billion missing from PhilHealth
Southeast Asian Times, Friday14 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 13 August
In the report, Palace: Govt wont
allow PhilHealth to go bankrupt in Philippine Inquirer,
August 7, 2020, presidential spinmeister Harry Roque tried to make
the nation believe that as the principal author of the
Universal Healthcare in the Lower House, that will not happen
PhilHealth is guaranteed by the governmentas if
bragging about his big role in crafting that law gave his statement
any credence worth taking to the bank.
Roque is practically saying, No worries, we got this!
The guy never ceases to talk tongue-in-cheek or just downright tommyrot.
Mr. Dutertes point man in PhilHealth, retired Brig. Gen. Ricardo
Morales, admitted he could not find where the P154 billion had gone
PhilHealths P154 billion loss still not found, remains
unsubstantiatedMorales, June 19, 2020.
The perfect crime seems to be nothing else but
an inside job, with many in PhilHealth being
in on the scam and its cover-up.
Those billions are now irretrievably gone for all intents and purposes.
Despite being also inutil at his job, Morales
continues to enjoy Mr. Dutertes trust and confidence in his
Tens of thousands have already been infected with COVID-19 in this
country and desperately needing medical attention and care.
So, how is the Duterte administration to make good on that PhilHealth
With all the expenses to deal with the China-spawned pandemic almost
bankrupting it already, where is the government going to get the
funds to tide PhilHealth over?
More loans in the tens of billions on top of the trillions it already
What more collateral can Mr. Duterte offer China?
Another quitclaim over the rest of the territories within the so-called
nine-dash line in the West Philippine Sea which
the Permanent Court of Arbitration has rejected as nothing but a
Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Call for Nobel Prize
Joshua Wong in Hong Kong
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 9 August 2020
Re: Yingwai Suchaovanich's August 8 letter, "Wong
is no hero", advocating that Hong Kong's Joshua Wong should
be locked up for causing chaos toward China, I'd like to remind
Yingwai that Joshua Wong is doing exactly the same thing that students
and young people in Thailand are trying to achieve. Freedom of speech,
freedom of movement, no fear of political dissention, and a rewrite
of the constitution.
China broke its 50-year agreement with Hong Kong and the rest of
the world, demonstrating that the Chinese are still barbaric communists
without a regard to their promises or their word.
Joshua Wong and his fellow protesters should be applauded and given
the Nobel Prize for fighting for democracy in Hong Kong, as China
is like the black plague, spreading plague subtly over the entire
investors in the stock market
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 August 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 7 August 2020
Why is the stock market behaving like a casino?
I suppose the better question would be why are the regulators allowing
the market to be like a casino?
Are they salivating at the prospect of super revenue and profit
from the huge daily volume or are they just at a loss for what to
What about investor protection, market governance, blatant manipulation,
frivolous announcement just to move share price, etc?
Arent regulators supposed to focus on these important areas?
Being an ex-regulator with more than 20 years in the field, I have
dealt with all sorts of market scenarios.
Looking at the current one, I feel it will likely end in tears for
most of the inexperienced investors.
Regulators must act fast and decisively to nip these unhealthy activities
in the bud by using stronger market management tools before more
innocent investors get drawn into the frenzy.
Otherwise, they will be blamed again for not doing anything.
Anyone looking at the volume traded these days will know it is mainly
due to two reasons excessive gambling speculation and or
And this is not a good reflection.
It reminds me of the property buying frenzy a few years ago when
buyers were snapping up units by the floor or block, thinking that
the good times would last forever.
Most are now stuck with empty and negative equity units.
The same scenario is now happening in the stock market.
Admittedly, there are companies that will benefit massively from
the current pandemic, and their share prices have gone up accordingly.
Theres no need to issue the unusual market action query for
However, for the majority of the counters, there is no reason for
their share price to rise, let alone have hundreds of millions of
shares traded every day.
Investors need to be very aware that most of the volumes traded
are not due to genuine investing but are in fact fake volumes churned
up by certain parties hoping to make a quick buck.
These parties are known by various names such as proprietary traders,
day traders, programme traders, high frequency traders, syndicates,
Their main job every day is to create volume in the market, hoping
to lure unsuspecting investors and profit from them.
With the real economy in bad shape, many new and inexperienced investors
are attracted to the stock market rage, hoping to make some money.
Little do they realise that they are swimming among sharks
and they are counting on the regulators to watch their back.
Regulators, please do something, say something, before it all collapses
like a house of cards in this case, scrips.
Strictly Fair and Orderly,
Covid-19 pandemic has
Counterfeit medicines in the Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 8 July
The Covid-19 crisis has fueled the surge of not only
fake face masks and other medical products related to the pandemic,
but also counterfeit medicines, especially those over-the-counter
(OTC) or sold without prescription.
As Covid-19 cases continue to increase globally, so are the counterfeiters
who are exploiting the growing gaps in the market.
Recently, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released
an advisory against the purchase and use of counterfeit drugs.
A counterfeit drug is a fake drug.
Counterfeit drugs are those with the wrong or contaminated ingredients,
with the correct ingredients but wrong amounts, or without the active
They can also be mislabeled and can apply to both generic and branded
products. In addition, they are not registered with the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) and did not go through validation and
standard tests to confirm their quality, safety, and efficacy.
Selling or offering for sale of such is a violation of Republic
Act No. 8203 and the FDA Act of 2009. It is also against intellectual
Among the recently reported counterfeit drugs is paracetamol.
In the country, it is famously seen in huge advertisements and is
commonly used for pain or fever.
Although some health authorities argue on the use of paracetamol
in this pandemic, many experts around the world recommend the use
of fever-lowering over-the-counter medicines to cope with Covid-19
There are many ways to identify an authentic drug from fake.
The physical signs serve as the quickest markers.
These include the color, size, weight, and design of both the drug
and its packaging. It is also essential to examine the appearance
of the foil and other parts of the packaging such as logo, lot/batch
number, expiration date, and security features such as a hologram.
It is preferable that the product in question be compared side by
side with the authentic medicine rather than relying on memory.
Also, check for any misspelling or questionable directions, especially
in the leaflet, and if the manufacturers address is traceable.
Additionally, counterfeit drugs have a strange smell or taste, and
they crack easily. When the counterfeit drug is already taken, a
feeling that something is wrong may occur, such as an unexpected
It is advisable to buy medications from establishments with a license
to operate from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Think twice if the price is lower than usual, especially those found
online or in the black market.
Being able to identify authentic drugs from fake ones is the first
step in the war against fake drugs, and to avoid a parallel pandemic
of counterfeit drugs.
Teresa May Bandiola,
for Doctors with minimum qualifications
sit for qualifying test
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 August 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 5 August 2020
As a senior educator, I would like to raise my concerns
about the quality of some young doctors in Malaysia.
Every year, I have to certify the documents of young doctors who
are applying for housemanship in local hospitals.
I am shocked to see their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian
Certificate of Education examination results.
Many obtained just C and D for their Science subjects, namely Biology,
Chemistry and Physics, and B for subjects like English and Mathematics.
These doctors are graduates from a local private medical college.
There were two who were already 29 years old and were just applying
Further questioning revealed that they had practically failed every
semester and had to repeat, and only graduated because their university
had the policy of showing 90 percent passes.
One obtained C for Chemistry and D for Biology and the other had
C for Biology and Physics.
However, they managed to obtain the No Objection Certificate
(NOC) to study medicine as their university had a twinning
programme in a foreign country. No Objection Certificate NOC was
part of the control mechanisms on the quality of Malaysian students
who aspired to further their studies at the degree level abroad.
It was abolished in July 2020.
I remember reading the statement by the president of the Malaysian
Medical Association (MMA) that doctors who failed to obtain the
minimum O-Level requirements to enrol into medical school have slipped
into the Malaysian healthcare system.
This is so true and very alarming indeed. How did this happen?
Why did private universities admit students who did not qualify?
Why did the government issue the NOC to them?
Why didnt the Health Ministry look at the Sijil Pelajaran
Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education qualification
before recommending these doctors for housemanship?
There have been mistakes at all levels.
Imagine the number of lives lost because of these incompetent doctors.
Who is going to take responsibility for this?
I have read letters in the newspaper from young doctors lamenting
their long wait for housemanship.
It is unfair for the good ones, especially the Jabatan Perkhidmatan
Awam (JPA) or Public Service Department scholars and students from
public universities, who have to wait for their posting along with
these unqualified doctors.
I think it is about time the Health Ministry does something about
this problem. Doctors who do not have the minimum qualification
from their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate
of Education examination must sit for a qualifying test before being
considered for housemanship.
It looks like teaching is considered the top profession now, as
only students with 7As would be accepted for training.
I must applaud the Education Ministry for taking proactive measures
to upgrade the quality of new teachers.
However, I must say that the not-so-clever students will enrol in
private medical colleges and become doctors as long as they have
the money to pay for their studies.
I do hope the Health Ministry will look into this issue seriously.
I believe a few foreign universities, which had twinning programmes
with our local private medical collages, had to cancel their programmes
due to the substandard quality of students from Malaysia.
This is indeed a shame for our country and the medical profession.
against Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act
Filed in Supreme Court
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 August
President Duterte wanted a law that would strike fear
among those who say bad things about his misrule.
An obsequious Congress obliged and hastily passed the Anti-Terrorism
Act (ATA) that allows his minions to keep anyone in detention for
weeks on real or imagined charges of committing acts of terror supposedly
meant to destabilize his administration.
Challenges against the constitutionality of that much-maligned law
have been filed in the Supreme Court, which Duterte-handpicked justices
now lord over.
Pundits think those petitions have a snowballs chance in hell
of seeing the light of day.
Would another petition filed by retired Supreme Court justices themselves
- Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, both also known to
be in the crosshairs of the current regime fare any better?
Both Carpio and Morales are no intellectual lightweights.
The big difference their petition can probably make is to jolt the
incumbent Supreme Court justices into sitting up and doing their
darndest to find the best and most plausible arguments to destroy
No matter how palpably biased they may be, those sitting justices
cannot afford to resort to meandering perorations as they often
would with respect to pesky petitions filed by ordinary mortals
who just suffer the insult in silence.
Their own intellectual credibility and right to be in the highest
court of the land are being challenged, too.
As we keep our fingers crossed, we hope there would be no more of
the balderdash about humanitarian reasons as
in the Enrile case, or the fabricated necessity of pinpointing the
principal plunderer as in the Arroyo case, or
the nauseating gobbledygook about a heros burial
for the most villainous president this country has ever had
the greatest misfortune of enduring for decades.
Call for increased government
For Thai's who have lost their jobs
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 August 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 3 August 2020
Recent polls have found the approval ratings for the
Prayut Chan-o-cha government are disappointingly low.
What's more, there have been a string of protests, especially by
students, against the regime.
Considering how well the country has fared against the Covid 19
pandemic, and that WHO has chosen the kingdom as a model in its
documentary about how to deal with the spread of the coronavirus,
it is surprising why so many are against the government?
What it all boils down to, I think, is how important it is for a
country to have a healthy economy with many people working.
And it is clear to all that Thailand does not have a healthy economy,
nor are there enough people employed.
The situation is only going to get worse, as it is predicted the
unemployment rate will jump to over 20 percent for the rest of the
year, the worst in all of Asia, according to the pundits.
Yet the government has not provided enough support to those who
have lost their jobs due to the strict lockdown measures imposed
by the regime.
It is all well and good to pound one's chest and show off about
how well Thailand has dealt with the pandemic; but it is quite another
when one has to subsidise the people who have had to suffer because
of the government's lockdown measures.
Providing 5,000 baht to a sprinkling of workers has proven to be
Something more needs to be done, it is clear.
Malaysia and Singapore
ensure Malaccca Straits
Secure for shipping
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 August 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 4 August 2020
August 9 would mark 55 years since Singapore separated
Since then, ties between both countries have remained cordial, as
they depend on each other for people, goods and services and capital.
Singapore and Malaysia enjoyed close ties during the premierships
of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Goh Chok Tong as well as under
the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Lee Hsien Loong.
Abdullah and Najib both adopted a moderate and pragmatic foreign
policy stance towards Singapore, which significantly improved bilateral
As things stand, Malaysia and Singapore would enjoy warm ties under
the leadership of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his
Singaporean counterpart, Lee.
It would be important for the current and future leaders of both
nations to continually engage in constructive and peaceful dialogues.
Collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore in economic, social
and security areas would benefit both countries.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 450,000 people crossed the Malaysia-Singapore
border daily, making it one of the worlds busiest land borders.
About 40,000 Malaysian workers also travelled to Singapore every
Historically, there have always been large people-to-people connections
and business linkages between the two nations.
On the economic front, Malaysia and Singapore are each others
second biggest trading partner.
Both nations import and export a large number of goods and services
from one another, which helps to support business operations and
improve living standards.
Singapore also invested and collaborated on Malaysias $105bil
Iskandar Development Region project.
On the security front, the military of both nations often interact
and collaborate via visits, exchanges and exercises.
Both countries work together to face security concerns in maritime
South-East Asia. Both are part of the Five Power Defence Arrangement,
which also consists of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Malaysia and Singapore both conduct frequent and robust patrols,
ensuring that the Straits of Malacca is secure enough for ships
to pass through without facing piracy concerns.
This helps to preserve the Straits of Malaccas status as the
most important and strategic trading hub in the world.
Finally, it is heart-warming to note that both countries have resumed
discussions on the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System and
Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail projects.
By building infrastructure to facilitate the movement of people,
both countries can better communicate and cooperate with one another,
and benefit each other culturally and economically.
for corruption distancing
To effectively prevent corruption
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 August 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 4 August 2020
As the world waits in hope for a vaccine for Covid-19,
a vaccine for a scourge that is equally harmful to society, corruption,
That vaccine is prevention.
Borrowing a phrase common in Covid-19 parlance, i.e. social distancing,
we should introduce corruption distancing to
effectively prevent corruption.
Today, corruption involves both the public and private sectors,
making it a highly complex problem.
It is likened to a contagious disease that will eventually wreak
havoc on our economy and institutions.
For every crooked politician or bureaucrat, there would be a businessman
willing to grease their palm.
Such activities would erode integrity, reduce citizens trust
in the powers that be, corrode the rule of law and eventually undermine
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has consistently
warned that the level of corruption in Malaysias commercial
and business sector is alarming.
Data between 2019 and June 2020 show that 390 individuals were arrested,
which represented 26.1 percent of the total arrests on record.
In the last five years, MACC has arrested more than 800 individuals
in cases involving commercial organisations.
The illicit assets seized were worth billions of ringgit.
MACC has urged the private sector not to offer bribes and to take
a more proactive role to combat corruption.
But the truth of the matter is, if there are no givers, there will
be no takers.
The real culprits are the givers who bribe and offer attractive
rewards to corrupt public officials to win contracts or gain an
unfair advantage over their competitors.
A key legislative change in the fight against corruption in the
private sector is the enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC Act
2009, which imposes criminal liability on commercial organisations
for failure to prevent corruption.
Section 17A (1) states that a commercial organisation commits an
a person associated with the commercial organisation corruptly
gives, agrees to give, promises or offers to any person any gratification
whether for the benefit of that person or another person with intent
to a) obtain or retain business for the commercial organisation;
or b) to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business
for the commercial organisation.
The onus has shifted to the directors, partners and management of
the organisations or companies, who have to prove in their defence
that they had put in place adequate procedures to prevent their
associates from committing corrupt practices.
The MACC foresees more reports on corruption in commercial organisations
falling under this section.
Local and foreign industries and trade organisations/associations
in Malaysia must collectively support MACCs efforts to curb
corruption by practising good governance.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiner (ACFE), in its Report
to Nations 2020, stated that any corporates that did not practise
a culture of anti-corruption and integrity could suffer losses of
up to 5 percent of their profits.
It is therefore advisable for companies to hold talks on how to
prevent bribery and corruption.
By doing so, they may be able to save between 2 percent and 3 percent
of their profits.
Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar,
Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,
Masses of Filipinos live
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 August 2020
From Dino M. Capistrano's letter in The Southeast
Asian Times 4 August you get a pretty good sense that is no
shortage of state officials in the Philippines who fill their pockets
whilst the masses of Filipinos live in poverty and human misery.
It seems the Marcos legacy of plunder lives on with other state
actors " ripping this country off " as Capistrano
Will things ever change in the Philippines?
The people of the Philippines deserve a better Philippines given
their historical struggle for it.
Severe breach of Covid-19
social distancing protocol
At Kuala Lumpur Courts
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 August 2020
First published in the Star, Sunday 30 July 2020
After the gathering outside the Kuala Lumpur Courts
Complex on Tuesday by supporters of former prime minister Datuk
Seri Najib Razak, which many top healthcare officials agree was
a severe breach of the movement control order (MCO) standard operating
procedures (SOP), there is a chance that another spike of Covid-19
infections has been triggered.
Many of those present, including notable figures, were not wearing
masks or social distancing.
This was the perfect recipe for a spread similar to the Sri Petaling
Cluster in February and March.
At this point, we are now looking at damage control, and it is best
that everyone at the gathering takes these three steps:
Stay indoors and work from home as much as possible;
Follow all the preventive measures strictly, like putting a mask
on the moment you step out of your house (even if it is to throw
your garbage out) and washing hands regularly; and
Forget about travelling interstate over the next few days.
Simply put, be a team player for Malaysia and stay indoors.
With many companies now racing against the clock to find a vaccine
that will get us out of this dire situation, a special task force
must be set up as soon as possible to start educating the public
in all the languages spoken in this country on the importance of
This will save time when the vaccine is ready to be administered
to the people. There is no point in the government getting the vaccine
if people refuse to take it.
From my personal calculations, we will need about 94 percent of
the public, including foreigners, to be vaccinated so that the other
6 percent who cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons can benefit
from herd immunity.
We must also target anti-vaxxers those who are against vaccinations
in the fight against Covid-19 from now on.
We must convince them that eradicating Covid-19 is highly dependent
on them accepting the vaccine when it becomes available.
I also hope vaccination will be given to everyone in the country,
including foreigners as they are part of our society.
We need a holistic approach to overcome Covid-19.
Dr Arvinder-Singh HS,
8,400 Filipinos stranded
at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
the real state of the nation
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 August 2020
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday 3 August
The July 30 editorial Appalling neglect
said it all: Harrowing images of thousands of stranded
Filipinos in appalling conditions at the Rizal Memorial Center
The chaotic scene involving about 8,400 locally stranded individuals
was the harsh reflection of the real state of the nation.
Practically ignoring them to rot in the miasma of filth and
squalor, the government seemed too helpless to do anything about
Public funds have been severely depleted due to the current pandemic.
Yet, we are reading about public servants sucking up and pocketing
tens of millions in salaries, allowances, bonuses, etc., "Calida
is 2nd highest paid government official, July 30, 2020.
By any equitable standard, this is tantamount to plunder in plain
Mentioned in that report was the 2019 bonanza these public servants
received: United Coconut Planters Bank officers Higinio Macadaeg
Jr. P20.47 million, Eulogio Catabran III P15.09 million, and Edmond
Bernardo P11.58 million.
Not to be outdone were Solicitor General Jose Calida P16.95 million;
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officials Benjamin Diokno P15.45 million,
Maria Almasara Tuaño-Amador P14.60 million, Chuchi Fonacier
P14.59 million, Dahlia Luna P12.24 million, Ma. Ramona Santiago
P12.17 million, and Elmore Capule P11.42 million.
Also specially mentioned among the multimillionaires and top earners
in public service were Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and Associate
Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe of the Supreme Court the highest court
of justice which has remained callous and impervious to the woes
and miseries of Filipinos whose cases there have only been gathering
dust and cobwebs through decades of indifference, delay, and neglect.
How much more of the peoples money do they want to grab?
Filipinos at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum were suffering from the
dismal lack of financial support or any form of material assistance
from the government.
The pandemic has bankrupted the government, which is now scraping
the bottom of the barrel and relying on loans amounting to trillions
of pesos and charities to help tide it over this horrible crisis.
President Dutertes lawful salary is said to be less than P5
million a year, as the most exalted head of government.
Apparently bereft of any sense of shame or delicadeza, those humbler
public servants need to be told by him, if he really cares for the
less fortunate, to moderate their greed and to cease and desist
from ripping this country off.
Dino M. Capistrano,
Crucial for banks to provide
In recovery from Covid-19 crises in Malaysia
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 August 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 1 August 2020
The anxiety among the rakyat over whether banks would
extend the six-month moratorium on loan repayments after September
was answered by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his announcement
on Wednesday of targeted moratorium extensions Targeted
moratorium extension for another three months, in The
Star, July 29.
The loan repayment moratorium has provided huge relief for many
individuals and businesses: as at July 20, over 7.7 million individual
borrowers or 93 percent of the total have benefited from the measure
And 243,000 small and medium enterprises SMEs or 95 percent of the
total, have also utilised the measure for a total of RM20.7bil.
In total, the value of the moratorium is RM59bil.
Despite the short-term opportunity given by the banks for borrowers
to save by participating in the moratorium, not everyone decided
to opt in.
The number of individual borrowers opting out rose from 331,000
in April to 601,000 in July.
For SMEs, the number of non-participants jumped from 5,000 to 13,000
in the same period.
The increase was in tandem with the governments decision to
reopen most economic sectors beginning early May, which helped to
re-start businesses that had been disrupted during the earlier phases
of the movement control order (MCO).
This was then followed by supportive measures in the short-term
economic recovery plan announced on June 5, such as the extension
of the wage subsidy programme and hiring incentives.
These moves helped several parts of the economy to recover, which
explains those opting out from the moratorium.
Nonetheless, many businesses and individuals are still struggling,
as the following figures denote: in May, the overall unemployment
rate escalated slightly to 5.3 percent compared with 5 percent in
April as the number of unemployed went up by 47,300 to 826,100.
If you look at the more updated figures, based on the Employment
Insurance System unemployment benefit claims, there was a total
of 62,247 employment losses as at the third week of July.
There were also reports that 4,542 applications to cease business
operations were processed by the Companies Commission of Malaysia
during the movement control order (MCO) period between April 1 and
As we are still trying to recover from this unprecedented crisis,
there is a crucial need for banks to provide a buffer should more
assistance be required in the future.
Prior to this latest announcement, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk
Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz stated that banks faced losses worth RM1.06bil
a month during the loan moratorium period, which will bring about
a total loss of RM6.4bil by the end of the measure.
These losses by the banks explain the more targeted measures post-September
in comparison with the blanket loan moratorium from April to September.
The efforts of the government to address the loan moratorium appear
positive, as it was one of the emerging issues and suggestions raised
by participants in a recent focus group discussion.
Call for Malaysia to repeal
The Sedition Act 1948
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 August 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 30 July 2020
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is perturbed that the
government still sees the Sedition Act 1948 as relevant and has
announced that it will be retained.
The Sedition Act is an archaic law introduced by the British colonial
government in 1948 and was intended to suppress the voices of Malaysians
calling for independence.
Activists and political leaders who fought for our independence
were detained under this draconian legislation, hence its continued
existence is an affront to their struggles.
Pakatan Harapan failed Malaysians when it didnt deliver its
promise to repeal the Act. In 2013, Barisan Nasional under Datuk
Seri Najib Razaks administration had made the same vow to
Malaysians and the international community during our countrys
second Universal Periodic Review process to review the human rights
record of all United Nations Member States but failed to fulfil
The Perikatan Nasional government is now refusing to repeal the
Sedition Act. Claims that the Act is still relevant are absurd as
the Penal Code provides for all the offences described by the government.
Anyway, national harmony cannot be achieved through the force of
If Perikatan is genuine about wanting to improve national harmony,
it should revisit recommendations made by civil society, Suhakam
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and subject matter experts to
address concerns about national harmony, hate speech and discrimination.
Executive director Suara Rakyat Malaysia,
Call for President Duterte
Opening of schools in Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 August 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 31 July
We, the Parents Teachers Alliance, a nationwide organization,
welcome and support the recent enactment into law of Republic Act
No. 11480, amending Section 3 of RA 7797, otherwise known as An
Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from 200 Days to not more than
220 Class Days.
We fervently appeal to Your Excellency to use the power and authority
granted by RA 11480 to defer the scheduled opening of classes in
August to a much later date to provide the Department of Education
ample time to prepare and address the following concerns:
Uniform teaching modules are yet to be finalized, as the teachers
tasked to prepare them were not professionally trained to do so,
the same being the function of the DepEd Curriculum Bureau, aside
from the fact that printing cost will be shouldered by classroom
Only a minuscule percentage of our 800,000 teachers have ready and
actual access to internet facilities, which, on the average, would
cost P1,000 per month for every teacher.
Almost all 47,000 public schools in the country have zero internet
connectivity, while a great majority of our 27 million K-to-12 students
do not enjoy such facility, let alone have access to tablets, laptops,
and personal computers.
The government television stations frequency effectiveness
is very limited. Most, if not all, radio stations all over the country,
on the other hand, cannot possibly accommodate the requisite airing
time for the 13 grade levels with at least six subjects per grade
or 78 class hours for a radio station that ordinarily airs 18 hours
What block-time, then, if we may ask, is the DepEd alluding to?
The 4Ps Program was conceived to prompt parents to send their children
to school instead of helping them out with work.
Blended learning, premised on parents willingness and competence
to teach their children schoolwork, will negate this objective,
not to mention its prohibitive cost which could easily be beyond
the financial capacity of most local government units.
We most respectfully submit, Mr. President, that these are but some
of the most pressing, critical, and fundamental issues that must
first be addressed with haste and certainty before the opening of
As such, we earnestly appeal to Your Excellencys wisdom that
the opening of classes in August be deferred to a later date if
only to accord the DepEd such time to adequately, seriously, and
honestly prepare for the same.
For our childrens sake.
Emilio B. Abelita,
Call for Philippines to
commence legal proceedings
Against China for spread of Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 July
In Make China accountable for COVID-19
in Philippine Inquirer, Letters July 8,
2020, Stephen Monsanto urged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) to file class suits against China for the unabated spread
of COVID-19, which has brought the whole world to its knees, including
That is something long overdue.
The Filipino people cannot continue to just suffer what is happening
to this country in silence.
The Philippines stands indebted to China in the sum of $167 billion
to finance President Dutertes ambitious Build, build,
Under very onerous terms, that debt alone could easily balloon to
over $300 billion, including interests, charges, penalties, or what-have-you.
In pesos, that would amount to about P15 trillion, which surely
the Philippines can never afford to repay.
Chinas obvious intent is not to be paid, but to take over
this country in payment of that debt - all courtesy of Mr. Dutertes
friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In self-defense, the Filipino people can do a preemptive strike
by demanding any outstanding part of that Chinese loan as compensation
for the terrible things Chinas COVID-19 has done to our country.
If other countries have already commenced legal proceedings for
compensation against China in their own jurisdictions, what is the
Philippines waiting for?
Never mind the Office of the Solicitor General, which has proven
itself to be of service only to Mr. Duterte.
What about the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and other
law associations run by brilliant lawyers in
Havent they found the balls yet to do something about this
And even if one may think of it as nothing but suntok sa
buwan because China would only be laughing at us - as
it did when the Philippines sued and even won the arbitration case
against it in The Hague - it does matter that we are seen as standing
in solidarity with the world in condemning China for its blunders
and cover-ups relating to this pandemic.
Carmela N. Noblejas,
Call for President Duterte
He cannot stand a whiff of corruption
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 July
With regard to the editorial, Year
of Filipino Health Workers July 21, 2020 where nurses
in public hospitals and health institutions were said to be finally
receiving P34,801 per month after nearly two decades
of begging for it, allow me to give my two cents worth.
That kind of pay is hardly enough considering the great hazards
they have to face amid this current pandemic which could last for
Comparing that to the shamelessness with which high government officials
are robbing the people blind, collecting more than P1 million per
month in salaries, perks, allowances, bonuses, incentives, etc.,
even in these times when the countrys economy is teetering
on the brink of collapse (e.g., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officials),
one cannot help but curse at the government that allows this kind
of stupidity and blatant iniquity.
And think about this biggest joke of all: What is Mocha Uson doing
for this country to deserve being paid P155,000 plus per month -
more than four times the paltry sums being paid to those nurses
at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, and who run the
risk of getting infected (and God forbid, dying) every day?
Thousands of other good-for-nothing bureaucrats have been taking
advantage of similar or bigger entitlements.
If an honest-to-goodness restructuring of the entire bureaucracy
were to be done, there is no doubt half of those scalawags would
Will President Duterte please show the same political will to prove
he cannot stand even just a whiff of corruption as
he did in dismantling the oligarchy?
Red Bull heir
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 26 July 2020
Re: "Public fury as 'Boss' allowed to walk
free", in Bangkok Post, July 25
Regardless of whether it's Thaksin, Yingluck or Gen Prayut in power:
Our jails are to incarcerate the poor.
Look at Orachorn "Praewa" Devahastin's highway
massacre, Vorayuth Yoovidhya's fatal hit-and-run, or a construction
tycoon's possession of a dead pheasant: guilty, but no jail.
But, for the destitute husband and wife caught digging for mushrooms
for their own consumption in a protected forest -12 years!
Democracy offers a non-violent, sustainable way to correct such
But voters must analyse and question - which is why the powers that
be, Gen Prayut included, emphasise rote memorisation in school and
unquestioning obedience in Thai society.
How long will the poor, who are the vast majority of Thais, put
up with such abuse?
They aren't stupid.
Gens Prayut and Prawit - and you and I - are doing Thailand no favours
by perpetuating the status quo, for the tipping point may not be
I fear violence.
Thai state funded universities
into teaching factories
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 July 2020
Re: "Covid-19 hastens university revolution",
in Bangkok Post, July 19..
We should keep in mind that every problem in higher education is
also caused by the Education Ministry and its allied entities, such
as Search Results Web results Office of Higher Education Commission
(OHEC), now called the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research
and Innovations, Office for National Education Standards and Quality
(ONESCQA), Thai-Journal Citation Index (TCI) and many others.
As a result, most state-funded universities have turned into teaching
factories, not by accident, but by doing what is dictated by these
In every world ranking, private universities dominate because of
their autonomy, innovative teaching and learning practices, and
cutting edge research.
It is very sad to see that private universities in Thailand have
been choked by the red tape tied around their necks.
It is high time that they are allowed to be fully autonomous and
lead the change in higher education.
Everything former higher education minister Suvit Maesincee mentions
is key to the future of Thai higher education. Adoption of blended
learning, outcome-based teaching, upskilling, collaboration with
industry, and forging alliances with foreign universities is important.
But he ignores the fact that for Thai universities to find their
place in regional or global competitive space, the country must
drastically change its immigration policies.
To attract foreign faculty and bring students to conduct research
will require proficiency in English, advance technical and communication
skills and dynamic curricula.
In addition, scholarships, student visas, work permits, and employment-related
issues must be addressed. A pool of highly educated and talented
expatriates living inside Thailand can't contribute to this effort
because of the arcane immigration and work-related policies.
