The Southeast Asian Times


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

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

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerry Maglaya,

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

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

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


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

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

Sommaya Hakim,

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Maria Teresa N. Ancahan,

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

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

Xuan Thuy Do,

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

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

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

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

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

Regine Agapay,



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

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

Regine Agapay,
Pasig City,


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

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

Lim Kim Chuan,

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

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

Ronald Benjamin,

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

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

Wong Chun Wai.
Kular Lumpur,

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

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

Freelance commentator,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roan Rey Tombado,

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

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

Steve Coyle,


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

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

David Lepi,
Southern Highlands,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Ninot Aziz,



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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Lofranco-Berbano,
Quezon City

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

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

Belen Docena-Asuelo,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Metro Manila,

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

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

Street Justice,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Darius Hober,

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

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

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

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

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

Regine Agapay,

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

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

Richard Yasi,
Wambu Logo,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremias H.Tobias,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Jack Kukiwa,
Moral duty officer.
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Midnight Mango,

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

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

Richard Maribu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,


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

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

Daniel Reid,

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

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

Ezekiel Manaois,

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

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

Marjane Dy,

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

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

Reiner Lorenzo J.
Tamayo, RN,

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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,

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

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

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

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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Ramon Normon Torrefranca,

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

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

Jonathan Mok,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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


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

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

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur

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

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

Proactive Agent,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Ed Dames,
Makati City,

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

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

Glen Chatelier,

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

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

John Alcance,

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

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

Angeli O. Marconi,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Abdul Fareed,
Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar
Kuala Lumpur,


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

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

Rueben Dudly,
Petaling Jaya,

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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,

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

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

Dr Jurgen Schofer, Ph.D,
Pasig City,

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

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

Luis Antonio A. Bonifacio,

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

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

Datuk Wee Beng Gee,
Petaling Jaya,

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

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

Isidro C. Valencia,

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

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

Mehmet Hassan,


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

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

Evelyn Silay,

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

The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 May 2019

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

Ann R. Aquino
Junior’s Journalist Club,

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

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

Teresita Quintos Deles,



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

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

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



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

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

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu and Luvenraj,

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

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

Roman M Montenegro,

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

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

Ed Garcia,
1987 Philippine Constitution


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

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

Dr Khor Swee Kheng,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Fun Chee Chong,

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Setter,

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

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

Samanea Saman,



Call for auditing
Of political donations in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 April 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 26 April 2019

The recent call by the National Patriots Association (Patriot) for proper auditing of political funds to rein in corruption and other malpractices should be supported by all Malaysians.
The on-going court cases involving members of the former government for corruption and other charges are prime examples of what can go wrong when political parties are flush with funds.
Political parties should be open to auditing if they are truly transparent and are serving the people’s needs.
If people are generous enough to donate to their parties, no one should begrudge them their right.
Nevertheless, there must be a limit to the amount that individuals or organisations can donate to prevent any single body from effectively influencing the party.
Malaysia cannot progress as a nation if we continue to suspect each other as corrupt.
The world is already moving forward at such a rapid pace that we will be left behind if we remain static.
Political parties should be able to indicate exactly what they want to do, how they intend to carry out their promises and set time frames for their tasks when campaigning for votes.
When the people are fully behind the elected government of the day, much can be accomplished.
Politics is one aspect of our democratic way of life which will remain for generations to come, hence the faster we adopt policies to ensure that political parties are genuinely championing our rights and future well beings, the better we all will be.
We must pressure the political parties to abide by the ruling that their funding must be audited by the auditor-general’s office.

Philip Wong,
Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs,


Call for the Philippines National Union of Peoples' Lawyers
To denounce Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 April 2019

For almost a week, the challenge of Major General Antonio Parlade for progressive groups to debate their committment to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New Peoples Army (NPA) has been all over the news.
The general is open for a debate where he asked Mr. Edre Olalia of National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), Ms. Palabay of Karapatan to prove to the public that they are not members or supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA).
I was a bit surprised when these personalities opted not to give in to the challenge of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officer.
I mean they were all over the streets shouting but they do not have the balls for a debate!
Then Mr. Teddy Casino entered the picture saying that Mr. Parlade wants publicity.
But then again the general reiterated that he doesn’t want any publicity or higher post in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) all he wants is to end insurgency in the country.
And let the public know that these groups are all fronts of the New Peoples Army (NPA).
If they are truly innocent or were not in any way connected to the New Peoples Army (NPA) then by all means go to the nearest court and prove it.
They can also show their evidence to the media.
I mean “doon naman sila magaling di ba, sa pa-media?”
They always want trial by publicity.
And if they are not supporters of the communist terrorist then why not denounce Joma Sison the founder and chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the violent actions of the New Peoples Army (NPA)?
Why are they silent about the crimes committed by the New Peoples Army (NPA) against the people?

Shermaine Anacleto,

Waiting for nod from Malacanang
For stand on China
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 25 April 2019

All of these protests and legal actions against the Chinese government over Panatag Shoal and South China Sea are pointless unless they get the nod of Malacañang.
Partnership and collaboration could be Malacañang priorities now.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., please read President Duterte’s lips.
You must convince Malacañang first to have an effective tactical move on issues with China.

Raul. V. Fernandez,

Call for international and national organisations
To recognise Myanmar's indigenous communities
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 April 2019
First published in the Myanmar Times, Friday 19 April 2019

An article published on April 4 entitled “Project teaches Tanintharyi Region villagers the value of bamboo" claims that international organisations, the Business Innovation Facility and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have shown local Kayin communities that “bamboo is useful”.
It states that while “bamboo is abundant… it has no value” and further that villagers just burn it, unaware of its utility or value.
I would like to take issue with this article on the grounds that it disrespects local knowledge and falsely claims that international organisations taught indigenous communities the value of their highly valued resources.
Outside organisations did not teach villagers the value of bamboo.
Bamboo is a highly valued resource for indigenous communities in Tanintharyi Region.
Local communities can find well over 15 types of bamboo in their forests, and have a vast array of use for them including; house construction, roofing, tables, chairs, containers, mats, fencing, livestock coops, tools, cooking, eating young shoots, producing bamboo jelly, musical instruments, water pipes and baskets.
In particular, bamboo is central to Kayin culture and customs, associated with traditional songs and dances.
Indigenous Kayin communities have a close relationship with the forest and the resources it provides, managing it according to traditional beliefs, customs and practices, and depending on it for food, water and shelter.
Indigenous knowledge and wisdom is vital to the sustenance of forests in Tanintharyi Region.
Local communities have a vast knowledge of their forests, which has been handed down through the generations and is used to carefully manage and support critical habitats and ecosystems.
Rather than devaluing, disrespecting and denying indigenous knowledge and wisdom, it is of critical importance that international and national organisations recognise and respect the knowledge and wisdom of indigenous communities, and the vital role that this plays in the sustainable management of forests and provision of local livelihoods.

Jack Jenkins Hill,
Dawei township,

Philippines invoke court in The Hague ruling
That favours Philippines claim over South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wedneday 24 Aril 2019

It seems the efficacy of our hard-earne d victory at The Hague suffered tremendously.
It could have impacted more forcefully and gained worldwide acceptance and collective support had President Duterte given top priority to the decision as soon as he took office, instead of conjuring the likelihood of war if we allowed the verdict to take its course, and then shelving it in the hope of getting better trade relations with China.
Mr. Duterte’s diplomatic gambit at first seemed to have somewhat appeased the already souring relations between the two countries; we were lulled into thinking that by putting the decision aside, everything in the West Philippine Sea would become fine.
Thus, in just one blink, we saw the sad spectacle of hundreds of Chinese vessels swarming our Pag-asa backyard.
Faced with the public’s seething resentment over the Chinese incursion, the government is taking a different tack: invoking The Hague decision.
It now seems hell-bent on flexing its muscles, moral or otherwise; it now openly declares that Chinese actions are clear violations of our country’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
The flexing may not be too late; it shows Filipinos can muster enough courage to stand up to anything when under threat.

Benjie Guerrero,


Thailand"s loss
Is Cambodia's gain
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 April 2019

A few more of my friends, both individuals and families, have packed up and
picked up and moved to Cambodia after living in Thailand for between 15 to 30
The officers at the immigration bureau have become more overpowering,
bureaucratic, and are becoming increasingly worse each year.
My friends have had enough.
Cambodia makes them welcome, does not present obstacles in applying for residence, does not treat them like suspicious criminals every time they go to a Cambodian immigration office, they encounter no 90-day reporting hassles, and they find it a pleasure.
In major cities and large towns the streets are clean, rents are cheaper, and
amenities are wonderful. Thailand’s loss is Cambodia’s gain.

Unwelcome Mango,

Papua New Guinea lands minister
Had no idea of land sale to Chinese investor
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 April 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 18 April 2019

Social and mainstream media reports present so much information that require the users to digest and ascertain its validity.
However, some information that threaten conventional norms and human rights should be taken seriously by everyone.
Three recent reports on social and mainstream media that will have serious negative implications for Papua New Guineans are:
The manner in which the Papua New Guinea Liquefied natural gas (LNG) project was signed;
the report of the selling of prime land in Port Moresby to a Chinese investor; and
The prime minister’s writ against Madang MP Bryan Kramer for libel.
Where on Earth can we find a government that proposes to review the mining and petroleum act after a few days of signing a deal under the existing law that accords landowners only 2 percent of the benefits?
The Papua Liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is the second such case.
Did we not learn from the Hela Liquefied natural gas (LNG) project?
I hope the Papua LNG landowners will not join their Hela cousins and wait forever for the promised benefits. Another shocking revelation was that the Lands minister and the National Capital District (NCD) governor did not have any idea about the sale of a piece of prime land in National Capital District (NCD) between Telikom and a Chinese investor, yet they seemed to be the happiest people attending a ground-breaking ceremony to develop the same piece of land.
Where on Earth do we find politicians of such calibre?
While the court will decide on the case against Kramer, in my view the outcome of this case will have huge impact on the freedoms of speech and expression that we enjoy.
Freedoms of speech and expressions are fundamental pillars of democracy which empower constituents to speak out on matters that are not consistent with policies, principles of public office and good governance.
It serves as a filter to refine and reinforce transparency, and accountability, the key ingredients to good governance.
Whether these democratic pillars are strengthened or weakened will depend on Kramer’s ability to defend himself in the court of law.

Bomai D Witne,

Singapore and Brunei high on lack of freedom list
For press freedom in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 April 2019

Re: “Extraditions are not about justice”, in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 20.
Mr Sadoff is right that when extradition attempts fail, the person under
indictment can be exterminated by other means.
Unfortunately, he did not mention drastic and deadly action mostly illegal under international laws that a state can take, such as clandestine operations, including abduction and murder.
The USA made many attempts to extradite Osama bin Laden but the several countries suspected of hiding him claimed that they did not know about his whereabouts.
Ultimately, bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed by a US Seal team in
Although illegal, the Seal team’s bold raid to take down bin Laden was an
extraordinary operation which most legal experts, journalists, and media
mavericks in the West regarded as a resounding success.
It is also clear that most of the authoritarian states do not really care about
press freedom or international treaties.
In 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Thailand ranked 136 out of 180 countries.
Singapore is ranked 151, and Brunei leads the pack 152/180 for lack of press
freedom among its peers in the Asean.
When it comes to press freedom, in most Asian countries, the extraditions and exterminations are not about justice.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Who wants to assassinate Philippine President Duterte?
Not the Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 20 April 2019

Who wants to assassinate President Duterte?
Not the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Founder and chairman of the Philippines Communist Party, Joma Sison, himself said he wants Mr. Duterte alive so he can be held accountable for the injustices, impunity and violence under his administration.
So, is it the opposition?
They have big brave hearts, but are miniscule in number.
The “yellows”?
Certainly not.
They are politically and economically entrenched; they wouldn’t rock the boat.
How about the “masa”?
With neither public relations men nor spokespersons to tell their stories of woe, they suffer in silence.
Only the four walls of their shanties bear witness to their pain, hunger, grief and anger.
Hopeless and defenseless, they can only grit their teeth and clench their fists in frustration.
So who is out to get Mr. Duterte?

Evelyn Silay,

Wake up call for sitting Filipino judges
Who think and act like tyrants
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 April 2019

With reference to the news item, “CA orders recall of arrest warrant vs Du30 critic” April 14, 2019, we find it disheartening how retired Cavite Regional Trial Court judge Emily Alino Geluz got away with her gross ignorance of the law so easily.
For a mere infraction of the rules on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education, she ordered the imprisonment of a lawyer for not paying the fine imposed on him.
The rules promulgated by the Supreme Court only authorize the striking out of pleadings and filing of charges for disciplinary action including disbarment against such a lawyer, before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) submits recommendations to the high court for final disposition.
The former trial judge treated the fine she imposed as subject to “subsidiary imprisonment” if unpaid, as if there was a conviction for a criminal offense.
The Court of Appeals ruled it was patently wrong and voided the arrest warrant. Case closed?
This is one major flaw in our justice system.
Why was the trial judge not held to account for her gross ignorance of the law?
So she has retired, big deal.
She still receives her pension, courtesy of taxpayer money.
Why not go after that, or better still, charge her before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for some disciplinary action as a lawyer?
Tinkering with people’s liberty is not something to be simply sneezed at.
That should serve as a wake-up call to numerous sitting judges who think and act like tyrants - that they can still be held accountable even after retirement, which should not be thought of as a pass to immunity and impunity.
If nothing else happens to errant judges whose bad decisions only get reversed, many of them will continue to behave like tyrants, or worse, like mercenaries.

Arnulfo M. Edralin,

Intolerance of China towards religion
No surprise to Filipino's
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 April 2019

I was recently mistaken for a Chinese national at our bazaar.
The young man spoke to me in Mandarin, thinking I was from the mainland.
He was very surprised when I spoke to him in fluent English, explaining that I am a Filipino.
But that did not discourage him from pursuing a conversation with me and my partner.
We were able to do this, thanks to the translator app in his smartphone.
At first, I was very suspicious of the man since I am very critical of how China has been treating the Philippines, not to mention the loud and rude behavior of some of his countrymen while based here in our country.
At one point, I even asked him bluntly if he was a soldier.
He denied this.
From our dialogue, he confided that he has been working in the Philippines for three years in an IT company.
He also admitted that he is a Christian, making the sign of the Cross while divulging this information.
From there, our discussion covered the policies of China, which, according to him, were oppressive.
With his consent, I took pictures of his responses and thoughts regarding his country’s governance.
I was not at all surprised about the intolerance of China toward other religions.
In fact, some Catholic churches in China have been torn down while followers have been harrassed, persecuted, jailed and even tortured.
That, he said, was one reason why he decided to work here, because of the freedom to practice one’s faith.
He also found Filipinos very kind.
Was I taken for a ride?
Was I gullible?
I will never know, until circumstances prove otherwise.
But I felt so ashamed for having been too critical of most Chinese from the mainland.
It never occurred to me that, maybe, some of them saw an opportunity to flee their country because of its oppressive regime.
It turns out we might have some things in common after all, aside from a shared ancient heritage.
Lesson learned: Do not generalize.

Charlie Laureta,


The pro- Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote in Thai elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Some of your American letter writers here have voiced that the winner of an
election should be decided by popular votes.
How do they feel now when the wrong party for them turned out to get the most
popular votes here in Thailand.
Not a few hundred or thousand, but seemingly at least half a million more votes.
Do you still stand for popular votes as most democratic - or is it only when it
fits your political agenda?

A. Johnsen,


Self determination in Muslim Mindanao
Includes increase in income similar to Kuwait
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 April 2019

There are good indications that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will succeed, except for Nur Misuari’s threat of waging war if federalism is not considered under the very nose of President Duterte and his top security advisers.
Misuari did not elaborate what type of federalism he is asking for, and he seems to be not fully aware that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) features have a semblance of the federalism espoused by former Senate president Nene Pimentel.
I was in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) area more than a week ago, and I noticed all top-rated hotels in Cotabato City were fully booked with foreign visitors.
Photocopying and blue printing shops were busy reproducing land titles, location maps, copies of Malls of Asia (MoA) and deeds of sale, signifying an upbeat business atmosphere after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)
I learned that the leaders of the transition government are attempting to increase the per capita income of Muslims in the area to a level similar to Kuwait’s GDP per capita $69,700 as of 2017 estimate from the Philippines’ GDP of $10,000 (2017 estimate).
This is a realistic target, considering the millions of barrels of gas and oil deposits in Liguasan Marsh that belong to the
Filipino Muslims.
Let us pray to Allah that progress and peace will reign forever in the Muslim region.

Isidro C Valencia,


Is Philippine President Duterte looking for an excuse
To declare martial law?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 15 April 2019

So, the onion-skinned, trash-talking gunslinger from Davao, who rants and raves at perceived enemies, brandishes the middle finger, bullies and jails those who dare criticize him, whose self-created image of himself is as a tough guy, is afraid for his life after all.
He was seen behind a bulletproof glass during a speech in Malabon last week.
One wonders how much that glass cost the taxpayer?
So, who would want to kill him?
Not the majority of his constituents who, according to surveys, trust him.
Certainly not the Philippine National Police or the Armed Forces whose collective balls are under his control.
Not the opposition - they’re not crazy.
Perhaps the New People’s Army? Or, more likely, anyone of the surviving kin of those poor, lowly drug addicts in the slums of the metropolis, terminated (there is no more apt word, except murdered) in his brutal war on drugs, who are brave enough to exact revenge?
His fears are imaginary.
Is he looking for an excuse to declare martial law?
Now he threatens us with a revolutionary war/government if pressed against the wall.
Who is pressing?

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,


Support for Thai state-run enterprise
To join anti-corruption integrity pact
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Re: "Graft board asks AoT for 'clear' bids", in Bangkok Post, April 5.
I strongly support Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) chairman Vichien Phongsathorn in ACT's insistence that the Airports of Thailand (AoT), as a state-run enterprise, join an integrity pact to prevent graft during the bidding process to run the duty-free shops at AoT's four airports.I strongly support Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) chairman Vichien Phongsathorn in ACT's insistence that the Airports of Thailand (AoT), as a state-run enterprise, join an integrity pact to prevent graft during the bidding process to run the duty-free
shops at AoT's four airports.
Such pacts will be essential in protecting the nation's interests as opposed to
just those of AoT.
"Under the Integrity Pact, a third party or "independent observer" from the civil sector (will be) added (to) the process, starting from creating the Terms of Reference (ToR) to the end of the agreement. To create a transparent and fair process of procurement, this participation enables the third party to observe and monitor risks to any corruption that may happen in the procurement process" (source: ACT's website).
The independent observer from the civil sector should have the right to issue a
minority report in any matter for which a vote is taken, and have the same
rights and compensation as any other member in the vetting process, including
the right to documentation that he/she deems necessary.
The airports should be run for Thailand's interests as a whole, since travellers
are a lucrative, high-income captive audience that's vital to our country's
growth, and airports tend to be natural monopolies.
Companies would be delighted to "lend" any number of Richard Miles watches, etc. to influence the selection process, and integrity pacts, vigorously implemented, would be a strong deterrent to temptation.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should fight corruption with more than words -
starting with having integrity pacts in all matters related to AoT's awarding of

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for apology or compensation from Philippine President
For extraducial killings in war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 April 2019
First published in the Phippine Inquirer, Thursday 11 April 2019

The extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the name of President Duterte’s drug war have reached thousands.
But has this administration solved the problem?
“Shabu” just keeps coming in.
In fairness to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, some of the shipments have been intercepted.
These days, the President is into brandishing “narcolists.”
Mayors and other public officials, even police officials, are on the lists.
Judges and celebrities, too.
The lists remain pending, waiting for validation, officials say.
But this process of validation was not, is not, applied on the powerless and the helpless.
They were/are simply shot to death by extrajudicial means.
Church leaders and bishops have denounced the EJKs.
And for doing so, they reap the most horrible and vile counterattacks from the President.
Months ago, he warned that his drug war would become even more chilling.
But, perhaps seeing now that “tokhang” is not the solution, the President has begun to say he is getting tired and cannot do anything anymore.
But that’s like saying the merciless, violent “tokhang” operations were just an experiment (though he does not say he is giving them up).
A mindless, terrifying experiment that has cost thousands of lives, with families and local communities bearing the pain, the fear, the anger.
Will we see any kind, any gesture, of apology or compensation from the President for this?

