
A few weeks ago, this newspaper had an article about a recycling shoe workshop showing, without comments, a woman in a burka.
A burka, in Thailand!
If they are looking for serious gender equity issues beyond the pant suit, how about systematic female genital mutilation in southern provinces?
Published literature exists on the topic.
Ms Pattamawan apparently prefers to not refer to it. Why this indifference? Blindness, political correctness, or simply racism?

Baffled reader,

Martial law in Philippines Negros
Is no solution for poverty
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 8 August 2019

Philippines Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s facile insinuation that President Duterte might impose martial law to curb the violence in Negros Island is irresponsible and simplistic, given the gravity of what is at stake and the complexity of the issue of land ownership.
Has not the ineffectual imposition of martial law in Marawi, and later in the whole of Mindanao, taught us something? Seen from a historical perspective, the fiasco of Marcos’ use of martial law should also have served as a final lesson to all ambitious leaders harboring any thought of despotism.
It didn’t bring peace and order.
What it brought the citizenry was the wholesale violation of lives and human rights, the death of innocents and, ultimately, chaos.
Martial law is no solution to the growing lawlessness in Negros, much less a cure-all for the multiple problems inherent in democratic governance.
Increasing and expanding military presence in the island will only occasion more violence and bloodshed among both soldiers and civilians.
What Negros needs urgently is poverty alleviation. Hunger does not wait.
In the long term, the efficient implementation of a true land reform program is what’s called for, if this country is to move forward.

Wilfredo T. Dulay, MDJ.,
Convenor, Religious Discernment Group,

Bangkok to clean up Khao San Road
Like Singapore's Bugis Street
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 August 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 7 August 2019

Re: "Cleaning up Khao San", in Bangkok Post, August 4
It is distressing to see Bangkok Post reporters struggling to put a positive spin on the imminent gutting of Khao San Road.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration declared war on the vendors some time ago, and this sounds like the latest twist in a depressing tale.
The Bangkok elite, which the government represents, just doesn't get it.
They want to make everything clean and beautiful.
That's fine to a degree, but if everything is clean and beautiful, what you get is boring sterility.
You need a little dirt and ugliness for balance.
Some years ago, the Singapore government cleaned up Bugis Street, which at the time was a sleazy district that attracted a lot of tourists.
Once it was cleaned up, the tourists stopped coming.
The government had to create an ersatz Bugis Street to bring them back.
I don't know how that turned out, but it looks as if sterile "Singabore" is the model the current government is seeking to emulate.
Perhaps its goal was stated best in 1940 by US Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska, who proclaimed, with regard to Shanghai: "With God's help, we will lift Shanghai up and up, ever up, until it is just like Kansas City.""
If the Thai government ever succeeds in making Bangkok just like Kansas City, nobody will have to worry about the controversial TM30 form, because everyone will leave.

Old Man Tzu,


Philippine lists Minerales Tinta Resources Corp
As Valid and Existing Accredited Coal Trader
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 5 August 2019

We write on behalf of Minerales Tinta Resources Corp. in connection with the article, “First Case: NBI files raps vs 5 for illegal coal trade” 26 July, 2019, by Aie Balagtas See.
The news article cited portions culled from the alleged complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation before the Department of Justice.
We, however, lament the fact that the article may have arbitrarily labeled our clients as illegal coal traders as a consequence of the quoted findings/conclusions of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in the alleged complaint, and the accompanying insinuations of fraud on the part of our client though such allegations have yet to be proven.
Much as we would like to respond to the accusations in the article that apparently were culled from the said alleged complaint, we will reserve our right to do so in the proper forum, where our client can readily avail itself of its right to due process.
We regret that the said article has affected the good name and reputation not only of Minerales but also of its officers and their families.
Needless to state, in the forum of publicity, its goodwill stands to be impaired, to its damage and prejudice.
Allow us then to set the record straight. Minerales had been holding its office in Bacoor since 2008, for which it has the necessary permits serially issued by the local government units for its office operations.
This is the same office by which Minerales had been exchanging formal communications with the Department of Energy (DOE) and other government entities since its inception.
As to the standing of Minerales as a coal trader, it is worthy to state that no less than the Department of Energy (DOE) has duly listed and published Minerales as among the Valid and Existing Accredited Coal Traders as of June 30, 2019.
Through the years, Minerales has faithfully complied with all government regulatory requirements.
With this, we would like to assure our valued suppliers, customers, clients and stakeholders that it is duly accredited to deal in coal with government-prescribed parties.

Celestino Pascual & Rocha Law Firm

Call for security not martial law
In Negros Oriental in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 August 2019

I don’t see the need for declaration of Martial law in Negros Oriental despite the spate of killings recently.
I would like to reiterate what Department of National Defence (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Lieutenant General Noel Clement, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command (AFP-Centcom) that the security situation in the area is still manageable.
Also, I am certain that this was an isolated case.
I am in favor that security should be strengthened but not in the light of Martial Law.
I am certain that the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are doing their best efforts in order to resolve this killings. Likewise, we have enough forces in the area that could be used to normalize the situation.
I understand that justice must be served and that the culprit must be put to jail as soon as possible.
However, I cannot and will never be in favor of a Martial Law in Visayas region because there is no element of rebellion.
I am confident that the police and the military can handle the status quo.
What we should do as citizen or native of Negros Oriental is to cooperate to the investigation and give information if we know who the real culprits of this killings are.

Shermaine Anacleto,

The Philippine constitution
Is the highest law in the land
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 August 2019

I strongly disagree with the public statement of President Duterte last June that likened our Constitution to “toilet paper.”
To debase the Constitution, which stands for the “fundamental laws and principles” that govern us and is “the highest law of the land,” is tantamount to its desecration.
In his oath of office as President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016, Mr. Duterte swore to “preserve and defend” our Constitution and “to execute its laws.”

Rafaeld D. Guerrero III,

Closure of Philippine gaming outlets
Leaves the poor unemployed
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 31 July 2019

President Duterte said the closure of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) gaming outlets is to get rid of massive corruption.
Even if this is true, said closure has a negative impact not only on operators but also on ordinary employees.
But while operators will suffer less because they are already rich, laid-off employees will suffer the most because they are generally poor.
Mr. Duterte has said many times in the past that there is widespread corruption in the government and eradicating this problem is one of his top priorities.
Indeed, he has replaced some heads of departments as well as commissioners under the principle of command responsibility.
On the other hand, shutting down Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) gaming outlets is a sweeping generalization, and does not put the blame on the general manager.
It penalizes everyone, including the noncorrupt employees.
Before shutting it down, the President could have made a plan to help displaced employees.
Moreover, this move kills an income-generating arm that funds health and medical assistance programs and charities.
It would have been better if Mr. Duterte looked into how PCSO could continue without the lotto and small town lottery.
Mr. President, maluoy ka intawon sa mga walay sala (please have mercy on the innocent)

Arsenoio Unajan Baquilid,

Call for the establishment
Of an ASEAN Court of Human Rights
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 August 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 15 July 2019

The 34th Asean Summit June 20-23 in Bangkok emphasised the importance of advancing partnerships for sustainability to achieve a people-centred, people-oriented and forward-looking Asean community that leaves no one behind in the rapidly changing regional and global environment.
In conjunction with the summit, the Kingsley Strategic Institute, together with the Asean Business Advisory Council, the Asean Studies Centre at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, and the Nation-Building Institute of Thai­land organised the Asean Commu­nity Leadership and Partnership Forum in Bangkok, which brought together government, business, academic and civil society leaders.
In preparing for the summit in Bangkok and related summits like the Asean Plus Summits and the East Asia Summit, Malaysia must punch above its weight with the region’s most experienced and longest-serving leader, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, leading the Malaysian government.
Malaysia must aim to be a middle power in international diplomacy and be a regional leader in championing regional cooperation and closer integration.
We should review the “four Cs” of Asean that have been the bedrock of its strength over the past decades: community, connectivity, the charter, and centrality.
While master plans have been formulated for connectivity, Asean still faces a huge financing gap in implementing information technology infrastructure that would provide the seamless connectivity Asean aspires to, as set out in the first and second Asean Master Plans for Connectivity.
Connectivity is more important than ever to bridge the development divide in Asean and to better connect Asean with the wider world. A digital Asean requires better connectivity.
Asean also needs more highways, railways and ports to accelerate regional physical connectivity.
The Asean Charter was well received when it was first formulated in 2007 but it may be timely to review it. In particular, to strengthen the protection of human rights, the Asean Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights must be given more teeth to enhance human rights protection.
Perhaps Asean could be bold enough for a fundamental paradigm shift to establish an Asean Court of Human Rights similar to the European Court of Human Rights.
With regard to the Asean community, more effort needs to be expended on engaging younger people – the next generation of Asean leaders – so they have a stronger sense of Asean consciousness or sense of belonging to Asean.
At the moment, we don’t celebrate our “Aseanness” as Euro­peans do their Europeaness.
Asean studies should be given greater prominence in schools and universities in all Asean member states.
Asean centrality has been a goal long cherished by Asean members.
This centrality will ensure Asean will speak with one voice in international meetings or at international negotiations, and that Asean matters will be given greater prominence.
We need to put in more effort to further strengthen Asean centrality, which must be heard loudly in the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Asean centrality also becomes more strategic in this era of great rivalry between China and the United States.
Economic integration has been one of Asean’s success stories and the declaration of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 during Malaysia’s chairmanship was a great achievement.
But businessmen lament the increase in non-tariff measures and non-tariff barriers despite the reduction in tariffs.
Small and medium-size enterprises must also feel the impact of the Asean Economic Community, they must feel that it can benefit them.
I believe that the way forward for Asean is to continue focusing on a people-centred Asean where people development is most important.
Efforts to promote sustainable and inclusive development will ensure no one is left behind.
Asean leaders must also re-emphasise the “four Ps”: planet, people, peace and prosperity.
As Asean looks forward to its 52nd anniversary on Aug 8, we should ensure the grouping remains relevant, people-centred, business-friendly, sustainable and cohesive.
Our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister should punch above our weight so that we can push the envelope in Asean for greater transformation and a giant leap forward.

Tan Sri Michael Yeoh Oon Kheng,
Malaysia’s Representative to Asean High-Level
Task Force on Connectivity President,
Kingsley Strategic Institute,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippine Catholics
Want killings to stop
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 August 2019

In January 2017, lay leaders of three Jesuit social apostolates sent a letter, “Our shepherds have not been silent” in Philippine Inquirer, January 28, 20171, to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The letter praised bishops who had denounced the thousands of killings of drug suspects by police and unidentified assailants in the Duterte administration’s first seven months.
Thirty months and tens of thousands more deaths later, four bishops, three priests and a Christian brother are charged with inciting to sedition and other crimes by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
One thing they have in common is their public opposition to the killings.
Some in the Catholic Church view these developments as evidence that openly rebuking the killings is the wrong strategy.
Instead of stopping the carnage, they argue, this strategy has brought persecution upon the institution, humiliation to the hierarchy and division among the flock.
The Church, such conciliatory Catholics hold, must find common ground with the administration in addressing the drug problem while helping families bereaved by the killings - but quietly, lest such assistance be interpreted as taking the families’ side against the government’s.
But that strategy has not stopped the killings, either.
We, the laity and religious of Gomburza, insist that public opposition to the killings is not bad ecclesiastical strategy, or a strategy at all.
It is basic good shepherding.
It is what Christ would have done.
If our bishops, priests and religious who have condemned the killings find themselves facing arrest and trial, that is no more than what Jesus faced for proclaiming the Kingdom.
Now that our good shepherds are the ones encircled by wolves, it is not enough - it was never enough - for us who are not priests to call out reluctant shepherds to defend them.
If the killings continue, if our good shepherds are in peril, it is not just because other shepherds have not broken their silence.
It is because we, the sheep, have not broken ours.
We ourselves must defend our shepherds, call for a stop to the killings and protest advancing threats to our democracy.
But a culture of clericalism in our Church has kept in check many Catholics disaffected by human rights violations, antidemocratic moves and persecution of the Church.
We who are not priests look to our clerical advisers, parish priests and bishops to tell us what to do and say.
We wait with a virtuous sense of Christian obedience for their marching orders, even as we may chafe under the restraint, wondering why the orders never come.
Yet the Catholic Church teaches that it is as much the laity’s responsibility as the clergy’s and the hierarchy’s to uphold the dignity given to all God’s children.
If the clergy does not do it enough, that is no excuse for the rest of us not to do it. The CBCP’s Pastoral Exhortation on Politics (1997) tells us that “direct participation in the political order is the special responsibility of the laity in the Church. It is their specific task to renew the temporal order according to Gospel principles and values.”
We invite Catholics outraged by the inciting to sedition charges to organize themselves to express solidarity with our beleaguered shepherds, through special Masses, prayer services and processions at their parishes, open letters of encouragement to the accused and open letters of protest to the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
Let’s show the wolves that, with God on our side, we are not afraid.
Let’s show our shepherds that we who are not clergy can be good shepherds, too.

Sister Teresita Alo, SFIC
Teresita Samson Castillo
Eleanor R. Dionisio.

Philippines Bishops charged with sedtion
Denounce killings in war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 August 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer. Thursday 1 August 2019

In January 2017, lay leaders of three Jesuit social apostolates sent a letter, “Our shepherds have not been silent” in Philippine Inquirer, January 28, 2017 to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The letter praised bishops who had denounced the thousands of killings of drug suspects by police and unidentified assailants in the Duterte administration’s first seven months.
Thirty months and tens of thousands more deaths later, four bishops, three priests and a Christian brother are charged with inciting to sedition and other crimes by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
One thing they have in common is their public opposition to the killings.
Some in the Catholic Church view these developments as evidence that openly rebuking the killings is the wrong strategy.
Instead of stopping the carnage, they argue, this strategy has brought persecution upon the institution, humiliation to the hierarchy and division among the flock.
The Church, such conciliatory Catholics hold, must find common ground with the administration in addressing the drug problem while helping families bereaved by the killings - but quietly, lest such assistance be interpreted as taking the families’ side against the government’s.
But that strategy has not stopped the killings, either.
We, the laity and religious of Gomburza, insist that public opposition to the killings is not bad ecclesiastical strategy, or a strategy at all. It is basic good shepherding.
It is what Christ would have done.
If our bishops, priests and religious who have condemned the killings find themselves facing arrest and trial, that is no more than what Jesus faced for proclaiming the Kingdom.
Now that our good shepherds are the ones encircled by wolves, it is not
enough - it was never enough - for us who are not priests to call out reluctant shepherds to defend them.
If the killings continue, if our good shepherds are in peril, it is not just because other shepherds have not broken their silence.
It is because we, the sheep, have not broken ours.
We ourselves must defend our shepherds, call for a stop to the killings and protest advancing threats to our democracy.
But a culture of clericalism in our Church has kept in check many Catholics disaffected by human rights violations, antidemocratic moves and persecution of the Church.
We who are not priests look to our clerical advisers, parish priests and bishops to tell us what to do and say.
We wait with a virtuous sense of Christian obedience for their marching orders, even as we may chafe under the restraint, wondering why the orders never come.
Yet the Catholic Church teaches that it is as much the laity’s responsibility as the clergy’s and the hierarchy’s to uphold the dignity given to all God’s children.
If the clergy does not do it enough, that is no excuse for the rest of us not to do it. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Pastoral Exhortation on Politics (1997) tells us that “direct participation in the political order is the special responsibility of the laity in the Church. It is their specific task to renew the temporal order according to Gospel principles and values.”
We invite Catholics outraged by the inciting to sedition charges to organize themselves to express solidarity with our beleaguered shepherds, through special Masses, prayer services and processions at their parishes, open letters of encouragement to the accused and open letters of protest to the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
Let’s show the wolves that, with God on our side, we are not afraid.
Let’s show our shepherds that we who are not clergy can be good shepherds, too.

Sister Teresita Alo, SFIC
Teresita Samson Castillo
Eleanor R. Dionisio

Call for Malaysian government
To secure water resources
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 August 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 31 July 2019

Why can’t something be done to secure our water resources?
Almost every day, we read in the newspapers that there is a water cut because of some contamination.
Water is by far the most important commodity for our survival and well-being. How can this commodity not be given prime importance by the government and the people who use it?
Apparently, water catchment areas are not well protected.
As stated by Brian Martin “Water disruption is not a laughing matter”, The Star, July 26 “Sand mining in Sungai Selangor is a legal operation sanctioned by the Selangor state government and undertaken by a subsidiary of the state.”
This sand mining seems to be posing concerns about polluting the water.
So how can these activities be legal?
Is profit more important than preserving our water sources?
Also, in the long run, not securing our water is going to directly and indirectly impact the economy.
Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar stated that the source of pollution in seven regions in Selangor in the last two weeks could be from sand mining and other activities close to the river.
He also stated that the ministry is studying whether to allow these activities to carry on or to enforce stringent regulations before an operating licence is issued.
The minister himself has stated that we have a water crisis, so why then is it so difficult to put a halt to all activities close to water sources?
In addition to that, there are illegal businesses that pose a threat to the water sources.
Again, how can this be allowed to continue?
Where is the enforcement?
Time and again, we hear statements by the authorities saying that the punishment is going to be more stringent.
But when is this going to happen?
Isn’t it a water crisis that there will be a 25 percent drop in five years in our water resources?
We can’t wait for the laws to be changed, this is urgent.
Whatever needs to be done should be done now to weed out any current or potential threat of pollution to our water reserves.
The respective ministries need to come up with immediate solutions.
Each time there is a cleanup due to pollution, it costs a lot in terms of money and manpower, not to mention the hardship that has to be endured by millions of the rakyat.
Why can’t that money be used to monitor water resources so that we don’t encounter such problems over and over again?
Dr Jayakumar has commissioned SPAN National Water Services Commission to conduct a full audit of all states in Malaysia in preparation for a holistic revamp of the water industry.
I hope this will be on time to save us from the looming water crisis in 2025.
Fellow Malaysians, please conserve water and don’t waste it, as it is fast becoming a scarce commodity.
For future generations and the global community, all of us need to be responsible consumers of water.
Malaysia is a tropical country with rainfall throughout the year.
If our water catchment areas are well protected, we should not be facing a water crisis.
It boils down to mismanagement, poor enforcement and greed.
History has enough examples of civilisations that have been wiped out due to drought, such as ancient Egypt and the Mayans, just to name two.
Pakatan Harapan and the rakyat, please make the water crisis a priority and make sure we don’t end up like those ancient civilisations.