In a nutshell, a revolution in Thai higher education will require
more than a lockdown to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
Fewer than 200 Malaysian
Left in the wild
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 July 2020
First published in the Star, Thursday 24 July 2020
WWF-Malaysia commends the Malaysian governments
anti-poaching and anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, following the
statement of Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul
Anuar Nasarah that a total of 64 poachers have been caught since
early this year in the The Star, July 22, 2020.
With fewer than 200 Malayan tigers left in the wild, protection
of this species must be prioritised.
We need key actions to address the main threats.
Increased patrolling efforts to deter wildlife crime that decimates
tigers and their prey is a critical step.
In view of this, WWF-Malaysia impresses the urgent need for the
establishment of a wildlife crime unit within the Royal Malaysia
Police (PDRM) force, in order to effectively combat poaching and
This unit could gather intelligence on poaching syndicates that
are part of larger illegal wildlife trade networks.
This would ensure that legal action is followed through right from
evidence collection to the prosecution process.
In most reported cases, those prosecuted for poaching could have
been working for foreign syndicates.
Putting a stop to these syndicates should be made a priority, apart
from penalising those who are guilty of committing wildlife crimes.
Call for governments to
cruel treatment of wildlife
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 July 2020
Britain has ordered thousands more monkeys for covid
vaccine testing in laboratories.
And, of course, this is happening everywhere in the race to be first.
Please spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of animals
that suffer and die in agony for us.
Shame on all governments around the world, including ours, for not
making any effort to protest against the cruel treatment of wildlife
which probably sparked this pandemic.
How selfish we are!
claims over South China Sea
Predicted to galvanize ASEAN
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 22 July
In China: A rogue state? Opinion
in Philippine Inquirer, December 6, 2012, then University of the
Philippines law professor Harry Roque, an expert in international
law, wrote about the unwarranted claims of China over
territories in the West Philippine Sea.
Its unlawful aggression, he opined, may finally galvanize
not only Asean
but also the rest of the world into branding
China as the ultimate rogue state.
Then when President Duterte, who is best friends with Chinese President
Xi Jinping, appointed him presidential spokesperson for the first
time in 2017, and again this year, Roque turned rogue himself and
has since been all praises for China.
This guy is as malleable as play dough!
It would really take some gall for him to be able to face his law
students again at that premiere university - assuming that the latter
would be crazy enough to hire him again, despite his utter lack
of integrity and credibility.
But the most frightening thing is, Mr. Dutere just might appoint
him to the Supreme Court for fun and allow him, being only in his
50s, to inflict himself on the Filipino people for more than a decade.
Covid-19 pandemic has
Tolerance for corruption in Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 July
This pandemic has taught us many things.
It has exposed the vulnerability of the ordinary working Filipino
in terms of health care, job security, and food security.
It has also exposed our tolerance for corruption.
Instead of learning from our shortcomings, many in our community
still have the temerity to hide from the law under their padrino
For years, we admired people who are malakas
- those who got away with violations, those who could cut through
lines, those who had magic calling cards to show
to law enforcers, and sometimes, those who just happened to have
a silver insignia on their shoulder boards, or an honorable
to their names.
We used fixers to make life more comfortable for us.
We resorted to pampadulas to get things done.
We tolerated the wrongdoings of people simply because they were
our ka-brod, kaklase, kabaro.
Today, even after all our sufferings, we place fake logos on our
windshields just to get through checkpoints, cut through fast lanes
dedicated to essential transport, skip quarantine just because facilities
are not comfortable enough for us, and we call
on our padrinos, ka-brods, kaklase, kabaro to help us get away with
The consequences are now higher, and lives are at stake.
This virus moves faster than a graft investigation.
So, stop putting fake passes on your windshield, stop skipping quarantine
procedures, and stop using your padrinos.
If we can get rid of these getaway cards completely,
maybe well recover faster from this pandemic.
Maybe the new normal will be a better
normal, maybe our government will become more competent.
Because one thing is certain, your padrinos wont make you
immune to the virus.
Illegal dumping of toxic
waste in Malaysia
and long-term effect on health
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 July 2020
First Published in the Star, Friday 17 July 2020
The discovery of another illegal dumping site of scheduled
wastes in Selangor, as reported in No leniency for illicit
dumping in The Star, July 16, is yet another stark
reminder to the public to be ever vigilant of such activity in areas
close to their residential premises.
If they come upon such sites, they should immediately alert the
authorities concerned so that prompt action can be taken against
the culprits, who could be construction and landscaping contractors,
factory owners, waste removers, scrapyard operators or anybody looking
for a quick, easy and cheap way to get rid of their waste.
In this most recent case, the authorities had been monitoring a
site in Johan Setia, Klang for a whole month using, among others,
drones and found 1,000 drums and large bags of suspected oil sludge,
rubber sludge waste, dangerous pigments and other toxic waste there.
These wastes will have immediate and long-term effects on health
as toxins and hazardous materials will penetrate the soil and contaminate
The wastes also damage the environment and cause adverse economic
If the dump sites catch fire, the surrounding air will be polluted
with toxic particles. It is not uncommon for children to be exposed
to these dangerous elements as some of these dump sites are close
to schools or residential areas.
The scourge of illegal dumping is fast becoming a perennial problem.
For this reason, the public must play their part to assist the authorities
by reporting any suspicious activities to the Environment Department.
As our nations resources are being stretched, especially with
having to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, we do not need any additional
burden posed by such noxious activity.
Safeguarding the environments safety and health is everyones
We may also need to examine the existing laws pertaining to illegal
dumping of wastes to see if the penalties provided therein are sufficient
to deter such serious illegal activities.
The Environment Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005 provides
for a mandatory jail term and a fine of up to RM500,000 for convicted
Perhaps additional penalties could be legislated, like withdrawal
of their operating licences and seizure of their assets to drive
home the message that there will be no compromises when it comes
to the safety, health and well-being of the people.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Alliance For A Safe Community,
Former Papua New Guinea
PM Peter O'Neil
Only interested in up-down policy and not
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 July 2020
First published in the National, Friday 17 July 2020
Peter ONeill should know very well that whatever
criticisms he makes to this Government during these trying time
will reflect back to him when he was holding the seat of the prime
ONeill - you did nothing good for our rural population.
Now you are eating your own words by criticising the Government
led by James Marape on issues of church-run health services.
What have you done during your tenure?
You did nothing for the church-run health services.
During your time, you were only interested in up-down policy and
not bottom-up policy.
That is why most of the countrys money was used in places
such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen.
Only in urban centres.
Most of our church-run health services are in rural areas.
During your stint as the prime minister, you dictated every policies,
and did everything for your own interests causing the downturn of
our countrys economy.
So please, you do not have to go on the print media and tarnish
the good work of this current Government.
They are trying their best to sort out most or I could say all of
those mess created by you.
When you comment or criticise on matters pertaining to Covid-19,
handled by this Government, you must understand that the coronavirus
is an imported disease where we do not have much knowledge about,
however quick response and precautionary measures were put in place
by this Government.
You must also understand that, due to the frequency of this deadly
virus that has caused lives in millions, as per the World Health
Organisation (WHO report), PNG is no exception.
Therefore our good Prime Minister James Marape has taken the right
direction and has been very careful in handling the situation, as
it is sensitive and fragile.
I commend our prime minister and all the hard working committees
of the Covid-19 headed by the Controller David Manning, Commissioner
Papua New Guinea
for Malaysian MP to be penalised
For discrimination based on colour of skin
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 July 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 18 July 2020
Colourism is defined as prejudice or discrimination
against individuals with a dark skin tone, and it is a component
There is no place for colourism or treating people differently based
on their skin colour in a multiracial nation like Malaysia.
Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (Sirom) is appalled
by the remarks made by Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim
at Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto about the colour of her skin
in Parliament on July 13.
Being discriminated based on the colour of ones skin is extremely
damaging to ones self-worth.
It has serious mental and emotional effects that can last for generations.
Recent world events have shown how racism can turn destructive very
quickly. This is especially relevant today when the Black
Lives Matter campaign has gained momentum and forced many
countries to re-evaluate their policies and laws.
Regrettably, such sexist and divisive comments are not alien in
our Parliamentary proceedings.
The behaviour of the MPs uttering these comments must not be tolerated
nor dismissed as harmless.
Women MPs must be empowered to champion their cause and uphold their
communitys values without fear of being belittled by caustic
personal or sexist attacks.
As leaders of their constituents, all MPs should be subject to a
higher standard of decorum and propriety, and the Baling MP ought
to be penalised. A retraction and apology are simply not enough.
To move Malaysia forward, we urge all MPs to practise mutual respect
and tolerance in our multiracial nation.
President 2019-2021 Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia,
Call for Chinese Embassy
in Bangkok to read
Ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius (Mengzi)
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday 18 July 2020
Re: "Clearing the waters", in
Bangkok Post, PostBag, July 16.
I'm a long-time American expat living in Thailand.
I have no official status.
The views expressed below are my own.
Chinese Embassy in Bangkok spokesperson Yang Yang tries to tell
us why non-regional countries (like the US) should not interfere
in China's activities in the South China Sea.
"Mind your own business!" is a common cry from
governments engaged in unsavoury activities.
Such governments always invoke the principle of national sovereignty.
But that principle, left unfettered, would allow governments to
imprison, brutalise, and even massacre segments of its own population
We saw it illustrated in the Holocaust, in which the Nazis massacred
millions of Jews.
We see it in the more recent Chinese oppression of the Tibetans
and the imprisonment of the Uighurs.
Such atrocities are unacceptable by civilised people.
When they occur, the rest of the world should have the right to
We are all humans.
Our common humanity should override narrower considerations of race,
ethnicity, or ideology.
The principle of ren, benevolence or humaneness, championed by the
ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius (Mengzi), ought to be paramount
The worthy officials of the Chinese Embassy could profit from a
perusal of the book that bears his name.
As I understand it, the objection to Chinese expansionism in the
South China Sea is that its ultimate aim is to turn that sea into
a Chinese lake.
There, other countries will have no rights save those graciously
granted by China. The artificial islands that China has been constructing
constitute the chief evidence for this perception.
If China wants to convince the world that it has no imperialistic
ambitions in the South China Sea, it can easily do so by dismantling
and abandoning those artificial islands. Somehow I have a feeling
that this won't happen.
media failed to report
Black deaths in police custody
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 July 2020
It is good to see The Age letters column of
18 July captioned 'Do not treat this as just another death in
custody ' and the accompanying letters.
Some years ago I heard in the news that a young black man ( 21 or
23 years old ) was taken into what the police called " protective
I wonder whether the family of that man is also among those seeking
answer in light of the current Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
A couple of days later he was dead in " protective custody
I wrote a letter to the editor questioning what kind of " protective
custody " was that?
That letter was not published.
It left me bewildered.
I thought it was a legitimate question to raise.
I was left feeling then that the media wanted to put a lid on the
case in the same way that the police did.
That the media had failed to uphold its public watchdog role.
That was not a good feeling.
I thought Australia was a democracy that took transparency, accountability
and public scrutiny seriously.
I felt let down.
China calls on US not
to take sides
In claims of sovereignty in South China
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 16 July 2020
The South China Sea issue should not be a tool for
implementing the strategy of containing China by non-regional countries.
In his July 14 interview piece, "US turns focus to South
China Sea", US Ambassador Michael George DeSombre ignored
the historical background and facts of the South China Sea issue.
His statement deliberately distorted international laws including
the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), abandoning
its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty
of the South China Sea, ignoring the joint endeavours of China and
Asean countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China
Sea, exaggerating the tense situation in the region, attempting
to sow discord between China and other littoral countries and defaming
China with untrue words so as to mislead the public.
The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.
China's position on the South China Sea issue has been consistent,
clear-cut and firm.
China has been committed to resolving disputes through negotiation
and consultation with countries directly involved, and maintaining
peace and stability in the South China Sea by joint endeavours of
China and Asean states.
At present, with the joint efforts of China and Asean countries,the
situation of the South China Sea has remained peaceful and stable
and is still improving.
China and Asean states are not only fully and effectively implementing
the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea
(DOC), but also accelerating the consultation on a Code of Conduct
in the South China Sea (COC), which is an upgrade of the DOC.
It will be more suited to our region's needs and more effective
in regulating the conduct of the parties.
It will provide stronger safeguards for safety and freedom of navigation
in the South China Sea and enable China and Asean to build trust,
manage disagreements, strengthen cooperation and maintain stability.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and Asean countries have assisted
and supported each other to beat the virus.
Ships and planes carrying critical supplies are sailing in and flying
over the South China Sea, a body of water that's witnessing mutual
assistance and cooperation between China and Asean.
Moreover, a lot of progress has been made in our cooperation on
maritime search and rescue as well as marine conservation and research,
which are tangible and pragmatic fruits of peaceful cooperation.
I would like to stress again that the freedom of navigation and
overflight enjoyed by all states under international law in the
South China Sea has never been affected by the relevant disputes
in the South China Sea.
As a country outside the region, the US is not directly involved
in the disputes, refusing to ratify the UNCLOS itself, and has kept
interfering in the issue and disturbing the tranquility of the South
China Sea by making a show of force arbitrarily. What is the real
From the statement of the US Department of State on the South China
Sea and the US ambassador's interview, it doesn't take much imagination
to understand that the US side is reluctant to see the hard-won
stability in the South China Sea, to see China and other littoral
countries are capable of resolving the South China Sea disputes
through peaceful consultation on our own efforts.
China believes the South China Sea issue should not be a tool for
implementing the strategy of containing China by non-regional countries
and no external interference should become the source of distracting
or sabotaging the peace and stability in the South China Sea.
We advise the US side to earnestly honour its commitment of not
taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, and play a
constructive role in the peace and stability of this region as a
China will as always stick to resolve disputes through negotiation
and consultation, realise the benign interaction through rules and
mechanisms, achieve common development through mutually beneficial
cooperation and work with regional countries to transform the South
China Sea into a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.
Embassy of The People's Republic of China,
the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 13 July
Now that the President has signed into law the Anti-Terrorism
Act of 2020 (ATA), I believe it is high time each one of us gave
this law a chance.
I understand the predicament of the people against this law, but
then again, with all the safeguards the law provided, I think we
must at least give it a chance.
If indeed there are unconstitutional provisions stipulated in the
Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), then by all means the Supreme
Court can take the final action. And if the Supreme Court finds
it constitutional, then we must respect and obey the law.
I am certain amendments are always available if there are things
that need to be polished in the law.
But for now, lets remain positive that this law can help the
Philippines prevent and check terrorism.
Refugees arriving in Malaysia
Will not be pushed out to sea, says PM
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 July 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 14 July
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's statement
that Malaysia will not send refugees who come by boats back to the
sea is most welcome.
Applying a humanitarian approach is appropriate while seeking for
a better solution depending on the situation.
Malaysia needs to act with caution so as not to be seen as violating
international law, what more as an Islamic country that should act
in accordance with Islamic principles.
The PM's reply in the Dewan Rakyat confirmed that the action of
sending them back to the sea will not be done.
This should be emphasised as a policy so that enforcement agencies
will not be in a dilemma when accepting refugees.
Refugees who have no choice when they are under oppression and trapped
in conflict are now seeking protection around the world.
While conflict and oppression must be stopped, victims seeking refuge
need to be managed by world bodies and countries that become transit
Rohingya refugees do need international protection based on the
"non-refoulment" which is not to surrender oppressed
groups to countries where they are persecuted and exemptions are
given to immigrants who need United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees is a United Nations agency (UNHCR) protection based on
They should not be evicted and the government should allow them
to stay temporarily until a solution is found.
Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid,
Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (Mapim)
Using same pen to register
for Track and Trace Covid-19
as using same serving spoon on cruise ship buffet
Southeast Asian Times, Wednsday 14 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 July 2020
As an epidemiologist, I support the government's efforts
to combat the Covid-19 virus in the country. The Track & Trace
mobile app is an excellent tool and easy to use.
However, the written registration method used for people not wanting
or able to use the mobile app is almost useless and could potentially
Hundreds of people per day are using the same pen to register at
shopping mall entrances.
This pen can easily spread the virus from an infected person to
You could compare it to hundreds of people using the same serving
spoon in a cruise ship buffet line.
Most of the printed entries are not legible or accurate, with many
clearly false names being used.
If the government really wants to protect the population from the
spread of the virus once international tourism is opened up again,
registration in writing should be scrapped and a more secure method
such as scanning or copying IDs or passports used.
effort by Thai international universities
To tap into the Chinese higher education
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 12 July 2020
Re: "Can Thai unis attract foreign pupils?",
in Opinion, Bangkok Post July 9
The answer to Mr Singh's question is simply "No".
With the exception of half a dozen international universities in
Thailand, there is no ecosystem to attract foreign students.
Although there is a frantic effort to tap the Chinese higher education
market, there is little chance of bringing students from the Middle
East and Western countries.
The lack of scholarships, stringent work permit rules, stale curriculum,
lack of proficiency in English, and poor communication skills of
the faculty are major impediments to attracting foreign students.
Although a few Thai universities, such as Chulalongkorn, Mahidol,
AIT, and NIDA may have good infrastructure and facilities and found
their place in the world rankings, their academic standards are
no way comparable to universities located in Australia, Europe,
and the USA.
These countries not only provide a higher education but also provide
opportunities for a career, better quality of life, and chances
to settle down and eventually become a citizen of the country.
Thailand lacks all such incentives; hence, attracting foreign students
to Thailand will remain a pipe dream.
Days of mass tourism are
Charter flights way to go
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 July 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 10 July 2020
Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented
on March 18, tourism industry players and associations have been
making repeated calls on federal and state governments for emergency
aid and temporary relief during this period with little to no income.
There have also been announcements about putting hygiene, safety
and security protocols in place and calls to publicise Malaysia
as a safe destination.
But many countries are doing the same and at this time, tourists
would choose destinations that offer more meaningful experiences.
It would be a waste of time and money to repackage old wine in a
new bottle, ie promote the same old products.
Clearly, the days of mass tourism are over, and likewise mass advertising.
It is now crucial to target and create niche markets and for industry
players to consolidate.
Malaysian outbound and inbound tour operators must work together
with their overseas counterparts to generate a constant flow of
passengers for air charters, starting with only one weekly flight,
then progressing daily and ending with many flights a day.
Unlike scheduled flights that passengers can travel on at short
notice, those booked for charter flights could be screened in advance
and their health condition and movements constantly and closely
monitored to ensure they will be free of Covid-19 when travelling
Before departure, these passengers may have to be quarantined at
a selected hotel and then transferred to the aircraft in chartered
buses with minimum contact with other people.
The hotel, bus and aircraft would have be thoroughly disinfected,
Such a controlled group would be welcomed by many governments around
the world as economies everywhere are at an all-time low and need
tourist dollars more than ever even while countries remain fearful
of opening borders and risking a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
It would be most viable to start with charter flights to and from
Indonesia and China, as people from these two countries are the
second and third largest number of foreign visitors to Malaysia
The countries are also highly popular with Malaysian tourists travelling
As almost every industry and citizen are affected by this pandemic
and funding is limited and never enough for everyone, the only long-term
solution is to generate revenue, particularly foreign exchange.
So instead of merely offering promotions and waiting for foreigners
to come to us when borders are open, tourist arrivals can be speeded
up by trying these air charters.
And it is time for leading industry players and leaders to rise
to the challenge by several notches by consolidating and gearing
the industry to operate charter flights in a big way.
It can be made popular with initial promotional offers which would
fill up the aircraft.
This is crucial for inbound tour operators as almost every passenger
would be using their service, unlike the millions of foreigners
that used to visit Malaysia monthly prior to the Covid-19 outbreak
that were independent travellers.
Malaysia fails to meet
elimination of human trafficking
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 July 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 8 July 2020
Its a growing concern that Malaysia is on Tier
2 watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report for the third consecutive
year for its failure to meet the minimum standards for the elimination
of human trafficking of foreign workers.
Anti-racism protests, which started in the United States with the
police killing of George Floyd, have spread to Europe and other
parts of the world, and monuments linked to colonialism and slavery
are being toppled or defaced in the name of racial justice.
Will the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests arouse significant changes
in the mindsets of people like the historic Martin Luther Kings
I Have a Dream speech in 1963 or the Berlin Wall
protests in 1989 did?
It is still too early to say.
M. Veera Pandiyan,
Call for investigation
of rampant open burning
In Taman Tambun, Ipoh, Malaysia
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 July 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 10 July 2020
Over the first weekend of July, I took the opportunity
for a short holiday since the uplifting of travel restrictions by
visiting my grandparents back in Taman Tambun, Ipoh.
Hoping that this trip would be rejuvenating, I was horrified by
the amount of open burning that took place during the few days of
my stay there.
Several residents in the area and in the surrounding neighbourhood
were burning what I assumed was garden waste as the weather has
been hot and dry.
This happened several times throughout the day.
Every now and then you see plumes of smoke rising, made worse by
wind that blows it into houses and choking its residents.
If that is not bad enough, the burning sometimes continues at night.
During the night, smoke is acrid and smells of burning plastic waste.
Imagine the long-term health effects of these pollutants on the
residents here, a significant number of them happen to be the elderly
I urge the relevant authority to investigate this matter of rampant
open burning taking place in Taman Tambun and its surrounding areas.
We live in a time where rubbish of various materials can be dealt
with in a more environmentally friendly manner, not by burning which
not only pollutes the environment but endanger the health of others.
Chinese usually fatten
up a duck
Before killing and eating it
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 July 2020
Re: "Kind words are not enough",
Bangkok Post, Editorial, July 7.
It's interesting that your editorial suggesting that China should
deepen its current relationship with Thailand by easing up on building
dams on the Mekong is juxtaposed with Kavi Chongkittavorn's perceptive
analysis of the choices facing Thailand at a time of Chinese resurgence
and US decline.
The current Zhong-Tai yi jia (Chinese-Thais) one family romance
reminds me of the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (Indian-Chinese) brotherhood
fantasy of a bygone era. Readers know how that ended, with China
now occupying Indian border areas, recent clashes on the frontier,
and mutual animosity on both sides.
Nobody can reasonably expect any country to do anything contrary
to its own interests.
Clearly, maintaining and increasing the number of dams on the Mekong
is in China's interests.
So Thailand would be wise to give up the pipe dream of getting China
Of course, there will be soothing and honeyed words oozing from
the Chinese side.
Readers should also note that the Chinese usually fatten up a duck
before killing and eating it.
Of course, nothing like that would ever happen in the blissful Chinese-Thai
Call for compensation
for Filipino people
China for damage and misery caused by Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 8 July
As the courts reopen for redress of grievances, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) should start mulling ways
to seek recompense for the Filipino people from the Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) which, either by deliberate intent or culpable negligence,
caused the spread of COVID-19 around the world.
This deadly disease from Wuhan, China, has brought untold miseries
upon this poor country that are by now immeasurable and irreparable.
There is preponderant evidence available worldwide that the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP) had covered up the outbreak within China in
the months of December 2019 and January 2020, in blatant disregard
of the World Health Organizations (WHO) written protocols
on health hazards and diseases that could raise concerns of pandemic
Thousands of lives might have been spared had that virus been properly
contained from the get-go in accordance with the rules of the WHO.
Independent scientists from around the world were snookered by the
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda that everything was copacetic
and outside interference uncalled for.
Our Rules of Court allow suits against foreign individuals, companies,
firms, or entities doing business in this country (Rule 14, Sections
12 and 15).
The Securities and Exchange Commission can confirm what and where
these Chinese companies are.
Their assets here could amount to trillions of pesos.
It is public knowledge that Chinese companies doing business anywhere
in the world are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The time for just rolling over as this plague from China continues
to hit this country hard is up.
Class suits for equitable compensation should now commence.
Chinas immunity from suit as a sovereign state does not extend
to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the political party running
the affairs of that country. Writs of attachment/garnishment could
freeze the bank accounts and assets of the Chinese Communist Party
(CCP), conduits in this country indefinitely and render them available
to pay the amount of damages the courts may find the Chinese Communist
Party (CCP), lliable for. For one, there is the Bank of China, whose
umbilical links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are beyond
cavil, with branches around the globe, including the Philippines.
As a matter of fact, civil forfeiture cases against the known purveyor
of COVID-19 have already been filed in Australia, Europe (United
Kingdom, Germany), and the United States (Florida, Texas, Missouri),
for loss of lives in the hundreds of thousands and their near-total
economic devastation. Many others are contemplating following suit.
The IBP is the Filipino peoples only hope to file claims for
damages (pro bono) in the hundreds of billions of pesos - if only
it were not hobbled by the astronomical amount of judicial filing
and docket fees required to be paid (currently about P25,000 for
every P1 million in claims) under Rule 141, as amended. So, outside
of the pauper-litigant statute, will the Supreme
Court make an exception to that rule just this once?
It would be free of charge if the Office of the Solicitor General
took up the cudgels for the Filipino people and did the filing itself
on their behalf. But, alas, thats another story.
Stephen L. Monsanto,
me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me
we be ashamed?
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 6 July 2020
Re: "Debate heats up over fire helicopters",
in Bangkok Post July 4, 2020
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda wants 1.8 billion baht to buy
six wildfire-fighting helicopters, saying his Department of Disaster
Prevention and Mitigation picked the helicopter supplier via a transparent
and accountable bidding process, and "as long as the company
that won the bid had strictly followed the law, there was no problem".
In 2010, the Royal Thai Army bought GT200 bomb detectors at a cost
of more than 1 million baht each.
Our National Science and Technology Development Agency tested them
and found them to be less effective than flipping a coin - yet no
army officer has been charged or held accountable for the fiasco.
Gen Anupong obviously knew something was wrong: so, why haven't
the army officers who perpetrated this fraud on us been held accountable?
How do we know that the government will deliver this time?
A wise man said, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice,
shame on me." Should we be ashamed?
Call for PNG government
to address poverty
corruption in People's National Congress
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 July 2020
First published in the National, Friday 3 July 2020
There is not much time left for the Government to
make its dent in the socio-economic landscape of Papua New Guinea
PNG if it tries to bog itself with social media warriors and Peoples
National Congress (PNC) heavies on governance matters.
The Government should take bold and hard decisions on what needs
to be taken for the best interest of the country and ensure it is
implemented without reasonable delays.
Bulk of the population are in poverty and that should be an area
where the Government should address within the next 10 years of
policy intervention to sustain the aggregate demand within the full
dimensions of the domestic economic space.
There are remnants of corrupt in People's National Congress (PNC)
appointees who are still in key state organisations which needs
to be weeded out for wasting development opportunities for the country.
The Prime Minister has already declared curses on those who fail
this country in their areas of responsibilities and the cries of
the silent majority will continue to haunt them to their graves
they dont repent and repay what they owe to the country.
National Capital District (NCD),
Papua New Guinea
Partnership trade agreement
Is sell-off of the nation's sovereignty
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 July 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 July 2020
Re: "CPTPP delay the right call",
Bangkok Post Editorial, July 3.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
(CPTPP) is a sell-off of the nation's sovereignty.
There is a reason everyone isn't jumping on board.
Can you imagine your country being sued because you aren't allowing
yourselves to be exploited to your full potential and that court
is run by the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific
Partnership (CPTPP) with their judges and lawyers?
Turn Covid-19 crisis into
To prune all state owned enterprises
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 July 2020
First pulished in the Bangkok Post Friday 3 July 2020
Re: "Debt-ridden group lays off 961 staff",
Bangkok Post, July 1.
The Business Organisation of the Office of the Welfare Promotion
Commission for Teachers and Educational Personnel has laid off 93
percent of its 1,035 staff due to staggering debts and a lack of
liquidity - the exact same causes that forced THAI into bankruptcy.
I laud Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan for, as he said, basing
his decision on data, not emotions.
Minister Nataphol says that the survivors will be sufficient to
carry out the organisation's mission - which either means that 93
percent of the organisation's staff have been basically spinning
wheels, or the organisation's raison d'etre has been streamlined.
As with the private sector worldwide, the wave of closings and drastic
cost cuts in state enterprises is just beginning.
The government should follow the saying, "When life serves
you lemons, make lemonade": turn crisis into opportunity
to prune all state enterprises so that the survivors meet the same
standards as their private sector counterparts - or become history.
Start from the basics: Can a private enterprise be more effective/efficient
at achieving a given state enterprise's reason for being?
For example, instead of having the Government Savings and Housing
Bank, why not give tax breaks for savings investment mortgage programmes
run by commercial banks?
Instead of having THAI on stand-by 24/7 to evacuate Thais from harm's
way, why not charter private carriers on an as-needed basis - as
we and many other countries did at Wuhan?
Where we absolutely must have a state enterprise to perform a given
function, require that it sustain the same level of achievement
as their private sector competitors on each key performance indicator.
Use this opportunity to make our entire state enterprise sector
a lot smaller, slimmer, and cost-effective.
Then, use the savings to help the tens of millions of low-income
Thais laid low by Covid-19.
Makati Medical Center denies
of 8,000 Covid-19 tests
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 July 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 3 July 2020
We categorically deny that Makati Medical Center (MMC)
has a backlog of close to 8,000 COVID-19 tests as stated by Manuel
L. Quezon III in his column Shotgun approach puts everyone
at risk Philippine Inquirer July 1, 2020.
The information cited by Mr. Quezon from a certain Andrei Diamante
based in Australia is erroneous and ludicrous.
We deplore that during these unprecedented and challenging times,
a medical institution and its frontliners would be put in a bad
light by such misinformation.
As of June 14, Makati Medical Center (MMC) was one of the top 10
licensed centers doing RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) molecular laboratory has undertaken
14,558 PCR tests since it was accredited in April 2020 averaging
250 tests per day.
The probable underlying reason is a reporting or encoding error
on a daily report obtained by the Department of Health (DOH).
This has previously been clarified and addressed by both Makati
Medical Center (MMC) and the Department of Health (DOH).
The source, Mr. Diamante, must have obtained the erroneous report,
not the corrected version.
I have always held Mr. Quezon in high regard because of his insightful
In this instance, however, he failed to undertake a very important
task incumbent on any responsible journalist - which is a simple
A basic communication with Makati Medical Center (MMC) to clarify
this matter could have averted the publication of misleading information
that puts a hospitals credibility and reputation on the line.
MD, medical director,
Makati Medical Center,
renaming of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)
Is a national disgrace
Southeast Asian Tmes, Friday 3 June 2020
Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara is absolutely right in saying
" The Manila International Airport ( MIA ) was renamed in
recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquino's assassination
had not only on our country the Philippines, but around the world
" ( The Southeast Asian Times 30 June ).
We received the news of the brutal assassination with profound shock
and sorrow in remote Fiji .
It brought home to us just how ruthless the Marcos dictatorship
Kashiwahara is again right : " The blood he shed on the
airport's tarmac ( he was shot in the back of his head ) symbolises
the ultimate sacrifice he made ( as he fought ) for the return to
democracy in the Philippines ".
Ninoy Aquino's death at the hands of the military henchmen of the
Marcos dictatorship was not in vain.
