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


Call for Philippine students
Not to join the CPP-NPA
The Southeast Asian Times, 16 October 2018

The news about the recruitment of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New Peoples Army (NPP) CPP-NPA to the universities and students sector has caught my attention. I am writing this letter which is really intended for the students and youth.
As I was born in this country, I grew up believing in the saying that “KABATAAN ANG PAG-ASA NG BAYAN”.
As times goes by, I have become increasingly confused especially now.
How come that the youth is the hope of the nation when it is very evident nowadays that the youth are one of those tools being used by the CPP-NPA to ruin the government?
How would it be possible that they are the hope of the nation if they are volunteering their selves to be one of the members of the CPP-NPA?
So to those youth who are planning to join their organization, think about it twice as you do.
Remember the case of Josephine Lapira, the UP student who was killed on a clash in Batangas.
She was dreaming to be a doctor but all of her dreams just fell out into nothing because she joined the organization of the CPP-NPA.
Her life ended for nothing.
She died fighting for nothing.
She died without aiming anything in life.
What a lost, isn’t it?
An innocent young lady died because she allowed others to rule her life and fool her.
Do you want your life to be wasted, too?
Do you want your dreams don’t come true?
Would you let them steal your innocent way of living just to die for no reason? Think about it.
Think about the future you want to have and think about it more of what your family would go through if you let the CPP-NPA ruin your life.
Be smart.
Be brave.
Be strong to say NO for the wrong ideologies being instilled in you.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines




"Red October" plot to oust Philippine president Duterte
Heresay or figment of the AFP imagination
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 October 2018

Critics says that the “Red October” issue is just a mere hearsay.
It was just an imagination of the Philippine President as well as the Armed Forces of Philippines.
But hearing all the statements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the president himself regarding the “Red October” issue, I cannot avoid comparing the situation with what happened in Marawi.
Remember, before the ISIS Inspired Maute terrorist attacked and ruined the city of Marawi, the president had warned that there were foreign and local terrorist building a strong coalition and starting to recruit students from different universities in Mindanao to join and start their demonic activities.
Then, people did not mind it and instead the president was criticized by anti-government groups and gave attention and focus on the faults of the president and other unnecessary issues.
Then what happened next in the city of Marawi is history.
Now, the President once again has warned and exposed the alleged “Red October” plot to oust him, organized by a broad coalition led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
And obviously rallies by leftist group against government is rampant in this few days and the sad thing in here is they are using students for their activities.
I think this is an issue that we should not under estimate.
I think we should give attention on this issue and if it is true?
Well, we all know that worst may come to worst and we don’t want it to happen of course.
Let us protect our country as well as our children who are vulnerable in all lies and deception from the hands of opportunist.
Let us guard our children, their future and our country.

Sandra M. Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Services of the ombudsman
Crucial to Malaysian citizens
First published in the Star Friday 12 October 2018

I refer to the report “IPCMC will finally be set up” in The Star, September 22 on the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
The report also mentioned that the Public Complaints Bureau (ld soon be replaced by Ombudsman Malaysia.
This change augurs well for the new Malaysia as people’s expectations have risen for greater transparency and accountability.
The ombudsman will be empowered by the Ombudsman Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon, to play a more effective role in addressing and redressing a wide range of public complaints.
The ombudsman chosen should be an accomplished and capable office holder supported by competent and experienced multi-racial staff because the scope of duties and responsibilities will be wide and diverse.
The Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) was hamstrung by its limited terms of reference, resulting in many public complaints being resolved unsatisfactorily.
In some countries, the power and authority of the ombudsman have gradually increased as a result of changes initiated by their governments after they realised the important role it was playing as middleman between the people and the administration.
I hope our ombudsman will be empowered to deal not only with public and quasi-government departments but also the private sector.
At a time when the bond between our elected representatives and the people is wearing thin, the services of the ombudsman would be crucial to citizens.
The ombudsman would also be able to protect individuals and groups from government action that favour vested interests.
A lot of government officers, especially those in higher positions, have been able to do what they like knowing that the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) and the complainants are hamstrung and cannot undo decisions that have already been made.
All these could change with the introduction of the ombudsman.
It could lead to less corruption, abuse of authority and power, unreasonableness, biased decisions, bureaucratic delay and red tape; lack of transparency and accountability; wastage of money and a host of other shortcomings in the government administration.
To be more effective, the ombudsman should also be authorised to deal with complaints on housing, healthcare, education and financial matters.
The ombudsman would surely be a democratic vent to an increasingly complaining and discontented Malaysian public.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) which has assisted me to address a large array of community and social complaints for the last 30 years.
It was extremely effective in dealing with my complaints and has played a big role in solving numerous problems in Sungai Buloh.
I do feel sad that it has to go but I hope to see the diligent and caring officers back in the Ombudsman Office.

V. Thomas,
Sungai Buloh,
Selangor,
Malaysia

 


Philippine universities instigate rebellious ideas
And rebellious actions
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 October 2018

A reaction to the written opinion of entitled “The scholar as a rebel” by Gideon Lasco 11 October 2018 was well fortified.
But the statement was disturbing, as I understand it only tolerates the drastic way of expressing ones opinion and it gives a signal to groups who are taking advantage of student power.
Yes, I agree that we are in a democratic country and everyone has the freedom to voice and express his own predicaments to the government.
However it is not an excuse that state universities instigate not only rebellious ideas but also rebellious actions.
Even how hard we try to keep it, even how hard we mislead facts, it is 100 percent true that many state universities are participating and motivating students to proliferate hatred, violence and armed struggle against the government.
And as far as I understand, it is not the main priority and responsibility of the students to eco the difficulties of our Lumad brothers on the disadvantage of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law and mind you, I don’t think ‘Lumads’ are the first and for most to complain about TRAIN law.
And if that is, I think there is a proper agency to address on this matter.
Indeed, we all have different point of views and understanding on different issues in our country.
However, let us not use this to spread false information to students and other people.
We all know the truth and I believe that the leadership of Philippine National Police (PNP) is not on degrading state universities nor the scholar but it only give warning and awareness to students, parents, teachers and the rest of the Filipinos who are doing a big part in our country.

Divine Macapobre,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines call for exercise of rights won against China
At the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 October 2018

There was a warning from the Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio saying that the Philippines is giving up a “very strong” legal deterrent against a possible China invasion of the West Philippine Sea in case our nation withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
As we recall, President Duterte gave the order in March after the ICC prosecutor began a preliminary probe into a complaint accusing him and 11 of his officials of committing crimes against humanity for the thousands of deaths in the President’s war on drugs.
At the last round of oral arguments on October 9, Carpio listed the implications of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order in March to pull out from the international treaty creating the ICC on the maritime dispute with China. Carpio told Solicitor General Jose Calida in open court that the Philippines could sue China’s leaders, led by President Xi Jinping, at the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity should China invade Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Moreover, he said such an action was tantamount to the crime of aggression, which, under the Rome Statute, fell under crimes against humanity.
“In withdrawing from the Rome Statute, we will be giving up this very strong legal deterrent,” Carpio told Calida.
On the question of constitutionality, opposition senators and human rights advocates contested the order to withdraw from the Rome Statute since he did not get the Senate’s approval.
This news highlights the question of decency of act coming from Philippine’s dealmaking. Can we consider this as diplomatic?
Probably.
This may enshrines how the current administration deemed to be more cautious than past administration (Aquino administration) for that matter to have a different path in deciding which institution to connect with.
The issue on ICC is not necessarily a big hole that may shot fire against the government since internationally, this may not give us binding agreement in the first place if we choose not to.
It is only the Western side that put us on hold to be in a cliff-hanger state.
Meanwhile, we need to exercise our rights as we won the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Hague Ruling two years ago but this is not to disrupt the relationship with China since it has been our co-existing partnership strategy under Duterte administration.
Equibalancing is the key.
I believe that the President has its own prerogative to have independent foreign policy; exercising his constitutional prerogative as the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.
On one hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is hands off the President’s decision to pull out from the ICC claiming the issue involved a political question and thus not subject to judicial review.
I support his decision but it must be strategized since the issue is not a mere walk in the park.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



IPCC report says world has the means
To tackle climate change

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 October 2018

Please allow me to share the following concluding remarks from the article ' 8 things you need to know about the IPCC 1.5 report ' in Renew Economy, 8 October 2018 which I believe best sums up where we are at on the climate change debate : Turning evidence into action
"There's no sugarcoating it : keeping warming to 1.5 C will be hard. Really hard. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report also makes it clear that the world has the scientific understanding, the technological capacity and the financial means to tackle climate change. Now what we need is the political will to precipitate the unprecedented concerted actions necessary to stabilise temperature rise below 1.5C.
There are substantial economic and development benefits from bold climate action. And even more important, limiting global warming to 1.5 is imperative. Falling short would lock in climate impacts so catastrophic our world would be unrecognisable. Governments, businesses and others have the clarity they need. Now it's time for them to step up to the challenge".

As a layman I prefer to be guided by the expert, evidence based views of the world's top climate scientists who have prepared that report.
Why would any rational person not be guided by them?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia

 


Proposed new Thai airport falls short of the standards
Of the US National Fire Protection Association
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 October 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 8 October 2918

Re: "New terminal strays from plan", in Bangkok Post Thursday 27 September 2018.
The Prayut Chan-o-cha government should change its plan to build a new terminal
at Suvarnabhumi airport.
First, the Architect Council of Thailand and the Engineering Institute of
Thailand were not consulted or involved in this project - sparking rumours that
it is both corruption-prone and poses a risk to human lives.
Second, the Airports of Thailand-approved design of the terminal, which involves
using wood as the majority of construction material, will fall short of the
standards of the US National Fire Protection Association - to which Thailand is
a signatory - and will pose a huge fire risk.
Third, the Airports of Thailand has switched the site of the new terminal to the
northeasterly position instead of the southerly position.
This was contrary to the original master plan put up by a consortium of foreign and Thai experts.
Fourth, even before its construction, the project has become an international
scandal both in terms of it being corruption-prone and a huge risk to human
lives by fire!
Hence, the government should avoid being the party to blame for its decision to
approve this plan.

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Chiang Mai,
Thailand



School officials deny that students reqruited
To oust Philippine president Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 October 2018

This letter is intended for the students in Metro Manila’s colleges and universities being tagged on the Red list.
School officials denied that their students are being recruited by the rebels to oust the President.
I am also a college student of a university and I do believe that there are these universities which has really been recruited and actually there are students who’s already a member of the organization.
Let’s not be blind!
Very evident!
We all know that University of the Philippines and Polytechnic University of the Philippines are the universities with high numbers of protesters and I also believe that they have the most numbers of students who are already members of the Communist Party’s organization.
What I don't understand is I really cannot imagine how these students were able to betray the President and the government knowing that they were able to go to the university and study their courses because of the free tuition fees initiated of course by nothing but our president and our government.
Is this the life they want?
Instead of attending their classes, they’re spending their time allowing others to fool them?
For what reason?
Will they be benefited?
Do not allow yourself to fall on their wrong ideologies.
It may harm you sooner and worst, it may kill you.
Learn from the experience of the former UP student who died in the clash between the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the government members.
How about you?
Do you want your life to end for nothing?
Wake up and allow no one to fool you.

Emjae Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Malaysian Islamic Party meeting
Avoids talking about Rohingya Muslins in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 October 2018
First published in The Star, Tuesday 18 September 2018

Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) Malaysian Islamic Party has just completed its muktamar (annual general meeting) in Kuala Terengganu.
At the meeting, members highlighted the caning of two Malay women for “trying to have sex” as a success story but said nothing about the systematic murder of thousands of Rohingya, who are Muslims, in Myanmar.
Here we have an Islamic party that wants to save the ummah and yet considers sex between two consenting adults as far more important than genocide.
I hope Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is attending the current United Nations General Assembly, will announce to the world that Malaysia does not tolerate genocide.
Those of us who follow the news about the murder of Rohingya by the Myanmar military must stand in solidarity with the Rohingya and say that any crime against humanity will be punished.
Aung San Suu Kyi has betrayed the trust that many placed in her.
For four years, I served as Chair of Asean Parliamentarians on Myanmar, and we campaigned relentlessly for her release and for democracy in Myanmar to be restored.
In return, what we got from her was genocide.
Now it is imperative that Malay­sia takes this case of genocide to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
I have contacted a brilliant international lawyer, who is also a Queen’s Counsel in London, who has agreed to accept the case free of charge if Malaysia decides to initiate proceedings against Myan­mar.
We have done gallantly for Gaza and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We must do the same for Myan­mar.
I hope the Foreign Ministry will read this piece and consider my proposal seriously.
Of course, it will strengthen our credibility if we also ratified the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951.
One hundred and forty-five countries have ratified the Convention, so why not Malaysia?
We will cause no pro­blems ratifying the Convention as the UN has a proven and fair system to allocate intakes to countries that are required to accommodate refugees.
In the face of Donald Trump’s madness, Malaysia must provide global leadership in the fight for justice.
We must stand up for stateless people like the Rohingya and other refugees. Pakatan Harapan talked enough when it was the opposition.
Now that it is the govern­ment, it must act with cou­rage.
Our new Malaysia is not just about changing the government or the much-touted institutional reforms.
We need to go deeper and search ourselves: Let us be a country of conscience. Conscience will drive us forward with policies and laws that care about the helpless and the poor.
Only a society with conscience can stem the powerful tide of greed.
For many years, we succeeded in branding ourselves as “religious” and “Islamic”; but without conscience, we lost the plot.
We became a world-famous kleptocracy.
Let the Rohingya genocide and deportation of women and children stir our conscience and drive us to take the lead in bringing Myanmar to the International Court of Justice.
This will be the best antidote for any temptation to return to our inglorious past.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim,
Kula Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippines professor instructs students
To serve the Lord and community
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 October 2018

