The Southeast Asian Times


When China sneezes
The whole world catches cold
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 February 2020
First published in the Star, Tuesday 18 February 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak is now at the centre of world attention.
Apart from being a major threat to public health, the virus also has the potential to disrupt the world’s economy.
Already we hear from economic experts around the world that global growth will be revised downwards.
Major world financial institutions, including the Inter-national Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have announced similar conclusions.
Many economic sectors will be impacted.
This is because China accounts for a major share of the world’s economy.
It accounts for a major share of manufactured goods sold around the world.
It is true what they say nowadays: When China sneezes, the whole world will catch a cold.
The cold is more serious now, and there is no known cure yet.
However, as a result of the virus, we also see more unity around the world.
Many countries have come forward to help stop the spread.
Malaysia has also done her part by sending rubber examination gloves to help medical personnel in Wuhan in China where the virus was first found deal with containing the spread of the virus.
The measures taken to halt the virus epidemic are commendable.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for actions to mitigate the climate crisis.
The urgency in dealing with this issue is much less, as has been evident from the haggling at the many United Nations climate summits.
Again, China has shown better leadership in beginning to rein in its contribution to global warming.
The fact that the repercussions of climate can be devastating for the world’s economy do not seem to bother some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.
Perhaps this is because climate change is not something that is felt immediately, as in the case of the Covid-19 outbreak.
If the same urgency can be given to climate actions as the world is giving to containing the virus, we could possibly look forward to a more sustainable future.

Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim,
Fellow, Academy of Sciences, Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for global monitoring centre
For communicable diseases
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 February 2020
First published in the Star, Monday 17 February 2020

The number of people infected with the Covid-19 will undoubtedly reach 70,000, having passed 69,000 on Sunday.
We have seen the developments surrounding the outbreak and in general it is not entirely erroneous to say that we were not well prepared.
Not that we are undermining the tireless and commendable efforts that have been undertaken, but just like with any crisis, we try to mitigate the effects and contain the impact post-event.
Is a coronavirus epidemic something that has never been anticipated, predicted or warned about before?
For the longest time, scientists around the globe have been warning humanity about the emergence of new infectious diseases, particularly those involving viruses.
Our lackadaisical attitude towards the environment is regarded as the single most important contributory factor to the emergence of new strains of pathogens. Genetic mutations are occurring at an unprecedentedly rapid rate thanks to climate change caused by us polluting Mother Earth.
And almost immediately after the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) epidemics, again scientists voiced concerns about future outbreaks caused by possible new strains of coronavirus.
The question is, did governments take heed of the warnings?
What did they do?
We have seen tremendous progress in the advancement of information technology and telecommunications but the same cannot be said about the treatment of transmissible diseases.
This is largely due to these notable, fundamental factors: 1)
The amount of Research and Revelopment (R&D) in this area is far less compared with the effort put into telecom technology; and 2) R&D is largely driven by projected financial gain.
While telcos invest in developing new technology for future returns, drug companies only “invest” in searching for a cure for a known pathogen so they can see tangible returns once the drug enters the market.
In simpler terms, it is not feasible to develop a cure for something that does not exist yet.
The economic impact of the last two outbreaks, SARS and MERS, was more than US$100bil (RM414bil) globally.
This excludes any stimulus packages injected into the economies of affected countries.
For the Covid-19 epidemic, the figures will be no less if not greater.
If a fraction of this amount had been used a few years ago on researching drugs that could work against coronaviruses, we probably would be seeing more effective treatment today.
It is high time for all governments to work together and not in silos.
A “pre-emptive strike” in the form of a global centre of communicable diseases, manned by the world’s finest and equipped with the latest technology can be set up to monitor any unusual incidences; perform experiments to project future traits/mutations of pathogens; develop broad spectrum antiviral agents and other new forms of treatments including preventative measures/ prophylaxis; improve the management system of future outbreaks, especially containment; and maintain a seamless flow of accurate information to all stakeholders, including the general public.
Only then will the people of this planet have a fighting chance against future “attacks” from an invisible menace.

Dr Faizal Tajuddin,
Kuala Lumpur,

Thai military involvment in business
Is no surprise to Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 14 February 2020

Bangkok Post columnist, Thitinan Pongsudhirak has the bravery to say in his February 14 article "Underpinnings of a Thai mass shooting " what millions have known for many years.
The military's involvement in business is no surprise to all but a few totally uninformed Thais.
The vast majority of people are fully aware of their involvement in everything from broadcasting, protection rackets and massage parlours to tourist amenities, land deals and loans.
Many other civil authorities - from the police in all its guises, metropolitan and local authorities to even the schools and colleges - are also involved in general day-to-day bribery and corruption. This list of course neglects the biggest pig's trough, politics, which represents the main obstacle to reform.
It seems the perpetrator of last weekend's heinous crime was not some brainwashed religious fanatic, just someone driven to psychosis by the depression and desperation of the injustice dealt by his most trusted superior.
I have no sympathy for him, but more importantly he should have been stopped long before he started murdering people.
It is evident the authorities were negligent and likely far too busy making money or spending it to do their real jobs.
Maybe some good could eventually come from this terrible tragedy, but it will take brave people indeed to reform so many rotten institutions.

Fireman Sam,

Singapore has raised its virus alert level to orange from yellow
An indication of the seriousness of coronavirus outbreak
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 February 2020
First published in the Star, Saturday 14 February 2020

I refer to the report “Are packages from China safe from coronavirus?” in the The Star, January 31.
I am rather concerned about this issue as there is currently no point of reference on how to determine if packages from China are safe.
Such directions should only come from a health authority, namely the Health Ministry.
Are the assurances made by online shopping companies that the packages from China are disinfected prior to delivery reliable?
Are the precautionary measures taken by online shopping companies sufficient to safeguard shoppers from infection or does more need to be done?
I believe nobody will have the definitive answer to these questions until comprehensive research is conducted on the impact of the novel coronavirus which the World Health Organisation has named COVID-19.
Only the Health Ministry through consultations with national and international authorities on disease control, such as the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), should be authorised to issue statements as well as concur or deny claims made by online shopping companies.
Previously, it was thought that the quarantine period for COVID-19 was 14 days, but a recent report highlighted that symptoms won’t show until after a 24-day incubation period!
There is a lot we don’t know about this deadly virus.
It is therefore advisable for people in general to take precautionary measures to safeguard themselves.
As for online parcels and packages from China, we will not know the impact it would have on the purchaser or online shopper until it is proven that the virus is unable to survive without a living host, i.e. it cannot be transmitted via packages.
In the midst of this outbreak, there are companies that seem to be cashing in on the situation. Instead of showing social responsibility, they are making huge profits from the thriving sale of face masks!
Companies should actually be offering face masks to employees and the public as a way of showing that they care.
Singapore, which has raised its virus alert level to orange from yellow, provides an indication of the seriousness of the outbreak.
The orange alert in Singapore was last raised during an outbreak of H1N1 influenza in 2009 and 2010.
Deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak have now topped the 1,000 mark, hence it’s time not only for the government but also the private sector to play a more concerted role in curbing the spread of the virus.

Health conscious citizen,

Call to professionalise Thai military and police
"Lets learn from this massacre"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12 February 2020

I fully agree with Thai Prime Minister Prayut, who said, "If we had fully followed standard security procedures, we would have been able to mitigate the degree of violence where one soldier went on a shooting rampage that left 30 dead."
A single rogue shoots dead two people, arrives at an army camp an hour later, shoots dead a guard, steals war weapons and a Humvee, then goes to a shopping mall an hour away, where he kills and takes hostages - without being killed en route.
Was there nobody near the first killing, who could have warned the police?
Was there only one armed guard in the entire armoury?
Why were the gun bolts and ammunition so readily available, evidently unsecured? Why didn't the police and soldiers block him as he fled the armoury for the mall? This sounds like an operation from a James Bond movie, with a superman and inept authorities.
We have more army and police generals than all 28 Nato nations combined.
Is this the best that they can do?
The relevant House of Representatives committee should thoroughly, transparently, and quickly investigate their actions/inactions, and hold them accountable.
Also, our army's noble mission is to be Thailand's fence, defending us from foreign enemies - yet Nakorn Ratchasima's far from our borders; our "fence" shouldn't run through our living room, so to speak. Does the army have any military reason for being in that city - other than to participate in a coup d'etat, which by definition is highly illegal?
Let's learn from this massacre, and professionalise our military and police.

Burin Kantabutra,



Call for accountability in investigation
Of massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12 February 2020

I'm sending my utmost condolences, through the Bangkok Post, to the families of those innocent victims who were killed, injured and hospitalised by the senseless military gunman in Nakhon Ratchasima.
This shooting massacre must be remembered and its causes scrutinised without impunity.
I would like to humbly recommend to the government authorities to seriously consider and apply the concepts of "accountability" and "conflict of interests" in their investigation.
The Prayut government ought to genuinely pursue and turn the aftermath of this unprecedented crisis into an opportunity to "clean up" those government agencies and officials involved.


Australia urged to raise West Papua human rights violations
Did that happen?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 February 2020

I refer to the Southeast Asian Times headline article ' Australia urged to raise West Papua human rights violations on Indonesian President state visit' ( 11 February).
Did that happen?
If it didn't, why not?
Doesn't the human rights and the right of the West Papuans to be free of Indonesian colonial occupation and oppression matter?
Is Australia's relationship with Indonesia dictated solely by what's politically expedient rather then what's right under international norms?
It's shameful if that is the case.

Rajend Naidu,



Royal Thai Military yet to explain availability of weapons
To Thai soldier who ran amok in shopping center
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 11 February 2020

We are all too familiar with the events that occurred at Terminal 21 Central Plaza shopping center in Korat.
It seems that every article concentrates on what happened after the shooter arrived at the mall.
But what is not being mentioned is what occurred prior to his arrival. What we know is that he shot his superior officer and, according to the news article, he then stole a collection of arms and ammunition.
This would lead one to believe that he was armed prior to obtaining the weapons used in the attack.
He then took his haul and went to another location and stole a vehicle which he then drove off the base to the mall. So why was the soldier armed in the first place? As I recall weapons in barracks were kept in a secure location, locked and issued individually as needed. All transactions were recorded, and an inventory taken daily.
He then commandeered a military vehicle which should have been under 24-hour guard in the base motor pool.
Again, vehicles are issued per orders, signed out and in and the motor pool is usually under 24 guard.
He then left the base.
Now, from the time he shot the officer, stole the weapons, commandeered the vehicle and arrived at the base exit you are telling me that no one heard or saw anything that would cause alarm?
Hard to believe, huh?
If the weapons and vehicle were readily available, then the Thai military has a serious issue with security. I would hope that we will hear more about these issues but that's doubtful.
My prayers go out to the families of the victims.