It galvanised the people power movement for the eventual overthrow
of the dictatorship and a return to democracy.
The proposed rename change is a debasement of that historical heritage
of the Philippines and illustrates just how much the current State
in the Philippines has strayed from upholding the ideals of democracy
that the national hero Ninoy Aquino stood for.
The name change is a national disgrace.
continues to be the hub
For human trafficking
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 July 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 29 June 2020
For the third consecutive year, Malaysia remains on
the Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking In Persons
The report was released by the US State Department on June 25, 2020.
The tier rankings are based on an assessment of a countrys
efforts to prevent trafficking in persons, to prosecute traffickers
and to protect survivors of trafficking through a combination of
legislative acts, collaboration with civil society, funding, and
other proactive measures to identify and protect victims of trafficking.
Malaysias position on Tier 2 reflects a lack of political
will on the part of the Malaysian government to collectively, systematically
and holistically combat modern day slavery and human trafficking.
There appears to be confusion about what exactly human trafficking
Each enforcement unit, the ministries, the National Council on Anti-Trafficking
in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Mapo) as well as civil
societies and non-governmental organisations have different ideas
about and interpretations of human trafficking.
We are still grappling to understand what constitutes human trafficking
without basing these efforts on the protection of the victim/survivor.
We are constantly giving excuses and justifications for our failure
to identify victims based on the misconception that migrants and
trafficked victims are bad people and therefore
deported without delay.
What is even worse is that many victims/survivors of human trafficking
are charged with offences under the Immigration Act and penalised
instead of being protected. As long as the authorities and the Attorney
Generals Chambers continue to labour under these misconceptions,
stopping human trafficking will not be a priority in Malaysia.
And it does not help when other countries in the region move up
to tier two and one.
The most immediate step is for Malaysia to have the fortitude to
buck up to fight corruption if we fail at this, we will be
in the same position or pushed down to Tier 3 next year.
Many efforts and initiatives in the past to combat human trafficking
have failed simply because of the corruption embedded in all our
Malaysia continues to be a hub for human trafficking for that very
reason, so there is a burning need for all to come together to fight
corruption without fear or favour.
We must put corrupt people behind bars, not just fine them, seize
all their assets and their bank accounts, and take all the actions
provided for in the Anti-Trafficking Act to cripple their operations.
Furthermore, it is of utmost importance that the government invests
in strengthening the competencies of prosecutors and enforcement
officers, and demonstrates increased transparency in case management
and prosecutions of human trafficking cases.
This can be carried out with the establishment of a review committee
Mapo to review all human trafficking cases handled by the authorities.
This is crucial in moving forward in the right direction because
transparency is critical especially where corrupt officials
may work hand-in-glove with human traffickers.
Tenaganita is aware that Mapo is trying very hard to bring about
changes by putting together the National Action Plan on Anti-Trafficking
of Persons, and we appreciate the collaboration but it is also high
time that different ministries and authorities start listening to
survivors/victims, civil society and non-government organisatons.
We cannot just talk about victim-centred approaches without placing
the victim/survivors needs at the centre of the discussions,
debates and actions.
Until and unless the key players in the different government agencies
and departments are prepared to listen, to sit together, to debate
and change the style of working, we will continue to languish on
Tier 2 and maybe even slip down to Tier 3.
There is no other way, we cannot hoodwink ourselves and the global
community with national action plans.
Let us have the courage to take a stand against the perpetrators
of human trafficking rather than choosing to prosecute and punish
So lets stop simply having diplomatic handshakes and sit together
seriously with other stakeholders to discuss critical issues that
concerns the heinous crime against humanity, human trafficking,
once and for all.
Glorene A Das,
Red Bull Boss
For hit and run killing of police
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 July 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 June 2020
Re: "Prosecutors tell cops to hurry up and
find "Boss", in Bangkok Post,
I fully agree with Office of the Attorney-General Deputy Spokesman
Prayut Phetkun that the cops should urgently pursue Red Bull scion
Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, wanted in the high-profile
2012 hit-and-run killing of a motorcycle cop. Years ago, the Associated
Press tracked the fugitive down without trouble to his London apartment
- yet our highly skilled police, who know exactly where every critic
of the regime or royalty is, cannot find this alleged cop-killer?
Try Chelsea or a Red Bull-sponsored car racing event.
You have just seven years before the statute of limitations runs
But the prosecutors are also accountable for the slow-as-molasses
pace of this case - for they took five years to charge him with
reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim.
They knew the court dates, approved hearing postponements seven
times, and took no action to have his passport seized.
The Office of the Attorney General should keep the case before the
media - and clean up its house to be ready in case PM Prayut Chan-o-cha
finally extends rule of law to cover the mega-rich "Boss".
Aquino International Airport
of return of democracy to Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 29 June
The Manila International Airport (MIA) was renamed
in recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquinos
assassination had not only on our country the Philippines, but around
The blood he shed on the airports tarmac (he was shot in the
head), symbolized the ultimate sacrifice he made (as he fought)
for a return to democracy in the Philippines.
I wonder whether those proposing to change the airports name
would even be in office today had it not been for Ninoy.
Many countries have used airports to honor their own historical
figures, including Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the United States.
In doing so, they have not lost their national identities.
If the congressmen proposing change intend to rebrand the Philippines
as a tourist destination, the question is, for whom?
Most foreign tourists will have no idea what the Tagalog name means,
and Filipinos already know the airport is in the Philippines.
The revisionist congressmen are playing politics while attempting
to deny their countrys history.
Call for Thai government
Covid-19 stranded international students
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Sunday 28 June 2020
There are at least 200 international schools and a
dozen universities that offer courses in English in Thailand.
Most of them are hit by the financial crisis induced by the coronavirus
and are desperately seeking students whose visas are most likely
to end soon.
Many of them came on campus visits in March on tourist visas, and
are now held up in the country due to lack of international flights.
There is an international school on Bangna-Trat Road that started
with plenty of fanfare after spending 3 billion baht in infrastructure.
Today they want students to join without paying tuition fees.
That is how distressed the educational institutions are.
The government must facilitate educational visas to all students
by relaxing the visa norms.
That way it will help prevent educational institutions, who haven't
paid their teachers for at least a couple of months, from collapsing.
Risk that Singapore election
is reduced to a referendum
On the Government's managment of pandemic
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 June 2020
First published in the Straits Times, Wednesday 24 June 2020
News of the upcoming general election has been welcomed.
The pandemic has created urgency for us to re-examine many of the
fundamental socio-economic issues that should be decided through
the political election process.
This will, however, be an election vastly different from the ones
we have experienced before.
Gone will be the familiar rallies, when the entire country takes
on a festive atmosphere and many are focused on the political contests.
This time, it will be a very sedate affair.
But it should not be any less significant, because what is at stake
is our future, which is now dependent on how we successfully complete
a political transformation.
Those elected will have to craft a new economic and social narrative
to make Singapore as exceptional as before despite the challenging
In the midst of a pandemic, there is also the risk that the election
is reduced to a referendum on the Government's performance in managing
This is certainly an important issue, but not the only one.
But discussions on a whole range of critical issues that affect
our lives need a social context and atmosphere that may be missing
- the hustings and rallies, as well as arguments in coffee shops
and our neighbourhoods.
Even with the limitations, we can still be passionately engaged.
New election rules must not dampen the spirit and avenues for robust
discussions on our collective interests.
In recent months, many people have gone through an experience that
has affected and shaped their lives and choices, perhaps forever.
We must hear their stories, because those elected carry a responsibility
to represent their constituents in the highest office.
This is also about our own political education.
We must respect anyone who wishes to take up the noble cause to
represent and serve the people, regardless of his background and
We should not dismiss those who are brave enough to mount an attempt
to defeat the familiar incumbents who have been consistently elected
in the past.
Instead, we should collectively ensure that despite the restrictions
imposed for necessary safe distancing, there is a good, clean, transparent
and honest fight.
call for new strategic plan
To halt the spread of Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 June 2020
Firts published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 25 June
The Philippines, as of June 21, has one of the worlds
longest lockdowns, at 98 days, counting from March 15.
It is time we raise two consequential questions:
With 98 days of lockdown, are we winning the fight against
the COVID-19 threat?
Are our sacrifices from the draconian lockdown measures enforced
by the government for 98 days worth it?
To both questions, my answer is no!
From April 1 to 30, the positive cases reported by the Department
of Health averaged 243.5 per day.
From May 1 to 31, the average was 309.6; and in the first
21 days of June, it was 561.8!
In terms of cumulative cases, it was 2,311 as of April 1,
and 30,052 as of June 21 - an unimaginable increase of 1,200.3
percent over that 82-day period.
These numbers say we are nowhere near flattening
We need a new strategic response plan that gives priority
to isolating and blocking the sources of community transmission,
cutting the chain of infections at the roots, and halting
the spread of the virus.
And we need a plan that will enable the full reopening of
our economy soonest - before businesses are bankrupted beyond
help, and before hunger and diseases hit the jobless, the
poor, and the most vulnerable among us.
As part of consolidation of forces, using
military terminology, on where they are most needed, let us,
for one, put the plan for mass testing in the back burner
Testing - rapid or clinical l - does not cure the sick.
It should not be a priority item in the response plan except
for use in quarantined barangays and in testing and critical
Besides, we do not have enough resources for mass testing.
It should be targeted testing.
Let us stop the checkpoints as they do not contribute at all
to preventing the spread of the virus - even if we spend considerable
man-hours and energy keeping policemen and soldiers there.
In all probability, individuals being accosted in the streets
are some of the 99.985 percent of the National Capital Region
(NCR) population who are healthy.
They have no virus to spread around.
Why plan on arresting and detaining them, even for minor lockdown
Let us mobilize those soldiers and policemen instead to do
contact tracing work.
As part of the consolidation of forces, the new strategic
response plan should provide for selective quarantine and
enforce hard lockdowns on those with reported cases until
declared virus-free; simultaneously do 100-percent testing
of residents and contact tracing covering those identified
as having come in contact with positive cases.
Organize and mobilize health workers for deployment in those
barangays, recruit armies of contact tracers to do a quick
job of finding those who are possibly infected, and undertake
response operations simultaneously in all barangays with reported
We then plan to free residents of virus-free barangays from
quarantine restrictions so they can go back to the workplace,
and so we can reopen businesses.
The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) can make use
of experts in epidemiology and in crisis management.
I also propose that the poor and the vulnerable be represented
in the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) so that,
if necessary, the representative can push back on measures
that make ordinary workers jobless, and keep the poor from
moving out of their homes to find work and food for the table,
before adequate mitigation measures are put in place.
Col. Leonardo O. Odono (Ret.),
second wave Covid-19
"God save our country"
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 20 June
Malacañang debunked the claim of Health Secretary
Francisco Duque III that we are already experiencing a second wave
of COVID-19 infections.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas did not
only keep his badge, President Duterte even reaffirmed his trust,
confidence, and support for him despite the generals violation
of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
When will our leaders pull themselves together?
How much longer do we have to suffer from a government that knows
not what to do about anything except through guesswork, and pushes
down our throats government people who are untouchable and above
Incoherence and inconsistency of policies, and speaking without
thinking, have always been the hallmark and downfall of our government.
God save our country!
Reginald B. Tamayo,
Thailand wants policies
that will not not intensify
The extreme disparity in wealth distribution
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 June 2020
The minister of tourism has said he wants to use the
coronavirus hiatus to reset tourism to attract only big spenders.
Big spenders are always desirable, but over the past 50 years Thailand,
encouraged by its governments, has courted and catered for mostly
This means that up to 5 million people are dependent on the industry,
which some estimates say contributes up to 20 percent of GDP.
Airlines, taxis, hotels, guest houses, small restaurants, car hire,
retailers of clothing and souvenirs; the list is endless.
If you filled every five star hotel I doubt 95 percent of these
people would get a single baht of income.
The money would go to the already rich and international hotel chains.
Europeans and Americans already have a multitude of luxury holiday
locations like Majorca, Sardinia, the south of France, Italian Riviera,
How successful are we going to be getting them to take a 12-hour
flight post coronavirus?
Or are we to rely on the rich Chinese?
We put our eggs in that basket before and it did not end well.
The most important focus for the government is to improve the lot
of the mass population.
Not develop policies that will intensify the extreme disparity in
Huge influx of stimulus
money in Thailand
build roads and bridges to nowhere
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 June 2020
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 22 June 2020
Re: "MPs plot while the people struggle",
in Bangkok Post, June 15.
It comes as no surprise that more than 10,000 projects proposed
for funding under the government's social and economic rehabilitation
programme relate to road construction and maintenance or digging
Road construction projects are among the most abused and corruption-riddled
around the world.
As Covid-19 restrictions have eased slightly, I've recently made
several short forays outside Bangkok.
Everywhere I go, I see new roads and bridges under construction,
many of which seem unnecessary or illogically located.
With the huge influx of stimulus money, it's likely we will see
even more of these "roads and bridges to nowhere"
and many cases of disappearing taxpayer money and shoddy road construction.
A law that results in
inequality and injustice
Is not a good law
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 June
The editorial Harsh only on the powerless
in the Philippine Inquirer June 11, 2020 vividly illustrates
how laws were construed in favor of the powerful.
The administration apologists and minions love to argue: Dura
lex sed lex, the law is harsh but it is the law.
But a law that results in inequity and injustice is not a good law.
A law that is not applied equally is mirrored like a spider web.
Diogenes Laertius, quoting Solon in Lives of the Eminent
Philosophers, said: Laws are like spiders
webs: if some light or powerless thing falls into them, it is caught,
but a bigger one can break through and get away.
Former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim had this slogan: The law
is applied to all, otherwise none at all.
Diosdado V. Calonge,
for basic rights in the Philippines
A marathon run in the mud
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 June
The struggle for basic rights in our country can be
compared to a marathon run in the mud.
From the period of martial law imposed in the 70s until today,
which has been characterized by killings in our inner cities with
impunity, we have stood together against the repressive reality
and rhetoric in our midst.
In the face of the anti-terrorism bill, it is important to realize
that once again the basic rights of our people to express ourselves,
to dissent, and to associate freely - all enshrined in the Bill
of Rights of the 1987 Constitution - are under threat.
Moreover, this legislative overreach reinforces the long-standing
politics that exclude the more vulnerable in society.
It is the disadvantaged and those who stand with them who will be
the most probable victims of this policy that is open to abuse and
the arbitrary application of ambiguous provisions.
It is apparent that under the present dispensation, not only manifested
in the anti-terrorism bill but also in House Bill No. 78 that undermines
Filipino ownership of vital public utilities such as telecommunications
companies, the mindset and the actions of this government tend to
violate the letter and the spirit of the 1987 Constitution, which
was forged in the aftermath of the peoples overthrow of dictatorship
and later reaffirmed in the ousting of foreign military bases in
our national territory.
True to the reckless remarks of the President who has at least once
derided our Charter, we stand foursquare against this alarming attitude
and cavalier posture of our so-called leaders in setting aside provisions
of the fundamental law of the land, undermining the respect for
the rule of law.
We take this stand precisely in the midst of this para-pandemic
period where we face the combined and intertwined health, economic,
and climate crises that will be with us for some time to come.
There is, moreover, a moral meltdown in our politics here at home
that mirrors the social unrest spreading across the United State
due to the racist virus that has been endemic in American society
since its founding.
We need to convert this breakdown into a breakthrough in our societies.
Fellow citizens, our imperative is to reinvent resistance!
In big and small ways, directly and indirectly, as well as virtually,
young and old alike, we need to rise up and not be afraid.
We need to be brave and breathe freely together.
This a turning point, and there can be no turning back.
Former senator Bobby Tañada and Prof. Ed
Call for compensation
Of nuclear weapons testing in South Pacific
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 June 2020
It is good news to hear the court in French Polynesia
has ordered the French State to pay compensation to a cancer victim
of its nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific ( 'Compensation
for nuclear victim' The Fiji Times 19/6p.25 ).
France carried out 193 nuclear weapons test between 1966 and 1996
Until a decade ago France strenuously claimed its test "were
clean and caused no harm to humans".
There is solid empirical evidence to show the tests were far from
They were environmentally destructive and they damaged the lives
of thousands of people living in the area.
The American State did the same with its nuclear testing in Bikini
and Rongelap in the Marshall Islands.
The same is true for "the British government exploding twelve
atomic bombs on Australian soil" ( see acclaimed journalist
and best selling author Frank Walker's book Maralinga (2014).
Many lives have been destroyed by these weapons tests.
It is high time the Government's responsible were held accountable
and made to do the right thing by the victims.
Covid-19 pandemic has
Long term damage to earning prospects
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 June 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 17 June 2020
In the past three months, we have all been adjusting
to the realities of partial lockdown brought about by the Covid-19
pandemic, which has produced a labour-market scarring
or long-term damage to our earning prospects.
Malaysias labour market felt the brunt of the Movement Control
Order (MCO) implementation, with unemployment in April spiking to
5 percent, the highest since 1990.
Economists say it is likely to go higher in the coming months.
The government, particularly the Health Ministry led by Datuk Seri
Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, has been recognised as one of the best
institutions in curbing the spread of the pandemic.
The government, with strict implementation of the Movement Control
Order (MCO) assisted by various parties including the armed forces,
has provided some flexibility for essential services to continue
This is to ensure that the economy still ran despite the Movement
Control Order (MCO).
So far, there are no cases or new clusters from these essential
This deserves our praise.
The same measures should also be imposed on other services in stages
to ensure the survival of the nations economy without compromising
measures social distancing, no direct contact between individuals
and the compulsory use of face masks for business owners who wish
to resume operations.
These measures would help reduce the burden shouldered by employers
earning zero income to provide an opportunity for them to retain
their employees as well as to indirectly reduce the unemployment
An economic recovery plan, which includes short-term, medium-term
and long-term measures, needs to be created on an urgent basis in
order to diversify the economy and create new employment opportunities.
Lack of experience, low English proficiency and monetary issues
are the usual reasons, but looking at different perspectives, difficult
circumstances are also contributing to unemployment.
Now, people either work in low-paying, dirty
jobs or remain unemployed.
Recently, a fitness trainers determination and willingness
to work at a wet market that had been allowed to reopen has earned
This would be able to wake up people who were
emotional and having a hard time. Some youths are even starting
to consider working as labourers in plantations and farms.
Tough times are not exactly about choice but survival.
To find a job in a flaky market, we must be prepared to step out
of our comfort zone.
When the employment market is down, demand for jobs will exceed
As a result, salaries will also be lower, which is intuitive.
To adapt to this environment, we need to be flexible and realistic
in our expectations.
Jack Wong Kin Tung,
Hidden behind the Thai smile
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 17 June 2020
policy is racism, pure and simple", Commentary
Bangkok Post June 13.
Most Thais will deny till the end of their breath that they are
racist, yet the facts speak differently.
It is not only in this time of Covid-19 that Thais demonstrate shocking
prejudice toward foreigners.
It's a rare Thai who doesn't look down upon migrant workers from
neighbouring countries, black Africans, kee nok backpackers, loud
Americans, overweight Europeans and poorly behaving Chinese, among
Aside from the notorious formalised two-tier pricing schemes at
national parks and temples, Thais at every level - from the neighbourhood
fruit vendor, to the hotel marketing representative, to the mechanic
at the local garage - blatantly charge foreigners more than the
"going rate" for goods and services based solely
on the fact that the buyer is not Thai.
Rather than striving to change such practices, even those Thais
who don't approve will usually just shrug and admit, "that's
the way it is".
Thailand is a lovely country in many ways and Thais are generally
warm and friendly at the core.
But most Thais are xenophobic and too many are also racist.
Xenophobia and racism hidden behind a smile are still xenophobia
on the sex industry
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post. Wednesday 17 June 2020
The scheme to gentrify Pattaya's world-famous "walking
street" is flawed on so many levels.
Since the 1960s when Americans landed for R&R during the Vietnam
War, the economy of Pattaya has been based around the sex industry.
Tourists have flocked there to partake, gawk, or be shocked ever
Many expats have retired there enjoying cheaper living and an easy-going
environment. Is it pretty?
Does the military government hate it?
Should the eyesore be removed?
It may be inconvenient but Pattaya is a major source of revenue
for the country and billions are being spent on improved road, rail
and air communications.
The desire to replace existing tourists with more affluent or family
orientated visitors is laudable but unlikely to succeed.
Pattaya simply cannot compete with the scenic beauty of Samui, Phuket,
or Krabi. Removing the sex industry would be "throwing out
the baby with the bathwater".
The policy is also flawed because it will remove needed controls.
Prostitution cannot be removed by any government.
At present, the police can easily check the age of bar workers,
many bars insist on regular health checks for STDs and prostitution
is concentrated in certain areas, with less activity in residential
By all means, clean up the streets but leave Walking Street alone.
The country is going to need every tourist dollar soon.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
Philippine President Duterte's best friend
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inqirer, Tuesday 16 June
Whenever he is asked why he has not lifted a finger
to oppose Chinas blatant aggression, invasion, and occupation
of Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea, President
Duterte would get irritated and snap back along the lines of: Kaya
ba nating kalabanin ang Tsina?
A war with China would annihilate all of us in the blink of an eye!
The saying, keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,
has been applied by Mr. Duterte to the perverse extent of repeatedly
bloviating about his love for Chinese President
Xi Jinping, now his BFF.
He even bragged that Xi would readily protect him against any coup
to oust him. The Chinese people must have been laughing hysterically
behind his back - and at the Filipino people - for being so gullible
Taiwan is the biggest argument against Mr. Dutertes foolish
fear of China going to war if he went against its hegemonic intentions.
Despite Taiwans continuing defiance of its threats since the
1950s, China has never given up on its efforts to bring back that
recalcitrant province under its control and jurisdiction.
Geographically, Taiwan is just in mainland Chinas backyard,
180 kilometers from its southeastern coast.
The shoals in the West Philippine Sea that China has gobbled up
are more than a thousand kilometers away. Being a military and economic
superpower, China could easily smother and swamp Taiwan and bring
it to its knees in no time at all.
But has China ever gone to war against Taiwan, as Mr. Duterte constantly
fears it might do against the Philippines if he stood up to its
bullying? Did China go to war with Vietnam or Indonesia after they
called Beijings bluff recently?
We have lost so much of our territories and natural resources in
the West Philippine Sea, now forever deemed no longer ours, mainly
because of a bogey that Mr. Duterte has been foisting on the Filipino
And we thought all along that he was street-smart, as a former kingpin
feared by all hoodlums in Davao City!
Janno M. Montecristo,
Corporations can sue governments
but not the reverse
In the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 15 June 2020
Re: "Special panel to study worth of CPTPP
deal", in Bangkok Post
After the parliament deliberation ended, a governmental committee
of 49 members has been set up to study the Comprehensive and Progressive
Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) for 30 days.
In addition to concerns about patented-drugs and genetically-modified
organisms (GMOs) which farmers will inevitably be forced to buy,
and which will affect consumers' welfare, I am very disturbed by
the "Investor-State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS)
clause hidden in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for
Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
ISDS stands for "Investor-State Dispute Settlement".
In plain English: Multinational corporations can sue the government
for financial losses or "unrealised expected profit"
arising from their investment in the country.
As a case in point, in 2012, the largest tobacco company Philip
Morris sued the Australian government for legislating the world's
first plain packaging for cigarettes to reduce the number of young
The government had an interest in protecting its citizens' health
What they got was seven years of legal battles via an "international
arbitration tribunal court".
While the Australian government did eventually win, through legal
manoeuvres Phillip Morris ended up paying only half the cost of
the Australia's government legal expenses, and zero compensation.
Another case was the Ecuadorian government paying more than US$1
billion (31 billion baht) to US oil company Occidental Petroleum
for cancelling a contract in 2006.
At this writing, there are 1,023 ISDS cases involving health, environment,
land rights and labour laws disputes which you can find on the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development website (unctad.org).
In theory Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS protects corporations'
rights from unfair behaviour by the state.
In practice, however, it is a powerful corporate weapon to delay,
weaken and kill regulations protecting consumers, environment and
democracy, intimidating sovereign governments into submission.
All in the name of profit.
Moreover, Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS isn't a two-way
street. Corporations can sue governments, but not the reverse.
Like other developing countries, Thailand has relatively weak rules
of law on taxation, environment and consumer protection rights,
with a large market size attractive to investors.
Letting Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific
Partnership (CPTPP) and Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS in
would be tantamount to letting corporate predators in to take advantage
of our resources.
And those very resources belong to taxpayers.
is not a political union
Like the Europeam Union
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 June 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 9 June 2020
There is a need for regional integration to accelerate
and deepen post-Covid-19, as embodied in the Asean Economic Community
The pandemics highly disruptive effect on global and regional
economies has highlighted the case for a more integrated and cohesive
Asean through AEC as the primary vehicle.
Asean is not a political let alone economic union like the European
Union (EU). There is no need to aim that high, but aim we must towards
fulfilling the vision of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) premised
upon the free flow of goods and services, investment, capital, and
skilled labour, revolving around one production base.
The push for accelerating regional integration now couldnt
be stronger, with the goal of an economically inter-linked, multilaterally-dependent,
highly converged Asean within the framework of the Asean Economic
Community (AEC) by 2025, which is only five years away, as outlined
in its blueprint.
Even if for arguments sake externalities such as supply chain
reconfiguration, reshoring, a shifting balance of economic power,
evolving trends in consumer spending habits through digitalisation
are not unprecedented, it is undeniable that Covid-19 is.
It is a catalyst and impetus for economic transformation.
And regional integration is one of the definitive routes by which
Malaysia can transform and uplift its economy.
In driving regional integration, we can enhance and boost the pooling
of resources and tap into respective advantages and work to move
forward together as one bloc.
In other words, instead of acting singularly as separate countries,
its better to move forward and outward as a bloc of countries
offering the rest of the world access to what is a single
market comprising a population of some 600-plus million
At the same time, each country would naturally, strategically and
seamlessly serve as a gateway into the rest of the bloc - providing
exporters and investors ease of access to a huge and growing market
that is part of the wider Asia-Pacific geoeconomic centre towards
which the shifting power balance is heading.
Put simply, what this means is that the unprecedented nature of
Covid-19 should compel us to take a look closer to home where we
might have taken things for granted and benignly neglected our neighbourhood,
so to speak, in favour of the horizons beyond with the allurements
of rich markets with strong purchasing power, backed by powerful
But as it is, with a growing middle-class population and increasing
purchasing power, other Asean member-countries such as Indonesia,
Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam are playing catch up.
The growing markets within our own neighbourhood are, of course,
a result of the growing economies in the region driven by foreign
direct investment (FDI), industrialisation and moving up the value
In adapting to the rapidly evolving dynamics of globalisation precipitated
Covid-19, regional integration is not meant to promote isolationism
It is not intended to forge and foster a political union a la European
Union EU but is more akin to the European Economic Community as
embodied by the single or common market founded upon the four fundamental
freedoms, of movement, of people, of capital, and of labour and
services, but without a separate high authority
or (centralised) government as the EU has.
The idea of a common currency is not feasible for Asean.
The European Union's EUs experience shows that for a single
currency to work, there must be more than just monetary union -
there must also be a fiscal and banking union.
The purpose of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), however, is more
modest though no less important: to advance the common interests
of the region that will, at the same time, promote regional stability
and peace and prosperity.
A more integrated Asean will be a stronger, long-term partner of
other regional groupings such as the emerging Regional Comprehensive
Economic Partnership, East Asian Community, and not least the Asia-Pacific
Economic Community, to which Malaysia plays host this time around.
In addition, the specific advantages of enhanced and deeper regional
integration in the form of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) are
More than 99 percent of the products in the Common Effective Preferential
Tariff inclusion list of Asean-6 - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have been brought
down to the 0 percent - 5 percent tariff range. The Asean Economic
Community (AEC) would further allow member countries to take advantage
of the lower costs by collaborating on joint production efforts
to manufacture exports.
Our common regional production base would also be complemented and
supplemented by the advantages and benefits of further regional
integration through increased capital and investment flows alongside
the transfer and sharing of skills and expertise through the movement
By extension, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) should also empower
and spur member-countries to consolidate their economic interests
into a stronger bargaining and negotiating power at the international
table and fora such as the World Trade Organisation.
In view of the supply chain reconfiguration and shifting trends
in globalisation such as digitalisation, the Asean Economic Community
AEC would allow Malaysia to diversify and intensify its regional
base so we will not be overly reliant on our traditional export
markets and production networks.
Regional integration in the form of the Asean Economic Community
(AEC) presents a golden opportunity for us to come out of Covid-19
in a much more dynamic and resilient state, ready to embrace a brave
new world. Post Covid-19 regional integration is the way to go
for it is only by first turning inwards to rediscover our inner
strength and core that we can turn outwards again with renewed spirit,
hope and optimism.
Head of Social,
Law and Human Rights,
of Malaysian citizen's money
to build palatial government buildings
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 June 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 12 June 2012
A tale of architecture and democracy
in Over the Top, The Star, June 9 by Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin
Mohd Rasdi is enlightening and insightful.
It is sad but true that many of us do not have a deep understanding
of democracy and what it should mean in Malaysia.
Our education system does not provide sufficient information on
It is really interesting how the columnist highlights the lack of
three important characteristics of a democratic system ie
representation, accessibility and accountability - by analysing
the architecture of some important buildings in our country.
A lot of the rakyats or Malaysan citizen's money is used to
build palatial government buildings.
Yet how many of us actually feel that our politicians or civil servants
are there to serve us and not to make us feel that they are doing
us a favour when attending to us?
Incidentally, now that Prof Tajuddin has pointed out that the architecture
of Johor Barus Dewan Jubli Intan has elements of Malay, Chinese
and Indian heritage, I will be viewing the building with fresh eyes
the next time I see it.
control laws in Thailand
Are rife with double standards
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 11 June 2020
So, no wine to be served in restaurants after such
a long shutdown?
Now Thais may incur hefty fines for posting images of their favourite
tipple on Facebook!
No wonder the news has caused outrage.
For years, the powers that be have seemed wholly incapable of getting
drunks off the streets of our city.
It's not as if drunks are hard to find in Bangkok.
But even aided by curfews and the recent lockdown, this apparently
simple task has proved beyond the authorities.
Miraculously, though, the authorities are ingenious enough to hunt
down netizens who post a flute of champagne or a can of lager among
snaps of cute pets and funny road signs.
The kingdom's so-called alcohol control laws are rife with double
standards, and all too easily exploited by less than scrupulous
Similarly twisted logic surrounds the measures against Covid-19.
I can buy multipacks of alcohol at convenience stores and supermarkets
with no questions asked.
But woe betide the restaurateur who offers me a glass of merlot
with my filet mignon!
After many weeks bereft of conviviality, a country once fabled for
its hospitality now seems intent on discouraging visitors in perpetuity.
We're asked to believe that the civilised custom of wine with a
meal - more a matter of culture than binge drinking - threatens
good order and the health of the nation.
But apparently there's no such danger from drinks bought at the
local 7-Eleven or the nearest branch of Tops.