I am a professor of Lyceum of the Philippines while doing research in the government for nearly like five years.
Months from now, I’ll turn 30.
Together with my students, I always instruct them to always serve the Lord and community in the best way possible.
But with the recent news I have been seeing in the television with the hype of serial clashes between militants and government forces, I cannot imagine how time really flies.
From dawn to twilight of our time, I can sense that our youth of today has become addicted with liberal democracy.
I mean, there is nothing wrong with liberal democracy by the way since we have been inherited this and we are enjoying this.
Well, I can also tell that there is something wrong with it at micro-lense.
As a professor of politics for how many years, I have seen different colors of students (silent vs. bully, talented vs. inept, aggressive vs. shytype, nationalist vs. passive).
But this millennial age is really an oblique and shitty postmodernity.
Everyone has its own voice in a pluralistic world.
Like last time when I crossed the street of Cubao, I have seen students of one university from Sta.
Mesa having their litanies rectified.
Then it followed by vandalizing the walls of random public spaces with stones in their hands.
What’s that for?
A weapon of mass destruction?
A tool for peace?
You judge.
Okay, we are in a democratic state, yes.
But let me tell you children, we are not utopia.
A perfect society drawn from our senses is only as bad as my ass.
Never in a lifetime will we be a utopia.
I remember one of my students asked, “Sir, what is your stand on student activism?”
I plainly answered, “You are free to voice out but not to the extent of being careless of your intent and acts.”
Where in the world you can get a handful of water being stocked at hand for long a long time?
None.
But do not be waters always looking for some place to escape.
Fluid as it is.
On one hand, it takes one to see the reality we have right now is different from Marcos times nor Cory Aquino days.
Compare with the previous administrations, I see a more vibrant state despite its imperfection.
But for the students/out of school youth whose future is being reclaimed by left-leaning ideologies of New People’s Army (NPA) is a full slavery of mind and poisonous future for students.
Why not study and serve for now instead of drafting oneself to such movement. Why not do the best effort then help your family afterwards instead of throwing chairs initially owned by government?
There is a better world for peacemakers after all.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

New Peoples Army recruiting students
In the name of Philippine nationalism?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 October 2018

It is sad to see how the News People’s Amry (NPA) can easily destroy our youth by spiraling shots of evil.
If the communist rebels are indeed recruiting students from some of the country’s top universities to join a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte, I want to question the intent?
Where is nationalism there?
As per reports, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., assistant deputy chief of staff for operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), had infiltrated 18 schools in Metro Manila, including De La Salle University (DLSU) and Ateneo de Manila University (ADU).
To be honest, there is nothing new and was practically common knowledge, said school officials could be unaware that the CPP was behind the recruitment for the oust-Duterte movement.
Usually, it usually starts from a film.
In Cinema One for example, human rights-related films with abuses under the late President Ferdinand Marcos were being shown to incite students to rebel against the government, incite resurgence of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) experience among students while projecting President Duterte as the new Marcos.
What the heck?!
Also, the rebels were exploiting other issues, such as extrajudicial killings, to incite students to revolt.
Meanwhile, UP student regent Ivy Taroma protested against what she described as the military’s “Red tagging” of the schools to justify repression that would endanger the lives of student activists.
Why not study and be a better citizen of this republic, right?
What is wrong with these students?
I hope they really can succeed on claiming that a “proletarian dictatorship” will happen.
If it succeeds in ousting the President with good and pure intention, probably I may join but to avail such flimsy dreams of rebels for a perfect society is something that I cannot fathom. Wake up people of the Philippines!
NPAs are criminals.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philipines



United States companies in China
Moving production to Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 October 2018

What comes goes around, comes around.
It’s been months since the trade war between United States and China has gone through series of charades; clashes that even Philippines has been sandwiched hitherto.
And all throughout the cycle, President Donald Trump vis-à-vis Xi Jingping’s bout of foreign policy has been clashing.
The United States has imposed tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
In response, China immediately retaliated by imposing new taxes on $60 billion of American imports.
China’s trade sanctions is less than the American sanctions because Beijing is running out of American products to impose tariffs. This is one reason why Trump believes that the United States can easily win a trade war with China.
From geopolitical analysis, China could undermine US efforts to disarm North Korea by not enforcing US sanctions.
China could also confront the United States in the South China Sea.
An escalation of the trade war could lead to China becoming more belligerent. Other options include attempting to isolate Taiwan, deepening ties with Russia as a counterbalance to the US and accelerating its military buildup.
Indeed, US-China trade war is creating some winners in Southeast Asia. According to Bloomberg: “The region is capitalizing on a rush of new orders and production moves as firms reconsider their business in US and China amid a deepening trade war. About one-third of more than 430 American companies in China have or are considering moving production sites abroad amid the tensions, according to survey results released September 13 by the American Chamber-China and the American Chamber-Shanghai. Southeast Asia was their top destination.”
In reality, the Philippines cannot afford to miss participating in this major wave of industrial relocations from an increasingly expensive China.
So where are going the sail our ore?

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Red October
Strategy to get rid of Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 October, 2018

This is a reaction regarding Tonyo Cruz’s ‘The Fictional ‘Red October’ in Philippine Inquirer 29 September 2018.
He specified that the military use the not-so-funny phrase “Red October” as a tagging for strategy to get rid of President Duterte.
He was so irrational and crabby to say that the administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were not firm with the said ‘Red October’ plot just because it has not called for a conference with the National Security Council vis-à-vis the significance of the suspected threat.
I am not in agreement with his statement that the said Red October is just a imaginary effort of Duterte to lead astray public anger from the regime that aggravates, humiliates and tyrannizes them just before the wide-ranging cohesive front can straightforwardly conquest this story.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced this as a precaution to the community for what may occur this coming October.
The public should not be persuaded by this propaganda made by a crabby writer possibly Joma Sison's tentacle (José María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines) that aims to destroy the president’s image and mislead the nation’s trust to the administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Eley-Eydi Del Rosario,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Call for the Philippines to replace
The name Philippines with United Malayaland
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 October 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 25 September

Our country was named after King Philip II of Spain. Hence, we are called Filipinos in honor of the king of Spain.
I personally believe we should aspire to eliminate the last symbol of servitude and oppression that our national hero, Jose Rizal, had chronicled in his writings.
If we review our history, we would know that we belong to the Malay race, like our Asian neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Malaysia has even accorded honor to Rizal, describing him as the pride of the Malay race.
To eradicate the last symbol of bondage to Spain, we should replace the name Philippines with a name that truly represents our real race as Malays.
The Thai people have named their country Thailand.
We could name our country “Malayaland,” which means “free land.”
Or we could adopt the word “united,” similar to the United Arab Emirates, and be known as “United Malayaland,” since we are an archipelago.
This way, the name of the king of Spain, whose expeditionary force had colonized our country and oppressed our ancestors for over 300 years, will be expunged from our race and nation.

Ildefonso G Falla,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Wildlife trafficking is world's third illicit trade
After drugs and weapons
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 October 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 27 September 2018

Our local media often display images of seizures of pangolin, ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts and testudines with headlines hailing the success of wildlife operations conducted by the Malaysian authorities.
While these pictures depict the success of law enforcement against wildlife trafficking, it can be alarming due to the sheer quantity of wildlife products seized not only in Malaysia but also those en route to or re-exported from Malaysia.
Wildlife trafficking is thought to be the third most valuable illicit commerce in the world after drugs and weapons.
Discussions on combating wildlife trafficking have focused mainly on elephants, rhinos and tigers in Africa and Asia.
Often forgotten, however, is the fact that wildlife trafficking occurs across all continents and threatens a wide range of imperilled species, including exotic birds, sea turtles, corals, caimans, iguanas, pangolins, and the list goes on.
Illegal wildlife products are moved through countries and across borders and sold both openly and covertly.
Much of the trade goes on undetected and thus it is difficult to ascertain the enormous quantity of illicit wildlife shipped and sold internationally.
In some cases, wildlife is hidden and passes through checks unknown to Customs and border officials, or is accompanied by false documentation.
Customs officials could also turn a blind eye, give tip-offs or help to conceal illegal wildlife in exchange for bribes or other benefits.
The passage of illegal wildlife through checkpoints and borders may reflect a lack of capacity, training, or a low priority for preventing wildlife crime.
Globalisation has also increased opportunities for concealed transactions, especially where law enforcement and agencies charged with protecting wildlife are under-resourced and poorly supervised.
In many countries, agencies responsible for combating wildlife crime, including addressing corruption in this area, lack the capacity and resources to do so.
This may be due to a lack of priority for wildlife crime, a general lack of resources or infrastructure, or vested interest among decision makers in maintaining corrupt institutions which allow them to enrich themselves illegally.
There is also the perception that the problem is essentially victimless, and as a result governments tend not to give high priority to the issue of wildlife crime, including wildlife related corruption.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global body, is tasked with regulating international wildlife trade. But it is ineffective as it has no enforcement powers, meaning that the slaughter of endangered species and their sale for profits continue unabated.
Transport and logistics is not only the backbone of a modern economy but also a key enabler for trafficking wild animals and wildlife products. Therefore, the transportation and logistics sectors play a critical role in identifying and eliminating risks along the supply chain.
In the case of Malaysia, it has one of the best infrastructures in the region, making it easy for smugglers to transport their goods.
Reports of seizures at sea and airports are common especially in the area of Johor, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Penang International Airport.
Malaysia has a big smuggling problem and is among the top 10 smuggling hubs in the region together with the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.
In addition, there is a new trend of trading through the Internet where buyers are both Malaysians and foreigners.
The question now is whether the legislation in our country is adequate to protect endangered species and to combat illegal wildlife trading.
Does the law provide adequate sentences against illegal wildlife traders?
What approach is taken by the judiciary in combating illegal wildlife trade?
The main issue is with sentencing, which usually means a small fine to the offender or a day spent in jail because the judge or magistrate does not understand the seriousness of the crime.
The authorities need to fight tooth and nail to address wildlife crime in the region through information-sharing as well as joint efforts across government agencies and other relevant agencies and institutions.
Strengthening the enforcement of wildlife law and fighting wildlife crime must be given national, regional and global priority.
Support from organisations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol, World Customs Organisation and CITES is crucial to the success of such efforts.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia




Call for Malaysian students
To pay back student loans
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 October 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 22 September 2018

I refer to the report, “Dr M: Shame on all you defaulters” in The Star, September 21.
What the Prime Minister said is very true, although I think the problem applies not just to National Higher Education Fund Corporation Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasiona (PTPTN) debtors but also many other Malaysians.
We generally like to delay paying whatever we owe.
Finding an excuse would be our first line of defence.
Unpaid loans to PTPTN were a disaster in the making years ago.
First, we appointed a group of government servants who knew zip about finance and loan management to manage millions of ringgit in student loans.
Many of them did not even know how to keep the records straight.
If the records are topsy-turvy, how do they know who had taken the loans and who had repaid?
How do we pursue the debtors when our records are not even up to date?
When banks give loans, do they face problems like what PTPTN is facing?
Some time ago, I said PTPTN loans were a populist universal entitlement for most students regardless of their financial status.
Many students (and their parents too) took the loans because they are cheap and available, treating them like additional income.
When records and recovery measures are ineffective and slow, it is natural for many to delay and find excuses.
There is a saying: “Overdue debts are usually potential bad debts.”
Dr Mahathir talked about the virtue of “shame”, obligation, character, value and culture to pay off one’s debt. I agree, but I think it cannot happen overnight when the whole nation has witnessed stealing, corruption and kleptocracy of the worst form during the past one decade.
We need a tough and professional approach to deal with delinquents.
All PTPTN debtors must be asked to come forward to update their records - name, MyKad number, income, permanent address and telephone number - with the National Higher Education Fund Corporation within a certain period, failing which their passport should be blacklisted again.
Once this is done, PTPTN should work out a repayment schedule with each debtor after taking into consideration all the relevant and extenuating factors.
The idea is they must pay back each month no matter how small the instalment.
It’s time to leave the populist and political considerations aside.
Loan recovery needs a no-nonsense business-like approach. If the borrowers do not pay, there must be consequences.
This is the best approach before we reach “character, culture and value enlightenment”.
And just imagine, the RM36bil in unpaid loans to PTPTN are almost at the magnitude of 1MDB.

T. K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Donations after typhoon Ompong not forthcoming
Due to insults metered out by President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 30 September 2018
First published in the Philipppine Inquirer, Thursday 27 September 2018

The September 19 issue of the Philippine Inquirer reported that the death toll from Typhoon “Ompong” has risen to 74 and damage to crops has climbed to P14 billion.
Up to 40 people are still feared to have been buried in the landslide in Itogon, Benguet.
This has been the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, and it has been widely reported in international media.
In major disasters such as this, international donors, private and government, have historically been the first to announce that financial and material aid are on their way.
I was dismayed when I read that Secretary Sonny Dominguez was quoted to have said that he was considering tapping the World Bank for a $500-million loan to help restitute the damage left by Ompong.
Where are the international donors?
Have they turned sour on the Philippines?
Have we become Asia’s leper?
When a country, world leader or international personality is insulted by no less than the Philippine president, will they turn a blind eye and continue with their generous ways?
I wish I will be proven wrong. I wish donations will pour in.