Fred Prager,

Self-serving instinct to suppress bad news in China
Has an unsettling echo in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 10 February 2020

It is sad to learn that the doctor at a hospital in Wuhan who first brought the coronavirus outbreak there to the attention of authorities has now died of the disease.
Immediately after reporting the outbreak, he was forced by the police to accept a reprimand for "making untrue comments that had severely disturbed the social order".
This is a typical reaction from dictatorial regimes, and occasionally democratic ones too, prompted by a self-serving instinct to suppress bad news, irrespective of any risk to the general public.
Unfortunately, this tendency has an unsettling echo here in Thailand, where the prime minister recently warned that anyone criticising his government's handling of the coronavirus threat would face legal action for "politicising" the issue.
This "mind your own business" attitude is hardly likely to give people confidence the government is in control of the situation and is doing all it can to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Robin Grant,

Philippines dependent on neighbourhood bully
With one for you and two for me principle
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 February 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 February 2020

Now, why would Sen. Bato “Shit happens” dela Rosa’s wailing, whining and “hugot” lines about the cancellation of his US visa jerk President Duterte to shoot from the hip and find a target: the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)?
What is the connection between Dela Rosa’s canceled US visa, which is a personal issue, and the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a bilateral military agreement?
Such an irrational act by Mr. Duterte can eventually isolate us from the community of nations that is working to promote peace, unity, and cooperation.
For a Third World country prone to natural disasters, we need every ounce of help from the international community.
Unfortunately, puro atras si Mr. Duterte: atras sa Rome Statute, atras sa arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea, atras sa Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
We might end up totally dependent on the neighborhood bully that deals with nations on the principle of “one for you, two for me.”
On the one hand, Dela Rosa should stop harping about his canceled US visa.
He should take a cue from honorable and patriotic senior officials such as former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who, when barred from entering Hong Kong, left with their dignity intact, because they knew that nations have the sovereign right to choose the persons who can partake of their hospitality.
But, then, they are learned Filipinos who know and follow the rule of law.

Evelyn Silay,

Call for China and Australia
To rethink modus operandi against progressive citizens
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 February 2020

The Chinese doctor Li Wenliang ( 34 ) who first alerted other doctors about the coronavirus and was reprimanded by the Chinese State authorities for spreading rumours has died of the illness ( USA Today 7 Feb ).
When will the Chinese State begin to do the right thing by its best and brightest citizens rather than hounding them like criminals?
The wrongful treatment of doctor Li Wenliang should be regarded as a national disgrace.
It's time the Chinese citizens stop cult worshipping the Chinese Communist State as if it's infallible .
Hope the Chinese State authorities have learned a lesson from it and rethink their modus operandi against progressive citizens who think outside the ideological box for the greater good of the country.
The political leaders do not have a monopoly on what's right and good for the people of China.
( This has been well illustrated in the recent Australian mega bushfires where the political leadership had failed the Australian people by not heeding the prior warnings of climate change experts).
That must be Doctor Li Wenliang's enduring legacy.

Rajend Naidu,

Malaysia protects sovereignty against China
A dear neighbour whose friendship is cherished
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 February
First published in the Star, Friday 7 February 2020

We are now being inundated with an avalanche of information on the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Within this avalanche, there is a lot of “news” that is clearly false.
Those responsible for such news can be classified into at least two categories.
The first comprises mischief-makers who derive some cheap thrill from generating and disseminating fake news that creates fear and causes panic among the people. The law should deal severely with such individuals.
The second category may have a political agenda of sorts.
The purpose may be to cast China in a bad light, tarnish its image and project the Chinese government as incompetent and even dishonest.
The false information manipulated by this group may be very similar to the one used by the first category.
Both categories allege that the government lied about the number of fatalities, which they contend runs into thousands.
They suggest that the authorities were slow in responding to the crisis caused by the virus.
Attempts to reveal the “truth” about what was really happening in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, by some doctors and journalists have been suppressed and the “whistleblowers” punished.
It is not just the Chinese authorities that have refuted these and other allegations. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has publicly commended the Chinese government for its “swift action” and “extraordinary measures” in containing the infection.
The government has attempted to be as transparent as possible from the outset and has provided accurate information to the people.
It was the director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanam Ghebreyesus, who stated emphatically that there was no need for other countries to restrict travel and trade unnecessarily.
The coronavirus, he argued, should be combated with “facts not fear”.
And indeed, some of the facts are simply amazing.
Chinese scientists were incredibly fast in identifying the genome sequence.
Together with their Russian counterparts, a Russia-China vaccine is in the making.
Chinese architects and engineers have also built a state-of-the-art hospital in Wuhan in just 10 days.
Designed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, the Huoshenshan Hospital has a thousand beds and medical staff drawn from the armed forces.
The Chinese government is building another hospital with 1,500 beds which was scheduled to begin functioning on February 6.
But facts like these mean nothing to those with a political agenda.
The motives that shape their agenda take precedence over all else.
There is a primary motive out of which has developed a secondary motive. Discrediting China is part of a larger geo-political drive that seeks to thwart China’s ascendancy.
The aim is to ensure that the present hegemon, the United States, remains on top at all costs.
A host of measures and moves – some economic, some technological, some related to security and politics, others linked to culture and human rights – have been adopted by those who are hell-bent on perpetuating their hegemonic power.
This is why some of the distortions about the current coronavirus threat should be seen in the light of disinformation about the alleged persecution of the Uighurs in China and the so-called suppression of the people of Hong Kong.
The name of the game is the same: It is the targeting of China.
This primary motive has now given rise to a secondary motive.
In the course of fighting the coronavirus, groups in certain countries are displaying negative sentiments towards Chinese people as such.
This impacts adversely upon inter-community relations both at the global and national level.
At a time when China and the Chinese are leaving large footprints all over the planet, a deeper understanding of the civilisation and its citizens is what the world needs.
It is not in the interest of inter-civilisational harmony to view a community in its entirety as an adversary and try to isolate it.
Similarly, in multi-ethnic societies with Chinese minorities, the checking of the spread of a virus should not be used as justification to stereotype and stigmatise a community.
Seen against this backdrop, Malaysia, China’s neighbour with a significant Chinese minority, has done well in managing the coronavirus situation.
It has accorded priority to the health and well-being of its people and at the same time handled this cross-boundary crisis in a calm manner without any hysteria.
It has been sensitive to the feelings of China and its people.
Once again, Malaysia has demonstrated that it is possible to protect our sovereignty while respecting the dignity and integrity of a dear neighbour whose friendship we cherish.

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

Anything that affects China
Affects Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times Friday 7 February 2020
First published in the Star, Wednesday 5 February 2020

The recent coronavirus outbreak in China has triggered a series of drastic measures by the Chinese government either to halt or slow down the spread of the virus.
As the factories grind to a halt, we, in Malaysia, should be very worried about how this crisis will impact out wallets.
China is both our main import and export partner as 16 percent of all our exports and 19 percent of all our imports are to and from China.
It is our largest trading partner.
Our economy is intrinsically tied to China’s.
In 2005, we depegged the ringgit from the old fixed exchange rate within 24 hours of China doing the same.
Anything that affects China, affects us
Many of our national assets are now in China’s hands, such as Proton; while some others remain in our hands but run on Chinese money, such as the rail projects.
Back in 2003, when the SARS outbreak ravaged China, the country was only Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner, with Malaysian exports to China worth a mere RM25.8bil or 6.5 percent of total exports.
However, the SARS outbreak even with its relatively short lifespan of 30 months, managed to trim about 0.15 percent of Malaysia’s GDP in 2003.
By 2019, China had become our largest trading partner, and Malaysian exports to China are valued at RM138.9bil or 13.9 percent of total exports.
Alliance Bank Malaysia chief economist Manokaran Mottain expects a dramatic 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent cut in our GDP as a result of the outbreak.
Finally, Malaysia is a vital member of the five Asian nations that make up the global supply chain, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which are highly dependent on China.
Over the past two decades, change in trade composition between Malaysia and China has resulted in a premature deindustrialisation on Malaysia’s part, with China providing cheap imports for goods we used to make ourselves.
With that link gone, we may be facing a serious problem of shortages.
The fact that China is also Malaysia’s largest investor makes the threat ever more real.
It is not well-advised and even short-sighted for the Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali to say that the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak would not have any implications on Malaysia’s economy yet; nor for Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok to claim the impact of the virus would only be temporary.
It remains unknown as to how long it would take before the virus is contained or eradicated to safe levels, allowing unrestricted travel to resume.
As it is, the effects are being felt already, with the most conspicuous hit being the tourism industry.
With the government taking on such a lax attitude, many important decision-makers may be lulled into a false sense of security.
While blind public panic is not desired, we must also begin formulating a contingency plan for a partial or complete collapse of the Chinese economy.

Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon,
Deputy President,
Malaysian Chinese Association
Kuala Lumpur,

Chinese nationals have easy access
To tourists destinations in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 February 2020

Re: "Virus response highlights govt incompetence", in Bangkok Post Opinion, February 4, 2020.
Atiya Achakulwisut's column about the government's measures to deal with the virus being trashed on social media addressed the issue well.
From my point of view, the fact that thermal scanning does not exclude patients in the incubation period should also be mentioned by the government, so more people are aware.
I am also concerned about how much information people have about face masks. Only N95 masks can help prevent communicable diseases and despite many social-media posts about it, people still think that a normal non-sterile surgical mask will do.
Little has been shared about the use of these masks, the type, durability, etc.
Bangkok is home to a wonderful culture and traditions, where people mingle with each other at every possible occasion.
The city is known for its markets, for colleagues socialising, sharing food and friendly gestures.
However, with all this sharing, communicable diseases can spread easily.
Even though the new coronavirus is not as alarming as Sars, the fact that we don't have effective treatment, testing kits at all hospitals and there is easy access to destinations for Chinese tourists should be noted.
It will be appreciated if you can publish a column providing information on prevention measures, including details on masks and their usage so people can at least be cautious.
Prevention is always better than cure, and I'm writing this not to create paranoia but to help our society learn more.
I also want to say I appreciate the Bangkok Post's efforts to keep us updated with accurate information covering every little detail.

Dr Sithi,


Malaysians face greater risk of death on roads
Than contact with coronavirus (nCoV) virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 February 2020
First published in the Star Tuesday, 4 February 2020

On average, the number of fatalities on Malaysian roads was 16 a day in 2018. Many thousands more were seriously injured, some with life-long effects, which means they will never be able to lead a normal life.
Malaysia has been ranked as one of the top three countries in the world with the deadliest roads “We have the third highest death rate from road accidents”, in The Star, May 14. Yet, since the novel coronavirus outbreak, Malaysians have been in a state of panic even though not even one death has occurred so far.
Have we got our priorities right?
While the spread of the coronavirus is out of our control beyond taking individual precautionary measures as advised by the authorities, the incidence of road accidents and deaths lie in our very hands!
They can be reduced if all road users obey traffic laws and respect and show courtesy to other road users.
Just because the number of road deaths is not reported daily, Malaysians don’t seem bothered by them and ignore the fact that they face greater risks while on the road than coming in contact with the coronavirus.
There is so much of information circulating on the Internet and in Malaysian WhatsApp chat groups about the coronavirus but there is barely a word about the 16 deaths a day happening on our roads and highways.
Why is this so?
Perhaps we need a new wave of awareness especially in chat groups to warn Malaysians that they face greater risk of death each time they take to the road.
If we value lives which I’m sure we all do, shouldn’t we give serious attention and due regard to road safety rules and be law-abiding?
Over to you, Road Safety Department.