Kamal Gehi,
Subang Jaya,

Thailand has double taxation treaties
With 61 countries and jurisdictions
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 31 July 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 July 2019

Re: "Revenue mulls capital gains tax", in Business, July 26.
The old chestnut of introducing capital gains tax on gains generated on shares sold through the Stock Exchange of Thailand has come up again.
In the past, this idea to boost tax revenues has come up against the stumbling block that the Thai government does not have the power to make most foreign investors pay capital gains tax unilaterally.
Thailand now has double taxation treaties with 61 countries and jurisdictions, most of which allow capital gains to be repatriated from Thailand without deduction of capital gains tax.
Even the small number of foreign investors who are not based in a jurisdiction with a double taxation treaty with Thailand can easily rout their trades through a third country that does, to avoid capital gains tax.
The only way to tax these foreign investors would be to renegotiate all the treaties one by one, a process that would take years and would leave Thai investors in those countries at a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, there would be a two-tier system, whereby locally based investors would pay capital gains tax and foreign-based investors including Thais with money offshore would not.

George Morgan,

Take back Papua New Guinea
10,000 jobs taken by foreigners
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday
First pubished in the National, Friday 26 July 2019

A Lot had been said since Prime Minister James Marape decided to borrow Gary Juffa’s slogan “Take back PNG”.
I read almost everything, from fighting corruption to betel nut ban, however, I am yet to read anything on the massive loss of jobs and businesses to foreigners.
Work permit guideline issued by the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations goes on to state that the legal authority for reserving occupations for citizen employees is found in Section 12 of the Employment of Non-citizens Act 2007 and Section 10 and Schedule 2 of the Employment of Non-citizens Regulation 2008.
I have worked in the petroleum and mining industries for the last 10 years and I can confidently tell you that the reserved job list in schedule 2 is outdated by two decades or more.
How come this act was amended in 2008 yet did not capture the improving intellectual capacity and professionalism of Papua New Guineans?
Why is the responsible agency continuing to undermine the technical capabilities of its own citizens?
I also note the fact that our jobs are being sold out like hot cakes in Schedule 3 of the same Act!
Now, if the good Department of Labour and Industrial Relations is monitoring properly, it knows that more than 10,000 local jobs are currently being occupied by foreigners.
Given the permitted FIFO situation, the country is losing in multiple ways.
Given this situation, I call on the government to immediately amend this outdated Act and give back some jobs to your people.
The department must find a way to engage HR specialists from private Industries across all sectors and reclassify those occupations.
Papua New Guaians are ready to take on the world. Government, please create the avenue.

Albert Eka Bariagua,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea worse off now
Than before exploitation of natural resources
First published in the National, Friday 26 July 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 July 2019

It is time to take stock of what has happened in the immediate past on memorandum of agreements (MoAs) for natural resource development.
Total PNG Ltd says they will start work on the natural gas project with an initial investment of US$13 billion (about K44.29 billion) and that is fine.
We, the citizens, want to know the level of funding and the MoA signed that will assist the development of this country.
We have seen and experienced many development agreements but have never materialised into development of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is now worse off than it was before the exploitations of our natural resources by the trans-national corporations.
The truth is, Papua New Guinea was better off without those resource developments.
Do we need to have the trans-national companies continue to exploit us and our god given resources?
Something has gone wrong, our natural resources have gone forever, departed our shores yet there is nothing to show here but the huge holes in our land.
Papua New Guinea is still primitive as ever.
I understand the Prime Minister intends to review all the agreements of natural resource developments, I for one whole hearted agree.
Primec Minister, do it you have a lot of us behind you, supporting you. This shady deals and MoA must be a thing of the past, one such deal is the Ramu Cobalt and Nickel mine agreement signed recently.
Papua New Guinea people and the nation must be rich not in name only but their bank accounts must prove that too.
Are you with me and the prime minister, Papua New Guinea? Common say it loud so that the whole world can hear us (PNG). Let us get out of poverty in a natural resource rich country.

Goll Damud,
Papua New Guinea

Philippine President Duterte to go down in history
As a fighter or traitor
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 July 2019
First published Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 25 July 2019

I used to think President Duterte was a student of Sun Tzu playing mind games with superpowers in shunning our Western allies and adulating Xi Jinping.
But witnessing the relentless sinonization of our republic our seas, real estate, airwaves, government, businesses, sidewalks and elevators under this administration, I can sum up Mr. Duterte’s “China gambit” as: subservience to China for money and protection. Call it “prostitution” for brevity.
Mr. Duterte’s gambit gives us only two choices - accept such prostitution, or face war with China.
This threatening scenario serves to justify his decisions, which pleases China at our country’s expense.
Considering other scenarios outside of Mr. Duterte’s barbershop would expand our threat assessment and options for dealing with it.
To China’s delight, the Reed Bank incident highlighted how Mr. Duterte’s army of supporters would readily destroy fellow Filipinos to protect Chinese interlopers, following his lead.
As such, Mr. Duterte’s popularity has become our curse, because the more popular he gets, the more China can push him to cede Philippine interests.
Emboldened by popularity, Mr. Duterte safeguards China’s freedom to enter our territories, collect our natural resources, displace our people and take our jobs.
His welcome stance on the strategic Chinese diaspora into our country relieves civil unrest in China at our expense.
With mainland Chinese massing up in our country, China’s pretext to “not sit idly by… as protector of overseas Chinese” may be a cunning predicate for invasion.
Mr. Duterte’s crusade to reduce our Constitution into toilet paper will benefit China immensely.
Higher Duterte ratings mean less resistance to replacing our democracy with a revolutionary government, junta, martial rule or Charter change through which China can undermine and subdue our nation without even fighting.
Who needs missiles?
China’s best weapon may be our own leaders.
And China protects its weaponry.
“We will not allow you to be taken out from your office” was flaunted by Mr. Duterte as Xi’s assurance.
What do we do if Mr. Duterte is China’s gambit?
Destiny forks for Mano Digong.
How does he go down in history?
Traydor o bayani?

Ernie Lapuz,

Call for independent appraisal of Australia's
Detention centre in Papua New Guinua
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 July 2019

Re : ' No more detention centre in Manus, says Morrison' in The National 24 July.
Is that a myth or reality?
Can we have an independent appraisal?
And, why is the Australian PM Scott Morrison pictured with a huge smile on his face?
Does he have any idea of the human misery suffered by the refugees left in limbo in Manus ?
If he did he wouldn't be smiling.
In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird the first thing Atticus explains to Scout is to put yourself in other people's shoes : " You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it".
Has Morrison ever taken any time to do that to understand the predicament of the refugees languishing in Australia's off shore detention camps?

Rajend Naidu

Philippines responsible for slaughter
Of the poorest people
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 July 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 25 July 2019

Re: "Reality of prisons", Bangkok Post PostBag, July 22
I wish to thank Sibeymai for bringing attention to the horrible way Thai prisoners are mistreated.
It seems a large part of the problem is due to the fact that many poor small-time drug users are being thrown in jail with outrageously long prison sentences.
Meanwhile, the president of the Philippines is responsible for the slaughter of the poorest people in his country as result of his demented drug war.
Those who aren't murdered also often end up in prisons that are as bad as the Thai prisons.
How can the Filipinos, who call themselves pro-life Catholics support a thug like that?
The entire drug war has never been anything more than a crime against humanity and poor people, while accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Eric Bahrt,

Malaysian Bar call for passing of
Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission Bill
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 July 2019
First published in the Star Tuesday 23 July, 2019

The Malaysian Bar lauds the tabling of the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission Bill 2019 (IPCMC) by the government on July 18 in partial fulfilment of Pakatan Harapan’s election promise to set up the IPCMC in the first term of its administration.
We have repeatedly and consistently called for the establishment of the IPCMC ever since a version of it was first proposed by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police in its seminal report in 2005.
We are happy to note that since then, there has been greater buy-in from all stakeholders, in particular the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), on the need for such an independent oversight mechanism.
It is this buy-in that paved the way for this Bill.
We urge all Members of Parliament to give their fullest support to passing this Bill in the next Parliamentary sitting in October.
The IPCMC is the only way in which rogue elements in the PDRM can be identified, isolated and held accountable for their misconduct and criminal acts.
The commission’s establishment will herald a new dawn of police accountability and public confidence in the PDRM.
Upon the Bill’s successful passage, we urge the government to swiftly engage all relevant stakeholders in drafting the regulations that are to be enacted pursuant to the Bill.
In respect of the appointment of IPCMC commissioners, we urge the government to appoint persons of the highest possible standards of integrity and propriety, those who will act decisively with courage and competence.
It is essential that the IPCMC commissioners be persons who command public confidence, leaving no doubt about their independence and impartiality.
The Malaysian Bar pledges our fullest support for and cooperation with the government in the very important work of making the IPCMC a reality.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,

Chinese nationals arrested in Philippines
For illegal logging in Sierra Madre Mountains
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 23 July 2019

It seems like they are running out of things to destroy in our sea, so they have turned to our forests.
The four Chinese nationals who were arrested on Tuesday in Bulacan province were caught with P3.2 million worth of illegally cut lumber from the Sierra Madre Mountain ranges
“P3.2-M ‘hot’ logs seized from Chinese man, 4 others in Bulacan,, 7/17/19.
Thanks to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its surveillance operations on the group’s activities.
Who gave these Chinese the permission to cut trees in the area?
Are they claiming, too, that the Sierra Madre Mountain ranges are theirs?
Aside from the West Philippine Sea, what else would they want to claim as their own?
And how long are we going to allow these depredations?
Are we really allowing them to rob us?

Marjane Dy,

King says Thai elete
Not above the law
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 July 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday 21 July 2019

Re: "Pressure rises on Orachorn", in Bangkok Post, July 19
Rule of law is slowly reaching out to our elite, with the public clamouring for Orachon "Praewa" Devahasdin na Ayudhya, who as a 16-year-old killed nine and injured four others in a 2010 crash, to compensate the victims.
Her extended clan joined the public's call for action.
For decades, if not centuries, our elite has been above the law, and as our beloved King Rama IX said, "If the country does not follow the rule of law, it will not survive." Praewa's guilt was clear: she rear-ended a commuter van, and was sentenced to three years in jail, with her sentence suspended, and community service, and ordered to pay 26 million baht in compensation.
Yet, she took four years to perform one month of community service, and fought the guilty verdict through three courts - telling courts that her clan was "esteemed in society".
All courts found her guilty, with the Supreme Court ordering her to pay before May 2019 - two months past the deadline, victims haven't received a single baht.
Praewa's parents own land they claim is worth 100 million baht.
They could have sold it in 2015 when she was first found guilty, but stalled.
They should sell it at the next court auction for whatever the market will bear, and finally give some relief to the victims.
Next, society should pressure PM Prayut to bring Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya, charged with the hit-and-run killing of a cop in 2012, to justice.
Thai cops keep claiming they can't find him - though the Associated Press found and photographed him in London on April 5, 2017 without much trouble.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for Malaysia
To improve world press freedom ranking
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 July 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 15 July 2019

“Local media must be strengthened if we wish to uphold press freedom” in Sunday Star, July 14 is a sound and necessary call.
Simply put, press freedom serves as a necessary check and balance in our thriving democracy. Hence, “freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy”, noted renowned US journalist Walter Cronkite.
Media freedom serves as an essential safeguard in pushing for stronger transparency and accountability from our public agencies, including government departments, the judiciary and Parliament.
Last year’s historic change in government reflected the majority of Malaysians’ desire for urgent changes in greater accountability and transparency.
Hence, it is somewhat reassuring to learn that Malaysia’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index improved 22 places to 123 out of 180 countries this year.
It is pertinent to note that Malaysia is better placed on the index than our neighbours such as the Philippines 134th, Thailand 136th, Cambodia 143rd and Singapore 151st.
Arguably, our press freedom ranking would further improve should the government see fit to reform punitive, restrictive laws such as the Sedition Act.
It is worth remembering that a greater level of freedom and better democratic practices do impact favourably on the economy and equitable social nation building.
A greater level of public interest in journalism and in confronting fake news, propaganda and censorship offers a fuller and more balanced range of viewpoints. Public interest media should be about placing the rakyat’s interests at the top of the agenda.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,

Martial law orders repealed
In dissolution of National Council for Peace and Order
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 July 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 18 October 2019

Thailand had the general election, the parliament was opened, the new prime minister took office, then long waited cabinet has been formed and endorsed by the King.
The country has what is needed to get going.
I believe the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) mission is ended. However, it is still there.
Who still needs it and for what?
The country does not need dual control.

R H Suga,

High hopes for new
Papua New Guinea government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 July 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 18 July 2019

All eyes are now on Prime Minister James Marape to see if he puts the engagement of a nuetral investigation team to investigate fund programmes or revives the disbanded Task Force Sweep first on the new governments agenda.
The people and a few honest public servants and national politicians are placing high hopes on the new government to set a precedent.
A precedent for those who dipped their fingers into taxpayer’s hard-earned money.
The Provincial and District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds allocated to each Member of Parliament and the Provincial Services Improvement Program (PSIP) must be locked away at the Bomana prison underground facility.
Leaders who wear a sheep skin on the outside and have a goat heart on the inside must not be free to roam disguised as honorable people.
They must be put away to a place where they deserve to be and this will be as a good lesson for others to learn from.
If nothing happens to those leaders implemented in the stolen funds then this will be a big let down for those who have high hopes for the new government.

Dishonest Politicians,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Malaysia's Sedition Act
Shuts people up
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 July 2019
First Published in the Star, Thursday 11 July 2019

Even if your interest in politics and human rights is at the lowest level, you would have heard of someone being detained or sanctioned by the government for voicing their opinions whether it is via a protest, public speech, Facebook post or, as we witnessed last week, a school play.
The reason it is so easy for the Malaysian authorities to monitor our expressions is because free speech is highly restricted in our country.
In fact, free speech should be renamed “speech under probation”.
There are many laws regulating our supposed freedom of speech, including the Official Secrets Act, Public Order Ordinance Act, the Printing Presses and Publication Act and, of course, the Sedition Act.
Let’s delve into the Sedition Act, the one with the strangest name but the strongest power to shut people up.
This is an act that criminalises speech with “seditious tendency”, meaning any speech that would “bring hatred or contempt or to incite disaffection against” or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races”.
A lot of complicated words are strung together, but if you’re scratching your head after reading that description, join the club.
The definition of this act is so vague and ambiguous that it makes the perfect weapon for the government and judicial system to silence any of their critics.
Pakatan Harapan leaders were aware of the dissatisfaction among activists and regular citizens over the tendency of the past administration to use these laws to curb free speech, hence they included a pledge to repeal such laws in their election manifesto.
But it seems that once in power, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his coalition have let these promises slip their mind and the Sedition Act has been used for their own benefit, as in the case of news veteran Datuk A. Kadir Jasin being investigated for allegedly writing a post insulting the Sultan of Kedah and gay rights activist Numan Afifi over a speech on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues that he made at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In addition, at least six activists continue to face charges under the Sedition Act for engaging in activities that are protected by international law.
These recent developments have made Pakatan’s promise of free speech look like a bad prank.
When a minister and the highest civil servant in the Education Ministry threaten to take action against young schoolchildren for staging a cute presentation on the dangers of unsustainable oil palm cultivation on the environment, they have reached a new low.
Their reasoning?
Well, under the Education Act 1966, the ministry will just not allow such propaganda inciting hatred, even if it is against a product or private industry.
Dr Mahathir has used free speech himself to excuse his questionable statements on Jews and the LGBT community, so how can he allow these continuous violations on the right to free speech every time he or his government feels threatened?
As writer Nathaniel Tan so eloquently put it, what we seem to have is an “Animal Farm scenario”, as the good guys of Pakatan have become identical to those from the past government in terms of their intimidation of citizens who sing a tune that’s different from theirs.
It is time for the Pakatan government to up its game and prove to us, the rakyat, that we need not fear the police knocking at our door for writing a post or a comment.
It is time that children dressed up as orang utans to express their concern for the environment do not come under such ridiculous fire.
We deserve free speech, and we demand it now.

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Malaysian government
To lower voting age
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 July 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 13 July 2019

There is a need for serious thinking on the matter of lowering the voting age from 21 years to 18.
Voting in public elections is a serious responsibility and should be exercised in an informed manner that take into consideration the political and economic status of the country as well as the performance of lawmakers.
Most 18-year-olds are just out of school after completing the SPM exam and may be continuing with their tertiary education while those not in school are preoccupied with their own vocation. At this age, students would have been cocooned in their curricular studies, tuition and examinations.
They would not have the maturity or time to reflect on the political needs of the country as their focus would be on achieving the good grades expected by their parents.
As is the wont of young people, they would be more inclined towards engaging in social interactions and creating impressions among their peers, especially the opposite sex.
Awareness, if any, of the politics of the country also va­ries significantly between rural and urban youths.
Those who are 21 years old, on the other hand, would have at least made the transition from the protected school environment to a vocation or progressed in thoughts as university students.
They would have been exposed to the realities of life, matured to a certain extent and could exercise their voting rights in an informed manner and would not be accused of gullibility.
Aligned with this proposal to lower the voting age is the rather incomprehensible suggestion that 18-year-olds be allowed to stand for election.
Yes, if one is allowed to vote, one has the right to stand as candidates for elections, but common sense would dictate that 18-year-olds are not a logical choice to represent the electorate.
That would be a fiasco and a farce.
There have been cases of young Members of Parliament, who gained their positions by default, who have not lent voice to issues in the august house.
Hence, it is imperative that the government reconsiders the proposal to lower the voting age.
Such a move may profit some political parties but it may negatively affect the composition and sanctity of Parliament, which needs credible representatives elected by a well-informed electorate.

Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies
Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang,

Day of reckoning for President Duterte
In State of the Nation Address
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer,Tuesday 16 July 2019

In the simplest terms, the President’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) is a rendering of accounts, a listing of achievements as well as failures.
In old Tagalog, the term is “pagtutuos,” which in English is rendered best by the word “reckoning.”
July 22, a Monday, is meant to be a day of reckoning.
Every Filipino, every citizen of this country has every right to expect a true reckoning by the leader of the land.
And as all accountants know, the figures must tally.
They must be true if the report is to have any meaning.
An honest Sona will not allow for either undervaluation or exaggeration, not even hyperbole, since a true accounting is no joking matter.
Distortions and lies would devalue the address.
But can we expect the truth from someone whose election to the presidency rests on empty promises, brazen lies and the use of gutter language supposedly to identify himself with the masses in order to win their votes?
He was candid when declaring his very personal war on drugs, and was to the point that there could be no war without killings. Sure enough, there have been plenty of dead bodies. Mostly of victims - small-time drug peddlers and those who got in the way of the bullet’s trajectory, courtesy of trigger-happy police officers.
They are tagged dismissively as “collateral damage,” because “shit happens”! But the drug lords and big-time traffickers are still very much around and doing brisk business.
The name Duterte is fast becoming synonymous with distortion.
He just might make it to the Oxford dictionary before his term ends in 2022.
Joyce Bernal, a movie director known for her romantic comedies, is in the wrong place.
There is nothing comedic about what’s happening to the country.
Tragic is what’s going on.
Yet she will give distortion another try after her failure last year to masquerade the real state of Philippine politics. (Remember how Gloria Macapagal Arroyo grabbed center stage and displaced Pantaleon Alvarez?).
This time she wants a celebratory atmosphere for her fictionalized version of the sad and sorry state of the country.
She says she’s doing it for free, and she’s probably doing it with the best of intentions.
She must have overlooked that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
All things considered, we have to raise the question: What is there to celebrate? There’s no hiding the tears.
There’s so much blood.
Too many mothers are crying to heaven for rain to resurrect their dead sons.
For the country and for all of us to move forward as a people, we must realize that national transformation begins, not with lies and distortions, but with truth and reality.
Two actually contradicting slogans used ad nauseam by the regime give us an accurate depiction of the reality: Build, build, build!
Kill, kill, kill!
But who’s going to pay the bill?
And who are burying the dead?

Fr. Wilfredo T. Dulay, MDJ,
Convener, Religious Discernment Group,

A vassal state of China?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 15 July 2019

Since when has this country become a vassal of China that we have to beg for it to guarantee that the rights and safety of our fishermen are assured by China - in our own territory?
Absent a worthy leader, our posture has been diminished to that of a nation of gutless and chicken-hearted people.

Gerry Maglaya,

Papua New Guinea
Says thankyou
to Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 July 2019
First published in the National, Tuesday 9 July 2019

Vanimo Secondary School (VSS) in West Sepik is poised to become the first school in the province to take part in the Australia-PNG Connect Programme: Secondary Initiative through Australia Awards Papua New Guinea under Papua New Guinea -Australia bilateral partnership.
Vanimo Secondary School (VSS) has been selected along with 12 other secondary schools throughout the country to participate come November.
Accordingly, nominated students and teachers from the schools involved and their counterparts from Australia will exchange and share experiences through different learning environments and activities with the aim of improving secondary education capabilities on targeted areas such as student empowerment and leadership skills.
This is yet another huge leap forward for Vanimo Secondary School (VSS) especially after setting the benchmark as one of the top 20 performing schools in 2018.
In just a short space of time since gaining secondary status three years ago, the school has been going from strength to strength and the achievement is a testament of the school’s willingness to accept opportunities and challenges.
Certainly, it is a dawn of a new era and under principal, John Pai Kanz Vanimo Secondary School (VSS) is humbled by this prospect of making the school among the best in the country.
Unfortunately, the two established schools in the province, Don Bosco Secondary and St Ignatius Secondary missed out.
While we anticipate more new opportunities coming our way, we stand ready not to lose any as a school.
Thank you Australia Awards Papua New Guinea.

Osbourne Terry Nandali
Vanimo Secondary,
West Sepik Province,
Papua New Guinea


Mind your manners
Philippines warn Chinese tourists
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 July 2019

Chinese Nationals who enter this country must have forgotten that “’After you’ is good manners.” (Chinese Proverb)
From a Chinese woman who was arrested after throwing soy pudding at a policeman, Chinese nationals who skipped lines in Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport NAIA, to the Chinese man who peed along the street in Binondo and assaulted a barangay chairman.
I wouldn't want to discriminate or stereotype but they seemed to be so entitled.
I am addressing this to all the Chinese nationals.
Even in your own country, you were taught to give importance to good manners and right conduct.
You have no right to boss around our country.
You have no right to be rude especially to the authorities who are giving the best that they could to serve to people.
At least, make us believe that you are worthy of our respect.
Show us the respect that we equally deserved especially that you are in our territory.
I am not pertaining to any other issue, it’s just the despicable manners.

Sommaya Hakim,

Call for Malaysia to uphold
Freedom of expression as promised
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 July 2109
First published in the Star, Monday 8 July 2019

Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) non-government human rights organisation is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the appeal by Fahmi Reza against his conviction under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
Article 10 of the Federal Constitution provides for freedom of expression which can and should only be limited in circumstances where it poses a threat to national security.
It is absurd to argue that Fahmi’s political satire can pose a threat to national security.
The initial charge made against him in 2016 was clearly intended to silence dissent.
Despite the change in administration, there has been no move to withdraw the politically motivated prosecution against Fahmi.
The Attorney General’s Chambers and the Pakatan Harapan administration must answer for the continued failure to uphold freedom of expression as promised by the Pakatan manifesto.
Pakatan did not start the prosecution but they will be accountable for their failure to stand and defend the freedom of expression as enshrined within Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Sevan Doraisamy,
Executive Director
Suara Rakyat Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

In a democracy
People get the leaders they deserve
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 July 2019

Xuan Thuy Do tells us in her letter to The Southeast Asian Times 11 July that she does not understand why Filipinos have elected an incompetent person like Duterte as president of a country of over 100 million people.
Xuan says Duterte is unworthy and untalented to head and lead the country and the Filipinos should dismiss him.
This is the downside of democracy.
People like Duterte and Trump get elected.
The British ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch has described Donald Trump as " inept " and his administration as " uniquely dysfunctional ".
Many Americans have also called for Trump to be dismissed.
But that's unlikely to happen.
People have to live with the leader they put in power until they vote him out at the next election or his term in office expires or there is a people power revolution to be rid of a rotten leader.
That's how democracy works.

Rajend Naidu,

Survey in Philippines show that public
Is satisfied with President Duterte performance
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 July 2019

It’s that time of the year again when the President will update the Filipino people on what happened on his programs for the past year.
I am a bit expectant as to what will be the big reveal of this administration on Duterte’s 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA).
I am looking forward on the actions taken on different issues though recently the survey said that the public is still satisfied with the performance of the President. Critics of this administration cannot fathom why he still enjoy that positive rating, considering the issue of EJK, war on drugs, and the hottest issue on West Philippine Sea.
Majority of the Filipinos are expectant on what would be the next actions of this administration in relation to independent foreign policy?
Or is there any?
Aside from these topic, what would be the priority bills of this government on the 18th congress? Will the teacher gets their salary increase?
Will the nurses receive their elusive benefits?
Will the private sectors give rise to the employees/workers?
Is our economy more stable this year?
Will Duterte create more job opportunities for our kababayan?
Apart from these concern, will Duterte continue its build, build, build program?
If so, what would be the difference from the past 3 years?
Another question in my head is that, will the Makabayan (Kamatayan) Block continue its saga of protesting on the street?
Well, probably yes!
This group is good in shouting at the street.
They were even professional protesters, if I may say.
Will they persist to block the traffic in major streets and cause more delays to other motorists and commuters?
The answer would be, Yes.
I understand that criticisms are good in a democratic country however, in the Philippines this is too much.
For me, it is not absolute that you just want to shout and gather in public places.
There should have limitations and of course one must be responsible in doing these actions.

Maria Teresa N. Ancahan,

Call for Philippine President Duterte to condemn
China's sinking of Philippine fishing boat
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 9 July 2019

I do not understand why Filipinos have elected an incompetent and cowardly president.
Chinese ships sank the fishing boat of Filipino workers; the whole world knew and condemned China’s violent, sinister actions - but only the President of the Philippines did not dare to admit it.
Then he challenged the United States to bring all its weapons against China, and he would let the Philippine Army follow.
I do not understand how a President of a sovereign state could rely on another country.
When certain interests do not concern Americans, they will not bring weapons to help an incompetent President.
Filipinos should dismiss this President.
I recognize him as unworthy and untalented to head and lead a country of over 100 million people.

Xuan Thuy Do,

Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines
Without sanction of legal process
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 3 July 2019

It is not surprising at all that Senators-elect Ronald dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief, and Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go are inclined to restore the death penalty.
They are just echoing what their boss President Duterte says.
Would judicial killings in the form of death penalty deter crimes, or is it intended specifically as a path to retribution?
Death penalty is commonly understood as the legal execution of a punishment for a crime committed.
This is in contrast to extrajudicial killings (EJKs), the killing/execution/liquidation of a person perpetrated by government authorities without the sanction of legal process or judicial proceedings.
Newspapers have been dripping with bloody accounts of people extrajudicially killed in the name of the war against illegal drugs.
Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) have become a convenient means to penalize suspects.
Likewise, the idea of reimposing the death penalty has been revived and championed. Sen.
Manny Pacquiao even joked that death by hanging is easy, since all you have to do is kick the chair.
Why can’t the government choose to find ways to nourish life, rather than push for restoring the death penalty as a supposed means of deterring crime or exacting retribution?
A study by Amnesty International says the death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.
Most of those penalized by the death penalty are victims of unfair legal systems.
Many death sentences are issued after so-called “confessions” have been obtained through torture; these confessions are unreliable, as they only show that victims of torture are compelled to say anything to make the torture stop.
Worse, discrimination often influences court decisions.
People are much more likely to be sentenced to death if they are poor or belong to a racial, ethnic or religious minority.
This is further compounded by the reality that the poor and marginalized groups have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves.
The death penalty is also used as a political tool to punish political opponents.
In the Philippines, we have more than 500 political prisoners facing trumped-up charges; their situation would be all the more difficult if they also faced a possible death penalty sentence.
The government should instead exert all efforts to provide the best social and basic services to the people.
By ensuring that the education system is progressive, liberating, service-oriented, propeople and nationalist, the poor could have access to good and quality education.
This should not be seen as a privilege, but as a basic right.
In the context of massive poverty and injustice, the death penalty only increases the victimization of the poor, while the rich continue to enjoy the advantage of saving themselves because of their privilege and wealth.
How can we deter crime? Ensure quality life for all.
And how do we provide justice to victims of heinous crimes?
Through restorative justice, which saves lives from guilt and hate, vengeance and retribution.

Normap P. Dollaga,
Kapatirang Simbahan Para Sa Bayan (Kasimbayan),

Call for clarity of international policy
For China missile testing in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 8 July 2019

The report about the missile testing of China in the West Philippine Sea is quite disturbing.
This action is beyond international norms and must be stopped soonest.
The Chinese do not own that area.
The international community should not be silent on this development that was done on Philippine waters.
This is not disputed anymore, because there’s a ruling by The Hague that the Philippines owns that territory.
From the ramming incident of the Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank, to illegal fishing operations, and now this missile test. A lot is at stake here - not only the state of aquatic resources but the damage to Filipino lives and livelihoods.
And yet the Philippine government has made no concrete actions on this matter. Yes, we have the Coast Guard and Navy patrolling in the area.
But how about being clear about our international policies, if there are any?
Are we simply going to watch Chinese poachers destroy our resources?
Will we let them continue to rob us of about P33.1 billion annually from the damaged reef ecosystems at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the Spratly Islands, mainly due to China’s reclamation activities and illegal fishing operations?
Are we going to close our eyes and let them continue with these violations?
Are we frightened by the fact that they already have missiles in our territory?
I myself do not have anything in mind that can stop Chinese poachers; what I have right now is the desire to express a stand to protect our territory and let the authorities, the leaders of this nation, make the necessary actions, which is their duty.
They are the ones mandated by our Constitution to protect our sovereignty.
At the end of the day, an ordinary citizen like me can only submit these concerns to the hands of our almighty God.

Regine Agapay,



Call for China to stop missile testing
In the West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 July 2019

The report about missile testing of China in West Philippine Sea is quite disturbing. This action is beyond the international norms and must be stopped soonest.
They do not own that area.
The international community should not be silent on this development on the Philippine waters.
This is not disputed anymore because there’s a ruling by The Hague that the PH own that territory.
From the ramming incident of Filipino boat in Recto Bank, to the illegal fishing operations, and now this missile test.
A lot is at stake in here.
Not only the aquatic resources that they continually to damage but the lives of the Filipino.
I am somehow desensitized on these issues because the Philippine government has no concrete actions on this matter.
Yes, we have coastguard and navy patrolling in the area.
But how about being clear on the international policy if there is any?
Are we going to watch the poachers slowly destructing our resources?
Will we let them continue to rob us of about P33.1 billion annually from the damaged reef ecosystems at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and the Spratly Islands mainly due to China’s reclamation activities and illegal fishing operations?
Are we going to close our eyes and let them continue these violations?
Are we frighten by the fact that they already have missile in our territory?
I myself, does not have anything in mind that can stop Chinese poachers; what I have right now is the desire to make a stand to protect our territory and let the authorities, the leaders of this nation to make the necessary actions.
Because for one, they are mandated by our constitution to protect our sovereignty.
At the end of the day, an ordinary citizen like me can only submit these concerns to the hands of our almighty God.

Regine Agapay,
Pasig City,


Malaysia calls for measurable definition
Of plastic waste
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 July 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 5 July 2019

Referring to the report “Penang eager to return plastic waste” in The Star, July 3, there has been much talk on this topic and, yes, some containers are already on the way back.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin has repeatedly said that plastic waste that cannot be recycled would be sent back to exporting countries.
She even said that she wanted to send a clear message to the developed countries that export the plastic to Malaysia.
Doesn’t the minister realise that the term “plastic that cannot be recycled” is a very vague term?
How can anybody send a clear message when one is using such a vague term?
Some form of measurable definition must be in place for a message to be clear and strict. For example, China set the limit for the import of paper waste which is contaminated with 10 percent of foreign material to 2 percent.
We can also set a limit to the plastic waste we want to import such that contaminating material like food waste or paper stickers is below a measurable percentage.
Further restraint can also be set, like plastic from a single bundle must not consist of two different types of plastic and each container must not consist of more than four types of plastic.
All my examples above specify measurable value.
So buck up please, minister and all the Pakatan Harapan team.

Lim Kim Chuan,

Call for Malaysian government to amend
Trade Union freedom of association Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 July 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 3 July 2019

The 108th session of the International Labour Conference that was held from June 10 to 21 in Geneva, Switzerland was significant, especially with the revolutionary leap into Industry 4.0, exodus towards the green economy and uncertain future for workers in the formal and informal sector.
I believe the Human Resources Ministry should rebrand itself as a business, employment and innovation ministry in line with the significant role it plays in a human-centred agenda for the future of work.
A new and revolutionary aspect of work, where people and the work they do are at the centre of economic and social policy and business practices, was expounded at the conference.
This agenda focuses on three pillars of action.
Firstly, investing in the capabilities of people, enabling them to acquire skills, reskill and upskill, and supporting them through the various transitions confronting them over the course of their lives.
The current focus of the Human Resources Ministry on technical and vocational training is in the right direction.
But there is a need to identify what constitutes a skilled worker in diverse industries.
Many industries are lukewarm in certifying their workers, fearing that they would need to increase salaries.
For industries, especially small and medium size enterprises, it is vital to move up the value chain by reassessing their processes and breaking down tasks to see where they can automate.
Our continuous dependence on cheap labour should be a thing of the past. Towards this end, it is vital for industries to gradually automate their processes by formulating digital policies and upgrading skills to increase productivity.
Secondly, investing in workplaces to ensure a future of work with freedom, dignity, economic security and equality.
In this context, it is vital to do away with jobs that are unproductive.
There are times when I walk into a government department and see a receptionist sitting idle.
It would be more efficient and cost effective if functions like this are enlarged through multitasking.
It is also important to encourage human resources policies, such as having flexible hours, that encourage work-life balance.
To augment the dignity of people and work, it’s time for the government to amend the Trade Unions Act to foster freedom of association.
The government should rectify the convention of freedom of association in the next ILO sitting.
Thirdly, investing in decent and sustainable work and shaping rules and incentives to align economic and social policy and business practice.
By harnessing transformative technologies, demographic opportunities and the green economy, this investment could be powerful drivers of equity and sustainability for the present and future generation.
In this context, there is a transitional phase that would require a time frame and a combined synergy of the government, employers and unions to move the nation forward.
This would entail coming up with people-oriented policies related to the green economy, trade and investment, finance, and human capital development.
There is a need for a common understanding of what constitutes a human-centred agenda for the future of work.
The government should invite industry captains and unions to provide their understanding on the future of work.
It is hoped that the Pakatan Harapan government would take this challenge seriously in the next three years.