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


The pro- Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote in Thai elections
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Some of your American letter writers here have voiced that the winner of an
election should be decided by popular votes.
How do they feel now when the wrong party for them turned out to get the most
popular votes here in Thailand.
Not a few hundred or thousand, but seemingly at least half a million more votes.
Do you still stand for popular votes as most democratic -- or is it only when it
fits your political agenda?

A. Johnsen,

Filipino's forced to leave their homes
In battle between AFP and NPA
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 April 2019

Because of the encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippine's (AFP) army and the New Peoples Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the residents of Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, Philippines were forced to evacuate their homes.
My family is one of the evacuees.
I am disgusted with the New Peoples' Army (NPA).
They give us a great deal of chaos.
The resident’s livelihoods are greatly affected.
My children’s studying is interrupted just because of them.
Just being constantly worried for my loved ones’ security is a big burden.
I’m sure there’s a lot more people like me who are concerned about what’s going on.
It’s not just the 1,700 residents of Barangay Quintin Remo that they’re infesting, they have been dragging mayhem to other places.
It’s enough we can’t take it anymore.
We support the government’s move on eradicating the New Peoples Army (NPA)s and I hope they won’t spare even one terrorist.
We badly want this to end immediately.

Maricor Salvador,


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Is not above the law and the constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 April 2019

The Philippine Supreme Court order for the release of tens of thousands of documents relating to the extrajudicial killings, both by vigilantes and police in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs ( Southeast Asian Times 10/4/19 ) is an exemplary example of a truly independent court of law doing what it's meant to do in a democracy : uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.
The Supreme Court rejected the Solicitor General's argument that " the release of the documents was a risk to national security" on the grounds that " the documents do not involve rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of Philippines sovereignty, or any military, diplomatic or state secret".
It has become commonplace in many democratic countries around the world for state authorities to invoke " national security " concerns to circumvent citizens fundamental democratic rights and freedoms.
The Philippine Supreme Court did not buy that spurious state argument.
The Philippine Supreme Court order is a clear reminder that the law of the land is meant for everyone to adhere to, including the President.
The President is not above the law and the country's constitution.
So long as we have a court of law conduct itself in the courageous manner in which the Philippine Supreme Court has demonstrated, dictatorship, tyranny and a " reign of terror " can never acquire a permanent foothold in a democracy.
Other countries in the region should study this Philippine Supreme Court order and draw valuable lessons from it to keep their country solidly anchored in democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Rajend Naidu,

Support for protest marches against
"That big bully north of the Philippines"
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 April 2019

I join Filipinos who applauded and cheered for Albert del Rosario and Conchita Carpio Morales in their gigantic endeavor to uphold the independence of our country against the undisguised tyranny of China and its master, Xi Jinping.
The charges filed against China and Xi in the International Criminal Court (ICC) show that there are still those who will honorably defend our country even against overbearing giants.
China will probably just shrug off the charges by not answering the ICC, just as it had done before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
But isn’t the People’s Republic of China a member of the United Nations?
Did it not sign any commitment to follow UN rules when it dislodged the Republic of China as a permanent member of the UN?
If it did and it will not follow what it had agreed to, it is, as far as I am concerned, a giant of a hypocrite.
I do not like to join protest marches, although I did join once against Joseph Estrada.
But if there is one to be organized and scheduled by concerned Filipinos in support of Del Rosario and Morales, I will join, even if I am 78 years old and not as sprightly as before.
History passed me by when Marcos was deposed in February 1986, since I was not in the country, and that was something that has always rankled me.
I will join history this time if only to join any march for these two sterling Filipinos, and against that big bully north of the Philippines.

Rocky B Denoga,

Philippines call for arbitration proceedings with China
To be held in Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 April 2019

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says the Philippines will never default in its obligations to China.
But supposing the work of the Chinese engineers on the China-funded projects is highly defective so that the Philippines refuses to pay the loan?
There will then be arbitration in China. Will the Chinese arbitrators side with the Philippines?
They will, of course, declare the Philippines in default.
The Philippines needs good lawyers to go over the loan agreements.
The first thing they should do is to disapprove arbitration proceedings in China and insist on arbitration in a neutral country, perhaps Singapore.

Rene Torres,

Malaysia's withdrawal from International Criminal Court (ICC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 April 2019

On 4 April we read on The Star Online Malaysia's PM Dr Mahathir statement regarding the wastefulness and absurdity of spending so much money on war technology essentially to enhance our ability to kill people ( ' Dr M: So much money spent on how to kill people' ) and we think wow what progressive leadership is that.
Then the very next day we read again on The Star Online ' Country turned back on its commitment over Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) , says Amnesty International Malaysia' and we think wow what backward/regressive leadership is that!
The later suggests Malaysia seems more concerned about preserving the feudalistic privileges of its monarchy than with being a responsible global citizen concerned with the protection and wellbeing of humanity.
That's a shame.

Rajend Naidu,

Curruption is normal in Papua New Guinea
Despite Christians in the parliament
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 April 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 4 April 2019

Many Citizens believed that by voting faithful Christians into the Parliament that would change our country.
Many were voted in with the hope of making differences in the past 43 years.
We proclaims ourselves as a Christian country and so we are all Christians.
Despite, changes made in the governing system corruption become tradition and norm in Papua New Guines (PNG) politics.
Who and what type of person will totally transform Papua New Guinea (PNG) in terms of economy, military, education, agriculture, technology and most importantly empower the lives of our local populace.
Let me give an example with international leaders.
Adolf Hitler is known as extremist and world deadliest leader but, one important thing you could learn from him is the patriotism. He put his national sovereignty first.
He wanted to build the legacy of Germans, that’s how he become powerful.
Nelson Mandela the first South African President. He is long remembered throughout globe because of his vision and heart he has for his people. He sacrifice everything including his life for the sake of people.
He became the father of Apartheid which he unite the Black with the Whites just same as Dr Martin Luther King Jnr did in USA.
We also have Mahatma Ghandi in India, which he use peace as a strategy to remove all the foreign powers or domain in his country.
Now the whole point is, I don’t want to talk about history but, when you read the stories of the great leaders above, you will learn that they were man OF VISIONS and were great patriot of their respective countries.
They love their people more like their own precious lives.
They were courageous, brave, fearless, eloquent and transformative.
They have determination, willingness and enthusiasts’ heart so they made it happen for their people.
In Papua New Guiea (PNG) context we have Bryan Kramer who is a real patriot of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
I am not being bias here to support BK but, as a matter of fact I am articulating what I think is true.
It’s time we Papua New Guineans work together and stand with person who has a vision and burning desire to serve us with dignity, accountability, transparency and honesty.

Nason Mul Solo,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Philippine government to do something
About Chinese vessel in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 April 2019

It is with great dismay that I write this letter as I express my agony on the recent issue of a Chinese vessel in Lobo, Batangas, Philippines.
The world knows that Chinese aggression is still happening in the West Philippine Sea.
And just recently, a Chinese vessel, 2,990-ton MV Emerald, a hopper dredger, dropped anchor 500 meters from the 30-hectare mangrove reserve of Lagadlarin village in Lobo.
This vessel has no right to enter the Philippine territory.
The local government of Lobo expressed their concern on the said issue.
The entrance of China vessel in that area can cause environmental destruction.
And that is a concern that needs to be dealt with accordingly.
Lobo is part of the Verde Island Passage, a marine sanctuary considered by scientists as the world’s center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.
The ship’s anchor might have already damaged the sea grass, a breeding ground for fish and sea turtles.
The Philippine government must do something to address this issue.
Likewise, I appeal to the Chinese government if they still have respect to the authorities and to the Filipino people to stop their actions in West Philippine Sea.

Regine Mamagat-Agapay

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak
Says he has done nothing wrong
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 April 2019

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak has pleaded not guilty in his corruption trial saying he has done nothing wrong.
Under his rule, when he had absolute power over the country's public purse, billions of dollars disappeared from the state development fund ( 1 MDB ).
A good amount of that money found its way into Najib Razak's personal bank.
The stolen money was used to support the lavish lifestyle of Razak, his family and his cronies.
Najib's plea of not guilty is understandable.
Some political leaders don't thinking looting from the public purse amounts to wrongdoing!

Rajend Naidu

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
Watches new boys on the block
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 April 2019

If two Sydney councillors - one a former mayor and the other a Liberal councillor - can be referred to the state's corruption watchdog over a Chinese trip they took with a developer, whose multi-million dollar projects they helped to push through without declaring any conflict of interest ( ' Sydney councillors referred to corruption watchdog over China trip' Sydney Morning Herald 2/4/19 ), imagine what it must be like in poorer places like Papua New Guinea (PNG) and other small Pacific island countries, with a relatively weak tradition of democratic accountability?
What kind of influence must developers have over local political leaders?
Is it any wonder the inroad the new boys on the block are making in the region and beyond?

Rajend Naidu,

No voices raised over 2004 massacre
At Krue Se mosque in southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 March 2019

The international media reported that Britain's Prince William would travel to
New Zealand to add royal support and sympathy to the victims of the mosque
massacre earlier this month in New Zealand.
This happened in a western country with the entire world looking on.
The irony is that no one raised a voice internationally when the then Thaksin Shinawatra administration ordered the crackdown on the Muslim community at the Krue Se mosque in Thailand's deep South in 2004.
Thaksin walked away free, without any accusation of murder or guilt by the Thais
or the international community.
I guess events in Thailand do not rate international recognition, except in the event of a coup of course.
Then every idiot in every government worldwide shouts to be the first to condemn.

David James Wong

Why can't the Thai Electoral Commission
Count the New Zealand postal votes ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 April 2019

I write to say I agree 100 percent with what a fellow letter writer Burin Kantabutra says in his letter 31/3/19 regarding the Thai Electoral Commission's decision not to count the postal votes from NZ.
That diminishes Thailand's democracy or rather return to democracy.
I would be grateful if my message could be passed onto him.
Best regards,

Rajend Naidu


Thai's Future Forward Party
Warned not to push thier luck
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 30 March 2019

Re: "No political savvy", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 27
John Hancock observed that to avoid a future coup, "a constitution needs to be
worth more than the paper it's printed on"
He did not elaborate how could that sort of a coup-less constitution be written. Britain does not have a written constitution and its democracy thrives even under the current Brexit crisis.
The answer is in those political players who do not push their luck too far in
giving any excuses to the army to come out of army camps.
With social networking, a coup cannot be carried out as easily as before.
We should always remind the army of the Tunisian experience with networking on Facebook and Twitter that brought about the Arab Spring.
The last democratic government under Yingluck Shinawatra gave that excuse to the
army when her party tried to bring Thaksin Shinawatra back as free of guilt.
That pushed their luck and brought out some reasonable men and women to the
streets with the resultant impasse.
Commander-in-Chief, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, came out and under the pretext of an umpire and asked the government's caretaker justice minister, Chaikasem Nitisiri, whether the government was ready to resign.
Bombastically, the reply was "As of this minute, the government will not

The reply was rightfully as bombastic: "So, as of this minute, I decide
to seize ruling power"
with prepared troops outside the Army Club.
What is the lesson one learns from this conversation?
It is don't ever give them an excuse to bring out the tanks.
Go backwards and wait for a better day in the future!
I hope very much Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the Future Forward Party's
leader, remembers when one can push one's luck and when not to push one's luck
too far.
Like the advice of that great golfer, Ben Hogan, who said that when you
hold a golf club to hit a ball, don't hold it too tight as you could choke the
club and don't hold it too lightly so that you cannot control the club!

Songdej Praditsmanont,


Call for Thai Election Commission
To count late New Zealand ballots
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 Marh 2019
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 29 March 2019

A conscientious Election Commission (EC) would have counted the 1,500 ballots from New Zealand that arrived at their precincts after ballot counting had begun.
True, the law allows for them to not be counted, but a duty-bound, proactive Election Commission (EC) would have noted that the ballots' delay was not any fault of the voters, nor had they been tampered with en route.
An Election Commission (EC) motivated by the spirit of the law would not have used the letter of the law as an excuse; it could have merely delayed certifying the count for the precincts in question for a day or two.
Such an Election Commission (EC) with no vision or motivation should find other jobs.

Burin Kantabutra

Time will tell if challenge
To Thai military rule is successful
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 March 2019

We read in The Southeast Asian Times headline article 'Seven-party coalition to stop return of military rule in Thailand' ( 28/3/19 ) that according to Sudarat Keyuraphan, the coalition's choice for prime minister, her party and its six allies "stand firm in their determination to prevent Gen Prayut Chan-o-Cha from remaining in power".
She claims that "pro-democracy parties had the mandate to form a coalition government".
Time will tell whether they succeed in stopping a return to military rule.
They are certainly putting up a strong and united challenge to the military junta that has been in power since the coup of 2014.

Rajend Naidu,


Almost of business in Papua New Guinea
Is owned and run by expatriates
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 March 2019
First published in the National, Sunday 24 March 2019

I see that nearly all retail and wholesale outlets are owned and run by expatriates in Jiwaka.
Local landowners and retailers and those who own land and buildings seem to be giving in to rental deals.
Locals buy items from these outlets - including counterfeit products - in bulks and then resell them in black markets.
How can we Papua New Guineans be successful with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) if we allow foreigners to dominate the market?
On one hand we create an Small to Mediam Enterprise (SME) programme that is intended to help local people and on the other hand we invite foreigners to invest and operate in the province and the country at large.
Jiwaka’s business development office should review and vet the participation of foreigners in the retail sector to ensure locals get a chance.
We know that the provincial government is collecting revenue in the form of goods and services tax but that should not lead to less opportunities for local businesspeople.

Jim Hemilton Kolip,
Dongamp Parra Express,
Papua New Guineas

Time will tell if the pro-Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 March 2019

Reading through the Reuter's article 'Charges of cheating amid confusion over Thailand's election result' (in The Fiji Times 27/3 ) I get the distinct impression that the first post coup election, instead of delivering a return to democracy has exposed the modus operandi *of the military junta set on staying on in power by adorning itself in a democratic garb.
The military coup ousted PM Thaksin wrote an opinion piece from exile headlined ' The Election in Thailand Was Rigged' in the New York Times on Monday in which he says "I knew that the junta running Thailand wanted to stay in power, but I cannot believe how far it has gone to manipulate the general elections on Sunday".
Sudarat Keyuraphan, candidate for prime minister of the Pheu Thai Party, spells that out :
" We've voiced our concerns before for vote-buying, abuse of power, and cheating. All three have manifested". She goes on to tell a news conference " We will fight back through legal means".
With all the institutions of state effectively under the control of the junta it's hard to be optimistic about any such fight back.
Time will tell.

Rajend Naidu

Malaysia's human rights organisation
Condemns execution in Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 March 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 23 March 2019

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) non-government human rights organisation condemns the execution of Michael Anak Garing that took place in Singapore at dawn on Friday 22 March, 2019.
The death penalty will never provide justice.
Michael’s execution will not deter future crimes or undo the crime he committed. The death penalty merely endorses and repeats the violence and senseless loss of life inflicted by the accused through his crime, and legitimises violence.
The Malaysian government must learn from this senseless violence and ensure that Malaysia is set on a path to totally abolish the death penalty and not on a path to legitimise murder through the criminal justice system.
Suaram would also like to take the opportunity to extend our condolences to the family of Michael Anak Garing.

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

Papua New Guinea first in Asia-Pacific
To sign up with China"s Belt and Road Initiative
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 March 2019
First published in the National, Friday 22 March 2019

China is using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructures, natural resources and associated land assets by offering less-than-desirable credit terms for infrastructural loans.
Funding for the initiative is through China’s policy banks.
Another source for funding is the Beijing-based multilateral development bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The AIIB was created precisely to service projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, which Papua New Guinea was the first in our region to sign up to.
China wants to become the superpower.
One such policy, which is related to the Belt and Roadt Initiative, is debt-trap diplomacy.
China invests in our country to develop ports, airports, roads and other infrastructures and gives loan at lower rates.
In return you have to do business with the Chinese company that is involved in the projects.
China is supporting infrastructural projects in our country through aids and loans to the government.

SJK Ganio ,
Kumo Gere,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To uphold respect for religious beliefs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer

Dear President Duterte,
It is a basic Filipino right to have freedom of expression, and also that everyone’s rights must be respected.
As you are looked up to as a role model in our country, we believe that respecting these rights should go both ways.
We respect that you have these views and opinions about our faith.
But, although we all have the right to freedom of expression, it is still important to remember that we must uphold respect for others and be more vigilant about what we say.
We understand that you have your own opinion on our religion because you see us from an outsider’s point of view.
In the same way, we too, are outsiders to your beliefs, yet we continue to uphold our respect toward you.
Your generalizations and comments regarding the leaders of our religion make your position as President questionable.
We acknowledge that your duty as our President comes with a lot of pressure and stress.
However, we believe that having an open mind toward the different cultures and beliefs of Filipinos would help unite our country amid our diversity.
President Duterte, please don’t take this matter lightly as it deals with the beliefs of the people who look up to you.

Isabell Martinne I. Crisologo,
Maria Elena Trinidad S. Daco,
Liandra Elise C. Espinosa,
Arianna Sofia D.C. Rosas,
Diane Andre M. Velasco
Grade 12, Paref Woodrose School

Call for information on how to vote
For Filipinos in comming elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 15 March 2019

Mr. Segundo Eclar Romero’s article, “Debates are for the electorate, not candidates” in Philippine Inquirer March 4, 2019 is extremely timely.
In the next few months, Filipinos would again flock to the voting booths to exercise their right of suffrage.
However, I have grave misgivings if the electorate has indeed the freedom to choose the right legislators who know how to craft laws, and elect governors, mayors and barangay leaders who know how to lead and govern.
How I wish the country could be transformed into a “classroom,” with the entire populace as “pupils” sitting attentively and listening to instructions on how the nation ought to choose its governors, and how it ought to be governed.
Our voters need correct education in this respect.
How long shall we wait for our people to be freed from the shackles of ignorance and political illiteracy?

Bob Gabuna,

Special corruption courts
To be established in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 March 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 21 March 2019

The C4 Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism welcomes the announcement made by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that special courts to deal specifically with corruption cases will be set up.
These special courts are needed for greater efficiency in resolving corruption cases promptly.
Dr Mahathir reportedly said that the reason for establishing the special courts is because, currently, trials related to corruption are “considered ordinary trials, without any priority accorded to them” see “Special High Court and Special Appeals Court to speed up corruption cases” in the Star.
While it is a most necessary step forward in swiftly dealing with the corruption scourge, we ask the Pakatan Harapan government to clarify if this is a continuation of attempts by the previous government to create 18 special courts to fight corruption at the state level.
We ask what is the status of these 18 courts?
Was there no political will to see it through?
We note that Promise 19 in the Pakatan Manifesto – “To Restore Public Trust in Judicial and Legal Institutions” – has also been included in the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023 under Strategic Objective 4:
To set up additional specialised corruption courts to manage the increased number of backlogged cases.
To prioritise for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are trained and/or experienced in corruption cases.
This announcement comes at a critical time to restore faith in our criminal justice system.
While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has investigative powers, and the Attorney-General has prosecutorial powers, judicial specialisation is a critical part of national anti-corruption reform strategies. It’s obvious the regime under former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak failed to provide the necessary “oomph” and political will to make these special courts a functioning success.
It is now imperative that the Pakatan government clarify whether this special corruption court should adopt procedures that are substantially different from those of other criminal courts, with special provision for the selection, working conditions of the special corruption court judges, specific resources and expertise.
The details of such an important structural reform in the judiciary must have clarity of focus in upholding the rule of law, involve legal experts in developing clear and adequate terms of reference, and allow capacity building for members of the judiciary.
We hope the setting up of this special corruption court will expedite all corruption cases so we can recover as much of the nation’s lost money as possible before it becomes untraceable.