Dionisio Gil Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Philippine president to establish
National task force to end Communist insurgency
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 September 2018

From words to real-time actions.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is asking President Rodrigo Duterte to create a national task force to end insurgency, an apparent bid to counter what it says is the communist rebels’ broad coalition to bring down the commander in chief.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the primary aim of such task force was to cut off recruitment by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed component, the New People’s Army (NPA).
In response, Malacañang welcomed the proposal on September 23, saying it agreed with the AFP that ending the communist insurgency in the country entails a whole-of-government approach.
As a backdrop, the CPP-NPA had been orchestrating a broad coalition, the Movement Against Tyranny, aimed at economic sabotage and political destabilization. Parlade claimed that the broad coalition included Coalition for Justice and Tindig Pilipinas, alleging that the CPP-NPA was engaged in an “Oplan Aklasan” strategy - a nationwide attempt to close our manufacturing industries and they are using, well, they have infiltrated many of these labor organizations.
It’s really about consolidating their forces, their alliances in time for the 50th communist party anniversary this coming December.
True to its sense, the over-arching strategy of the government is to use Development support and security plan (DSSP) Kapayapaan versus the current stratagem of Oplan Aklasan strategy of CPP-NPA towards as a way forward to the Golden Anniversary the latter in December.
Now that things are little by little unfolding to its knee, the government has to deal with the communists-terrorists as soon as possible since three months left and all plans of CPP-NPA will have its full show in 2019.
Meanwhile, due to volumes of surrenders, I believe that the government forces were winning in armed combat against the NPA though they were not doing so well in the parliamentary struggle that the CPP-NPA employed, which was aimed at infiltrating government agencies and the country’s political system.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty.
Manila,
Philippines



Call for International Criminal Court (ICC) mandate
To investigate corporations
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 September 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 26 September 2018

Debates on the effectiveness of investigations by the International Criminal
Court (ICC) on military and political crimes in Myanmar continue.
Honest debate on pros and cons is needed.
Why is US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, so vitriolic and threatening sanctions against judges and prosecutors of this very young court that is still proving itself?
An early predecessor of the ICC was the Russell Tribunal presided over by
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in 1967.
The private tribunal provided evidence of war crimes committed by the US in Vietnam and helped to end the war to the great relief of the Vietnamese population and American youth who protested conscription that made them fight against their will.
Nevertheless, the dirty war still continued until 1975 as hardliners could not
give up their case.
Constituting an international framework of justice and undertaking peacebuilding not only depend on nation states but as much on civil society, though it is often suppressed.
Private opinion tribunals like on the US war in Vietnam can be of great
influence.
That the US committed war crimes, and that Monsanto was complicit,
has been much later confirmed in the "Monsanto Tribunal", The Hague, 2017. The tribunal also accepted evidence on contemporary violations of human rights by
Monsanto.
The advisory opinions of the civil society tribunal did open venues for new
cases in formal courts and the prevention of future damage to health, livelihoods and the environment.
Patient and pragmatic ICC investigations regarding Myanmar, Afghanistan (where
Bolton was responsible) and the Philippines - and a future mandate to
investigate corporations - will certainly gradually help to contain crimes
against humanity and the earth.

Hans Van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Philippine Government
To address cause of insurgency
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 September 2018

This is in support to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiative on creating a national task force to end insurgency.
For me, this is a perfect solution to wipe out the terrorist groups in our country. Why?
According to a survey, the reasons why there are insurgency (noun: an active revolt or uprising) is because of poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, lack of governance, injustice, etc. and with all of this reasons, only the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are given the task to solve the so called “insurgency”.
Isn’t it’s time for government agency's to take charge in addressing the root cause of the problem and so insurgency will be prevented?
Let us say the problem is “lack of education”, as far as I know, the Department of Education (DepEd) should be the one to take solution on it and so as the other department.
Next, it is more likely if interagency be involve in fighting terrorism/insurgency in the since that they are can even looked into proper charges against terrorist groups. Like for example the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Department of Justice (DOJ).
Will, I believe that the main purpose of the proposed National Task Force is to End Communist Insurgency and to integrate and harmonize all government agencies efforts to solve lingering issues and improve the living conditions of the people to the framework of good governance, inclusive growth and development and enhance human security.
Its goal is to eliminate the conditions of conflict, educate people to become productive and build strong participation of the people and community in solving problems and improve efficiency in the delivery of services and building infrastructure.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,
Manila,
Philippines



Thai government under Thaksin
Was very authoritarian
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 September 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 September 2018

Thailand's governmental system is now worse than Cambodia's and the Philippines
which, although there are problems, is at least democratic and has free speech.
Does Thaksin think his government treated rivals fairly, was not corrupt, was
tolerant of critics, and developed the country?
My memory is his government was very authoritarian.
But he is right that it was at least a presentable elected government that worked with multiple coalition partners and veteran (non-Democrat) politicians.
Thailand seems to be going backwards.
Many TV channels offer no criticism, only nonsense shows for people with low IQs.
What has he done to make friends with rivals?
Does this include the red shirt violence and fires in 36 buildings in Bangkok?
He says he forgives people who slandered him but this still sounds like someone with a chip on his shoulder.
Also he makes it sound like the country's loss was not benefiting from his
experience, whereas Thailand has many capable people, not just himself.

The Brain,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Communist Party of the Philippines
To prove that they helped Typhoon Ompong victims
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 September 2018

What?
The terrorist New People’s Army (NPA) helped the Typhoon Ompong victims in rescue and relief operations?
Seriously?
Its sounds unbelievable and funny!
Where did this terrorist group get the guts and confidence in claiming that they helped in the ongoing rescue and operations when they cannot even show evidence that they were there in the area like the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Coastguard, Local Governments Units (LGU) and other civilian volunteers?
The national television can prove who those people and groups are that are helping hand in hand in both rescue and relief operations.
If the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) want people to believe in their propaganda, then show it us, prove it.
Wear your boots and groups uniform so that we will believe you.
It is easy to say but it’s hard to do.
Is this another deception tactics of your group?
Please don’t use the situation for your personal motive.

Romeo E Alcoseba,
Cagayan Province,
Philippines



Oust Duterte Movement
Cannot be shrugged by Philippine President
The Southeast Asan Times, Monday 24 September 2018

September 21, is the anniversary of Martial Law that was declared by the late President Ferdinand Marcoc in 1972.
The ever surge of reincarnation and incantation of the mass using Martial Law of past and present, unfitted The People Power Revolution (EDSA) spirit, and continuous narratives of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) terrorist leader Jose Maria Sison to defeat the current administration – are methods of coalition tactics like a toddler’s way of arranging toys for his or her own pleasure.
They will keep on saying that like a child, they are innocent but all are pure deception and lies.
Ousting Duterte will have no cutting edge, I am telling you.
They have failed several times and they will always fail due to unethical and evil intent to mobilize mass and cause political agitations.
I mean, link all issues Martial Law in Mindanao and this current Anniversary, Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN), Narco or Drugs Campaign, Typhoon Ompong rehabilitation and relief, and even the inflation rate to bigger picture of democracy, all of these are encompassing agents of rule of the mob to oust a leader that is not biblical and ethical at any rate.
Come to think of it, who wants to oust a President that is willing to secure our nation?
Only the New Peoples Army (NPA) terrorists and oppositionists of the same color trying to wake up the Zombies in all of us.
Our youth will always be victims of liberal ideology intends to have its rebirth over and over again like a double dead meat in the market.
If EDSA traffic can be rhetorically surrendered by President Duterte due to urban planning deficit and uncontrolled increase of vehicles causing traffic all year round, I do believe security issue like Oust Duterte Movement CANNOT BE easily shrugged off shoulder by the President.
I have seen his passion to counter all odds versus leftists.
I hope all of us can duplicate the same response of the government in countering paid militants and destabilizers who are willing to destroy our nation starting from poisonous plot.

Atty. Kristamel E. Narvasa
Human Rights Lawyer
Iloilo City,
Philippines



Call for help for victims of typhoon Ompong
Instead of rallies against Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 September 2018

The rally to ouster Duterte was set to happen on 21st day of September this year.
I cannot understand why people spend so much time on this kind of stupidity?
In the first place there are other concerns and issues that are supposed to be a priority Sison forces have not really done any good deeds.
They are just wasting their effort, money and time in trying to ouster President Duterte.
Are they not able to think about the things that the President has done for our country?
Why do they have to think selfishly?
There are more important things that must be considered first than this rally just to oust President Duterte.
Why don’t they help the victims of the typhoon Ompong which has caused landslides at Benguet.
No matter how hard you try to oust the President, he will never ever go down easily.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines


Filipino's salvage food
From garbage dumps
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 September 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 18 September 2018

“Restaurants Against Hunger,” a child-nutrition program of the worldwide organization Action Against Hunger featured in Margaux Salcedo’s column “Multiplying the loaves and fishes,” in Philippine Inquirer 9 September 20018, deserves support.
It is a good sign that 118 restaurants have signed up to help in alleviating the chronic malnutrition of Filipino kids estimated at 30 percent.
In a recent series of articles that appeared in a Spanish newspaper on the drug war in our country, the reporter wrote on the lives of those people living near garbage dumps.
He said that they go to a “pagpagan,” where food salvaged from garbage is washed, fried and served.
Action Against Hunger wants to prove Sébastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort wrong.
He once cynically proclaimed: “Society is made up of two great classes: those who have more dinners than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinners.”

Fr. Luis P. Supan,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for a long and lasting peace
For Mindanao in the southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 September 2018

It looks like terrorists groups in Mindanao are having fun in bombing civilian places using Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Lately, two explosion erupted in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
Then, an explosion racked the port of Masbate City.
And now, General Santos City was shaken by another explosion using an IED. Eight were reported wounded including a 19 year old victim.
They are really intensifying their terroristic act in hurting and bringing fear to the civilian community and this is too much!
Doing such demonic acts to seek attention is the action of cowards and desperate people whose ideology is lost.
For the people of Mindanao, I hope they will stay strong and be vigilant at all times. Let us not let this lawless group disrupt and destroy our hope in our efforts for a long and lasting peace for our beloved Mindanao.
I believe that if everyone has the courage to fight terrorism in our own simple way, no doubt, we can truly achieve a progressive and peaceful Mindanao, including for the whole of the Philippines.

Sandra M. Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,
Manila,
Philippines



Terrorists in the Philippines
Accused of recruiting children
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 September 2018

This is in reaction to the article written by Julie Alipala of Philippine Daily Inqurer on September 15, 2018 entitled “7 young Tausug men killed by military not Abu Sayyaf bandits – relative” is malicious and decisive.
First of all, it already judges the capability of the soldiers to identify their enemies.
It also places the military into trial without finding concrete facts on the incident.
It seems that the author of the article is one sided or bias on the issue.
Remember, it was proven that terrorist groups like the Grupong Abu Sayyaf (ASG) are recruiting and using minors in their terroristic activities and the truth is, families of this minors knew that their children or relatives are active members of the terrorist groups and much disappointing is, most of their family are behind reason why they joined the terrorist group in exchange of a small amount of money. And of course, when something wrong happened, they will be defended.
Second, the issue was used as propaganda against the implemented Martial Law in Mindanao.
Now, the question is, who are the people opposing Martial Law in Mindanao? Well, only criminals and left leaning groups who want to overthrow the current administration are the one who criticizes Martial Law in Mindanao and the rest, approved and wanted Martial Law.
And Finally, Human Rights are called for investigation of the so called “massacre”. If that so, then why there was no Human Rights investigating the death of many victims being kidnapped and beheaded by this terrorist groups? Why there was no Human Rights investigating on the soldiers unmercifully killed by this terrorist groups?
Let us be fair and just in everything we do.
Let us not be defeated by our emotions and bad experiences.
May we all be responsible to everything we do or write especially in sensitive issues.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,
Manila,
Philippines

 

TRAIN Act blamed for inflation
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 September 2018

The economic status of the Philippines today affects the life of the Filipino community.
The continued price increase of goods in the Philippine gives every Filipino family a hard time. According to the experts, what we are experiencing now is the result and effect of today’s Inflation.
Inflation refers to an overall increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a weighted average of prices for different goods.
The set of goods that make up the index depends on which are considered representative of a common consumption basket.
Yes, it is true that because of this, individual budgets are at risk.
But the good news is that 1.5 Million new job opportunities have opened and the unemployment rate is down to 5.4 percent this year compared to 6.2 percent in 2017.
Another, The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is still the fastest in the world at 6.3 percent.
The 6.4 percent Inflation today is nothing compared to the countries 10.5 percent inflation in 2008.
Thus, the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act is one of the factors being blamed for inflation.
Yet, the TRAIN Act is one of the primary ways in which the 2020 and 2040 vision of the Duterte administration is to be achieved and so, it had optimistic projections about its effect on the economy, development and poverty alleviation in its inception.
On the other hand, the TRAIN Act has nothing to do with the increase in inflation. Seriously, it is being used as a popular scapegoat by anti-government groups who use the opportunity to take advantage of the economic situation to badmouth the government.

Shaira Fahad R Dimaporo
Economic Analyst,
Manila,
Philippines



Poverty in the Phillipines made worse
By insensitive politicians and economic dunces
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 September 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 14 September 2018

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s recent remarks on the sky-high 6.4-percent inflation rate reveals his utter disconnect from the vast majority of Filipinos. For the unrepentant Roque to claim that “inflation is under control” runs contrary to the experience of the masses, where nearly all common goods and services have increased in cost as a result of a series of fallacious economic policies.
The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law TRAIN, no matter how much the administration denies it, will remain the culprit that triggered the current price hikes that burden the poor.
Often overlooked by the likes of Roque from the ruling class is the intense struggle of those in the margins of society who suffer due to the decisions by this government: students from low-income families struggling to make their allowance last a day and must now manage every single peso with greater attention than before; and workers whose wages are barely enough to buy commodities to fulfill their family’s needs, and who, simultaneously, also suffer worsening labor conditions.
More examples come to mind, but if one thing is unmistakably true, it is that the long struggle of the masses has become even more intense due to the bungled policies of economic managers, made worse by insensitive politicians and economic dunces.
And yet they deny their fault in all these effects, distracting the people from the cause of their suffering, as if the masses are so stupid that they would not see through their smokescreens, such as the persecution of opposition leaders to consolidate power for themselves, rather than to serve the people.

Shara Mae Landicho,
Spokesperson,
Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for abolition of export tax
For Malaysia's precious metals
The Southeast Asian Times, 17 September, 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 14 September 2018

I refer to the report “‘Belt tightening’ for 2019” in The Star, September 10 on Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng saying, rightly, that increasing the corporate tax at this moment is not appropriate.
But tightening the belt alone might not be sufficient because of the current national debt of RM1 trillion.
Has the Pakatan Harapan government considered the possibility of increasing revenue through the abolition of tax, in this case the 5 percent tax on the export of refined silver and platinum group metals?
The international rate charged in other countries for refining these precious metals is between 3 percent and 4 percent, which means it is not economically viable for overseas companies to do refining services in Malaysia.
No wonder the London Bullion Market Association members are contracting their refining services to companies in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.
I understand that our taxation system is still not on par with these countries, hence attracting investment for precious metals recycling services from multinational corporations is beyond our current capabilities.
However, our local precious metals refiners are mature enough to compete in this international trade.
They can import scrap, refine it for re-export and make sufficient profit to pay income tax. Currently, the government is not collecting any tax from this industry because it is not viable for local refiners to serve the international market.
I hope the International Trade and Industry Minister and Economics Affairs Minister will work together with the Finance Minister to ensure that the refining of precious metals for international customers will become a viable economic activity in Malaysia.