I'm told some eateries are serving alcoholic drinks, often disguised
improbably in tea or coffee cups.
No doubt there's an unscrupulous official somewhere, smiling broadly.
Meanwhile, the instantly recognisable logos of Thailand's two most
famous breweries are displayed all over the place.
They carry an unmistakable message, and it has nothing to do with
But I doubt if 50,000 baht fines are threatened in these cases.
Does this bizarre mess originate from hypocrisy?
A mix of the two, of course - and it's not a cocktail I'd ever want
to post on my Facebook page.
Call for relaxation of
State of Emergency
In Papua New Guinea
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 June 2020
First published in the Papua New Guinea, Thursday 11 June
Any extension after the two months State of Emergency
(SOE) by the government will have a significant impact on the lives
of every Papua New Guinean.
People living in the cities are the ones who are badly affected.
We have seen an increase in unemployment, Small to Medium-Sized
Enterprise (SME)s shutting down, petty crimes increasing and the
increase in police brutality during the SOE period.
The State of Emergency SOE came about due to the Covid-19 but the
virus itself did not spread rapidly in Papua New Guinea PNG as compared
to other countries.
We can only thank God for this as we all know that Papua New Guinea
PNG does not have the capacity and capability to fight the Covid-19.
The eight cases is the lowest and all have recovered.
We have recorded no deaths.
Thus, do we still need to have the State of Emergency (SOE) in place?
Leaders, please consider all aspects when making decisions as a
lot of Papua New Guineans are in the informal sector and live by
the daily takings they make.
If you make it hard for them to make ends meet, they turn to illegal
Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME)s are shutting down and the
badly needed funding that was promised by the Government have not
been made available not sure how long this will take.
By the time it is available, how many Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise
(SME)s will benefit from that funding?
One can argue that a lot of people have died from the Covid-19 but
thats in other countries.
As pointed out by East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, we cannot compare
ourselves to others countries.
We need to do our own research to come up with better decision making.
Relevant authorities that advised the Government for an extension
should support their decision with actual facts and figures.
I personal think that we need to relax the State of Emergency (SOE)
in-country but focus more on our international borders.
That way we boost our local economy which supports the informal
sector while maintaining vigilance on any imported the Covid-19
The impact of the two months State of Emergency (SOE) has made life
hard for most ordinary Papuan New Guineans. Extending it will only
worsen the situation.
Lets learn to live with the Covid-19 as part of the new normal.
Papua New Guinea
Call for visits by health
To restuarants in the Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 June 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 June
I would like to bring to the attention of Metro Manila
mayors the observations I have encountered during my several visits
to the Philippines, with the fight against the spread of COVID-19
These observations, if implemented and enforced through ordinances,
will prevent food-borne microbial illnesses.
Most restaurants in the Philippines, especially mom-and-pop operations,
do not have a supply of toilet paper in their restroom, or running
water and soap for customers to wash their hands.
Additionally, restrooms must have a conducive environment, without
Street food vendors must also be regulated and educated about good
Public market wet areas need to be reinspected to ensure that they
follow cleanliness standards.
This practice must be adhered to before opening and closing individual
stalls. Peculiar smells must be eliminated to ensure shopper satisfaction.
There should be no wet surfaces to prevent slippage and accidents.
Visits by health inspectors must be conducted regularly to prevent
bad products, especially meat and poultry, from being sold.
Slaughterhouses must be kept clean all the time to prevent transmission
of diseases. Periodic inspection must be done to ensure that they
comply with health and environmental regulations.
Personnel in these areas must be properly trained to perform sanitary
practices and prevent sick animals from being sold to the public.
Observing good hygiene prevents diseases and transmission.
If constituents are healthy, the public health system will not be
This will ultimately save the government precious funds.
When a person just has to sppeak up
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 6 June 2020
Re: "Exiled Thai activist 'abducted in
Cambodia'", in Bangkok Post,
Sometimes it's difficult to consider yourself a guest when you were
working here when six locomotives plowed into Hua Lamphong station
in 1986, when your host government has undergone three violent military
coups and you have witnessed 20 prime ministers in in-action and
when you have a 29-year-old Thai national as a child.
In almost any other country of the world that guest tag would not
exist - but then, not many countries try so hard to ensure foreigners
never become immigrants.
But even if I felt like a guest, would it be incumbent on me to
overlook the torture, the forced disappearances, the extrajudicial
killings and the political trickery to produce a constitution and
election result which defy normal standards and produce governments
which refuse their citizens the most basic of human rights?
Is it right to say "It's not my problem" and ignore
the moral imperative of speaking out when we see wrong?
I come from a country and an era when the convenient disappearances
of Somchai, Billy, Kotee, Siam and Wanchalearm are things that can't
be simply shrugged off or forgotten without proper investigation
There are times when a person just has to speak up.
Australians call for change
In which indigenous deaths are a societal
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 June 2020
The thousands of people who joined the Black Lives
Matter protests in Sydney and across Australia are progressive people
fighting to change the existing system in which racism, discrimination,
police brutality and black deaths in custody have become a shameful
That is unacceptable.
They want racial justice for all Australians .
The protesters are people with conscience committed to creating
a society where everyone is treated with respect and human dignity
regardless of race.
('Australian protest racial discrimination in Australia in Sydney'
( Southeast Asian Times 8 June ).
By contrast with his condemnation of the protesters as "
incredibly selfish " government Minister Mathias Corman
and other ministers show just what a reactionary mob they are.
The change for a better world, a fair and just world that the Black
Lives Matter movement is seeking is not likely to be facilitated
by these reactionary political leaders in Australia just as it is
not likely in America under Trump.
It's all the more reason why the protest is so relevant and why
it must persist until the destiny of a better world order is reached.
I am immensely proud of the courage of conviction, the commitment
to higher order values and altruism displayed by the protesters.
Call for UNHCR to conduct
On migrant schools in Malaysia
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 June 2020
First published in the Star Friday 5 June 2020
I wait for the director-general of Health's announcement
on the Covid-19 statistics every day and sigh with relief when I
hear that the number of new infected cases is low.
Our government did a very good job in implementing the Movement
Control Order (MCO) to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Most businesses are now open but they must follow Standard Operating
Procedures (SOP) otherwise they will be slapped with fines or forced
to close. This shows that our government wants businesses to get
back on their feet but they must do so by strictly following the
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place to prevent new Covid-19
With the reopening of childcare centres (tadika/tabika), mothers
can also go back to work.
I am glad to know that reopening of schools will be done in stages,
with the Education Ministry allowing Forms 5 and 6 to start first.
I am sure the Education Ministry will allow primary schools to reopen
after studying how the secondary schools are faring.
Recent statistics show that refugees and migrants were the biggest
contributor to the number of new Covid-19 cases.
As such, it would be a matter of concern when refugee and migrant
schools under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Most of the refugee and migrant children attend schools set up by
Non Government Organisations (NGO) in shop lots.
As all refugee and migrant schools come under the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I think it is this agency's
responsibility to screen all children as well as their families
before they are allowed to return to school.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should
also conduct health checks on the school premises.
The government should oversee the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) in doing these tasks.
Just like businesses, if non government organisations NGOs flout
the law and reopen refugee schools without approval from the government,
they should be fined and the school should be closed.
It is the duty of our government to safeguard its citizens at all
Thai government in 2020
Making same mistakes as in 1929
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 5 June 2020
It has often been said that those who do not study
history are doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.
Well, it seems that Samanea Saman's June 4 letter "Free
the market", goes to prove that point.
The writer pointed out that whilst the Thai government did have
good intentions in installing a protectionist egg export policy,
the actual results two months later are a depressed market, supply
chain problems and even more cries for government intervention -
ie more debt.
I would like to add that the Thai government in 2020 is making most
of the same mistakes which our forefathers did in 1929.
Back in 1929 and the 30s, countries around the world installed a
raft of knee-jerk, protectionist policies for all the same reasons
that Thailand restricted egg exports and the results are exactly
the same: Markets collapsed, the economic crisis deepened and governments
were called upon for more bailout and more social welfare programmes.
This is what I call "the FDR trap". Rather than
cutting taxes and allowing the market to correct itself, President
Franklin Roosevelt FDR responded to crises like this by unleashing
large government intervention.
However, every time Franklin Delano Roosevelt FDR did that, the
markets significantly declined and/or slowed; culminating with Franklin
Delano Roosevelt FDR pushing America into an avoidable second recession
in 1937. It seems to me that history is once again repeating itself.
Jason A Jellison,
Failed state applies to
More than Thailand
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 1 June 2020
Re: "Are we a failed state?",
in Philippine Inquirer PostBag, June 1.
In reading Khun Lungstib's description of a "failed state,"
I can't help but think that it applies far more accurately to the
current state of affairs in the US than it does to Thailand.
The US is sadly now a state seemingly incapable of enforcing its
laws uniformly and justly, a place where police intimidate minorities
and carry out extra-judicial killings with impunity, a country with
out-of-control urban violence, high drug addiction rates, near-record
unemployment, government institutions undermined and misused for
personal and political advantage, and a judicial system hijacked
to serve political agendas.
It's a nation with among the highest health-care costs in the world
yet unable to effectively stem the Covid-19 pandemic, a failing
education system, inept and untruthful political leadership, and
a population prone to propaganda and wild conspiracy theories advanced
to divide the people.
Ronald Reagan once spoke of America as "the shining city
upon a hill".
Martin Luther King had a "dream" of little black
boys and black girls able to join hands with little white boys and
white girls as sisters and brothers.
For the time being at least, it appears the dream has been extinguished
and the city no longer shines.
The encouraging thing about America, however, is that it has proven
time and time again over the course of its history that it can overcome
With a change of leadership and a renewed sense of purpose, there
is reason to believe the country can again shine as a beacon for
Call for Malaysia to uphold
Malaysia's non-interference policy
On Hong Kong National Security Law
published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 3 June 2020
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 June 2020
The Perikatan Nasional administration, led by Prime
Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is concentrating its efforts
in dealing with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic by
focusing on economic improvement while addressing social and health
With the impact of Covid-19 expected to disrupt the societal climate,
causing a surge in unemployment and reducing revenue for this year
and the next, the federal government also manages foreign policy
as well as it can especially in relation to recent developments
along our border or territorial waters.
Over the years, Malaysia has solidified its mark as a tolerant and
open nation, safeguarding its national borders with care, despite
the risk of encroachment by outside parties, as well as threats,
It is only logical and right that the country be more vocal and
demanding in exercising its rights as a sovereign nation.
The presence of Chinese and American warships in the South China
Sea, for instance, presents a real threat to regional peace and
security, which directly affects us.
Judging by Parliamentary responses given by the foreign minister
from 2018 to last year under the previous administration, the federal
government, including the current administration, wants to avoid
conflict with global superpowers and so will keep emphasising diplomacy,
restraint and moderation as the way to go.
With developments still centred on US-China ties along the lines
of trade policies, health-driven action plans due to Covid-19 and
security co-operation, Malaysia, along with other Asean members,
will probably continue to adopt a collective stance founded on the
principles of global peace and harmony.
In addition, Malaysia's worrying economic prospects require policy
flexibility, including in managing foreign affairs.
As Sino-Malaysian trade relations strengthened on the back of large
Chinese investments in key industries such as manufacturing, information
technology, agriculture and construction, the government should
seek to maintain positive ties.
Within this context, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
should be measured in addressing related concerns, which includes
Malaysia's position in the Hong Kong-China dispute over the proposed
and recently passed National Security Law by respecting established
Along this line, the most effective move could be to uphold Malaysia's
non-interference policy, while championing democracy and the right
to speak through alternative mechanisms.
To withstand the fragility of present economic terrain, coordinated
internal policy execution and the preservation of external relations
must go hand in hand - avoiding confrontation and focusing on continuous
growth projection through close cooperation with indispensable partners
power movement in Southeast Asia
Overthrew former Philippines President,
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 June 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 2 June 2020
China is allowing the people of Hong Kong to exercise
If they have democracy then they have the right to protest.
In a democracy, it is your right to support whom you want to support.
We too live in a democracy and, hopefully, we should support people
who also want democracy.
Yes, business and security will be affected.
But just to remind everyone, do you think the French and Russian
Revolutions could have happened if people kept quiet and worried
only about business and security?
What about the American Civil War and the civil rights protests
of African-Americans led by Martin Luther King Jr?
What about the Iran Revolution and the Arab Spring?
And lets not forget the people power movements in this part
of the world that overthrew Marcos, Soekarno, Suharto - all this
happened and changed lives for the better because people protested.
There was also the Red and Yellow protests in Thailand.
And we had our own protests in 1968 and 2008 and the protests by
Bersih. Nothing will be changed by sitting at home.
It is not that people like to protest.
What do you get for protesting except tear-gassed, sprayed by water
cannon, arrested and even jailed.
But saying people cannot protest insults people like King Jr and
Nelson Mandela, and puts you on the side of dictators.
Yes, there will be peace and security but also hardship and suffering.
Let me make my point very clearly: I am not supporting any country.
I am just saying that things can only get better if there is protest.
There are protests almost daily in India because they believe strongly
Today there are huge protests in the United States over the killing
of an African-American by a white policeman.
We have to protest for change, we cant just sit at home and
write about it.
Papua New Guinea Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 June 2020
First published in the National, Monday 1 June 2020
This is a plea to the state of emergency (SOE) controller
not to extend the national emergency after June 2.
There have not been any new cases of Covid-19 reported so far.
People will die from hunger instead of dying from the Covid-19.
The Prime Minister James Marapes idea of donating food is
The programme did not accommodate for the many struggling families
in the city.
People who were affected in the private sector were never compensated
If the state of emergency (SOE) is to be extended, those who were
already affected will be in double trouble, causing a lot of stress
Some banks are not following the governments directive to
relax loan repayments.
The state of emergency (SOE) should not be extended.
Allow some control measures and do not make the situation harder
for the ordinary citizens.
Papua New Guinea
calls for national Fourth Industrial Revolution policy
serve as spingboard into ASEAN
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 June 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 30 May 2020
Between 400 million and 800 million individuals could
be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around
the world - McKinsey Global Institute
Malaysia 5.0 outlines a problem-solving approach to society's challenges
and problems through the deployment and implementation of Fourth
Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) technologies, which integrates both
physical and digital environments.
The term "Society 5.0" describes the next stage
of the evolution of societal communities, following the hunting
society (Society 1.0), agricultural society (Society 2.0), industrial
society (Society 3.0), and information society (Society 4.0).
The key differentiation of Society 5.0 (the digital age) from Society
4.0 (the information age) is the convergence of the virtual world
with the physical world.
Covid-19 has accelerated the migration of society from physical
infrastructures onto digital infrastructures, but Society 5.0 holds
the promise to bring these back together through the use of IR4.0
technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things
(IoT), blockchain and digital assets (FinTech).
A national IR4.0 policy is needed to create a new narrative for
Malaysia as an innovation economy that can compete in a disruptive
technology world, serve as a springboard into Asean, bridge Asia,
the Middle East and Africa, as well as connect with the 1.8 billion
Such a policy will support emerging technologies such as Blockchain,
AI, IoT and Robotics, which are all essential tools in the new Malaysia
5.0 digital economy.
If such a policy is missing from our national strategy, Malaysia
will be left behind and excluded from digital ecosystems and workforces.
Because of its ubiquitous reach, IR4.0 technologies raise all kinds
of concerns. With proper guidance, these can be used to create a
better life for all including new and more meaningful jobs,
reskilling of the workforce, better health and education, as well
as smarter and greener cities.
Malaysia 5.0 can contribute to a more sustainable and circular economy,
where greater well-being is possible for all citizens regardless
of age, ethnicity, and class. In the face of such major changes,
countries have an urgent need to develop a comprehensive policy
that enables them to create a more inclusive and caring society
A starting point for a national IR4.0 policy is a designated hub
that connects IR4.0 companies in Malaysia to the rest of the world,
with strong regulatory and strategic oversight, as well as direction.
The policy framework must be aligned with ongoing programs at Finance
Ministry, Communication and Multimedia Ministry, Malaysia Digital
Economy Corporation, Malaysian Investment Development Agency, Bank
Negara Malaysia, Securities Commission Malaysia (SC), as well as
other government and statutory bodies.
Whilst there is a lot of personal and economic pain being caused
by the current pandemic and months of quarantine to both companies
and households, there will ultimately be an end to the crisis.
The ensuing recovery relies largely upon a properly managed acceleration
of IR4.0 technologies.
Malaysia 5.0 is an opportunity to pro-actively design the blueprint
for converging the digital and physical worlds to overcome social
challenges, improve productivity and create new markets.
As the dust settles, a new way of doing things will emerge and we
will not only become more resilient as a society, but also more
robust as a global world economy.
Dr Rais Hussin,
Eating with your hands
back to the Karma Sutra
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 June 2020
When he says " Eating with your hands spread
diseases; it's something that should never be done, Covid-19 or
not " ( Southeast Asian Times 30 May ),
Ian Cruickshank forgets that people who eat with their hands also
wrote Karma Sutra, the book of sexual wisdom, over 2000 years ago
and also built the hundreds of awe-inspiring architectural sites
around the ancient world that are in the World Heritage list and
countless other works of art and culture and literature that remain
a part of human heritage.
Just something for him and like minded others to reflect upon.
officials have budget approved
And their cuts organised in road works
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 June 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 30 May 2020
Re: "Seawall plan needs review",
Editorial, Bangkok Post, May 29
At a time when a storm of protest is being raised about an unwanted
seawall that some authority seems determined to construct, I have
a story in a similar vein.
In my small village we still have several dirt lanes and recently
the local authority promised the one leading to my wife's mango
orchard and a local nursery school would get repaved in concrete.
It's wanted, a good idea, but what's also needed is good thought
Instead of that, a tractor and driver turns up one day and scrapes
the surface approximately flat.
Then a work team arrives and lays some shuttering and, almost instantly,
big concrete mixer trucks arrive and pour their loads.
The job is half done and already it's obvious the new road will
be 20 centimetres above the old one and will sit on sand.
Everyone with a lane turn-off will have to do their own work to
get trucks in and out of their plots.
Plus there has been no thought about where the water run-off from
this sloping road will go.
It seems officials have had the budget approved and organised their
cut without a thought to the actual implementation of the project.
There is no engineer on site and the workers just do what they think
will fit in the time they have been given.
We will probably get a road that acts as a dam, or a situation where
floodwater washes out someone's orchard.
No one is concerned once the budget has been dispersed among the
suits; the road is not the object of their energies.
Jose Rizal to enforce
maritime claims in West Philippine Sea
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 28 May
Last Saturday marked the arrival of the Philippine
Navys first-ever brand-new frigate.
Appropriately named after the countrys national hero, Ship
of the Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas,
BRP Jose Rizal, departed the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard last
Monday, May 19, and arrived in Subic, Zambales, on May 23 Watch:
PH Navys 1st brand new frigate on its way home from Korea,
in Philippine Inquirer May 19, 2020.
Ship of the Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas,
BRP Jose Rizal, will be vital in protecting Philippine sovereignty
and conducting future navy patrols around the whole West Philippine
Sea including Scarborough Shoal, located within the Philippines
200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
At the moment, Chinese vessels largely dominate the region and unlawfully
intimidate, harass, and bully Filipino fishermen from exercising
historic fishing rights in the shoal.
Subic Bay is approximately 120 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal.
With a declared average speed of 25 nautical miles, Ship of the
Republic of the Philippines, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP
Jose Rizal, can easily reach Scarborough Shoal in less than five
As can be gleaned from reading former Supreme Court senior associate
justice Antonio T. Carpios ebook titled The South
China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction
in the West Philippine Seaany armed attack on a Philippine
public vessel as part of either the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard
in the Pacific area, which includes the South China Sea, is a ground
to invoke the 1952 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.
According to Justice Carpio, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) covers
Philippine Navy ships and Coast Guard vessels patrolling the Philippine
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.
The United States has unequivocally declared that China must comply
with international law and the Permanent Court of Arbitrations
Award dated July 12, 2016, in favor of the Philippines.
Accordingly, moving forward, the arrival of Ship of the Republic
of the Philippines Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas, BRP Jose Rizal,
in the Philippines is certainly a desirable development and a notable
victory in the enforcement of Philippine maritime claims in the
West Philippine Sea.
Marlon Inigo T. Tronqued,
Hygiene in Thai restuarants
Seems a fine way to spread Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 27 May 2020
Sirinya Wattanasukchai in her May 27 commentary in
Bangkok Post thinks restaurant staff should somehow know a group
are from the same household.
More concerning is her primitive view of hygiene.
Eating with your hands spreads diseases; it's something that should
never be done, Covid-19 or not.
I see restaurant staff blowing their nose into their shirt, picking
their nose and not washing their hands.
That seems a fine way to spread a virus.
If that's okay for Sirinya then I hope she keeps her infections
chief enforcer of Covid-19 lockdown
Violates lockdown rule on social gatherings
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 May
I write regarding the mananita gathering in celebration
of the birthday of Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas last May 8.
As a Philippine Military Academy graduate Class of 1964, I am embarrassed
that one of our own in the Philippine Military Academy community,
no less than the chief enforcer of the lockdown regime in the National
Capital Region, himself violated the lockdown rule on social gatherings,
a violation that struck hard at the heart of the law enacted to
beat the COVID-19 threat in our country.
I understand that President Duterte has opted to keep General Sinas
at his post as National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head,
pending further instructions, a decision which
I thought could induce discordant voices among us at this perilous
time when we should all be united in support of our government in
its difficult task of driving the virus away.
With due respect to our Commander in Chief, I must say that General
Sinas is not above the law - no one is.
That said, the general should be held accountable for his misdeed.
Not taking action against him will have serious implications and
It will irreparably undermine the sincerity and seriousness and
sense of purpose of our government in pursuing draconian lockdown
What if ordinary, less privileged, citizens caught violating some
lockdown rule resist arrest and invoke the principle of equal protection
of the law - saying that a general who violated the rule against
social gathering has not been subjected to arrest?
General Sinas, please, as an elder Philippine Military Academy graduate,
let me say to you:
The honorable thing to do is to offer to resign your position as
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) head, go on terminal
leave, and save the President from agonizing over what to do with
Col. Leonardo O. Odono (Ret.)
Philippine Military Academy Class of 1964,
Call to reduce pay for
Philiipine government 'boondogglers'
To avert mass riots and starvation
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 May
President Duterte has warned that we cannot afford
a second wave of
Given the miserable state of our national resources, millions of
Filipinos will probably die if that happens.
The cost of treatment for those caught in that wave is just too
Going slow on the lifting of the community quarantine all over the
country is the only way to go.
Its the only thing a Third World country like ours can afford
to do - minimize the spread of the highly contagious disease by
voluntary or forced isolation.
With millions still out of work and with no other means of livelihood,
the government simply cannot feed them for a prolonged period of
As the whole world still struggles to find a vaccine, Mr. Duterte
is at his wits end and needs all the financial help he can
get from anyone, from anywhere.
So why, with the almost absolute power he now wields, hasnt
he ordered the suspension of all forms of compensation to public
officials, say, with pay grades above P50,000 per month until the
crisis is over?
Does it not look so scandalously wasteful already?
The sums of money saved thereby could easily amount to billions
which the government could use to avert mass riots and starvation.
For example, Mocha Uson and many other boondogglers in government
who get paid from an obscene P150,000 to P200,00 per month for doing
nonessential chores or errands should be furloughed
and frozen for the time being.
The nationwide lockdown has rendered their services
largely irrelevant, if not totally useless, anyway.
Desperate times necessitate desperate measures. Its time for
highly paid government officials to prove the stuff they are made
of - that they are really in it for public service
and love of country, not for plunder or personal
And should they choose to resign from what they might then consider
thankless jobs, well, good riddance!
Truth be told, there will always be others among more than 100 million
Filipinos willing to make the sacrifice.
This country has never run out of heroes, especially in times of
Stephen L. Monsanto
Arrest of former Papua
New Guinea PM
Warning for politicians in Pacific
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 May 2020
We learn from the illuminating reporting in the May
25 Southeast Asian Times article ' Former Papua New Guinea PM
Peter O'Neil arrested for corruption ' that the former PM was
arrested on arrival from Brisbane at the Port Jackson International
Airport in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The Police Assistant Commissioner Crime said " there is
reasonable evidence of misappropriation, abuse of office and official
The arrest of the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister contains
a cautionary tale for political leaders in other Pacific island
It provides a valuable reminder that if you do the crime whilst
in office there is the very real likelihood that you will end up
doing the time when you are out of office. This is the situation
of the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. A situation
not dissimilar to that of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib
Razak, although his was on a whole lot grander scale.
Peter O'Neil is " charged with directing payments of $14.2
million for the purchase of two generators from Israel without due
consideration for procurement processes as required under the Public
Finance Management Act".
The purchase moreover " was not approved by the National
This clearly is not the way good governance is meant to work in
a parliamentary democracy.
That explains why the former Finance Minister and now the current
PM James Marape had resigned.
He cited " lack of trust " in Prime Minister Peter
O'Neil. And, the former Attorney General and Justice Minister Davis
Steven who had also resigned said his resignation had nothing to
do with " personal differences " but rather because
" Papua New Guinea's political leadership is weakening state
It is not uncommon for political leaders in Pacific island countries
to think that they can arbitrarily make decisions on the use of
public funds when they are in power without reference to established
procedures and state institutions.
This case is a stark reminder that these state institutions exist
for a purpose.
It's precisely to check against the abuse of office the former Papua
New Guinea Prime Minister is accused of.
Covid-19 has helped Papua
New Guinea realise
That there is more to devellopment than
high rise buildings
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 May 2020
First Published in the National, Friday 22 May 2020
Papua New Guinea is one of the struggling developing
countries in the world who is trying to cope with the tide of the
Papua New Guinea has been struggling with development issues for
a very long time and has not in one bit overcome this problem.
The country went into lockdown in March due to the Covid-19 threat
which lasted for two weeks and has triggered a dawn of a new health
era for Papua New Guinea.
The public went silent, streets empty and the towns and cities became
ghost towns fear swept across the country.
Betel nut, gaming activities and alcohol sale in cities and towns
and agents of crime were roped by the neck and hanged.
Mamas and papas at betel nut sale hotspots and markets were dispersed.
Crowded and unnecessary gatherings were reduced.
People have seen something new and good in a very long time.
After the lockdown, mass awareness on hygiene protocols by the government
through various mediums led the people to practise health measures
which was now called the new normal.
These health measures are everyday activities that should have already
been a daily routine for individuals.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this country up to a new stage
in a very short period of time.
People are now cautious and vigilant when moving around.
Places that were once filthy and scrupulous are now clean.
Institutions have shifted and approached a more advanced operating
This Covid-19 threat has completely changed the phase and face of
It will be worthy if the government continues to implement some
of the state of emergency sanctions after the national emergency.
The pandemic is helping us realise that we will not develop only
by building high rise buildings and underground tunnels but by appreciating
the importance of trivial matters we tend to ignore in life.
The University Of Papua New Guinea (UPNG)
Papua New Guinea
Makes no sence for Thailand
To outsource craft beer brewing
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 21 May 2020
Re: "Small brewers pour into Vietnam",
in Bangkok Post, May 18.
The continued restrictions on craft beer brewing in Thailand are
It makes no sense for Thailand to export jobs and income generation
by outsourcing craft beer brewing to Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia,
Malaysia and elsewhere when the beer could be brewed here in the
The huge costs and environmental footprint required for shipping
Thai craft beers from overseas breweries back to Thailand make these
restrictive regulations additionally dubious.
It is nonsensical for Thailand to miss out on the burgeoning craft
beer sector sweeping the globe when the country urgently needs more
local investment and quality employment.
The current restrictions on craft beer brewing in Thailand benefit
only overseas economies and the two major Thai brewers that are
consequently shielded from even modest competition.
It is long past time to eliminate these irrational policies and
open up the Thai craft beer sector.
for legislation as last resort
For safe disposal of Covid-19 face masks
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 May 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 23 May 2020
As face masks are now an essential part of our personal
protective equipment (PPE), it is important to pay serious attention
to their disposal after use.
If used masks are not disposed of in the proper manner and place,
they could cause the return of the very virus they were meant to
This matter is now urgent, given that more and more people are using
face masks in public places, as advised by the Health Ministry.
The used masks are likely to be thrown in public rubbish bins or,
worse, indiscriminately in back lanes and drains.
Used masks, especially those that are soiled or have respiratory
secretions on them, could be potential health hazards should others
come into contact with them.
The most vulnerable group will be garbage collectors who could then
be a source of infection for whoever they come into contact with.
Indiscriminate disposal of masks will also have negative effects
on the environment, especially on marine life if the masks are washed
into rivers and the sea.
The relevant authorities and non-government organisations must do
more educational campaigns to educate the public on the proper way
to dispose of the masks not only in public places but also in their
General advice from experts for people at home is to secure the
masks in a plastic bag prior to their disposal as general waste.
If education and awareness campaigns do not work, the authorities
should then consider legislation to discourage irresponsible behaviour
or punish recalcitrant offenders in the interest of public health.
Legislation must only be the last resort if advice, persuasion and
Manufacturers of face masks could also print and distribute with
the masks a set of instructions on how to use and dispose of them,
as is done by manufacturers of other goods that require proper handling
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Alliance For Safe Community
for Thai institutions to respect
Fundamental principles of Buddhist teaching
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 May 2020
It is hard to see how any Thai institution that respects
the wise teachings of the Buddha could oppose a call to "search
for the truth", Bangkok Post Editorial,
The life of the Buddha as he went from prince, to ascetic to enlightenment
exemplifies the need to continually seek out the truth, even when
it might be uncomfortable or contradict traditional prejudices.
The Buddha's teachings explicitly stress the importance of right
understanding in all things, with none so unspeakable that the truth
should be rejected in favour of ignorance.
And as the Buddha's Kalama Sutta tells us, neither tradition nor
authority, not even of monks, certainly not state officials, is
any guarantee of truth, but that we must earnestly seek informed
understanding by critically assessing, and reassessing in the light
of new information, the sources available to us.
The efforts of the Progressive Movement would seem to align well
with the precepts of Buddhism. Surely Thai institutions can comport
themselves to similarly respect fundamental principles of Buddhist
makes sence to employ skilled expats
a socio-economic devoloping country
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 May 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 18 May 2020
It was welcome news when the government finally decided
to let expatriates with Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visas back
into the country in the The Star, May 17.
They are certainly grateful for the Tourism Ministrys support
in making this happen.
What is surprising is that expats with employment passes are still
being refused entry.
The government has opened up most businesses and these expats usually
occupy management positions in some of them or have valued technical
skills, so we cannot understand the logic of continuing to keep
them out of Malaysia.
If the aim is to get the economy moving, doesnt it make sense
to let them back in to contribute to the countrys economic
I am also receiving emails from distressed dependents of working
expats; these are students studying overseas whose schools have
closed but they cannot return to their parents in Malaysia.
There are very few of them probably under 50 and it would be so
easy to let them in along with the over 30,000 Malaysians who have
been allowed to return.