Ronald Benjamin,

Chinese around the world
Find protests in Hong Kong disturbing
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 July 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 4 July 2019

It’s just disgraceful – there’s no other word to describe the anarchy that has descended upon Hong Kong.
The protests against the controversial amendments to the extradition bill, which allows Hong Kong suspects to be sent to China to face mainland laws, started off peacefully and democratically.
As unwieldy as it may seem, the massive turnout must be tolerated and accepted as part of the democratic process.
The police had exercised tremendous restraint in the face of verbal and physical assaults, and the pressure they had to put up with included being ostracised by their friends and even family members, as anger grew against the Hong Kong authorities.
The men in blue were humiliated, incessantly abused and shouted at by the protestors.
Those who understand Cantonese can testify how unprintable these curses were, which even implicated the innocent parents and grandparents of the law officers.
This behaviour earns little tolerance in other parts of the world.
In the United States, for example, demonstrators would have been hauled away for obstructing the law, and the ringleaders would probably be detained to defuse the protest.
The protestors in Hong Kong have clearly gone too far.
This greatly differs from the Occupy protests in 2014, which I covered.
Those were peaceful and orderly, the demonstrators even kept the streets clean, and they respected order – even if they also tested the patience of the cops by hurling similar vulgarities in Cantonese.
On Monday night, I watched in horror live television images of the violent actions of the protestors.
The crowd was much bigger this time around, and much more unruly, too.
They used metal cage trolleys and iron poles in a violent showdown.
At one point, I saw some leaders seemingly instructing the protestors to retreat, but by nightfall, their numbers swelled again, and they doubled their attacks.
“As the holes in the glass doors grew bigger and a metal shutter was pried open, they flooded into the building, making their way into the legislative chamber, spray-painting graffiti and defacing the seal of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."
What moved them to such violent acts?
"Whatever happened to the peaceful and non-violent principles the city had long embraced – and as witnessed in the countless protests over the past two decades?" the South China Morning Post lamented.
It described the actions as “a real and perceptible shift among the demonstrators – that violence could be a means to achieve an end, even if the outcome was chaos to force the government into a corner, and the cost, their arrest, and in the extreme, even their lives.”
Even CNN presenters, with their blatantly biased coverage and the practice of only inviting anti-Beijing politicians to give their views, questioned if these protestors had gone too far and caused a backlash.
It has been suggested that the police allowed this to happen, as their absence was noticeable when the young mob tried to ram into the building.
One CNN correspondent even used the word “trap” to imply that the cops wanted this to happen to shift public opinion.
The CNN presenter said the “world was supporting” the protest. Obviously, CNN has not collated the consensus of Chinese people around the world as many find these protest scenes, flashed across global television, deeply disturbing."
Many ethnic Chinese around the world have friends and relatives in Hong Kong and China, and this riot has become a talking point.
The protest this time just seems too organised and well funded, and happened around the period of the Tiananmen Square anniversary, the Group of 20 meeting, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 and the China-US trade war.
The organisers had the money to place front page advertisements, calling for G20 countries to condemn China in a move to embarrass Chinese premier Xi Jinping.
But on Monday night, the rule of law and democratic process were thrown out the window as the young protestors – many only still in secondary school – justified their anger and actions by claiming they had no choice but to ramp up their rioting given the inaction of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
“While most participants during the Occupy protests had emphasised ‘love and peace’ in their demands for universal suffrage, the threshold for confrontation and violence seemed to have been lowered, five years on.
“From the crowds present and interviews with protesters, a much larger proportion of Hongkongers appeared to be no longer opposed to violence as a means to an end compared to five years ago,”
the SCMP added.
“The Occupy sit-ins and marches can no longer affect the government’s policies,” said Courage Chiu, a 62-year-old retired primary schoolteacher.
But the rule of law, which the protestors claim they want to champion, has been ironically trampled on by themselves now.
From protestors fighting for a cause, they degenerated to criminals who broke the law by entering a government building illegally and, worse, damaging and vandalising it.
If this isn’t the extreme use of violence, I don’t know what is.
Lawmakers, even if they have differences with China, can’t justify the actions of these schoolboys.
They should be condemned, not praised.
They also need a history lesson – the British ruled Hong Kong after invading mainland China in 1841, but there were no elections for more than a century.
In 1995, Hong Kong Legislative Council election for members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong was finally held; it was the first and last fully elected legislative election in the colonial period before the nation was returned to China two years later.
So much for democracy and freedom.
So, it was a tragedy in every sense of the word when these misguided teenagers raised the old British colonial flag inside the central chamber of the Legislative Council.

Wong Chun Wai.
Kular Lumpur,

Call for big shake up
To take back Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 July 2019
First published in the National, Tuesday 2 July 2019

It is observed that Papua New Guinea is a country where it has legislated itself down by those with vested interests during and after colonial era through all forms of suppressive laws and statutory requirements, policies and institutions managed by shortsighted people in the decision making areas to make Papua New Guineans mere spectators in their own resource rich country owned by foreigners to almost 90 per cent.
Foreigners through advisors and international financiers have dictated unsuitable macroeconomic policy for the government by advocating irrelevant capitalist economic models for this country to be a rent collector as opposed to government owing a business or running profitable businesses in this market failure domestic environment.
Countries within the region among China have taken off due to massive investments by state owned corporations to establish its footing in the economy before privatising.
Here it’s about getting well-structured state business entities outside the traditional public utility areas to be in the forefront of resource development as Kumul Petroleum among others.
Laws and formulas of resource ownership to the resource owners vis-a-vis landowners be changed to give full ownership back on what lies beyond six feet underground.
Risk free carry options on profit sharing or on final product sharing be specified to remove all burden of exploration and development costs on landowners company.
All local super funds be urged to invest and buy off profitable business by divestments.
Local small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to be assisted financially to buy off many viable foreign owned business including those operating in reserved areas.
State should establish commodity reading houses in strategic international locations under joint venture with host country businesses or resident friends of Papua New Guinea to support the marketing side of goods and so forth.
Bank of Papua New Guinea to enforce compulsory remittances of export receipts by allowing US dollar facility in the banking sector with limits of up 60 per cent be transacted out to maintain liquidity in the foreign exchange.
A big shake up is needed to revolutionise the cry of taking back Papua New Guinea.
The classic case of this analysis is the UBS loan saga to by the former O’Neill government to retain Papua New Guinea majority ownership in one of the biggest resident oil and gas company has back fired because of inhibiting laws where stock market price cannot wait weeks for a government to complete its internal process or the offer will no longer be there.
But existing laws may have been breached and it’s a matter for those responsible to clear their actions and conduct when the time comes if it was done in the best interest of the country or not.

Freelance commentator,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Minimum wage is inadequate
For Asean workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 July 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 1 July 2019

The Human Resources Minister’s announcement that he has approached ambassdors of Africian nations about the possibility of providing workers for our plantation sector is a matter of concern for us.
The minister attributes his action to the fact that workers from Vietnam and Indonesia are shying away from working in the plantation sector.
And the reason for that is that wages in their country have grown to match wages paid by the Malaysian plantation sector.
This brings into focus the question of whether wages of the Malaysian plantation workers have stagnated in comparison with wage empowerment in Vietnam and Indonesia?
What needs to be addressed is whether we source for an alternative influx of immigrant workers at “competitive” wages from Africa, or anywhere else for the matter, or we elect to empower the wage levels within the country.
None other than Bank Negara Malaysia has called for a “living wage” to be adopted as opposed to the current “minimum wage” concept.
Given the fact that the current minimum wage of RM 1,100 is judged as inadequate by Asean workers, we are of the view that there is a serious mismatch of wage levels in Malaysia when compared with Vietnam and Indonesia.
The solution, therefore, in our opinion, is for our country to move up the wages’ chain lest we are looked upon as a “low wage dumpsite”.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress Penang Division therefore wishes to reiterate its demand that the government introduces a living wage that would attract local workers to take up jobs not only in the plantation sector but all other sectors as well.
In conclusion, it is our view that sourcing labour from one region or another can never be a solution unless our government empowers our workers with an equitable living wage.

K. Veeriah,
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Penang Division,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines call on China to abide
By international law In South China Sea

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 July 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 July 2019

The sinking of FB Gem-Ver 1 by Chinese ship Yuemaobinyu 42212 is the fieriest issue in the disputed waters since the 2012 deadlock between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal, which provoked Manila to file a case against Beijing.
Aggression has been China’s mark in the past years, and it has become increasingly annoying.
It doesn’t want to respect any law and continues to test our sovereignty by encroaching on our territory.
It seemingly covets the entire area because of its economic prospects.
China’s objective is clear: To build up its military capability to pursue its economic interests.
If only China could show maturity in dealing with its rival countries in territorial disputes, it would gain more respect not only from its rival claimant-nations and Asian neighbors, but also from the whole world.
Instead, China is consolidating its power in the South China Sea, showing off its might and ability to control the disputed territories, as well as the flow of commodities for its own economic gain.
But it should exercise self-restraint and refrain from using force in accordance with universally recognized declarations and international laws, instead of being stubborn in laying claim to the islands that are not even within its territorial boundaries.
The Philippines does not want war but peace, and it will always say no to conflict. I’d like to believe that President Duterte wants to focus on avoiding a full-scale war with China because we all know we cannot afford it.

Roan Rey Tombado,

Chinese consul general in Penang
Blames US for enacting tariffs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 July 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 25 June 2019

Re: Trade talk: China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump are set to meet to discuss trade issues
The Chinese consul general in Penang gave a one-sided and simplistic overview of the current United States-China trade dispute in the letter “Trade relations depend on respect” in The Star, June 21.
He looked at tariffs and blamed the US for enacting them.
The US and China are the world’s largest trading entities and rarely can such a huge issue be boiled down to just one factor.
We need to examine why the US enacted tariffs in the first place, as they weren’t done willy-nilly.
As a private American citizen, I hope to give a more balanced view of the current dispute.
Historically, the US has done more than any other foreign power to help China lift millions of people out of poverty.
This was due to the trade between the two countries from which China has benefited greatly.
And the US supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Historically the overall trade balance has greatly been in China’s favour.
So how did China become more of a competitor?
Firstly, our alliance was based on the US-Soviet Union conflict.
China and the US shared a common enemy.
Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Tiananmen Square protests, the US started to view China less as an ally and more as a competitor.
Both countries have diametrically opposed political systems – communism and liberal democracy.
These two nations will never be the best of friends as their value systems oppose one another, but perhaps we can at least enjoy a respectable economic relationship.
Unfortunately, this has been difficult as the economic playing field is one-sided. Chinese firms for the most part could compete in the US, whereas many US and European companies are banned in China, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Western news outlets and Wikipedia.
Hence, I don’t understand why the US is being attacked for depriving a communist country’s 5G mobile company (Huawei) of the US market when China deprives the US and other foreign companies of its market for much more suspect reasons.
To say that the current trading mess is all because of US tariffs is not completely true.
The tariffs resulted from years of China’s subsidies for government businesses, forced technology transfers, lack of intellectual copyright protection, and denial of equal market access to US companies.
The tariff issue can be resolved if China becomes more flexible in addressing these historical imbalances.
Opening the Chinese market wider would benefit both countries and the world.

Steve Coyle,


Papua New Guinea
A Black Christian nation
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 30 June 2019
First published in the National, Thursday13 June 2019

The impetus to James Marape’s vision to create Papua New Guinea a Black Rich Christian Nation was not fully conceived until June 4, 2019, on the floor of Parliament when the numbers miraculously skewed markedly towards his favour in 101 to 8 vote.
If God had a hand in it, it was true indeed.
A rousing route heralding a new beginning when the elected leaders of our nation for once stood in unison in a grand coalition.
Grand coalition is when opposing parties in multi-party system like ours agree to work together to form a single coalition government.
Ensuring government stability is obviously the good in a grand coalition but it has to come with a price and the dearest of them all is parliament will not be having an opposition entailing the absence of democracy’s most precious Siamese twins, check and balance.
Check and balance as we all know provides the golden virtues of accountability, transparency, honesty and good governance.
It might be safe to say that we cannot bank on the allegiance of the grand coalition to the next election in 2022 with the National Alliance Party and those Members of Parliament's missing a cut in the Marape-Davis cabinet will be soon be making their way to the opposite house.
But what is far more important is for us to fully understand and appreciate the prime minister’s bold yet ambitious statement of making Papua New Guinea a Black Rich Christian Nation in ten years.
It might seem crazily audacious but our leader meant what he said.
What this means is from this moment on the prime minister’s statement will become the creed and catechism for every Papua New Guinean in planning to design, strategy and alignment, implementation and service delivery and in all manner of civil and public life to harmoniously realise this vision.
Essentially, a decade from now would be June 2029.
This effectively means a Marape led government must survive two National Elections – 2022 and 2027- vote-of-no confidences if any and overcome all challenges on government stability we all know.
Thus, government stability is very crucial for Marape achieving his far-reaching objective.
Things like public sector reforms including review of mining and petroleum arrangements, taxation, agriculture and primary industry sector reforms – including overhauling forestry and fisheries economy generation- overhauling the performance of state-owned enterprises, investigations into public fund mismanagement, drafting anti-graft legislations, systems and institutional strengthening, capacity enhancement, and improvement of service delivery mechanisms and so forth all hinge on a stable, consistent and strong leadership.
Our own history shows government instability has been throwing the country’s political establishment into tumult and stunted growth since independence.
Successive governments were busy looking over the shoulder than focusing on driving policy and impacting change.
Government instability have always been counter-productive to real growth and integral development.
It’s time we must learn from our own past, experiences from our neighbours in the region and from economies similar to ours.
Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore and Paul Kagame’s Rwanda – one is a neighbour and the other is a fast-developing black nation with a population and economy similar to ours – have versions of their democracy conveniently tuned to meet their respective development aspirations.
We must not be there to please the West and necessarily adapt their values but we must be more inward looking to nurture and grow our own values.
In the words of Lee Kuan Yew: “Westerners value the freedoms and liberties of the individual. As an Asian of Chinese cultural background, my values for a government which is honest, effective and efficient.”
The Marape government will have to take on a reform agenda in both structural and institutional adjustment.
This would involve restructuring key state apparatuses like internal security to effectively drive and implement government focus.
For the notion of a Black Rich Christian Nation to materialise there has to be pain and sacrifices.
Just like the famous saying goes: “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters.”

David Lepi,
Southern Highlands,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Malaysia to claim
It's thousand year history
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 June 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 11 June 2019

Singapore is celebrating its bicentennial now.
A young nation, it attained its First World status quietly, without fanfare.
But compared with Malaysia and Indonesia, it lacked a certain history.
Or so we thought.
Singapore’s history is etched in the renowned Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals).
So the island-state embraced certain parts of its history and began to lay serious claim to the Malay world, in particular Malay manuscripts, by working with the British Library among others in this area.
I have said it before, nations that are proud of their heritage and history will go from strength to strength.
In fact, in 2014, I presented a paper on ancient Malay kingdoms at an international seminar at the Nalanda Srivijaya Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in Singapore.
The centre focuses on developing the “Nalanda idea” of building for contemporary Asia an appreciation of Asian achievements and mutual learning, as exemplified by the cosmopolitan Buddhist centre of learning in Nalanda, India, as well as the “Srivijaya idea” of South-East Asia as a place of mediation and links among great civilisations.
I began to see and experience firsthand how Singapore positions itself as a nation that is serious about its own representation of its history.
A few years later, Singapore collaborated with the British Library on the digitisation of ancient Malay manuscripts.
As a result, the exhibition “Tales of the Malay World” was held at the National Library Board Singapore last year.
I took a quick trip across the Causeway to see it.
As I entered, tears fell as I heard the beautiful rendering of the syair (traditional Malay poetry).
The exhibition was well curated to showcase how Malay had served as the lingua franca for the whole Malay Archipelago for many centuries, how it was the official court language of Srivijaya, a Hindu-Buddhist empire, and the language of trade among foreigners in the region.
In celebrating its bicentennial, Singapore draws upon its history and honours, among others, the great Malay writer Munsyi Abdullah and our own World War II hero Leftenan Adnan.
It is not stuck in the time trap of 1963 when Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore formed Malaysia or any modern day development.
“The Singapore Bicentennial in 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore a - key milestone in our rich and storied history. But our story did not start in 1819. It actually began in 1299. For over 700 years, we have been open to a diverse flow of people and ideas, and connected to wider geopolitical currents, all of which shaped our evolution.
“Our history is a rich and expansive one - the journey of an island that has never been constrained by its shores, but has always been made from more. Each of us is in some way connected to and intertwined with others in this history,” it says at
Essentially Singapore is saying: We have history. A colourful and vibrant one. Come to Singapore.
I suppose for Singapore, it makes sense to skim over the fact that it was part of the Johor Sultanate for almost 300 years prior to Stamford Raffles’ meddling. Or that it was previously under the fiefdom of Laksamana Hang Tuah and a vessel of Melaka for more than 100 years. Well, that’s history.
We need to examine our approach to our history, national identity and cultural appreciation, as it has a huge impact on our future.
We need to honour the giants of our past P. Ramlee. Pak Sako. Dol Said. Cik Siti Wan Kembang. Tengku Mariam. Hang Tuah before others claim our heroes, queens and warriors.
I have said again and again, we are not a 62-year-old nation.
We have a history as old as Sg Batu and Lembah Bujang. Kedah, Perak. Melaka and Johor. Pahang, Terengganu. Kelantan. Sabah. Sarawak. Perlis. Negri Sembilan. Ancient kingdoms of Kadaram, Gangga Nagara. Gellangui. Pattani and Langkasuka. Tumasek. Inderapura and Sekebun Bunga.
Even the sea kingdom of Dika.
We need to claim our own rich history.
A thousand years would be a good place to start.

Ninot Aziz,



Toxic waste pollution forces
Closure of schools in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Friday 28 June 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 26 June 2019

All the relevant authorities must collaborate and leave no stone unturned to determine the source of another toxic waste pollution that has forced the closure of schools in Pasir Gudang.
They must ensure that the Pasir Gudang community, including schools and residential areas, are safe while the industry in the vicinity does not remain a threat to the environment there.
The people want more proactive measures from the Department of Environment (DOE) and other government agencies to take whatever measures needed to ensure the safety of the people.
As in the first incident, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) office in Johor Baru is willing to provide assistance with help from its headquarters in Bandar Baru Bangi, which has the facilities and expertise in monitoring of chemical pollution.
Apart from sending its response team to Pasir Gudang, NIOSH has also distributed free masks when the first incident happend in March and jointly organised Major Chemical Spill and Leak Response CSR Session with he Academy of Safety and Emergency Care (ASEC) in Pasir Gudang in May.
What we need now is proactive and not reactive actions to prevent a recurrence of another incident, after this latest incident which many have dubbed the second Sungai Kim Kim pollution.
The authorities must also take stern action against those responsible for polluting the environment and threatening public health.
The latest pollution has forced the Education Ministry to close all 475 institutions of learning in the Pasir Gudang area to be closed until tomorrow (Thursday) to enable the authorities concerned to address the source of contamination in the area.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Kuala Lumpur,

Poor Filipino people
For transmogrifying into a people of the lie
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 June 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 27 June 2019

It doesn’t take rocket science or any “joint” or “third-party probe” to determine exactly what happened to our fishermen at Recto Bank.
The bedraggled condition of the fishermen, their testimonies, their damaged boat and the conditions at sea would have sufficed.
If, while waiting for the traffic light to change at an intersection, I got rammed from behind by another car, would that car be at fault? Certainly!
Would establishing a motivation for the ramming be necessary before a penalty could be meted out?
Not at all!
What if the car hit me and sped away, leaving me reeling on the asphalt?
Would that be a clear sign of guilt?
As clear as day! - and a dastardly deed that ramps up the heinousness of the act. Res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself).
If I posed these questions to my 6-year-old grandson, he’d put all these politicians to shame by answering it’s a no-brainer.
So what’s all this hemming and hawing and hedging around the Recto Bank issue? Have we all taken leave of our senses?
No, only the morally blind - those who care nothing for the truth - would trivialize it and insist on the .01 percent smidgen of a “possibility” that the ramming was “accidental” and split hairs over whether it was an “allision” or a “collision” in a frantic effort to absolve a powerful bully-nation of blame, rather than face the 99.99 percent extreme probability (that’s staring them in the eye) that a crime at sea had been committed.
Furthermore, what’s conveniently overlooked is the fact that the ramming happened right in our own backyard, making the incident a deliberate act of aggression.
“Minor” incident?
Not when it’s one of so many in a litany of similar incidents!
Then it becomes the latest in an indubitable and grim pattern of intimidation and harassment.
What’s “minor” about that?
But who in this administration is brave enough to say so?
Who will tie the bell around the cat?
Who will speak of the elephant in the room?
Who will tell the emperor he has no clothes?
Poor Filipino fishermen! - for being pressured by their own government to sing a different and broken tune.
Poor Filipino nation! - for being lied to, and taught wrongly how to see, think and act, and judge a matter crookedly.
Poor Filipino people - for slowly transmogrifying into a people of the lie.
Who will stem the tide?
How to stem the tide?
No, it doesn’t take rocket science at all - just a modicum of God-given common sense, and the moral backbone and moral fiber to name things as they are and stand up for the truth - all of which are in short supply in this administration.
Indeed, we have less backbone in our skeleton than the water in Angat Dam now draining at an alarming rate.
God help us before it’s too late.