Lim Kim Chuan,
Masai,
Johor,
Malaysia




US satellite imaging in search for Wild Boars
In Chiang Rai cave not fake news
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 September 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 14 September 2018

Re: "Society falls prey to disinformation", in Bangkok Post Opinion, September 11.
Pirongrong Ramasoota mentioned that before the Wild Boars boys were located in a Chiang Rai cave, even the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS), Thailand's only public TV channel, misinformed the public with a piece of widely shared news on social media that talked about the US using military satellite imaging technology to help locate the youngsters.
A local space authority later denied this.
ThaiPBS would like to clarify the content we presented in the evening news on
June 30.
We mentioned that the 3D scanning device in question, which was effective in detecting and analysing body heat emitting from living organisms, was involved in the search and rescue efforts, and that, for security reasons, images created by the device would not be publicised.
In our story, we said the device was highly accurate and could be used during
both day and night. We said it had been helping US military attacks that
required great precision.
The information was sourced from people close to American rescuers working in
Chiang Rai.
We concluded that the sources were credible and the device was a genuine option
in a hectic and increasingly desperate situation, although questions remained
about various factors in the area, such as weather and unique terrain.
We saw pictures of the device, which we promised not to publicise due to
security reasons.
Instead, our broadcast footage displayed the activities of rescuers, and we tried our best to explain how the device worked.
For the reasons mentioned above, coupled with the facts that all local and
foreign rescuers were doing their best with utmost sincerity and willingness to
help locate the boys, there was no reason to suspect that the sources were not
telling us the truth.
We would also like to mention that throughout the rescue attempts, we were well
aware of information shared on social media that needed to be thoroughly
checked.
Our coverage in question was the work of our reporters in the area,
with the only motive being to bring the public truthful and accurate news about
the Tham Luang situation.
Limitations that restricted the published content did not mean that we, the
editorial team, were working the easy way and overlooked professional standards
during the Tham Luang coverage.

Korkhet Chantalertluk,
News Director,
ThaiPBS,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Prosecution of a former PM
Is unprecedented in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 September 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 14 September 2018

It has been reported that a retired Chief Justice has criticised Attorney General Tommy Thomas for not leading the prosecution of the former prime minister.
As a retired civil servant, I have a different view of the Attorney General’s role.
The former Chief Justice, with respect, has made some powerful arguments probably based on the law, past precedents and his experience to state why the present Attorney General should not “chicken out” of leading the prosecution of our former prime minister.
At the outset, I would as a person who is not a lawyer congratulate the present Attorney General for his courageous decision to delegate this particular prosecutorial role to two of the country’s most eminent lawyers.
Malaysia had from 1970 become an increasingly prime minister-centric, almost presidential system.
The two prime ministers from 1970 were men of the highest probity and there was not a whiff of them being tainted in any way.
From 1981, we had a prime minister who had Parliament pass many laws which vested unbridled power on the office of the prime minister.
From 2003, when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became prime minister, there was no dilution in the powers of the prime minster.
When Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took over as prime minster in April 2009, he seems to have utilised those powers not just for national security or economic interest.
In Malaysia’s short history, the prosecution of a former prime minister is unprecedented.
The current Attorney General cannot possibly do justice to his prosecutorial and advisory role if he takes on the enormously important assignment of prosecuting Najib, the son of a former prime minister at that.
It became somewhat embarrassingly clear during Najib’s tenure that the prime minister had unbridled authority in not only appointing officials to the executive branch, including the legal service, but also to business, banking and corporate positions as the government owned almost 45 percent of the equity in listed companies.
The government’s role was so overwhelmingly significant that retired bureaucrats, bankers and judges, given our overall increased life expectancy, could expect to be on the boards of directors of these government linked companies until their 80s. Lifelong loyalty was cultivated in this way.
The current Attorney General has the most ambitious and largest legislative agenda in our history to bring our human rights laws to be in sync with universal standards set by the United Nations.
Our country is not a party to various international conventions including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The Attorney General is also tasked with restoring the principle of the separation of powers in our national governance system.
Both these tasks cannot be understated.
Given the significance of the events of May 9/10 2018, it is important to fully use the time available until the next general election to abrogate colonial era laws and introduce amendments to other legislation so that we have a more stable and progressive situation where the import of the fundamental principles of our Constitution are upheld and safeguarded.

M. Santhananaban,
Retired Foreign Service Officer
Kajang,
Malaysia



No questioning of capability and integrity
Of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 September 2018

According to the constitution, ARTICLE XVI, Section 5, all members of the armed forces shall take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution.
Many are questioning the capability and integrity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Sometimes, even how hard the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shows its sincerity on the oath that they take, it is still not enough in the eyes of many especially those who are against the government.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) credibility was dragged into a mess of various sensitive issues and scandals in other agencies of the government.
But then, those issues did not knock down the organizations.
Corruption issues such as military retirement fund (PABAON), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) procurement, and modernization and even the issue on mutiny and so on and so forth but at the end the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) survived.
Still, of all of the challenges the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is encountering, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have proven its capability, integrity, loyalty and commitment to the people.
It was then proven in many times when our country is under threat by different lawless group, the Zamboanga siege, Bohol Siege.
Many parts of the country became insurgency free because of the effort of the soldier.
Even in times of disaster or calamities we can call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for help.
They are also giving honor to our country like the recent Asian Games where a member of Philippines Air Force (AW1C Hidilyn Diaz), won the first gold for the Philippines and the most unforgettable is the Marawi siege and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stand tall and prove to the nation that they are the defender of the state.
No one can deny that for sure.
Now that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is under pressure with the current issue of the former LTSG Antonio Trillanes IV, the the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) once is again facing a challenging matter particularly on the issue on the involvement in coup d etat of some military personnel.
But in the end, I believe that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a strong institution.
An institution that is true to its oath and always guided by rule of law, the constitution and its chain of command.
I know that our military has no reason to involve in this nonsense issue since their state of moral is high: Salary increase, the 85 percent approval rating and the trust of current leadership and the people.
This are all enough basis that we have a strong Armed Forces of the Philippines and no one can destroy it.

Miguel Abarguez,
Bohol,
Philippines

 


New Malaysian Government has opportunity
To lead a new media culture
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 September 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 8 September 2018

I have been following the proposal by the government to end, or at least restrict, media ownership by people with political links.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo had reportedly said that a decision will be made only after the ministry has presented its study to the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, a news portal, quoting sources, said the Prime Minister was mulling the idea of restricting ownership by politically-connected individuals or groups to a 10 percent stake.
Gobind reportedly reiterated his stance that he would like to ban news agencies from being owned by political entities, which could skew the articles published.
I think most Malaysians would agree that Gobind has good intentions but I am not sure of its practicality because a media owner need not have to be a party member or leader, but can still skew coverage to suit a particular party.
Take for example Fox TV in the United States.
There is nothing to suggest that the owners are the Republican party or that it is owned by President Donald Trump but its bias towards Trump is obvious.
Fox Broadcasting Company is a commercial television network that is a flagship company of Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.
The coverage of Fox TV has been much criticised while CNN is seen to be clearly against Trump, while pretending to be neutral.
Its reporting is hardly balanced as it seems bent on bringing down Trump. On the surface, CNN is an independent news company, owned by Turner Broadcasting System, and has no link to the Democratic Party.
Gobind’s plan may be honourable but it will be difficult for him to convince taxpayers that state-run media agencies such as Bernama and RTM will give equal coverage to both Pakatan Harapan and the Opposition.
Government media agencies will be used by the government to highlight the work of their ministers and state executive councillors.
We should not kid ourselves that RTM and Bernama will cover Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi or MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong at work in their constituencies.
It is well-known that some Malaysian media companies are linked or owned by political parties, but it’s not all rosy.
One is about to close shop while another seems to be doing well despite the difficult business environment.
A leading online portal wants to be regarded as independent but its slant has always been towards Pakatan Harapan parties.
That aside, political allegiance from media organisations is not unusual.
Even in the US and Britain, newspapers make their stand clear, especially in their editorials.
How does one impose ownership rules on one-man news portals and blogs that number in their hundreds, if not thousands, in this digital age?
The Government should focus on dismantling the many laws affecting the media first, for example the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
It should not show preference to media outlets that support them and shun those that do not.
The Pakatan Harapan government has the chance of leading a new culture – of taking criticism and not be too quick to give calls to editors or snub those that are perceived to be not aligned with them politcally.
In short, let market forces determine the level of support for these media outlets.
It will not be wise to interfere in the free market as that would go against freedom of ownership – especially when taxpayers have to fund state-run media organisations.
It would be better if more media companies, regardless of their medium, are set up to allow greater competition.
Leave the media alone, and let them compete among themselves. Let the readers decide their fate and readership.

Media Studies Academic,
Bangi,
Malaysia

 


Philippine Duterte administration
Accused of selling out to China
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 September 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 10 September 2018

I salute Manuel L. Quezon III for having written a great piece concerning the attempt to have Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV arrested,“Guilt by association,” in Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 5 September 2018.
It’s just mind-blowing to see the extent the Duterte administration will go to choke any form of opposition.
Instead of having the greater good of the country in mind, these people are only concerned about one thing: staying in power.
They’re willing to ruin the future of the country by selling it out to China, scaring investors away and driving the economy into a downward spiral.
And, worst, bending the law and its spirit into their very own small-minded mold.
No need to be a prophet, this country is going down!

Robert Fuessl,
Manila,
Philippines

 

ISIS skillful at using social media in claiming
Accountability for terrorist acts in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 September 2018

Terrorism is a timeworn occurrence, and it’s one various nations around the world have engrossed and split with in various ways.
In considering how to approach the present problem of terrorism all over the world, it’s worth questioning what’s really new about it, which examples can inform future retorts, and what past failures can clarify for the way frontward?
Terrorism “works” in ration by drawing courtesy to the political reason that stimulates it.
Social media, enlarge and extent this outcome, and ISIS has confirmed skillful at using it, from allocating alarming execution videos to tactically claiming accountability for bouts, such as the Abu Sayyaf group beheaded the late Jurgen Gustav Kantner in 2016 here in the Philippines, in which the aggressors’ direct relations to ISIS are unclear.
The Marawi Siege happened a year ago by the Maute group also in connect with ISIS.
Just recently the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters operating in Mindanao area who targeted innocent civilians resulted to the death of two people and wounding of 14 others and the recent blast happened in Masbate caused by the New People’s Army.
After all the barbaric actions made by the terrorist the question remains.
How do folks get “radicalized’?
No one really tells how it occurs; one of the only things terrorism specialist approve on is that there is no description of an archetypal terrorist.
It’s hard to impede this matter but as peace-loving Filipinos, we can help our country to build a barrier for a strong defense against terrorism.
We can contribute help to our government by being attentive to those suspicious groups or individual with distrustful actions.
Let us be more vigilant in order to filter local and international terrorist.

Ann R. Aquino,
Manila,
Bangkok



Jordan’s King Abdullah II to donate
Two attack helicopters to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, 10 September 2018

This is what I am talking about - the robust military tie-up of a Southeast Asia state like Philippines and a Middle-Eastern military might by Jordan.
This is good news like the recent visit of President Duterte to win Israel.
As per report, Jordan’s King Abdullah II will donate two attack helicopters to the Philippines that will be turned over to the Philippines in July 2019, when pilots have been trained. Jordan would also donate other equipment such as mortars, rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade.
I believe this is to at least beef up Philippine’s military capability, eyeing new acquisitions including aircraft and a submarine from Russia.
Meanwhile, Duterte was warned by Cabinet officials against hurling insults at former United Nations High Commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, a member of the Jordanian royal family, as the Philippines was then in talks with Jordan for the donation of the choppers. Zeid, a member of the Jordanian royal family, earned the Duterte administration's ire after suggesting that the latter see a psychiatrist.
Interestingly, military was not only the clout of conversation.
During the visit, the Philippines and Jordan also signed deals on labor, foreign affairs, and trade. Let us see what may be locked and loaded between Philippines and Jordan.

Jumel G. Estranero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for refund of airport taxes
At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 September 2018
First published in Bangkok Post, Thursday 6 September 2018

Dear Airports of Thailand,
It is important to explain to the thousands of passengers at Suvarnabhumi on the morning of September 5 why there was such an extended and extensive electricity outage.
Cutting off electricity in certain areas at the airport is a disgrace.
Lounges were closed because there was no power.
Hundreds of passengers who had paid a premium were refused access to the lounges because somehow you designed a system that was not backed up adequately.
There were large areas of darkness wherever passengers walked.
This is a proper disgrace to the nation not having the main international airport with an adequate backup electricity supply.
So then, Airports of Thailand (AOT), will you return the premiums people paid for tickets and the airport taxes that they paid for their flights but received poor service?

AC,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Surrender of New Peoples Army fighters
Adds to Philippine Government fight against insurgency
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 September 2018

The succession of surrender in the New Peoples Army (NPA) is a plus factor in the government’s movement against insurgency.
Another New Peoples Army (NPA) commander with 3 rebels belonged to the Sub-Regional Committee 4 surrendered in Southern Mindanao.
The 2 of them belonged to the Ata-Manobo tribe in Davao Del Norte.
They exposed that they were jilted by their comrades in Loreto, province of Agusan del Sur.
This is the reason why they felt startled for their security and decided to yield upon hearing that 10th ID still receive surrenders’.
I believe as a former activist (Kabataan partylist) that there is no more direction in their organization.
Perhaps these folks were already very fed up with the snowballing atrocities of the New Peoples Army (NPA), much more of current attacks on civilians as well as soldiers and law-enforcement authorities.
Their recent attacks and blast at Masbate has been condemned by many.
The nation is one in saying these capitulate can make a big difference in the operations of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and optimistically more surrendered in the future.