Is this a signal that the expat workforce is no longer valued?
It is quite a change of direction from past years when selected
expats were given resident passes with 10-year visas because the
country wanted to retain their skills. Now these same people who
thought Malaysia really valued them, and made this country their
home, are being banned from entering.
education system keeps
Thai's subservient to sacred
Southeast Asian Times Thursday, 21 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 17 May 2020
Re: "Mis-education of Hong Kong", Editorial,
Education is a two-edged sword.
It can be used to turn a nation into a herd of sheep or it can cultivate
a society that thrives on the power of free will and rule of law.
The Chinese formula of education for public officials and teenagers
is not something new.
Communist and authoritarian regimes all over the world have used
their brand of education to brainwash people by injecting dubious
cultural values, patriotism, and false pride.
The history of old Germany, the Soviet Union, Egypt, and more recently,
North Korea and a host of dictatorships in the Middle East, Africa,
and South America has taught us one thing - indoctrination has lethal
It limits the potential of human beings and cripples societies.
Sadly, the Thai educational system is also cultivated to keep its
people subservient to the sacred institutions.
Aldous Huxley, the English writer and philosopher put it well: "One
of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfils our worst wishes.
In the person of our nation, we are able, vicariously, to bully
and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we
are profoundly virtuous."
A table for four in Pattaya
Not at MK
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday 18 May 2020
My family of four went to MK restaurant in a shopping
mall in Pattaya for lunch. As we entered the restaurant, we scanned
our QR code, had our temperatures checked, sanitised our hands and
were then directed to four separate tables.
"Sorry only one guest per table."
I fully understand and support the need for physical distancing
in these times, but where is the logic that a family of four that
lives together, arrives in the same car together and walks around
together, cannot eat together?
There has to be some common sense when applying these policies.
Otherwise, businesses such as MK will suffer, people will lose their
jobs and the economy will not recover.
Christians are protected from Covid-19 by Jesus
Ignores the science and expert medical view
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 May 2020
The Myanmar State authorities have done the right
thing by charging a Baptist pastor and a preacher for holding sermons
in banned townships to curb the spread of COVID-19 with these religious
nuts "telling worshippers that those who are deeply devoted
to Christianity would be protected from COVID-19 by Jesus"
(' Worshippers protected from COVID-19 by Jesus : Myanmar pastor
says ' Southeast Asian Times 18 May ).
Acting the ostrich and ignoring the science and expert medical view
of the pandemic these religious nuts put the lives of people in
grave danger .
And, they religious idiots come from all religious faiths.
I am not one for rounding up and locking up people who hold radically
different views but these religious nuts deserve to be locked up
because they are a very real threat to the community.
They have no idea what it means to do the right thing in the fight
against this global virus pandemic.
Call for Papua New Guinea
To provide clean water for dringking and
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 May 2020
First published in the National, Friday 15 May 2020
Denying the people for basic needs such as water will
cause an uprising against the state.
People in Vabukori, Taikone, Kila Barracks, Sevese Morea School
and Morata have been denied access to clean running water for drinking
and washing for weeks.
Other suburbs in the city may be facing water crisis too.
Water is an essential need and every citizen in a city such as Port
Moresby deserves that service from the government.
In a critical time such as this when the country is facing a pandemic,
the government is doing everything possible to prevent the spread
of the deadly coronavirus.
While the government is emphasising the importance of regular hand
washing daily, Eda Ranu is doing the opposite thus contradicting
governments lawful instructions in providing service to the
Where was Eda Ranu when Prime Minister James Marape and his delegation
were talking on behalf of the working population with financial
institutions and super funds to ease some of their policies on loan
repayments with the banks or advance borrowing from the members
During the crisis period Eda Ranu, a state owned entity should read
and understand the actions of the Prime Minister and conform to
the standards set by him.
While all state owned enterprises and government departments adhered
to instructions issued by the state of emergency (SOE) controller
and the PM to save lives, Eda Ranu felt money was more important
The Prime Minister and State of Emergency (SOE) controller should
reprimand the executive management of Eda Ranu for doing what the
Prime Minister cannot do denying ordinary people the right
to access clean drinking water.
What happened in Tripoli a few weeks ago?
An uprising against the government for denying the people the right
to essential services.
Over to you Prime Minister.
Papua New Guinea
calls for shift from capitalist economy
To economy that
Incorporates Islamic principles
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 May 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 May 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore several
pertinent issues about governance and the economy of our country.
First and foremost is the question of government resilience in addressing
Previously, the government has handled small-scale disasters such
as floods and localised epidemics such as SARS (severe acute respiratory
syndrome) and dengue.
Although the experience gained from these episodes are invaluable,
they are insufficient to handle large-scale national or global disasters
such as the Covid-19 pandemic or wars.
Disasters of such scale require the mobilisation of all available
assets, especially money.
We may be providing huge economic stimulus packages, which we can
ill afford as they strain the country's resources and would lead
to future financial incapacitation.
We do not know when disasters will strike.
Thus, there is a need to plan for the logistics and algorithm to
be put in place.
To do this, there has to be a shift from investing just for corporate
and political profits to people's welfare.
This requires the government to undertake a paradigm shift from
a merely capitalist economy emphasising profit maximization favouring
those with capital and assets to one that is more welfare-oriented
and incorporating the Islamic principles of wealth creation and
The new economic model should continue to reward entrepreneurial
efforts towards wealth creation but without the capitalist wealth
accumulation that perpetuates inequality between the general populace
and the political corporate elites.
This model should not only ensure the sustainability of the economy
but must also be able to address the needs of the B40 group and
the abject poor in both good and bad times.
The current pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of the average
wage earner and poor self-employed traders.
No amount of ad hoc stimulus package can alleviate their plight.
The authorities need to have strategic planning based on economic
principles that reflect prudent and imaginative fiscal planning
and zero tolerance for corrupt practices that lead to hemorrhaging
of public funds.
There is a need to strategize fiscal practice to include a special
safety net in times of local or global disasters.
This safety net should not just be in the form of direct financial
aid but also injection of capital to sustain the infrastructure
of small and medium
By doing so, the government directly provides purchasing power that
would create demand for goods, which in turn would generate economic
turnover. This must be an ongoing strategy.
As such, there must be a unit to monitor the pulse of these economic
activities that would ensure sustainability of employment and also
look into having additional saving schemes beyond the standard ones
to tide over the difficult times.
This can be achieved if we manage our abundant resources with integrity
and accountability and remove the elements that precipitate the
hemorrhaging of public funds.
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
of capitalism and birth of something new
Post Covid-19 pandemic
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 May 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 13 May 2020
While the global community is grappling hard on how
to fight the Covid-9, a new era of world transformation is dawning
right before our eyes behind the corridors of world financial institutions.
This pandemic is a mere illusion of what is hidden and tucked away
from the public eye and scrutiny.
It is only a fraction of what is really taking place at the global
As the world is faced with this tragedy, another war is taking place
that will shape the world financial system pushing governments,
businesses and the world populace into a new era of economic reform
and financial shift to dimensions never before seen.
As the pandemic hits world financial institutions, governments and
businesses, the global community will adjust to a more rigorous
borrowing exercise to combat the pandemic and provide stimulus for
Founder of analysis and advisory firm Quantum Economics Mati Greenspan
said the world was witnessing the death of capitalism and the birth
of something new.
Closing the gap and limiting space for capitalist models, a shift
that will force investors and traders desperately searching for
markets that are free of interference.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; the world is yet to shift into
a new era of transformation.
The pandemic is a systematic diversion of true events taking place
by way of financial and economic reformations.
And perhaps a well-orchestrated game for global dominance and world
G. Antal Kesa King,
Papua New Guinea
Call for Phillipines to
continue protest against China
violation of international law in West Philippines Sea
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 May
China is obviously fulfilling its goals according
to plan and making diversionary tactics to make its competitors
and rival countries shift their attention to something else.
While the world is busy fighting against an unseen enemy - this
deadly coronavirus that originated from Wuhan - China is now trying
to position itself to become the most powerful country in the world.
Is this Chinas plan all along?
Is this what Beijing has been trying to set up for a long time,
to increase its capabilities especially in the West Philippine Sea
through its reclamation activities there?
Its a good thing the Philippines still managed to file two
diplomatic protests against China for violating international law
and Philippine sovereignty in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it is true that we are facing a health crisis, we should not
forget other national issues, especially those that pertain to our
May our leaders continue to assert our sovereignty, as well as protect
and defend our national territory.
Marion O. Santos,
Call for Philippine government
officials to donate
of their salaries for Covid-19 fight
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 May
The article Entire PH military donating parts
of salaries for COVID-19 fight in Philippine Inquirer
April 7, 2020 was welcome news amid the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling
government resources now spread ever so thinly across the archipelago.
Pray tell, why havent we heard from the other government officials
receiving monthly salaries, allowances, bonuses, incentives, etc.,
in astronomical amounts? Take, for instance, the Bangko Sentral
ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials who continue aggrandizing themselves
with close to or over P1 million per month in salaries, etc. 4
top BSP execs highest paid in govt, in Philippine
Inquirer October 6, 2017.
And there are countless numbers of rent-seeking charlatans up there
in all three branches of the government who continue to receive
such obscene paychecks every month.
The amount to be realized from their own donations
could be a hundred times more than what the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) had generously offered.
Surely, President Duterte has the cachet to influence all of them
to refrain from amassing more wealth and to donate the same to all
efforts to deal with the untold miseries that COVID-19 has brought
upon this country.
Ridiculously super-rich as they are already, they will undoubtedly
survive a couple of months without being paid a single centavo for
their public service, which is virtually nonexistent
Under the current lockdown, at least the taxpayers will be getting
what they are paying for: Nothing for nothing!
Public Servant Number One, whose official monthly compensation amounts
to a paltry one-fourth of what those Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
(BSP) satraps and their ilk are helping themselves to, can start
passing the hat around with his own paycheck in it.
While its good to hear that most of his
Cabinet officials have pledged 75 percent of their pay to the fight
against the pandemic, thats really just a drop in the bucket.
It bears stressing that this disease will most likely continue to
bedevil this country through the rest of the year, as even the most
advanced countries in the world are still groping in the dark in
search of an antidote.
So, Mr. President, please do what you do best: Shame the shameless!
Stephen L. Monsanto,
Movement Control Order (MCO)
landing approach towards normalcy
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 May 2020
First Published in the Star, Saturday 9 May 2020
For us in the academic fraternity, life under the
Movement Control Order (MCO) has not been too bad as we have managed
to harness Internet connectivity to keep up with our work and daily
Thanks to the Internet and, of course, our various institutions
for conducting how-to workshops online, we have been able to take
off smoothly in our new journey to deliver our lectures via the
In fact, I can safely say that in these past few weeks, lecturers
have accustomed themselves to using online applications, and most
have mastered one or two of these to use for meetings and lectures.
I am using WhatsApp Web to conduct my lectures since some of my
students have limited access to the Internet. It works like magic
and my students are happy so far.
With the conditional easing of the Movement Control Order (MCO),
should we abandon all the practices and skills
we have adopted or learnt?
To me, the conditional Movement Control Order (MCO), is a measure
to avoid heavy economic losses.
Some businesses need to reopen to avoid incurring heavy losses,
and employees in the manufacturing and services sectors need to
get back to work to make ends meet.
Take the analogy of an airplane.
In order to land safely, it has to gradually descend in a calculated
It doesnt just hit the ground, right?
Similarly, the conditional Movement Control Order (MCO) is to allow
us to slowly come back to normalcy.
Its a soft landing approach taken by the government with input
from various stakeholders.
The fight against Covid-19 is not over yet. Let us all be patient
and cooperate with the authorities.
On the health front, continue to maintain good hygiene, social distancing
and wearing masks, among others.
It will be sad to lose all the gains we have made over the past
Associate Prof Dr Ali Salman,
Centre for Language Studies and Generic Development,
Universiti Malaysia Kelantan,
Duterte government accused
of weaponizing the law
Against independent Philippines media outlets
Southeast Asian Times Tuesday 12 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 11 May
The debacle over the renewal of the ABS-CBN media
franchise is not about the networks sins of commission and
It is about the pleasure of one man.
The President has made no secret of his ire against ABS-CBN because
of its failure to air his political advertisements in the 2016 campaign.
He has made no secret of his view that ABS-CBN is an instrument
of the opposition, notwithstanding that many of its television and
radio personalities support him and have expressed this support
over the networks airwaves.
The order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for
the network to go off the air is trumpeted as a triumph of the rule
That rule of law is a travesty, an example of how the administration
has manipulated the law to strengthen the executives arbitrary
The only reason ABS-CBN has no franchise now is that the President
repeatedly declared he would not allow its renewal, while coyly
saying the decision was up to Congress. The sycophants pretending
to be legislators in Congress understood the veiled message.
They also understood there was no justifiable reason to deny the
franchises renewal, and that if they denied it, there would
be opposition from ABS-CBN fans (forget civil rights activists)
whose vote they feared to lose. So they stonewalled, until the franchise
This gave the administration the legal argument to order ABS-CBN
off the airways, though that argument is under contestation - even
by those sycophantic legislators who delivered ABS-CBN to the untender
mercies of the executive, and who now perceive the NTCs action
as an encroachment on the legislatures power to decide on
Moreover, Congress failure to renew ABS-CBNs franchise
is part of an entire constellation of occasions in which the government
has weaponized the law against independent media outlets.
That constellation harms not just the elite families or the young
upstarts who own these media outlets, but the citizenry, because
it deprives them of independent sources of information about how
the government performs, or does not. That constellation disempowers
In 1992, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the assembly
that forged the current directions for the Roman Catholic Church
in the Philippines, articulated eight Catholic principles that the
Church committed herself to promote in Philippine society.
The eighth principle was people empowerment.
The Councils participants still remember a time of national
disempowerment six years before, when rule of law, freedom of the
press, and other civil and political rights were subordinated to
the will of one man.
They saw it as a Christian duty to work so that this should never
Some church leaders realize that it is happening again.
Among them, Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator
of Manila, has forcefully weighed in on the NTC order.
He has declared it not just a disservice to the nation in the midst
of a pandemic crisis when the Filipino people need all the information
they can get, but also the harbinger of a return to authoritarianism.
We in Gomburza, a community of faith, support this broader perspective
on the ABS-CBN controversy.
We urge all Filipinos to reflect on this issue, and, if they object,
vociferously to make known their objections.
Consider what we will be losing as independent media outlets are
suppressed: not just Ang Probinsyano, but the
right to information that empowers us to build a society of justice
and human dignity.
Members of Gomburza:
Sister Teresita Alo, SFIC,
Fr. Roberto Reyes,
Fr Flavie L. Villanueza, SVD
Ruby G. Alcantara,
Lot Lumawig Allanigue,
Teresita S. Castillo,
Lucia Lucas Chavez
Eleanor R. Dionisio,
Veronica Ester Mendoza,
for urgent end to war between
government and Communist Party of the Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 May 2020
Never before in the history of our countrys
armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines
and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New Peoples
Army has the imperative of ending this interminable war been more
urgent - particularly at this time, both unprecedented and opportune.
It has now lasted for over half a century certainly now the longest-running
internal armed conflict in the world, and we cannot and must not
leave such a legacy to our youth.
The momentary ceasefires separately declared by both sides have
now lapsed, and we seem to be back on track for the resumption of
armed hostilities that simply have lost meaning while our people
are besieged by a virus that is both invisible and deadly, our livelihoods
uncertain while a great number of our homes in different cities
and towns are shuttered in lockdown.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres himself in a message
rare for its compelling character put it bluntly: It is
time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the
true fight of our lives.
He urged that all combatants silence their guns and added, There
should be only one fight in our world today, our shared battle against
Pope Francis in his traditional Easter Message to the City and the
World Urbi et Orbi, envisioning a world after
the pandemic, made a stirring appeal for global solidarity aimed
at combating the contagion as well as enacting an immediate ceasefire
on all conflict fronts - particularly at this time when all our
efforts must be focused on ending the scourge that has ravaged the
lives of people in nearly all the continents.
We are veteran peace advocates, each one of whom has spent nearly
four decades of our lives accompanying the peace processes in our
Although a peace agreement has been forged in the southern part
of our country that is now called Bangsamoro, nevertheless a cessation
of all armed hostilities throughout our land is imperative if we
are to heal as one and begin to rebuild our country
anew after this viral nightmare.
The humanitarian pause is but one step, but a
necessary one at this time.
It is our hope that it will provide space for both sides of the
conflict to rethink and explore ways to move the interminable peace
We call on our fellow citizens to demand from both sides to step
back from the brink and end this spiral of insanity.
How can we in conscience resume armed hostilities at this time?
We daresay: If you claim to fight in the name of the people,
then we ask of you to stop the shooting on our behalf so that we
can rebuild our lives that have been severely disrupted by this
Bobby Tañada, former senator,
Ed Garcia, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution,
Sol Santos, judge, Regional Trial Court in Naga City,
Mass Covid-19 testing
not solution to safe workplace
Attention to personal and environmental
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 May 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 8 May 2020
On Labour Day, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
announced that the vast majority of businesses throughout Malaysia
could reopenfrom May 4.
Many organisations and business owners have since welcomed the announcement
with mixed feelings.
On one hand, the news brought sighs of relief and new hope that
all the losses incurred during the long movement control order (MCO)
period may slowly and painfully be recovered.
On the other hand, there was fear and uncertainty over, among others,
the steps to prepare for reopening the physical workplaces.
Large organisations, particularly multinational companies, should
be well prepared for safe return to work with
their own standard operating procedures (SOP) developed weeks in
They may even have different versions of SOP for different pandemic
But this may not be the case with most business owners.
They may be struggling to strike a balance between reopening their
businesses and ensuring a safe workplace for their employees and
In the current climate where there is special
focus on migrant workers, employers with foreign workers face even
The International Trade and Industry Ministry has produced guidelines
for reopening the economy.
Business owners have been asked to adopt these guidelines and warned
that the minimum standards must be adhered to.
It has also been mandated that all foreign workers must undergo
a Covid-19 test with their employers bearing the cost.
In response, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) cautioned that
testing the foreign workers en masse is not a pragmatic approach,
as this exercise may quickly turn into a logistical nightmare.
Instead, MMA advised that efforts be focused on educating the foreign
workers and improving their working and living conditions that predispose
them to higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2.
We agree and liken the act of mass testing of foreign workers to
mopping the floor while the tap is still running.
Apart from being a logistical nightmare and an extremely expensive
affair, testing foreign workers en masse will not lead to the establishment
of safe workplaces, contrary to popular belief.
Many may then wonder what steps are needed to establish safe workplaces.
To address this, Occupational Health and Safety, Public Health,
and Infectious Diseases specialists from the Faculty of Medicine,
Universiti Malaya have produced a comprehensive set of questions
and answers for all Malaysian employers and interested parties.
Please refer to Return to Work after the Movement Control
Order (MCO) for COVID-19 infection A Guide for Workplace.
This set of Q&A, among others, emphasises that a single point
mass testing for Covid-19 may give a false sense of security to
employers and employees alike.
We have also put forth a set of comprehensive guidelines for safe
return to work and infection control at the workplace.
Finally, we would like to stress that mass testing is not the solution
towards the establishment of a safe workplace.
Employers need to adopt a comprehensive approach that involves risk
assessment and surveillance, attention to personal as well as environmental
hygiene and infection control, education and training and, most
importantly, building solidarity with their employees towards a
safer work place.
Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman,
University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Covid-19 Task Force
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Call for Thai government
to take sugar cane burning
seriously as Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 May 2020
Re: "Sugarcane farming leaves a bitter aftertaste",
in Bangkok Post Opinion,
As someone in Bangkok who has felt the unhealthy effects of atmospheric
Particulate Matter PM2.5 for several years now, I find it very discouraging
to discover that the government is subsidising the sugarcane farmers
whose field burning is apparently responsible for much of the ultrafine
dust that I have been breathing.
I would like to see the government take the atmospheric Particulate
Matter PM2.5 problem as seriously as they have Covid-19.
Given that growing sugarcane is so unprofitable that the government
has to subsidise these farmers, I would think the agricultural ministry
would be working hard to find alternative crops for these farmers,
so that they can make a living without costing the taxpayers a bundle,
and also stop poisoning our air.
I hope to read about how they are progressing in finding such crops
readiness to lift Movement Control Order
published in the Star, Friday 1 May 2020
The Southeast Asian Tmes Friday, 8 May 2020
Lifting the Movement Control Order (MCO) on May 12,
in my humble opinion, would be premature.
Currently, our rate for testing is less than 0.5 percent of the
Despite this, about 3.8 percent of tests turn out to be positive.
Singapore has tested about 1.74 percent of its population, recording
an infection rate of 15.6 percent.
The majority of infections in Singapore has been among foreign workers
who live in dense dormitory conditions.
I do not believe our Health Ministry has screened foreign workers
extensively. They will become the new clusters, as they live in
crowded conditions like their counterparts in Singapore.
Our readiness to lift the MCO is wishful thinking when government
agencies such as the Housing and Local Government Ministry cannot
enforce daily sanitising of markets.
As an example, the Petaling Jaya Old Town market off Jalan Othman
was only sanitised after a stall holder was found to be infected.
To make matters worse, not all stall holders were tested for infection.
The National Security Council has to have more spine.
For one, its website should provide up-to-date information without
On April 29, the website showed the Covid-19 latest situation:
Breakdown by country, April 24,2020.
By the way, it should be state, not country.
There must be stringent cleaning procedures for workplaces.
Door handles and elevator buttons, for example, are prime contact
places for spreading infections.
We can adopt the cleaning methods used in Hong Kong and Wuhan to
keep workplaces safe.
My firm wishes to return to working full time, as do all other SMEs.
We have had no revenue since March 18, all the while paying for
staff salaries, utilities and other expenses.
So get it right the first time.
IR. Patrick C. Augustin,
Nurse in Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 May 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 May
While nurses fighting the coronavirus around the world
have been cheered in public, last months incident in Cebu,
where a nurse was refused access to public transport, and even evicted
from their rented homes.
Around the world, our nurses are demonstrating their compassion
and courage as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and never
before has their value been more clearly shown.
Nevertheless, in many studies, health care workers have been cited
as experiencing a high risk of violence.
Many health workers suffer physical abuse at some point in their
careers, and a lot more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression.
Violence against health workers is unacceptable.
Violence against nurses does not only have a negative impact on
their psychological and physical well-being, it also affects their
As a long-term consequence, this kind of violence compromises the
quality of care nurses can offer, and puts the health care system
What happened in Cebu or elsewhere in the country does not reflect
the best of us Filipinos.
Not many people know that nurses who care for COVID-19 patients
are feeling extreme physical fatigue and discomfort caused by the
outbreak, due to the intense work, large number of patients, and
lack of personal protective materials. Indeed, the physical exhaustion,
psychological helplessness, and the health threat itself frequently
lead to a large number of negative emotions such as anxiety, fear,
Our nurses have the right to live in an environment free of discrimination.
They deserve our support and encouragement, and should be accorded
Beta Nu Delta Nursing Society,
The pandemic show of human
Should be extended to the suffering Rohingya
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 May 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has brought many people in
many parts of the world face to face with a life and death situation.
And it's terrifying and terrible.
The Rohingya have been faced with that dire situation well before
the pandemic. Their plight is on account of state persecution which
have rendered them a stateless people.
That is well documented by the United Nations Human Rights body
which even went so far as to say the persecution of the Rohingya
and the atrocities committed against them was " textbook
ethnic cleansing ".
The pandemic has brought about an unprecedented spontaneous show
of human solidarity with all sections of society giving a helping
hand to people in distress and in dire need of food provisions.
This same sense of human solidarity - of our common humanity - should
be extended to the suffering Rohingya.
It is therefore very uplifting to read in the Southeast Asian Times
5 May article ' Rohingya starving at sea: ASEAN Human Rights
Calls for Compassion ' that the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission
on Human Rights ( AICHR ) in Indonesia, Yuyun Wahyuningrum, called
on a humane response from the ASEAN member states to the Rohingya.
The international community's response to the Rohingya is a true
test of our humanity.
Let us heed that call for compassion.
It's the right thing to do.
for protection of Selangor River
pollution post Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 May 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 4 May 2020
Many rivers in Malaysia have become cleaner due to
the Covid-19 lockdown. However, Selangor River continues to be polluted,
as can be seen in the water supply disruptions in many areas since
the beginning of the year.
Pollution is expected to worsen with the lifting of the lockdown
as factories, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and commercial
enterprises clean up their premises after more than a month of inactivity.
Various types of chemicals, oils, powders, paints, food products
and other materials that have turned bad or gone to waste could
be dumped in the drains or rivers leading to water catchment areas
if the authorities are not vigilant.
The Selangor state government needs to put more emphasis and importance
on protecting Selangor River, Langat River and smaller rivers which
supply potable water to the surrounding urban and rural areas.
The river reserves must be cleared of any obstructions to enable
closer and effective monitoring.
Currently, major parts of river reserves are blocked, fenced up
or even built upon, thus preventing effective checking and monitoring
of activities or usage of the land.
The state government needs to establish a river patrol unit, using
staff from the district and municipal authorities, in all the districts.
The river patrol unit must be endowed with sufficient enforcement
powers to act against polluters.
Areas with factories, refineries, recycling yards and small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) processing chemicals, oil and other
products should be closely monitored.
It is already a common practice for some to dump their waste into
rivers during heavy storms, expecting the swift flow of water to
disperse the pollutants.
It is truly amoral of these business operators to dump waste into
Dont they realise that they will be using the very water they
are polluting when it is piped to their homes, shops and factories
after undergoing a costly cleaning and filtering process?
Call for US not to even
About punishing China for Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 May 2020
Re: "Trump says China wants him to lose re-election
bid", in Bangkok Post Friday 1 May 2020.
I have grave misgivings about US President Donald Trump's idea of
"punishing" China for the coronavirus.
I notice nobody has ever punished the US for inventing and deploying
the atomic bomb.
It is easily documented that the US government intentionally caused
those events. No such evidence is available in the case of the coronavirus.
Current thinking admits the virus may have originated in a wet market
in Wuhan, so may not have been a product of human intent at all.
China is a large and powerful country of over one billion people.
History shows that people can become extremely stroppy when their
patriotic instincts are offended.
Common sense suggests it is unwise to arouse those instincts without
The US president is appallingly ignorant about many things.
His recent off-the-cuff suggestion that people might ward off the
coronavirus by inoculating themselves with disinfectant is ample
His ignorance is a danger both to the US and to the world at large
because there is always the possibility he may act on it.
No country ought to base its actions on proactive ignorance.
So I caution the US not even to think about "punishing"
China for the coronavirus, especially since it has never punished
China for other, more demonstrable outrages, such as the Tiananmen
massacre, the persecution of the Uighurs, and the enslavement of
Even the announcement of such an attempt might provoke another bloviating
letter to this newspaper from the Chinese embassy, and that would
be hard for some readers to stomach.
violence in Papua New Guinea
Southeast Asian Times. Sunday 3 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 29 April 2020
It is terrifying to see, hear and read daily about
the increase in police brutality and abuse of constitutional duty,
resulting in the state losing billions of kina and hundreds of lives.
It is not right for the police or any disciplinary officer to use
violence against any civilian - whether its your family member
of any other citizen for that matter.
Using violence to do States duty is unconstitutional.
There are many evidences of this happening in our country daily.
Police have a statutory duty to protect the rights of the State
through maintaining law and order.
Police and other disciplinary forces should not see themselves as
having the right to apply violence to anyone anytime.
The legitimate duty of the police is to protect the interest and
rights of the people.
The powers of the police are primarily to maintain law and order
Arrest and charge lawbreakers so they can face the law through the
Ensure peace and good order in the community;
Provide security to all citizens so that our rights to freedom and
our properties are protected;
Investigate criminal activities;
Escort very important person when the need arises; and,
Enforce an order of the courts.
These are the main duties of Police.
Any activities done contrary and apart from these are deemed as
It doesnt matter what social status or position or objective
the officer has - their duty is to ensure that the law achieves
Everyone should allow the law to operate as it is intended and this
requires a collective effort.
If the law provides certain processes and procedures that requires
them to follow in their line of duty, they have to follow these
They should also respect the rights of every individual.
Police have the constitutional duty to execute orders and have no
legitimate right to apply extreme violence.
Eric Mumson Piuk,
Gerehu 24 Market,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea
of Smiles has become
Land of Grimaces
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 May 2020
The Tourism and Sport Ministry push to shift the focus
of Thai tourism to attract "quality" wealthy visitors
and focus on quality over quantity is doomed to failure. This type
of misguided thinking is rampant in a government of comprised of
a military mindset.
Anyone with business acumen knows that your service and product
must meet the needs of the consumer, not the other way around.
For the ministry to make such a pronouncement, where is the research
to support such a transition?
Sure, wealthy elites have more money to spend then us peasantry,
but there are not enough of them to sustain the tourist industry.
They are only "1percent" of the population and
there are plenty of luxury vacation spots in the world.
Thailand's success at tourism was based on affordability and being
seen as exotic by travellers with a friendly culture.
In my lifetime, it seems the "Land of Smiles" has
become the "Land of Grimaces".
Who would want to come to a place rife with pollution, graft and
tourist scams for a vacation?
There is no way to ensure "disease-free" tourism
in a country where there is no competent universal healthcare.
Whoever came up with this scheme does not understand science or
The first time someone gets "sick", the entire
project is destroyed through negative public relations and false
Call for Thailand
lift ban on alcohol sales
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 May 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 29 April 2020
The continuing ban on alcohol sales makes no sense.
I support measures to combat the coronavirus, but the ban on alcohol
sales simply doesn't help.
It is killing businesses and creating poverty among laid-off workers.
It is at the sharp end that this ban is most damaging.
In the hospitality industry, there is real pain being felt by laid-off
workers and business owners alike.
Laid-off workers have no money in their pockets and businesses already
struggling before the crisis are now staring into the abyss of bankruptcy.
To business owners in this situation, the alcohol ban feels like
a kick in the teeth.
It isn't enough to allow restaurants to open selling only food.
Years of the overly strong baht and increasing costs mean that most
proper restaurants are only viable if they can also sell alcohol.
The hospitality industry is the central pillar of tourism in Thailand,
as well as serving a vital social role, in that it provides employment
for many hundreds of thousands of less well-educated Thais.
Quite apart from anything else, the ban is universally unpopular
and undermines the goodwill the authorities need to make the anti-Covid-19
No other country has instigated an alcohol ban, for good reason.
Of course insist on proper precautions to keep Covid-19 under control,
but with new infection rates now firmly in single figures, I urge
the government to act fast to lift the ban on alcohol sales.
New Guinea school teacher says
not over yet
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 29 April 2020
Papua New Guinea as a growing nation doesnt
have medical facilities or proper medical kits to fight this Covid-19
But under the leadership of Prime Minister James Marape, our nation
was well guided for the last four weeks - job well done.
However, I raise my points regarding the resumption of schools on
May 4 and international flights.