Cyntial Gabriel,
Executive Director
C4 Center (Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism)
Kuala Lumpur

Support for exposition of Non-Government Organisations
Financial support for Communist Party of the Philippines

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 March 2019

I support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiative to expose the evidence against the Karapatan Partylist and other Non Government Organizations (NGO) on their participation and support for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA).
It is truly time for the European Union (EU) to end their financial support for this group.
The Commission on Human Right must prove that they still have the integrity of being fair in their investigations on this matter since it seems that their office is the crying ground and comfort zone of the leftist organizations and other anti government individuals.
On the other hand, if I were an European Union (EU) official, I would find no need to present more evidence to prove that the Non-Government Organisations (NGO)s are truly supporting the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) since clear evidence was exposed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)) founder Joma Sison on a propaganda video and I think it strongly proves the accusation of the involvement of Karapatan parylist and other Non-Government Organisations (NGO)s.
And I am with Brigadier General Antonio Parlade in his challenge of Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay to have a debate so that truth will prevail.
If the secretary general Cristina Palabay has nothing to worry about and can truly defend the accusation against them, then there is nothing for her to worry about.

Romeo E. Alcoseba

Call for police to stop investigations
Into International Women's Day march in Kuala Lumpur
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 18 March 2019

I refer to the statement issued by the Jawatankuasa Hari Wanita Sedunia 2019 on March 14.
According to the statement, the organisers of the International Women’s Day march that took place in Kuala Lumpur on March 9 are being investigated by police under Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA 2012) and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act.
The investigations by the police are unwarranted, unnecessary and encroach upon the rights of the organisers of the march.
Media reports have shown that the organisers provided the requisite 10 days’ notice to the police.
There is no reason for the police to investigate the organisers under the PAA 2012, as the requirement under Section 9(1) of the Act appears to have been complied with.
As for the Sedition Act, it is a colonial vestige that is draconian, repressive, and has no place in any democratic country.
The Act contains provisions which are disproportionate and unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
The use of the Act is also contrary to the Federal Government’s commitment to repeal the said Act.
Freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of assembly, are fundamental and inalienable rights which are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
These rights should not be restricted or denied merely on the basis that the exercise of these rights is not consonant with the government’s position or is objectionable to some quarters of society.
Citizens in this country must be allowed their democratic right to dissent.
I therefore call upon the police to immediately cease all investigations against the organisers of the International Women’s Day march.

Syahredzan Johan,
Constitutional lawyer,

Call for Malaysians
To ensure racial and religious harmony
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 18 March 2019

The mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that left more than 50 people dead on Friday is a despicable crime that must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and injured, together with our heartfelt condolences to their families.
I also hope that everyone abides by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) reminder to social media users to not share the video recorded during the shooting incidents.
MCMC said that doing so could stir unrest or create unwanted incidents that could incite panic and anger among the public.
New Zealand police have also described the video as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern aptly described how the incident has caused one of her country’s “darkest days” and said the suspect holds “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or the world.
New Zealand is known as one of the safest countries in the world.
The fact that it could become a target shows that no country can take its safety and wellbeing for granted. Terrorism knows no boundaries and the world has to come together to defeat this menace.
Our government should cooperate with other countries to monitor and deal with violent extremism in this region, especially the exploitation of social media by extremists and terrorist groups.
The extremists have been using social media and the Internet to influence people for recruitment purposes.
Therefore, it is imperative that the government strengthen its monitoring of social media and the Internet to identify anyone promoting violence extremism.
More engagement programmes with all sections of society should be carried out effectively, as such efforts would be able to win the hearts and minds of impressionable people who might otherwise be drawn towards extremism and acts of violence.
The task at hand now for all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion and political affiliation, is to ensure racial and religious harmony, and reject all forms of extremism that could undermine interracial and inter-religious peace and harmony.
History proves that Malaysia is able to overcome such challenges
if its people stand united to overcome adversity together.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Kuala Lumpur,


Expat retirees in Thailand
To maintain reserve fund
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Re: "Chasing expats out", in Bangkok Post, PostBag Saturday March 9, 2019.
My opinion related to the Immigration Department's requirements that foreigners
living in Thailand demonstrate financial reserves adequate to cover reasonable
living expenses and possible medical or other emergencies is likely to be
unpopular with some expats.
But, personally, I do not think it is unreasonable for the Thai government to
demand that foreigners living in the country - especially elderly retirees -
maintain a balance of at least 800,000 baht to cover unforeseen emergencies and
One could make a case for requiring a lower reserve fund balance for
retirees who can show proof of adequate health insurance, but demanding some
combination of financial security to address financial emergencies and shocks is
not unwarranted.
To simplify the requirements, I would suggest that the reserve balance be it
800,000 baht or another amount must be maintained for the duration of the time
an expat lives in the kingdom - not just for a confusing number of months
before and after applying for renewal of their long-term visas. Regulations
could be crafted to allow for the reserve fund to be restored to the minimum
level within a reasonable number of months should the foreigner need to tap the
reserve fund for medical or other emergencies.
I feel sympathy for foreigners who may not have adequate savings to meet such
financial requirements. But let's be realistic - 800,000 baht is not a massive
amount to expect people to maintain to cover life's unexpected emergencies.
Respected financial advisers routinely urge individuals to maintain an
"emergency fund" adequate to cover six to 12 months of living. A major medical
disorder can easily run into hundreds of thousands of baht for treatment.

Samanea Saman,

Malaysia's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party
Stands up to racists and religious extremists
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 March 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Finally, a political party that has the guts to stand up to the gutter politics of racists and extremists and make a decision that takes into account the fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial country, that shows they will not succumb to the false preaching and hypocrisy of the RREs (racists and religious extremists).
That Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) the People's Justice Party, is fielding Dr S. Streram in the Rantau by-election bodes well for Malaysia.
It signals that all races have an important part and role in making our country a successful and tolerant one.
The way the other two parties, United Malays National Organisation (Umno), Malaysia's main opposition party and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) formerly known as Malayan Islamic Party, are exploiting race and religious issues just to come back to or stay in power is extremely deplorable.
The 33 million Malaysians need economic growth, jobs, lower costs, affordable housing and three square meals a day, which many are struggling to provide. Neither race nor religion will help put food on the table, create jobs or help ease the struggle to live.
On the contrary, the more we discard the common sense of growing the economy, reducing corruption, improving competitiveness, increasing productivity and attracting investments and go backwards to advocate only race and religion, this Asian miracle called Malaysia will become a has-been.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has taken a bold step to stand up to racists and religious extremists.
As level-headed Malaysians who only want good for the country, we should applaud this decision.
While we all must respect whatever the decision the good people of Rantau will make next month, we do need to show our appreciation of a party that is standing up to divisive race politics. Kudos.
“There are two types of people you should never trust: A religious leader who tells you how to vote and a politician who tells you how to pray.” (Source unknown.)


Justice grinds to a halt
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 March 2019

There is something so terribly wrong with our judicial system that seems to be beyond redemption. No matter how many circulars the Supreme Court may have churned out to speed up the administration of justice, nothing seems to work. Justice still grinds as slowly as ever.
At the trial level, judges appear so inept it normally takes them years to decide even the simplest cases, where law students might already be able to give the correct answer in just five minutes of class recitation.
At the appellate level, things are much worse.
If only some of the litigants cared to line up from Maria Orosa Street, Manila where the main Court of Appeals sits, to wait for their turn to get judicial relief, the tail of that line would probably be found somewhere at the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City, moving a foot closer every five years; and at the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, Manila, the tail of the caravan may only be moving an inch closer every 10 years!
That’s how bad waiting for justice is in this country.
Parang laging naghihintay ang mga huwes sa may balak na gumapang sa mga kaso. The longer it takes for bribers or influence-peddlers to do their thing, the more cobwebs the cases gather.
Has anyone ever noticed how fast cases get decided if moneyed people and influential lawyers are involved?
Everyone wants to retire from the judiciary with very fat accounts!
And the Supreme Court is not free from blame.
Not only is it giving a bad example to all lower courts with all its record-breaking and Constitution-defying delays, it also does nothing about aberrations in the proceedings below that tend to erode the people’s faith in its oft-repeated pronouncements of speedy trial and delivery of justice. Instead of sanctioning lazy judges, it shields them from complaints.
My in-laws have endured civil litigation in the trial court that rendered a decision in their favor after more than six years, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals after eight years, and is now pending in the Supreme Court for 12 years already - and counting!
My wife’s father, the original plaintiff, had already died of old age.
Despite hearing whispers about it, her family never really had the means to make gapang and could only hope for the best.
I suppose my in-laws were just lucky the other party seemed to be in no better position to make gapang either.
Thus, things being “equal” in that regard, the case got to be decided on the merits. But in the Supreme Court, it’s anybody’s guess. Is this the “normal” that justice-seeking Filipinos are stuck with?

Ulysses Bermudez Uy,

Call for Amnesty International to study
Thai constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Re: "Foreigners get TRC case all wrong", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 11
I agree with Veera Prateepchaikul that Amnesty International's Thailand branch
appears to have jumped the gun when its campaigner Katherine Gerson on March 7
voiced her "concerns" over the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party.
"This decision highlights the Thai authorities' abuse of judicial powers to
restrict the peaceful association and expression of the political opposition.
This far-reaching measure raises strong concerns about the human rights to
freedom of association and expression in the period leading to the elections…"

Instead of voicing its "concerns" in such a knee-jerk fashion, Amnesty should
have studied the Thai constitution, especially the part that stipulates the
monarchy must always be regarded as above politics.
Whoever is behind Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party is trying to wedge between Thais.

Vint Chavala,

Call for European Union to stop providing funds
To the New Peoples Army in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 March 2019

I would like to express my opinion on the issue about Non-Government Organization (NGO) tagged as the New Peoples Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) receiving funds from European Union (EU).
With the sincere efforts of the government to end insurgency in the country, last month the Philippine delegation went to Europe and called the attention of EU and the government of Belgium to their practice of providing funds to the New Peoples Army (NPA) terrorist through None-Government Organisations (NGOs).
Over the years we have been deceived by the roles of the NGOs in society. We thought that the None-Government Organisations (NGOs) were a positive force in our community but with this development and with the actions by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) we can now see clearly what they are doing.
The None-Government Organisations (NGOs) are recruiting young people to join the New Peoples Army (NPA).
According to Brigadier General Antonio Parlade who is part of the delegation that went to Europe, Belgium programmed to release 3 million euros a year for five years to 7 None-Government Organisations (NGOs) based in the Philippines. And the EU for its part gave an initial 621, 000 euros to the groups.
This is the very reason why the Philippine government is exerting much effort to stop providing monetary support to the None-Government Organisations (NGOs).
As a nation, the Philippines should look at the larger picture here. The issue is about blindness and soft headedness of Philippine society about the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) and its fronts and supporters on the interest of democratic space.
It is high time for us, Filipinos, to rally behind the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and help our government in cutting off the fundings and be more aggressive in uprooting insurgency in the country.

Regine Mamagat-Agapay,


Call for Papua New Guinea
To hold on to traditional names
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 March 2019
First published in the National, Friday 8 March 2019

We have a serious naming crisis in Papua New Guinea.
Something needs to be done as soon as possible before our identity disappears from the face of this Earth.
The Government has taken a blind eye and is not proactive in addressing this.
This will most likely affect the National Identification Project (NID) system as well.
People are starting to call themselves names like John Mark, Peter Andrew and the list just goes on.
Why is this happening?
We need to look back and see where our fathers came from and how they had their names addressed.
For example, if someone had the surname Wartovo, we will know that this person comes from East New Britain, Gawi from East Sepik, Kaupa from Simbu and Vagi from Central.
Let us be proud of our identity.
If you hold on to your ancestral names you will be unique in the world.
You will never lose your identity as an individual and or nation.
No wonder we have a lot of homeless people wondering on the streets of our towns who don’t know their traditional homeland.

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Politics fast way to fill pockets
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 March 2019

In his letter to The Southeast Asian Times 11 March Max. M Wapi of Port Moresby writes " ... A political revolution is necessary to rescue this country [PNG] from the systematic corruption that is crippling it...".
That reminded me of an interview I saw on SBS television some time ago during a Papua New Guinea national election.
An aspiring candidate was asked why he was fighting an election to get into parliament when he was already doing alright as a businessman? He replied politics was a fast way to fill one's pocket in PNG!
Wonder to what extend this societal cancer has come to afflict other countries in the region since the end of colonial rule and the political takeover by the local mob?

Rajend Naidu,


Call for Chiang Mai abattoir
To be moved away from Night Bazaar
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 March 2019

Few visitors to the The Rose of the North and most residents in fact realise
that Chiang Mai's abattoir is just two minutes away from The Night Bazaar, major
hotels and five minutes from Thapae Gate and Wat Phra Singh.
The sight of this place of death and misery with the fresh meat stall almost
next door is abhorrent especially when convoys of trucks are seen transporting,
cows, buffaloes and pigs making their distressing way through the city to meet
their fate.
I am not totally vegetarian but I find this sickening, particularly having lived
in this predominately Buddhist community for over two decades and where life, in
any form, is considered sacred.
I realise that an abattoir is probably necessary but why situate it so centrally
and so close to where the joyous community of locals and visitors celebrate the
delights of the city and life itself.
The contrast is nauseating.

Chris Anderton,

Call for removal of Westminster system
Of government in Papaua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 March 2019
First published in The National, Friday 8 March 2019

The only way to stop systematic corruption and the practice of double dipping in this country is through a political revolution that results in the removal of our existing Westminster system of democracy and adoption of a presidential system of government.
The presidential system is an advanced democracy where every political power is fragmented and used independently without fear or favour, keeping checks and balances alive, unlike in the Westminster system where every political power is fused, checks and balances are heavily politicised, undermining democracy.
In a presidential system, the political party is too strong, presidential candidates are properly screened and viewed by the entire citizens in terms of their qualification, job experience, business empire, policies and character.
After the screening process during the campaigning period, most candidates are eliminated with only two left to contest the presidency.
The presidential system has a fixed term of office, promoting political stability.
Our Westminster system is politically unstable and filled with votes of no-confidence.
A political revolution is necessary to rescue this country from the systematic corruption that is crippling it.
It’s possible for Papua New Guinea to create a hybrid political system, meaning a combination of both.
Our 40 or so weak political parties can be trimmed to a two-party system, with the people electing the prime minister and deputy prime minister in a more robust democratic process instead of leaving that privilege in the hands of our elected few who themselves are susceptible to political maneuverings.
Papua New Guinea’s Westminster system lacks a proper screening process for candidates.
We should therefore set up a candidate screening committee commission (CSCC) comprising the Ombudsman Commission, Electoral Commission, Registrar of Political Parties Commission, Council of Churches, Law Society, and Trade Union Congress to screen the candidates who have been nominated.

Max M Wapi,
Port Moreby,
Papua New Guinea

Malaysia calls on government to reaffirm understanding
Of implications of climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 4 March 2019

It is clear that climate change and extreme weather patterns, resource scarcity and energy security are growing threats to the long-term viability of businesses as well as the prosperity of the public.
A fundamental structural transformation of the Malaysian economy is required to ensure that Malaysia develops new resilience, strengthens its economy and is well positioned for the possibility of new risks and opportunities that lie ahead.
Undertaking this change in the right way could ensure that Malaysia takes a leading position in developing sustainable industries, techniques and technologies of the future.
Malaysia should rightfully commit to this transformation and align strategies across the various ministries.
There are businesses that are already investing in and helping to grow and transform the Malaysian economy, and they would be able to do more if presented with a credible roadmap to a sustainable future.
We look to the government to reaffirm that it understands the implications of climate change science and set a long-term stable strategy and policy framework which will enable us to invest and act accordingly.
There are generally four key tenets of a sustainable economy:
A secure, efficient and decarbonised power sector;
A resilient and efficient low carbon built environment;
An integrated and secure transport system that enables ultra-low carbon choices; and Sustainable consumption patterns that are supported and encouraged by policy frameworks, business models and resilient supply chains.
While businesses and the government are already working on some aspects of these priorities, a more sustained and ambitious strategy is needed.
Greater collaborative efforts between business, academia and government and better deployment of limited financial resources are needed to unlock new home-grown technological solutions to the challenges.
This is an agenda that is exciting as it will deliver new business opportunities, develop new markets, create jobs and drive innovation.
To drive this successfully, Malaysian businesses need to be at a level playing field with businesses in other economies, and the right kind of support must be provided for home-grown innovators that are ahead of the game.
Naturally, creating a vision of the future Malaysian economy that everyone can participate in will require strong commitment from all stakeholders.

Dr Renard Siew,
Kualar Lumpur,


Filipino fisherman restricted by China
From fishing in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 March 2019

As one of the fishermen who fishes in the West Philippine Sea, I don’t see any reason for restricting Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
They have been fishing there for a long time and this is where their livelihood comes from.
If China will keep on doing this, what will happen to my fellow fishermen’s’ family? This will affect their daily living and the education of their children.
The government should investigate this and secure the welfare of the Filipino fishermen as well as the marine environment of the West Philippine Sea.
The life of the West Philippine Sea is the life of the Filipino Fishermen; Filipino Fishermen is the life of the West Philippine Sea.

John Michael Gapas

Call for review of the Philippines - US
Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT)
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 March 2019

As a citizen of this country, I agree with Defense Secretary Lorenzana, that the Philippines - US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) should be reviewed.
It was signed 67 years ago.
We are now in 2019 and we are now situated in a totally different government, society and security obstacles.
The review will help in determining the significance of this treaty in this modern period.
It will further adapt with the Philippine current necessities and will enlighten the ambiguity of the treaty.
This will conclude efficacy of this on our end and determine if this will just cause future disarray, especially regarding the West Philippine Sea dispute.
This is not to solely depend on US but to execute effective measurements to address national difficulties.
Review on the Mutual Defense Treaty will grant the opportunity to revise it and eventually make use of this to safeguard our national territories.

Marjane Dy,

The Catholic church
Is not going anywhere soon
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 6 March 2019

This refers to the article “Duterte: Catholic Church will disappear in 25 years” February 26, 2019
The Catholic Church has been around 2,000 years.
At various times, the Church was rocked by scandals, lies, hatred from flawed and unfaithful men who betrayed their vows.
The Church even hurdled the years of Inquisitions, World Wars, Crusades and suffered persecutions and schisms - yet the Church is still here.
Isn’t that a sign of longevity?
Will the Church disappear in 25 years?
The Church is not going anywhere soon, and it should be fine for another 2,000 years.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City

Call for international community
To do what's right by the Palestinian people
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 March 2019

I support the Indonesian foreign minister Marsudi's call for support for the Palestinian struggle for independence ( Southeast Asian Times 5/3 ) because it's the right thing to do *.
Every people have the right to live in freedom and human dignity.
That right was arbitrarily and unjustly taken away and subsequently denied the dispossessed Palestinian people for some seven decades.
They have been living in a state of siege and the international community has been an impotent bystander to this disgraceful state of affairs.
It's high time the international community summoned the moral courage to do what's right by the Palestinian people and restored their right to live independently.
Nothing more nothing less just as most other people around the world take that right for granted.
I am neither Muslim nor am I anti- Israel

Rajend Naidu

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines deny they are a front
For the Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times. Tuesday 5 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 March 2019

We, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a national organization of women and men religious, priests and lay, condemn the tagging of our organization as a “communist front,” this time through the complaints filed by National Security Council deputy director general Vicente Agdamag to the United Nations (UN).
The report, submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on February 21, alleged that we are trafficking tribal children.
This is such a desperate move to vilify us, for we have been effective in raising people’s awareness on the plight and demands of our farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples, and in exposing the grave abuses of human rights in the country. It only reflects the cowardice of those behind this move.
We condemn in the highest terms this slander of our organization. We reiterate that our commitment to serve the rural poor moves us to provide programs for them, including literacy and numeracy drives for “lumad” children, livelihood programs, relief and rehabilitation, and training and education for rural communities.
Agdamag’s move is definitely alarming, as it can be used to justify going after rural missionaries, priests, sisters and lay workers.
We urge our fellow Christians to condemn these preposterous accusations, and to echo the call to end the attack against rural poor and peace advocates
Human rights defenders in our country are in such a perilous situation.
We must be ever vigilant and stand together with the Filipino people in exposing and resisting the state’s attacks against those who criticize it.