Eley Eydi Del Rosario,
Ex- Kabataan Partylist member,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine President Duterte prefers
Ferdinand Marcos as vice president
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 September 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 5 September 2018

As a citizen of this country who believes in the power of democracy, I consider the uncalled-for statements of President Duterte on the capability of Vice President Leni Robredo as improper.
To his cohorts, these sudden bursts of remarks are considered excusable, part of his natural flair as a maverick leader
But the impact of how he expresses them are offensive to the person his statements target.
Saying that the Vice President is incapable of succeeding him should not be openly stated.
We need to practice diplomacy and tact, and respect the rights of a person, regardless of his or her station in life.
We expect our President to set a good example.
But his statements saying that he prefers the likes of a dictator like Marcos rather than Leni Robredo to become his successor are improper.
My respect for President Duterte has been blemished because of this, not because the Vice President is a Bicolano like me, but because I expected him to be diplomatic in his actions as the duly elected leader of our country.
At the same time, he needs to consider the democratic principle that Vice President Leni Robredo was also duly elected by the majority of our citizenry.
Therefore, he must bind himself to the will of the people, the same way the rest of those who did not vote for him are duty-bound to give him respect as the duly elected President.

Jose M Briones,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

The use of Improvised Explosive Devices are against
The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 September 2018

Few days ago, the City of Isulan in Sultan Kudarat was disturbed by an explosion that left three dead and many injured.
Last night, another explosion disrupted the silence of the night in the same town of Isulan, killing an 18 year old boy and injuring 15 people, and now an explosion has been reported in the port of Masbate City.
Though there were no reported casualties, all of this was a result of using Improvised Explosive Device (IED’s) by lawless people.
According to the law, the use of Improvised Explosive Device or IED by any groups are an obvious disregard of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Hence, IED is defined as a bomb fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles. In some cases, IEDs are used to distract, disrupt, or delay an opposing force, facilitating another type of attack.
I believe, all of these things intensify terrorist propaganda to convey fear among the civilians.
Thus, I would say that groups behind these demonic actions are desperate enough and are seeking attention from both local and international audiences since their strength has weaken and most of their members are now returning to the government fold
As a true Filipino and an advocate for peace, we must not be disrupted by the propaganda of these useless people rather let us be more vigilant at all times.
All of us must work hand in hand if we want peace in our country.
Let us also trust, support and cooperate with authorities because I believe, they are the only ones who can protect us especially in times of threat.

Sandra M Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for patience in the pursuit of peace
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 September 2018

The government’s thirst to seek peace is an interminable quest.
For many years it has worked for it.
There was a time when peace with the New Peoples Army (NPA) terrorist group was just about there, but a hindrance always come in.
By being true servant to the folks, government officials tasked to pursue the peace talks do justice to their calling.
They seek opportunities to attain it, though how hard it has become.
Very clear that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New Peoples Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has stated it will not go to the negotiating table and to just wait for the next administration to thresh it out.
Their atrocities, arson and IPs and barangay officials killing continues like what happened to the barangay chairman of Panciao in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, Mario Gonzales, the fifth to be killed since June.
It is the people’s expectation that something has come out with this.
It is apparent the CPP-NPA-NDFP is absorbed and has made moves in the past to talk of peace.
Whether the government will allow them more time to think it over is now a big impending question.
Will the government forever be hopeful and not get exhausted?
We hope not .
It’s getting harder to court the CPP-NPA into peace.
But patience on the government’s part may pay off, eventually.

Marielle Pagsolingan,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for direct primary elections
For Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 September, 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 2 September 2018

Re: "Limited primary vote draws flak", in Bangkok Post, Thursday 30 August 2018.
A true primary vole, such as that carried out in the US, is a direct election
and thus gives power to the people -- which is what should be. Each voter
selects whom he wants to be his party's standard-bearer, choosing from several
candidates.
Combined with opportunities such as face-to-face debates between candidates,
voters can become fully informed about the strengths and weaknesses of each
aspirant, and choose wisely.
Instead of a primary, the junta is proposing that each party's executive board
-instead of party members - select the candidates.
As Jade Donavanik, chair of the Faculty of Law College of Asian Scholars,
pointed out, this "new" system is no different from the previous one, where the
party's executive boards had all of the say in determining candidates.
This is in no way the political reform which we so badly need.
A primary that represents the members' wishes takes much time to organise,
especially for inexperienced parties - which is why the junta should have
allowed political activities long, long ago, and should do so now.
Do it right, move us from a dictatorship towards a "government of the people,
for the people, and by the people"
(Abraham Lincoln).
Give us a direct primary election, not a sham that fools nobody.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Assasination of Kim Jong Nam cost much less
Than assasination of Moammar Gadhafi
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 September 2018
First published in the Japan Times, Thursday 31 August 2018

On August 17, The Japan Times published an article titled “Seeking justice for Kim Jong Nam,” about the killing of the half-brother of the North Korea’s ruler.
Below that article was a news item headlined “Libya militiamen get death for 2011 killings.”
I see great irony in these stories appearing on the same page.
For the Kim assassination, North Korea hired two young women to kill him and only him. Each of the women was given $600.
For the assassination of Moammar Gadhafi seven years earlier, the U.S., England and France hired NATO and Libyan rebels.
The rebels were trained by the CIA and given provisions and weapons worth more than $1 billion.
NATO planes bombed all of the military installations between Benghazi and Tripoli to aid the rebels’ advance to the capital and, in the end, bombed the car in which Gadhafi was attempting to escape.
For the assassination of one man, NATO and the CIA bombed many of Tripoli’s public buildings, destroying Libya’s capacity to provide its citizens with water and killing hundreds of Libyan civilians.
They did everything except pull the trigger of the gun that killed Gadhafi.
Justice?
Sure!
When two young women from developing countries kill a man, there should be justice.
But when a woman acting as the U.S. Secretary of State arranges for a man’s murder, she can not only get away with it but laugh about it on camera.
Then she can run for president.
It all makes sense if you believe in NATO and the U.S.

Iver Torikian,
Kobe,
Japan



Condemnation of Philippines New Peoples Army
Attack on Ilo-Ilo hydro power plant
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 September, 2018

The communist rebels’ recent atrocity in Igbaras town, Ilo-Ilo where they attacked the site of Century Peak Energy Corp, a mini-hydro power plant deserves to be condemned.
These New Peoples Army (NPA) possess on committing atrocities against the civilian population whom they promised to look after against abusive political figures.
Their role as scoundrels in our history is flagrant.
Let us condemn their unlawful activity.

Eydi Eley Del Rosario,
Manila,
Philippines


Filipino's have right to know the state
Of the President's health under the constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 September 2018

Another fib from the Communist Party of the Philippines leader, Jose Maria Sison about President Rodrigo Duterte’s health.
He spread hearsay that the president is heavily sick and entered into comatose which was defended earlier by Assistant to the President Christopher Go.
He uploaded a video of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) wherein he was in a meeting with Frances Veronica Victorio, the former Climate Change Commission vice chair.
Go, challenged Sison to go home and join go through medical examination with PRRD.
On the other hand, Senator Koko Pimentel gave his statement that why believe in the report of someone hundreds of kilometers away in Europe?
That is absolutely true.
In my opinion we, Filipinos has the right to know about the President’s health condition.
Based on Section 12 of Art. VII of the Constitution states that, “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness. “
I think the video of PRRD uploaded by Go was enough proof of evidence that he was not in coma plus we were just victimized by hearsay from crabby Joma.
This is a clear propaganda and we shall not be play away from this kind of fake news that goes around. Joma and his organization is charlatan trying hard to oust duterte and deceit to our nation.

Ann R. Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

 

Philippines warns China
That treading on the law has ramifications
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 September 2018

China’s very own amphibious aircraft AG600 with the codename“Kunlong” is capable of landing and taking off from Beijing’s bases in the South China Sea. Chinese media stated that the aircraft has military uses sidewise from it that will be used for fighting forest fire, maritime rescue and monitoring which I think is very alarming.
We all know that China is not above the law.
Its rebuff to partake in the arbitral-tribunal trial the Philippines’ territorial case displays improperly.
Being a giant with obvious military might does not give it authorization to act as being over and above the law, and bestow with the international community’s judgment just like that.
China has not only become a bully but now also a swellhead.
It thinks it can cow anybody, obliging others to follow its impulses and quirks or else.
The proceedings are imperative for the Philippines as I will determine the further course of the case including needs and arranging of any more written capitulations and hearings at a suitable time, and after pursuing the views of other parties.
China should bear in mind that it is treading on the law and this would certainly have ramifications.
China was also given the chance to air its side and even if it will not play its part, the case will still be tried.
China should also collaborate for further denunciation will only protract the case which to my mind, is what China really desires, to continue constructing its structures with missile bases in the claimed islands vying for time.

Ann R. Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines





The Bangsamao Organic Law passed in July
May not bring peace to Mindanao in southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 August 2018

Despite a number of New People’s Army (NPA) surrenders tantamount to 103 in Negros Oriental who also pledged loyalty to the government last August 25, the renewed clashes of attack by other threat groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are pieces of evidence of continued violence across the Philippines because of self-centered ideology and insincerity.
Recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed at least seven armed Islamic State-linked Moro group during the two-day artillery offensives in the province’s marshland since August 26 in Sitio Kabasalan, Barangay Darampua, Sultan sa Barongis town of Maguindanao.
That attack was spearheded by under Ismael Abubakar alias “Commander Bungos”.
Now, try to consider this.
Another BIFF incident also happened in the same province but in a different area. Between rival factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Sitio Nanas, Barangay Pamalian in Shariff Saidona Mustapha town since August 26, two groups of Ninio Ebrahim and Commander Bisaya are squabbling for control of areas whose residents they extort "protection money" from.
Yes, because of money and power – they are divided even if both of them are BIFFs!
This is the same with NPA’s 50-year old criminal act of extortion.
Different threat groups but same kind of hooliganism.
At some point, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that was passed last July may not wholesomely solve peace in Mindanao.
Groups like BIFF also wants a piece of the pie and wants enrich their own ideology and interests to derail the path of peace accord.
For example, Abubakar’s faction is one of the three BIFF factions that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Ironically, the group had been moving around the marshland, using wooden motorized boats, and relying on farmers and fishermen’s forced taxation in the guise of “zakat,” an annual obligatory contribution of Muslims under Islamic laws, to be used for charitable and religious purposes.
This is like NPA’s extortion disguising as Robin Hood’s alms to the needy.
What a shame for the both of them (BIFF and NPA).
They can be best of friends with their activities of atrocities.
Now, what can you expect from these hardcore terrorists.
Same color of feathers. Always doing a copycat of methods.
Overall, the affected populace is not themselves but the innocent men, women, and children; villagers running for their lives. Let us stop this cycle of violence!

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for punishment of Christian priests and Buddhist monks
For the sexual abuse of children
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 August 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 27 August 2018

Nearly every day you read in the papers about the abuse and even killing of
children.
In the Bangkok Post of Aug 25 you read the cases of a nine-year-old
boy who was in a monastery being killed by the monk who was supposed to take
care of him.
A day earlier there was a report about the sexual assault by an army sergeant
major of a seven-year-old boy.
In Western papers and magazines there were repeatedly reports about sexual abuse of children by Christian priests.
Finally the Pope has expressed his disgust about these happenings and the churches are finally preparing the punishment of these bastards.
Personally I am against the death penalty.
However, all bastards who are abusing and even killing innocent children deserve to be executed.

Lupus,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Call for health checks for Philippine President Duterte
And CCP chairman Jose Maria Sison
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 August 2018

I call my students in Political Science and Philosophy to pay attention to the words of Joma Sison and recently by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. Accordingly, the latter was trying to catch the attention of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison to submit himself, along with President Duterte, to a medical check up to determine if he is healthy.
I do not know exactly know the reason why he had resorted to such remarks to be thrown with the Communist terrorist mogul but I believe (as a Professor of Politics) that it is part of Go’s political communication.
Two reasons probably.
One, as a right hand of the President, he has a special way of saying things but it must be careful. It may create a backlash to him same with the President Duterte.
But since Joma Sison took chances first of throwing mud over the fence of Malacañang (like a petty young squatter child running amuck), the natural response is to react and bring the showdown to the neighborhood.
In this case, to media and general public.
This may test whether people who have learned the statement by Go will create a power vacuum to support the government in attacking Joma Sison for his childish tantrums.
Second, let us say what he is doing is a double-edge sword.
He may or may not be successful on this.
Why?
If he is doing this in countering Sison for the government or Duterte administration’s sake then it but normal to think that a statist versus pluralist’s word riot is happening in the air.
Meanwhile, if he is doing this to create a noise for his pseudo-premature campaign to run in 2019 election (even if he is not actually into campaign right now since they are devoid from doing so); it is also an effective way to gain traction with the public.
Telling the public that we have to throw mud with Joma is technically a must-see-show.
Meanwhile, as a civilian, I do agree partially with Go’s challenge with Sison.
I mean, why not?
If he really is strong enough to fight for Communist Party of the Philippine (CPP) and New Peoples Army's (NPA) socialist movement, it is also break even on his part to maintain health for a longer life.
He must be aware that he is also getting old.
He may consider this as an offer here in the Philippines to check-up by his fellow Filipinos.
A lot of Filipino here is expecting from his return by the way to see his genuine intent.
If he is fighting for equality, it is also of co-equal importance to go home and try Filipino-made hospitalization along with our President to test who really gone crazy when it comes to dead ideology?
I guess people will realize that Sison is butthead rich in Neatherlands yet he is afraid to know his real health status.
And instead of focusing on his sickness, the lense is tilted to Duterte to bring the allegation against the government. Indeed, we are ill-fated nation gaga on Sison’s craze and chauvism.
In general, it seems the Joma Sison is not only an expert in moving volcanoes of issues, altering legal doctrines, and twisting the truth.
Why not challenge Sison’s audacity to usurp the function of a medical doctor in certifying that Duterte is in coma in the high expectation of convincing the Filipinos for his own masters: Communism and Terrorism.
The problem is that the more he tries his very best, the more he resorts to superlatives.
All the more CPP shows its deficiency in comprehension as an organization.
Perhaps the "Leviathan" had come to terms with his body indeed that Joma is now acting to demonize the health condition of the President.
This is a challenge to another person who cannot come to terms that what he is fighting for is a dead cause already.
So come on, Joma for once in your life should try to man up and accept a challenge instead of sending your minions (NPAs) to cover you behind and taint the mind of millions of Filipinos of lies and deception along with evil atrocities by the rebel terrorists.
On the other hand, from the strong words of Duterte, he is still on tip-top health condition.
If they say he really is a septuagenarian, he lives up on it until he finishes his business by 2022.
Now, the question is: Are you afraid Joma Sison to know the bitter pill of truth? Better come home, Mr. Coma Sison, este - Joma Sison. Let us be a man!