I think it is too early to resume schools and international flights
as the Covid-19 is not yet over in most of the countries around
They are still fighting hard to get it out of the way.
I think we are taking a risk.
The current student population in most of the public schools from
elementary to secondary is so huge.
I am a secondary school teacher and I teach 80 to 90 grade 11 and
12 students in a very confined room.
That means we have over 100 students in grade 9 and 10 classrooms.
Overcrowding is an individual schools existing problem.
Therefore social distancing wont be effective at the school
Following are some few personal opinions or suggestions to consider.
Allow only the teachers to resume next week to assess the situation.
The students can start probably after next week.
When teachers go back to work, they can plan and strategise on lessons
plan to make up for the lost times, especially with the teaching
and learning in the classroom.
This includes how to complete units or topics for the remaining
months before the grade 10, 12 and final year students in the tertiary
institutions sit for their exams.
Teachers need to consider the existing infrastructure in schools,
especially classrooms and toilets and take measures on how to maintain
health and hygiene and how to maintain social distancing if it means
to have am and pm shift classes, to minimise the number per class.
Roselyne D Knox,
Papua New Guineas
distancing reduces revenue for airlines
fuel increases revenue for airlines
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 24 April 2020
Re: "Airlines face social distancing constraints",
in Bangkok Post, Friday 24 April.
It's interesting that airlines are already trying to condition customers
to the idea of higher ticket prices once flight operations can resume.
Social-distancing requirements may indeed mean lower load factors
for airlines until such time that the Covid-19 threat abates, thus
reducing maximum revenues.
But before we all buy into the idea of higher airfares, we should
note that fuel prices are at record lows.
Airlines will be able to cut expenditures massively by locking in
ultra-cheap fuel prices for years to come.
Rock-bottom fuel prices ought to offset a major part of any lost
revenue airlines experience as a result of social distancing on
Call for China's version
On detection of Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 15 April 2020
Re: China responds
I wish to thank the Chinese ambassador for highlighting how WHO
and the Chinese government did, indeed, cooperate to fight the outbreak
of the coronavirus in Wuhan.
However, I am concerned the ambassador may be misleading us by saying,
"after the outbreak ... China immediately reported it to
the WHO and other countries".
It is being reported across the world that the virus was detected
in November, and known to the hospital in December when a doctor
was detained and prevented from exposing the truth.
He was exposed to the virus and subsequently died.
He became a hero across much of China.
I would be delighted to hear the ambassador's version of these events.
China reported outbreak
of Covid-19 to WHO
Says China's embassy in Thailand
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 14 April 2020
Re: "WHO, China must own up", Editorial,
Bangkok Post April 10.
The editorial recklessly criticised China and the World Health Organization
(WHO) groundlessly and launched a stigmatised attack.
It is obvious to all that this editorial is against the mainstream
public opinion of the Thai society to fight against the epidemic
It is following the latest "buck-passing" tweet
of some Western politicians, with no new ideas.
At the same time, we must be highly vigilant against such remarks,
because they will not kill the virus, but may undermine unity and
interfere with the efforts of China, Thailand and even the international
community to fight against the coronavirus epidemic.
The editorial is full of four thousand words attacking China's action
against the coronavirus is not transparent and timely, but the only
"evidence" is a report in the South China Morning
Post that lacks scientific proof and solid data sources.
The Bangkok Post just take it on faith.
As early as March, our Embassy introduced the timeline of China's
external reporting of the epidemic in several Thai media publications,
including the Bangkok Post.
As long as the editorial author carefully reads his own newspaper,
he will know that after the outbreak of epidemic, China immediately
reported it to the WHO and other countries, shared the genetic sequence
of the coronavirus with other countries, carried out international
cooperation among experts in epidemic prevention and control, and
invited professionals from China, the United States, Germany, Russia,
Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Singapore and the WHO visiting Wuhan.
On Jan 23, China announced the "lockdown" of Wuhan.
The WHO declared the epidemic a public health emergency on January
On February 10, the WHO warned that a small number of cases could
be "sparks of a greater fire" and called on countries
to use existing opportunities to prevent a greater disaster.
It can be seen that China and the WHO have already issued a strong
warning continuously and done what we can and should do.
As for whether some countries outside of this region have made full
and effective use of the precious time and important information
that China has made great sacrifices to obtain, whether effective
prevention and control measures have been taken in time, and who
is responsible for "bringing the world to a standstill",
we believe history has its own discretion.
The "culprit" of the current global epidemic can
be clearly found in the delay and refusal to give extensive tests
of some countries that have been caught in the serious epidemic
situation revealed by many international media.
On March 26, the Lancet's editor Richard Horton said publicly in
a TV programme: 'the message from China is very clear
wasted February when we could have acted, but we didn't'.
Hatred and mutual blame are the worst viruses, while unity and cooperation
are the best medicine to deal with the epidemic.
As the G20 special summit has stressed, it is imperative to strengthen
international cooperation and work together to fight against the
Since the beginning of the epidemic, China and Thailand have worked
Both sides have been on the lookout for each other and have opened
up and shared epidemic data and treatment plans.
Slanders and rumors are impossible to succeed in the end.
We advise some forces outside of this region to stop the narrow
and wrong way of shifting attention and shirking responsibilities,
stop futile propaganda against China, and really focus on coping
with the epidemic in their own countries and promoting international
We urge the Bangkok Post to abandon the political bias, not to fawn
and flatter, and to treat the issue fairly and comprehensively.
The Chinese embassy in Thailand,
Malaysia prepares for
Movement Control Order
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 April 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 24 April 2020
The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) urges that decisions
to lift the Movement Control Order (MCO) must be made in stages
and in strict coordination with all branches of government and the
We urge for the following to be considered.
Transition into risk-based conditional MCO: Some restrictions, such
as physical distancing in public spaces, must continue.
Guidelines for conduct in public areas should follow a risk-based
colour-coded system of green, yellow and red zones.
Specific criteria for what constitutes green, yellow and red zones
must be developed by the Health Ministry and communicated to other
ministries and the public.
The guidelines must clearly state the permitted and prohibited activities
for each risk level, including inter-zone travel.
Criteria for transitions between risk levels must also be set.
Phased restart of the economy: It is crucial that any economic restart
is done in phases with strict guidance from the Health Ministry.
The six criteria issued by the World Health Organisation on April
14 must be met before reopening any sectors or businesses.
The criteria are: Covid-19 transmission must be under control; sufficient
health systems and public health capacities must be in place; outbreak
risks in hot spots and vulnerable communities are minimised; preventive
measures for the workplace are established; risk of imported cases
must be managed; and communities are fully engaged in preventing
the spread of the coronavirus.
Reinforcing new norms of behaviour: We understand that many Malaysians
who are economically affected by the MCO are eager to return to
However, any restart of the economy must be accompanied by vigilance
until this pandemic is fully eradicated.
In recent days, we have made progress.
To maintain this progress, we must continue physical distancing,
maintain our hygiene practices, avoid mass gatherings and stay at
home unless absolutely necessary.
Communities must be engaged and empowered to keep one another accountable
to ensure that these measures are adhered to post-MCO.
Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC),
Thai government should
focus on Covid-19
Not opening new malls
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 April 2020
The mall operators are the same moguls who want to
help the government.
It is the right time for the government to think and act in new
ways as Thai society passes through the turmoil caused by Covid-19.
Starting next month, the focus should be on four key issues, not
on opening the malls.
How to prevent the current stage of the virus from reaching a next-stage
outbreak; how to help poor people affected by the Covid crisis;
how to reform immigration laws to attract foreign investment and
prevent our image from deteriorating;
and how to reform education and integrate online learning at all
Surprisingly, online businesses are thriving, hence malls can wait.
It is high time to bring structural reforms in commerce, immigration
Call for Philippines emergency
To include households in formal sector
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 20 April
I have written a letter to Social Welfare Secretary
Rolando Bautista disputing the position of his department that the
two-month emergency subsidy of P5,000-P8,000.00 provided for in
Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Heal
as One Act, is only for low-income families belonging to the informal
I have pointed out in said letter that the target beneficiary of
said subsidy as expressly provided in the law are low-income households,
with no qualification whether or not the said household belongs
to the formal or informal sector.
Thus, by limiting the beneficiary of said subsidy to households
belonging to the informal sector only, the Department of Social
Welfare and Development (DSWD) in effect is amending an act of Congress,
which is not within its power to do so as its authority is only
to implement or enforce the law.
Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1-Series of 2020, whose purpose is
to implement the mandate of said law, does not, in fact, make said
limitation as it provides that its target beneficiaries are families
that belong to either the poor or informal sector which are at risk
of not earning a living during the enhanced community quarantine,
who may have at least one member belonging to vulnerable or disadvantaged
sectors (and thus not only to families belonging to the informal
Among the vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors which the said memorandum
mentions are families whose combined income falls within the poverty
threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority
(P10,481) or those who do not own housing facilities or who live
in makeshift dwelling units, and do not enjoy security of tenure.
Some families belonging to the formal sector or those who are employed
(whether in the private sector or in government) meet said description.
In limiting the beneficiaries of said emergency subsidy to families
belonging to the informal sector only, the Department of Social
Welfare and Development (DSWD) is denying subsidy to families who
are entitled to it under the law, and thus defeating the very intent
and purpose of the law.
Thai Airways was a business
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 April 2020
The battle against anti-competitive practices by state-supported
airlines began in earnest 60 years ago.
But Thailand is once again caught in a time warp and shows little
sign of having noticed.
Your correspondents are right to call out the government for rescuing
the chronically unprofitable Thai Airways under the guise of health
crisis measures. Quite simply, the national carrier was a business
basket case long before Covid-19.
Last year's losses of 12 billion baht were only the latest in a
series of annual calamities, which will surely continue as long
as taxpayers' money is hurled at this undeserving cause.
Meanwhile, those in the industry who operate without subsidy are
at a disadvantage.
Not being propped up by their governments, they can't afford price
dumping and other highly questionable devices that undermine honest
This is not only unfair but does little to benefit customer's long
term and makes other service providers suffer.
Wouldn't the money be better spent on support for all the country's
employees during the crisis?
This would provide the security that people crave when faced with
the unknown, and help keep businesses in shape for a swift return
to action as the virus recedes. National unity would benefit too.
Guarantees of this kind would surely be more reassuring than the
promised 5,000 baht handouts which, in the months ahead, may or
may not materialise for the kingdom's unemployed.
By all means, consult the 20 biggest billionaires.
But let's not forget the dream of a truly competitive business environment,
where all is above board and undistorted by government favour.
And let's not forget ideas like "Thailand together as one",
They're not mere sentiments.
At a time like this, they're indispensable.
fear of police
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 April 2020
Police knocking on a citizen's door at midnight; police
assaulting and throwing a citizen off a bridge; police arresting
a Member of Parlianment who is the leader of an opposition political
party; and, citizens saying they feared police officers (The Fiji
Times 21 April 2020) makes an outside observer wonder if Fiji has
once again become a police state like it was after the 2006 military
obligation to heap praise on Philippine President
When he does good
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 April
President Duterte asked his critics in his latest
public address: Ano ang nagawa ninyo para sa bayan? Pag
sinabi ninyo ako, wala. Eh kayo?
"What have you done for the country except talk and criticize
He has apparently contracted the same malady that has afflicted
his apologists, as he is now mouthing the same nonsensical arguments
his sycophants espouse.
The fanatical defense of Mr. Dutertes loyalists over his inept
response to and handling of the COVID-19 crisis is more dreadfully
contagious than the disease.
It is so sickening and revolting that their resorting to ad hominem
and non sequitur arguments leave no room for intelligent and reasonable
They equate criticism and dissent to lack of love for country, as
though patriotism is solely measured by silence, blind submission,
Just like the President, one inane and nonsensical script theyre
spinning now on social media is this: Before you say something
foolish about him, ask yourself what did you do to help?
To this I have an answer.
I call out the wrongdoings.
This is my contribution to nation-building.
I am not obliged to heap praises on the President when he does good,
because that is what is expected of him as a leader and that is
what he promised and swore to do.
How can we become a great nation if he sheepishly acquiesces to
a bully nation like China and allows our islands to be grabbed?
Where is greatness when Chinese nationals boldly spit on our dignity
in our own land because the President protects them more and sides
with them even if Philippine offshore gaming operators do not really
bring economic gain to the country?
How do I help?
By refusing to swallow the dirt he throws upon this nation and by
not becoming a blind, rabid apologist and defender of a populist.
By refusing to take the hatred and bile he spews upon those who
dont agree with him.
By refusing to take his false bravado about making corrupt officials
accountable while he has yet to jail anyone, not even one, of his
appointees who have been exposed as corrupt.
By not being taken for a ride when he lashes out at oligarchs,
when his oligarch friends expand their turfs.
As long as he wantonly disregards lives and looks at those who criticize
him as lower beings and not deserving to live, I will rise and speak
That is what I am doing to be of help.
Cancellation of seven
day Songkran fesitival in Thailand
Saved 66 Thai's a day from road death
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 April 2020
What would have been the Songkran holiday period is
now over and I wonder why I have seen no comparative figures for
road accidents this year?
The average daily road toll in recent years is near enough 63 road
accident-related deaths every day of the year.
The "seven deadly days" of Songkran last year saw
an average of 66 people pronounced dead each day with a total of
This year with the lockdown and travel ban thanks to the Covid-19
virus I wonder how many lives have been lost on the roads during
those seven deadly days of Songkran?
Considering the total virus death tally since testing began in mid-March
is 47, the overall death toll must be far less than normal.
Conclusion: Covid-19 can save lives, but only in Amazing Thailand.
Call for fixed price for
In Malaysia under Movement Control Order
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 April 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 20 April 2020
In this current crisis, many citizens, especially
those in the B40 (lower income) group, are without income and struggling
Adding to their problems is the soaring price of vegetables and
The Penang Hindu Association (PHA) and Penang Tanjung Muslim Association
(Pelita) urge the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to
immediately take action against anyone taking advantage of the movement
control order (MCO) period to make huge profits by charging exorbitant
prices for basic groceries, food and vegetables.
We hope the authorities will do more random checks, especially where
B40 people reside.
The Penang Hindu Association (PHA) and Pelita hope that the Domestic
Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will immediately monitor, audit
and take appropriate action as per the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering
Act 2011 against profiteering traders and merchants to protect consumers,
especially the B40 group, during this Movement Control Order (MCO)
Logically and economically, the price of goods should be lower due
to the drop in the price of petrol.
It is also our fervent hope that the government will introduce and
enforce a standard price list to control prices during this In Malaysia
under Movement Control Order (MCO) period, in the same manner as
is done to control prices during festive seasons.
Penang Hindu Association (PHA) & Mohamed Nasir Mohideen,
President, Penang Tanjung Muslim Association (Pelita),
for fallen Philiipines health care workers
To be buried at the Heroes cemetery in Manila
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 April
Filipino health care workers have been lauded worldwide
for their unstinting efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even as the enhanced community quarantine has been extended for
another two weeks in Luzon, many of these frontliners - doctors,
nurses, and other professionals have gotten sick in the line of
There are those who have died while in service.
No less than The Washington Post has lauded Philippine health
care workers, especially young doctors of the Philippine General
Hospital. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Babe Romualdez
wrote about how Filipino health workers are outstanding
worldwide, such as the case of a Filipino nurse working
for over 24 hours at an intensive care unit, and a Filipino health
care worker from Leyte caring for an elderly woman without pay.
Amid stories of self-sacrifice, there are numerous other health
care professionals who have sadly succumbed to the disease. Dr.
Renato Doc Velasco, 66, former professor of the
University of the Philippines, and who had worked with current Health
Secretary Francisco Duque III to contain the severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) in 2003, died due to pneumonia, a complication arising
from COVID-19. Such professional health care workers are heroes.
When heroes go down, should it not be natural to pay them tribute
for their selfless contributions to the nations battle against
And what better way to honor our fallen health care workers than
to give them burial slots in the Libingan ng mga Bayani?
Let us give credit to whom it is due; let us continuously laud our
heroic health care workers.
Those who have died, unfortunately, can neither hear nor appreciate
those praises anymore.
They deserve another kind of tribute: a burial among their fellow
Godofredo V. Arquiza, c.p.a.,
National president, Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens,
Elderly in the Philippines Inc.,
Philippines Covid-19 patients
For death of three doctors
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 April 2020
First published the the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 April
Immediately after the news broke out that three doctors
died due to COVID-19, people took to Twitter to air their frustrations
and were quick to blame patients for their failure to divulge accurate
health and travel history.
To many, this alleged lie caused the life of
an unsung hero who was at the frontline battling the pandemic.
A patient withholding facts and misleading health workers is no
laughing matter. Physicians cannot appropriately diagnose and treat
patients unless the latter share information freely.
Thus the feelings of anger, hatred, and frustration felt by many
doctors were all valid.
These feelings make them human, after all.
But, this is more than a simple case of dishonesty.
To directly equate a persons death to a lie, whether intentional
or not, is a bit overstretched.
Alternatively, our frustration directs us to question what could
have possibly gone wrong between the patient-physician relationship.
Much like the rest of us in the field of health care, patients also
fear for their lives. Some patients are intimidated; it is sometimes
difficult to share private information with our friends and families.
What more to people you barely know, like health workers?
Unfortunately, this is not an excuse for patients to deliberately
lie about their health status.
Although motivations for withholding the truth vary from patient
to patient, options to address this problem are rooted in one concept:
a collaborative patient-health worker relationship.
It is important for our patients to feel that we trust them and
that they, too, can trust us.
Let us allow our patients to freely verbalize their thoughts and
Let us take time to listen to them, so that they can put their trust
Reiner Lorenzo J. Tamayo. RN.
Philippine General Hospital
Philippine workers face
In Luzon-wide lockdown
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 April
The Luzon-wide lockdown as a measure imposed against
the spread of COVID-19 is unnecessarily burdening the poor who need
to work, day in and day out, to assuage the grumblings of the guts.
While nations around the world - with notable exceptions like South
Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore - have imposed lockdowns in
major cities, no country has perhaps pushed the limits so far than
Aping the Chinese operations in Wuhan, the government has imposed
a full lockdown over the island of Luzon including the banning of
public transportation. While most of the cases are found in the
Metropolitan Manila area, the enhanced community quarantine
has progressed toward the inclusion of regions outside the metropolis.
This has hammered the poor in the worst possible ways.
Mass transportation and the informal economy have ceased to function,
leaving families stretching their meager incomes.
Employees in the services, manufacturing and construction sectors
have been advised to take forced leaves or are in limbo as everybody
is ordered to hunker down in their homes.
With a no work, no pay policy in their companies,
workers face imminent starvation as government aid is slow to arrive.
The directive on local government units to feed their hungry constituents
does not appear to be working as politicians selectively provide
undernourishing food relief that can only last for a couple of days.
Trapped in the cities and special economic zones are thousands of
labor migrants who were unable to leave for their home provinces
during the 48-hour window from the issuance of the lockdown order
until its date of effectivity.
Mostly young females except for male construction laborers, they
would have preferred living in these tumultuous times with their
families, relatives, and friends. Unfortunately for them, however,
they are stuck in limbo, trapped in the concrete jungle where their
access to the basic necessities like food, water, and accommodation
are getting more scarce as the socioeconomic impact of a draconian
lockdown sinks deeper.
China is the factory of
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020
There is now intense debate in many parts of the world
on the need to wear masks in public for protection against Covid-19.
In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
advised all Americans to wear face coverings in public on Friday
Many people the world over are already doing so, but the obvious
problem is the availability of face masks. As the whole world is
scrambling to get them, theres now the suggestion of using
cloth masks instead.
There are long lines of people lining up outside pharmacies whenever
fresh supplies of masks are available.
People are even fighting to get them.
Stocks sold online are snapped up in hours, scam sellers have surfaced
and there is apparently a huge black market for masks.
Doctors and clinics are often severely depleted and some have had
to close simply because they cannot continue to see patients unprotected.
The business of face masks and personal protection equipment is
not just any ordinary business.
It can mean life or death for some of the most vulnerable in the
It can mean the pandemic continuing unabated.
In January this year, the Malaysian government had fixed the price
of three-ply face masks at 80 sen per piece.
This had resulted in a severe shortage.
In March, the price was raised to RM2 per piece but was subsequently
reduced to RM1.50.
This flip-flop policy hasnt alleviated the situation in the
short and long term, however.
China is the factory of the world for face masks, and local producers
also rely on it for their raw materials.
When many countries are bidding for face masks or vying for the
raw materials, the price will naturally increase and supply will
go to the highest bidder.
Hence, we can put whatever ceiling price we want, but if it is below
the global price and there are many bidders, we will get none or
Logically, price will come down when supply outstrips demand, which
may not happen in the near future with the Covid-19 pandemic taking
a foothold in many countries.
No doubt the governments intention of fixing the ceiling price
for masks is noble. Realising that masks are life-saving items,
the government is attempting to ensure affordable access to everyone.
Sadly, this may backfire, leaving many frontliners and healthcare
workers and the public as well to face a constant shortage.
If the government intends to continue fixing the price of face masks,
then either it provides subsidies when the global price outstrips
the local ceiling price or takes over the local production and make
face masks available at a fixed price.
Alternatively, instead of fixing a ceiling price, the government
can have a fixed percentage mark-up from the import or wholesale
price, thus allowing the free market to function and ensure continuous
The fixing of a ceiling price in the scenario of a global free market
is a classical example of how a well-intended policy may backfire
and result in undesirable consequences.
Dr R. John Teo
Malaysia warned of Covid-19
Call for opening of military hospitals
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 14 April 2020
COVID-19 reinfection has now started in some countries.
The same will happen in Malaysia if the movement control order (MCO)
is not lifted slowly and in careful steps to avoid overwhelming
our healthcare system.
One of the lessons the world has learnt thus far is that healthcare
systems have to react quickly, be highly flexible, and be able to
deliver high quality care in great capacities.
Our healthcare system must be supported to match this configuration.
As healthcare professionals who have served in the Defence Ministry
and the Health Ministry, we offer seven suggestions to prepare our
country for a possible surge in Covid-19 infections.
First, the Health Ministry needs to be supported adequately.
Sufficient and reasonable budget allocations should be made available
to prioritise the acquisition of modern technologies and the best
Training should also be sustainably funded for all frontliners to
improve preparedness for crises.
Standard operating procedures and clinical practice guidelines need
to be on par with the best available evidence.Second, the ministry
should bring about realistic and logical partnerships between public
and private health sectors.
This is commonly called a public-private partnership (PPP). PPP
summates both public and private health centres and is able to greatly
increase the nations healthcare response capacity.
A contracting model should be initiated for PPP to happen urgently
in times of need. It is highly encouraged for PPP to be initiated
now and sustained to ensure proper delivery of healthcare.
Third, interagency coordination must be optimised. Expertise and
industries essential to sustaining the healthcare system must adopt
modern technology to mount a rapid response against a surge of infections.
The government must guarantee a robust and efficient supply chain
to support the healthcare system and increased demands despite the
Fourth, the Malaysian armed forces can be primed to enhance the
nations healthcare capacity and capability.
These massive reserves of manpower can be deployed to set up field
hospitals in infection hotspots if there is ever a need.
Greater national hospital capacity provides more opportunities for
treatment of the infected, thus aiding the mitigation of Covid-19.
Fifth, the separate military healthcare system can be utilised to
increase capacity if necessary.
Military hospitals can be opened to civilians to share the case
load with designated Covid-19 hospitals.
Military healthcare workers can also be deployed to join the frontlines
in handling the surge in cases.
Sixth, military medical personnel should be mobilised to facilitate
efficient human resource allocation in areas of greater need, particularly
the red zones, or infection hot spots.
This can act to relieve any healthcare staff shortages in the event
of a spike in cases.
They should be included under the national financial aid plan for
full PPE equipment and welfare.
Seventh, a well-organised emergency national logistical plan must
be established under the deployment of military services.
Logistical skills of the military are pivotal to transport vital
medical supplies to rural areas.
Transportation coverage should spread equally across Peninsular
Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.
Currently, our infection rates are stable.
Malaysia is in a position to consider this possibility and prepare
the appropriate responses.
We must continue to remain one step ahead.
Finally, we quote inspirational speaker Israelmore Ayivor: Leaders
dont venture without vision. They dont pray without
plan. They dont climb without clues. They are always prepared.
Major General prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zin Bidin (Rtd),
Low Wen Yan and Marjorie Ong,
learns from Malaysia
similar Movement Control Order
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 April 2020
First published in the New Straits Times, Thursday 9 April
For the first time in my memory, our closest neighbour,
Singapore, is learning from us in enforcing a similar type of Movement
Control Order to fight Covid-19.
Singapore closed schools yesterday and most workplaces from Tuesday,
to be opened again on May 5, its strictest measure yet to battle
the pandemic that has led to more than 1,100 confirmed cases in
the city state.
It is a case of better late than never, as Singapore has seen local
transmission and community spread of the virus cases on the rise.
It is a decisive move to preempt escalating infections.
Like in Malaysia, the Singapore government advised its people to
stay home as much as possible, avoid socialising with people outside
of their households, and only go out for essential things.
The fact that Singapore is adopting a similar strategy means its
leaders are convinced that what Malaysia has done is the best way
to contain the spread of the virus.
It proves the farsightedness of Malaysias top leaders.
They have been quick off the mark in reacting to the outbreak.
They need to anticipate and take bold actions based on advice from
Apart from a visionary leader, we also need a civilised society
that adheres to the governments directives.
If all precautionary measures are adhered to by the people, we will
stop the virus transmission, much like a circuit breaker.
Singaporeans make up the highest number of foreign visitors to Malaysia
at more than 10 million a year.
We are happy that Singapore has taken preemptive measures, working
as part of a joint regional effort to battle Covid-19.
Failure is not an option.
We have to make the Malaysian model successful so it can become
a role model for Asean and the world over.
Malaysia needs success stories, to be quoted as a country which
had executed its MCO implementation well.
Malaysia Boleh. We will, we must and we can do it together. Stay
home to stay away from Covid-19.
Pusat Bandar Puchong,
cherish their freedom but deny
Refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea theirs
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 April 2020
Australians who had returned from abroad and completed
their 14 day confinement in their " gilded cage " (
as one person called their hotel room ) they expressed utter joy
at being " free" at last and being able to reunite
with their families and do some simple things like have tea in their
veranda ( source : Australian television news ).
If this is how people can feel about their freedom after only 14
days of confinement I wonder how the refugees and asylum seekers
confined in limbo for years in our off shore refugee detention centres
in Nauru and Papua New Guinea must feel? We get a rather good idea
of that from the ABC tv series Stateless, which was screened recently
on Australian television.
It captures very succinctly the trauma of the refugees left languishing
in detention camps.
Isn't their freedom - to live as other human beings - important?
It is a sad indictment of us as a people when we can so cherish
our freedom and yet ignore the freedom of the refugees and asylum
seekers who have come to us for the protection of their freedom
to live as free human beings - free of political persecution, war
and conflict, free of the threat to their lives and Liberty.
for Malaysia to treat Non Government Organisations
As partners in distributing aid to the vulnerable
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 April 2020
First published in The Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020
There have been reports about Non Government Organisations
(NGO)s being advised to stop distributing aid to the poor during
the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.
These NGOs have been advised to send the aid to the central distribution
centre handled by the Welfare Department instead.
I personally disagree with this advice as, having been an active
social worker for the past several years, I know NGOs can indeed
provide a helping hand in difficult times.
NGOs understand the needs of their target groups.
They have built their networks and strong relationships with the
community they serve, be it in specific locations or with social
groups such as refugees, the B40 and Orang Asli communities.
They have good data on the people needing help and understand their
needs through constant communication and regular contact.
Most importantly, the relationship is based on trust that took years
The supply of essential goods to the target groups should be on
a needs basis and customised to their preferences.
For example, certain groups may prefer a different type of rice
for their diet.
Most NGOs are formed on compassionate grounds to help the needy
and alleviate their suffering.
The underprivileged groups are the most affected by the current
Covid-19 pandemic, hence it would be inhuman for NGOs to be doing
nothing when they are most needed.
The fight against Covid-19 has strained the government machinery
in both the public healthcare system and other agencies.
This then is the best time for NGOs to share and contribute their
resources, both people and financial.
NGOs can assist with more volunteers and supply aid without straining
the financial resources of the government.
They will know where to source for and deliver the essential supplies
to their target groups.
Most of the people in the underprivileged groups live in squatter
areas or unknown addresses, which could be difficult for others
If safety and health are the concerns, a public health officer can
always train the volunteers on the precautionary steps to take and
the protective gear to use.
The authorities can draw up a standard operating procedure (SOP)
for those involved in such work.
We believe NGO volunteers can be trained like the welfare services
officers who are not from the medical background.
The government can specify that only registered NGOs are permitted
to carry out the aid distribution work.
We hope the government treats NGOs as partners and leverage on their
resources so that we can tide through this difficult period together.
Constant dialogue on how to help our vulnerable groups should be
held with good representation from NGOS.
They know the situation on the ground and are ever ready to assist.
for waiver of visa renewals
500,000 tourists stranded in Thailand
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 April 2020
I've seen pictures of Tuesday's scenes at Koh Samui's
They should be a severe embarrassment to the authorities.
So many people gathered outside just trying to enter the building.
An estimated 500,000 tourists are stranded in Thailand and how they
are treated will have ramifications for the country's tourism in
Their experiences will be relayed to millions.
It is also unfair that immigration staff and their families have
to be subjected to this level of risk and workload.
We desperately need a complete waiver of all visa renewals, including
for tourists, people who work here, and those with retirement and
permanent residency visas.
These people were vetted when they were originally issued visas
and represent no sudden significant security risk.
We face a worldwide catastrophe and normal rules cannot be applied.
Please let common sense prevail.
Wake-up call for Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 9 April
COVID-19 is a deadly wake-up call.
It has exposed how vulnerable we are when we rely on China, Vietnam,
and Thailand for our food supply.
The Philippines is an agricultural country.
Why cant we modernize the sector?
Teach our marginalized farmers to plant crops the modern way.
Install an irrigation system to ensure continuous water supply to
Build honest-to-goodness farm-to-market roads.
Construct postharvest facilities. And infuse adequate capital on
Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)
Calls for halt to hostilities and release
of political prisoners
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Thursday 9 April
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomes
the announcement of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
(NDFP) of a unilateral ceasefire from March 26 to April 15, 2020.
This declaration comes after President Duterte declared a unilateral
ceasefire that started last March 19 and will also last till April
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) appreciates the
commitment of both parties - the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines
(GRP) - to halt hostilities, even for just a brief period, in order
to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parties separate declarations also address the call of
the United Nations for a global ceasefire.
Peace, however fragile, is very much needed in these trying times.
We hope that these unilateral ceasefire declarations will be faithfully
observed by each party especially on the ground, and let peace serve
We also call on the government to exercise its magnanimity and release
on humanitarian grounds political prisoners, especially the sick
and the elderly, like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace
Center and other National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)
The sick and elderly prisoners are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
In this season of Lent, let us reflect and pray that we will overcome
this health crisis.