Sr. Elenita Belardo,
Religious of the Good Shepherd National Coordinator,
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines

Call for Malaysian government
To reduce road toll fees
First published in the Star, Friday 1 March 2019

Why has toll renegotiation degenerated from asking the concessionaires to charge lower rates to taking over the highways?
Taking over the highways will take time, but I am sure renegotiating with concessionaires to come up with more reasonable toll rates is much faster and easier.
Did Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto promise to reduce toll rates or take over the highway concessionaries?
It has been nearly a year since Pakatan took control of the federal government.
All this while, as far as I know, there has been no serious attempt to tackle the toll issue except “study” and more “study”.
A few days ago, even the Works Minister was talking about a study which may only be completed in another few months.
Before the 14th General Election, numerous analyses had indicated the excesses of toll charges.
Surely those excesses can be trimmed by asking the concessionaires to reduce the toll rates across the board?
I have said numerous times that toll concessions are risk-free business.
Risk free businesses are only entitled to risk-free returns, which the government must seriously take into consideration.
Even if the federal government intends to take over these concessions, it must first cut the excesses, otherwise the valuation of these companies would be much higher than they deserve.
I think the government must first renegotiate the toll rates with all toll concessionaires.
The government must deliver lower rates to the people across the board, not at 3am or only during a two-day festive occasion.
If we had begun negotiations earnestly and immediately after the general election, I am sure we would have got some results by now.
I think it is not cool to be told after nine months that the government is contemplating taking over toll highways.
If we take 10 years to take over water concessions, do we need 20 years to take over toll concessions?

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,



Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
Big on making pronouncements on grandiose plans
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 March 2019

We are often flummoxed at what the Department of Public Works and Highways is widening streets and spending billions of taxpayer money for in Metro Manila alone.
Just look around and what do you see?
The additional concrete lanes become parking lots for private cars, jeepneys, buses, delivery trucks, tricycles and what-have-you, faster than anyone can turn his head to check if the cement has dried!
And why can’t the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority do anything about it?
It is so big on making pronouncements about grandiose plans costing taxpayers millions ad infinitum to ease traffic, but so little on making its hard-knuckled presence felt.
Simply put, it is utterly inutile at fulfilling its mandate.
Those so-called “clearing operations” we see on TV every now and then seem to be nothing more than photo-ops.
Of course, when the cat goes away, the mice come back to play!
This kind of governance by these two leading government agencies concerned with our traffic problems is so irredeemably f*cked up.

Stephen L. Monsanto,

Philippines call for deportation
Of illegal Chinese workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 March 2019

The number of illegal Chinese workers in the country is very alarming. I am aware that President Duterte is trying to please the Chinese government when he said that it is okay for Chinese workers to stay here. However, with the limited job opportunities in the Philippines and with higher competition Pinoys are left unemployed.
Lawmakers expressed their concern about the issue and asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) to deport those illegal workers. But Duterte did not agree on the proposition citing that there are 400 thousand Filipinos working in China and he is afraid of retaliatory action by Beijing.
I understand the concern of the President, however, it is clear that the Philippine government must send a clear message that these illegal workers should be deported. An alien who violates the labor code of the Philippines must face the consequences of their actions. What they are doing is illegal and immoral at the same time.
It is imperative that the Department of Labor and Employment conduct an honest head-count of foreign workers. It should be a top priority in order for the affected sectors to make a necessary action.
I believe the violations of these illegal workers must be dealt with severely. And that concerned government officials must enforce the rule of law.

Winna Vista,

Not all Marawi city was devastated
In the seige by ISIS terrorists
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 March 2019

I am offended with the article published by the Washington Post’s February, titled “Philippine forces cleared this city of militants in 2017. It’s still a "ghost town” which was referring to the city of Marawi in Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
The article is a clear manifestation of lie and deception since only 250 hectares of Marawi’s land area was affected during the Marawi siege.
Marawi City today is as lively as other cities in Lanao del Sur and I can prove it since I was one of the business men investing in the area.
After its liberation, the economic and peace status of the city is continuously progressing despite the extended Martial Law in Mindanao.
Marawi’s rehabilitation is ongoing since 550 units of transitory shelters has turned over to 206 families who lost their homes during the conflict.
The government efforts are being felt in the province as well as the security issue in the area. On the otherhand, if the Washington Post sees that Marawi is still a “ghost town”, then how will they describe cities in other conflict countries that are infested with terrorists?
Like Israel, Afganistan and etc.
I may not have the capability to run after the Washington Post on this disgrading issue against our government, but I do believe that this is not right.
Any foreign news portals has no rights to write a lie or a fake news since it damages the credibility of a nation.
The government, the senator and all law makers must put an action to this issue.

Edward Aquino Marquez,

Call for Sabah Wildlife Department
To ban roadside zoos in Sabah
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 22 February 2019

Sabah is blessed with an array of unique wildlife that contributes to the tourism industry in the state.
Sadly, there are roadside zoos in the state which are not only archaic but also a
burden to the animals they keep.
These zoos appear to be operating without sufficient supervision and the plight of animals go largely unnoticed.
The term roadside zoo is loosely used to define a captive animal facility which is generally not managed by experienced zoo professionals and does not employ full-time veterinary personnel.
They usually receive no accreditation by a zoological association and enclosures are often not built to meet the specific needs of individual animals.
Poor diet for animals are also common in roadside zoos.
There are a couple of roadside zoos only several kilometres away from the Sepilok area in Sandakan, which is home to popular tourist attractions including the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
These two attractions have been keeping animals in dreadful condition for years, and we have photographs to prove it.
The latest set of photos and videos we received of these and other Sabah roadside zoos show that the welfare of animals at both remain unchanged.
We have ourselves investigated roadside zoos in Sabah over the years.
In these roadside zoos, many animals are kept in decrepit or barren enclosures and there is no sign that they receive enrichment, which is vital for the physical and psychological wellbeing of captive animals.
Early death of animals is not uncommon and shows are often exploitative and outdated.
At one of the roadside zoos near Sepilok, a macaque is chained around its neck while it is forced to entertain visitors, including children, during animal shows.
Don’t these roadside zoos affect the state’s tourism image?
Not unless they’re widely exposed, as these zoos are virtually unheard of outside the towns and cities in which the operate, and they are mostly visited by locals. One roadside zoo in Tawau was so bad a British online news portal helped expose the plight of the animals there.
It was only then that the Sabah Wildlife Department took action and closed the zoo down several days later.
We have in the past spoken with local tourist guides who bring foreign tourists to Sepilok.
The guides informed us they would not bring tourists, especially Western tourists, to roadside zoos as they are afraid the visitors would be shocked and angry at what they see.
It would also be unimaginable for the Sabah Wildlife Department to allow roadside zoos in the state to keep iconic Sabah animals such as the orang utan and sun bear as they are aware there will be huge public outcry if these animals are kept in a dreadful captive situation.
The animals in roadside zoos in the state are forgotten, as most of these menageries often receive no public scrutiny.
Roadside zoos in Sabah, like most zoos in Malaysia, have no conservation value and they are teaching children that it is acceptable to keep animals in pitiful condition for “education”.
The Sabah Wildlife Department must ban these zoos from receiving more animals and eventually shut them all down.
Members of the public should also boycott these zoos.
Change starts with us all.

Upreshpal Singh,
Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia)
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines on track
In eliminating budget underspending
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 February 2019

I am writing in response to Ben O. de Vera’s article, “Budget underspending still an issue” in Business, November 2, 2019.
De Vera claimed that the Duterte administration underspent in 2017 with a disbursement-to-obligations rate of 74.7 percent.
Underspending is the difference between actual expenditures and programmed expenditures.
According to data from the Department of Budget and Management, P2.824 trillion, or 97.1 percent, was disbursed of the P2.909-trillion program for 2017. This translates to an underspending rate of 2.9 percent.
The underspending rate of 2.9 percent is significantly lower compared to underspending in the later years of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, when it was recorded to be as high as 13.3 percent and 12.8 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The figures show that the second Aquino administration’s actual spending was well below programmed spending.
This has not been the case under the Duterte administration.
In 2016, the year President Duterte assumed office, underspending was drastically reduced to 3.6 percent by year end. In 2017, the first full year of the Duterte administration, it was cut further to 2.9 percent.
We will continue to ensure that the spending program will be followed to the letter within a fiscal year.
We are on track in eliminating underspending for 2018.
As of September 2018, or the first three quarters of the year, government expenditures have exceeded programmed expenditures by 2.6 percent.

Benjamin E. Diokno,
Department of Budget and Management,

Thailand needs China
Like it needs another coup
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday 26 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 February 2019

Let's briefly consider local geopolitics and the Thai military.
Thailand needs China like it needs another coup.
However, China needs Thailand for a variety of reasons.
The US has had a longstanding favourable relationship with Thailand and
is its most powerful ally.
Now to be frank, the Thai military is not a deterrent and is not capable of
engaging in war successfully.
If Thailand was attacked its only hope would come from a phone call to the United States.
Thus, there is every reason to restructure the military into a civil defence
organisation (the only function it now realistically serves) and spend US$2-3
billion (63-94 billion baht) per year to maintain it.
Such a strategy would prevent the next coup and free up considerable funds for urgently needed development of the kingdom.
From a rational perspective this strategy combined with comprehensive police and
judicial reform would allow a First World status to emerge. Otherwise, it's a
hopeless proposition.

Michael Setter,

Call for Philippines Bureau of Immigration
To stop issuing work permits
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

This pertains to the editorial “I thought I was in China” in Philippine Inquirer February 1, 2019.
We are grateful for your coverage to present this pressing issue before your readers.
Please allow us to add a development on the topic.
At the budget deliberation of the Bureau of Immigration, we took the floor to ask the bureau the express legal provision on its charter that allows it to issue special work permits, citing the fact that only the Department of Labor and Employment has the technical competence to vet a foreigner’s capacity to work in the country. Unable to provide a clear legal provision authorizing the bureau to issue work permits, we moved to include a special provision mandating the bureau to cease from issuing work permits.
We reiterate the fact that we are not against the entry of foreign workers in the country. In this globalized world, our country benefits from the technical knowledge that foreign workers share with our countrymen whenever they work here.
The same is true with our overseas Filipino workers when they share their talent in different parts of the world.
What we are against is the proliferation of foreign workers whose jobs - call center agents, construction workers and kitchen staff, among others - can be done by Filipinos.
Our Constitution is clear about the preferential selection of Filipinos for jobs.
We reiterate our sincerest gratitude for your paper’s interest in covering the issue of illegal foreign workers.
By explaining the issue, we hope that the general public becomes more enlightened as to why this issue concerns everyone.

Sen. Joel. Villanueva,

Birds of a feather stick together in the rorting
Of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 February 2019

When I read in the Southeast Asian Times 23 February that Mohd Hafarizam Harun,47, the lawyer for ousted former PM Najib Razak was charged for money laundering in relation to the same appropriation of state funds scandal (1MDB ) that Razak has been charged for, I was not too surprised.
It shows birds of a feather do stick together and that scruples fly out the window when greed gets hold of you.
That's the story of this crooked lawyer and thieving ex- prime minister.

Rajend Naidu,

The seeds for the approval of the BOL
Sown by past Philippine administrations
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

In the midst of breast-thumping over the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), let’s not forget that President Duterte merely reaped the fruits of the seeds of peace sown by the past administration.
The approval of the BOL in the “House of Lapdogs” is a walk in the park for Mr. Duterte.
I believe he will never have his “finest hour” in his incumbency.
Look at the following presidential statements: on the Bureau of Customs corruption, “Corruption in the BOC cannot be resolved whoever heads it”; on traffic problems, “I give up”; on the West Philippine Sea, “We cannot win a battle or war with China”; on the Edsa rehabilitation, “Let Edsa remain as it is for 20 years”; on inflation and oil price hikes, “You can…behead me, I cannot do anything about oil”; on the antidrug campaign, “Others cannot do it, how can we? Those drugs, we cannot control it.”
Such unpresidential statements are expressions of weakness, hopelessness, cowardice, subservience. They do not merit brownie points for Mr. Duterte’s finest three seconds.

Evelyn Silay,

Call for Royal Commission of Inquiry in alleged
Malpractices and misconduct in the judiciary
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 February 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 16 February 2019

A sitting senior Court of Appeal judge has made some startling and serious allegations about malpractices and misconduct within the judiciary.
He has also called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to inquire into these matters.
I am, like most Malaysians, not at all surprised to learn about these scandalous allegations.
For more than a decade until May 10, 2018, when a new government took office, our country was enveloped in a state of fear.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had acknowledged that the office of the prime minister had assumed such a magnitude of power that there is currently a review to see how these powers can be shared with Parliament.
In any dispute, however, the Judiciary is the ultimate arbiter.
As the country takes steps to fully implement the rule of law with added significance apportioned to the principle of separation of powers, our Judiciary has to be equipped with not only adequate constitutional powers but also people of calibre, the highest integrity and courage.
The retirement age should also be raised to 72 years, given our longer life expectancy and to discourage retiring judges from seeking post retirement chairmanships in government-linked companies and private companies.
To the Court of Appeal Judge who has spoken out, I say “Congratulations” and salute him for his courage.
The State is obliged to protect him.
It is important to reiterate the principle that the dictum of the law should remain supreme, not the dictates of the leadership of any institution.
It is my view that bribery, chicanery and flattery are greater assets in certain flawed systems of governance, quasi feudal setups and some current administrative hierarchies.
People who shrewdly practise these dark arts can sometimes be a lot more successful than those who are competent, hardworking, honest, candid, have high integrity and moral courage.
There are also officers who operate not by disagreeing or seeking clarification about new ideas and proposals but by going to the higher-ups in the system and confidently whispering that the powerful political warlords won’t have this or that.
I think one major weakness in our system of governance is the rush to reward officers and the slowness in meting out the mildest of penalties and punishment.
Perhaps the heads of our Judiciary should be considered for the highest honours in the third year of service in the highest judicial office rather than at the beginning of their tenure.

Datuk M. Santhanaban,
Retired Ambassadorm

Call for Thai's to start practising Buddha teachings
As taught by Buddha
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 19 February 2019

Re: "Cops crack down on criminal monks", in Bangkok Post, Monday 18 February 2019.
It is a good thing to apprehend criminal monks.
A wholesome lesson would be to send them to prison as monks, albeit wearing the standard prison robes.
There is no need to disrobe them since it is perfectly clear from their existence that
being a serious criminal is entirely compatible with being a monk, just as it is
with being a Christian priest, bishop or cardinal.
A more substantive way to cleanse the nationalistic religion known as Thai
Buddhism is for Thais to start practising the actual teachings of Buddhism as
taught by the Buddha, which practice needs no state-run religion office to
control citizens.
Don't support monks or monasteries that take money, gilt or gifts from politicians or political players in exchange for loyally crafting religious teachings to suit the desires of the conspicuously generous givers, which is exactly what much of Thai Buddhism does instead of teaching and following the actual teachings of the Buddha.
The Buddha's teachings in the Kalama Sutta and the First Precept are but two
examples that show the gulf between Buddhism and officially indulged Thai
The Buddha's wise teaching promoting right understanding in the Kalama
Sutta flatly contradicts the censorship and mindless conformity to authority
that is so beloved of certain types of Thai political players over the
centuries, certainly of the past five years.
Similarly, the First Precept, despite legalistic twistings to the contrary, clearly asks followers of the Buddha's wisdom to abstain from paying servants to torture and kill animals for no better reason than to sate a lust for tasty animal flesh: if you pay for a tender pork steak or a delicious chicken dinner, you are paying others to kill
and inflict suffering on your behalf.
Even Thai law has the good sense to realise that mafia bosses who order their paid thugs to carry out their dirty work are nonetheless guilty of the crimes committed on their orders.

Felix Qui,

Media pays large sums
To advertise the news
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 February 2019

Have you ever wondered how a lengthy, detail laden, "investigative" news feature can break on the same day, with virtually the same content and often the same script across a large number of mainstream "news" outlets?
Remember Kashoggi, Jussi Smolett, Stormy Daniels, or Christine Blaisy-Ford?
All of these stories and countless others are produced by propaganda shops for wealthy clients who wish to influence public opinion.
These operators then often pay large sums to media outlets to give their "stories" international coverage.
Not only do individual News outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post engage in this practice, news agencies like Reuters also participate.
Even op-ed pieces are produced in this manner, the Project Syndicate is a prime player in this regard.
Bottom line: the news is not the news anymore, its all advertising these days.

Michael Setter
Bang Saray,

Call for a commission of inquiry in Papua New Guinea
Into sale of customery land
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 February 2019
First puplished in the National, Tuesday 19 February 2019

It was reported in the media that customary landowners namely Dubara Idi Bana clan of Motu-Koitabu, asserted their ownership over land adjoining Air Transport Squadron, near Jackson’s airport.
The land is a State Lease, officially known as Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby.
It is currently being squatted upon by people, predominantly from Northern, with minority from other provinces.
Landowners are questioning Lands and Physical Planning and Defence departments, as to how this land had been acquired by the Defence.
This was reportedly at a cost of K15 million, however, title is yet to be given to Defence.
Landowners are claiming that this land, and other adjoining land, had never been legally acquired by the State or colonial administration.
Therefore, as far as they are concerned, it is still their customary land.
They are now calling for a commission-of-inquiry to investigate into sale of this property, as described above, before Lands and Physical Planning issues a replacement title for the alleged missing “title”.
This matter has been on the drawing board for some years now.
It seems that Lands and Physical Planning has continuously failed to provide any clear evidence of the colonial administration’s acquisition of the land in question.
Otherwise, if this information had already been provided to the clan, then this could amount to sheer ignorance on their part.
This information of clear evidence of land acquisition (including purchase documents, sketch maps, amount of payment details, list of landownership, clan leaders, etc,) once provided, will render their customary claims void and of no effect.
One would wonder if the leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, and Formil Port Moresby, has had any due care at all to protect its legal interests from occupations by the squatters and or the contentious claims of ownership by this clan.
Why take the acquiescence stance?
State leases are granted over State-owned land in the country.
With that are minimum improvement covenants, that the successful leaseholder has to comply with in developing the property or land, within the given period – normally five years at the least.
The leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby, had totally failed to comply with the improvement covenants over its property, by neither developing it all, nor taking actions to remove the squatters when they first moved onto the property.
It therefore brings to question why Lands and Physical Planning would have allowed this speculative transaction between Defence and the leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby, to have fallen through.
Despite the improvements, covenants have not been complied with as one of the conditions of lease.

Lorenitz Gaius,
Ketskets village,
Papua New Guinea

Chinese tourists in Malaysia
Not rowdier than visitors from other countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 15 February 2019

I’ve rented to people who looked good and supposedly owned a restaurant.
They ended up not paying the rent.
Character is hard to judge and many landlords resort to short cuts by profiling tenants based on race, age, sex, etc.
Perhaps time is money to many, and there is not much of it to waste to discover if one’s tenant can pay the rent.
Race: check; age: check; occupation: check; large deposit cashed: check; okay, it’s a deal.
The truth is, being a landlord is a tough deal. Evicting tenants is a highly stressful experience.
You worry if the person will retaliate by destroying your property.
You worry if he will resort to violence. You feel bad for forcing him to pay while his child looks at you like you’re a villain.
So yes, some landlords are racists but the stakes are high, where the risk is having a non-paying tenant who is impossible to evict.
I know, I evicted one.
From the outside, the guy ticked all the boxes: Caucasian, well-spoken, friendly, and exhibited signs of being open to cultures.
He ended up trashing the place and not paying rent for three months.
We had to settle the case at the local Rental Board where he was finally evicted (this was back when I was living in Montreal).
A small percentage of people doesn’t represent the entire group.
Take tourists from China, for example.
I’ve been to places where Chinese tourists invade your space, have no regard for queuing up, and don’t respect seating arrangements despite multiple attempts by attendants to coax them to give up their seats.
In fact, the attitude is so bad that recently the Chinese government had to impose jail terms on citizens who refuse to give up seats not assigned to them on trains. One lady was sentenced to jail for five years.
But when I looked at all my friends from China from my student days, I realised how friendly and helpful they were.
There was none of the rowdiness we see so often with tourists from China nowadays.
So I think that while cultural background may be a factor, it all boils down to numbers.
I recently started handling a large class of students.
And the number of issues I dealt with increased immensely compared to last semester when my class size was only a fraction of what it is now. I also realised that 15 out of 150 who misbehave is only 10 percent of the class.
Before this, I had four who misbehaved out of 20, which was about 20 percent.
So while the percentage of bad behaviour halved, the number of misbehaving students actually almost quadrupled.
While the proportion of issues is actually lower in a big class compared to the smaller one, when it comes to experience, you feel like the problem is worse because you’re dealing with 15 students instead of four.
You can extend that to the experience of driving around town.
If you drive around town one afternoon and encounter a total of 50 cars that day and three drivers overtook you without indicating, that’s only 6 percent of the total number of cars you encountered.
If you drove out to buy groceries at the corner shop and encountered 10 cars, and one overtook your car without signalling, that’s already 10 percent of the cars you encountered that day.
Six per cent sounds like less but three rowdy drivers to deal with is not exactly a more pleasant experience than one rowdy driver.
You’re tempted to think the second experience is better than the first, but statistics-wise, the first scenario had a lower proportion of misbehaving drivers.
Perhaps, contrary to popular belief, it’s not that Malaysians or Asians are bad drivers.
Maybe we just have too many cars in Asia.
Large cities, high population density and lack of town planning don’t exactly help either.
In a similar manner, Chinese tourists may not be rowdier than visitors from other countries, but there’s just too large of a population in China that however many you encounter, no matter how small of a percentage of the country’s 1.3 billion people, it’s still significant in total figures.
Perhaps the same argument holds for tenants: there’s just too many out there that you’re bound to encounter some bad ones.
While strategies exist for landlords to weed out potential problems later on, perhaps it’s wiser to leave race out of the equation and focus on actual facts and numbers such as profession, credentials, recommendations and, where possible, credit report ratings.
At least that should be the case as we progress to a more developed status where open-mindedness and acceptance become values to be celebrated.