Leslie Lofranco-Berbano,
Quezon City

Call for investigation into fraud in public
Philippine Health Insurance Corp
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 June 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 14 June 2019

The recent controversial news, “PhilHealth pays for ghost kidney treatments” June 6, 2019, is nothing new.
The government must dig deeper to uncover other bogus claims, not just on kidney treatments, that could deplete the resources of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
Years back, my daughter had an eye procedure in one tertiary private hospital in Metro Manila.
As we availed of the outpatient service of the institution, and the procedure had to be done in the private/pay facility of the hospital, I was informed that I would be charged more than P2,000 if not a PhilHealth member/dependent, or pay none at all. With the latter, I had to secure a paper from PhilHealth that my daughter is my dependent, and such had to be presented to the hospital on the scheduled appointment.
To enjoy the free service, I complied with the paper from PhilHealth, and true enough, I was not charged a single centavo, but I was made to sign a paper without the benefit of reading it first.
I hastily put my signature; anyway, I got my daughter’s treatment for free.
It was like, I owed something to the hospital, and in good faith I signed, without question, the paper handed to me by the secretary of the eye clinic.
Months after, I received a notice regarding the amount billed by the hospital to PhilHealth.
Lo and behold, there were multiple charges for this and that item, much greater than the amount I was supposed to pay had my daughter been not a dependent of a PhilHealth member.
During the next checkup, I asked the doctor about the discrepancy.
Sadly, my discovery was not given that much attention, which to me was a form of fraud. I was even told nonchalantly that maybe my suspicions were wrong.
Any act that defrauds PhilHealth’s funds must be stopped.
My experience may just be one of countless personal accounts of fraud out there.
I hope other PhilHealth members with similar experiences would come out, too.

Belen Docena-Asuelo,

In defence of democracy for Thailand
Over authoritarianism
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 June 2019

As someone who has lived through the rape of democracy and the rise of dictatorship following military coups, I say to Kuldeep Nagi ( letter Southeast Asian Times 24/6 ) and like minded other apologists of the authoritarian state,
I will take democracy, with all its imperfections, any day of the week.
I am sustained by the arguments advanced in the defence of democracy over authoritarianism by Leo Rogers in ' Is democracy the best form of government?'
( New College of the Humanities).
I recommend a reading of the illuminating article for anyone interested in an intelligent debate on democracy and its alternatives.

Rajend Naidu,

Thailand has its own brand of democracy
Rooted in authoritarianism
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 June 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 21 June 2019

Re: "Democracy is not coming to China", in Bangkok Post Opinion, June 19.
In his excellent analysis Tyler Cowen has made it clear as to why democracy is
not the ideal form of governance.
There is no doubt that China will flourish further and democracies like India, Indonesia, Malaysia and many others in Asia will flounder.
Democracies in Taiwan and South Korea have ended up in fistfights and wrestling
in the parliaments.
The vote-bank democracy in India thrives on race, caste, creed, religion and other divisive issues. There is no coherent national agenda to unite India as a nation, except for wars.
Thailand has its own brand of democracy which is rooted in authoritarianism,
cronyism and corruption.
Just like the Chinese, Thai people have also grown up with a self-correcting
system - military coups.
Hence there is no reason for them to embrace Western-style democracy.
It can be easily said that for most Asian countries democracies may not be a suitable system. Maybe, a unique and limited edition of democracy may serve their political and economic purpose.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Illegal importers of trash
Are traitors to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 June 2019
First published in the Star, 20 June 2019

The Star 3 June 2019 letter "Think about packaging before you buy anything"
I couldn't agree more with Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.
Illegal importers of unwanted trash from developed countries and from one Third World country as reported are indeed traitors to this country “DOE gets tough on e-waste”, The Star, May 30.
These people who had full knowledge of the contaminated and unrecyclable waste in the containers should be taken to court.
Autho-rities in the know, who allowed this trash to land on our shores, have to be investigated too.
We already have our own waste piling up in our backyard that is hard to deal with, what more tonnes of waste from elsewhere that are contaminated, cannot be recycled, are a health risk, and occupy huge amounts of space on our soil? Ironically, they have come from mostly the developed countries who have been championing environmental issues for ages!
I wonder how many more Third World countries are at the receiving end of such waste “packages”.
In this case, no news doesn’t mean good news.
It just means somebody might have chosen not to report it or chose to conceal it.
I strongly support Minister Yeo’s firm stand in rejecting any kind of illegal waste from any country.
Malaysia cannot be the dumping ground for waste that developed countries can’t manage.
If they can’t handle it, what more us, a small developing country?
And I strongly believe the issue does not fall on Yeo’s ministry alone but requires the cooperation of and support from other ministries and agencies such as the Finance Ministry, Royal Malaysian Customs and maybe the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
While that is being done on the macro level, Malaysians should spare a thought before purchasing end products that utilise single-use plastic and packaging.
This goes beyond using reusable shopping bags and not using plastic or paper straws and encompasses consuming food wrapped in plastic within a plastic, a box within a box and a bag within a bag.
What about going back to taking powdered beverages and biscuits in containers to our workplace or schools instead of using sachets and individual packets?
Anyone fancy using facial masks in cream, clay or gel form in containers that would last at least six months instead of the individual paper mask for every facial session that you have at home?

Metro Manila,

Call for New PNG goverment
To investigate dissapearance of K2 million
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 June 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 19 June 2019

Just as the country witnessed the election of the new Prime Minister, somewhere in the Finance Department, some officers colluded with a law firm to defraud the State of K2 million.
The Office of the Solicitor-General is not aware or given legal clearance of the legal bill claim of the law firm.
The K2 million cheque was never sighted by the Solicitor-General, as it was collected from the Finance Department.
The Office of the Solicitor-General must act decisively and refer all those alleged for defrauding the State to Fraud to the Police Fraud and Corruption Division.
This is a fresh case and the challenge goes out to the Marape Government to get those involved to face the law.
If the prime minister, finance, justice and police ministers are reading this, you are all informed through this letter that, the State has been defrauded of K2 million.
Let’s get all relevant Government agencies to investigate please.

Street Justice,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Call for Thailand to apply science
When making government policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 June 2019
First published in the BangkokPost Wednesday 19 June 2019

Re: "Toxic inaction on farm chemicals", Bangkok Post Editorial, June 16
The avoidance of applying science and economics when making government rules and regulations is a fascinating way to achieve Thailand 4.0 an economy driven by high-tech industries and innovation and ensure a viable future for the citizens.
The wizened bureaucrats have chosen to ignore medical and scientific evidence in refusing to ban toxic pesticides and chemicals used for farming.
It's a true mark of professionalism if there ever was one.
These same geniuses simultaneously decided to give subsidies to agricultural commodities such as rice, rubber and palm oil farms.
Now, if the reason for continuing to poison the population is to maintain high crop yields, although these higher yields concerning crop output lead to having to give subsidies because there is too much produce for the market, then how about killing two birds with one stone?
Eliminating the pesticide usage would then lower the crop yields and there would be no need for subsidies because the market would not be over-saturated. Amazing Thailand for sure.

Darius Hober,

Call for consumer credit law in Malaysia
To protect borrowers from lenders
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 June 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 19 June 2019

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) strongly supports the announcement by Bank Negara governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus on the need for the establishment of a Consumer Credit Law in Malaysia.
In the current economic situation, with stagnating incomes and rising cost of living, consumers face tremendous financial pressures.
Much too often consumers, especially low and middle-income earners, need to borrow because of financial hardships.
Bank Negara had reported that 76 percent of Malaysian consumers would find it difficult to raise RM1,000 of emergency cash if they had to.
In a study by Universiti Putra Malaysia in a public housing area in Kuala Lumpur focusing on young workers in the 20 to 40 age range, some of the problems they faced were late bill payments (89 percent), not enough money to buy medicine (61 percent), borrowing from family and friends (55 percent), insufficient cash to face emergencies (58 percent), inability to pay instalments (56 percent), not enough money to buy basic food items (49 percent) and borrowing from loan sharks (22 percent).
Currently, consumers can borrow from banks, moneylenders or pawnbrokers or buy on hire-purchase terms.
Although the services provided by registered lenders do help borrowers to temporarily solve their financial problems, there is an urgent need to impose safeguards to protect consumers.
Of particular concern are retail chains which sell furniture and other major items based on low weekly/monthly payments. However, consumers are being charged an exorbitant rate.
There is currently no legislation to protect consumers and the agency responsible has failed to protect them too.
Without a comprehensive Consumer Credit Law, where interest rates are not only regulated but enforced, consumers will continue to suffer.
Through the Act, Malaysians could be transparently informed of the true annual percentage rates or effective interest rates of their financing or purchases.
There should also be the realigning of regulations on consumer credit between the government agencies to ensure that interest rates are fair and reasonable and consumers are aware of the interest they are paying to creditors.
The Act should be enacted for the protection of consumers. Most importantly, the Act should state the limits regarding the calculation on interest rates, including late payment interest rates and any other payments. The Act should also provide strict guidelines regarding debt collection and repossession.
Further, there must be truth in advertising and marketing practices. Finally, the Act should give more power to law enforcement agencies in dealing with credit providers.
Fomca suggests that the Consumer Credit Law be placed under the jurisdiction of Bank Negara as it has shown the greatest competency in implementing and enforcing fair interest rates.
The Act will give borrowers some protection against unscrupulous lenders who are ever willing to take advantage of consumers in their vulnerable state.

Datuk Paul Selva Raj,
Chief executive officer, Fomca,
Kuala Lumpur,

Fishermen rammed in West Philippine Sea
Is not new
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 June 2019

It is distressing that Filipino fishermen were left traumatised after the ramming incident in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
I did not understand why until today because the old man President Duterte in Malacanang did not say a word.
It is as if it’s hard for him to make a statement on the incident knowing that 22 Filipinos almost died in the incident in the Philippine territory.
Why do most Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS) blame the fishermen?
Why is it so hard for them to stand up for fellow Filipino against Chinese bullying? It is not just bullying.
Ramming the boat is another thing because it is their livelihood.
No one in his right mind would disturb them at sea and leave them hanging.
But then, what do we expect from China.
This is not something new.
I am not surprised to be honest. However, my heart bleeds for this ordinary JUAN who wants to live his simple life but is disrupted by those greedy people.

Regine Agapay,

Call for Papua New Guinea village fueds
To stay in the village
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 June 2019
First published in the National, Friday 14 June 2019

Withou having to shout at the top of my voice, I am raising this concern on behalf of the innocent citizens of Sugu Valley in the Kagua Erave electorate residing in parts of Papua New Guinea.
There are groups of rival murderers driving around and monitoring innocent people; working class or other who are minding their business of trying to earn an honest living.
They are driving by homes, working offices and generally collecting information about their supposedly known enemy habitats.
Port Moresby is not in Kagua Erave, nor is Lae nor Mt Hagen or any other town or city in this country.
There has already been murders committed in parts of this country by these so called warriors, slaughtering a defenceless human being who didn’t have anything to do with current fighting.
When the tribesmen hear about one of their numbers been slaughtered, fresh fighting escalates to avenge the fallen brother, uncle, nephew etc.
The so-called village head dog must realise that woman, children and the old will suffer more from the daily human needs.
Food is harvested from a garden; where would you go if there is no food.
What will children eat if they are hungry?
Certainly not leaves or grubs.
Village warriors must stop encouraging young men who are naïve to take up arms against their own age group; in fact many are related by blood and this problem escalated from a misunderstanding in family circles.
This is a result of a family feud gone terribly wrong.
A prominent Sugu Valley citizen and lawyer David Dolo stressed early in the conflict that any spillover effects from this feud must not come to town; any town in this country for that matter.
This call supports that earlier statement; what happens in the village and district stays in the village or district.
Kagua Erave elites should not entertain this form of evil by allowing our assets to be used to accommodate such activities.
Kagua Erave elites must stand up and prevent this hunting of our educated elites in towns and cities by these groups of cowards.
This trend must not be allowed to take root.
In that regard, I humbly offer my condolences to the mothers and relatives who have lost their loved ones in this terrible Sugu saga.

Richard Yasi,
Wambu Logo,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Zero scholarships for tertiary education despite
Achieving A's in all examinations in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 June 2019
First Published in The Star, Sunday 16 June 2019

I was touched by the sad letter written by Ho Jan Yang, “Harsh reality of education in Malaysia” in The Star, June 13.
Ho bluntly stated that he was “a victim of the injustice in our education system, which seems to defy the global trend by awarding scholarships to students based not on academic excellence but racial agendas”.
I understand that his serious view is shared by most fair-minded Malaysians, especially non-bumiputra parents and students.
The Education Ministry under the Pakatan Harapan government definitely owes it to all Malaysians, bumiputra or otherwise, to comprehensively clarify the truth on this sensitive matter as soon as possible.
This is essential in order to protect and promote national unity and progress.
Ho claimed that he achieved all A's in his Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) assessment of student performance in literacy, numeracy and reasoning at primary level, Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) Malaysian public examination for form three students, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) Malaysian Certificate of Education examinations for fifth-form secondary school students, but got “zero scholarships for my tertiary education”, and even his application for repayment exemption for his National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) loan was rejected.
Those who are compassionate can easily empathise and sympathise with Ho, the aggrieved complainant.
We also wonder what this apparent injustice can do to undermine Ho’s and many other students’ loyalty, patriotism and pride for our country.
How will this apparently discriminatory scholarship policy and practice aggravate the severe brain drain of our best talents to more enticing foreign countries, both near and far?
How do we progress at a faster pace in economic growth and better income distribution and even shared wealth if we continue to reject some of our best students on the basis of arguments that are archaic and unsustainable?
But we do need to know the full facts of this poignant appeal by Ho for his “hope for a silver lining in the cloud of challenges confronting Malaysian students now.”
We appeal to the Education Ministry to respond and clarify Ho’s difficult and regrettable scholarship experiences.
I would also appeal to the Pakatan government to review and revise the present polices and practices in awarding government scholarships to enhance national unity and the future progress of our country.

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

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To fund Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 June 2019
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 15 June 2019

Any law student knows it’s unconstitutional to appropriate public funds for a private or religious purpose.
The millions of such funds doled out by President Duterte, himself a lawyer, for a monthlong religious pilgrimage of some Muslims to Mecca (for their round-trip airfare, pocket money, board and lodging) is a textbook illustration of that prohibition.
He and his minions have justified such generosity with taxpayer money by saying, in so many wishy-washy words, that it’s a small price to pay to avoid trouble.
Just asking: Would the President be so generous with public money as well if it were poor Christians wishing to do a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?
Given his bias against the Christian God being “stupid,” what are the chances of that ever happening?
Even his spokesperson, lawyer Salvador Panelo, who usually couldn’t tell right from wrong about what his boss is saying or doing, has raised a red flag on that gesture and called it “technical malversation.”
But with Mr. Duterte insisting he is willing to go to jail for it, we expect to see Panelo shove his foot in his own mouth.
But Mr. Duterte should never have to go to jail for it; P5 million is just peanuts to him.
He himself has said he has millions more in surplus campaign funds.
Why couldn’t he have used some of that personal stash for some nonpublic expenditure to avoid violating the Constitution?
Panelo, his “chief legal counsel,” dresses more like a clown and is good only for public entertainment. Ever wonder why the President ignores his opinions?

Jeremias H.Tobias,

Call for caution in Australia
For proposed Adani mining venture
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 June 2019

We read in the Southeast Asian Times article ' Malaysia's Orang Asli drinking water contaminated by iron-ore mining ' ( 13 June ) that 29 Orang Asli
( indigenous people ) from the Batek community have contracted bacterial infections this month following 15 deaths last month from suspected water contamination caused by iron- ore mining.
This should be a cautionary tale for those who have been maintaining that the proposed Adani mines in Queensland, Australia would have no damaging impact on the water systems there.
Or, are they to learn the hard way by having to face the dire consequences of their shortsighted decision to approve the Adani mining venture?

Rajend Naidu,


Foreigners have taken jobs in Papua New Guinea
That should be reserved for nationals.
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 June 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 12 June 2019

The Immigration Office at the Department of Foreign affairs should be thoroughly investigated and those officers found to have broken immigration laws must be prosecuted.
It is evident that a lot of foreigners, who do not meet the entry qualifications, are in the country competing against locals in the private sector and job market.
I believe foreigners, who do not know how to write and speak in Pidgin and English, are not eligible to enter Papua New Guinea to live and work as far as the foreign entry requirements are concerned.
So how come we have so many foreigners, who do not know how to speak and write in the required language, still coming through and are found in many areas of the nation working or running retail businesses?
There are some officers in the stated department who have no regard for this nation’s laws and have been compromised.
These officers have no place in such an important office.
If you need proof just go to some of the foreign-owned businesses/shops in town or anywhere in the country see for yourself; test these people and determine whether they can speak and write in both pidgin and English.
These people have taken jobs that should be reserved for nationals.
To Papua New Guineans, regardless of your standing in education, businesses, communities, the bottom line is: let’s be responsible and report such officers to the authorities to protect and uphold the Constitution to safeguard our future.