We hope that after this predicament, the Government of the Republic
of the Philippines (GRP) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines
(NDFP) peace negotiations will prosper and peace will be had by
all in our country.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD,
Rev. Fr, Rex R.B. Reyes Jr.,
Bishop Doegracias S. Iniguez Jr., DD
Bishop Noel A. Pantoja,
Sister Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB,
Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform
Movement Control Order (MCO) reminded
To use minimum force and act professionally
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020
It is a difficult and thankless job for those tasked
with enforcing the Movement Control Order (MCO).
However, they must always remember to use minimum force and act
professionally when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.
Anger and improvising physical methods of their own will lead to
them breaking the law.
This was the case recently in Kota Kinabalu when a police officer
apparently used a stick to hit an offender in the face, an act that
amounts to a criminal offence.
In this case, the police must be as firm in taking action against
their own as they are with members of the public who flout the law.
The criminal justice system must understand that the Movement Control
Order (MCO) offenders are not your run of the mill criminals.
They are members of society trying to adjust to new rules and it
can be traumatic for some.
Traumatic stress actually begins when someone is stopped by the
police and taken into custody for investigation.
The pressure cooker can explode when these civilians are taken to
court to be charged.
Many are in handcuffs and are for the first time exposed to the
lengthy court procedures, especially when it comes to monetary bail
This has resulted in people from all walks of life, from students
to the elderly, facing the possibility of prison time because some
may not be able to furnish the bail conditions.
This was not the purpose of the law on infections and quarantine!
The prosecution and judiciary arms of the criminal justice system
must act as a balance to any aggressive approach of enforcement.
This will ensure that enforcement officers do not unnecessarily
infringe the laws themselves.
In fact, the process of investigations right up to court proceedings
is creating new clusters of close gatherings, putting officers of
the court at risk, apart from the fact that it is not complying
with the intentions of the MCO.
This is an untenable irony!
Basically, society needs to be kept secure and safe.
Most understand that enforcement agencies have their work cut out
for them and have to be cruel to be kind.
But while doing so, lets not forget the humanity that needs
to go hand in glove with everything we do.
calls for investment in healthcare system
of erecting towers, big buildings and monuments
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 7 April 2020
This year's World Health Day April 7 takes on a totally
different meaning altogether with humankind facing an existential
threat from a pandemic.
In many parts of the world, healthcare systems are stretched to
breaking point, if not already collapsed.
Universal healthcare is being laid bare and giving way tragically
to catastrophe medicine.
Being healthy means a fighting chance of survival for many, yet
it is acutely juxtaposed with very real bread and butter issues
for all; and for some, bizarrely, mere toilet paper.
Money, materialism and economic growth mean nothing when health
is relegated to the sidelines. Instead of erecting towers, big buildings
and monuments, we should have invested in our healthcare system.
Spending on healthcare is paramount.
Of equal importance is a robust public health service and wise farsighted
investment in biomedical research and development.
With the world reshaped, we can look again into the many aspects
of our life. New normal" might be a catchphrase
for some but an unfathomable reality for many.
Wants and needs are dichotomised. Priorities are being reset.
When this pandemic ends, and yes it will, everything we know, think
and feel about this life will never be the same.
How we relate with each other and Mother Nature will be different.
Life has changed.
It is a humbling experience writing from the front line where our
survival instincts are strongest and kindness knows no boundaries.
But it also reminds us that health, sickness and death are inescapable
facts of life.
Sombre, but we are staying on and shall go through this together.
And we know it is going to be okay.
Letter from the front line,
North Thailand suffering
destruction by fire
And the increased fear of Covid-19 contamination
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 April 2020
First published in Bangkok Post, Monday 6 April 2020
Today I had the dubious pleasure of a return journey
from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton in what felt like a scene from an apocalyptic
movie shot in monochrome on a lunar landscape.
The streets were almost deserted, the sky was a dull, grey blanket
and a hazy red ball hovered above the horizon adding little light
and no warmth.
Welcome to the doomsday scenario of a North Thailand suffering destruction
by fire and the increased fear of Covid-19 contamination.
Surely no other species on the planet could instigate such a terrifying
situation of a dying environment than humans wanting to add another
few zeros to bank accounts that already contain far more money than
a family could ever need.
It felt like a 50s black and white movie of the world's end and
I can't help but think that this virus is the additional penalty
delivered to species that has completely disregarded its commitment
to life and nature by setting fire to the very world that could
and should be sustaining it.
and more Filipinos suffering from hunger
Vietnam suspends rice exports
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 April 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 April
Twelve days after Luzon was placed under enhanced
community quarantine, more and more Filipinos, whether food producers
or consumers, are suffering from hunger.
The lockdown has been hurting both the pockets and stomach of the
poor and marginalized, especially those who rely on a daily income.
While the Department of Agriculture has issued protocols exempting
farmers, fishers, and workers in food processing and manufacturing
from quarantine to ensure the unhampered production and distribution
of food supplies, farmers from various provinces report otherwise.
Farmers either cannot harvest their palay or cannot sell their harvest.
Moreover, as palay farmgate prices have dropped, some farmers have
been forced to sell their lands due to bankruptcy, while others
have changed into cash crops. Vietnam has suspended its rice exports
to ensure its peoples food security.
And so we are reminded that we are also fighting a losing battle
to attain food self-sufficiency and self-reliance as the country
has increasingly become dependent on rice imports since our membership
in the World Trade Organization 25 years ago. With the implementation
of Republic Act No. 11203 or the rice liberalization law, we became
the top rice importer in the world.
Last year, the country imported 2.1 million metric tons from Vietnam,
or 33 percent of Vietnams 6.37 million metric tons of total
rice exports, and 65 percent of the 3.2 million metric tons of total
rice imports of the country.
The rice liberalization law has likewise limited the function of
the National Food Authority (NFA) to buffer stocks, crippling the
states power to prevent hoarding and smuggling and ensure
the supply of sufficient, safe, and affordable rice for poor and
The countrys dependence on rice importation is never an assurance
of food security.
Vietnams move should be a wake-up call for the government
to take the issue of rice self-sufficiency and self-reliance seriously,
to prepare for circumstances such as COVID-19 and other calamities.
We urge the government to repeal RA 11203 and enact House Bill No.
477 or the Rice Industry Development Act, which pushes for the strengthening
of the NFA and a rice development program that includes socialized
credit, irrigation development, postharvest facilities, and production
support; and HB 239 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which seeks
to distribute lands to the farmers for free, provide them support
services and subsidies, and protect agricultural lands from land-use
The government should take proactive measures to ensure the countrys
food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance, for a
battle cannot be won through half-hearted methods.
We cannot fight a war on an empty stomach.
Hundreds and thousands
of returning Malaysians
Share communial showers toilets under Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 April 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 4 April 2020
The government is currently doing a commendable job
in the fight to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in our country.
Our Prime Minister has delivered impactful speeches and laid down
economic packages to help Malaysians.
Furthermore, the movement control order was initiated and currently
extended based on the scientific rationale that it is imperative
to break the chains of transmission to reduce the infection rate.
However, the government isnt perfect in putting forward all
of its strategies to fight Covid-19.
The ludicrous disinfection strategy and forceful quarantining of
Malaysians returning from abroad are two strategies that should
While the Health Ministry is revisiting the disinfection strategy,
the forceful quarantining of returning Malaysians in government
facilities should be studied carefully.
The argument is not about the draconian usurpation of civil liberty
of Malaysians in the name of public health but rather about its
One can accept that there is an underlying scientific rationale
for quarantining Malaysians returning from abroad to make
sure those without the symptoms pass the purported 14-day incubation
period of the coronavirus before being allowed to mingle with other
However, the method of quarantining does not follow the same scientific
rationale. Some of the government facilities listed as quarantine
centres have communal showers and toilets.
Given that the coronavirus could live on surfaces for hours and
even days, how would quarantining hundreds and thousands of returning
Malaysians in places with communal showers and toilets help to curtail
Didnt the government and Health Ministry consider whether
these quarantine centres by virtue of their poor design could be
incubators of Covid-19?
Will the government then be held accountable if returning Malaysians
are infected in these quarantine centres?
This is another layer that perhaps has been missing in the execution
of a thoughtful strategy given the rush to make decisions.
As recently as two weeks ago, the emetic and poor conditions of
government quarantine centres, such as those in Sabah with their
filthy bathrooms and inhabitable conditions, had made news in our
Would any of our ministers and their children like to be quarantined
in those places if demanded by the state?
The government should allow returning Malaysians an option to quarantine
themselves in hotels with bathrooms attached.
This is being done in Singapore, Australia and even Pakistan.
If the government refuses to pay for the hotel stay, let the returning
Malaysians handle the bill.
This would allow for a better implementation of that strategy.
Dont rush to make decisions before studying carefully the
There are many humans involved here.
Lets hope the quarantine centres in Malaysia would not turn
out to be the next epicentres for the spread of Covid-19 in Malaysia.
A Concerned Malaysia,
Institute of Justice's calls for release of prisoners
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 April 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 1 April 2020
Re: "Unburden deathtrap jails",
in Bangkok Post Editorial, April 1.
The Bangkok Post is right that a proposal from the Thailand Institute
of Justice's (TIJ) executive director Kittipong Kittayarak should
be promptly followed, however radical it might appear.
The proposal to free several groups of prisoners crammed into Thailand's
famously overcrowded system is measured.
It is sensible and rational.
It is informed. It is compassionate and humane.
It is, in short, just.
When a society locks people up to protect itself from harm by offenders,
which is the sole moral justification for any prison sentence, it
has an obligation to care for those it has locked up.
If it refuses to provide adequate care, then the incarceration becomes
At the moment, the required social distancing cannot be maintained
in Thai prisons, which means that the Thai prison system is even
more of an "injustice system" than it has traditionally
But the injustice in the Thai and many other traditional prison
systems grievously flouts good morals.
To the groups of prisoners the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ)
suggests be released, a further group needs to be added.
Those who ought never have been imprisoned in the first place should
also be released.
Specifically, release all who are truly guilty of nothing more than
a victimless crime, which includes all drug crimes, gambling and
similar personal vices that do not, in themselves, directly harm
or threaten others.
There has never been any justification for locking people up merely
because they drink red wine or shoot up heroin, because they sell
Singha beer or deal ya ba, because they gamble or bet on dice with
friends, or because they freely consent to buying and selling adult
Victimless crimes are exactly that: victimless.
Yes, if someone has a track record of drinking and driving, or if
their drug use combined with driving harms or directly threatens
to harm others, imprisonment is justified.
If someone deliberately breaches social distancing guidelines for
no good reason, that is a crime that threatens others so they might
justly be punished.
If, however, the people involved in that violation were forced to
do it by the official justice system, then it is the prison system
that is guilty of the crime committed against its victims.
to replace the PNG health minister
With someone with a medical background
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 April 2020
First published in the National, Wednesday 1 April 2020
The tussle continues.
The job of getting out information and update to the public on the
coronavirus in the country is now a tussle between the Health Minister
Jelta Wong and the Police Minister Bryan Kramer.
With coronavirus being a ticket agenda, fame seeking Kramer cannot
wait to allow the opportunity to carve himself a name slip pass.
He started off with a mistake by giving wrong information to the
country by declaring the first suspect case as negative which was
later confirmed to be a positive case.
Kramer had to blame someone to save face but he blamed the Papua
New Guinea PNG Medical Research Institute for inconsistencies in
the test results.
But that couldnt hold water so he diverted attention to a
different subject and went on to discuss the legality of the state
The Health Minister is even no better.
He started off on a streak of misinformation with his haphazard
probable and possible case analysis putting everyone in an unnecessary
panic and anxiety mode.
It was his incompetence that paved way for the conniving and manipulative
Kramer to snake in.
Now who shall we take it from, Kramer or Wong?
Updating the country on vital statistics on an epidemic that is
decimating economies and putting the world to its knees should not
be left to the mediocre that is turning all this into a popularity
Replace the health minister with someone from the medical background
such as Elias Kapavore, Dr Tom Lino or Sir Puka Temu.
Papua New Guinea
Malaysia's GP's want to
To national agenda for Covid-19 eradication
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 April 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 28 March 2020
The health fraternity is working very hard to contain
the spread of Covid-19 as well as treating those who are infected
with the virus.
With the enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO), I hope
we will be able to break the chain of transmission soon.
Throughout this period, general practitioners about 7,000 nationwide
have also been helping the Health Ministry, and most of them have
had to pay more to acquire the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
A random survey shows that most General Practitioners (GP) are seeing
less than 30 percent of their normal capacity, making it hard to
sustain their practice.
Despite this, they are still keeping their clinics open to reduce
the burden of the overworked government health clinics and hospitals.
GPs are also vulnerable to infection, but we are loyal citizens
who want to contribute to the nations efforts in fighting
However, there has been neither an appreciative word for, nor inclusiveness
of, GPs in the national agenda for Covid-19 eradication.
In Singapore, many GP clinics are activated as Public Healthcare
Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) during pandemic seasons, such as for
SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and now Covid-19.
Citizens can walk into those clinics for subsidised treatment and
thus allow early detection of the virus.
We could have followed the Singapore experience but, unfortunately,
this is not being done.
A few days ago, the Health director-general announced the availability
of a new screening kit for Covid-19.
When this new kit is launched, I would suggest that the Health Ministry
uses a readily available manpower, namely GPs, to carry out this
We are all aware that the fight against Covid-19 is the toughest
battle we and most other nations face today.
GPs are the nearest healthcare point of contact for patients, hence
using their services will definitely help to contain the disease
and also reduce the burden of the overworked public hospital system.
Dr Sivanaesan L,
for Filipinos to ask
What can I do for my country?
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 April 2020
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Tuesday 31 March
Crises bring out the best in people.
The 1986 Edsa Revolution showed how a fired-up group of leaders
galvanized and rallied an entire nation behind a national cause.
One of those in the forefront of the movement was Big Business.
Recent events suggest that Big Business is rising to confront and
beat another challenge - the looming economic havoc that COVID-19
threatens to bring to our nation.
This time its not a struggle for freedom, but a similar concerted
effort to use massive financial resources to bring us economic relief.
I can hear distant sounds of hope as Big Business starts to flex
its muscles and take the bull by the horns.
Ramon Ang, Manny V. Pangilinan, the Ayalas, the Villars, the Gokongweis,
Lucio Tan, and many others are stepping up to the plate.
Saving our economy is not only patriotic, it also makes good business
The Filipino market generates wealth for our business titans, and
I suppose they wont allow adversity to kill the goose that
lays the golden egg.
When Megaworld donated prime property in Iloilo City for a convention
center, they were not only being civic-spirited, they were also
Over and above mundane considerations is the wellspring of goodwill
that suddenly springs out of ones heart when the conscience
is pricked and moved by something beyond the ordinary.
You may call it destiny, reality, or even divine intervention, but
we have seen that miracles do happen, like the one that occurred
The flame has been lit by Ang and other early birds.
I may be overly optimistic, but I hope to see a bandwagon effect.
I like to visualize the fire building up to a conflagration where
politicians will cross party lines, businessmen will start giving
back, and Filipinos will ask, What can I do for my country?
One may talk to that seamstress in Batangas who made face masks
to give away for free.
One may also ask that motel owner in Pasig who once hosted seekers
of fleeting pleasures but who has offered his place as a shelter
for COVID-19 patients.
The motivations behind these acts of benevolence may be varied,
but they all proceed from human goodness at its best.
Hope springs eternal. I may neither be churchy
in my ways nor scriptural with my language, but I believe in the
grace of a Supreme Being delivering relief to those who seek it.
May God bless the Philippines!
Jose B. Maroma Jr.,
come Indonesia has such poor health infrastructure
all the aid it gets from Australia?
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 March 2020
The report ' Indonesia's medical workers threaten
to stop treating COVID-19 patients ' in The
Southeast Asian Times 30 March makes for very
We learn from the grim report that the medical workers threaten
to stop treating COVID-19 infected patients if they are not provided
with protecting clothing.
Why does Indonesia not have adequate protective clothing for the
frontline medical workers?
The Indonesian Medical Association in conjunction with the Medical
Professors Council at the University of Indonesia, the Indonesian
Dentist Association and the Indonesian Nurses Association have issued
the warning to the Indonesian government to safeguard the medical
They are right to point out who will treat the patients if the medical
workers are themselves infected?
The shortage of protective clothing does indeed put the medical
workers in " grave danger of catching the disease ".
The report tells us Indonesia's " health facilities are
not ready ".
Only a few hospitals have ventilators.
Only 2 beds in the intensive care unit per 100,000 people , the
lowest in Southeast Asia.
How come Indonesia has such poor health infrastructure with all
the aid it gets from Australia?
Is it because a disproportionate amount goes into bolstering the
Indonesian military capability?
There is no shortage of military and police riot gear in Indonesia,
The coronavirus pandemic exposes the wrong priorities of not only
the Indonesian State authorities but others in the region as well.
For example see the 30 March Canberra Times article
' Coronavirus : experts warn of health catastrophe in Papua
New Guinea '.
Warnings of ' bodies in the streets ' if COVID-19 takes off in PNG
PNG is another country that receives heaps in Australian foreign
There is a clear need for governments to rethink priorities to serve
the public good.
system is there in place
To contain Covid-19 in Thailand
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 March 2020
I have symptoms of Covid-19 after coming back from
I tested positive for the disease and was isolated at a private
Luckily, I had a mild case and was released when I had shown no
symptoms for six days.
As of today, 10 days after I first tested positive, no one from
Ministry of Public Health or any other state department has contacted
me to inquire about who I was in contact with in Thailand or other
countries, no advice or instructions were given on what I should
do post-release (besides medical advice from the hospital), and
I still haven't received results of the follow up Covid-19 test
I took over a week ago.
What system is there in place to contain this disease in Thailand?
What can we learn from neighbouring countries like Singapore, Taiwan,
South Korea or Hong Kong?
has created an opportunity
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 March 2020
First published in the Star, Sunday 29 March 2020
COVID-19 is not only killing humans but also the global
On March 12, the Dow Jones dropped 2,353 points, the worst single-day
drop in history.
Bursa Malaysia also plunged 75 points on March 15, the steepest
drop since the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2008.
When a major economy sneezes, many countries would catch a cold.
This is a price we have to pay in a globalised environment.
I can still remember the daunting volatility of our stock market
caused by the Asian financial crisis that gripped much of South-East
Asia in 1997.
As an inexperienced investor then, I was utterly helpless at seeing
the value of my investments dwindling by the day.
Fortunately, the stocks invested then were all acquired by my hard-earned
money without any borrowing.
Thus, I was able to keep them as long-term investments.
It was an unforgettable experience, but I had learnt an invaluable
Unfortunately, the stock market is always treated like a gold mine
or casino by many retail investors and speculators.
They trade heavily and actively in the market.
When there is a sudden crash, they would not only panic but also
act irrationally to pull out from the market.
Their inability to average down the costs of their stocks or invest
further in a depressed market would cause them to lose heavily.
Its a golden opportunity to pick up some undervalued stocks
with attractive yields now.
However, as nobody knows how low the market could go, it is wiser
to invest cautiously even at the current depressed level.
Adopt a long-term investing strategy in accordance with your financial
capability and dont forget to diversify.
By doing so, you should be able to build a resilient portfolio before
the market recovers.
A market wouldnt remain depressed for too long.
Upon accumulating your desired stocks, just sit back and wait for
the attractive dividends to come.
Investments are for long term, thus you dont need to worry
too much of the daily price movements.
Enjoy your cup of coffee every morning and think positively of your
A happy mood allows your brain to think better.
Covid-19 has caused havoc, but it has also created an opportunity
for those with financial capability to invest now.
As the saying goes, When there is a crisis, there is also
Lets hope that the pandemic would be contained as soon as
COVD-19 is not a fight
for one or some
is a fight for everyone
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 March 2020
The health issue on CORONA VIRUS or also known as
the COVID-19 is not really a joke.
It is a worldwide problem that we are battling now.
It does not discriminate age, sex, race nor the state of life.
The truth in here is that it kills and who ever be the victim will
die alone, no family and friend in his/her side until he put into
Today, the death toll jumps to 45 including our medical front liners
who are not only battling the Pandemic COVID-19 but also battling
for their own lives.
As of today, nine Philippine doctors have died because of the virus.
As health practitioners, they did not escape from the COVID-19 infection.
How many ordinary citizens have died from the COVD-19 infection?
Accordingly, the doctors contracted the virus because there were
infected by persons or patients who did not declare that they have
symptoms of COVID-19 or that they are infected by the COVID-19 because
they were afraid that they will be isolated or discriminated against.
Well, this is truly an irresponsible act.
If these people continue to do such thing, not only doctors will
die but all of us.
If we want to go back on our normal lives, go back to work, to schools,
to vacations, and community quarantine or total lock down will be
lifted, let us cooperate and do our part. Let us be responsible.
Let us help fight COVID-19. Cooperate with the government.
This is not just a fight of one or some, it is a fight of everyone.
So, Stay at home and Save lives.
Embassy in Thailand accuses the US
Of using coronavirus to smear and attack
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 March 2020
Re: "Don't believe lies", in Bangkok
Post, PostBag, March 21.
Michael George DeSombre, the US Ambassador to Thailand deliberately
used the novel coronavirus epidemic to smear and attack China.
It is necessary for the Chinese side to set the record straight.
At first, some American officials arbitrarily labelled the virus
and linked it to China, which was strongly opposed by the international
community, including many Americans.
The chair of the US Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
said it is dangerous referring to Covid-19 as the "Chinese
virus" at a time when misinformation has led to racist
and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans. The World Health
Organization (WHO) emphasised to avoid any indication of ethnic,
geographic or other associations with the virus.
The pandemic of influenza H1N1 in 2009 originated in North America
but we don't call it "the North American flu".
Not to mention even Robert R Redfield, director of the US Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevaricated over the actual
number of deaths from Covid-19 during 2019-2020 influenza season.
Who on earth is lying?
Who's hiding the truth?
The US administration owes the world an explanation.
Some Americans turned to distort the facts, attacking China for
not being open or transparent on information sharing.
As a matter of fact, China has been providing very timely updates
to the WHO and related countries starting from last December.
Since Jan 3, China has been notifying the US side of epidemic developments,
prevention and control measures on a regular basis.
Principal officials of Chinese and American health authorities and
the CDC spoke on the phone frequently.
Two American experts attended the China-WHO Joint Mission and conducted
a nine-day field trip to China.
Interestingly, on Jauary 25, President Trump tweeted that "China
has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The US greatly
appreciates China's efforts and transparency".
And later on March 13, President Trump told reporters that the data
China shared are helpful for the US efforts against the epidemic.
The US's performance of a 180-degree turn begs the question: Who
on earth is lying?
The outbreak is growing rapidly in the US and lies cannot save American
While the US administration is still having trouble updating accurate
national data on daily cases, and trying to blame China's "misinformation"
for its failure to prevent the epidemic, the US media revealed that
several US senators were informed of the real seriousness of US
outbreak and secretly sold off their personal stocks as early as
Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia admitted that "the
country which has actually been responsible for a large amount of
these (coronavirus cases in Australia) has actually been the United
Who is not open, transparent and accountable?
While continuing our fight against the disease at home, China is
also reaching out to the international community, providing assistance
to about one hundred countries in need, including Thailand.
This virus knows no borders.
The urgent task for the international community is to defeat Covid-19
We urge the US side to stop blame-shifting and lying, put its own
house in order and play a constructive role in enhancing international
health cooperation against the disease.
Counsellor and Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand,
Call for ASEAN to coordinate
To mitigate spread of Covid-19 in the region
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 March 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 24 March 2020
The director-general of the World Health Organisation
(WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Hidden in his terse statement was an ominous warning: We
have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This
is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never
before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time.
Given that the world is more integrated today that ever before,
pandemics can disrupt international trade and supply chains.
This in turn will affect health, transport, tourism and trade sectors
across the globe. In South-East Asia, members of Asean have not
taken a coordinated response yet despite the serious threat of the
Every country has implemented different strategies.
Thus far, Malaysia has taken the most stringent action by implementing
a two-week national movement control order (MCO).
Others have taken different measures.
International visitors have been banned in some countries.
Unfortunately, given the transnational nature of a pandemic, individual
national responses cannot be fully effective.
The recent tabligh gatherings in Malaysia and Indonesia demonstrate
how lack of coordination can open new opportunities to spread the
What we need is a global response.
Asean should urgently coordinate policies to mitigate the spread
of Covid-19 in the region while making sure that trade, medical
and food supply chains are not disrupted.
Asean could lead the global response by convening a virtual emergency
summit on Covid-19 to:
Implement an Asean Movement Control Order (Amco) until March 30
this year. During this period, the Asean visa-free regime should
There should be a total ban on inter-state travel to control events
like the tabligh and other religious gatherings.
Under Amco, a common list of travel restrictions for other nationals
uld also be instituted.
Amco could be extended by a further two weeks or more depending
on the situation;
Give exemptions to experts, diplomats and other emergency travel
needs, if necessary;
Identify guidelines for inter-state land, air and sea movement of
cargo, including food and medical supplies;
Identify major hospitals in each country as the key crisis response
Secure international support for these hospitals from Aseans
dialogue partners; and Issue common Covid-19 health guidelines in
multiple languages through the Internet and media.
Datuk Dr Ilango Karuppannan,
Public Sector Reform Division
Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit
will the wayward Australians learn that
man is an island
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 March 2020
( see the article ' Coronavirus : Australian woman
to be kicked out of China for going jogging ' ( Yahoo News Australia
20/3/20 ) in disregard of China's
self - isolation regulation ).
Australians on the beach : Disregard COVID-19 social distancing
( The Southeast Asian Times 24 March ) is a display of the "
I'm alright, Jack " mentality that has come to characterise
the Australian nation.
It is the same mentality that has been responsible for disregarding
climate change notwithstanding its harmful impacts.
It's a shame that a literate people living in an advanced First
World democracy - with unhindered access to appropriate scientific
evidence and information - should conduct themselves in such a "
toad in the well " backward manner.
When will the wayward Australians learn that " no man is
an island " and that
we have a duty of care for our fellow human beings and for planet
Thai's returning to home
From Pattaya and Bangkok taking COVID-19
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 22 March 2020
For the past two months, I have been closely following
news about Covid-19.
Today, Italy reached a new record in deaths.
It seems like an entire generation is being wiped out there and
many younger patients are also becoming "history".
In the past three days, Thailand has had 50+ cases, which proves
things are escalating.
Soon, if not already, people from Pattaya and Bangkok will be returning
to their home provinces and taking the disease with them.
Soon we will see local clusters across the country, and in the near
future, the number of cases per day will surge to 500.
France did not go into lockdown mode until they had about 7,000
It was the same in Germany and Spain.
China, however, issued stringent lockdown measures as soon as it
hit 570 cases.
I predict most large countries will fare the same as Italy if not
For Thailand, the situation can become really critical if the virus
gets out of control. We have to remember that people testing positive
today have incubated the disease for six to 14 days.
It is possible the virus is spreading like wildfire in the country
because social distancing is not Thai people's best quality.
call for acceptence
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 22 March
In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, many people worry
about possible loss of income, resources, and lives.
Some people worry about imaginary and trivial things, and others
worry without doing anything.
Some people do everything they can and still worry.
However, some people do what they can and dont worry, because
they know that beyond what they can do, things are no longer in
They find it reasonable and soothing to accept things that are beyond
their control, and find it irrational, predictably frustrating,
and stressful to resist things that are out of their control.
The frustration and stress not only add to the tragedy, but are
even worse than the tragedy itself.
Acceptance relieves, calms, and gives peace of mind.
In the Lords prayer, a person asks for Gods will to
Jesus accepted his passion.
In the serenity prayer, a person asks God to grant him or her the
serenity to accept the things he or she cannot change.
The Greek stoics were experts in acceptance.
Because they acknowledged the fact that many things are temporary,
matter is destructible, and people are mortal, they gladly accepted
They also believed that everything and everyone they had belonged
If they lost these things, they said to themselves that the owner
had simply taken them back.
They even embraced their own deaths.
While we quarantine ourselves, let us take precautions, rest, pray,
bond with our family, develop ourselves, assess our values, declutter
our homes, and accept things beyond our control, instead of worrying.
As Leo Aikman says, Blessed is the person who is too busy
to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.
The Bible also asks, Can any of you live a bit longer by
worrying about it? So why worry?
Jori Gervasio R. Benson,
Call for deployment of
health care workers
Not deployment of police and military
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 March
I am a medical student, and I dont understand
why a lot of people think we want health care workers to literally
replace the military manning the checkpoints.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for
adequate medical support.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, after all, a health crisis.
What we need is free, accessible health care for all.
We need enough funding for the mass production of the UP-developed
COVID-19 test kits; free massive testing; free masks, soaps, alcohol,
and medicines; mass sterilization of schools and other public places;
more health care workers deployed especially to far-flung communities
to detect infections as early as possible and to decongest hospitals;
increased budget for our hospitals and emergency response teams;
and enough medical supplies for our medical frontliners who risk
their lives every day, without them having to beg for donations.
And yet, we are met with thousands of policemen and soldiers armed
with rifles - many of whom have no personal protective equipment
and thermal scanners, are lenient on the enforcement of social distancing
and unaware of what their protocol is if ever they encounter an
individual suspected of being infected, and are unaccompanied by
barangay health care workers.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for
adequate economic aid.
In any crisis, it is always the poor that are most severely affected.
The contractual workers.
The jeepney drivers.
Those who cant work from home.
Those who dont even have homes.
Those who only have enough money to get through the day, not for
stocking up on food and medical supplies.
Those who cant afford to self-quarantine or be admitted into
a hospital and risk leaving their families to starve.
Those who dont even have the means to go to the nearest hospital
or health center.
What we need are food, clean water, shelter, and other services
for those displaced by the community quarantine.
We need reliable water supply.
We need the prices of basic commodities to be frozen.
We need subsidy for the workers who have now been deprived of their
only source of income.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for
We need a clear and comprehensive nationwide information drive to
explain how to protect ones self and others who are more vulnerable
at a time like this, and to alleviate mass panic and hoarding of
We need more scientists and health professionals in charge, instead
of an incompetent politician whose knee-jerk reaction to a public
health crisis is to call on his troops and threaten with arrest
those who dont comply.
We need a leader who acts like one - who doesnt act based
on his own personal interests; who has concrete plans backed by
science and data; and who recognizes and gives credit to the real
heroes of this story, instead of feeding the egos of his best friend
and his master.
The call for #SolusyongMedikalHindiAksyongMilitar is a call for
accountability. After slashing P10 billion off our national budget
for health and allocating this to intelligence funds and confidential
funds instead; after donating $1.4 million worth of masks to China
when our own country was in need; after repeatedly refusing to impose
a travel ban from mainland China as a precautionary measure in the
name of diplomacy - we ask: Who does this administration
We need information, not force.