Dr Kuang Seng How,

Malaysia calls for internatioanl community
To break silence on Palestine
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 February 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 13 February 2019

The government must be lauded for its firm stand in barring Israeli sportsmen from participating in sports events in the country.
It’s a courageous stand, well appreciated by the Palestinians and those who believe in democracy, human rights and justice.
In Gaza, Malaysian flags were flown in Yamrouk football stadium along with Palestinian flags and fans shouted slogans praising Malaysia and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It is hoped Malaysia’s example will spur other leaders, particularly from Arab and Muslim countries, to take a similar firm stand against Israel for the atrocities it is committing against the Palestinians.
Anyone with a conscience cannot remain silent about Israel’s crimes.
As Martin Luther King said when breaking his silence on Vietnam: “A time has come when silence is betrayal and that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.” For the international community, the time has come when it cannot remain silent on Palestine.
Palestinians are facing an existential threat. Israel has made it clear that it will not stop its activities - land expropriations, illegal building of Jewish settlements and the Separation Wall, humiliating searches at checkpoints, house demolitions, bombardments and assassinations, transfers, arrests, imprisonment and isolation of people from their communities.
The international community is unable to make Israel accountable for its crimes because it is protected by the United States.
Former United Nations rapporteur and international law expert Richard Falk described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza as “genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community” and warned of “a Palestinian holocaust in the making” which “should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge ‘never again’”.
The International Court of Justice, in 2004, delivered an advisory opinion that the construction of a wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, is contrary to international law. It stated that Israel is under an obligation to stop further construction and pull down the wall in the occupied territories.
Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under an obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law, as embodied in that convention.
The court declared that the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.
The Goldstone Report on investigation into violations of international humanitarian law during the 2008 Gaza War concluded that Israeli forces had wilfully targeted civilians and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council. Israel rejected the report.
The Palestinians have been resisting Jewish settler-colonialism for more than 100 years and their resistance continues.
The land of Palestine is scattered with the bones of martyrs who gave their lives fighting British imperialism and Zionism.
Dr Mahathir wrote on his blog recently: “A proper strategy is needed to bring justice to the Palestinians.”
The promotion and intensification of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign globally is key to dismantling the apartheid regime in historic Palestine.
Malaysia’s bold and moral move to prohibit Israeli sportsmen from participating in sports events in the country is a move in the right direction Malaysia should convene a meeting of experts, including civil society activists, to formulate a strategic plan of action to dismantle the apartheid regime in Israel.
The collapse of the UN-supported two-state solution to the conflict and the formalisation of the apartheid regime in Tel Aviv by the Israeli Parliament, which has declared Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, require fresh strategic thinking.
Our Parliament should be convened to pass a resolution to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba (May 15) and endorse and support the international BDS Movement.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
Citizens International Bhd.,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for maintenance of death penalty
In Malaysia
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 February 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 February 2019

I refer to the report “Musa: Death penalty must stay” in The Star, February 13 and fully concur with former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan that the death penalty must be maintained for heinous crimes.
News about the commission of heinous and dreadful offences such as murder, violent extremist incidents resulting in death, trafficking in dangerous drugs, and possession or control of any firearm, ammunition or explosives without lawful authority is appearing in our media daily.
Such crimes deserve the most severe punishment, reflecting society’s abhorrence and intolerance towards them.
Public interest demands that law and order must be maintained at all times.
A sentence that is too lenient may well have the effect of sending a message to the public that it is worth committing an offence because if caught, a lenient sentence will be imposed on the offender.
The public would lose confidence in the administration of justice if a lenient sentence is meted out for serious offences.
Murder nowadays is not only rampant, but brutal and vicious.
The accused may apologise to the family of the victim, but nothing can alleviate the anguish and sorrow experienced by the victim’s family and friends who will have to come to terms with the trauma, shock and loss caused by the horrifying death of a loved one.
Currently, out of the 195 countries in the world, 53 countries, including Malaysia, still retain the death penalty in their domestic legislations.
Some view the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment while others contend that such severe punishment breaches the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some even argue that imposing the death penalty does not deter criminals or reduce violent crimes, hence many are supporting the move to abolish it.
It is humbly submitted that the death penalty should be maintained to reflect the gravity of the offence and that public interest demands a deterrent sentence on offenders.
Undoubtedly, it would be ludicrous to contend that the imposition of the death penalty for serious offences has not deterred or reduced the commission of such offences to a certain extent over time.
While it is true that substituting the death penalty with an increase in the years of imprisonment or life imprisonment would remove the offender from the community and thus no longer pose a risk to society, the wishes of the deceased’s family members grieving the loss of their loved one as a result of the brutal or uncivilised criminal acts of the accused must also be viewed with serious consideration.
It is also noteworthy that serious offences punishable with the death sentence would be tried in the High Court and, to convict the offender, the case must be proven against the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.
The legal burden is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the evidential burden is on the accused to raise a reasonable doubt.
The duty of a judge at the end of the trial is to carefully evaluate the whole of the evidence of the prosecution and the defence to determine whether reasonable doubt has been raised as to the guilt of the accused.
Where the court finds that the accused is guilty of the offence for which he was charged, the court will assess the appropriate punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offence.
In determining the sentence, the public interest must supersede other considerations.

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

No reason to call for an all-out-war
Or religious war in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian times, Sunday 17 February 2019

It upsets me to read posts and comments in the social media from people so eagerly calling for an all-out-war when the alternative of peace has been laid out in front of them. Their rage is understandable after the bombing in Jolo, Sulu and Zamboanga City. But spilling of blood, including of those innocent civilians, can never be justified on the basis of any emotional experience.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law has received plenty of criticism in the past few months. Even without the bombing incident,a lot of questions will still be thrown that would be understandable. That is how democracy works. But there is no reason to call for an all-out-war or religious war; a peace process is in progress and it is meant to end the war there in Mindanao; the troops from 5th Scout Ranger Battalion was precisely sent to Patikul, Sulu to stop terrorists who were intent on aggravating the conflict situation in Mindanao.
I think many people in the social media need to take a step back and reflect on what they are asking for. Rejecting altogether the proposed solution that would pave the way for peace to rein in Mindanao is foolhardy.
Justice will continue to be sought for the families of the victims, and peace for all Mindanaons, especially for those directly affected by the cruelties of terrorism.

Nikki Genesis Marquez

Call for Manila Regional Trial Court to fast-track
Declaration of CPP and NPA as terrorists
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

I am a student of Political Science in one of the universities here in the Philippines and hopefully I will be graduating soon.
But, after all, I still don’t understand why the Manila Regional Trial Court can’t fast-track approval to legally declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists since the Department of Justice (DOJ) has already filled its petition and as President Duterte himself proclaimed them as terrorist on December 2017.
This really troubled me hence the European Union (EU) has declared them as foreign terrorist groups including their self-exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison. As I have read in an article citing reports from Ambassador to Belgium and EU Clemencio Montesa, that EU Council of Ministers adopted a "common position" to have the NPA declared as foreign terrorists and Sison as a terrorist last October 28, 2002.
With EU declaration, individuals and organizations identified with the New People’s Army (NPA) and Sison, who is living in exile in the Netherlands, will be denied visas to as well as sanctuary in any EU member country.
Their funds and assets in the EU will be cut and frozen, and any other fund-raising activities will be prohibited.
With all this basis, why it’s so easy for the EU to declare this group as terrorist and it’s so hard for our Philippine court to declare and decide on it?
Are this people hiding something that it’s so hard for them to decide on this matter? Maybe that’s why this terrorist group has the confidence to do all their atrocities because they knew that law in our country are weak and decision making is sluggish even though evidence are all present. So I challenge our court now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and especially the Manila Regional Trial Court to declare this group as TERRORIST as soon as possible.

John Brian T. Gateb,
General Santos,

Influx of Chinese in the Philippines
Beginning of Chinese takeover of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 February 2019

I was dismayed after reading the editorial titled “I thought I was in China” on February 1, 2019.
Dismayed because I suddenly remembered President Duterte’s statement at the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club on February 19, 2018, where he supposedly joked (?): “If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian.”
I couldn’t help wondering if this sudden influx of illegal Chinese in the Philippines, with many of them taking jobs away from Filipinos, is now the beginning of a Chinese takeover of the Philippines as a “province of China.”
Mr. Duterte’s acquiescent and sheepish behavior toward Beijing, always catering to Xi Jinping’s whims, is exactly the opposite of the way he treats his own people - always bullying the weak and the helpless with guns, bullets, threats and invective.
I feel sorry and afraid that, because of Mr. Duterte being a “yes-man” to China, my countrymen might also someday find themselves being ruled and harassed by the Chinese.
I hope that never ever happens because, except for Mr. Duterte and his underlings like Salvador Panelo et al., true Filipinos have their pride and would rather fight and shed their blood than easily give in to invaders.

Juanito T. Fuerte,

60 years of mono Party Rule in Malaysia
Has led to a bloated civil service
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 February 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 February 2019

I refer to the report “Civil servants told to carry out directives or face the music” in Sunday Star, February 10 on the National Patriot Association’s (Patriot) call for disciplinary action to be taken against civil servants who do not carry out the government’s directives.
Why are the civil servants not carrying out the directives of the government of the day?
The answer lies somewhere along the 60 years of mono party rule.
To say the civil service has grown exponentially is correct.
The growth has just been organic.
Layer upon layer of new posts were created (without due planning) as new projects were thrust on the public.
This, coupled with the “empire” building need of the past administration, led to a bloated civil service.
Does the Public Service Department (PSD) have a comprehensive human resource planning in place for the public sector?
Has it conducted any evaluation on any aspect of human resource management or human resource development and taken cognizance of the results?
If it had, then the current situation would not have been allowed to continue unabated all through these years.
A case in point is the annual performance appraisals of civil servants. If the public can be shown the overall tabulation of the annual performance appraisals, we believe it will very informative.
We believe the following scenario on annual performance appraisals happens in the Malaysian Civil Service: 5 percent of those appraised get less than 80 points out of a possible 100 points, 80 percent get more than 80 points out of a possible 100 points while 10 percent would get 95 points out of a possible 100.
This is typical of the bell curve distribution – but inverted!
With these super excellent performances, our civil service must be top in the world or even better than the private sector!
In fact, we need not ask them to follow directives as they would have initiated these on their own steam.
But we need to ask the question: Are we anywhere near the top achieving civil services of the world?
Or are we just duping ourselves?
Again, if we had evaluated ourselves, we would have taken corrective action based on the findings. But as usual, self-interest, self-preservation and politics prevailed. The syiok sendiri (self-interest) syndrome continued until a change of government happened.
Public servants implement policies, programmes and projects of the government of the day. The size of the civil service and its effectiveness is a direct correlation of programme logic and the national budget.
Although the budget circular has prescribed that all programmes must be evaluated, it is high time this is actually implemented.
It is also appropriate to use evaluation to rationalise both the budget and human resource requirements in our strategic performance plans.
Evaluation of our programmes and policies is the way forward.
Done without prejudice and with a sincere motive to improve, we can overcome many shortcomings early and move ahead to be a world-class civil service.

Supramaniam Sinnasamy,
Malaysian Evaluation Society
Kuala Lumpur,


Live baby crocodiles in Malaysia packed in boxes
Labelled as frozen fish for transport
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 February 2019
First published in the Star, Thirsday 7 February 2019

The seizure of live baby crocodiles at Sibu airport, “Fishy shipment sniffed out” in Star, Sunday Jan 13, is not a new incident.
A similar one occurred in May 2018 in which an illegal shipment of 50 live crocodiles from Malaysia was seized by border officers at Heathrow Airport.
The shocking truth is the manner in which the year-old juvenile saltwater crocodiles were transported. Crammed into five boxes, the reptiles were not packed in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations, invalidating the permit and making the importation illegal.
The crocodiles were discovered in horrific conditions by Grant Miller, head of the national Border Force Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at Heathrow, who commented: “It is just not acceptable for reptiles to be transported in this way.”
Each box had room for only four crocodiles but 10, measuring 30cm each, had been packed into one box.
Due to the very limited space, the crocodiles fought with each other during the flight, resulting in the death of one.
This is a clear example of how Malaysian wildlife exporters and traders are only in the business for profit.
They do not have any regard for animal welfare. Squeezing as many reptiles into a box while limiting the number of boxes used in order to save costs is the norm for these wildlife exporters.
These crocodiles were believed to be meant for a farm in Cambridgeshire where they were to be bred for their meat.
Fortunately, the horrifying condition led to the confiscation of the surviving crocodiles, which were cared for to be re-homed later.
In the Sibu case where the live baby crocodiles were packed in two white boxes labelled as frozen fish, the truth was discovered when the package was intercepted at Sibu Airport (pic).
In this case, the particulars of the sender were believed to be false.
In the first case, there was no further news as to the identity or address of the crocodile exporters.
As for the latter, the falsification of the sender’s particulars led to no further arrest.
The potentially large profits combined with relatively minimal penalties if caught, especially for a first offence, have resulted in a large number of smugglers and a diversity of smuggling techniques.
Sadly, while no one knows exactly what percentage of the illegal wildlife trade involves reptiles, it is thought to be substantial. Smugglers will go to great lengths to conceal their activities.
One of the most routine and often effective strategies employed by smugglers moving animals is simply falsifying the import and export documentation.
Enforcement of existing trade laws is often lax, hence a great many illegally shipped animals simply go by undetected.
Unfortunately, failures in enforcement of CITES requirements have prevented the successful application of CITES as a conservation tool. These, as well as failures in the compliance of IATA regulations, have resulted in the inhumane treatment and death of a large number of reptiles.
Due to the fact that it is extremely difficult or impossible to identify the exact source of most reptiles, exporters may take in illegally caught animals, declare them captive-bred and sell them off at a bigger profit.
The Internet has facilitated an increase in both legal and illegal wildlife trade. It has revolutionised the reptile trade by connecting sellers and buyers throughout the world in a way that was never before possible.
The above two cases serve as a reminder that enforcement is difficult and sometimes depends on nothing more than just blind luck.
No one really knows the true extent of this aspect of the trade. However, it is believed that the illegal trade is substantial and is equal to or greater in value than the legal trade.
Some illegally collected reptiles are laundered through so-called reptile farms or other facilities and labelled captive-bred, and then sent to buyers in other locations through a vast network of collectors, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers.
They represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg in the world of illegal reptile trading.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) calls for a thorough investigation by the relevant authorities into the two cases and bring the culprits to book.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
Sahabat Alam
Kuala Lumpur

Papua politicians enjoy luxurious service
In privately-owned hospitals at taxpayers expense
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 February 2019
First published in the National, Friday 8 February 2019

Please let me air out my view as a concerned citizen and a hardworking taxpayer to this dire nation.
I am seriously concerned about the way our Government is investing money into so many unworthy projects and programmes that do not even add value to our livelihoods.
Most politicians are now using public money for their own interest and personal gain.
They enjoy luxuries at the expense of Papua New Guineans.
I am a simple, ordinary citizen struggling to meet my needs every day in a costly and luxurious capital city.
I am deeply concerned about how effective and serious our Government is in reducing chronic unemployment and petty crime, eradicating income disparity between rich and poor, and most importantly improving rundown health facilities.
Most of our politicians are very incompetent, immature, retarded or ill-minded.
They are not even being proactive and visualise the outcomes of real economic benefits before making investments.
I don’t know if they even analyse and assess the cost and benefit of their particular investment.
Look at the yoga programme, for instance.
That was a very uneconomical, costly and unwise decision made by Governor Powes Parkop.
This programme has no real economic return.
There is an alarming petty crime rate, rundown health facilities and high unemployment rate coupled with high cost of living in the city.
One person’s interest makes thousands of people suffer.
Yoga cannot help people beat the high cost of living in the city.
K3 million is a huge amount of money, which can be used for better health services, which can help everyone.
The poor people suffer, while politicians keep enjoying luxurious service in privately-owned hospitals and clinics that cost taxpayers a lot more.
In turn, they give money to expatriates who own these hospitals and clinics.
These people remit money back to their country to improve their economy while we keep suffering in our own country.
What really frustrates me is that you cannot not even see any politician getting treatment using public health facilities in clinic and hospitals, even the Yoga advocate himself.
That is certainly true in most cases.
All of them get treatment in private, high-cost clinics and hospitals owned by foreigners within and abroad.

Maran Kess Mamatsirah
Concerned citizen,
Post Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Thai PM to use absolute power under Section 44
To release Bahraini footballer from detention
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 9 February 2019

Re: "PM's one-man show", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday 9 February
David James Wong was only half right in his insistence that one country alone
cannot issue a red alert - only Interpol can do it.
The fact is that both member countries and Interpol must work together to start and carry out this process.
In the case of Hakeem al-Araibi, a red notice was issued by Interpol at the
request of the Bahraini government on November 8, 2018.
The Australian government, having been aware of this situation, made sure that
the red notice was rescinded on November 30. But Araibi arrived in Bangkok and was arrested three days prior to that.
Even worse, by the time Australia made a request for Araibi's release, his case
had already been forwarded to the Thai court.
Thus, this case looks like it will be time-consuming if there are no out-of-court settlements made any time soon.
That is why it takes all countries concerned to resolve this problem.
Mr Wong, who has been strongly advocating for democracy in Thailand, surprised
me when he said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should be encouraged to use
Section 44 to settle this matter.

Vint Chavala,

Drones spraying water over Bangkok
Have no impact over smog chocked city
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 February 2019

Re: "Masking, not mastering the smog", in Bangkok Post, Friday 1 February 2019
Thai officials amaze me in their ability to come up with ever more ludicrous
ideas to make the country a laughing stock.
The latest is the use of drones to spray water over smog-choked city areas.
What simpleton actually believes that these baby helicopters, carrying just 5
litres of water, can have any impact whatsoever in dissipating the city's
choking pollution?
I'm sure that city officials are enjoying their taxpayer remunerated work hours
amusing themselves with these flying toys, but I wish they would rather spend
their time focused on measures that might have real impact in reducing pollution

Samanea Saman,

Thailand's move to produce EV batteries
Not a good move
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 7 February 2019

Thailand's move to become the world leader in EV battery production is not a
good thing (Business, Feb 5).
The pollution associated with manufacturing batteries is staggering and detrimental to the local environment.
Two countries with major pollution issues on multiple levels, China and Thailand, are the two competing for market dominance.
Thailand is not known for regulation compliance and is one of the more corrupt
countries, so how will environmental regulations concerning battery production
be drafted and enforced?
If making batteries is such a great money-maker, why are the batteries not produced in the countries that demand them?
Would make fiscal sense if the most expensive component of a product was locally sourced.
They are not manufactured in first world nations because compliance with
environmental standards makes the venture cost prohibitive.