Pola Singh,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Thai stores to limit sales of face masks
To two packs per person
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post Saturday 1 February 2020

Re: "Human transmission of coronavirus confirmed in Thailand", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 1 February 2020.
With the World Health Organisation declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency, it's time we reflect hard with cool heads rather than a knee-jerk response.
To the media: Please do not update coronavirus news every minute.
It will only increase people's stress level and scare them.
What is more viral than a virus is fake news and rumours.
Be reasonable.
More people are killed in car accidents than coronavirus infections to date.
To opposition parties and their affiliated media: Don't just criticise the government for political points.
Help them; work with them to contain the virus.
Take actions by, for instance, handing out free face masks, send e-newsletters on coronavirus (prevention, symptoms, containment), set up call centres to assist with queries, use personal resources to aid.
It is of no use pointing out the previous government was more proactive than the incumbent.
To facial mask sellers and Chinese buyers: In addition to being distasteful, price gouging is immoral, preying on people's fear.
Likewise, Chinese people in Thailand need to be considerate in leaving enough face mask supplies for Thais, instead of emptying every pharmacy and convenience store.
Stores should limit sales of face mask to two packs per person.
To the government: In this situation, honesty is the best policy.
Most likely there'll be more infected cases and more deaths.
Accordingly, set up emergency centres across regions, provide free testing of the virus to patients showing early symptoms, and have quarantine sections in hospitals across regions.
Hand out free hand gels and facial masks.
The cost of face masks pales into comparison to the cost of infections.
The best the coalition government can do now is contain the virus until a cure or a vaccine is available.
The management skills used here will be needed for PM2.5 and drought challenges in a similar fashion.
To the rest: Panic isn't going to help anyone.
Keep yourself healthy; avoid crowded areas and spend less time on "low-nutrition junk news".
Indeed, from coronavirus and PM2.5 to droughts and bushfires, we must realise that these days our actions affect other countries and vice versa in a much more connected way, with predictable and often times unforseen consequences.

Edward Kitlertsirvatana,

Philippines call for South China Sea
To be named Asian Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 31 January 2020

We are happy that the brilliant Justice Antonio Carpio is back with his column “Crosscurrents.”
Ordinary lawyers, including those in government, should read his January 23 column, “Why great powers comply with arbitral rulings,” and understand that asserting our national rights will not necessarily lead to war.
I suggest that we initiate moves to change “South China Sea” to “Asian Sea” so that the world will know that it does not belong to China but to all the countries in the region.
If our national leaders will not help us, let us communicate with the leaders of proud assertive nations, like Vietnam and Indonesia, to ask them to file the necessary petition with the proper international body.
The world will surely help us against the big Asian bully.

Rene Torres,

Call for Philippine government to take action
Against Chinese aggression in Philippine waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 February 2020

I am at the state of questioning how the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) made the grandest welcome party for the Chinese Coast Guard which sometimes or more often shoo away the Filipino fishermen in the areas of West Philippine Sea.
They even use water cannon to stop them from fishing in our own territory.
I just don’t get the idea of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) when they made this warm welcome.
I understand that things will be solved in a diplomatic way however, in the case of Chinese aggression in Philippine waters it’s a different scenario.
There are laws violated.
Rights of Pinoy fishermen were put in to test.
Lives at stake.
Why can’t we make a solid stand on this issue?
Why is the government blind on this matter?
Why can’t we give the treatment that they deserve?
We are not here to start a world war III but I believe it’s high time to finally take the necessary action.
The action that the Filipino is expecting from our government.

Shermaine Anacleto,

American Christian conservatives
Embrace "go forth and multiply" ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 February 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 21 January 2020

Re: "China is facing a self-inflicted population crisis", In Bangkok Post Opinion January 20, 2020
China's population isn't growing fast enough to satisfy New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.
Like many other American Christian conservatives, he couches his "go forth and multiply" ideology in pseudo-scientific jargon and apocalyptic predictions of an "empty planet".
He makes no mention of the human population's continued growth, now 7.8 billion, and China's role as the most populous nation, currently about 1.4 billion.
Nor does Mr Douthat mention the strain this growing population has put on the earth's atmosphere, oceans and wildlife.
Instead, he focuses on the likelihood of a slowdown in the growth of China's economy due to an ageing population.
This obsession with perpetual GDP growth is what threatens to make the current Anthropocene one of the briefest of our planet's geological ages.

John Hail,

Call for taxi drivers and tour guides in Thailand
To wear surgical masks for protection from virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 30 January 2020

Thailand's very fortunate that we've had only a few cases of coronavirus to date but for-hire drivers, such as those of taxis, Grab, tour drivers and guides should wear surgical masks whenever they're in contact with others.
This is to protect them from possibly becoming infected from their passengers or tour members and to lessen the chances of them infecting others.
"The biggest concern that doctors have around recommending masks is the false sense of security that might come along with wearing one. There are a lot of reasons why face masks are not ideal: It's really hard to find one that fits perfectly around your nose and mouth or to keep it on for a long period of time," advises.
However, these drivers and guides come into contact with possibly hundreds of people daily, some of whom may be infected.
Thus, they must take all possible precautions, and the cost of surgical masks is affordable.

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for Philippine Department of Health
To consider travel ban ASAP
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 January, 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 29 January 2020

The Department of Health must seriously consider issuing a travel advisory/ban for airlines and travelers alike amid the rising death toll from the coronavirus that originated in China - and just do it ASAP.
Our people have suffered long enough from natural disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes, drought and, most recently, a volcanic eruption.
We do not want this killer virus to spread in our country, for Pete’s sake! People in airports, planes, trains, cars, taxis and even ships must be wary of touching surfaces that may be contaminated by it.
If we really need to travel, it would be wise to take precautionary measures and preparations like wearing face masks, using alcohol or sanitizer, boosting our immune system by taking appropriate vitamins and minerals, getting enough rest/sleep, and paying a visit to our doctors.

Ron Enrile Narca,
Advocacy group,
Philippine College of Intergrative Medicine & Homotoxicology,

Great offence to spread
Unfounded information
about Angkor Wat
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 January 2020
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Monday 20 January 2020

I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid.
Below is my opinion of the article.
It is obviously free for the Traveller to express its point of view and we can say that we prefer Paris to Barcelona or Borobudur to Bali, without any problem.
But to directly suggest visitors not to go to Angkor is highly unacceptable and a great offence rather than objective advice.
Furthermore, the suggestion seems to forget that Angkor, inscribed on the World Heritage List (Unesco) since 1992, has been subjected to permanent monitoring and consistent international expert evaluation for a quarter of a century.
And that an institution set up in 1995 for the protection and the management of the Angkor Site, the Apsara National Authority, takes care of the site management and maintenance in general as well as the maintenance of monuments, in addition to consolidation and restoration works.
One should not forget that the most important aspect is the international guarantee given to the conservation and enhancement programme of Angkor by the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor (ICC-Angkor) created in 1993, which meets every six months, under the co-presidency of France and Japan with the follow-up of Unesco ensured by the standing secretariat of the committee. Moreover, independent international experts regularly monitor and evaluate the entire site, report on the situation to the committee and make recommendations to improve the situation.
Nothing escapes their vigilance.
Once again, tourists are free to choose where to go and it depends on their preference and culture but the assessment of site to be visited should be conducted on an objective way and does not admit false information or approximation.
For sure much remain to be done in this immense and inhabited site (40,000ha, with 113 villages).
Any advice, any positive suggestion is more than welcome.
But it is not permissible to spread unfounded information and to call for a boycott. It is openly damaging the interests of the Cambodian people and the World Heritage.

Long Kosal,
Spokesperson, Apsara National Authority,
Phnom Penh,

Stakeholder capitalism finds market
In Philippine slums
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 27 January 2020

Two remarks overheard on the same sidewalk, a real one, not metaphorical, have stuck with me for decades.
One was from a girl of about 8 or 9 to another girl of the same age, about some people she had encountered who were “mayaman pero mabait”—as though rich people were rarely kind.
The other was from an acquaintance; dirt poor, he was asking a relative for money to buy a shoeshine kit so he could work.
His relative asked why he should give him money at all, and my acquaintance replied, “Kasi meron ka, ako wala, because you have it and I don’t.”
He said it as if existential reality made it necessary to give something unearned.
These thoughts came to me as I read the part of Michael L. Tan’s “Davos ‘astig’” in Philippine Inquirer January 22, 2020) that said “I do wish our economic and political leaders in the Philippines would adopt more of that spirit of World Economic Forum] (WEF) and ‘stakeholder capitalism’ with its philosophy that we’re in this together, so let’s all see what we can do even if the capitalists do end up giving too little."
What struck me was that parenthetical aside, as it implied that capitalists were obligated to “give” and give “enough”—and that anyone would readily find that thinking valid.
Is it some kind of universal tenet that one side of humanity should give and the other receive?
Why not make it so that both sides give and receive?
I read somewhere about a company that made a change, and made it so it both gave and received.
It’s a water distributor - one of those being pummeled with the presidential verbal sledgehammer.
It had a problem in slum communities in its concession zone.
Residents there bought water not from it but from vendors, who charged more than the company did, for water that was generally less than safe. Some also stole water from the company’s pipes.
The “capitalist” innovation now seems simple.
The company installed pipes and faucets in the slum areas and now bills the barangay councils, which then bill the residents.
The residents get clean water 24/7 at a cheaper price than they had previously paid, and the company has turned big parts of its concession zone into paying customers. Both sides give and both receive.
I’d call that company “mayaman at mabuti.”

Atis Altamirano,

Call for Thailand to stay alert
For coronavirus (nCoV) virus
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 26 January 2020

I applaud the work that the Thai Public Health Ministry has done in finding five coronavirus sufferers in Bangkok Post, January 25, but given that the disease is asymptomatic or nearly so for some people and it takes some time to develop, and the fact that Thailand is a popular destination for the people of Wuhan, it seems premature for the ministry to be boasting that their screening has been effective.
We need to stay alert and take the usual precautions wash hands, wear face masks and see what develops rather than assume we are safe because five cases have been found.


Laser guns purchased by Philippines National Police
Cannot detect jeepneys without headlights on at night
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 25 January 2020

President Duterte has stripped the Philippine National Police (PNP) of any more purchasing power over the possible “bukol” (kickback) in the procurement of “laser speed guns,” said to cost P950,000 each when they cost only P10,000 per unit in Davao City,
Explaining the issue away as a mere matter of “semantics,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson said the gadgets requested were not just “laser guns” but actually the more sophisticated “micro digital photo/video laser tech speed system” currently being used in more advanced countries that cost “about a million” each in Philippine Inquirer “PNP insists: No wrongdoing, only ‘wrong’ term,” January 16, 2020.
Thus, the Philippine National Police (PNP) was even going to “save” the country about P50,000. Ha!
The Philippine National Police (PNP) “wanted to acquire the latest equipment to stop speeding, drunk driving and overloading, which typically cause road accidents.”
It could not even detect jeepneys plying the streets of Metro Manila without their headlights being switched on at night!
More accidents have happened because of such wanton recklessness.
No high-tech, very expensive gadgets are needed there, but only their naked eyes!