We need medical and financial support, not guns.
Enforcement of a lockdown must go hand in hand
with the necessary health and economic measures. Otherwise, its
just another disaster waiting to happen.
Lorielle Ann Aquino,
The illegal trade of wild
animals is still flourishing
In Bangkok's Chatuchak wet market
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 March 2020
Re: "Will our food bring new diseases?"
in Opinion, Bangkok Post, March Wednesday18, 2020
Jason Baker raises important issues regarding the risks which wet
markets present as sources of diseases like Covid-19. Of critical
concern is the harbouring of wild, exotic animals at such markets.
A recent episode of 60 Minutes Australia again highlighted Bangkok's
Chatuchak market as a major centre for the illegal trade of wild
animals. It is disturbing that after years and years of repeated
exposés the illegal trade of wild animals is still flourishing
in Chatuchak. This dangerous and risky trade should be closed down
immediately, both for the benefit of the environment and wildlife,
but also in the interest of the health and well-being of the population.
Deaths and abuse in police
and immigration detention
Continue in Malaysia unabated
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 13 March 2020
EDICT (Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together)
is glad to join the chorus of welcome for the honourable Tan Sri
Idrus Haruns appointment as Attorney General.
We look forward to him filling the lacuna of leadership in the AGC
(Attorney Generals Chambers) with respect to addressing the
scourge of deaths and abuse in custody in Malaysia.
The government does not publish data regularly about deaths and
abuse in custody. Monitoring by civil society organisations indicates
that deaths and abuse in custody, whether in police lock-ups, prisons
or immigration detention centres, continue unabated.
Edicts involvement in coroners inquests and subsequent
civil action against the authorities in high courts and courts of
higher jurisdiction have revealed many shortcomings that can be
addressed by the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC).
The following are five examples.
First, in a civil action taken by the family of a victim against
the perpetrators of a death in police custody, the Attorney General's
Chanmbers (AGC) chose to represent the perpetrators while prosecuting
them in a criminal court.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) establishes and
enforces a rule barring such representation.
Second, deputy public prosecutors (DPP) who serve as conducting
officers during inquests often act as if they are defending the
authorities instead of assisting the coroner to arrive at findings
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) establishes training
and monitoring of deputy public prosecutors (DPP) to ensure they
assist the coroner rather than the authorities.
Third, there is a lack of urgency in conducting inquests.
In one case we are handling, the coroner failed to conduct an inquest.
The inquest date was eventually set by order of a high court and
subsequent highlighting of the matter via the media by Edict.
Edict recommends that the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC) establishes
a monitoring system to track and ensure timely conduct of inquests
in all cases of custodial deaths (as laid out in Section 334 of
the Criminal Procedure Code).
Fourth, currently the Attorney General's Chanmbers (AGC) as a matter
of routine appeals the award of damages by civil courts
to bargain down substantial awards which judges
choose to hand down in order to send a loud message
to the authorities and the government about reprehensible and egregious
Edict recommends that the Attorney General (AG) accepts, as a matter
of course, awards handed down by judges and treat appeals as an
exception rather than the rule.
Fifth, also due to appealing as a matter of routine (rather than
case by case), awards for damages are subject to appalling delays.
In one case where negligence has been amply established, the wife
and six children of a victim havent received one sen eight
years after he died.
Our fourth recommendation covers this and will loudly signal a humanitarian
response to suffering caused by misfeasance and a refusal to even
appear to condone belligerent abuse of power.
Edict wishes Idrus much success and joy in his tenure as Attorney
General and hopes that his legacy will include actions to end the
scourge of deaths and abuse in custody.
Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT)
Call for Thai immigration
To take stepes to avoid spread of Covid-19
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 18 March 2020
It looks like the government is asking everyone to
take steps to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Everyone except the Immigration department, that is.
Mass gatherings are to be avoided, yet Immigration herds hundreds
of people into its offices every single day.
Some government officials blame foreigners for the spread of Covid-19,
yet foreigners are amassed five days a week and then sent back out
onto the streets.
What is the Immigration department going to do to alleviate this
Probably nothing, because foreigners are cash cows and who cares
if one of them gets Covid-19?
After all, they are making a big deal about foreigners having insurance,
and foreigners are "rich".
Maybe a foreigner who contracts Covid-19 from going to an Immigration
office should sue Immigration for being forced to enter an unsafe
Indigenous lands damaged
A very common trend in the region including
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 March 2020
We learn from the letter by Luwi James of Port Moresby
that Indigenous people of Madang, PNG to sue China for environment
damage from mining ( The Southeast Asian Times 17/3 ).
There might be a cautionary tale in the experience of the indigenous
people of Madang for other indigenous people in the region, including
Fiji, who are quick to accept Chinese mining without proper due
diligence regarding possible damaging environmental impacts.
The mining deals are often cut by local politicians purporting to
advance the interests of the indigenous/local people.
The subsequent reality following the commencement of mining is often
the very opposite.
The mining and the accompanying environment damage undermine their
sustainable livelihood, health and well-being.
It's a very common trend.
Indigenous people of Madang,
To sue China for environmental damage
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 March 2020
First published in the National, Thursday 12 March 2020
The status of Ramu Nickel and Cobalt Mine has reached
extreme point of concern and requires accurate information to be
made known to the resource owners and the Madang people.
All parties have to understand the initial inception of the mine
to its current stage.
According to the records, a company known as the Carpenters sold
the mining licence to Highlands Pacific and later Chinese state-owned
Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), developer of Ramu Nickel
and Cobalt project purchase the licence from Highlands Pacific.
To operate the mining, a meeting was convened in Beijing, China
and an agreement was signed based on compulsory land acquisition
between the developer Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation
of China (MCC), respective members of Madang and the Government
in which Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare reigned as prime minister
and former member of parliament James Yali was the governor of Madang.
Current Madang Governor, Peter Yama was then member of parliament
for Usino-Bundi but was not a member of the party that went to Beijing.
Yama is now backing the indigenous people of Madang to sue Chinese
state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) for the damages
done to the sea.
Madang Government is fighting against piles of lawsuits and propagandas
to deliver services to the rural population of Madang.
Papua New Guinea
Generations of Filipino's
affected by cancellation
US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 March
Annulling a marriage is often lengthy and messy, while
it only takes one bad hair day for the President to trash a long-standing
Annulment only involves both spouses.
Writing off a treaty, on the other hand, impacts the entire nation
and, potentially, generations of its citizens.
When the framers of the 1987 Constitution were stacking the final
texts on Article VII, Sec. 21, they probably did not have in mind
a future where someone occupying the highest post in the land would
brook no qualms trashing international agreements, ex parte.
The constitutional provision reads: No treaty or international
agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at
least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
The apparent lapse in putting safeguards on what happens next
was what the recent hubbub was all about.
The Senates hands are tied, perhaps mindful of the statutory
proscription expressio unius est exclusio alterius,
i.e., what the law does not include, it excludes.
And a lacuna has also found its way into Article IX (Duration and
Termination) of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), viz: This
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) agreement shall enter into force
on the date on which the parties have notified each other in writing
through the diplomatic channel that they have completed their constitutional
requirements for entry into force. This agreement shall remain in
force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either
party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to
terminate the agreement.
Inattention to filling the sentence with qualifiers (colatilla),
even at the risk of sounding like a broken record, enabled one person
to scrap a document that presumably went through a long vetting
process during the deliberative phase.
With the noise that followed, the Senate had to run to the Supreme
Court for relief. Meanwhile, the omission is now costing so much
confusion, not to mention frayed nerves between long-standing allies.
If theres any lesson this issue has brought to fore, it is
that writers and authors of treaties and other international agreements
(or even common documents) should have known better.
Ted P. Penaflor II,
New Philippines Ant-Terrorism
Act 2020 allows the military
To detain and arrest without a warrant
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 13 March
The Senate recently passed Senate Bill No. 1083, which
aims to repeal Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of
2007, replacing it with an amended version dubbed the Anti-Terrorism
Act of 2020.
If enacted, the new antiterrorism bill will become the most potent
weapon the government can use to stifle dissent.
In the hands of an administration that has shown its penchant for
using the law to silence and punish its critics, and security apparatuses
known for human rights abuses, the proposed measure will only serve
as a legal framework for a crackdown on progressive organizations,
civil society groups, activists, members of the media, and individuals
labeled as dissidents or enemies of the state.
SB 1083 would broaden the powers already granted to law enforcement
agencies under RA 9372, enabling them to conduct lengthier surveillance
operations, wiretap and record private communications, access databases,
examine bank records, and freeze the assets of persons and organizations
suspected of financing terrorism or having connections with alleged
Worse, SB 1083 would also authorize the military to carry out surveillance
activities previously reserved only for the police.
Under the proposed law, military personnel and other law enforcement
agents would also be allowed to carry out warrantless arrests and
detain suspected terrorists for an initial period of up to 14 days,
extendable for another 10 days - a significant increase from the
three-day maximum period for detention permitted under RA 9372.
Notably, under SB 1083, those arrested and detained without warrant
would not even have the benefit of being presented before a judge,
as the bill removed, with no justification, this safeguard under
Apart from the dangerously broad powers given to the police, the
military, and other government agencies under SB 1083, the proposed
measure also expands the already vague definition for terrorism
under the Human Security Act, with no clear parameters that could
limit its application.
SB 1083 takes it a step further by criminalizing acts that have
traditionally been considered legitimate exercises of free speech,
freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and freedom
Arguably, the most dangerous innovation sought to be introduced
by SB 1083 is a mechanism allowing for the immediate declaration
of an organization as a terrorist or outlawed group, with no prior
notice whatsoever to the subject organization, no opportunity for
it to respond, and no hearing.
The brazenly oppressive provisions of SB 1083 are alarming, to say
the least. Unless vigilance is exercised in the coming weeks, and
action taken to prevent it from becoming law, we risk finding ourselves,
once again, having to contend with a significantly diminished democratic
space and considerable threats to even the most fundamental of freedoms.
Ephraim B. Cortez, secretary general,
Josalee's S. Deinla, spokesperson,
National Union of Peoples Lawyers,
for Thailand to move beyond
20th century economics
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 8 March 2020
Edward Kitlertsirivatanas thought-provoking
questions about why there are so many Thais labouring abroad both
legally and illegally should give rise to serious contemplation
of the countrys economy.
Ironically, while hundreds of thousands of Thais venture to other
lands in search of daily wages ranging up to 2,000 baht or more,
the Thai economy itself is hugely dependent on labourers from Laos,
Cambodia and Myanmar.
Without the migrant workers from neighbouring countries - eager
to work for the 320 baht daily wage or less - the Thai economy,
as currently structured, would rapidly collapse.
Thailand needs to urgently develop supporting infrastructure, policies
and a high-tech workforce needed for a robust and vibrant future
The chronic poverty of rural farmers trapped in low-income drudgery
highlights the futility of maintaining tens of millions of people
in the agricultural sector.
Thailand must move beyond 20th century economic approaches if it
is to avoid being left in the dust of more progressive and visionary
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief
be able to act without fear or favour
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 March 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 11 March 2020
Congratulations to Datuk Seri Azam Baki for being
appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner.
Assessing our past and thinking aloud about what has happened in
the last 20 months, it seems that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission
(MACC) has done better than expected.
And some decisions made by the previous Pakatan Harapan government
- not all - have been wise ones that have put us on the path towards
being a better nation with a culture of integrity.
For a start, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), among
nine other government agencies, has been operating as an independent
entity since July 1, 2018, reporting directly to Parliament.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), previously known
as the Anti-Corruption Agency, was established in 2009, modelled
after Hong Kongs Independent Commission Against Corruption
with the hopes that our version would be able to combat corruption
One of the most important and unique features of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption
Commission (MACC), is the five independent committees that monitor
it to ensure its integrity and to protect citizens rights.
These five committees are the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the
Special Committee on Corruption, the Complaints Committee, the Operations
Review Panel, and the Corruption Consultation and Prevention Panel.
Even Hong Kongs agency does not anything like this.
However, I believe these committees have not been operational for
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), one of some 150
anti-corruption agencies around the world today, can offer an effective
institutional approach to eradicating and fighting corruption
but only if it is provided with the means to carry out its mission.
Our government of the day must ensure that it is a capable, functionally
independent and well-resourced anti-corruption agency in line with
the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Article
6: Anti-corruption Bodies and Article 36: Specialised Authorities.
The agency should also be in line with the Jakarta Statement on
Principles for Anti-Corruption Agencies.
The Jakarta Statement provides more credible guidance and parameters
for a strong anti-corruption agency and merits endorsement by the
the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Conference
of States Parties.
Among the guidelines is to have a clear mandate to tackle corruption
through prevention, education, awareness-raising, investigation
and prosecution; and the anti-corruption agency head must be appointed
through a process that ensures his or her apolitical stance, impartiality,
neutrality, integrity and competence.
Malaysia signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption
(UNCAC) on December 9, 2003, and subsequently ratified it on September
The Convention entered into force on October 4, 2008, in Malaysia.
Perception about the state of corruption in the nation has improved,
as seen in Malaysias performance in the Transparency Internationals
Corruption Perception Index 2019 where Malaysia scored 53/100 points
and was positioned at 51/180. Only one year into our National Anti-Corruption
Plan at that point and Malaysia had jumped 10 spots to 51st place
out of 180 countries from previous years 61st place with a
score of 47/100.
Still, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) requires
more autonomy and independence from the executive branch of the
government if it is to eradicate corruption effectively.
The agency must be given full and complete independence as a Constitutional
The appointment of the new chief commissioner is hopefully independent
and not influenced by anyone with a higher power and authority.
The new chief must have security of tenure and he must be able to
act without fear or favour.
Dr Km Loi,
would protect Philippine President Duterte
any move to oust him from power
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 10 March
This is in connection with the articles Department
of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) probes Sino soldiers
in Pogos in Philippine Inquirer News March
7, 2020 and Duterte has chosen: Province of China
in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, March 5, 2020, the
latter by retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio.
We are very much concerned with these developments.
The entry of able-bodied Chinese nationals into the country posing
as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers, the influx
of hundreds of millions of dollars, the permission given to Chinese
firms to build communication infrastructure inside Philippine military
bases, the shooting range in a subdivision in Parañaque,
and the surreptitious visits of Chinese warships
in Davao are a serious cause for concern.
The stories my late grandfather told us come to mind.
Before Imperial Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941,
there were thousands of Japanese citizens working here as buyers
of used bottles, scrap iron, and old newspapers.
When the war broke out, those Japanese turned out to be officers
of the Japanese imperial army.
President Dutertes unilateral abrogation of the Visiting Forces
Agreement (VFA) with the United States, simply because he was irked
by the visa cancellation of Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, now looks to
be a lame excuse.
As we see it, the abrogation may have been nudged by China.
With the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) gone, Chinas Peoples
Liberation Army fills the vacuum.
This is similar to US President Donald Trumps order to pull
out the US forces in Syria to satisfy Russian President Vladimir
Putin, whose troops took the place the US Army vacated.
If the allegations of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon
are true - that there are 3,000 China's People's Liberaton Army
(PLA) soldiers posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO)
workers here, then we are in very deep trouble.
Why is Mr. Duterte silent about all this?
The reason for his reticence may be his earlier statement that in
case there is a move to oust him from power, China is going
to protect him.
This then gives credence to Carpios March 5 column.
Where are the patriotic officers and men of the Armed Forces of
Rise in the Philippines
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 March 2020
is quiet alarming when news came out that the number of confirmed
cases of COVID in the Philippines rose to 10 already.
For some they may say that it is somehow small number compared to
other countries but for me it is already disturbing since there
is still no cure for this virus.
I understand that different countries are now doing their best on
how to cure and contain this virus however, as of this writing there
are a number of patient all over the world that undergoing tests
Philippine President now declared the state of public health emergency
therefore all government agencies including uniformed personnel
will now assist the Local Government Units (LGU) and patients if
needed to prevent the spread of this virus.
It is in the midst of a crisis that we need to strengthen the medical
experts, local leaders, the police, and the military working hand
in hand to help those affected of this disease.
one in the Philippine Cabinet objects to ending
The US Visiting
Forces Agreement (VFA) do they ?
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 6 March
I can support the reported position of Senate President
Tito Sotto to seek a judicial pronouncement on terminating international
agreements, in Philippine Inquirer March 1, 2020.
One-man rule is anathema, or at least, not preferred, if we are
a true democracy. Any great silence in the Constitution must be
seen in the context that it is a document of distrust in absolute
No one in the Cabinet objects to ending the US Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA) do they ?
Was it really ever put in the agenda for a thorough full-blown deliberation?
We may have a chuwari-wari Cabinet of echoes,
who are just told, not voices who may say, wait a minute
and ask foolish questions.
And is loyalty to fervent supporter Sen. Bato de la Rosa paramount?
The surprise sudden termination didnt result, though, in the
United States capitulating by resurrecting his canceled visa.
US President Donald Trump instead trumpeted the savings arising
from the termination, and our President, said to have had his own
US visa problems long ago, oddly claims he has just ensured the
Involving others is simply more democratic in deciding an issue
with polycentric dimensions.
It is to recognize the citizen as a particle of popular sovereignty.
If direct democracy in a country of 105 million is not workable,
there is the Senate, through which the people can be heard in a
In one-man rule, the ruler does not feel bound to convene a body
like the National Security Council (NSC).
But the Senate may hold hearings, which makes the process not only
legally tenable and intellectually respectable, but also leads to
a decision that is also sychologically satisfying to the people
heard and given some importance.
Pamahalaan ng nakararami, di po ng isang tao lang.
The President should have made a credible show of consulting the
Cabinet, the National Security Council (NSC), previous presidents,
and the Senate or its leaders, indeed, even the House of Representatives
and its leaders.More democratic to avoid unilateral rash decisions.
As Talleyrand would advise, above all, no zeal.
The US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) stands for Visiting Forces
Agreement, not Virus from America.
If ending it was the right thing, and it may arguably well be, I
am not certain it was done in the right way at the right time for
the right reason.
A time of crises proves
to be an opportune time
For Thai entrepreneurship
SoutheastAsian Times, Monday 9 March 2020
We gather from the news that three women in Thailand
have been arrested and are likely to face prison time for selling
hundreds of thousands of used face mask amid the coronavirus crisis
( after washing, ironing and repackaging them to con the buyers
into believing them to be new).
A time of crisis is a time of opportunity ( Chinese proverb ).
Indeed it is.
The opportunity more often than not is of the crooked, predatory
kind as this case illustrates.
Call for Malaysia to explore
New electoral system
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 March 2020
First published in the Star Thursday 5 March 2020
On November 3,1774, upon being elected as Member of
Parliament for Bristol, England, Edmund Burke told his voters about
his role as MP: But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment,
his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to
any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from
your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are
a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment;
and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different
and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an
agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament
is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that
of the whole where not local purposes, not local prejudices,
ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general
reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have
chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.
If the local constituent should have an interest or should form
a hasty opinion evidently opposite to the real good of the rest
of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far as
any other from any endeavour to give it effect.
In 2020, after 246 years, his audacious speech remains relevant
even though no peoples representative is frank or brave enough
to speak like Burke.
The Malaysian electoral system based on the mother of parliaments,
Westminster, perpetuates the practice.
The moment you elect your MP, it is up to him or her to exercise
the power bestowed on him/her subject to the limited disciplinary
rules imposed by their party whips.
You can do nothing when your MPs shift their allegiance or decide
matters at their own will.
Your only option is to wait for the general election when you would
be the boss for one day.
Is our electoral system flawed? You can have your opinions.
However, I do feel that the system has served Malaysia well as it
provides stability and certainty especially after each general election.
Proportional representation can cause lots of uncertainty and instability.
A mature democracy can survive such uncertainty, but it can cause
havoc in a nurturing democracy.
Proportional representation does have the positive effect of preventing
one or two dominant parties from monopolising power. But are we
mature enough to adopt proportional representation?
I think it is time for the country to explore a new electoral system
to suit the needs of Malaysians in view of the unpleasant events
in the past few years.
However, are the parties benefiting from the existing system prepared
to forgo their advantages?
In the meantime, fellow voters, you have to live with the representatives
you elected in 2018.
Chang Ko Youn,
Call to reject attempt
to call into question
Malaysia's democratic system
Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 6 March 2020
Judging from the vitriolic backlash that many political
opinions, including mine, face when expressing any hope in the wake
of the recent chaos in government, its obvious that the publics
recollection of corruption and autocracy is still an open, festering
That the twists and turns of the last few days were no more beneficial
to me than to many who abuse me appears to be lost on the haters,
who seem to need to vent their rage on anyone trying to establish
a factual narrative around the events that have passed.
But, leaving trolls in chatrooms aside, there is also a sinister
bias in some mainstream news and foreign opinion writers that take
liberties to stretch the facts to suit their perspectives.
The Op-Ed in a recent issue of The Guardian newspaper in Britain
struck me as one such glaring example.
A few days back I was accused of click-baiting readers with an opinion
piece entitled Never Forget the 99% in which
I argued that the new government indeed all governments
should be laser focused on the wellbeing of many, not the select
few, if they want to remain in office.
I would submit that the case I was making was relatively benign
compared to the yelping headline in The Guardian: A royal
coup: King overturns a historic election.
This kind of revisionist sensationalism undermines the integrity
of Malaysias democracy, which worked well enough in 2018 when
Pakatan Harapan unseated Barisan Nasional, and, whether we like
the result or not, worked again in recent days.
Before you start throwing stones, let me be clear about one thing.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was my partys (Parti Pribumi Bersatu
In his capacity as its leader, he undertook a political gamble which
he lost, hugely. In his determination to retain the PMs office,
he triggered a crisis that spun out of control and could have unleashed
Thanks to our Constitutional process it did not, and we should be
grateful for that, and debunk any attempt by foreign observers to
challenge our rule of law.
Clearly many are dismayed at the outcome.
Their blood is boiling over, in fact.
I certainly dont blame them, having fought tooth and nail
to assist the Pakatan coalition to win the government.
I am no apologist for the corrupt regime that preceded them and
I certainly dont hope for their return.
But we cannot allow accusations of coup detats to go unchecked.
The King did not overturn any election.
Instead, he painstakingly interviewed all Members of Parliament
until he was satisfied that a government could be formed, and decided
swiftly to restore stability to the country.
All this was within his Constitutional authority to do.
Can his decision be challenged, either in court or in Parliamentary
session? Absolutely it can.
And it likely will be.
Again that is part of the Constitutional process that we must follow,
preserve, and uphold.
Meanwhile, we should reject any attempt to call into question our
democratic system itself, for to do so would be to return to jungle
law, not the rule of law.
Hopefully, we can at least all agree that if the system keeps working,
the rest will follow as the people desire - either at the voting
booth or in the courts or through their elected representatives.
Thats as it should be.
Datuk Dr Rais Hussin,
Call for accountability
for Papua New Guinea's
State owned Enterprises
Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 March 2020
First published in the National, Monday 2 March 2020
The partial privatisation urging superfunds to invest
in State Owned Enterprises sounds like a rescue strategy proposal.
What makes me think that way is that, I have not read too much about
State Owned Enterprises (SOE) such as Air Niugini, National Development
Bank, Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd and Papua New Guinea Ports in
Water Papua New Guinea, Eda Ranu, Papua New Guinea Power and Telikom
Papua New Guinea are always making headlines and these were the
same State Owned Enterprises (SOE) the Nasfund Chief has mentioned
as reported last Tuesday in The National.
Why squander our contributions and invest with State Owned Enterprises
(SOE) with bad management reputation?
Kumul Consolidation Holdings Ltd (KCHL) needs to look into issues
affecting these State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and help strengthen
their accountability and depth recovery systems.
State Owned Enterprises (SOE) such as Water Papua New Guinea (PNG),
Eda Ranu and Papua New Guinea (PNG) Power suffered because government
departments cannot pay their utility bills.
Ongoing in-house issues is one of them.
We cannot solely blame the impact of our economy.
People are behind these organisations.
By looking at this line of issues, my retirement savings can be
jeopardised if these State Owned Enterprises (SOE) continue to operate
Papua New Guinea
Philippines fear that
Chinese workers in the Philippines
Are conducting espionage activities
Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 March 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 March
That the suspects in the recent killing of a Chinese
in Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogo) worker were found
to have Chinese military identification cards with them indicates
that the fears expressed by some that these Chinese workers are
part of Chinas Peoples Liberation Army conducting espionage
activities in the country have factual basis, and thus not just
products of wild imagination as claimed by National Security Adviser
Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
This likewise gives credence to the suspicion that the Chinese nationals
who secretly entered a naval facility of the Philippines that was
not part of any tour package and who took pictures in the dead of
night were there for that precise purpose.
Those Chinese nationals should have been immediately arrested (as
what became the fate of a Chinese national caught taking photos
at a US naval base) and charged for espionage under Article 117
of the Revised Penal Code, for without authority, they entered a
naval establishment of the Philippines, took photographs, and thus
obtained information of a confidential nature relative to the defense
of the Philippine archipelago.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, their criminal intent
is conclusively presumed from the commission of their patently unlawful
It is most strange why our military establishment did not charge
them, considering their most serious threat to our national security,
in light of rumors that Chinese soldiers are, in fact, entering
the country in disguise, and who may be called to action at the
opportune time to accomplish some sinister plan most clearly against
the interests of our people.
More strange is the decision of this administration, through former
AFP chief Benjamin Madrigal Jr., to sign a deal Mislatel renamed
Dito Telecommunity, which will allow this China-backed telco to
set up equipment and infrastructure in military camps and installations,
and consequently allow, too, its Chinese personnel to enter our
military establishments, surely giving them the opportunity to obtain
information of a confidential nature relative to the defense of
the Philippine archipelago, which clearly may be used to the injury
of the Philippines.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is the approving authority
to the said deal and who should know better, has been reported to
have expressed the view that there is nothing wrong with the deal,
and that he will probably sign the agreement.
Human Rights Malaysia
calls on Royal Malaysian Police
To cease intimidation of peaceful activists
Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 March 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 2 March 2020
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Human Rights Malaysia
condemns the actions of the Royal Malaysian Police against peaceful
assemblies in the past week and the investigation into activist
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri under the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of
the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
The government of Malaysia does not belong to any ruling elite,
nor does it belong to politicians.
The government of Malaysia belongs to the people, and the people
must be allowed to voice their support, concerns and criticisms
in times of crisis.
The people are the root of any legitimate government and any attempt
to stifle their voice is a betrayal of our democracy.
The police should be providing a safe platform for all voices to
be heard and not clamping down on civic space and free speech.
They ought to be protecting the rights provided for under Article
10 of the Federal Constitution and ensure that the public can express
their views freely, without intimidation.
To this end, Suaram calls on the Royal Malaysian Police to cease
its intimidation and protect our democratic space.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM),
Human Rights Malaysia,
for new Cabinet to represent
All groups and races in Malaysia
Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 March 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 2 March 2020
Congratulations to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on being
appointed as Malaysia's new Prime Minister.
His appointment as the countrys eighth Prime Minister reduces
a little bit the political uncertainty that engulfed the country
when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tendered his resignation as Prime Minister
last week and the Pakatan Harapan government collapsed less than
two years after it was voted in.
Focus now will be on the appointment of new Cabinet ministers.
It is very important that the new Cabinet is representative of all
groups of people and races in Malaysia.
The Cabinet cannot only comprise individuals from any one single
group or race if the new government is to govern the country effectively.
The countrys new leader must accept the reality that Malaysia
is a complex country made up many different groups of people and
Disregarding this fact could lead the new government and the entire
country to chaos once again, and eventually even destruction.
In a multiracial country, mutual respect and tolerance is crucial.
Without such an attitude, it will be hard for anyone to govern.
As such, it is important for everybody to set aside any differences
they might have had previously and work together to ensure the progress
of our country.
We should actually be grateful that ours is a multiracial society,
as this mix enriches the country.
We can learn about each other and help each other to better the
nation as a whole.
This matter is written in the Quran, as God made human beings into
many races so that our lives would be made more meaningful and enjoyable
through the spirit of friendship and cooperation we can generate
between different races.
Just imagine what would happen if only a single race occupied this
planet - life would indeed be dull.
Every individual, as well as every race, has strengths and weaknesses.
There is no such thing as a perfect individual or a perfect race.
We all need each other if we want to succeed, and if we want to
make our country great. Instead of arguing with each other, we must
learn from and cooperate with each other so that we can live in
peace and enjoy prosperity.
Malaysia has been and will always be a multiracial country.
Even before we gained our independence in 1957, Malayan society
comprised different races.
This fact is undeniable and must be accepted by everyone in the
As a multiracial country, conflict and misunderstanding can easily
arise if we are not respectful towards each other.
As such, it is very important that the new government takes this
point seriously and ensures that the new Cabinet represents all
groups of people and races that Malaysia contains.
Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Faculty of Syariah & Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
to change government mid-stream
Is not in Malaysia's national interest
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 March 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 28 February 2020
Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqis article
An overturning of popular view in The
Star, February 27, 2020 best summarises the legitimacy of the
political events currently unfolding in our country.
On top of the complex constitutional issues raised by the good professor,
there is the simple yet valid argument that reasonable and right-thinking
Malaysians would support the fundamental principle that the Pakatan
Harapan government elected by the majority of Malaysian voters is
entitled to run its full term unless it is involved in financial
or criminal maladministration.
It is important to remember that a strong democracy and government
helps to provide a stable environment for economic progress and
Right now, it is a triple whammy for Malaysia as it has to deal
with the economic slowdown due to tensions and uncertainties stemming
from the US-China trade row, checking the spread of Covid-19 and
now the current disruptive political shake-up.
No doubt politicking is part and parcel of our democratic system,
but intense political manoeuvring to change a government mid-stream
is simply not in our national interest.
Our democratic convention is based on a five-year election cycle
to ensure political and social stability. A full term allows the
incumbent government and leaders to focus their energies and efforts
on the countrys needs, which currently includes dealing with
It is not surprising to see the high level of dismay and disagreement
at replacing the present government and the formation of a new coalition.
Pakatan should be allowed a full five-year term of government.
Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Separation of powers looks
The fusion of powers in Thailand
Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 March 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 28 February 2020
It has been said that the most important foundation
of a healthy democratic system, i.e. the separation of powers or
the division into the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary
branches - the trias politica model.
Although the powers that be, claim that we have such a checks-and-balances
system, in practice and in reality it looks more and more like the
fusion of powers, starting from the drafting of a constitution that
blatantly favours one group of power while shunning the voices of
The excuse is that this is a Thaksin-proof constitution in response
to the claim at the time of a parliamentary dictatorship.
But look where it got us.
The executive branch also has the privileges of having a Senate
at its beck and call, undermining one of the key principles of participatory
democracy which ideally should be inclusive.
The Constitutional Court verdict, though does not deviate from the
letter of the law, confirms what many critics of the regime have
feared all along, that it may be just a disguised authoritarian
Let's hope this is just a conspiracy theory that has no basis in
Otherwise, it would be very hard to see how real democracy can take
root in this country.