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for relocation of Philippines
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 August 2018

The editorial on how dangerous the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has become, with the Xiamen Airlines plane skidding off the runway, was spot on (“Time to retire Naia,” 8/20/18).
The incident was another close call, and if not for piloting skills, the plane could have plowed into residential areas.
This should inspire a sense of heightened urgency, but the editorial puts the delay at “bureaucratic inertia,” which sounds like a euphemism for incompetent or vacant leadership.
Can we not learn from others’ mistakes?
Hong Kong airport was closed in 1998 because it simply became too hazardous to fly in among all the skyscrapers, so another airport was built, because safety was the utmost concern.
Near-misses are one of the most serious safety concerns.
According to Eurocontrol, an average of two incursions take place each day at Europe’s 600 civil airports.
The most serious was on Oct. 8, 2001, when an SAS MD-87 on takeoff at Linate Airport in Milan smashed into a Cessna Citation, which had encroached on the runway. It resulted in the death of 118 people.
The reasons for that disaster: a number of nonfunctioning and nonconforming safety systems, standards and procedures at the airport (e.g., bad or missing signage).
It remains the deadliest civil aviation accident in Italian history.
Then there is the serious matter of pilot fatigue, resulting in a number of crashes overseas, notably the one near Buffalo, New York, where overworked pilots made a fatal error of judgment.
And who can forget the worst aviation disaster in history at Tenerife, due to heavy fog and impatience on the part of a highly experienced Dutch pilot, resulting in over 500 fatalities?
But wasn’t there also a crash of a cargo plane at Naia a few years ago with civilian fatalities in a residential area in Parañaque?
An intelligent approach would be to utilize both Sangley Point and Clark ASAP before anything more serious happens. Let’s have another Boracay decision-making process - do the right thing at the right time with the right people, before it’s too late.
That runoff at the runway should be a wake-up call.

Walter P. Komarnicki,
Manila,
Philippines



US objects to Philippines
Purchase of submarines from Russia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 August 2018

The Philippines is seeing few options to upgrade our naval capability.
While President Rodrigo Duterte has the final decision, Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad sees that the best way to procure the country’s first submarines is through a government-to-government (G2G) route.
“I think the best way is include G2G para mawala yung complication ng procurement but it depends on the President,” he told reporters on August 22.
Russia, one of the potential suppliers of the submarines, has offered a soft loan to the Philippine government to be paid over a period of time.
As a maritime nation, he sees the need to acquire submarines sooner as a strategic deterrence to other foreign navies.
If we have submarines, no country will bully us again. I think it’s a high time that we have capability para hindi makuha ng kahit anong bansa kung ano ang atin. We have to protect them and it is the Navy that can do that,” Empedrad said.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is currently in Russia for a military exhibit and meetings with defense officials and companies, maintained that other suppliers for submarines are still being considered.
At some point, this is advantageous and at the same time dangerous since government still has no budget for it and if we will dive into acquisition without any budget, we are just putting our state into sham of debt.
Good thing that a deal has not been made. Maybe other countries will give us a good deal like Australia, Japan, or India.
Meanwhile, the U.S. a long-time ally of the Philippines has strongly objected the latter’s consideration of acquiring submarines from its rival Russia, saying it will hurt the decades-long alliance and interoperability.
There is truth in there since US and Russia (former USSR) are not in good terms even during World War I and II and beyond.
Lastly, Vietnam has six Kilo-class submarines but China probably has twelve.
Will these two (Russia and Vietname) countries train the Philippines?
But I wonder if they will do it since both of them are claimants to SCS.
Also, the challenge really is the training of personnel in case we will have Russian submarine since it is not just about acquiring equipment.
As of now, we need to start sending personnel abroad to familiarize themselves with submarines.
Interoperability is indeed a very important factor in its acquisition of submarines and said it would be highly prioritized in the procurement.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Australia's politics likened to
A third world banana republic
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 26 August 2018

Beleaguered PM Malcolm Turnbull says " bullying and intimidation " was being used to exert political sway in the current political scene in Australian politics.
I thought that was how politics was conducted in a third world banana republic.
Are we also going bananas!

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


China's exploration in South China Sea
Should awaken spirit of patriotism in Filipino's
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 August 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he would affirm the Philippines avow in the South China Sea if China chooses to take control of the exploration actions in the resource-rich watercourse.
He also said that Eduardo Año, Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge will carry a knife and stab the Chinese if there’s uranium there.
He believes that it’s very possible that we can have conflict with China if they insist the said exploration activities in South China Sea.
For me as a concerned citizen of our nation, I thank Duterte for not giving up our rights in the disputed sea.
It's true that we cannot go war with China because obviously we will end up losing everything, economics, territory and more lives will be sacrifice.
No one likes that.
So, as far as Duterte will not raise that he will lift his two hands, which means that he will bargain a tactic to contest for what’s ours.
The question is, are we allowing China to exploit our natural resources?
Our country should be extra concerned with this because such act poses a serious threat to our country as well as to other claimant nations.
This particular issue should awaken the spirit of patriotism in every Filipino and unite the nation in asserting our sovereign right to our exclusive economic zone.

Ann R. Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines



Merdeka denotes freedom from
Colonial master or rule by another country
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 August 2016
First published in the Star, Monday 20 August 2018

We are celebrating our upcoming 61st Merdeka Day with the theme Sayangi Malaysiaku (Love My Malaysia).
Preparations are already under way for a grand celebration, according to Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.
The theme, he says, celebrates and boosts the people’s love for this country.
The celebration this year is unique because we have a newly elected government, Pakatan Harapan, in place and the venue is Putrajaya, as requested by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed.
Let us all take time to reflect on the importance of the celebration. Independence generally means freedom. In the context of a nation, it denotes freedom from a colonial master or rule by another country.
We obtained independence from Britain on Aug 31, 1957 through negotiations. Perhaps the younger generation may not understand the untiring efforts and toil of our leaders to obtain this independence unless they learnt about these struggles in their history lessons.
We proudly display the Jalur Gemilang in our homes, offices and public places and even our vehicles to show our allegiance to our beloved country. The Prime Minister recently said flying the Jalur Gemilang would strengthen the bond among Malaysians.
A few hard-core Malaysians paint their cars with the colours of the Malaysian flag and drive them around during the Merdeka period.
There are also communities who organise Merdeka prayers for the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation. Such events truly signify solidarity and unity among the participants as they will be united in prayer and supplication for the nation.
Of course, the highlight of the Merdeka celebration will be the parade not only in Putrajaya but throughout the country as well.
This is an event which we truly celebrate as Malaysians. Perhaps the Pakatan government could hold more such national events to instil patriotism for the nation.
As we celebrate our independence day, we must be prepared to go beyond our parochial and racial identity to achieve national unity. We need to think as Malaysians and citizens of one nation.
Let us all wish our nation a happy and prosperous 61st Merdeka Day. Long live Malaysia, my Malaysia.

Dr S. Nathesan.
Muar,
Malaysia

 



Australia's Land titles registry
Up for sale
The Southeast Asian TImes, Thursday 23 August 2018

The Victorian government in Australia is proposing to sell the state's land titles registry and apparently other states will follow.
When will this stupid, short sighted, reckless rollercoaster ride of selling off everything lead us?
Our government supposedly is concerned about foreign ownership, but foreign buyers will love this as an opportunity for more investment and more control!

Jennifer Horsburgh,
Elanora,
Queensland,
Australia



Call for Communist Party of the Philippines to make peace
With Philippine government
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 August 2018

Since Rodrigo Duterte took the throne as the president, the number of terrorists surrendered continues to increase including the members of the Abu Sayyaf which is very unusual. Now, even the leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) yield and decide to come back to the fold of law.
In Compostela Valley, a former headman of the hit squad of the NPA’s Special Partisan Unit surrendered.
He divulged to the military about a hoard of improvised explosive devices in the forested location in New Bataan.
One of the reason why he gave up is because of the privations he had been experiencing.
On a wing a prayer may the rebels and other terrorist group be totally neutralize. May the NPA and its mother organization, the Communist Party of the Philippines, (CPP) heed the nation’s call for peace, end it’s violent struggle against our government and discuss divisive and contentious issues in a sincere, honest and peaceful dialogue.

Eley Eydi Del Rosario,
Nueva Ecija,
Manila,
Philippines



Malaysia and China developed a very good relationship
During Dr Mahathir's first tenure as PM
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 August 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 16 August 2018

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is scheduled to be in China from August 17 to 21, during which he is expected to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
The visit is special because Dr Mahathir is returning to China once again as prime minister after a 17-year gap.
His last official visit to China as prime minister was in October 2001 to attend the Apec CEO summit.
Dr Mahathir is a regular visitor to China.
In the 22 years of his first stint as prime minister (1981-2003), he visited China seven times.
He visited nine more times after he retired, making it a total of 16.
This coming visit has an added significance because he is leading a different government and there are several touchy issues standing in the way of good relations between the two countries.
In his previous official visits, he was leading the Barisan Nasional government. In this visit, he is leading Pakatan Harapan which ousted Barisan in the May 9 general election.
Chinese leaders are familiar with Barisan.
Back in 1974, it was the leader of this newly-formed coalition Tun Abdul Razak Hussein who made the ground-breaking visit to China.
That visit resulted in Malaysia becoming one of the earliest countries in South-East Asia to recognise China.
Bear in mind that although Indonesia recognised China in 1950, their relationship soured and was suspended between 1967 and 1990. Singapore, a predominantly Chinese nation, recognised China only in 1990, and Brunei did so in 1991.
It was not an easy decision for Malaysia because it already had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since its independence in 1957.
The recognition of Taiwan was reflective of Malaysia’s pro-Western stance and staunchly anti-communist policy.
The armed communist insurgency starting in 1948 did not help to endear Malaysia to China.
With the disbanding of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) following the 1989 peace accord, which involved the MCP and the governments of Malaysia and Thailand, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) became the last remaining vestige of the Chinese revolution in Malaysia.
It was no coincidence that while the MCP was fashioned after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), MCA was the mirror image of the Chinese Nationalist Party, Kuomintang.
Abdul Razak’s own party, the United Malay National Organisa­tion (Umno), was staunchly anti-communist.
Still, Abdul Razak pulled it off and received overwhelming endorsement from voters at the 1974 general election in which the enlarged Barisan coalition was contesting for the first time.
So, given this very long history of mutually beneficial relationship and Dr Mahathir’s own affinity with China, his visit is not only special but also offers the two countries the opportunity to clarify and sort out issues that could stand in the way of good relations.
Dr Mahathir had wanted to visit earlier but time was not favourable.
Proving his seriousness about wanting to put the relationship between the new Malaysian government and China on a good footing, he sent Tun Daim Zainuddin as his emissary.
Like Dr Mahathir, Daim is a familiar face in Beijing.
Back in the 1980s during his first stint as Finance Minister, Daim took an active part in supporting China’s new role in international financial organisations like the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
During his visit to Beijing on July 18, Daim handed over Dr Mahathir’s letter to Premier Li and had discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
It is clear that neither China nor Malaysia would want the 44-year relationship to be jeopardised by issues that cropped up during the time of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Among these are the Chinese loans for the construction of the East Coast Railway Line (ECRL) and the little known Suria Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd (SSER) pipeline project.
It is highly possible that China, in extending these loans and entering into construction agreements for the projects, was acting in good faith in line with its One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy but along the way, this was perverted by irresponsible elements in Malaysia and China.
Neither China nor Malaysia should suffer the embarrassment and financial losses caused by these people and their associates.
The relationship between the two countries is too precious to be allowed to be soured by their irresponsible and criminal actions.
Dr Mahathir said in a recent interview with the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that his less-than-favourable view of some Chinese-backed deals, deemed overpriced and lopsided against Malaysian interests, did not mean he was hostile towards Beijing.
More recently, he said Malaysia would seek to do away with these projects if they continue to be unfavourable to the country and a burden to the people.
The Pakatan administration and the people of Malaysia must not be made to shoulder the burden of irresponsible acts of Najib and his collaborators.
As Dr Mahathir has pointed out, ­Malaysia and China developed “a very good relationship” during his first tenure as prime minister and there is no reason why this would not continue during his comeback era.

A. Kadir Jasin,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for Malaysia's Finanace Minister
To look into Registrar of Unclaimed Money accounts
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 August, 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 15 August 2018

I am a chartered company secretary under the Charter of The Queen of England. I am from a profession which strictly upholds honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility and accountability, all of which have been ingrained into my brain.
No matter what flaws and faults you can find with the British, they always took responsibility.
One of the important things I noted about our Finance Ministry is the Registrar of Unclaimed Money.
When I retired and had time on my hands to look through my personal affairs, I discovered that I have a number of savings books which I did not officially close, dividends which I had not received as I had changed addresses and not informed the relevant share registrars, etc.
When I contacted the Registrar of Unclaimed Money, I was horrified to learn that they had only started computerising records from 2005 onwards.
It was all manually done before this.
How do they manually manage money from millions of Malay­sians and keep track?
I was so shocked that I advised the officer who was talking to me about the gravity of a trustee.
When I asked about making a claim, the officer coolly told me to bring all the old bank books and dividend warrants!
I was floored.
By right, if there is money held in trust by the Registrar of Unclaimed Money on my behalf, my identity card (IC) should be sufficient.
All transactions involving money are done under my name with the IC.
As such, all I should have to do is present my IC and any money held by the Registrar of Unclaimed Money should be refunded to me with no questions asked, no forms to be filled, and no verification from my bank that the money is being transferred into my account.
I urge the Finance Minister to look into the accounts of the Registrar of Unclaimed Money as there is a lot of money there and lots of Malaysians who do not know or care about their unclaimed money.
I trust our new Finance Minister and I know he will do a good job and make it easy for retirees and all to claim their money from the Registrar of Unclaimed Money.