Darius Hober,

Footballer's claim that he is a victim
Of Bahraini political persecution is believable
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 February 2019

Hakeem al Araibi, the footballer detained by Thai authorities pending extradition proceedings, claims he fled Bahrain " after he and other athletes were allegedly beaten and tortured over their or their families involvement in political protests"
( ' Thailand Claims Australia's Interpol alert triggered arrest of Bahraini footballer ' Southeast Asian Times 7 Feb. 2019 ).
I am inclined to believe Hakeem's claim given the Economist Intelligence Unit's democracy index survey finding that Bahrain is an " authoritarian regime and absolute monarchy". Freedom House describes it as a " not free" country and Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 164 out of 178 on press freedom.
It's not at all hard to understand why Hakeem fled the country and why Australia granted him refugee status.
What's hard to understand is why all the bogus extradition rigamorall?
Political persecution is the modus operandi of authoritarian regimes.
In the case of Bahrain that is very well documented by internationally reputable organisations.
( see ' Hakeem al-Araibi case : Bahrain is emboldened to take human rights abuse beyond its borders?' The Guardian 5/2/19).
Hakeem is a victim of that.
All else is BULLSHIT!

Rajend Naidu,

2019 elections in the Philippines
Could become the bloodiest in electoral history
The Southeast Asian Times, 7 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 February 2019

Is the government ready for the violence that may erupt in the 2019 elections?
Election-related killings have claimed a former La Union congressman and a Bicol party-list representative.
While the Bicol murder seems solved, La Union’s unsolved execution casts a pall over the whole province, with some theories now connecting this to assassinations of Sudipen’s mayor and Balaoan’s vice mayor.
Many deaths triggered by local rivalries also plague other barangays, towns, cities and provinces from as far north as Cagayan and Ilocos Norte to as far south as Sulu and Basilan - and many other places in between, including Quezon City recently.
Apart from the La Union cases, the Ilocos Region also features the Fariñas-Marcos clan face-off in Ilocos Norte and a personal showdown between Chavit Singson and Edgar Zaragoza for mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.
Pangasinan has its own share of killings of local councilmen and barangay officials.
Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region also have simmering dynastic contests.
All these portend a bloody North Luzon political season, as most camps are well-armed dynasties.
Similar dangers spill over into Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol, as well as to the Visayas and Mindanao, where the situation gets more complicated given the Bangsamoro Organic Law’s implementation.
Goons, guns and gold can resurface in deadly force, so 2019 could become the bloodiest in Philippine electoral history if political warlords can’t keep their followers on a tight leash.
The transactional nature of the current leadership coalitions could distract the attention of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) from attending to these looming risks.
Hopefully, sounding these alarms this early will prod the Comelec to create a civilized and issues-oriented political campaign period.
Also, religious leaders and media experts should more proactively set an environment for peaceful and orderly elections, and the government should more forcefully enforce the gun ban.
If the administration can’t prevent 2019 from becoming the most deadly Philippine elections, the electorate will have no choice but to desert their candidates in May.

Jose Z. Osias,

Call for ASEAN to negotiate with China
In Belt and Road Initiative as a bloc
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 February 2019

While the domestic concern for Thais is the upcoming general election on March
24, broadly speaking it is a relatively small geopolitical event.
We must not lose sight of the bigger picture: The trade war and battle for
supremacy between the US and China, and its effects on Thailand and Asean. Look no further than the newly elected Malaysian government cancelling the
China-backed rail and pipeline projects, endorsed by the Najib-led government.
China and the US will each put pressure on Dr Mahathir's government with
different interests in mind.
In Dec 2018, Abhisit Vejajiva gave an interview to Nikkei Asian Review,
suggesting that Asean nations - with Thailand's turn as its chair - should
negotiate with China and its Belt & Road Initiative as a bloc.
Moreover, he added that the advertising revenue of the tech giants must be taxed for the benefit of the region.
I agree to both and will add that it will be a long time before Asean can enjoy similar benefits as those of EU, while minimising its costs to avoid a Brexit-like scenario.
Perhaps by 2050, Asean will have adopted a single digital currency, become
cashless, and use E-Asean passports.
Politically speaking, by 2050, today's generation of politicians will have either retired or "expired", leaving room for compromise and mutual cooperation within each nation and between Asean nations.
Asean must learn from today's Brexit to avoid "Singxit" or "Thaixit" in
the event of us merging with other Asean nations in deeper ways than today.
Last but not least is striking a balance between non-interference principle vs
ceding some autonomy for Asean collective interest.
The last point will be a hard nut to crack partly due to Asian values.
When there is domestic violence in your neighbourhood, most Thais will treat it as their neighbour's private matter.
So too will they treat a genocide in their neighbouring country as a private matter. That said, success in climate, economic and food securities in the future will heavily depend on global cooperation.

Edward Kitlertsirivatana,

Call for serious action
To reduce pollution in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 February, 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 February 2019

Re: "Haze shutters city schools", in Bangkok Post , Thursday Jan 31, 2019
Why are the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and Prime Minister's
Office dragging their feet in implementing measures to combat the PM2.5
pollution choking the city?
Why only now is City Hall "inviting" construction firms to talk about possible measures to reduce dust generated from construction sites?
Why will "more stringent measures" be rolled out only next week - why
not immediately?
Why is the promise of soldiers checking factories for illegal discharges being couched in terms of future action, instead of being done on a regular basis?
Why only hypothetical proposals to limit the number of vehicles in the city, shift to B20 fuel and ban smoke-belching diesel-powered vehicles?
Mr Prime Minister, Mr Governor, we're choking now!
Instead of deflecting, and
confusing the public with ineffectual nonsense like drones dribbling a few drops
of mist over the city, we need serious action.
There is no excuse for delaying these common sense measures to clear the air - not only this week or this month, but for the long term.

Samanea Saman,

Corruption almost a way of life
In Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 1 February 2019

We often hear people complaining about corruption among politicians.
In fact, corruption is a major topic of conversation among Malaysians, and we even discuss it with people we don’t know.
But has anyone wondered whether corruption is actually a way of life for many of us today?
From “informally” settling traffic offences to paying a small fee to secure a million ringgit business deal, many Malaysians are involved in some sort of corrupt practice without feeling a sense of guilt.
In recent years, many have suggested to me that I offer a small fee to secure a business deal.
But I have firmly told these people that I do business with integrity and zero corruption.
I would say, though, that 90 percent of business owners and authorities in my industry openly practise some form of corruption.
I can safely say that there are many givers and takers, and that corruption is rampant in every industry.
I applaud the government’s continuous anti-corruption prosecutions because these will serve as a warning to those who are corrupt or thinking of it.
However, efforts to curb this cancerous menace and to inculcate integrity among Malaysians should be carried out at home and in schools too.
Those who are involved in corrupt practices may have money, but are they really at peace?
I always believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s message: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Gandhi has clearly pointed out that any misalignment between thoughts, words and action will take away our happiness.

Vigneswaran Kannan,

Call for labelling of agricultural crops
Sold in Philippine markets
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 February 2019

Robert Domoguen, a former columnist of the Mountain Province Exponent and an official of the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region, once wrote an article on falsely labeled Sagada oranges being sold at the public market in Baguio City.
I later encountered similar stories of lowland beans brought to Baguio but tagged as “Baguio beans,” robusta coffee beans tagged as “Benguet arabica,” and ordinary rice mixed with glutinous rice tagged as “heirloom rice.” Baguio beans, Benguet arabica coffee and heirloom rice are among the high-value crops produced in the Cordillera without being fertilized by inorganic fertilizers or sprayed with petroleum-based fungicide, insecticide or pesticide; hence, they are tagged as “organic crops.”
Organic crops are sold in the market with higher prices compared to the usual commercial crops we usually buy in the market.
If the falsely labeled Sagada oranges (Michael L. Tan, November 1, 2018 and January 23, 2019 ) are a pair of shoes or “maong” denims, the seller could be apprehended for violating the trademark law.
And so comes the question: Which government agency monitors the false labeling of agricultural crops sold in the market?
I believe false labeling of high-value crops violates the rights of consumers and the rights of high-value crops farmers, whose livelihood is being endangered.
We should thank Dr. Tan for his columns on falsely labeled Sagada oranges; his columns should encourage a full-blown investigation into a trade practice full of worms.

Claro Q. Esoen,
Research coordinator,
Baguio City,


Philippines Pray for success of President orders
To destroy the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao
The SoutheastAsian Times, Saturday 2 February 2019

Recently, President Duterte releases his marching order to the military to “destroy” the Abu Sayyaf following the deadly bombing in Jolo, Sulu cathedral bombing on Sunday that resulted to the death of 21 individuals and wounding a hundred people.
Well, the order of the president is just right.
The perpetrators just got the “taste of their own medicine” and for me, it should be worse than what they did to the helpless victims of their terroristic activity.
Yes, we have all the assets.
Though our Armed Forces is not yet fully modernize, we still have the capability. We have artillery, helicopters, airplanes and ships so we have nothing to worry about.
Our state forces has succeeded in the Marawi siege caused by the Maute group so there is no reason that our soldiers cannot make it once again.
As a civilian and an ordinary citizen of our country, I cannot help fight this terrorist group like our soldiers are doing but instead I can help them through my support and my prayers that may they accomplish their mission and may they return home to their family safe and sound.

Edward Aquino Marquez,


Hokkien lost to Mandarin
In Penang
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 February 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 30 January 2019

Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai’s article expressed my sentiments exactly in “Feeling lost in Penang”, On The Beat, Focus, Sunday Star, January 27
I attended primary and secondary school at Convent Green Lane, and later went on to do my Sixth Form at St Xavier’s.
Needless to say, I do not speak any Mandarin either. I, too, feel increasingly displaced in Penang, and am so sad to see Hokkien perceptibly fading away.
In preparing for my sociolinguistics class with undergraduates, I came across an interesting website by the Persatuan Bahasa Hokkien Pulau Pinang,
Others are concerned too.
By the way, my class was studying concepts of language loss and language death, and I picked Penang Hokkien as a case to highlight the issue.
In my demo, I spoke some and we all had a great big laugh – my personality inexplicably transforms when I speak Hokkien!
One of the last bastions of Penang Hokkien could possibly be the Sg Ara market. During a visit sometime last year, I could still hear quite a bit of this beautiful dialect being spoken, to my great delight.
Thank you for highlighting the issue from a heartfelt personal perspective.
I will include it in the reading list to help my students understand that language loss is not some abstract theoretical construct but is real and happening in our own backyard in Penang.
By the way, wah ah boey khi bank gia ang pow long.
Wah boh eng! Ah bo wah khi pasak bey kah ho
I haven’t gone to the bank to get ang pow packets. I am not free! Maybe it’s better that I go buy them in the market.

Joy Quah,
Kuala Lumpur,


Religiosity keeps Filipino's poor
Or does poverty cause religiosity ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 29 January 2019

According to the commentary “Poverty, religiosity and scientific literacy” by Edwin de Leon in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, January 22, 2019 our poverty rate correlates with our religiosity.
In other words, our poverty and religious levels are both high.
However, since correlation does not necessarily mean causation, we cannot conclude that religious faith keeps us poor.
It could be that poverty causes religiosity, or another factor causes both.
In addition, poverty is a complex issue resulting from individual, cultural, economic, political and international factors.
I don’t think religion automatically causes poverty. In fact, the Protestant ethic has contributed largely to the prosperity of the United States.
I think particular self-defeating religious beliefs, not religion itself, keep us from developing.
Particularly, the belief that God will provide tends to make us dependent on God for our financial wellbeing.
Because God will provide, we fail to plan and work for our future, make intelligent decisions and solve problems effectively.
Instead we do stupid things that ruin our lives in the belief that God will provide anyway.
We don’t have to abandon our religiosity to escape poverty and achieve progress.
Instead of believing that God will provide, let us believe these two popular sayings: “God helps those who help themselves” and “Do your best and God will do the rest.”

Jori Gervasio R. Benzon,

New Pakatan Harapan (PH) government
Need more than fifty percent of the Malaysian vote
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Barisan Nasional victory in the Cameron Highlands by-election on the weekend has attracted numerous analyses.
Many of the opinions and warnings issued do hold water, in my opinion.
Prime Minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was right, too, in stating that economic and living conditions must be addressed by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
Everything said, we need courage and honesty to be mindful of the potent force that hides below the tip of the political iceberg.
It is very clear that the voting population is more than a reflection of eligible voters. They represent the true sentiments of the entire nation of citizens.
With a little more than a 50 percent win by Barisan Nasional (BN) in the by-election and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s seizure of Putrajaya last May also with just over a 50 percent victory, the message is very clear:
This country may be stuck in a yo-yo pendulum swing between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and BN in the years ahead.
That is not going to herald stability and progress for the people. Policies will be made; policies will be dismantled; accusations and court cases will be mounted. And the nation will suffer.
Such swings will permanently divide the nation into one that is at war within – and probably along race, religion and territorial lines.
Hence, after the people gave an unthinkable victory to a Barisan Nasional (BN) alternative for the first time in the nation’s political history, it is critical that Pakatan Harapan (PH gets down to serious soul searching, having clocked some nine months of attempted governing since GE14.
The only defining parameter that can give Pakatan Harapan (PH) a 60 percent or higher victory over its political opponents in the next General Election is its readiness to fulfil its election manifesto regardless of the circumstances be.
Further, Pakatan Harapan (PH) cannot afford to keep losing or even winning any future by-elections by a mere 50 percent as it will further erode confidence in the much peddled “new” Malaysia credo.
There are far too many fundamentals that evoke the sentiment of good governance that have yet to be experienced and shared across the many divides in the country.
The roots of Umno are still much alive even though the tree and its branches may (as some say) have been chopped off.
Justice and rule of law can only be saved and made to work full throttle if the government since GE14 can convincingly tackle corruption.
As Prof Dr Terrence Gomez rightfully pointed out, for as long as the very machinery (government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies) created to address the plight of citizens is not made transparent, accountable and can stand the test of public perception, PH is teetering on the edge of a dangerous cliff.
Anwar must know, too, that the tip of the iceberg is economy and cost of living. But the crux is that which drifts below: race, religion, rights.
People want a capable, effective, uniting, and progressive government that can free this nation from class-structured citizenship and that can let the economy thrive on level playing fields free of corruption in any shade or shape.

J.D. Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,

Rise of economic nationalism addressed
At World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 January 2019
First Published in the Star Monday 29 January 2019

Global leaders and representatives from more than 100 governments gathered in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
The major theme for this year was globalisation.
The United States and China’s trade dispute, and the economic challenges posed by issues like Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union) were an important part of the agenda.
There has been a lot of criticism that the Davos Forum was coming together at a time of deep division in the world and speaking for globalisation when the concept is under great pressure.
The key topics discussed were on trade, environment, inequality and technology. Economically and politically, there was a sense of uncertainty about the path we should take in the coming months.
But, overall, there was a shift towards a more sustainable growth pattern – and the good news is that a recession is not expected even though the global economy is slowing down.
The rise of economic nationalism and populism were addressed too, to allay fears among global democracies unable to tackle the systemic flaws embedded within governments.
Therefore, leaders were cautiously optimistic at policy levels of the government responsibilities they have the burden of carrying through the months ahead.

Dhanaraj Arumugam,


Call to make palm oil mills
Environmentally friendly
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 January 2019
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 25 January 2019

The trends for palm oil are clear - the selling price has been on a downtrend for the last six years. Will the price go up in the future?
No, for two reasons: too much land for cultivation in lower-cost countries, including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and biodiesel use of palm oil will decrease.
On the other hand, production costs are increasing.
Efficiency and productivity gains are offset by inflation.
So how long more before Malaysia is pushed out of palm oil production by more competitive countries?
Consider a few facts:
Climate change is damaging Earth;
If Malaysia competes with low- cost countries in oil palm cultivation, it is condemning itself to the middle-income trap.
These resources need to be released for higher value;
The world is slowly but surely moving towards healthier diets, so more fruit and vegetarian food supply is needed.
Oil palm land can be converted to this and other more productive uses;
MicroalgaeI can produce at the least 15 times more edible oil than oil palm per hectare per year;
Malaysia very intelligently transitioned from rubber to oil palm.
The same wisdom must be applied again for another transition.
Fortunately, there is an easy, rapid and painless way for oil palm estates to make this transition:
Start with cleaning up oil palm mills.
Here, the Department of Environment has to play a bigger role;
should be an aerobically digested;
Methane should be used for electricity production, thus increasing renewable energy production; and,
The liquid digestate should be used to grow microalgae in areas used for ponds.
Hence, no new land is used.
This will make palm oil mills environmentally friendly.
The transition can be showcased with just one palm oil mill, which is a tiny price to pay for a big opportunity.
The proposal above could transform Malaysian agriculture, release the nation from the middle-income trap, position it in line with future trends, and help Earth.

Jag Kaurah,
Port Dickson,
Negri Sembilan,

The Hippocratic Oath in Malaysia
Sidelined in corporatised healthcare system
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 January 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 25 January 2019

The Health Ministry has been the focus of media attention of late with its no smoking campaign in all eateries, big and small.
It has earned the wrath of smokers and the gratitude of non-smokers.
The minister and his staff have expended time, energy and money to promote this anti-smoking campaign by going on rounds, distributing no-smoking leaflets and marshalling enforcement officers.
The most difficult part of this campaign is enforcement.
The ministry is short of enforcement staff to snoop around in every eatery and will need to employ thousands of people to ensure smokers comply with the restrictions.
The financial requirements could be enormous.
Perhaps the money and energy expended to mount this campaign, whose outcome is uncertain, could be better used to upgrade the facilities and manpower at government hospitals.
A case in point is the dearth of specialists, which is quite critical, in the orthopaedic department especially in the Penang General Hospital.
The long list of B40 (lower income group) patients needing knee surgery has no prospect of being treated here as the two specialists surgeons have left for positions in private hospitals.
The doctors in the department have to give patients the option of waiting for one-and-a-half to two years to get the surgery done if the specialists become available.
Alternatively, they are advising patients to get the surgery done in the private hospitals where the former knee specialists are now working.
These lower middle class and B40 government servants and other poor patients cannot possibly afford a surgical procedure that costs between RM30,000 and RM40,000 at the private hospitals, let alone afford the RM8,000 needed for the artificial replacement.
The Hippocratic Oath seems to be sidelined in the current corporatised healthcare system where hospitals are more of a business concern than a place of compassion and healing for all and sundry.
Compassion and healing are pared according to the patient’s ability to pay.
The Health Minister would be well advised to devise and implement healthcare strategies that include specialists and equipment to benefit those Malaysians who cannot afford the high charges of private hospitals.
There should be regulation to curb the high number of specialists moving from the public to the private sector in healthcare facilities.
Otherwise, the common man and woman will be left in the lurch.
Perhaps we need to inculcate in medical students the actual meaning of the noble profession, one that is selfless and not self-serving.

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

Philippine government build, build, build program
Notoriously corrupt and inefficient
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 22 January 2019

The recent series in the Inquirer regarding the wasteful use of government funds raises our worst fears regarding the Duterte administration’s flagship program “Build, build, build.”
It is not wrong to dream big, but dreams must be anchored on realities on the ground.
We may have the talent to formulate the concepts and draw up the plans for such a gargantuan undertaking.
We may even be able to assemble the necessary financial resources which could be laden with traps, but the question is: Are the bureaucracy and industry ready?
We are all too familiar with the fact that the Department of Public Works and Highways, tasked to execute the program, is notoriously corrupt and inefficient. We wish we could say differently about the private side of the construction industry.
This is not to condemn ourselves forever to this quagmire of incompetence and corruption, but to set our priorities straight.
Unless and until we set out on a plan to build integrity and capability in the construction industry and show that we have such standards in a measurable way, after this “Build, build, build” we would only have created a new breed of nouveau riche players spawned by an unfair playing field, enclosed in an enclave and surrounded by the desolation of a country that should have benefited from their work, but which they had bled dry instead.