Jack Kukiwa,
Moral duty officer.
Papua New Guinea

Cannabis plants in Thailand found
With high levels of pesticides and cadmium
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 June 2019
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 11 June 2019

Re: "Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) warns of pot extract contamination", in Bangkok Post,, June 7.
Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) secretary-general Niyom Termsrisuk said high levels of pesticides and cadmium were found in nearly 18 tonnes of cannabis while about two tonnes were found contaminated with cadmium.
"Only about seven kilogrammes of the samples were free of both pesticide and cadmium contamination and these samples will be handed to medical institutes," read the article.
Anyone familiar with the science of plant extraction and contamination of feedstock will know this account of the Narcotics Control Board's actions makes no sense.
"Seven kilogrammes out of 18 tonnes were found to be free of contamination"
would require testing of 18 tonnes of biomass, tested kilogramme by kilogramme
to ascertain the contamination, which would be an extremely time-consuming and
costly procedure.
Second, the medical institutes could run a simple extraction and column
separation process, removing the contaminants from the pure oil. Something is
fishy at the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB).

Midnight Mango,

New Papua New Guinea PM James Marape
Warned of nationwide protests
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 June 2019
First published in the National, Friday 7 June 2019

The nation felt the heartfelt sorrow of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s resigning from the Prime Minister seat.
Students’ parents and the general public felt the hardship of sympathy of the brave prime minister who salvaged the future education of our children and saved many lives from illnesses.
Those judgmental and stumbling black leaders who dispersed abruptly from People's National Congress (PNC) or O’Neill government without genuine consensus, the ball is in your court now.
If you don’t act, and if economy falls within the short two years period, dismantle funding’s for tuition free fee for schools and free health care, the nation will lead a nationwide protest against you judgmental leaders.
Your result will prevail through your election result.
The judgmental is a bad character of a jealousy person.
When he is not serve or defeated, he or she become judgmental and have chief on his shoulder and attack with instincts of stumbling blacks.
The new prime minister Marape is only a young leader, merely doubt would remain in every citizen’s mind.
But O’Neill is the only vibrant, aggressive, active, patient, amble and outcasts and out spoken in every simulated compliances.
Only leader that equals O’Neill is Utula Sarmana, former premier of Morobe Government and former regional member for Morobe.
These two’s are the only outstanding figures of our nation leaders.

Richard Maribu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for services in squatter settlements
In North East Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday11 June 2019
First published in the National, Monday 3 June 2019

We have waited for basic services for almost two years now.
Nothing has been done in the ward I live in, including a few other wards in Moresby North East.
Does the North East MP even consider the needs of his people?
It’s the middle of another year and not even a single service has been established in the North East electoral wards.
What took him so long to bringing services to the people in his own respective electoral wards?
It’s a disgrace to see how we people have to watch our Members of Parliament do nothing that can change our lives in the city.
Each Member of Parliament in each respective electorate in certain regions in the country have their obligations to pursue that will drive his people and the nation as a whole to a better future.
North East basically consist of squatter settlements.
We want someone who can reach through and bring in services from the Government.

Frustrated North East Resident,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea

Police raid on Australia's national broadcaster
Threat to democracy and free speech
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 June 2019

It is understandable that Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) chair Ita Buttrose should have " grave concern " over the Australian Federal Police raid on the national broadcaster which she deemed " designed to intimidate " ( ' ABC raided' Financial Times 9/6 ).
If that is the case then that is clearly the modus operandi of a police state and not that of a model democracy which Australia projects itself to be to the international community.
It is the kind of state behaviour one associates with totalitarian regimes.
It is a threat to democracy and free speech.
It is therefore not surprising that the raids on the media outlets and journalists have been roundly condemned by reputable media and rights organisations at home and abroad.

Rajend Naidu

Call for Mahathir government
To give space to peaceful dissent and criticism
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 June 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 7 June 2019

SO Aunty, So What” columnist June Wong’s plea for our new government to continue to give space to peaceful dissent and criticism, “Of elbow room and breathing space” in The Star, June 5 is a reasonable and desirable request.
In our thriving democracy, the powers that be must move away from the dogmatic “my way or the highway” way of thinking or doing things.
Suppressing peaceful or respectful competing views is not only undemocratic but can also threatens our nation’s interests and progress.
Proponents pushing for restricting or banning opposing viewpoints should well remember Socrates’ wise adage that “an unexamined belief is not worth believing”.
Restricting stakeholders, including the ordinary people, from expressing their respectful opinions or views infringe upon the freedom of the press and individuals. Specifically, ethical journalists who pursue public interest journalism can help to counter the proliferation of fake news.
Respectful exchanges of researched or factual opinions would help to keep Malaysia moving forward instead of being mired or stuck in an unquestioning inertia.
The status quo needs to be examined or questioned, as our social, legal and economic environments and structures must gradually evolve in line with changes and progress in our aspirations and maturing democratic beliefs.
After all, the historic new government was born out of majority Malaysians’ keen desire and aspirations for a more accountable, transparent and inclusive nation.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,


Call for tuk-tuks in Bangkok to switch
From gas fired motors to electric battery power
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 6 June 2019

I noticed recently that the government here has some sort of commission that
deals with air pollution and noise.
I did not realise that they are even aware of the serious problems posed by "noise pollution", but I don't see anything being done about it.
The daily and nightly noise pollution in Bangkok and Chiang Mai mainly comes
from the motors of tuk-tuks and motorbikes.
This kind of noise impairs hearing and does permanent damage to the nerves in the brain, especially in young children.
Most motorbike and tuk-tuk engines are not kept in smooth operating condition,
and many are so dilapidated that they sound like war machines blasting in full
The best solution of course is to require that all motorbikes and tuk-tuks
switch from gas-fired motors to electric battery power.
The technology for this is readily available, and it is easy to do.
Meanwhile, enforcing strict maintenance standards for owners of these 2- and 3-wheeled noise monsters would cut the noise pollution.

Daniel Reid,

Philippines and Indonesia reach equitable solution
To Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 June 2019

I would like to express my thoughts on the recent development on the agreement of the Philippine Government and Indonesian Government in relation to the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and Indonesia.
The Philippine Senate approved on second reading an agreement on the division of the abovementioned issue.
Setting the Boundary or the Delimitation of EEZ is best for both countries.
And it has to be based on international law.
It can be recalled that the Philippines and Indonesia have overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea and in the southern section of the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean.
I commend the two countries for holding series of negotiations and talks to delimit the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
This milestone of reaching an equitable solution to the problem is unprecedented and I am thankful that the countries involved chose to settle the concern amicably.
It only shows that the friendship, patience, goodwill and political commitment of both countries will pave the way in addressing maritime problem peacefully.
I am positive that both countries will benefit from this agreement, be it in economic or in politics.
Moreover, it will promote more cooperation in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in order to advance the common interest of protecting and preserving the resources in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

Ezekiel Manaois,

Call for return of military training
For children in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 May 2019
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 5 June 2019

I am delighted upon knowing that President Duterte certified Senate Bill No. 2232 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Bill as urgent.
I am a product of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and I want my children to have the same privilege of experiencing the life changing power of being taught with military insights and deep respect for human rights.
I want them to grow into a better person with a positive attitude, strong motivation and immeasurable love for the country.
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) brought out the best in me and I am now a public servant, relentlessly working with integrity.
There are many more out there who are a living proof that Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) can create a good future and can fill the Philippines with disciplined people.
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is the hope, the youth has long been waiting for.
And as a parent I am happy knowing that my children will be blessed with such an honor.
Soon, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) will be back continuing to produce top men in the military, government and private sectors.

Marjane Dy,

Phillipines oppose proposal to decrease
Minimum age of criminal responsibility
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 June 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 4 June 2019

I cannot seem to understand why there is a “clamor” among policymakers to decrease the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in the Philippines when the global trend is to increase it.
I stand with the position of professional and civic groups opposing the proposed measure.
First, we need to consider evidence that children below 15 or 12 years old may know what is right or wrong, but most of the time fail to internalize the consequences of their actions.
Rather than putting them behind bars, we should focus on addressing this problem. The government can establish institutions that can assist our children, their families and communities in educating them about responsible citizenship; or perhaps existing institutions can do a better job in bridging the gap.
Second, the most common reasons for children being in conflict with the law can be traced back to poor education and poverty.
Perhaps, alleviating the condition of these children and their families will take away the motivation to commit crimes.
The recognition of the root cause of societal problems will prevent us from promoting backward policies such as lowering the country’s MACR.
Why are our policymakers keen on putting these children behind bars especially when the justice system is juvenile?
Juvenile in the sense that it is still struggling to cope with the current number of children in conflict with the law.
Therefore, it is unjust to subject children to criminal trials and/or shelter them under dilapidated facilities under a system that clearly doesn’t put these children’s welfare on top of its priorities.
Why are we putting much focus on children in conflict with the law when they account for only 2 percent of registered crimes?
Shouldn’t the focus shift to the adults and big crime groups that intimidate and exploit children to do the dirty job for them?
What’s happening, clearly, is like the current war on drugs.
This administration is scratching the surface and targeting the most vulnerable, instead of capturing the masterminds.

Reiner Lorenzo J.
Tamayo, RN,

Millions of tonnes of Malaysia's plastic waste
Washed into the sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 June 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 1 June 2019

The government’s decision to send imported plastic waste back to countries of origin is commendable and should be supported “DOE gets tough on e-waste”, The Star, May 30.
It is also in line with the government’s ban on the import of plastic waste and proposed amendment of the law to make it mandatory to send electronic waste - e-waste to licensed recyclers.
At the same time, it will send a strong message to the world that Malaysia will not tolerate this again.
I hope the government will investigate how such waste could land on our soil and take stern action against those who breached the law by importing such items and enforcement agencies’ staff who were in cohorts with them.
According to Greenpeace, Malaysia imported more than 754,000 tonnes of plastic waste from January to June of 2018.
The authorities must also take stern action against those who are involved in importing, storing or processing illegal plastic waste and e-waste and revoke their business licenses immediately.
The public must alert the authorities if they see piles of such waste or burning plastic.
Water runoff and leachate from waste processing facilities and dumpsites contain toxic chemicals that could harm the environment and human health.
Although Malaysia has banned the import of plastic scrap since last year, companies can still apply for approved permits (APs) to import clean plastic – beware, as the approved permits (AP)s could be exploited to import contaminated plastic waste.
We have to ban the import of plastic waste as studies show that without foreign garbage, Malaysia already produces 0.94 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic wastes, of which 0.14 to 0.37 million tonnes may have been washed into the oceans.
According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017 Report by the United Nations University, Malaysia generated 280 kilotonnes of e-waste in 2016 - 8.8kg of e-waste per person.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for retirement benefits to be withheld
From Philippines justices with backlog of unresolved cases
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 June 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 May 2019

Something about “public service” in this country can really make one’s blood boil.
Amid all the hardship among the vast majority of taxpayers who can barely make both ends meet, government officials have no qualms about making a mockery of the Constitution that states “public office is a public trust,” and treating the national treasury as their own bank accounts.
The article, “CJ Bersamin among highest-paid government officials” May 23, 2019, caught our attention right away.
He was said to have been paid almost P11 million as a member of the Supreme Court in 2018 alone.
That is almost P1 million per month in salaries, benefits, honoraria, allowances, bonuses, incentives, discretionary and miscellaneous expenses!
Presumably, all the other members of that court received about as much or slightly less.
Bersamin was appointed Chief Justice by President Duterte in November 2018 and is due to retire in less than a year October 2019.
Guess how obscenely enormous his retirement package will be by then?
This brings to mind the case of recently retired justice Teresita de Castro, who hungered for the top post so much she had no problem sitting as Chief Justice even for only a few weeks.
And what have their “Honors” to show for such mind-blowing compensation?
As usual, justice delayed, justice denied. 
Even lawyer Estelito Mendoza could not help decry their seeming lack of dedication or plain laziness “Turtle pace of cases in the SC,” May 3, 2019.
We tend to agree with another letter-writer who suggested that salaries or retirement benefits should be withheld from those with a huge backlog of unresolved cases “Penalize retiring justices if they fail to resolve cases,” May 5, 2019.

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,

Call for Papua New Guinea MP who understands
How the Westminister system of government works
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 June 2019
First published in the National, Friday 31 May 2019

Parliament turned into a circus on Wednesday when Peter O’Neill announced his resignation.
More particularly, I, as a Lufian, was ashamed when Lufa MP Moriape Kavori publicly shed tears as he approached Peter O’Neill to farewell him.
I know O’Neill’s resignation from the top job gave mixed feelings and emotions among his supporters and fans but for an elected MP to publicly shed tears when the whole country and international community was watching brings total shame and disgrace to us Lufa people.
I say this because all of Papua New Guinea took to the social media and made a fuss and fool out of my Member of Parliament’s act.
At this juncture, I like to remind the people of Lufa to stop sending coffee buyers and hauslain (household) leaders as the politics of Waigani requires someone who understand the intricacies and complexities of how the Westminster system of government works and operates.
Despite not being educated, I thought Kavori, as a man of integrity and wisdom, should do an honourable thing and respect the wishes of the people and join the Laguna camp and played his part in the formation of a new government and chart a new course for my Papua New Guinea given that the latest social, political and economic conditions of the country warrants a change of government.
I for one and totally ashamed and disgraced because of the fact that we Lufians have and continue to send in “coffee buyers” and “hauslain leaders” into Waigani since 2002 and our district have been a subject of mockery every national elections since then.
Judging from Kavori’s action, he should be Olix Market buying coffee instead of being in the Parliament Haus because I am fed of the continuous shame and disgrace him and his predecessors actions have brought us over the years.
It’s time we Lufians learn from that and elect someone who is educated enough to understand the national politics of Waigani.

Disgraced Lufian,
Koura Way Freeway,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Malaysia comended for sending imported plastic waste
Back to country of origin
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 June 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 1 June 2019

The government’s decision to send imported plastic waste back to countries of origin is commendable and should be supported “DOE gets tough on e-waste”, The Star, May 30.
It is also in line with the government’s ban on the import of plastic waste and proposed amendment of the law to make it mandatory to send electronic waste (e-waste) to licensed recyclers.
At the same time, it will send a strong message to the world that Malaysia will not tolerate this again.
I hope the government will investigate how such waste could land on our soil and take stern action against those who breached the law by importing such items and enforcement agencies’ staff who were in cohorts with them.
According to Greenpeace, Malaysia imported more than 754,000 tonnes of plastic waste from January to June of 2018.
The authorities must also take stern action against those who are involved in importing, storing or processing illegal plastic waste and e-waste and revoke their business licenses immediately.
The public must alert the authorities if they see piles of such waste or burning plastic.
Water runoff and leachate from waste processing facilities and dumpsites contain toxic chemicals that could harm the environment and human health.
Although Malaysia has banned the import of plastic scrap since last year, companies can still apply for approved permits (APs) to import clean plastic – beware, as the APs could be exploited to import contaminated plastic waste.
We have to ban the import of plastic waste as studies show that without foreign garbage, Malaysia already produces 0.94 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic wastes, of which 0.14 to 0.37 million tonnes may have been washed into the oceans.
According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017 Report by the United Nations University, Malaysia generated 280 kilotonnes of e-waste in 2016 – 8.8kg of e-waste per person.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippine government officials treat national treasury
As their own bank account
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 June 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 May 2019

Something about “public service” in this country can really make one’s blood boil.
Amid all the hardship among the vast majority of taxpayers who can barely make both ends meet, government officials have no qualms about making a mockery of the Constitution that states “public office is a public trust,” and treating the national treasury as their own bank accounts.
The article, “CJ Bersamin among highest-paid government officials” May 23, 2019, caught our attention right away.
He was said to have been paid almost P11 million as a member of the Supreme Court in 2018 alone.
That is almost P1 million per month in salaries, benefits, honoraria, allowances, bonuses, incentives, discretionary and miscellaneous expenses!
Presumably, all the other members of that court received about as much or slightly less.
Bersamin was appointed Chief Justice by President Duterte in November 2018 and is due to retire in less than a year October 2019.
Guess how obscenely enormous his retirement package will be by then?
This brings to mind the case of recently retired justice Teresita de Castro, who hungered for the top post so much she had no problem sitting as Chief Justice even for only a few weeks.
And what have their “Honors” to show for such mind-blowing compensation?
As usual, justice delayed, justice denied.
Even lawyer Estelito Mendoza could not help decry their seeming lack of dedication or plain laziness “Turtle pace of cases in the SC,” 5/3/19.
We tend to agree with another letter-writer who suggested that salaries or retirement benefits should be withheld from those with a huge backlog of unresolved cases “Penalize retiring justices if they fail to resolve cases,” July 5, 2019.

Ramon Normon Torrefranca,

Call for long term opposition party member
For new Papua New Guinea PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 May 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 29 May 2019

The people of Papua New Guinea are crying out for better a Government.
On the other hand, they are also crying for more corruption.
Since the Opposition is filled with more MPs now, I think the good Lord can give wisdom to our leaders to choose a best alternative prime minister.
It is annoying to see a long-term politician from the Government side coming over to the opposition to sweet talk and brain wash the opposition.
The country is corrupt because of them, we won’t say they are good people.
I believe in some very strong leaders who have been in the opposition for some 10-15 years and can make their way out to change our country.
Those who leave their portfolios and decided to come over to Opposition must not be considered for a ministerial portfolio because they are the contributing factors of corruption in our current government system.
Choose someone from Opposition to become our new prime minister.
Papua New Guinea is made up of many power hungry leaders so they think they can get out and get on with in life.
Little consideration must be done with this little issue, never neglect the voice of the poor, start do something for the betterment of our country.