Romano Morano,

Call for Papua New Guinea government to support
The Immigration Special Taskforce Rausim Alien
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 January 2020
First published in the National Friday 24 January 2020

It is not surprising to read in The National on January 20 that 20 foreigners were arrested.
It is the evidence of what we are seeing every day in urban centres and in some rural areas.
It is the result of foreign companies helping to aid unskilled workers abroad to enter our soil.
And on the other hand, it is the consequence of foolish frail government coordination of this nation.
It is interesting to see reserved business for the locals such as trade stores are run by foreigners leaving the citizens out of the business.
That is legally wrong.
It is apparent that foreigners are wandering around in rural areas involving in small sector businesses such as fishing, logging and running restaurants.
These nature of the business by law should be reserved for Papua New Guineans.
These are few of the million aliens hiding like rats in boxes, containers and drums to steal the wealth of our people.
I would like to ask these simple questions;
How are they entering Papua New Guinea and for what reason?
How can we get rid of these aliens to recoup our small business rightfully ours?
What is governments plans on addressing this issue?
Can the Government, through its relevant authorities, look into this before we become foreigners on our own land?
On that token, the Government should take tough legal actions on foreigners entering the country illegally.
Before allowing foreigners in, the immigrants should sit for the English language test.
If they fail the test, refuse their entry.
Allow qualified professionals to come and build this nation.
Those who have empathy to help without the intention to take.
The laws concerning foreigners and employments should be given more teeth to bite.
These laws should make foreigners think twice before entering the country.
If we cannot control the influx of foreigners, we will end up working for them.
I appeal to the Government to prop up a Taskforce Rausim Alien with logistics and finance support to do a good job.

Eric Mumson Piuk,
Gerehu Stage 5,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea

Call for Malaysia's Ministry of Health
To ensure that nCoV will not enter Malaysian
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 January 2020
First published in the Star Wednesday 22 January 2020

As the spread of the H1N1 virus remains a risk, it is vital for the Health Ministry (MoH) to improve on the efficiency of giving updates as well as the provision of vaccine supply.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) had claimed that they needed more time to confirm the cases and to collect relevant statistics before giving updates on the current situation.
This is largely worrying, because updates being untimely may lead to anxiety and uneasiness among the masses.
The Influenza A disease has been around for over one month, yet the MoH appears to not be in step with the current developments.
As new infections are being reported daily, the MoH cannot afford to just continue standing around collecting data, while there is no mechanism to generate a daily update on the latest statistics.
As MCA had previously suggested – form a H1N1 taskforce. Form a team specifically for H1N1-related issues and provide updates, so that there is an official portal for the dissemination of information and news.
If the MoH had been giving daily updates on the H1N1 and the vaccine supply, it would not have devolved into today's state of public uneasiness.
Besides that, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad has been reassuring the public that vaccine supplies in government hospitals would be sufficient; yet on the other hand, his deputy Dr Lee Boon Chye admitted to the shortage of vaccine in the market and spoke of how drug manufacturers are working to meet the demands. Subsequently, Dr Dzulkefly on 22 Jan 2020 said that vaccines are now being imported from overseas. This shows that there was not enough vaccines to start with.
Despite people speaking of vaccine and medicine shortage in both government hospitals and private clinics since December 2020, MoH failed to heed the warnings, leading to this last-minute effort to import vaccines.
Regardless, the MoH performed satisfactorily in the wake of the new Wuhan Coronavirus (nCoV) by swiftly implementing a 24-hour surveillance mechanism at primary airports nationwide.
I hope that the MoH will improve itself further, and ensure that the nCoV will not enter Malaysian borders.

Datuk Dr Lee Hong Tee,
MCA central committee member,
MCA social development committee chairman,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines Commission on Elections (Comelec)
Thinking ahead of comming 2022 polls
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 22 January 2020

It is laudable that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering holding early presidential debates, “Comelec mulls holding of presidential debates early,” News, January 14, 2020.
The earlier the better, because why wait until the 11th hour?
A different but related news item stated that the Comelec is gearing up for the 2022 polls.
That is good news, too, because even a party list group needs three years of preparation to seriously campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives.
The Comelec is a constitutional body that needs to make sure the 2022 polls are held as scheduled, and without worrying the populace.
We still remember reports from last year stating that the Comelec was in “a race against time on the printing of ballots.
It’s good to know that for the coming 2022 polls, the Comelec is thinking ahead of time.

Godofredo V. Arquiza,
Former congressman,
14th and 15 Congresses



Call for "The Kingmaker" to be shown
At the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 January 2020
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 January 2020

There are many bad things going on in this country, but nothing more nauseating than the recent award given to Imelda Marcos by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The media photos at the grand dinner for the Marcos family, beaming along with Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) chief Margie Moran, were totally disgusting, particularly at this time when Taal Volcano victims need assistance.
One could dream that the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) had instead shown at that event the recent foreign documentary “The Kingmaker.”
But that, of course, would not have happened, given the servility displayed by Filipino officials with short memories.
But thankfully, the film is now scheduled to be shown in Manila on January 29.
I saw it some months ago in the United States and wished it could be shown throughout our country to remind people of the dark era when the Marcoses were in power.
There is a superb account of the building and collapse of the Manila Film Center by Tats Manahan in the November 2015 issue of Rogue magazine.
It chronicles how Imelda dreamed of putting up, next to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), a Parthenon-like structure to be a “filmmakers’ wonderland.”
With the grand opening scheduled for January 1982, 4,000 workers in seven shifts were tasked with finishing the construction on time.
In November 1981, the scaffolding on one floor collapsed, burying hundreds of men in the rubble.
Rescue efforts were slow.
There is only one extant photo taken by a TV network, showing a man being pulled out of the rubble - an engineer ironically named Benigno Aquino, who died in the hospital.
Since martial law was in place, Imelda ordered a news blackout to keep the public from learning about the incident.
Rescue efforts were stopped so the rebuilding could continue, but it was known that 169 men were unaccounted for and left buried in the rubble.
The grand opening was held on time, with foreign film celebrities like George Hamilton, Brooke Shields and Jeremy Irons being flown in for free by Philippine Airlines.
In 1990, an earthquake and a fire made the Film Center unstable, but after some restoration work, Imelda allowed soft porn to be shown to the public to raise revenue.
Manahan recounts exorcism rites being held in the film center, with Imee Marcos supervising. To this day it’s believed the ghosts of the buried men hover over the doomed building, a testament to Imelda’s entombed dreams.
There were a few muted cries at the time over the millions being spent on what the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. had called Imelda’s “edifice complex.”
Today, Imelda is being feted for her supposed contribution to the arts.
One really has to wonder if and when Filipinos will ever gain some self-respect.

Celeste T. Cruz,

Philippine nationalism
Only good during crises
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 15 January 2020

This refers to the editorial “Unfolding crisis” in Philippine Inquirer January 15, 2020.
It is now a common narrative that national unity comes to the fore when we are faced with natural disasters.
But this, in my view, is an artificial response - a pretentious, even scandalous, display of nationalism because it is only good during crises.
I consider this a case of unrealistic optimism, for after the crisis, we regress to our most habituated ways of responding - to sit complacently.
Our sense of national unity should be a daily habit and should find its deep roots in our culture.
Akin to optimism is opportunism during disasters.
We have the propensity to make sick jokes, which pop up in the immediate aftermath of catastrophe.
During disasters, news sensationalism, rumor-mongering, unverified tales and offensive gags quickly thrive in the country and on social media.
It may be a coping mechanism, but I consider it an unhealthy routine to find the suffering of others funny.
Disasters such as the Taal volcanic eruption in Batangas should provide us both optimism and opportunism - that is, for us to be optimistic that we can rebuild the lives of the evacuees and victims, and the opportunity for us to show our “bayanihan” spirit without much fanfare and political undertones.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Assistant City Council Secretary,
Marikina City,



Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon water diversion project
Not in line with 1995 Mekong agreement
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 January 2020

Reference is made to the recent media report in which it is announced that by 2022, as a key project, the first phase of the water diversion project of the Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon project will be implemented at a cost of 158 million baht.
This controversial project pops up at regular intervals.
The last time was in 2016 after which it was dumped following protests from farmers in the North and environmentalists questioning whether the benefits of such a costly commercial investment would ever be recovered by cash-poor farmers to pay for the pumped Mekong water in their paddy-fields.
But since this project is challenged by Section 5 (Reasonable and Equitable Utilisation) of the 1995 Mekong Agreement and apparently not in line with the water utilisation project (Section 26 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement) signed by all four member countries, it is questioned whether this ambitious water-diversion project would be harmful to downstream countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, which are equally in dire need of water.
The government of Thailand is searching all means to stop the silt progressing in the Chao Phraya River but gives little or no concern for the downstream Mekong countries which are struggling as well to keep their Mekong Delta free of intruding seawater.
The Mekong Delta with its two to three crops a year is the rice barn of Vietnam and is at stake.
Water-diversion projects (during wet as well as dry seasons) are always subject to notification to the joint committee and, as good neighbours, such projects should show genuine concern for the harm and damage that could be caused to its neighbours in accordance by Section 7 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement (Prevention and Cessation of Harmful Effects).
This controversial Mekong-Loei-Chee-Moon project seems to be an uphill battle that will make nervous neighbours with many eyebrows raise. It may be the end of the Mekong River Commission!

Jacques Dezeure,

Philippines remind the United States that the Philippines
Is a sovereign state coequal to the United States
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 January 2020

This is in reaction to US Senate Resolution No. 142 calling on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions against Philippine officials in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Act.
The Philippines is a sovereign and independent state.
Even freshmen political science students know that the Philippines possesses the basic four elements and attributes of a state: 1) people; 2) territory; 3) sovereignty; and 4) government.
It is the third element that is now being challenged by this US Senate resolution.
ln general terms, sovereignty is understood as the inherent power of a state to control its internal or domestic affairs without external interference.
As a sovereign state, the Philippines possesses coequal status with the other independent states in terms of rights, privileges, obligations and duties imposed by international law, including international covenants.
One of the obligations of every state is to respect coequal states by not meddling in the other’s internal affairs.
This includes the manner and method by which that coequal state administers its government.
The authors of the said resolution seem to have forgotten that the Filipino people had already declared independence from the United States seven decades ago; perhaps they still imagine the Philippines as a colony of the United States.lf indeed the US senators have reasonable grounds to believe that the human rights of Sen. Leila de Lima were violated, there are diplomatic channels and international bodies that can properly investigate the matter.
But resorting to a resolution without even conducting an investigation is an act of intrusion into Philippine affairs and a mockery of our sovereignty.
Such unwarranted action by the US senators is tantamount to dictating on our Supreme Court about what to do with pending cases.
Trump, as the head of the US executive branch of government, should be circumspect and prudent in considering US Senate Resolution 142.
He should not forget that the Philippines is a sovereign state coequal with the United States.

Samrollah M. Dekire,
Pagadian City,

Praise for US President Trump
For turning America around despite CNN
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 10 January 2020

Criticism such as satire is a luxury enjoyed by those countries blessed with democracy.
However, like politicians, satirists mostly draw and write according to their own personal political bias.
They don't offer solutions to what or whom they criticise, they just simply criticise. Why?
Most likely because they don't want to be the target of what they themselves enjoy doing.
No risk!
President Trump, but for a few flaws, is doing a fantastic job in turning America around.
Yes, he stumbles once in a while, like all politicians, but look what he is up against. All the major newspapers and TV networks in the US, including CNN, are simply an extension of the Democratic Party's propaganda wing.
The only exception is one moderate cable TV station (Fox).
The majority, however, simply provide an onslaught of Democratic (aka socialist) Party satire and criticism.