Cristino Santos,

Call for Malaysia to repeal
The Sedition Act 1948
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 January 2019
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 23 January 2019

The government should consider repealing the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] as it is deemed archaic, especially after the 14th General Election, which has seen the demand for more freedom of speech and expression.
This is in line with the announcement by Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government is studying whether to amend or repeal several securities laws, including the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15].
Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] was introduced by the British in 1948, the same year the autonomous Federation of Malaya came into being. This law remained on the statute books through independence in 1957, and the merger with Sabah and Sarawak that formed Malaysia in 1963.
Note that the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] would be unconstitutional without Article 10 (2) of the Federal Constitution, which permits Parliament to enact “restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any legislative assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence”.
This matter has been settled clearly by courts through cases like Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan & Anor v Nordin bin Salleh [1992] 1 MLJ 697, Minister of Home Affairs v Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran [1990] 1 MLJ 351, Abdul Rahman Talib v Seenivasagam & Anor [1966] 2 MLJ 66, Zainur bin Zakaria v Public Prosecutor [2001] 3 MLJ 604 and Arumugam a/l Kalimuthu v Menteri Keselamatan Dalam Negeri & Ors [2010] 3 MLJ 412.
Since such law has been enforced for 70 years, the time has come for the Pakatan Harapan government to consider replacing it with a new law that can protect one’s freedom of speech and expression and, at the same time, protect our nation from malicious or hatred ideas.
The aim of the proposed National Harmony Act is to strike a balance between ensuring every citizen’s freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Constitution and the need to handle sensitivities in a multicultural society.
The government can set up a task force to study this proposal before a decision is made.
The task force can be led by the attorney-general, or at least monitored by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and include experts on human rights, legal practitioners, academicians and non-governmental bodies.

Dr Muazaffar Syah Mallow
Senior lecturer,
Faculty of Syariah and Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Negri Sembilan.

Philipine President tirades against Catholic Church
Is no joke
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 16 January 2019

President Duterte’s latest series of tirades against church people is no joke and never should be considered one; rather, it is part of his systematic attack against those who work to build a better society for Filipinos and those who criticize the unacceptable, antipeople policies of his administration.
His rants are so scandalous that they smokescreen and conceal horridly his administration’s neglect of its responsibilities toward the people, and its plans that pose even graver danger to the nation and our future.
This administration has mastered the use of sloppy propaganda and diatribe to deter any rational discussion and criticism of its agenda.
Mr. Duterte even resorted to inciting violence and inducing government forces to commit more crimes aimed at the people, including those from the Church.
Much more fearsome now is the pressing possibility that the President’s provocations might lead to actual physical attacks, considering there are already seven cases of killings of clergy and religious personnel and other frustrated attempts and threats against them, following Mr. Duterte’s justification for Fr. Mark Ventura’s killing.
His statements might even reinforce and back up the forces behind the cases of attacks against church people.
In this midst, we cannot remain silent. We are called to partake “…in the proclamation of good news to the poor… To send liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:18-19).”

Nardy Sabina,
Promotion of Church,
People’s Response,

Thai PM warn voters to beware
Of unrealistic and impossible policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 January 2019

I fully back PM Prayut in his warning for voters to beware of campaign policies
which are "unrealistic and impossible", and not to listen to those who "caused
damage to the country".

To test which party planks are the most feasible, I suggest that Thai public TV
televise a series of round-robin, face-to-face debates between the four parties
with the most members, each debate centring on a key area needing reform, eg,
decentralisation, education, the economy, police/military, fighting corruption,
or promoting reconciliation.
The debate could be on "We agree that the Democrat Party's plan to reform the police/military is superior to that of the Pracharath Party".
The winner would be the side getting the most swing votes.
Each team could have two people, including its prime minister candidate (who
would be essential, as they would lead reform efforts).
The moderator would be neutral and forceful, keeping participants on-topic and ensuring that they didn't evade valid questions.
The studio audience could include neutral academics or practitioners whom the moderator might call upon for insights.

Burin Kantabutra,

Malaysia drops in list of most powerful
Visa-free access to 180 countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 January 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 14 January 2019

One of the most widely cited measures of the strength of a country’s passport is the Henley Passport Index (HPI), which measures how powerful a passport is by its visa-free score, namely the number of countries the passport holder can visit without needing government-approved visas prior to travel.
This year, the Henley Passport Index (HPI) has listed the Malaysian passport as the world’s 12th most powerful, with visa-free access to 179 countries.
However, as a proud Malaysian, I was slightly disappointed when I noted that this was a drop from the 10th place last year, with visa-free access to 180 countries.
It was also a bit disappointing to know that the passport of neighbouring Singapore is currently the world’s second most powerful, with visa-free access to 189 countries.
Top of the list is Japan with visa-free access to 190 countries.
I did note a few reasons as to where and why Malaysia somewhat lags behind in terms of passport strength based on data from the Henley Passport Index (HPI) and credible news sources in the last few years.
To begin with, Malaysia is the only Asean country that has yet to sign a mutual visa exemption agreement with Myanmar, citing issues of large numbers of illegal Burmese foreign workers as the main reason.
Looking further at the Eurasian continent, Malaysia does not currently have visa-free arrangements with the economic giants China, India and Russia as well. Recently, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that Malaysia is “not yet ready” to grant visa-free access to Chinese citizens, hence China would naturally not want to reciprocate.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran did moot the idea of visa-free travel for Malaysians to the Indian government but nothing seems to have progressed so far.
Russians can currently travel visa-free to Malaysia but the Russian government is not reciprocating.
Although there was news about possible visa-free travel for Malaysians to Russia back in 2012, this does not seem to be the case now.
Further across the oceans, both the United States and Canada have not reciprocated Malaysia’s visa-free entry privilege for their citizens.
In Canada’s case, the visa requirement was apparently effected post-September 11, although Malaysians have recently found it easier to obtain visas compared to many other countries.
As for the US, the past three years have seen numerous talks about Malaysia being next in line to be included in the Visa Waiver Program.
Despite having fulfilled all conditions set by the US government, the Trump administration seems to be unwilling to lift the freeze on adding new countries into the list, preventing Malaysians from having visa-free access to even some unincorporated American territories such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.
I’m writing this to raise awareness and with the hope that our current government would seriously pursue visa-free arrangements with these countries, and more, for the benefit of all who are proud of holding a Malaysian passport.

James Ang,
Port Dickson,


Call for land rights for Orang Asli
Over native customary land in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 January 2019
First published in the Star, Sunday 20 January 2019

A candidate's statement in the Cameron Highlands by-election that the Malay community would not even buy kuih from the orang asli, let alone vote for an orang asli candidate is tactless and distasteful, and shows how our society has unequivocally failed them.
That a significant percentage of mainstream society would not vote for an orang asli candidate is not a sign that the candidate is unqualified or incapable, but that we as a society have systemically marginalised the orang asli.
A politician’s threat to stop the payment of stipends shows how the government has denied the orang asli self-determination and self-sufficiency and offered them handouts.
It is a sign that protectionist laws, policies and government agencies have disenfranchised the orang asli and given them welfare in place of rights.
Land and property laws and policies have demoted the orang asli from the position of guardians of their customary land to squatters who can be evicted by property developers and state governments and displaced at the convenience of the authorities.
Our orang asli need representation, the right to be heard and the right to control their own destiny.
What orang asli communities need are representatives in Parliament, government agencies and non-governmental organisations who can advocate for their communities and make decisions without fear or favour.
Fielding and voting in more orang asli candidates would create opportunities for the communities to participate in decisions that would affect their lives.
If there was adequate representation and autonomy, they would not have to resort to measures such as blockades and petitions just to get their voices heard.
Fielding just one orang asli candidate does not make us an inclusive and diverse society any more than giving handouts to Tok Batins make us caring and compassionate.
The fact that we are not fielding more orang asli candidates is an indication that we as a society have been deaf and blind to their rights, needs and concerns for too long.
The first step to recognising the rights of the orang asli is to prioritise their control over native customary land, and include and consult them in any discussions on land use and education processes and policies that affect them.
Until we have more orang asli voices in positions of leadership, the fielding of token candidates by political parties and coalitions amount to nothing more than insincere and empty gestures.

Wong EE Lynn
Petaling Jaya,


Call for release of Mali the elephant
From Manila zoo
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 January 2019

More than 35 years ago in a lush forest in Sri Lanka, Mali, a barely weaned baby elephant, was stolen from its mother.
She was transported to a zoo in Manila where she continues to languish to this day. Elephants are intelligent and very familial.
Can you imagine being separated so young from your mother?
Mali has led a sad life in captivity, alone, with no other elephant for company.
Mali does not get veterinary treatment even as thousands of caring people around the world have petitioned to move the elephant to a sanctuary in Thailand.
Many animal organizations have also tried to purchase Mali so she can be released, but the Manila Zoo refuses to let her live the natural life that she was intended to live.
Mali’s feet are sore and cracked from pacing the dry dirt in her small captive area.
Is there no compassion left for a poor neglected elephant such as Mali?
Please live with compassion.
Speak up for Mali’s release to Thailand.
Contact the zoo, tell them how you feel.
Contact local officials who can help free Mali.
Go see Mali if you can; it will bring tears to your eyes.
Animals suffer so much at the hands of humans who only think of their ego and greed.

David Knightly,
United States

The Philippines
Is not yet a full-blown dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 January 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Thursday 17 January 2019

The Philippines is not yet a full-blown dictatorship, but our claim to democracy has become tenuous at best.
Reliable figures are hard to come by in a country where surveys are predetermined by their “sponsors.”
Nonetheless, the headlines of dailies cannot but give a horrendous picture of the human rights situation in the former Pearl of the Orient.
New and old criminal cases overlap.
The Ampatuan massacre occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, in Maguindanao province. Thirty-two journalists are known to have been killed.
The trial in the town of Ampatuan drags on with not a single conviction in sight.
The powerful perpetrators have the money to cover the exorbitant fees of lawyers who see to it that they literally “get away with murder.”
On December 4, 2017, at around 8 p.m., Fr. Marcelito Paez, then regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, was shot while driving his vehicle in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
A day earlier, elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army and the Marines killed eight T’boli and Dulangan Manobo in Sitio Datal Bong Langon, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
The list of heinous crimes lengthens.
On record since the start of the Duterte regime on June 30, 2016 are 13 massacres, 216 political killings and more than 20,000 killings related to the ongoing drug war.
Obviously, the present regime is oblivious to the matter of human rights and morality.
More recently, nine farmers were massacred in Negros Occidental; a week later their lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was ambushed and killed.
Former congressman Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, together with 16 others, were also arrested and charged with trumped-up charges of human trafficking in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
On November 28, President Duterte announced that he will create an armed civilian group to counter the New People’s Army Sparrow unit, a group of urban assassins blamed for the deaths of security forces and former rebels.
The President said his DDS (Duterte Death Squad) would be sent to transport terminals, eateries and other public places to kill suspected rebels and even loiterers and junkies.
All these point to the blatant disregard for human rights by the powerful of the land who are supposedly chosen to serve God, people and country.
Thus, the importance of Human Rights Day (marked on December 10); it is no less than a declaration of the universal and inalienable right to be human.
But, in the Philippines at present, such a declaration sounds more and more like “a weak voice crying in the wilderness.”

Fr. Wilfredo T Dulay
Religious Discernment Group,

Accountability and transparency are vital attributes
To Malaysia's constitutional monarchy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 January 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 14 January 2019

I must commend Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai for writing a couple of enlightening articles in his column, On The Beat, over the last two Sundays about the monarchy system in Malaysia.
The articles have helped to inform readers about how the system works and its relevance to our nation today.
However, it is not quite right to say that “our Malay monarchy dates to the 15th century...”
The first sultanate that emerged in the Malay peninsula was the Kedah Sultanate in 1136.
The ruler was Sultan Mudzaffar Shah who was on the throne till 1179.
The Kedah Sultanate has an unbroken lineage centring on the same dynasty, which makes it, arguably, the oldest sultanate in the world today.
From historical records, we know that it exercised effective domestic jurisdiction and attended to the needs of the people, including building the famous Wan Mat Saman canal in 1885 that irrigates a huge expanse of padi land from northern to central Kedah.
It also established bilateral and regional relations with other kingdoms.
In discussing the Malaysian monarchy, it is also important to emphasise that as constitutional monarchs, accountability and transparency are vital attributes.
It is these attributes that distinguish constitutional monarchies from their feudal predecessors.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
Kuala Lumpur,



Malaysia concerned at plight of ethnic Uyghur Muslims
In China
The Southeast Asian Times , Thursday 17 January 2019
First published in the Star, Sunday 13 January 2018

The Movement for an Informed Society Malaysia (Wadah) is troubled and alarmed concerning the plight of ethnic Uyghur Muslims as reported worldwide.
Wadah urges China and the international community to act to end the oppression and persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The UN estimates one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims are being held in detention arbitrarily in internment camps all over Xinjiang.
China has admitted to the existence of these ethnic prison system but termed them as "re-education camps".
"Re-education camps" are chilling because it reminds the world of the harsh "gulags" and the cruel concentration camps of the past.
Camps renown for enforcing thought control, collective punishments, torture and even death.
Whole families are reported to have disappeared behind these detention centre walls.
It is grave and severe because the arrests involve wide swathes of the minority ethnic Muslims.
The personal beliefs, culture, language, rituals and even appearances of Uyghurs are being targeted and used as flimsy grounds for detention in such camps.
Daily prayers, growing beards, dressing and even fasting in the month of Ramadan have been astonishingly criminalised by Chinese authorities.
These are the dreadful forms of mistreatment and persecution of minority citizens in China at present.
China need not be in a state of enmity and confrontation with its minorities, Muslims and even the religion of Islam.
China has a rich cultural history, a strong and stable government, and is a world economic power.
It can celebrate diversity and inclusiveness of its vast population. Muslims and Islam have existed in China throughout its history and even during challenging and turbulent times.
China has to come to terms with its own minority citizens by tolerating and respecting their religion, culture and languages while always safeguarding the foundations of the nation, preserving loyalty to the country, upholding the national language and acquiescing to central administration.
It can reconcile to live together peacefully with mutual trust by observing and adopting strength through diversity within the framework of national unity. Unity in diversity is workable and Malaysia is a fine example.
Wadah would like to urge China to take the path of peace, engagement, dialogue, reconciliation, mutual respect and building mutual trust with its religious minorities so as to be an example to the world for sustaining a great and prosperous country together. This path will definitely boost and greatly complement China’s ambitious world economic initiative.

Ahmad Azam Abrahman,
President of Wadah,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for reconsideration
Of phasing out of palm oil
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 January 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 5 Jan 2019

This is an open letter to the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt.
It was reported that the European Union has decided to phase out the use of palm oil by 2030.
It is understandable that the Western edible oil industry has launched a vicious campaign against palm oil out of commercial interest.
But when governments side with the for-profit industry in phasing out the import of palm oil without careful consideration of the facts, then it calls into question fairness and democratic principles that Western countries often preach.
Campaigns against palm oil have been mainly on two issues.
First, the deforestation and environmental destruction caused by oil palm cultivation. Second, the high saturated fats content in palm oil, which is deemed unhealthy.
It is true that in the past, vast pieces of land had been cleared for oil palm cultivation.
That was during the administration of the previous government.
Our present government is different. Environmental and health protection takes precedence now.
Criticism of Malaysia’s fast deforestation has been unfair. According to a World Bank report in 2018, 67.6 percent of the total land area in Malaysia comprises forests.
In contrast, for Britain it is 13percent, France (31percent), Germany (32.7percent), Italy (31.6percent), United States (33.9percent), and Canada (38.2percent).
Furthermore, livestock and soy farming in the west cause more deforestation than oil palm cultivation. Canola, soy and corn plants use more pesticides and herbicides than oil palm.
The criticism towards palm oil as unhealthy because of its high content of saturated fats has flaws.
The lipid or cholesterol theory of heart disease is paradoxical to the understanding of human physiology.
Our liver has to synthesise the different types of cholesterol to maintain normal physiology.
In 2015, the US and British governments lifted butter, eggs, meat, etc, from the ‘naughty food list’, when studies contradicting the lipid/cholesterol theory of heart disease started to surface in the preceding years.
In 2017, the British Royal Pharmaceutical Society pronounced the cholesterol theory of heart disease dead, effectively stating that cholesterol was not the cause of heart disease.
Malaysians have been consuming palm and coconut oils (both high in saturated fats) all our lives.
The prevalence of heart disease here is much lower than in western countries that consume more canola, soy and corn oils (mostly from genetically modified crops).
Claims that canola and other oils with unsaturated fats are healthy have no support from any proper study.
In fact, the Lauretti and Pratico study in 2017 published in the Journal of Scientific Reports associated consumption of canola oil with worsening memory and learning ability and weight gain in an animal study.
Another study in 2014 by Marchese and colleagues found vitamin E in canola, soybean and corn oils associated with rising incidences of lung infection and asthma.
However, vitamin E from olive and sunflower oils (both non-GMO) improves lung functions.
Palm oil has the best source of vitamin E because it consists of tocotrienols and tocopeherols.
Corn oil has a small amount of tocotrienols while canola and soybean oils have none, but only tocopherols, making the quality of vitamin E in these oils of inferior quality.
Incidentally, Malaysia’s vitamin E, extracted from palm oil, is the best in the world. There are several studies pointing to the other benefits of palm oil other than high-quality vitamin E.
The intention here is to make the case for palm oil and not impose on consumers in Europe what oil they should consume.
It is an appalling lack of consideration for governments to ban the import of palm oil.

Capt Dr Wong Ang Peng (Rtd.,)
President, Society of Natural Health Malaysia,
Member, National Patriot Association,
Kuala Lumpur,



Call for new Malaysian government
To seriously address bread and butter issues
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 January 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 9 January 2019

We have emerged from a year of tumultuous happenings, including the dethroning
of the previous political regime that had been in place for more than 60 years.
The new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has promised to stop the rot of
corruption by cleansing the system and putting in place a governance of
integrity and accountability to create an affordable and harmonious life for
The initial euphoria of bringing down a corrupt government and bringing to
justice those responsible for nonfeasance, malfeasance, and misfeasance is now
wearing off as reality sets in.
Except for the unshackling of the press, the reinstatement of the rule of law,
the transparent and ethical stance of governance, there are no tangible benefits
for the common man.
The common man is concerned with survival, or at least having an affordable life that would enable him to put food on the table, give his children a proper education, and provide shelter and affordable health care, among other basic necessities.
His main concern is the spiralling cost of living that will adversely affect his
standard of living.
He is not concerned about institutional changes or that cleansing the system is a prelude to a better life.
That stopping the haemorrhage of government finance as a result of corrupt practices will make available monies for people-centric development.
I doubt most ordinary people can comprehend what sort of a burden that a RM1
trillion national debt courtesy of the previous government is.
They know it is wrong to amass wealth at the people’s expense but the source of the monies, which could be from unknown illegal sources, does not impact directly on them.
If it had been monies from their personal accounts or their salaries deducted to
meet these expenses, it would have caused an uproar.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must seriously address bread and butter issues.
They must first address the spiralling cost of living, which could be due to profiteering.
The B40 (lower income group) does not care about the mechanics of a market
economy that is based on supply and demand and the principle of profit
Nor do they care that some of these factors affecting price movements are beyond
the government’s control, the result of the volatility of external economic
What the middle income and B40 groups in society want is for the government to ensure that essential commodities are affordable.
To this effect, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must start getting its act together.
The component parties must stop bickering about positions and who is going to be the next Prime Minister.
They must start serving the people who put them in power in the first place.
Thus, it behoves the ministers of the relevant ministries to start implementing
strategies to address the economic woes of the people by curbing profiteering
and creating jobs, especially for unemployed graduates.
Granted that the government is currently preoccupied with cleaning out the
systemic rot left by the previous regime, but at the same time, it needs to be
innovative in addressing pertinent issues and implement strategies for the
immediate benefit of the people.