Sheeda The Baker,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia




Call to keep away
From CPP and NPA ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 August 2018

Ata-Manobo tribe Datu Lumansad Sibogan of Talaingod, Davao del Norte declares a “pangayaw” or tribal war against the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) because of the continues killing of their member by the said terrorist group.
According to Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) IP members are killed because of their suspicious of being a military informant and they did not support the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) movement.
The situation of our Manobo brothers is getting worse due to the atrocities of the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) and continues killing of the members started to increase and another thing is that they’re using the tribes for their personal needs.
How many lives were lost and how many people will suffer from this situation? Stop killing the innocent people for their own interest.
Stop abusing the rights of the people to live, and do not deceive the minds of the community.
Just think wisely, keep in mind how to focus on the kind of living you want to have, keep ourselves away from those wrong ideology and those wrongdoings perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA).

Jhon Lai,
Cavite,
Philippines




Call for Thai PM to clamp down on racism
In teacher recruitment at international schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 August 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 15 August 2018

It is the time of the year when international schools in Thailand start recruiting teachers.­ Kris Wya, an African-American teacher with qualifications beyond the requirements, found getting a job in the country difficult.
She said it was because of her skin colour and some "smart" schools wanted her
photo­graphs to be sent so that they would know who she was, an African.
Growing up in California, I found a diverse range of teachers in schools,
chiefly Indians who were good at maths.
The last decade the number of minority teachers in America has doubled and it is slowly having­ an effect.
I don't find such diversity in schools here and the standard of teaching is appalling. Most teachers spend their time browsing their smart phones or computers­ and drinking endless cups of coffee and arguably contributing nothing to children, who have to either sink or swim.
As a test, I asked my friends Michael, a Floridian, and Abraham, an Indian with
better qualifications than Michael, to apply for the position of math teachers
in various schools.
Inevitably, Michael got all the calls. I then asked them to mask their nationalities.­ Abraham was called first and when he revealed his nationality all the schools pulled back.
The incredible story of the cave boys came to a successful fruition because of
international cooperation.
There is a lesson here for schools.
If international schools need to be called truly international, they must hire teachers of diverse nationalities. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha must look into the
anomalies existing in schools and clamp down on racism in teachers' recruitment.

Kaito Yamamoto,
Bangkok,
Thailand




New Peoples Army in the Philippines
Accused of lacking political ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 August 2018

The New People’s Army (NPA) military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), seems to be so hopeless and helpless due to their lack of political ideologies.
Watta pitty for them.
Extortions are always on the news here and there because extortions and their other atrocities are the only things that keeps them going.
That’s the only thing that made them survive.
Rebels are still insisting for the peace negotiations but the government is not as foolish as they think.
Peace negotiations will only be used as their tool to advance and continue their armed struggle.
The New People’s Army (NPA) force is being weakened as their 7,531 members are either killed, captured or voluntarily surrendered their selves to the government.
This weakening of the New People’s Army (NPA) forces is a call for other members to surrender them selves while it’s not too late for them.
Stop allowing the New People's Army (NPA) to play around your head and make you believe in their fake f*cking promises.

Mackie Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines


 

NPA accused of constructng stories that
AFP attack communities and use schools as barracks
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 August 2018

In trying to inveigle the public and raze the image of the military, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) - New People’s Army (NPA) - National Democratic Front (NDF) lies to the people.
CPP-NPA-NDF leaders and spokespersons are ttrying to persuade the nation that they are fighting for the rights of the masses yet they have been killing innocent civilians, including children.
A New Peoples Army (NPA) spokesperson "Ka Oris" once said that they reiterate their commitment to defend and protect the rights and welfare of Filipino children which are fully integrated into the social program of the said People democratic revolution with a socialistic perspective.
He also said they are strictly adhering to the international laws of war regarding the non-recruitment of minors into the People Militia in opposition to “Ka Mar" statement.
One of the New Peoples Army (NPA) members who surrendered said that there were children ages 12, 15 and 16 together with them patrolling and also knowledgeable in using firearms.
Now how can they explain children's right that is being violated by the New Peoples Army (NPA) and their children’s recruitment?
Those youth in their areas suffer from the heaviest burden of social exploitation and oppression.
They construct their own stories that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vicious and systematic attack on communities.
They also said that soldiers’ harassed and intimidated school buildings and school premises are occupied for military purpose as barracks or detachments.
Youth are also subjected to a host of oppressions.
Rebels never change, they continue their atrocities.
They even unite with other rebels to hide their mistakes.
They loved violence and they love to kill as their culture continues teaching them how to use weapons and kill heartlessly.
Let us condemn their wrongdoings!

Josefa Rica Gernale,
Palawan,
Philippines




Call for an ASEAN collective position
Against terror groups
The Southeast Asian TImes, Thursday 16 August 2018

Still, Daesh or IS (Islamic State) terrorist group is a must-see threat group all over gain in another vantage point. Reportedly, affiliates of the Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines “are cash rich and growing in membership” despite heavy losses it suffered in 2017, a United Nations report revealed.
It also indicated that go-betweens enabled the transfer of financial resources from the IS “core” to affiliates in that country and arranged bomb-making and firearms training for recruits from Indonesia at camps in the Philippines.
The United Nation (UN) experts circulated on August 13 (Monday) that the IS extremist group has up to 30,000 members roughly equally distributed between Syria and Iraq, and that its global network poses a rising threat - as does al-Qaida, which is much stronger in places.
The UN report said that despite the defeat of IS in Iraq and most of Syria, it is likely that a reduced “covert version” of the militant group’s “core” will survive in both countries, with significant affiliated supporters in Afghanistan, Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.
As far as historicity is concerned, the Daesh/IS fighters swept into Iraq in the summer of 2014, taking control of nearly a third of the country.
At the height of the group’s power its self-proclaimed caliphate stretched from the edges of Aleppo in Syria to just north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Now, terrorism might be silent in Southeast Asia right now compare with the continuous saga in Middle East but while many IS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, we can tell that some engaged militarily and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas.
Aleppo and Marawi for example having physical caliphate largely destroyed, still, the Islamic State movement is transforming from a “proto-state” to a covert “terrorist” network, “a process that is most advanced in Iraq” because it still controls pockets in Syria.
Moreover, the discipline imposed by IS remains intact and IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “remains in authority” despite reports that he was injured.
It is just more delegated than before, by necessity, to the wider network outside the conflict zone.
In a nutshell, while the rate of terrorist attacks has fallen in Europe and here in the Philippines, the we care continuing our assessment like the underlying drivers of terrorism are all present and perhaps more acute than ever before.
This suggests that any reduction in attacks is likely to be temporary until IS recovers and reorganizes and al-Qaida “increases its international terrorist activity or other organizations emerge in the terrorist arena.
Thus, even though Marawi liberation was successful last year, government of the Philippines always act as reliable watchdogs to secure our territory and protect our people. ASEAN must also be in good defense posture collectively.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Who will be charged for killings
Brought by a false ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 August 2018

After the dismissal of the murder case against the 4 leftist leaders, the Communist Party of the Philippines, (CPP) New People’s Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front (NDF) can now celebrate.
NDF peace consultant Randy Malayao said that the case was not legally strong for Ka Satur and others from the beginning.
It took the court 12 years to decide.
He stated that all other trumped-up cases must be dismissed like that of prohibition filed against more than 600 of them.
He also said that the dismissal of the case and the rest is a victory for them.
I think he was feverish while he was thinking of that the filed cases to those political prisoners’ should also be junk.
We can call this “injustice” if this sh*t will happen.
Who will be charged for those killings that happened because of their non-sense insurgency brought by their false ideology?
This is so unfair for those families who suffered from the “loss of their love ones” particularly those victims of killings of these left leaning organization together with their armed wing.
May the justice system in our country be put into effect precisely.

Ann R. Aquino
Lyceum of the Philippines,
Cavite,
Philippines

 


Call for hefty fines for public transport passengers
Hanging from public transport ahead of APEC
First published in the National, Tuesday 7 August 2018

I wish to comment on the Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) operations in Port Moresby.
The city is going through a rapid growth in infrastructure development.
Since we are hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 21 member economies, can the National Road Traffic Authority, through its enforcement unit, apply hefty fines on Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) that breach traffic regulations?
It is common to see passengers hanging from the side of a moving vehicle.
With much being said about the Apec preparation, I do not see why we are not monitoring our Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) system.
We are telling the international community and observers that we have a bad transport system in place in our region.
A classic example is Kokopo, in East New Britain, where discipline is instilled.
You do not see people hanging from moving vehicles there.

Citi Prinz,
Seseme Street
North Waigani




Call for government presence in Mindanao
To counter Red ideology
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 July 2018

Indigenous People’s killings in the Philippines have made worse by various groups most especially the New People’s Army (NPA).
Additional to the spiralling contentions are the following: human rights groups, activists, journalists, and pundits have weighed in on the situation which continuously hold authorities accountable.
Case in point was the alleged more than 4,000 displaced indigenous peoples from Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, Saranggani, and Davao del Norte allegedly due to human rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s (AFP)
AFP?
Really?
Now let me tell you something.
Recently, tribal leaders of Mindanao have condemned the rebel New People’s Army for killing another Datu in North Cotabato.
The Tribal Justice System of North Cotabato on April 11 for example, described “the death of the Datu Antonio “Dodong” Takinan as plain, deliberate and inhuman act to sow terror against the indigenous peoples communities. Second, prior to April murder by the communist terrorists, a leader of an Indigenous People's group and his son were brutally murdered by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists who forcibly entered their house last February 4, 2018.
Datu Banadjao Mampaundag who recently attended the IP Leader’s Summit in Davao City and his son, Jhonard Mampaundag, both respected members of an Indigenous People's group and residents of Sitio Igang, Brgy Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte were treacherously shot to death inside their house.
Indeed, the unfortunate events have been added to the list of innocent and peace-loving people that were killed by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) five Communist Party of the Phioippines-New Peoples Army Terrorists (CNTs).
Also, let me stress that IPs are being exploited via fake guide of education (technical vocation so to speak).
Young IPs are being taught how to use a gun, learned “NPA songs” (kanta na pang-NPA), and take them to New People’s Army (NPA) postings every Saturdays.
After graduating, the deceived and trained IPs turns into Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) teachers or New People’s Army (NPA) members.
One time, there was this boy named Baligod who said way back 2015 that they were taught to hate the government. With this, I assume that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) radicalized the youth, indoctrinated the general population for them to revolt against the government. Therefore, we need government presence in the area to counter the Red’s ideology.
Thus, I also call on the local government units to make a brave stand against continues harassment of the leaders in Mindanao. We need call on government to file a case against the criminal acts of the New People’s Army (NPA) terrorist group and stop the senseless killings of the leaders of the tribes by the brutal elements of the New People’s Army (NPA).
We call on the IP communities to unite and fight to the criminal acts and in slavery done against the IP and agree on the localized Peace Talks just like what the majority wants to pursue.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Call for defence of the Philippine military
Over defence of the media
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 August 2018

I have read the news about the statement of Sen. Grace Poe regarding the issue of media being branded or labeled by the military as the enemies of the state.
This caught my attention because reading the comments on it is really an eye catcher.
Why?
Because what Sen. Poe did only made it worst because the media and military seems to have gaps.
But what’s worst is that, I have read that the netizens’ comments are showing gripes against the military.
You cannot put the blame on the military alone. I personally, I can actually see that not all the media is giving enough fair information on the issues.
There are media channels and media practitioners that are BIASED in their news especially when it comes to our President Duterte.
There are media channels that only give negative doings of PDU30.
These are showed and aired but the real story behind it is hidden or not being shown to the public.
So, to Sen. Poe, do not put blame on the military for the media being branded as enemies of the state, because you don’t have any idea of what and who are in this world are labeling the media as that.
And also, don’t you ever defend the media over the military again ‘cause it only goes to show that you are putting gap between military and media.

Rubina Silva,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Filipino Christians and Muslims
To join hands against Godless terror groups
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 August 2018

I am a bit worried over reports that some 20 ISIS cell groups operating in Mindanao are planning to carry out massive attacks in certain parts of the region aimed to divert the military’s on-going operations against the Abu Sayyaf-Maute Group combine in Marawi City.
I am hoping that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, who claim that they are constantly monitoring the activities of these 20 ISIS-cell groups, would not blink and eye on them and conduct ‘full court press’ to thwart their evil plans.
As the military continues to recover and hold on to the previous strongholds of the ASG-Maute Group still holding it out in Marawi City, I am sure that these ‘cornered’ bandits would call on their allies outside of the city to sow terror aimed to divert the military’s effort to neutralize them and liberate the city.
Given that scenario, the thinly-spread military and police forces cannot cover all places at one time, and they need the full cooperation of the public to be vigilant in their respective communities against the presence of suspicious armed men in their respective localities.
It is a consolation to hear that the military and the police have already prepared contingency plans to thwart the evil plans of these terrorists.
But these contingency plans remain when terror and bombings begin.
I may sound as an ‘alarmist,’ but I urge all the law-abiding and peace-loving Filipinos, whether Christians, Muslims or other religious groups, to all join hands in preventing these Godless terror groups from sowing violence and chaos in their respective communities.