Marcos son wants to revise history
Of his fathers dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer,Tuesday 14 January 2020

The Marcoses were able to bury Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani - heroes cemetery - in collusion with President Duterte - to perpetrate the lie, in a clear distortion of history, that Marcos the plunderer and human rights violator is a hero.
Now the son of the dictator wants to make the lie complete with his push to revise our history books.
We should oppose this sinister move of the Marcoses, pursuant to our collective responsibility to pass to the next generations what really happened during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.
Failure to do so may again allow tyranny to rule this sad land of ours.
We are now, in fact, experiencing a gradual descent into another tyranny, sadly because many of us are oblivious of our past and have really not learned the sad lessons of our history.
That Marcos was indeed a dictator who robbed our people of their basic rights and freedoms, who violated their human rights wholesale and who plundered the nation’s wealth is already beyond dispute as acknowledged by the Supreme Court itself in a number of decisions.
Speaking of Marcos, for instance, who on his deathbed had signified his wish to return to the Philippines, the Court declared:
“This case is unique.
It should not create a precedent, for the case of a dictator forced out of office and into exile after causing 20 years of political, economic and social havoc in the country and who within the short space of three years seeks to return, is in a class by itself.
We cannot also lose sight of the fact that the country is only now beginning to recover from the hardships brought about by the plunder of the economy attributed to the Marcoses and their close associates and relatives, many of whom are still here in the Philippines in a position to destabilize the country, while the Government has barely scratched the surface, so to speak, in its efforts to recover the enormous wealth stashed away by the Marcoses in foreign jurisdictions.
“Then, we cannot ignore the continually increasing burden imposed on the economy by the excessive foreign borrowing during the Marcos regime, which stifles and stagnates development and is one of the root causes of widespread poverty and all its attendant ills.
The resulting precarious state of our economy is of common knowledge and is easily within the ambit of judicial notice.” (Marcos v. Manglapus, GR No. 88211 Sept. 15, 1989).

Severo Brillantes,

Phillipines envious of ASEAN neighbours
Who show defiance against the common enemy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 13 January 2020

The editorial, “Sangley surprise” in Philippine Inquirer January 10, 2020, gave me mixed feelings of anger and sadness.
Anger because the present occupant of the palace by the Pasig with his much-vaunted bravery looks like a lame lamb who stoops so low and bows condescendingly before the giant dragon, while our neighbors
Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam are showing unmistakable mettle and defiance against the common “enemy.”
Malaysia is “unfazed by threats of Chinese reprisal.” We can only feel envy at the statement of Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah: “If we are to fear that, we will not submit our claim.”
The words of Indonesian Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan was more enviable. “I would not sell our sovereignty for investment,” he said.
I am saddened, because all these are in stark contrast to what the Duterte administration has been doing with regard to Chinese intrusion into and occupation of areas we have won in the international court of arbitration.
Mr. Duterte’s braggadocio that he would “jet ski” to our territory now appears like a whiff of hot air that has frozen in the atmosphere.

Ramon Mayuga,

Call for community consultation in Papua New Guinea
For mining mineral sands in Orokolo Bay
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 January 2020
First published in the National, Friday 10 January 2020

I wish to make a comment in response to the article in your business column on December 24 in which reported Paul Mulder of Mayur Resources Ltd saying that the intensity magnetic sepertions was purchased for the project to exploit (magnet) mineral sands out of Orokolo Bay in Gulf.
This project should not go ahead as indicated.
This is because there is no proper community consultation, including a proper land investigation report, and proper landownership identification and proper resource ownership investigation.
Environmental effect studies were not made clear to the community.
Was the environment licence (permit) obtained?
We fear the destruction that would happen once machines/equipment set exploiting, damaging grounds, leaving foot holes that would collect water for mosquitoes to breed.
Obviously, the ground holes will become swamps forever.
For the economic benefit, equity shareholding participation was not discussed.
According to Mining Laws of this country, any minerals discovered below 6 feet belongs to the State.
However, these mineral sands you are about to extract is found well and truly above a foot.
You know it.
Therefore, the community owns the resources in this case.
As I read your (Mulder) article, in this paper on Jan 9, you said, “Orokolo community will have job opportunities and spin-off businesses.”
You never mention anything about equity shareholding and partnership in this operation.
We would very much appreciate it if you would kindly respond to this letter of opinion for the best interest of this project.

Ohako Hoko,
Orokolo Bay Gas Pipeline Corridor Holdings Limited,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Air pollution from taxis, tuk tuks and trucks in Bangkok
Cannot be good for tourism
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 10 January 2020

I don't know about now, but in the past buses have been responsible for a lot of the dirty air in Bangkok.
I would like to suggest that the government send out teams of people to the garages where buses are kept at night to check all the buses in the garages even if it means going there after regular hours, so as to check all the buses that are either privately owned or owned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
They could do this for taxis, tuk tuks and trucks too.
In my opinion, air pollution is life threatening to us and countering it should be given the highest priority.
It cannot be good for tourism either if potential tourists come across an article that says Bangkok, as one did last week, has the third worst air in the world.

A Reader,

Papua New Guinea wants soldiers and firefighters
At home not in Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 January 2020
First published in the National, Thursday 9 January 2020

Rather than sending the 1,000 soldiers and firefighters to Australia, funds that will be spared for that exercise should be sent directly to Canberra to help Australia with the ongoing fire disaster.
Airfares would be paid return and of cause allowance also.
While we all sympathise with those affected, how much impact would our men bring with their physical presence?
The thought counts and sending money would make a difference to someone.
If a small country such as Vanuatu can be the first Pacific island country to support Australia, what are we waiting for?
Let’s be realistic, we need our soldiers to help police bring the law and order situation under control in the country.

Concerned tax payer
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Pension system in the Philippines
Is lopsided in favor of certain sectors
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 January 2020
First published in the Philippine Inquiry, Thursday 9 January 2020

It is traditional that as a new year starts, people are hopeful that it will be better than previous years.
We seniors are no different, especially since 2019 ended with portents of good things to come, like the enactment of the law creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens.
The commission is tasked to create programs that will provide more care for the concerns of seniors, including welfare, benefits and pension.
It will also reportedly look into the pension system in the country.
In previous committee hearings on the proposed law, it was pointed out that the pension system in the Philippines is lopsided in favor of certain sectors.
For example, while pensioners from the private sector and from civil government service receive their pensions from the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), retirees from the military and the national police service get theirs from budgetary allocations in the General Appropriations Act.
It has also been pointed out that retirees from constitutional offices get their pensions at a much higher ratio to their base pay compared to those receiving pensions from Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Such discriminatory practices should have been scrapped by now, since the Senior Citizens Act of 2010, signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, mandated that ALL pensioners (and this includes pensioners under the Portability Law) be given the same rights, privileges and benefits given to pensioners under different laws.
With Congress about to resume session in a few days, we seniors are hoping that bitter pills like the Portability Law and lopsided pension rates be made better-tasting by amending these laws, or enacting new ones to make our sunset years brighter.

Mafeo R. Vibal,
Vice President,
External Affairs Philippine Association of Retired Persons,

International corporations must comply
With the Malaysian Employment Act
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 January 2020
First published in the Star Thursday 9 January 2020

The Malaysian Employment Act 1955 defines a work week as 48 hours, with a maximum of eight hours per day and six working days a week. It also provides for 10 days of paid holidays.
A worker’s rest day should be respected, so if he or she is requested to work on that day, the law stipulates that the individual needs to be compensated with a wage payment at the rate of 2.5 times the normal sum.
Ten days of holiday a year 10 Gazetted Public Holidays is provided for all employees. A break of 30 minutes should be provided by employers for each five hours in excess of eight hours of work.
The exception to the eight-hour day is when the specific project or work needs to progress continuously over two shifts.
These rules are expected to apply to all government, commercial and industrial and other professions. The employer who violates or contravenes any provisions of this law has committed an offence and would be held accountable by the director-general of Labour.
All employees need to review their conditions of employment to ascertain that indeed these guidelines are outlined in their contracts. It is imperative under the terms of international labour laws set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations labour laws and Malaysian labour laws that these provisions be upheld by employers irrespective of their status.
These labour laws and working conditions and hours need to be upheld by all employers, including international companies or corporations operating in Peninsular Malaysia.
Conventions set by ILO are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states. Recommendations are non-binding guidelines.
In many cases, a convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries while a related recommendation supplements the convention by providing more details.
International labour standards refer to conventions agreed upon by international actors, resulting from a series of value judgments “set forth to protect basic worker rights, enhance workers’ job security, and improve their terms of employment on a global scale”.
The intent of such standards is to establish a worldwide minimum level of protection from inhumane labour practices through the adoption and implementation of the said measures.
From a theoretical standpoint, it has been maintained, on ethical grounds, that there are certain basic human rights that are universal to humankind.
Thus, it is the aim of international labour standards to ensure the provision of such rights in the workplace, such as against workplace aggression, bullying, discrimination and gender inequality.
Talking to various Malaysian employees, their families and friends, I have come to realise that some local employers disregard and blatantly ignore the above guidelines and terms of their employment.
They pay no attention to the Employment Act 1955 and its approved amendments made by Parliament.
The long hours and adverse conditions enforced on Malaysian employees, if allowed to continue, could result in a terrible health toll on them and their families.
The adverse conditions under which employees work should not be ignored by the director-general of Labour and the Human Resources Ministry.
Long working hours enforced by employers and the related stress can lead to increased incidence of depression and hypertension, which can subsequently lead to cardiovascular damage and stroke. This state of affairs would lead to loss of morale and less efficiency in the workplace.
The negative impacts on family life and health of Malaysian employees cannot continue. They should and must be corrected by stricter enforcement of the law by the director-general of Labour.
International corporations must also comply with the Malaysian Employment Act, including the provision on working hours.
Any international corporation that fails to follow the provisions of the Malaysian Employment Act must be cited and reported to the relevant authorities in their home country, for example the State Department in the case of the United States, for further action.
The long hours and working conditions of Malaysian workers need to be examined critically to determine a solution.

Dr. J.V. Ananan,
Associate professor (retired)
Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics
Wayne State University
United States

Victims of Australia's destructive bushfires
Angry with Prime Minister Morrision
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 January 2020

It is very heartwarming and uplifting to learn that Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has written a letter to the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrision expressing solidarity in Australia's hour of need in the current mega bushfires ravaging the country ( Fiji Times 8 January ).
But the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a huge part of the problem as many Australians point out in their letters in all the Australian newspapers.
I share their view.
In my letter published in The Age 5 January I wrote Prime Minister Scott Morrison " should hold himself personally responsible for his administration's lacklustre commitment to the climate change emergency in the face of scientific evidence. He failed to provide the leadership the climate emergency called for. That's why the victims are angry with him. They are right in directing their indignation at him".
The anger over his failure to do what's right is still manifesting and we are likely to hear more on that front.