Jonathan Mok,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Papua New Guinea Government accused
Of squandering Public assets
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 May 2019
First published in the National, Tuesday 28 May 2019

Section 25 of the Constitution provides for equal distribution of wealth and participation in the development of natural resources owned by the citizens of Papua New Guinea.
The establishment of the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is intended to satisfy this constitutional requirement, which will support the broader development goals of Papua New Guinea.
The production and sale of minerals, petroleum and gas is transformation of capital under the earth, into money which is another form of capital that constitutes an asset of Papua New Guinea.
Mineral, petroleum, and gas taxes paid to the Government by the mineral, petroleum, and gas companies, from their sales revenue constitutes a transfer of capital from the private sector to the public sector.
The Government can spend the taxes now on its development priorities, or investment them to generate more income for spending in the future.
The purpose of sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is basically to save and invest some of the taxes in financial assets which will generate more income in the form of interest, dividends, royalties, and rental receipts to sustain the Government’s development spending in the future, through the annual national budget.
Two major development issues discussed below are now undermining the establishment and operation of the sovereign wealth fund (SWF).
First, a serious concern is that the Government is squandering and wastefully spending mineral, petroleum and gas tax revenues.
As a consequence, the Government is rapidly developing and depleting capital in the form of mineral, petroleum and gas resources which are underground.
The squandering of public asset has been compounded with an outright loss of capital through the free transfer of capital ownership to the private sector and granting of significant tax concessions to the companies operating in the mineral, petroleum, and gas sectors, under the project development agreements (PDAs).
This outright loss of capital will not be available in the future to support our economy and future generation of Papua New Guinea citizens.
Second, our national debt level has now exceeded the 30 per cent threshold of the nation’s value of production of goods and services, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP).
However, the growth of GDP has declined significantly in recent years compared to the growth of our national debt, which now raises a concern for debt sustainability, going forward.
The significant growth in the national debt has pre-committed all future tax revenues to paying off this debt in the future.
It has left Papua New Guinea and its future citizens exposed to a significant debt burden without any source of income to repay it.
The Government must now take immediate actions to reduce wasteful spending and fully establish the sovereign wealth fund (SWF), and save the nation from a serious debt related social and economic crisis looming ahead.

Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Resignation of Papua New Guinea PM
Preferred over military coup
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 May 2019

We read in the article 'PM Papua New Guinea announces resignation amid defections ' in Southeast Asian Times ( May 28 ) that PM and leader of the ruling People's National Congress Party Peter O'Neill has resigned following mounting opposition to his leadership, including defections from within his own ranks.
It's said PNG has a weak system and process that makes it vulnerable to this kind of political change outside of parliamentary elections.
Be that as it may, it is still a preferred system of transfer of power than a military coup ( like in the Solomons and Fiji ) with all the political turmoil, violence and degradation of the democratic rights and freedoms of the citizens that the coups invariably entail. It takes a country backwards.
The people of PNG should be proud that they have undertaken a transfer of political power without resorting to unconstitutional means.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Malaysian terror group returnees
To be treated as criminals
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 May 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 24 May 2019

It is quite worrying that Malaysians who joined terror groups abroad, including in Syria, would be allowed to return to the country.
Bukit Aman’s Counterterrorism Division chief Datuk Ayob Khan told Al Jazeera in an interview in March this year that they would be allowed to come back if they complied with checks and enforcement and complete a one-month government rehabilitation programme.
He gave assurance that thorough checks and investigation would be done on each returnee.
I strongly believe these individuals should be treated as criminals and must be investigated for crimes such as murder, causing hurt with or without weapons, rape and damage to property.
Investigations must encompass all aspects of war crimes as defined by international law.
They fact that they chose to take up arms and wage war in a foreign country makes them more dangerous than common criminals.
Using preventive laws on them would be the appropriate approach here but these laws are no longer relevant in a modern democratic society.


Say’s law states that
Supply creates its own demand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 May 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 23 May 2019

Managing an economy is different from managing a business enterprise.
What is beneficial to businesses may not be necessarily good for the economy.
Economic management is about managing the trade-off among conflicting demands. It is the job of the government to keep the economy on an even keel.
In classical economics, Say’s law, or the law of markets, states that “Supply creates its own demand”.
This law of markets implies that a general glut widespread excess of supply over demand cannot occur.
Say’s law has been one of the principal doctrines used to support the laissez-faire belief that a capitalist economy will naturally tend toward full employment and prosperity without government intervention.
Of course, successive global economic depressions have changed all this, and Say’s law is now more or less defunct.
Keynesian interventionist policy and, later, monetarist economics pioneered by Milton Friedman have since become the mainstay of economic thought.
Essentially, the idea is to intervene in the workings of the economy by manipulating government spending and controlling money supply and varying interest rates to influence the level of economic activities.
But have we ever wondered why most governments, including Malaysia, have “over-practised” Keynesian and monetarist economics?
Governments intervene to correct imbalances in the economy but those interventions have themselves caused distortions and imbalances.
They always favour the businessmen, speculators and the highly geared while the savers and the prudent are sidelined and disadvantaged.

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur

PNG calls for opponents of executive government
To use Melanesian Way of consensus
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 May 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 22 May 2019

All the vote of no-confidence (VONC) motions or threats of it since the first successful one in 1980 have principally been based on accusations against the executive government.
The reasons for VONCs or threats of it have been the same.
Opponents of the mandated governments since 1980 have all accused the executive government of not abiding by the principles of good governance and the rule of law when running the country.
As a result, many legitimate governments have been thrown out office since the first VONC in 1980.
Yet none of those incoming governments have done anything better as we still struggled to address the same problems and our issues relating to poor governance and disrespect for the rule of law continue.
What does that mean?
Does it mean the sponsors and backers of VONCs have been genuine?
Could this mean our problems are multi-layered and not clear cut as the accusations against each executive government overthrown in a VONC?
Why don’t opponents of executive governments use the Melanesian Way of consensus and go and sit down with prime minister and ministers to address challenges or differences.
We also have to be mindful of the cost of VONC or threats of it are immense to the system of government when ministers, ordinary MPS and the entire bureaucracy tends to come to a standstill what transpires in the horse trading and media shows.
The arrival of Facebook appears to have added more burden to the cost of VONC and horse trading.
In my humble view, lack of good governance and disrespect for the rule of law is far-reaching and is much deeper than the superficial accusation of an executive government to be entirely responsible.
Executive governments are voted in occasionally and changed at the elections or through a VONC and they cannot be held entirely responsible for everything that goes wrong in a country.
What about the role citizens and private sector?
Do they contribute to bad governance and disrespect for the rule of law as well and by how much and how often?
I leave these questions for us to digest.
The lesson is this: you cannot change the outcome of a football match by changing the goal posts or the referee when the players are the same.
If we are serious about cleaning up politics, let us all way and go and do a massive campaign and vote out everybody we think are bad leaders in 2020.

Proactive Agent,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To deliver his campaigne promises
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 May 2019

Now that he’s got full control of the Senate and the House of Representatives plus the Supreme Court, President Duterte has no more excuse not to deliver on his many campaign promises.
The pressure is on his two sidekicks, who obviously got elected only on account of their patron’s endorsement and massive spending to generate maximum name recall from the less discriminating voters, to perform their new role as legislators.
While it’s almost nauseating to see unqualified and unsavory characters making it to the Top 12 while brilliant candidates who could have contributed much good to the Senate and to the country fell on the wayside, we have to move forward.
To all those who made it to the Top 12, we will be watching you!
As for the “Magnificent 8,” they did their best with the limited resources they had and should be able to build on what they’ve started for 2022.
The priority is to connect with the 30 percent of the registered voters who did not participate and get them to join the next electoral exercise.
They also have to keep on providing a voice for the majority of the Filipinos, especially the marginalized sector, and to act as the defender for those bullied by this administration for simply exercising their inherent right to dissent.
The Commission on Elections should investigate those who have violated the rules on ad spending.
If they do their job properly, the final composition of the Top 12 will surely change.
God bless the Philippines!

Ed Dames,
Makati City,

Call for Timore Leste
To be admitted to Asean
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 May 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 23 May 2019

Re: "Admit Timor Leste to bloc now or never", Bangkok Post, Opinion, May 21.
Kavi Chongkittavorn's call for the unblocking of the entry of Timor Leste to
Asean is both timely and brave.
In the face of certain member nations opposing the young Asian democracy to be admitted to its rightful place with the regional group, care must be taken to first accept Timor Leste as a very potential component of Asean.
The claim that its low human capital development is an impediment is yesterday's
Young Timorese scholars today are going through their degree studies in
countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Portugal and Australia
to name a few, where they are able to complete their degrees and return to
their homeland to build it up.
A recent graduate from Assumption University's Faculty of Architecture has returned after completing his degree, with a blueprint for the country's first national museum, and he is being further assisted by a Fulbright scholarship to go to the United States.
Herein lies the true hope of Asean's potentially new member; a human capacity
that can be trained to become exceptionally successful.
This is but one case in point.
There are others, and it is expedient on Asean to "dare to allow" Timor
Leste become a more integrated member.
Indeed, when Asean was set up in 1967 through the acclaimed Bangkok Treaty, the vision then was to "build on dreams".
Today's Asean needs to build on realities.

Glen Chatelier,

Call for development of Manila Bay
Into eco-friendly recreational area
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 22 May 2019

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay started on January 27 and involved 5,000 volunteers.
Is this a change that would benefit the world?
Is it already safe for swimming?
Not yet.
However, that’s a great start in turning this new year’s resolution into reality.
But, as later reports would reveal, it turns out that this rehabilitation has a hidden agenda, with plans of turning Manila Bay into a commercialized recreational center. The idea may be good for economic growth, but it will just add more harm to both the country and the environment.
The coliform in Manila Bay has reached 333 million mpn, more than the 100 mpn for it to be safe for swimming and consumption.
The bay’s main pollutants are the wastes from commercial and industrial facilities in the area.
If we add more establishments there, the worst may happen.
I oppose the reclamation of the bay because it will not benefit the country’s economy, only the prosperous few.
Does this project help street children live a healthy and comfortable lifestyle?
Will this project help build shelters for underprivileged Filipinos?
Will this project help solve poverty?
Certainly not.
Why not give priority to helping indigents rather than stuffing businessmen’s already deep pockets?
There are things that need more focus than just building more unnecessary establishments along an already deteriorating natural resource.
Instead of commercializing, why not practice the act of conserving?
Manila Bay has outstanding land and water features and just needs proper treatment.
Instead of new buildings, why not build playgrounds for children?
Why not promote activities that are good for the health in the area?
The government can organize fun runs or offer free bike rides - these activities do not harm the environment.
Instead of going commercial, why not develop Manila Bay into an eco-friendly recreational area?
We also have to look ahead.
Will this campaign of cleaning up the bay be sustained throughout the next few years?
Let’s hope the government picks the right path for one of the country’s most vital bodies of water.

John Alcance,

Quality of life in the Phillipines
Has not improved
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 May 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer Monday 20 May 2019

To a vast majority of registered voters in this country, the right of suffrage literally means the right to suffer!
In a pseudo-democracy like ours, that’s their “sovereign” privilege - to inflict misery on the rest of us.
Judging by the number of lowlifes, misfits, idiots and ignoramuses they have been installing in public office, masochism seems to be their thing.
So how dare they complain that the quality of their lives under such a rotten kakistocracy has not improved.

Angeli O. Marconi,

Australians prefer status quo in federal elections
Give mandate to conservative Liberal coalition
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 May 2019

We read in the Southeast Asian Times article ‘Australia’s conservative Liberal party miraculously wins over Labour centre-left’ ( May 20 ) that ‘ Australian Labour Party leader Bill Shorten 52, a former Australian Workers’ Union ( AWU) leader, campaigned on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding Medicare to include dental and cancer treatment, increasing school funding and tax reforms that would increase taxes for the ‘ top end of town’”.
But the Australian people apparently preferred the status quo and gave their mandate to the conservative Liberal coalition and their anti-climate change, anti-refugee, anti foreign aid, anti-welfare, and pro- top end of town policies.
It’s not a miracle that got the Liberals the win.
It’s their reactionary politics .
It appeals to the larger part of the Australian public.
It shows an inward looking people not particularly concerned with big picture issues and with being good international citizens.
That’s a shame.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Malaysia to honour UNHCR
In deportation of asylum seeker
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 May 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 18 May 2019

The Malaysian Bar is deeply concerned by the Malaysian government’s action in deporting Praphan Pipithnamporn, an asylum seeker registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, to Thailand on May 10, reportedly at the request of the Thai government.
According to media reports, Praphan is a member of the Organisation for Thai Federation.
She was arrested many times between September and December 2018 by the Thai authorities, and an arrest warrant was issued in January 2019 for her participation in anti-monarchy activity during the birthday memorial for the late King Rama IX on December 5.
She arrived in Malaysia in January 2019 and subsequently applied for asylum at the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur.
On April 2, the UNHCR registered her claim as an asylum seeker and designated her as a “person of concern”.
As such, she should be protected under the principle of international law known as non-refoulement.
It is disheartening and troubling that the Malaysian government violated international law, and abdicated its legal and moral obligation not to deport individuals back to situations where their very lives may be in serious jeopardy.
Although Thailand and Malaysia have signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, under Section 8 of our Extradition Act 1992 there are prohibitions against extradition in certain circumstances, including:
If the offence in respect of which (an individual’s) return is sought is of a political character or he proves to the Minister that the warrant for his return has in fact been made with a view to try or punish him for an offence of a political character.
If the request for his surrender although purporting to be made for an extradition offence was in fact made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.
Or if he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished or imprisoned by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.
The Malaysian government should not dismiss due consideration of these provisions.
The Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian government, as a responsible member of the international community, to honour, respect and uphold the rules and customs of international law – including the principle of non-refoulement – as well as the provisions of Malaysian law.

Abdul Fareed,
Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar
Kuala Lumpur,


Malaysia PM Mahathir rejection of nuclear plant
Is in the right direction
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 May 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 29 April 2019

Not many young people know much about the catastrophic nuclear disaster that occurred on April 25–26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat in northern Ukraine.
The Chernobyl incident involved a core meltdown a malfunction in a nuclear reactor in which the fuel overheats and melts the reactor core or shielding that released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere, affecting Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation, and parts of Scandinavia and Europe.
While deaths directly attributable to radiation exposure were confined to one site workers died immediately, another within a month and 29 others three months following the incident, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were nearly 4,000 more fatalities in the next two to three decades, and thousands more contracting thyroid and other types of cancer as a result of contamination by the radioactive material spewed into the air, water and soil.
Even more traumatic was the evacuation of several hundred thousand residents in and around the site of the explosion and their resettlement in mostly unwelcoming localities and unsatisfactory conditions.
What exactly triggered the Chernobyl explosion was not immediately known as the then Soviet Union was isolated from the rest of the world and its nuclear programme was shrouded in secrecy.
It was only years later, when the Soviet Union sought international assistance to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, that the United Nations established that a combination of factors - deliberate experiment; outdated, badly-designed reactors; poorly-trained workers; no proper safety regime and human error - led to the disaster.
The findings of the investigation led to other nuclear power facilities and ones being developed around the world being fitted with sufficient safeguards for reactor safety, or so they thought until the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown happened after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011.
In that context, our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s continued and steadfast rejection to building a nuclear power plant in Malaysia is absolutely in the right direction.
It must be recognised that national authorities, including the United States (as seen in the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power incident), are unable to effectively plan for every contingency in the nuclear industry to assure the safety of the public.
Hubris, complacency and high-level radiation are a deadly mix.
Nuclear power plants can catastrophically fail, causing vast human and environmental damage.
Radiation releases from nuclear disasters cannot be contained in time and will adversely affect countless future generations.
For decades, it has been clear that various forms of renewable energy are needed to replace both nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources.
But the choice is not between nuclear and fossil fuels.
The solution is to move as rapidly as possible to a global energy plan based on various forms of renewable energy sources such as solar cells, wind power, geothermal power and energy from tides and the oceans.

Rueben Dudly,
Petaling Jaya,

Philippines call for the urgent passing
Of the anti-terror bill in the senate
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 May 2019

My attention was caught by an article about the passage of the anti-terror bill in the senate.
I am a bit petrified that the 17th congress will end its regular session soon, but with this priority and much needed bill still hanging.
As I understand it, the anti-terror bill will boost the Human Security Act because it seems to favor the terrorists.
It’s too loose.
Under the proposed anti-terrorism act or senate bill 1956, the term “terrorist acts instead of “terrorism” is used to remove the requirement of the act being perpetrated for the purpose of coercing the government to give in to a specific demand.
According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the author of the bill, it means that it will in effect punish the act of committing crimes that sow widespread extraordinary fear and panic, and not the purpose behind the commission of such acts.
I believe this bill must be passed immediately, because it would penalize foreign terrorists, including those who travel to a state of residence to commit or organize terrorist acts; and those residing abroad who come to the Philippines in transit to commit or take part in terrorist acts to target countries.
What is taking so long for this bill to be passed?
I am sure that our country badly needs this.
What are factors that hinders the passing of this bill?
Why senators did not make it urgent when they knew that terrorist acts happen one after the other in and out of the Philippines.

Shermaine Anacleto,

End of decades long political dynasty
In Pasig
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 15 May 2019

The emerging results in the local elections in San Juan, Manila and Pasig have given me back faith in the voters.
Finally, we see the end of decadeslong political dynasties, especially here in Pasig where the Eusebio family had ruled uninterrupted since 1992 and had put their insignia “E” everywhere.
A change through Vico Sotto is just appropriate.
Bigotry makes me vomit.
The transport policy was deficient in Pasig with the ineffective code system.
From our residential area in Greenwoods, you cannot drive your car for a few days if you have the wrong number.
Too bad if you can afford only one car and not several.
It’s good to see that people are starting to rethink at the local level.
This is a beginning, and a source of hope for 2022.

Dr Jurgen Schofer, Ph.D,
Pasig City,

Results of Philippine mid-term elections
Upsetting and even heartbreaking
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 May 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Wednesday 15 May 2019

With the election results now coming in accompanied by reports of various irregularities, a mere 1 percent of the results, according to Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez, one cannot set aside speculation about whether there has been any foreign meddling or perhaps systematic cheating in the polls.
In spite of all that, to all those who campaigned for the rightful candidates in a sea of fascist enablers, we fought with principles and I am proud that I was part of it.
Some of the dignified candidates may have conceded by now, but the fight is still on, perhaps soon - or sooner - on the streets, in protest at the coming various rubber-stamped policies that will be made by the yes-men in the new Senate.
The results today may be upsetting, even heartbreaking, but they should never discourage us from resisting any looming dictatorship.
Let’s see to it that the youth will not dance to the drastic tune of Charter change. Instead, we young people should create our own tune that reflects the democratic hymn of our nation.
As Inquirer columnist Gideon Lasco tweeted, “… to surrender the country to evil is the last thing we need.”
Indeed, this is the time to be engaged more than ever, way beyond these elections.

Luis Antonio A. Bonifacio,

Police in Malaysia call for
Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 May 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 9 May 2019

Much debate has been going on over the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), with some, including serving and retired police personnel, voicing their opposition to it.
I have questioned before why theIndependent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) should be solely for the police force.
The arrest last month of about 30 officers of the Penang Road Transport Department by the MACC in connection with alleged involvement in “protecting” lorry drivers is a clear indication of the misconduct and misdeeds of our other law enforcement agents.
This could be just the tip of the iceberg of the problem of rogue enforcement personnel as there are many more agencies out there.
We cannot deny that there are some black sheep in the police force who tarnish the good name of the organisation.
Hence, the police must prove it is a force to be reckoned with, improve services to the public and gain the respect they have lost.
I am confident that the new Inspector-General of Police, Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador, will do his best to bring the force to greater heights without fear or favour.