Mohmed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Physcholologists call for government
To decriminalise drug addiction in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 January 2019

Malacañang does not intend to change the government’s approach to drug addiction even as a group of psychologists objected to its criminalization.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained that the government’s policy on drug addiction has been effective, contrary to the claim of the Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP).
“Ineffective where?
Why not?
We have reduced, dismantled in fact a huge chunk of the illegal drug apparatus,”
he told a press briefing.
The Palace made the remarks following the Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP) recommendation that the government amend Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, to align it with RA 11036, or the Philippine Mental Health Law.
More humane approach.
The group of psychologists also proposed that the government shift to a more “humane” approach and deal with “social issues that perpetuate addiction such as poverty and unemployment.”
The Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP) added that the public’s exposure to summary executions of drug suspects would desensitize the public to violations of human rights, and that the lives of innocent people were mere collateral damage.
The Palace, however, challenged the group of psychologists to come up with an alternative instead of claiming that criminalizing drug addiction ran counter to the definition of addiction or substance use disorder in RA 11036.
“When you say you cannot solve the drug problem, what’s their alternative proposal?
They are not saying anything,”
Panelo said.

Julie M. Aurelio,

The closure of Rizal Park on New Year’s Day
To the detriment of Manila dwellers
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 11 January 2019

Barricading Rizal Park for the New Year’s Day celebration represents another modification to the park’s running that is to the detriment of the recreational experience of park visitors.
I say “another” because, through the years, the park committee has set measures that did much disservice to the purpose of the country’s prime freedom park, such as closing it for the night and perennially fencing off large sections for overdue regreening.
Rizal Park has been the breathing space for us Manila dwellers who need to unwind and recharge from our daily urban stress.
It is our sole place for rest and relaxation; this we cannot avail ourselves of in other parks in the western section of Metro Manila.
For decades, both city inhabitants and visitors have spent Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in Luneta.
These holidays serve as our sabbath after a whole year of preoccupation.
Also, we do not come only for the purpose of rest:
We are also festive, fired up by the jovial thought that the holidays are special days when everyone is merry and benevolent toward each other.
With the influx of the crowd comes the recurring littering problem.
Nonetheless, the decision to close down Luneta’s main grounds for New Year’s Eve speaks poorly for the administrative integrity of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC).
Instead of implementing measures to discipline and educate parkgoers to prevent the mess from happening again, the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) deprived the public of the chance to enjoy the park’s amenities which, in the first place, are supposed to benefit the people.
The committee ought to let the people use the park, while also working to educate them on how to help maintain order and cleanliness in the place.
I hope the new administrative measures of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) will not change the purpose of Rizal Park a park built for the benefit and enjoyment of all Filipinos.

Francis Raymund M. Gonzales,

In praise of whistleblowers, witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers
Against plunderers and murderers in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 10 January 2019

Congratulations to the Inquirer for its news feature on the four judges who “gave hope in the fight against impunity” in 6 January 2019.
Seeing their pictures prominently displayed, I realized that there are real people who are determined to provide justice for the victims of cruelty and oppression.
The story made me remember the God of scriptures who “rescued his chosen people from their suffering.”
May I take this opportunity, please, to suggest that you also feature the stories of those who work hard behind the headlines for the sake of the hapless victims of cruelty and injustice, like the whistleblowers, the brave witnesses, the prosecutors, and the lawyers who work hard to prepare airtight cases against plunderers and murderers.
Surely their stories will inspire many Filipinos like me not to lose hope but to go on.
Featuring their stories will be a kind of affirmative journalism in these days of cruelty and impunity.

Mariano F. Carpio,

Philippines kowtowing to Tokyo for fear
Of losing economic favours
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 January 2019
First published in the Philippines, Wednesday 9 January 2019

Once again, our government is kowtowing to Tokyo by telling Filipinos to keep in mind that the Japanese government is our “strategic ally” (“Laguna statue part of freedom of expression—Panelo,” ) in Philippine, Tuesday 1 January 2019.
Salvador Panelo also warned Filipinos against “unduly politicizing an issue which has already been addressed.”
The world knows the issue has not been addressed properly.
Sure, Panelo is just doing his job, which includes bending over backward for this shameless, unscrupulous administration by making absurd pronouncements.
Just like the time earlier this year when a “comfort woman” statue installed by a patriotic group on Roxas Boulevard was swiftly removed by the Manila authorities, this wariness to offend the Japanese government for fear of losing its economic assistance is part of a pattern.
Unlike Germany, which long ago apologized and made restitution for its war crimes, the world knows that Japan has refused to acknowledge its atrocities during World War II.
Its leaders have long failed to make an official apology to the victims. It thinks it’s done enough by doling out some amounts of recompense (not officially but from private organizations).
Incidentally, the euphemistic tag for those victims should never have been used - “comfort” was only derived by Japanese soldiers by prostituting girls and women who experienced great pain and misery.
For Panelo to declare that “Japan, after all, has paid dearly for its past deeds, which includes giving reparations” is as ridiculous as the man and his boss. Sadly, the Laguna statue included an empty chair beside the seated woman so that people could sit there and take selfies.

Isabel Escoda,
Cebu City,

Call for Thailand to allow Saudi would-be-refugee
To seek protection from UNHCR
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 8 January 2019

Under military rule, Thailand has become cruel and heartless - repeatedly
colluding with repressive foreign governments to intercept asylum seekers and
send them back to face life-threatening dangers.
Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives,
deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm.
Thai authorities should immediately halt attempts to deport Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sunai Phasuk,
Human Right Watch,

Does Malaysia need to be declared an Islamic state
In order to live like good Muslims ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 January 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 5 January 2019

Because I am wondering what is it that is preventing us from doing everything we can to live as good Muslims right now.
It is by the grace and mercy of Allah that everyone, regardless of their ancestry, found their way to this blessed country the way they did.
The challenge of living together is a test by Allah where we are told to put our best foot forward, and let Allah be the sole judge of all our earthly disputes.
Those who call for Malaysia to be declared an Islamic state need to tell us by what definition of Islam is this state to be built upon, and if this move will isolate our country even further from the modern Islam embraced by the rest of the world.
As it stands, the rest of the Islamic world is moving to criminalise all forms of female circumcision – but Malaysia feverishly defends the practice with a fatwa that still stands today.
The rest of the Islamic world is campaigning to end child marriage – but Malaysia defends this as even a “necessity” in certain states.
The rest of the Islamic world has moved to end racism in their countries – but Malaysia insists that certain racial superiority over the land must prevail for the sake of social fragility.
An Islamic state led by politically-motivated parties whose priority is to exert power by policing morality instead of prosecuting corrupt leaders will be a devastating downfall for Malaysia.
Ibn Abbas reports that our beloved Prophet once said: The most hated of the people to Allah are three persons: A person who deviates into the unlawful; a person who seeks for the tradition of ignorance to remain in Islam; and a person who seeks to shed another’s blood without right of justice.
Why can’t we just be good Muslims in a progressive country that embraces modernity and is friendly with all nations East and West?
Because if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere, and seriously, isn’t that what we want?
For Malaysians to be globally savvy instead of a Malaysia that is paranoid and suspicious of everything that comes from outside our borders?
I wonder about the fragility of the faith of an ummah that is built upon the fear of humans and not love for God.
I wonder how they would fare on the stage of the great wide world out there.
I wonder about thought and how it can be frightened into obedience, or nurtured to imagine fantastic futures.
A future where people no longer need to be afraid. A world where people no longer suffer.
An end – as our beloved Prophet brought – to an age of ignorance, and henceforth, the birth of a great civilisation of knowledge and creativity brought about by the liberated imaginations of Malaysians.

Majidah Hashim,
Communications Manager,
Sisters in Islam,
Kuala Lumpur,

Sabah and Sarawak against Malaysia
Declared an Islamic state
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 January 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 4 January 2019

With reference to an article in The Straits Times, Singapore, on December 29, 2018, entitled “Malay group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) wants Malaysia declared an ‘Islamic state’”, we in G25 Malaysia are of the view that Sabahans will not accept Malaysia being an Islamic state and we are quite sure Sarawakians will feel the same way.
They have said the two states will leave the Federation if Malaysia becomes an Islamic state.
An Islamic state means an autocracy where religion dictates the laws of the country, with the council of ulama having the final authority on any legislation that the elected Parliament or the Cabinet wish to introduce.
The ulama council can also veto those it feels are not Islamic enough to be in the government.
Isma should make it clear whether such a system of governing will make Malaysia a progressive country with a strong economy to raise standards of living and build confidence in the future of the country.
Our view in G25 is that what Isma is advocating will lead the country to become a failed state with poverty and misery for the masses.
Isma may well get the one million signatures it is aiming for but mainstream Malaysia, which represents the majority, will not subscribe to its Islamic agenda. Malaysians of all races know that the country has a better chance to develop into a united and successful nation under the democratic Constitution that we have now rather than under a divisive Constitution based on religion.
Our people know that the reason why several Muslim countries became failed states is because they allowed the autocratic nature of religion to manipulate politics and interfere in personal lives.
All of them have bad economies because nothing works in their system of government.
Malaysia has done well under the Constitution, which the leaders of our independence, representing the three major races, created with the concurrence of the Malay Rulers, to be the foundation of a new nation.
The 1957 Merdeka Constitution is democratic in character, with all the provisions for a modern country. Its basic character has not changed despite the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and various amendments to a few articles.
Malaysians are determined that the Constitution must remain as our founding fathers intended it to be. The people will support amendments that are aimed at correcting past mistakes to make us a better democracy. We will not support amendments that will change us from a democracy to an authoritarian regime or to a theocracy.

G25 Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for approval of Bangsamoro Organic Law
In southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 January 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Friday 4 January 2019

Stakeholders of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) should be guided by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who urged Filipinos “to foster peace and solidarity among themselves by working toward the eradication of a mentality that promotes disputes among people, and regarding others as one’s own brothers and sisters.”
We cannot disregard the figures of 120,000 Filipinos who shed blood in war-torn Mindanao for more than four decades.
Let us put a period “sa ating mga kabaliwan.”
If we will perceive Muslim Filipinos as our enemies, not as brothers and sisters, we will never attain the path of peace.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) should be approved on January 21, 2019, via plebiscite by Filipino Muslims in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur; six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in Cotabato, so that they shall govern independently the Bangsamoro region, acquiring freedom from Imperial Manila and hoping to progress from “bondage to bounty.”
The pros and cons are working doubly hard to promote their interests.
The more than 200,000 members of YES to Bangsamoro in Cotabato City alone are actively campaigning for the law’s final approval from the Filipino Muslims.
This organization is also advocating that, upon the law’s approval, Islamic countries, banks and institutions - not China - should be given priority to invest or explore natural resources like oil and gas in the Bangsamoro region.
After all, both parties have common denominators (religion, traditions, belief, education, laws, historical background and aspirations).
The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) approval and successful implementation will be a template for federalism, which most Filipinos are skeptical about as shown in the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys.
Let our Muslim brothers and sisters govern the Bangsamoro region, no one else.

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,

Papua New Guinea watching how benefits of APEC
Outweigh the cost of hosting the APEC summit
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 January 2019
First published in the National, Friday 28 December 2018

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) year is winding down and officially ending on December 31.
The organisers and everyone who gave their best efforts in making this colossal APEC regional economic forum a success, might have taken days off work, refreshed and reflected gleefully on their achievements.
You did very well and deserve our congratulations.
What is coming next, of course, are months and years of action when the signed bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements will be implemented.
The hopes of seeing change roll-out are high on the lists of citizen’s expectations. The post-summit work on these agreements and whatever else is there to do, must start as soon as practical. The real setbacks are likely to be delays on our part in getting the priority projects moving in the first six months of 2019.
Papua New Guineans will expect APEC agreements implementation news and information to fill the newspapers, airwaves and websites.
This Government-to-people information and communication will help to keep the people abreast of how the different agreements are worked out and concluded.
Further still, the Government should consider creating an APEC commission staffed with experts, whose role will be to monitor and publish work in progress on all the signed agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MOA)
I am sure many of you will be keenly focused and watching how the benefits outweigh the costs of hosting the summit.

M M Ondassa,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea

Muslim insurgency airbrushed out of existence
In southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 1 January 2019

Re: "Xmas spirit a Thai virtue", Editorial, Monday December 24, 2018
In an amazing feat of journalism, the editorial of the Bangkok Post celebrating
the Xmas spirit succeeds in airbrushing the Muslim insurgency in southern
Thailand out of existence (on May 13 of this year, this newspaper published an
article titled "Muslim insurgent leader surrenders" but there is no Muslim
insurgency), airbrushing fundamentalism out of Islamic fundamentalism (Islamic
fundamentalists, who are the most intolerant and violent, are not called so
because they have a literal interpretation of Islam), and airbrushing Islamic
terrorism and its non-Muslim victims out of existence (the Thai citizen who was
tragically murdered last week in Strasbourg was not killed by a terrorist who
had sworn allegiance to Islamic State, at a Christmas market, shouting Allahu

Baffled Reader,

Shal Tharumalingham in Malaysia
Has two wishes for 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 25 December 2019

I still vividly remember waking up on May 10 with euphoria and an immense feeling of hope for our nation.
In the seven months since that fateful day, many things have happened, some anticipated and some not.
That’s life, for we can never anticipate everything.
There has been one constant, though, and that is continuous criticism of the current government, not only by the parties that comprise the Opposition, but also by numerous other groups and individuals, each with their own agenda in mind.
The key issue is that we placed a lot of hope in what is now the ruling government to turn the tide around for our nation, which was on the verge of being swallowed into a dark whirlpool under the previous administration.
Now that we have had a taste of how the current government is performing, we are beginning to see the flaws and shortcomings.
The reality is, no government is perfect, as there are no perfect human beings.
Yes, I agree that they are accountable to the rakyat in ensuring that they deliver on the promises that were laid down in their manifesto.
However, beyond that, what is imperative is how they administer and manage the challenges that they inherited from the previous administration; also, how they handle issues that affect the rakyat, eg, cost of living, protection of children and women, the welfare of all Malaysians in the B40 (lower income) category, etc.
I have two wishes for 2019.
The first one is that the respective individuals and parties that comprise Pakatan Harapan spend more time working together in rebuilding our nation rather than protecting their own agendas.
I know, politicking will always be present, however it is a question of to what extent and how disruptive it is in derailing the bigger agenda that the government ought to be focusing on.
For the ones who will be affected most if the government fails are the rakyat.
My second wish is that the government, Opposition parties, Non Government organisations (NGO) and the rakyat in general remember that we are not Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Murut, etc, first, but Malaysians first and foremost.
Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility to respect one another and work together to maintain the unity, fellowship and peace in our beloved nation, Malaysia.
Let’s all work hand in hand in turning the tide in 2019 to ensure that Malaysia returns to being a formidable country.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Shal Tharumalingham,
Petaling Jaya,

God have mercy
On Filipino's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 December 2018

As we face uncertain times, we entrust our nation to Your loving care.
We ask You to bless us with the wisdom to understand the reason why we are troubled with many social evils in this country.
God, what good will You bring out of it?
We pray for our leaders to know the right thing to do and for them to speak the truth.
Give them the hunger and thirst for your righteousness.
We pray, too, that all things that we decide or do in this country should be inspired by Your love and not by our selfish pride, arrogance and hatred.
God have mercy on us Filipinos.

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


Papua New Guinea commemorates the Gang of Four
To welcome in the New Year
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 January 2019
First published in the National, Monday 28 December 2018

While preparing to welcome the New Year, we will commemorate the lives and achievement of exemplary Papua New Guineas who were around at the time our country’s independence.
There are many Papua New Guineans who achieved many great things, but given the time and space we will only look at the famous ‘Gang of Four’.
The Gang of Four refers to a group of influential young civil servants who played a leading role in holding together public administration and public policy in the formative decade or so after Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.
When there was a top bureaucratic, government or diplomatic post that became available, either one of the four would make it to the final cut.
They are; Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Charles Lepani, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Sir Anthony Siaguru.
We already looked at Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Rabbie Namaliu in the preceding articles.
We will look at Sir Anthony Siaguru. Tony, as many called him, had a most distinguished career and in no exaggeration it is safe to say he was Papua New Guinea’s renaissance man.
The place and time of his birth is sketchy but his illustrious career truly defines him in every aspect as a lawyer and statesman who shaped Papua New Guinea’s foreign relations in the years after independence.
He was a torchbearer representing Papua New Guinea at the Commonwealth of Nations as its deputy secretary-general. Sir Anthony was a corruption fighter to the core who started the Papua New Guinea chapter of Transparency International and a business icon who started the Port Moresby Stock Exchange.
He graduated in Law at the University of Papua New Guinea and took further studies in Harvard, USA.
He received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1980, and as an Edward Mason fellow, was attached to the Harvard Institute of International Development.
Much earlier, Sir Anthony was a foreign service trainee in Australia in 1972 with subsequent short attachments at the Australian Mission in Geneva.
He became secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs when Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975.
Among his other achievements was the significant role he played in the negotiations between Pacific Island countries and Australia and NZ, leading ultimately to the establishment of Sparteca (South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement).
Sparteca, according to the Pacific Island Forum website, is a regional trade agreement established in 1981 to allow smaller, more economically-restricted South Pacific island countries tariff-free access for many of their exports into Australian and New Zealand markets.
It was Sir Anthony in his capacity as secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade who advised Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to establish diplomatic relations with China.
The relationship between these two countries has been cordial ever since then.
He had a short stint in politics.
Sir Anthony entered Parliament, winning the Moresby North-East seat in 1982 and served as minister in various portfolios including as Minister for the Public Service.
Following his departure from politics after the 1987 election, he joined Blake Dawson Waldron as a senior partner specialising in commercial law.
In 1990, he was elected to a five-year term as deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth.
After this period of service, based in London, he returned home to Blake Dawson Waldron again before ‘retiring’ in 1998.
Sir Anthony was appointed chairman of the Port Moresby Stock Exchange in 1998.
He represented Papua New Guinea on the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) Business Advisory Council. Sir Anthony was a member of the Policy Advisory Council of Aciar.
He was a prolific and respected commentator on national affairs and columnist. Many of his essays and collections were compiled and later published as a book.
As foundation chairman of Papua New Guinea’s chapter of Transparency International Sir Anthony launched the Integrity Pact concept, in which politicians were encouraged to sign an Integrity Charter at the time of the 1997 election in Papua News Guinea, pledging themselves to institute good and transparent governance.
I remember the Integrity Pact concept was also adopted by the Independent Public Business Corporation to use across the State-owned enterprises for good and corporate governance.
I pay great homage to Sir Anthony as our nation’s golden child.
Of the famous ‘Gang of Four’, he short-lived them all, yet his legacy is far reaching and monumental.
With the time and space, I could do no justice all the accolades of our great statesman.
As I conclude here, I quote part of the of Sir Anthony’s close friend Prof Ross Garnaut’s tribute: “He has been the decathlon gold medalist in Papua New Guinea’s national life since independence, earning points in each of many events.
“These essays have been selected from the weekly Post-Courier newspaper columns and from speeches in Tony’s years outside official life, mostly in the late 1980s and after the return from London in 1996.
“This is a highly-readable volume, clearly written, spiced with good humor and with points of reference drawn from the experience of the whole of humanity.
“It leaves the reader with a sense that, despite the difficulties, democracy is the most natural as well as the best of all the imperfect ways of organising the affairs of humanity in Papua New Guinea.”

Sir Anthony succumbed to cancer as he was undergoing treatment in Brisbane in April 2004.
He is survived by his wife Wilhemina, and three sons.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea

Peace negotiations between Philippine government
And communists important in 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 January 2019

I was just moved to give my opinion on the statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on the issue of “Duterte’s order to destroy Reds” that says “As a leaders of churches in the country, we are troubled by this announcement and the escalation of violence and violation of human rights that will surely ensure”.
Well, this kind of statements only gives the rebel group Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) the confidence to continue all their atrocities against innocent civilians specially those who are powerless.
These kind of words spoils them to do what they are doing now because they know that someone is still there to defend and protect them.
Yes, life is precious.
And human rights is a basic rights for every human being and I know that church leaders value that.
But what should we do if other don’t give importance on this so called life and continue to abuse, and disrespect the life and human rights of others not just once but for 50 long years?
Does the government have the choice not to destroy the communists if that’s the only way to stop them?
And yes peace negotiation is important.
But do we need to stick to this kind of solution when for 50 long years of going to the negotiating table nothing happens because the government is talking to insincere leaders?
Year 2019 is coming so soon, let us stop believing in impossible dreams for this group because if that is real, then 50 years of atrocities and lies had never happened.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,