Rajend Naidu,

Thai's warned against taking Australia's response
To climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 January 2020
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 8 January 2020

Extensive daily coverage of the bushfires emergency in eastern Australia has been well covered in the Thai media including the Bangkok Post.
However, apart from the main focus on the death, destruction and trauma suffered by thousands of Australians, there has not been enough attention on gross failures of leadership by the federal government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He has betrayed our people and the vulnerable environment which sustains our lives.
His role has been abysmal in terms of disaster response and, most critically, lack of action on climate change which is the biggest contributing factor in unprecedented bushfires affecting huge areas of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
Thai's need to take this as a warning for their wonderful nation, as Thailand will inevitably face its own increasingly severe weather events including more intense and prolonged floods, heatwaves, droughts, forest fires and air pollution.
It will require the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to set and implement a strategic pathway for climate change mitigation and adaptation, building the resilience of communities and ensuring better preparedness for, as well as response to, natural disasters.

Pablo Bateson,

Call for paradigm change in the modus operandi
Of the Australian defence force
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 January 2020

I agree with everything Jennifer Horsburgh says about the need for a paradigm change in the modus operandi of the Australian defence force in her letter to the Southeast Asian Times 7 January.
That would be the best way for the Australian defence force to serve the best interest and welfare of the Australian people on home soil.
That is the enduring lesson to draw from the bushfires currently ravaging the country and the deployment of the defence force to combat the calamity.

Rajend Naidu,

Call for Australian Defence Force
To be at the ready to fight fires at home
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 January, 2020

The Australian Defence Force should have been put on standby way back in September when these fires started, ready for deployment at a moment's notice.
It has taken far too long to get them involved.
Also we need a complete rethink of the way we spend our defence budget.
It needs to be redirected to buying thousands of trucks, and ships to transport people, goods, fuel, generators and animals, including farm animals, pets and wildlife.
And the army needs thousands of bulldozers to clear roads and firebreaks.
We need many hundreds of water and retardant bombers and helicopters equipped with smoke penetrating cameras and built to fly in all conditions.
All troops and equipment must be brought home from overseas because they are needed here.
And we need to keep out of foreign wars, because we are 'at war' within our own country!

Jennifer Horsburgh,

Forbidden for Muslims to wish their Christian friends
And neighbours a Merry Christmas
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 January 2020
First published in the Star, Friday 3 January 2020

I wish to commend my friend, Emeritus Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi, for his excellent article in The Star yesterday titled “Build bridges and dismantle walls” in the column Reflecting on the Law.
His article is most timely at the beginning of a new decade and should be taken seriously by all Malaysians if we are to move forward with peace and progress.
Shad has the intellectual depth, academic integrity and the necessary background to categorically reject religious bigotry and racism.
Sadly, these issues are not often openly addressed, as Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai wrote in his On the Beat column “Silence isn’t always golden”, December 29
As a patriotic Malaysian Christian with moderate views – and like most Malaysians, I’m sure – I am greatly encouraged by Shad’s positive comments in criticising narrow-minded guardians of religion who claim that it is haram (forbidden) for Muslims to wish “Merry Christmas” to their Christian friends and neighbours.
I have to ask: What have some of our so-called religious guardians come to?
What peace and national unity are they preaching, when Islam, as I understand it, is a religion of peace, harmony and good- will to all peoples?
Why should anyone from any religion who preaches hate be tolerated?
He should be hauled up and punished if we want a happy Malaysia.
We should all be true to our different – but often similar – religious teachings while isolating and rejecting the growing bigotry and rising racism to protect the well-being and success of our children’s future.
Indeed, the world is watching us!
Tourists will be reluctant to visit countries that tolerate hate and practise selectivity in the administration of the rule of law.
Visit Malaysia 2020 will lose its attraction if we have more hate speech, especially from religious leaders.
And foreign investors, already wary thanks to Islamophobia and its implications, will hesitate to invest in Malaysia, as other more tolerant societies will be more welcoming to them.
One of Shad’s quotes from the Holy Quran is, “So, compete with each other in doing good”.
But what goodness are religious leaders doing when they promote hate and strife?
As Shad also points out, our highly respected Council of Rulers, as the heads of Islam, can pull up those who preach and practise hatred that is based on religion and race.
Similarly, the Federal Government and all its relevant agencies should adopt a national harmony policy, as Shad suggests.
In fact, I was a member of the last National Unity Council that strongly proposed a National Harmony Act but nothing came of it.
Our firm recommendations to the previous government were ignored.
We thus concluded that national unity was only being paid lip service by the government of the day then.
Can this new government, in this new decade, give top priority to establishing this Harmony Act, to stamp out hate and to promote love and national unity?
It need not take long to introduce this popular legislation unless extremist elements with narrow and vested interests are allowed to have their way over the bigger national interest.
If that is the case, we the rakyat should resist all unMalaysian policies and practices, and do so consistently and always.
Happy new year, and may the new decade be filled with love and peace, not hate!

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

Duterte's circumvention of 2022 elections
Is at war with the spirit of the Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 January 2019

Manuel L. Quezon III wrote in Philippine Inquirer on January 1 “The problem of the split ticket” about Boo Chanco first mentioning a possible Go-Duterte tandem in 2022.
A president may not run for re election.
So the answer I prefer to hear from my students is that what he cannot do directly, he may not, indirectly.
Such circumvention is at war with the spirit of the Constitution, the obvious intent or rationale in running for vice president.
President Duterte, with his health issues, will be 77 in 2022.
Those who care for him should advise him to avoid further stress and the strain of leading what may be 110 million rabbits in 2022.
He may be even more cantankerous by then.

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Makati City

Call for Philippine Military to account for funding
For Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 January 2019

The Makabayan bloc wants the House of Representatives to investigate the government’s program that encourages the rebels to return to the fold of the law.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the manipulated photos released by the Philippine Army are proof that reports about the declared rebel returnees are not credible.
Brosas also said that the government allots millions every year for funding the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or Eclip, which provides assistance to rebel returnees, yet there is no auditing to ensure their proper distribution.
A hearing in Congress will allow the Philippine Army to explain its side. Editing photos and using them for press releases can lead to misinterpretation.
Our lawmakers should investigate this incident, and make sure the probe is transparent and open to the public.

Kareen Asistio,

Call for Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry
To monitor exploitation of migrant workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 January 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 2 January 2019

While Malaysia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nepal to adopt fair practices in recruiting workers from Nepal “Malaysia adopts fair practices in hiring Nepalese”, The Star, December 12, I wonder whether the Human Resources Ministry will monitor the situation to ensure that these foreigners are not exploited when they are actually working in Malaysia and that their terms and conditions of employment are in accordance with Malaysia’s Employment Act.
I have been in contact with a Nepalese man who is engaged in the security services here.
He has been working in Malaysia for about two years.
While he is not so conversant in English and Bahasa Malaysia, this is what I gathered from him about the terms and conditions of his employment:
He is paid a gross salary of RM1,700 a month.
He works 12 hours a day, seven days a week - that is, he does not get a weekly rest day or public holidays off or any annual leave.
RM100 is deducted from his salary for each day he does not turn up for work.
I presume he has “volunteered” to work on his rest days and on public holidays and to forgo his annual leave.
His employer provides accommodation and transport to his location of assignment and back to his accommodation.
Based on the current minimum wage of RM1,100 a month, and assuming that he is entitled to the minimum of 11 public holidays and eight days of annual leave under the Employment Act, he should be getting a gross salary of RM2,715.97 a month for working seven days a week, including on public holidays and during annual leave.
From the RM1,700 a month that he is paid, I assume the balance of RM1,015.97 is most probably used to pay for the accommodation and transportation that his employer is charging him for.
It looks to me like these terms and conditions of employment do not follow the Employment Act, so I suggested that he seek clarification from the Labour Department.
However, he is not willing to do so and said that he will complete his contract and go back to Nepal.
I know that it is a norm for employees (both local and foreign) engaged in the security services to work 12-hour days and I would not be surprised if the terms and conditions of their employment do not comply with the Employment Act.
But not many employees are keen to complain to the Labour Depart-ment.
Worse still, some foreign workers are at the mercy of the employers.
With so many foreign workers employed in the country, if the Labour Department were to take the initiative to interview some of them, I would not be surprised to find that many are being exploited, like my acquaintance in the security services.

CP Lee,

Wishing everyone, friend or foe, a happy new year
And a successful new decade from the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 January 2019

That Digong and Joma reach an agreement and peace talks come to a successful conclusion in a neutral country with no one “losing face.”
That natural disasters, which are largely caused by people themselves, do not affect the Philippines.
That we live and trade in peace with all of our neighbors without exception.
That science and logic go their own successful way and defeat stupidity and superstition. That new creative ideas abound. And that AIDS, TB, malaria and cancer will be defeated by medicine and in the future be treated like a cold.
I wish everyone, friend or foe, a happy new year and a successful new decade.

Jürgen Schöfer, Ph.D.,

People who play the racial and religious card
Are few and far between in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 31 December 2019

I thank former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim for his common sense and sound advice to the Pakatan Harapan government “Make introduction of Jawi optional”, The Star, December 30.
Most Malaysians are not racist.
Most simply go about their own business without imposing their values on others from different racial backgrounds.
I must say, every Malaysian I have come across can communicate in at least bahasa pasar (colloquial Malay), including my grandmothers who died almost 50 years ago.
There is no language barrier among most Malaysians.
I was having a buffet lunch in a hotel the other day.
There were quite a few large company groups at their year end get-togethers.
What I saw were Malays, Indians, Chinese, Sabahans, Sarawakians
I heard the accents and foreign workers.
Happy groups of people interacting with one another.
Truly the Malaysia that I know and experience.
People who play the racial and religious cards are few and far between.
These are the people who want to find a niche in the political landscape, to garner support by always blaming other races for their community’s problems.
Are these people capable of solving real problems with real policies instead of finding excuses with their rhetoric?
They are holding the country hostage by creating mutual suspicion and distrust among the people.
Zaid is absolutely accurate in addressing the real problems and policies of Malaysia.
His insights should be heeded by all Malaysians, including politicians from both sides and the man in the street.

Ch' Ng Chin Yeow,

December 19 was a day for justice
For Philippines massacre of 32 journalists
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 December 2019
First published in the Philippines, Thursday 26 December 2019

When I heard the verdict handed down in the Ampatuan massacre case, I was ecstatic.
As a former journalist, I’ve waited 10 long years for a court to convict the perpetrators of the country’s worst case of political violence, in which 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were killed execution-style.
The masterminds of this horrific crime - Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan Jr. - were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
But out of more than 107 who stood trial, only 28 people were convicted for murder, receiving 40-year prison terms, minus 10 for time served.
Another 15 people were found guilty as accessory to the murders.
The court acquitted 55 defendants of all charges. Then there are the 80 suspects that police have failed to arrest.
So this was justice, if only partially, and may not fully comfort victims’ relatives.
I’m especially reminded of Reynaldo Momay, the 58th victim, whose case the court did not include because his body was never found.
I wrote about him and his family when I was still reporting for The New York Times, and the bitterness I felt then only worsened after the court shunted aside his fate.
But in today’s Philippines, this verdict is a victory nonetheless - a rare triumph of accountability in a country notorious for impunity and where politicians and warlords can get away with anything, including murder.
The challenge now is to finish this quest for justice, starting with the arrest of the 80 suspects who remain at large.
Both victims’ families and witnesses remain in danger as long as these suspects are free.
Then there’s the question of whether another massacre of this extent could happen again.
I’m afraid that so long as the national government ignores or even coddles local ruling families with “private armies,” it is inevitable.
Until the military and police can be trusted to dismantle politicians’ illegal forces, instead of participating in them, those who try to exercise their basic rights, whether as opposition candidates, journalists or ordinary citizens, will be at risk.
So I fear these convictions will not upend my country’s dysfunctional political culture.
But December 19, at least, was a day for justice.