Datuk Wee Beng Gee,
Petaling Jaya,

Philippines call for regulation
Of pre-election surveys
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Tuesday 14 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 8 May 2019

There have been so many glaring errors made by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as far as simple citizens’ perceptions are concerned, that it should be called the “Comelec of Errors” borrowed from Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors”.
The matter of designated common areas for posting political campaign materials, for instance.
Posters of national candidates senators and local candidates governors, board members, mayors and counselors jostle for space in crowded common areas.
This could result in confusion among the voters.
What is even funnier, sometimes the tarpaulin of well-known food chains can also be found beside campaign posters.
Voters might think Jollibee is a candidate.
May we suggest segregated campaign areas for national and local candidates in the next elections?
And please, so many candidates have violated the required sizes and period of posting tarpaulin materials.
One candidate endorsed by a high official has super-sized tarpaulins disguised as “greetings,” and are seen all over the Philippines.
Funny, this candidate was not included in the list of those who have violated the Comelec provision on campaign ads.
His ubiquitous stickers in comfort rooms and under mango trees are also highly visible.
In addition, there have been discrepancies between surveys conducted in campuses and universities, and those by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.
Should a law be passed to regulate the conduct of pre-election surveys to prevent the manipulation of voters’ minds, or the bandwagon effect?

Isidro C. Valencia,

Chaing Rai in Thailand chokes
As forests burn
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 May 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 9 May 2019

For more than two months Chiang Rai residents have been subjected to the most
polluted and toxic air of anywhere in the world.
On May 3, the Air Quality Index in Chiang Rai was 318 and the PM2.5 level was
208; in previous weeks it has been worse.
Arsonists are operating with impunity and burning huge swathes of local forests.
The local government has lost control of the situation and there is a feeling of
lawlessness here.
We are all choking, please help us.

Mehmet Hassan,


Call for Filipinos to reject candidates whose loyalty
To the president supersedes loyalty to country and people
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 May 2019

“Kill the bishops, kill your priest.“Kill journalism.”Kill the drug lords.“Shoot women rebels in their vagina!”
A mafioso on a killing spree?
No, that’s President Duterte, chosen by 16 million voters, ranting against his perceived enemies.
For three agonizing years, we have suffered from his assaults on women, the Church, clergy and media.
But the May 13 elections are an opportunity for decent Filipinos to close ranks and tell it to his face that we’ve had it, we’re done with him, enough is enough, by rejecting Duterte’s mini-me senatorial candidates whose loyalty to the President supersedes their loyalty to country and people.
Instead, let us draw our standard in choosing candidates from the admirable traits of political leaders who had done this country good, like the nationalist fervor of Lorenzo Tañada, the statesmanship of Jovito Salonga, the courage as defender of civil rights of Jose Diokno, the fearless spirit of Benigno Aquino Jr. and now of Antonio Trillanes IV and Leila de Lima, to name a few.
Is this asking too much of our voters?
Here is my unsolicited advice to fellow voters before we fill our ballots: Let’s close our eyes and say with conviction: “Ang aking boto ay para sa Diyos, sa aking pamilya at sa sambayanang Pilipino.”

Evelyn Silay,

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers file Writ of Amparo
Against the Armed Forces of the Philippines

The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 May 2019

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFF) conducted a press conference in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City to present to the media what the Writ of Amparo filed by National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) on Monday and what the other Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) front groups are about to file.
Incidentally none of the broadsheet newspapers who proclaim ‘Balanced News’ or for “Truth to prevail’ carried the statements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFF) Spokesman.
On the contrary they have published fake news which essentially aided the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL in their propaganda.
These papers are carrying the line of National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) that the Supreme Court acted on their petition, when clearly none of the respondents has received the Writ from the Supreme Court.
In short the media are allowing their government to be punched and bullied without giving them an opportunity to air its side, or more appropriately, to express the truth.
This is the sad state of our press who just recently celebrated World Press Day. We have abused our freedom after the fall of Marcoses.
For 32 years we have tolerated our society in violating our laws, regulations and ordinances on the pretext that they are poor and marginalized.
That’s what happened to Boracay.
That’s what happened to government easements along highways, rivers, coastlines and railroads.
We allowed squatting because they are poor but at the expense of other’s rights. We allowed drug to proliferate because the poor are just making a living.
We allowed excessive activism to the point that we no longer know what is legal and what is not.
So was democracy back, or was it anarchy that we promoted?
This is the condition that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been exploiting for 32 year.
This has allowed them to prosecute their National Democratic Revolution through their revolutionary dual tactics, or simply duplicity.

Ann R. Aquino
Junior’s Journalist Club,

Call for Filipino women
To make their vote count in coming elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 8 May 2019

On April 30, 82 years ago, Filipino women won our right to vote.
It was a hard-won battle for women’s equality that our suffragist foremothers fought.
Yet the struggle to enlarge the space for women in politics continues.
The politics of patronage and corruption endures.
Let us make our stand clear through our vote in the coming elections.
Let it be known that Filipino women do not support an administration that sends women officials to jail on false charges and removes from office those critical of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations; that promotes fake news against independent women leaders and files trumped-up charges against independent women journalists, even accusing them of plotting the President’s ouster; that sets a bad example of how to harass female subordinates and overseas Filipino workers, and tells jokes about rape and other forms of violence against women, even telling soldiers that they can rape women or shoot them in the vagina.
Let our votes show our strong disapproval of this administration’s wrong approach to fighting the problem of illegal drugs.
Nearly 300 women have been killed in the antidrug operations.
Hundreds of thousands of mothers, wives and children have been bereaved by the deaths of 30,000 on the basis of unverified narcolists.
The defeat of senatorial, congressional and other candidates of the administration will be the resounding expression of our disapproval at the liberation of plunderers, the recycling of corrupt officials and the restoration of the Marcos legacy.
Let it register our opposition to the surrender of our patrimony to our aggressive neighbor China, to the illegal entry of its workers and to onerous loans wrapped in secrecy.
This is not the path we want our country to take.
Knowing that reversal will be so difficult, we must stop this administration in its corrupt and treasonous tracks.
Take back our dignity and rights.
Vote for worthy candidates who care for our country and our future.

Teresita Quintos Deles,



Senators eligibility for nomination in Thailand
Based on declaration of personal assets
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 May 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 7 May 2019

The May 5 editorial, "Senate selection secrecy bodes ill", informs of reports
that nominated persons should, "prepare documents showing their biographical
details and listing the assets they possess to prove their eligibility".

The writer's use of the phrase, "to prove their eligibility", is curious.
Does it mean those nominated are required to declare their personal assets
before assuming public office, a normal undertaking for those entering public
Or more sinisterly, is there actually a criteria for assets possessed which has to be met in order to be eligible to hold public office?
If so, wouldn't such a criteria be discriminatory, like requiring a holder of
public office to have a university degree?
Declaring assets is one thing.
Listing assets "to prove their eligibility" to hold public office is another
matter entirely.



Call for Malaysia to provide
Technical skills for former prisoners
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 May 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 30 Aptil 2019

I refer to the call by Human Resources Minister S.Kulasegeran for ex-convicts to be employed.
It is a known fact that the recidivism risk among ex-prisoners is high.
Society and community leaders might consider the call by the minister to give ex-offenders an opportunity to rebuild their lives by providing them with the relevant technical skills for jobs such as a car mechanic, carpenter, plumber or electric wiremen.
This would rebuild trust and confidence and also free them from unfounded stereotypes.
Several studies have revealed there is public hostility towards ex-offenders and they are denied employment and other Constitutional privileges through a type of mistreatement called “invisible punishment”.
Without employment, ex-offenders would find it difficult to reintegrate into society and this encourages the tendency to reoffend.
Society and employers must give ex-offenders an opportunity to rebuild their lives by providing them with the necessary skills for employment.

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu and Luvenraj,

Lawyers in Philippines keep coming back to court
With intent to delay
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 2 May 2019

In reference to the column of former chief justice Artemio Panganiban, “Hackles on judicial delays” April 28, 2019, allow me to react as a former clerk in a division of the Court of Appeals which used to suffer from an overload of pending cases.
We were able to reduce the backlog in our division by more than half in a matter of two years.
By simple case management! We classified cases into easy and difficult or complicated ones.
Believe it or not, about 80 percent of those cases involved issues that have already been settled by jurisprudence.
Why lawyers keep coming back to court with such issues could only mean intent to delay.
All it took to resolve those cases were one- or two-page resolutions that took no more than a week or two to produce.
Why that is so hard to do in the Supreme Court beats the heck out of us, even as CJ Panganiban himself has revealed that a “vast majority of the high court’s decisions simply reiterate old doctrines” “Confronting SC’s mounting backlog,” April 7, 2019 and therefore are really no-brainers.
Is it lack of wisdom or just plain laziness?

Roman M Montenegro,

If war must be waged in the Philippines
It must be a war on poverty and enequality
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 May 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 29 April 2019

On May 13, we have the opportunity to make a difference in our country’s future by electing our nation’s leaders.
By reflecting and talking with our friends and neighbors, we can help influence the way our people will vote.
Our country needs men and women of integrity and independence, competence and courage, honesty and honor in our Senate, so that they can take a stand on at least seven of the critical issues that already confront us:
Challenge Charter change.
Congress converted into a constituent assembly can change the 1987 Constitution into a charter that will enable the consolidation of political dynasties through a federal system that will weaken the checks and balances in government. Independent-minded leaders and our people can make a difference in the fate of the basic law of the land.
Question the war on drugs.
This so-called war has already cost thousands of lives, principally of the poor in our midst.
We need to stop plans to further escalate this spiraling war without end, and rethink better ways of dealing with drugs as suggested by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
If war must be waged, then it must be the “war on poverty and inequality,” so that we can help eliminate the causes of unrest and despair in our midst.
We need brave leaders who will not succumb to the “herd mentality” and follow government’s policies just because they are part of the “supermajority.”
Defend press freedom.
The government’s harassment of independent media people and investigative reporters in entities such as Rappler, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and others has sent a “chilling effect” on the country’s press.
We need leaders who will stand up for the rights of people and an independent free press.
Prevent threats against opinion makers who differ against the government. Government has attempted to silence voices raised against its policies.
Thus, the deportation of Sister Patricia Fox; its insults against Bishop Pablo David and leaders who have dared to take public positions; the jailing of Sen. Leila de Lima; and the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
We need servant-leaders who can stand up and say “Stop!”
Check efforts to unseat the Vice President.
Because of the Marcos-Duterte alliance, efforts to put Bongbong Marcos in the office of the vice president through the Presidential Electoral Tribunal could be intensified.
The people have spoken, and leaders must not allow a betrayal of the people’s will.
Uphold our rights to the West Philippine Sea.
Stop the encroachment by China into our waters and the entry of illegal Chinese workers in our industries. Relying on the international ruling in the country’s favor, we must reconsider and resist - if we must - China’s offer of loans and projects that in the end will cost the country its waters and resources.
Stop the moral meltdown in society.
We need national leaders who will take a stand against a President who curses God, the Church, religious leaders, the UN, and countries and individuals he differs with.
Contrary to the President’s public pronouncements that “God is stupid,” ours is a “wise and loving God” who watches over us, our country and our people.
Speak truth to power!

Ed Garcia,
1987 Philippine Constitution


Malaysians support accession
To Rome Statute
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 May 2019
First Published in the Star, Tuesday 30 April, 2019

Malaysians have always been known for our civility and respect.
As other supposedly mature democracies like the United States, France and Britain degenerate respectively into angry partisans violently speaking past each other, gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrations, and Brexit polarisation, we should take care that we do not ourselves become a similar manifestation of an uncivil society.
Plus ça change, as the French would say; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The “political temperature” of Malaysia is always rising, no matter when it’s taken.
After a year of the Pakatan Harapan government, too many insignificant issues have been unnecessarily politicised.
Instead of being an effective opposition focused on the true and large challenges facing Malaysia, they have found an easy (and therefore tempting) way to score cheap points and play to the populist gallery.
This is unfortunate; the component parties of the former Barisan Nasional can do so much better, and should.
I was there at the Rome Statute Public Forum in Universiti Malaya on 27th April.
I am proud that such a forum could take place in Malaysia Baharu, a forum unthinkable just a few months ago.
Although it was largely an echo chamber due to the absence of opposing viewpoints, this is still a step forward for our civil society.
Let me build on that forward progress by first stating that I am supportive of Malaysia’s accession to the Rome Statute for the reasons elaborated by many others.
I will add one more reason for accession: We must recognise that Malaysia has soft power in South-East Asia, in Muslim-majority countries in the Islamic world, and in post-colonial emerging economies due to our non-aligned political stance.
I have seen this soft power first-hand in my eight years abroad for work and travel to over 60 countries.
We must protect and, indeed, enhance our stature in the world as Towering Malaysia, and be on the right side of history by acceding to the Rome Statute.
In other words, the Statute gives us stature.
Further, I agree to the following: That our accession has been wrongly and unnecessarily politicised; that the Pakatan government can do a better job communicating their decision to the public (including Barisan Nasional (BN) original decision in 1998); that the opposition has dominated the narrative and has misrepresented the truth; that the government must not pander to the whims of a minority (the tail cannot wag the dog and democracy cannot be a dictatorship of the few over the many); that governments cannot lead by consulting opinion polls; and that our government must lead Malaysia to what’s right, not what’s popular with a minority.
I agree to the benefits of accession, and I agree to the disadvantages of not acceding. I agree to all of that.

Dr Khor Swee Kheng,
Kuala Lumpur,

The claim that glyphosate is not harmful to humans
Is a bit far-fetched
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 May 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 1 May 2019

I refer to the article “Do herbicides cause cancer?” in StarHealth, Sunday Star, April 21.
The writer gives me the impression that he or she has some connection with or is working for a herbicide company.
It looks like he or she is trying his/her best to pacify the general public readers on the risks of using this herbicide which contains glyphosate.
The writer points out the “overwhelming scientific evidence” that it is not dangerous to humans and crops that have been genetically engineered (GMO) to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in this herbicide.
I am not sure how exhaustive the tests and trials conducted are, hence concluding that glyphosate is not dangerous or harmful to humans is a bit far-fetched, I think.
The writer may quote the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the European Food Safety Authority and other agencies to support his/her claims that glyphosate is not harmful to humans, but as far as I know and have come to believe, all humans are fallible and prone to errors.
No matter how good and sincere the intentions are, the unforeseen is always there! It is just a matter of time before a mistake or error rears its ugly head and by then, it might be too late for remedial action to be taken or the consequences might be irreversible.
The writer’s argument that “glyphosate may be carcinogenic, but its risk is no greater than eating red meat” (quoting the International Agency For Research on Cancer) seems flawed.
Has this agency really done a test or trial run to make such a claim?
Perhaps glyphosate is effective in killing weeds, but what about the residue that seeps into the soil?
With the continuous application of the herbicide on farmlands, would glyphosate kill off the land too, say 10 or 20 years on?
And what about the herbicide’s residual run-off into our river system, where we get our drinking water supply?
Perhaps the writer should remember that we are humans - naturally-born humans, to be specific - and are not genetically engineered or cloned to be resistant to glyphosate and other toxic chemicals and the GM food (genetically modified) that we innocently pop into our mouth.
I sincerely hope I am not writing to rebut a “genetically-engineered” writer or an artificial intelligence robot that has been programmed to obey its master and only says what the master has programmed it to say.

Fun Chee Chong,

PM of PNG has no mandate to represent the Pacific
In China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) decisions
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 May 2019
First published in the National, Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is bedazzled by his sense of importance and obviously ignorant of grave concerns from various governments, economic institutions around the globe regarding the economic, political and strategy behind the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) ensuring debt dependence, political and economic control resulting from China’s influence upon poorer nations - Papua New Guinea (PNG) is included within this arena too.
As for the presumption he is boasting about that he “represents Pacific Oceania Nations”, as if that was an all-inclusive position, nothing could be more misleading.
He may be ‘so called representing’ one or two very small countries but certainly not all within the Melanesian Triangle, nor any outside of this area of the Pacific.
Note to this so called “representation” is just that as he has no mandate to make decisions, sign MaA’s on their behalf.
It is time that individuals of influence utilise media to indicate the truth of this matter as well as other claim O’Neill makes too.

Terry Cowland,
O.L PhD,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Call for regulation of raft business
On Thai rivers
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 May 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 29 April 2019

Re: "Capitalising on raft culture", Bangkok Post, April 28
The piece omits an important matter when discussing provincial efforts to
regulate raft businesses.
Located as they are on the river, it calls into question the environmental impact of these restaurants and forms of accommodation.
Thais tend to presume waterways are free sewage systems, and the fact there is
no mention of the environmental impact or any assessment of these floating waste
generators suggest it is business as usual.
Fire and structural codes should also be formulated and enforced with a view toward improving safety.

Michael Setter,

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Phukett
Is in international waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 May 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 29 April 2019

While Dusit Thammaraks in his April 25 letter, "Sea of stupidity", may be right
in concluding the attempts of Chad Elwartowski and his wife to establish a
"seastead" off Phuket were ill-advised, Khun Dusit's interpretation of the
rights associated with a country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is incorrect.
A country's sovereign territory extends only for 12 nautical miles (nm) out from
its shoreline.
Waters of an EEZ - which extend from 12nm offshore to 200nm - are "international waters" under the terms of the United Nations Convention on
the Law of the Sea, which Thailand signed in 2011.
The EEZ confers no sovereignty over the waters - only the rights to use the resources in and under the sea within the EEZ.
In areas of overlapping EEZs (ie neighbouring countries), it is up to the states
to delineate the actual maritime boundary.
Generally, any point within an overlapping area defaults to the nearest state.
Here's where the rub occurs - should a seasteader succeed in gaining recognition of a new independent state established within international waters, it could hypothetically claim its own 12nm territorial waters and 200nm EEZ.
In the case of the seastead off Phuket, such claims would overlap with Thailand's territorial waters and EEZ.
Mr Elwartowski is entitled to establish his seastead under international law, so
long as it is outside Thai territorial waters - meaning more than 12nm from the
Thai shoreline - which he claims to be the case.

Samanea Saman,