Carlos H. Conde
Philippines researcher
Human Rights Watch



Holiday park-goers have a responsibility
To maintain park cleanliness
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 29 December 2019

This is a rejoinder to “Practice 5 Rs to help the environment” in Letters, December 17, 2019 by Pamela I. Claveria, MD.
During an evening walkathon from my house in San Francisco del Monte Quezon City to the Roxas Boulevard Service Road in late December two years ago, I passed by the Luneta Park in Manila.
Upon reaching the wide open space directly in front of Jose Rizal’s monument, my heart sank.
There was trash everywhere - empty water bottles and tetra packs, plastic cups, candy wrappers, paper and plastic bags, plastic forks and spoons, barbecue sticks, used tissue paper, food containers and boxes, etc.
Obviously, these were thrown or left behind by the park’s visitors that day.
The mere sight was disheartening, diminishing whatever holiday cheer I was feeling at that time.
I suggest to local government units and park managers that they set up public address systems in public parks and places like Luneta, the Quezon Memorial Circle, etc., to blare out a brief but clear recorded announcement every 15 or 20 minutes urging everyone to pick up after themselves.
Perhaps this is what a lot of holiday park-goers need to be reminded of - that they also have a responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of the premises, whether they are there to have a picnic or just to stroll around.

Claude Lucas de Castro Despabiladeras,

2020 is the year to walk tall and carry a big stick
For truly fortune favours the bold
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 December 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 27 December 2019

2019 was a tricky year for Pakatan Harapan.
After winning the election the previous year, the pressure was on full steam for the new government to meet the high expectations of the electorate.
Perhaps a resounding success was never realistic, but when you belt out a tune that is so different from what's written on the song sheet, then there's no choice but to face the music.
In quick succession, Pakatan wavered on repatriation of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) stolen cash, dithered on punishing the criminals responsible, withered in each of the parliamentary by-elections, and - most importantly - havn't delivered on economic fulfilment of the rakyat.
The list goes on, but suffice to say, the missed opportunities have weakened the coalition's stability, stunted foreign investment, encouraged the opposition, and discounted the government's credibility.
This is a dangerous cocktail as we head to the mid-way point of Pakatan's maiden term.
The same concurrence of outliers that converged to sink Barisan Nasional in GE14 could potentially do the same for Pakatan in GE15.
Still, before you cork the bubbly and smother the sparklers, there is still reason to hope in 2020, which has now become a make or break year for Pakatan - and for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PKR in particular. After fumbling through much of the last year, it is imperative for the administration take decisive action in the coming year in order to give itself enough runway to showcase definitive results ahead of the general election in 2023.
This includes clarity on many of the big debates that fill the digital newsprint and social media, namely, those of leadership succession, economic vision, digital transformation, recouping stolen funds from the 1MDB conspirators, and hunting down, prosecuting and jailing the criminals involved.
This means direction from the top on prioritising objectives, and discipline amongst the ranks in achieving them.
This isn't the time to get sidetracked on pie-in-the-sky schemes around flying cars; rather, it means grassroots common sense policy around curbing inflation, increasing knowledge workers, enhancing food security, and most importantly setting a generational course for transforming Malaysia from a low-cost manufacturing economy to a high-wage innovation one.
Indeed, this was the very objective laid out for the country in the 1990s by the then and now Prime Minister in his Vision 2020 campaign.
Let us use the year 2020 to set us on the path towards this destination, even if takes us a generation to achieve it.
We played with fire to get the chance to build a new Malaysia, and achieved what many thought was impossible.
No doubt there will be critical challenges ahead, as the opposition turns up the dial on divisive identity politics and we look down the barrel of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
2020 is the year to walk tall and carry a big stick, for, truly, fortune favours the bold. Happy New Year, Malaysia, may we enjoy the peace and prosperity we all deserve in the year ahead!

Dr Rais Hussin,
Petaling Jaya,

Goodbye Samui
You really dug a hole for yourself
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 December 2019

About two years ago I went to Samui with my family for a holiday.
As a Thai I was shocked by the outrageous prices that the song taew the standard local mode of transport on the island which charged 500 baht one way, and 1,000 baht return.
What a rip-off!
I regret to this day not having rented a car at the airport on that trip.
With such pricing don't expect locals like me to ever set foot there again.
Apart from transport, even local seafood is overpriced.
The island is now way overbuilt and will now suffer its long and slow decline! Phuket may not be much better but at least there are a few rental companies to pick from.
Goodbye Samui. You really dug a hole for yourself!

Patrick Ma,

Call for Thailand
To share the wealth
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 21 December 2019

Re: "Is return of political violence inevitable?", in Bangkok Post Opinion, December 21.
No, the return of political violence is not inevitable.
Despite the example of violence set by repeated coups, Thais still prefer peace.
Nor are Thais fools; they increasingly realise that the major problems besetting their nation today, from retarded social and political growth, to the gross economic inequality where the greedy 1 percent own 67 percent of the nation thanks to blatant injustice under the law, to the moral corruption that pervades Thai society, are largely attributable to the repeated coups against democracy that help foster injustice and inequality in society, politics and law.
The impressive popularity of Future Forward when they burst onto the political scene only a year ago shows that Thais increasingly understand how cherished myths of nationalistic deceit have been abused to enable the repeated assault on democracy's beneficial morals.
Thailand could be and should be a beacon of peace, justice and democracy to Southeast Asia.
Thailand could be an economically developed nation where all share in the wealth.
It should have a well-educated people with respected universities driving international standard research.
Under the morally stunted status quo clinging to past injustice, Thais have been robbed of their nation's great potential.
Despite the promises of the PDRC and coup-makers, there has been neither reform nor reconciliation since 2014; on the contrary, the law is now being used to harass Thais calling for healthy reform.
Set apart from the old ways, Future Forward repeatedly proves itself the party of peace-driven principle.
It has taken the wholly "unThai" step of expelling elected MPs who did not uphold the party's commitment to agreed principles.
Can anyone imagine the likes of the prime minister's Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) taking such a step, of PPRP's impressively credentialed monkey feeder, as he so aptly describes himself, in the PM's cabinet actually asking MPs to leave the party for breach of a core principle?
Peaceful protest is a legitimate means of voicing ideas.
A government that was committed to reform would listen to the nation.

Felix Qui,

Call for public-listed companies
Not to use plastic water bottles at board meetings
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 December 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 23 December 2019

The year 2020 is just around the corner.
It’s the time of the year when public-listed companies will be conducting their annual general meetings.
During the meetings, most of the time bottled water or packet drinks will be provided.
Eventually these containers end up in drains, along the roadsides and, finally, landfills.
It is time to stop the use of bottled drinks.
Inculcate the habit of bringing your own water bottles.
A little inconvenience goes a long way.
Less rubbish is created.
Floods can be avoided when there are no clogged drains.
Just look into the drains anywhere and you can find them full of rubbish and most of the time emitting a bad stench too.
Go back to the times when there were no plastic bottles.
Some companies even provide food packed in plastic containers.
When there is too much food, much of it is wasted.
Sometimes the food has gone bad since it was prepared much earlier to cater to the large number of attendees.
Giving cookies or biscuits is good enough.
We now have a climate change emergency.
It is time to do something about this by changing our throwaway and rubbish-creating habits.

Kuala Lumpur,


All we are saying
Is give peace a chance
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 December 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 24 December 2019

As 1914 drew to a close, Europe had been at war for months.
On the Western Front, opposing armies faced each other across a stalemated front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
On December 24, 100,000 soldiers from both sides of that line decided to create some peace on Earth.
They decorated their trenches, they sang carols across “No Man’s Land”, then walked into the space between their trenches, met, smoked and drank together, and exchanged what gifts they could round up.
Chaplains conducted Christmas services for all comers. Impromptu football matches were played between shell craters - Germany’s Battalion 371 beat the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2 to 1.
A similar truce occurred on the Eastern Front between Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops.
The “Christmas truce” didn’t end “the war to end all wars”.
World War I dragged on for nearly four more years, at a cost of more than 20 million lives.
But for a brief moment peace reigned, proof that the hardening hearts of opposing armies could at least temporarily melt and that soldiers could treat each other as human beings rather than as mortal enemies.
Not all of them, certainly.
A young Austrian soldier is apocryphally said to have sniffed that “such a thing should not happen in wartime”.
The high commands on both sides suppressed press coverage of the “Christmas truce”, and resolved to prevent it from happening again.
In 1915, artillery barrages and raids were pre-planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to prevent peace breaking out a second time.
More than a century later, does the “Christmas truce” offer any lessons we can take to heart, or hold out the prospect of similar pauses in the wars that have consumed the United States, the Middle East, and Central Asia since 1991?
One obvious argument against such prospects is that the current wars tend to pit people of very different religious views against each other.
The West has become far less Christian and far more secular over the last century. On the other hand, Jesus does hold a high place – just not the highest – in Muslim esteem.
And Muslim combatants have been known to observe truces for their own high holidays.
As for lessons, the greatest one may be this: Wars may be planned and ordered by governments, but they are fought by people.
People who mostly, unlike the Austrian soldier mentioned above (his name was Adolf Hitler), prefer song and sport and friendship to mindless mutual killing.
Those people – not just soldiers, all of us – can decide at any time to stop cooperating with the murderous plans of our masters and instead choose peace on earth and goodwill towards each other. That choice embodies the spirit of Christmas.

Thomas L Knapp,
Director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism,
United States

UK has influence over Hong Kong
Until 2047
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

Recent letters by the Chinese ambassador, "Xinjiang China's affair", in Bangkok Post December 14, and his office would have us believe that Xinjiang and Hong Kong are affairs internal to China and the communist government alone. The underlying message is that everyone else in the world should mind their own business.
Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that even though the UK gave up control of Hong Kong in 1997, it still has decision-making powers and influence over the region until the year 2047.
Hence, it is incorrect for the Chinese government to imply that no outside forces have the right to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs; the Middle Kingdom's leaders would have more credibility if they stated that no forces besides the UK should be interfering in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, the boundaries of present-day China have only been in existence for about 100 years.
Before this, Xinjiang did not exist, and the Muslim inhabitants living there were not bound to the Middle Kingdom.
The people of Xinjiang never voted to become a member-state of China, and nor did the inhabitants of Tibet or Taiwan.



China uses political and economic clout
All the time
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 December 2019

Re: "Xinjiang China's Affair", in PostBag, December 14
For China to claim that the Xinjiang issue and the treatment of Muslims is an internal affair and beyond global consideration is disingenuous on several levels.
China is one of the charter members of the United Nations which uses its political and economic clout to interfere in the internal affairs of countries all the time.
If countries were not questioned or challenged on their "internal affairs" by other nations then the Holocaust would still be continuing, Pol Pot would still be committing genocide, Idi Amin would still be butchering his people, and apartheid in South Africa would not have ended.
The list of such inhumanities is long and they never ended through strictly internal mechanisms and balancing.
If the treatment of the Muslims in China is really such a great programme then invite the World to "see" with unfettered access to all the stakeholders involved.
Simple solution: Prove your point!
Until then, criticism is fair game from the global community.

Darius Hober,

There is no truly safe exposure level
For chlorpyrifos and glyphosate
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

The Volunteer Network's claim that the information used to support the chemical ban is based on "poor sources" is ludicrous in Bangkok Post, December 18.
The idea of "safe levels" is actually poorly sourced while the exposure rate is merely a distortion derived from industry propaganda to support sales.
Organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos and glyphosate are toxic at low levels and listed as suspected carcinogens.
There is no truly "safe" exposure level, just levels that are tolerated for corporate gain by chemical companies.
I challenge the Volunteer Network to produce any peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate human exposure to such chemicals has any benefit.
If they can produce such research, then maybe there is room for debate on the ban. The chance of this occurring though is nearly impossible.
Is the health and well-being of both farmers and consumers really worth a few baht?
If the network coordinator is making allegations of poor sources, where are the better sources?

Darius Hober,

Call for the word "equal"
To be added to the Thai constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 15 December 2019

Re: "Charter amendment 'necessary'", in Bangkok Post December 15, 2019
Who would not welcome a constitution founding their nation on a broad consensus of the Thai people?
But for the latest permanent constitution of the kingdom to be amended with everyone's consent, all citizens must be accorded an equal right to a voice in forming the finally agreed upon legal foundation of their nation.
A good place to start the amendment process would, therefore, be to enable the necessary discussion by amending the current Section 34, which fails to give strong legal protection to the fundamental right to free speech.
One amendment to give Thais a just voice in their affairs could be achieved by adding the word "equal" and deleting a few words so the amended Section 34 reads: "A person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, make speeches, write, print, publicise and express by other means. The restriction of such liberty shall not be imposed, except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of protecting the equal rights or liberties of other persons."
Such an amendment to respect the rights of all Thai citizens as equally entitled to a voice in forming their nation's government and society has the virtue of recognising democracy as fundamental to a just society that works for consent in forming the laws that govern it.

Felix Qui,

Thai military stuck in 60's and 70's
Worried about threat of communism
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 December 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 19 December 2019

I don't look forward to street demonstrations, but it has become apparent that our leaders don't have the mindset necessary to face the challenges that are facing Thailand.
For example, our prime minister has apparently only just discovered Google and Animal Farm and appears to support an army chief who seems to be stuck in the '60s and '70s and is still worried about the "threat of communism".
We have a huge inequality of wealth in this country and even after nearly six years, this premier has done the absolute bare minimum to address that.
Although the education system is well funded, our children's education leaves a lot to be desired, while the military's budget seems to be disproportionately large for peaceful times.
The air in Bangkok is nearly unbreathable, while an environmental disaster with fast-rising sea waters is looming on the horizon, but no one in this government seems to know how to deal with any of it except to spray some liquid in the air.
We are already or soon to become an ageing society, but outside of employing some of the elderly in parliament, the government doesn't seem to have any kind of a plan to deal with this either.
Corruption remains a big problem, and agencies that are supposed to tackle it don't seem to be doing anything, while the government doesn't seem to care.
In short, we have a group of old cronies with a reactionary mindset, hopelessly stuck in the past and who represent only a small group of rich people at a time when we need young, dynamic leaders who represent the majority and who have a progressive mindset and the energy, know-how and solutions to deal with the challenges facing us.



Call for Malaysian cities to adopt
Singapore city state transport model
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 December 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 December 2019

Oliver Wyman Forum and University of California recently unveiled the Urban Mobility Readiness Index that ranked cities with the best public transport system. Singapore came up on top.
Separately, McKinsey & Company had also produced their own index last year to measure the best public transport system in the world. Singapore also appeared at the top.
There must be something right about the city state’s public transport that we can learn from.
Singapore’s public transport is multi-modal, which means the entire infrastructure adopts several modes or types of public transport such as bus, mass rapid transit (MRT), light rail transit (LRT) and monorail.
In the late 1970s, Singapore was deliberating between having an all-bus system or a bus-rail system.
Despite having a team of experts from Harvard University pushing for the all-bus system, the government opted for the more expensive bus-rail system and began the construction of their first MRT.
The multi-modal system may be more expensive but it provides targeted solutions that correspond to the various needs of urban mobility.
For instance, a rail infrastructure, whether MRT or LRT, is more effective at high-demand corridors while buses work better in neighbourhoods with short-distance stops.
A good public transport infrastructure has various modes to complement each other to deliver the best result.
It is high time Malaysian cities adopt the multi-modal principle to improve our public transport.
Comprehensive strategies like the Penang Transport Master Plan – comprising light rail transit (LRT), monorail, tram, bus rapid transit or (BRT) and other transport modes – is an instructive model of how public transport infrastructure should be planned locally.

Joshua Woo,


Call for poverty in Papua New Guinea
To be addressed appropriately
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 December 2019
First published in the National, Monday 16 December 2019

Poverty in Papua New Guinea remains a development challenge.
Despite numerous efforts to curb, control and contain challenges in the face of development, the rate of poverty in Papua New Guines is alarming.
Fuelled by corruption and poor governance, poverty is killing Papua New Guinea.
Poverty remains a developmental challenge in our country.
The traits of poverty manifest in every aspects of life.
Our people are dying of curable and preventable diseases.
Maternal health, mortality rate and cervical cancer are some of the pressing health issues in our country.
But poor establishments of equipment, facilities and medicines in our aid post, rural health centres and hospitals is stressing our health system.
It is sad to note that our people are dying from curable and preventable diseases. Poverty in Papua New Guinea needs to be addressed appropriately as it remains a catastrophe.
Its prolonged negligence undermines the peoples’ right to live a simple and decent life.
Poverty is hindering chances to live a better life.
Though it cannot be undone, poverty will and always remain a challenge.

Ingiso Moss Hatavile,
Papua New Guinea


How many Filipino's affected by drugs?
Who are the drug lords in the Phiippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 December 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 16 December 2019

Sen. Bong Go has become so arrogant, impatiently urging Vice President Leni Robredo to disclose her findings.
He says drug pushers are the ones who should be scared, not the Duterte administration.
Really, drug pushers should be scared?
It was under Duterte appointees Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapeña that billions worth of shabu were smuggled under the nose of the Bureau of Customs.
The two former Customs commissioners were simply reappointed to other posts. Who were arrested and prosecuted in these cases?
No one but the whistle-blower.
Unlike Go and his master, the Vice President carefully thinks and analyzes the situation before speaking her mind.
She does not promise that a problem as serious as drugs can be solved in six months.
She does not make easy threats such as “I will kill you if you destroy my country,” but tries to know what the real situation is how many are really affected by drugs, who are the big drug lords in the list, what are the programs/projects of other local and foreign agencies that would complement the government’s drug war.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,


Peace talks between Philippine government
And Communist Party of the Philippines to start again
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 December 2019

Former chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello stated that the peace talks may start again with communist rebels next month. It is very well-timed as government negotiators are in better position now to dialogue with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Defence Forces (NDF) to lay the insurgency to its end. The recent death of armed communist leader Armando Lazarte and the arrest of Jaime Padilla give the government the opportunity in the peace talks as these setbacks barely weaken the New Peoples Army (NPA) on the ground. The government must be watchful however to not allow the release of any arrested rebel leaders beneath the pretext of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and other preconditions set by the communist leaders.
The government has very little to lose if the said peace talks do not resume as it has all the time and resources to wipe out the remnants of insurgency in our country. The peace loving Filipinos hope that this will happen in Duterte’s term.

Kareen Asistio,
National Youth Commission,

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

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

A Johnsen,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Raffy Rey Hipolito,

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

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

Bagong Alyansang Makabayab-Cavate


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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,

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

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

Let Our Children Live,

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

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

Rajend Naidu

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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Ian Carlo L Aragon,

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

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

Daniel Aloc,

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

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

Ann Aquino,

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

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

Felix Qui,



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

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

Samanea Saman,



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

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

N. Parker,

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

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

Ye Olde Theologian,

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

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

Winna Vista,



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

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

Marcelo Jr., Garcis,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,

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

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

Jaime D. Raneses,
Kugos Bikol Inc.



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

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

Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

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

Grace Po-Quicho,



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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Patrick F Solano,

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petaling Jaya,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

Gerry Popplestone,

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

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

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



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

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

Jonathan Foe,


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

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

Jack Gilead,


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

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

Dr HJ Ahmad,

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

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

Angry Malaysian
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Gerry Popplestone,

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

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

Ps Peter Ropra,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Arnulfo M. Edralin,



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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Hiew,



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

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

Aljane Largo,

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

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

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


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

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

Claudine Salvadaor,



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

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

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Ramon Mayuga,



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

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

Anan Pakvasa

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

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

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



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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,

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

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

Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Camarines Sur


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

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

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


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

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

Bid Ambassi,
Muli City,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

Rajend Naidu,



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

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

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



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

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

Goran Femrin,

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

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

Jennifer Horsburgh,


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

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

Felix Qui,Bangkok,

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

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

Jonathan Dege,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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

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

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

Dusit Thammaraks,

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

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

Disgusted in BKK Bangkok


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

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

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Au-Yong Hui Seng,


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

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

Larry the Liquidator,


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

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

Manuela A Collao,



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

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

Hia Tokunoi,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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



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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,


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

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

Adam Omae
Koriki Tribe,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,


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

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

Jennifer Horsburgh,


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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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

Salsabil Gul,



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

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



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

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

Jessica Virnna Antipolo,


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

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

Ramon Mayuga,

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

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

Somsak Pola,

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

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

D Eiso,
The neutral assessor,

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

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

David Lepi,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,
National Directorate,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mohamed Mokhtar Ahmad Bajunid,

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

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

Meenakshi Raman,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,


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

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

Tokai Waru,
Papua New Guinea

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Bahrt,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,

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

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


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

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

Dr Kulsanofer,
Syed Thajudeen
Petaling Jaya,


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

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

Regine Mamagat-Agapay


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

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

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


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

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

Name withheld upon request,

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

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

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

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

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

Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan,

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

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

Maria Teresan Ancahan,


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

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

Evelyn Silay,

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

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

Ng Di Lin,
Sungai Buloh,

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

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

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

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

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

Aljan Quilates,
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila,

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

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

Aljan Quilates,
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila,

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

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

Rajend Naidu,


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

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

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

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

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

Name withheld upon request,

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

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

Rudy L. Coronel,

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

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

Dr Annie George,
Biotropics Malaysia Berhad,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

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

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

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

Discriminated against,

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

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

Dr James Naipao
National President
National Doctors Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,

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

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

Felix Qui,

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

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

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

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

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

Kuala Lumpur

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

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

Reginald B. Tamayo,

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

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

Belen Docena-Asuelo,

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

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

Phil Cox,

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

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

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,

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

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

Ted P. Penaflor,

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

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

Rene Magtubo,

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

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

Baffled reader,

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

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

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

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

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

Old Man Tzu,


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

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

Celestino Pascual & Rocha Law Firm

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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,

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

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

Rafaeld D. Guerrero III,

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

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

Arsenoio Unajan Baquilid,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamal Gehi,
Subang Jaya,