Ann R. Aquino
Cavite,
Philippines




Is the United States
Losing its clout in ASEAN ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 August 2018

China wants military exercises and energy exploration with Southeast Asian nations in disputed waters, according to a draft document, but it insists on outside countries being excluded in what analysts said was a bid to diminish US influence.
The draft document, seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP), outlines different countries’ bargaining positions as they work toward an agreement, and analysts said it represented some initial progress.
In the draft text, Beijing suggests that China and the 10 ASEAN states should carry out joint military exercises regularly.
But the drills should not involve countries outside the region “unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection.”
Beijing also suggested that China and ASEAN could carry out joint oil and gas exploration in the waters but again proposed that companies from countries outside the region be excluded from such activities, the document showed.
I believe that Beijing’s suggestions are part of efforts to expand its influence in the South China Sea, which it claims almost entirely, and push back at Washington, which has backed countries with overlapping claims to the waterway.
A code of conduct between Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to govern behavior in the strategic sea has been years in the making.
Interestingly, at a meeting of foreign ministers in Singapore on 2 August, China and ASEAN announced they had agreed on the negotiating text for the code of conduct.
Vietnam has offered some of the stiffest resistance to China in the sea in recent times, regularly complaining about Beijing’s activities on contested islands and in disputed waters.
Tensions reached fever pitch in 2014 when Beijing moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.
Observable as it is, we can observe that Vietnam offers the strongest opposition to Beijing’s activities calling for countries to stop building artificial islands and establishing military installations.
But there was little sign of serious resistance from other countries, signaling how opposition to China’s aggressive expansion in the resource-rich waters has ebbed in recent years in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, evidence in SCS/WPS activities proves to be the source of tensions that have escalated in recent years due to Beijing building artificial islands that can host military bases.
There is also a question whether United States is losing its clout in ASEAN being traditionally dominant military power in the area despite it has more frequently carried out patrols aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation.
In the making of ASEAN member states’ stand as a regional bloc, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims to China’s in the South China Sea.
On the contrary, the CLM states have leaning admiration with China’s policy pronouncement towards Southeast Asian.
And Thailand being neutral with the issue.
On our part here in the Philippines, under then President Benigno Aquino III, had been a leading voice against China’s expansion in the sea and used ASEAN events to pressure Beijing, but President Duterte has reversed that policy.
But it does not mean we are in the wrong backdrop.
I believe that the suggestion to exclude outside countries is obviously targeted at the US, which has been dominating the waters of the Western Pacific and the South China Sea in particular but we do not entirely agreeing on China’s deal since we respect U.S. bilateral cooperation with the Philippines which is not, by all means, carried to counter China at any sort.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for public hearings
Into China loans to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 August 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 8 August 2018

Why is it that our economic managers continue to keep the terms of China’s loans a secret?
Many countries have been victimized by China’s “debt trap diplomacy.” Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad canceled all their Chinese loans upon his election.
Unless our leaders have the wisdom and courage of Mahathir, we will join Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Venezuela, Kenya, and others in their journey to perdition.
We urgently need Congress to conduct public hearings before we fall into this debt trap.
These public hearings should cover transparent cost-benefit analyses; comparative interest rates and conditions from Japan, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank; collaterals pledged to back up the loans; and lessons learned from our previous experiences with Chinese loans such as ZTE and the NorthRail Express.

Dionisio Gil Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines



Thai government accused of making laws
To suit their agenda
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 August 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 7 August 2018

Re: "The strong arm of the law", in Bangkok Post Sunday 5 August 2018
Alan Dawson is spot on as he delineates the systematic legalisation of corrupt
morals by the junta, a legal reform with the primary intent of keeping the Thai
nation uninformed about Thai affairs, where forced ignorance of the topic is
always, without exception, the primary aim of all censorship.
There is clearly much that those who seized power over the Thai nation in order
to make up laws better suited to their agenda do not want Thais to know or
understand about Thai affairs.
The major reform of these non-elected politicians has been to criminalise critical public discussion, effectively outlawing the good morals essential to a healthy civil society that keeps the government under due scrutiny, leaving the unspeakable unexamined.
Critics should note the extremely strong claim: all that is needed to prove it
false is a single example of censorship whose primary purpose is not to enforce
ignorance of the censored topic.
Your failure to do so proves the stated truth about censorship. But do try to square its circles in support of the corrupt reform of Thai law.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Philippine chief justices appointed
In the interest of self-preservation
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 August 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 6 August 2018

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio is our next chief justice.
I say this to short-circuit our political reality and to evoke the Fates (moirai) to challenge the gods of this government and rethread destinies.
I was also compelled to write this letter upon knowing that the top three bets for chief justice are all appointees of the most corrupt Philippine president since Ferdinand Marcos.
Mr. Duterte should know that the lethal knife stab in the back doesn’t come from an enemy, as ousted president Joseph Estrada and ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez will tell you.
I believe our previous two presidents chose their chief justices not in the highest interest of justice but in the interest of self-preservation.
President Duterte can atone for the mistakes of his predecessors by appointing the chief justice who will best serve justice and our national interest.
Given Mr. Duterte’s affinity for destiny, I’m sure that, in his moments of introspection, he can see destiny’s nobler choice for chief justice despite his own policies and interests. The foolishness of the god of destiny is wiser than man’s wisdom, after all.
In 2010 and 2012, self-interest brushed aside the best and rightful chief justice that destiny was calling for.
It seems the Fates have ordained from then on that any chief justice appointed on the basis of self-interest shall fail their mandates, until destiny’s call is answered. The Fates await an answer.

Ernie Lapuz,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for strengthening of National Unity Consultative Council
Rather than pass Religious and Racial Hatred Act bill
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 August 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 4 August 2018

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, recently announced that the government would enact a Religious and Racial Hatred Act to protect Islam and other religions in the country against slurs and insults.
The minister further said that the proposed Bill would safeguard religious and ethnic harmony in the country.
Although this statement should have come from the National Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister, Dr Mujahid’s good intention is welcomed.
But don’t we already have laws which aim to achieve similar results?
Should we further expose ourselves to the risk of selective prosecution by enacting more laws?
Punishing someone for making a hate speech is not a long-term solution when the ideology that gives rise to such prejudice and hatred is not addressed.
Racial and religious misunderstandings are best resolved through open dialogues supported by broadly inclusive policies.
Prosecuting an individual will simply fortify hatred and leave the issue of intolerance unaddressed.
What we desperately need is for politicians to publicly rebuke in the strongest terms incidents that denigrate or mock our diversity, be it racial or religious.
We do not see this happening as race and religion are continuously being used as tools to pursue political ambitions.
I would recommend that the government focuses on strengthening the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which was set up in 2013, to enable it to continue building bridges of harmony among the various races and religions in Malaysia, supported by inclusive policies rather than enacting new laws.
To achieve the desired results, let us all work hand in glove to solve the root cause of the problem rather than propose more laws which could make the situation worse instead of better.

Darshan Singh Dhillon,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippine Supreme Court accused of dishonesty
Over presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos appeal
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 August 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 August 2018

For law students like us, the editorial “Clarity from Comelec” (7/28/18) was very disturbing as it revealed how dishonest the Supreme Court can be, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal presiding over the election protest filed by defeated vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos.
By that account, it shamelessly pretended ignorance of the policy set by the Commission on Elections regarding the “applicability of a 25-percent threshold.”
The Supreme Court, aka the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), was duly furnished a the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolution setting the threshold at 25 percent, which was duly received by its en banc clerk of court Felipa Anama.
So, would the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) now blame its clerk for suppressing or hiding that document from the the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) members?
What motive would she have to do that?
Who worshipped the Marcoses in the first place by judicially entitling its late patriarch to a “hero’s burial” despite public outrage?
This country is already sick and tired of never-ending charges of electoral sabotage.
In the wake of “Hello Garci,” where no one was ever sent to jail, the people are no longer scandalized by such shenanigans.
Do we also have to endure the “judicial sabotage” about to happen in the highest court of the land itself?

Gabrielle Michell M. Aguillera,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for ethics and character
In a new Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 August 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 2 August 2018

We can mull over the delayed promises of our reform-minded government but we cannot deny the efforts made by the Health Ministry to address all forms of bullying and abuse. And for that we say “thank you”.
Over the past few weeks, the term bullying has been better explained and explored on social media.
Every fresh medical graduate fears the daunting years of housemanship.
We had learnt the term of being “the lowest life form” in a hierarchical system even prior to graduation.
Getting through each rotation with no extension was a cause for celebration.
Yet it was a season of learning, relearning and unlearning.
I can say that many of us came out just fine with the best of memories and learning experiences.
Reviewing the discussion on bullying with junior colleagues and comments posted on social media, we can generally agree that it is not the work hours, firm reprimanding, sleep deprivation or loss of weight and appetite that becomes an “issue”.
It is merely the act of being disrespectful to a junior colleague that becomes upsetting.
Using profanities, public shaming and sexual innuendos top the list of complaints.
With a new Malaysia, it is wonderful to note that the pitfalls in a noble practice is being evaluated thoroughly.
The downside of this “culture of abuse and bullying” leaves the medical professionals to consciously or subconsciously adopt the same style as they progress.
After all, every superior was once a “subordinate” who had gone through similar routines and shaping to become a better practitioner.
While we seek to improve skills and knowledge, may our ethics and character speak greater volumes of truthful service.

Priscilla Manymuthu,
Selango,
Malaysia



US electoral system
Not perfect
The Southeast Asian Times. Saturday 4 August 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 1 August 2018

Re: "No justice at all", in Bangkok Post 30 July 2018
Eric Bahrt is correct in highlighting the critical role that battleground states play in deciding the US presidential election under the country's Electoral College system. But, the fact that several small states are among those battleground states ensures that serious candidates for president cannot simply ignore these diverse opinions.
Without the Electoral College system, it is doubtful that presidential candidates would give any attention to the interests of the people of these and other sparsely populated states.
Electoral systems around the world apply various methods to give a greater
"voice" to marginalised groups and minorities.
The US system is not perfect, but it does indeed contribute toward that objective.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Cancellation of 2019 Philippine elections
Unconstitutional
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 August 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 2 August 2018

The no-election (No-el) scenario is dependent not on whether it has the support of our lawmakers, but on specific provisions of our Constitution pertaining to the terms of office of our elected officials.
The proposal that the scheduled 2019 midterm elections be canceled and the terms of office of legislators be extended is unconstitutional, because it will violate the provisions of the Constitution mandating that the term of office of senators will be six years, and three years for local elective officials.
The proposed extension of the legislators’ terms of office and their retention in a hold-over capacity is likewise unconstitutional, because “holdover” positions are considered as “legislative appointments.”
Hence, it will violate the constitutional provision that they should be elected and not appointed to their positions.
The Supreme Court has ruled that “the legislature cannot, by an act postponing the election to fill an office the term of which is limited by the Constitution, extend the term of the incumbent beyond the period as limited by the Constitution.”
In the 1991 case of Osmeña vs Comelec involving the synchronization of elections, the Court ruled that “it is not competent for the legislature to extend the term of officers by providing that they shall hold over where the Constitution has in effect or by clear implication prescribed the term, and when the Constitution fixes the day on which the official’s term shall begin, there is no legislative authority to continue the office beyond that period.”

Romulo B. Macalintal,
Election lawyer,
Las Pinas City

 

 

Elections not expected
In Philippines next year
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 August 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 31 July 2018

It was the stuff that events or movie directors dread or dream of, depending on what kind of a director you are.
Joyce Bernal certainly did not expect the spectacle that happened in last week’s State of the Nation Address.
We now have a comebacking disgraced politician, who had been embroiled in a string of corruption charges, as Speaker.
So much for President Duterte’s rhetoric on weeding out corruption in government. With Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as an ally, expect the campaign for “No-el”
(no elections) in 2019 to materialize, and the shift to a federal system going full swing. Perhaps the post of prime minister for the former president?

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Former Philippine President Arroyo returns
But without the neck brace
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 August 2018
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Monday 30 July 2018

In “Arroyo survives multimillion-peso scandals” (News, 7/26/18), former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is said to have hurdled so many mega-corruption charges that went nowhere due to technicalities.
The most scandalous of exonerations was due to the Supreme Court’s brazen junking of its own Rules of Court to hand over to her an early acquittal on a silver platter.
To refresh everyone’s memory about that particular plunder case involving P366 million of the people’s money gone forever, Arroyo’s “demurrer” was denied by the Sandiganbayan, which found strong evidence that she committed the crime.
She hired the country’s most influential lawyer, who then filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court to review that denial, a big no-no as far as ordinary law practitioners know.
My stepmom, who has practiced law for years, showed me Rule 119, Section 23 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure promulgated by the Supreme Court: “The order denying the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself SHALL NOT be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.”
No law degree is required to understand what that rule prohibits.
The Supreme Court bent over backwards to accommodate that lawyer - and his VIP client who had put up a show of being in great distress (picture her with that ubiquitous neck brace while under hospital arrest) and who, upon being acquitted, was no longer choked in the neck by any brace!
And now on her third and last term as a congresswoman, she is the “honorable speaker” of the House of Representatives!
OMG!
With a President who says things nobody understands (thus the need for “interpreters,” mostly to say things he did not say), a Supreme Court that decides cases on mere whims, a Congress run by a comedian (in the Senate) and Arroyo (in the House), and a population of more than a hundred million but dominated by just 16 million registered voters - are we really now a nation of losers?

Carmela N. Noblejas,
Manila,
Philippines




Philippine Boracay tourist island closure
Sets precedent for closure of Gigantes Islands
The Southeast Asan Times, Tuesday 31 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 July

Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas are opposed to the proposal of the Department of Tourism to close Gigantes Islands in Iloilo province as a “preventive measure” before Gigantes supposedly self-destructs, according to the department.
In our recorded data, around 12,000 residents, mostly fisherfolk, will be affected if the closure pushes through. Gigantes’ tourism industry serves as an alternative source of livelihood for small fishers, because municipal fish catch has dramatically dwindled with the transformation of Gigantes into an ecotourism hub.
We fear that Gigantes Islands might suffer the similar fate of Boracay, which was described by President Duterte as a “cesspool” and shut down for six months.
The Boracay closure has clearly set a precedent for the closure of other tourist islands and coastal communities, to pave the way for big-ticket projects at the expense of our local businesses and fishing rights of small fisherfolk.
We wonder at the need for closure when there are already national and local environmental laws that could protect and preserve marine resources and coastal areas if enforced properly.
Why can’t the national and local governments strictly implement these laws to protect our pristine marine resources from corporate aggressors, instead of enforcing total closures that will only adversely affect the livelihood of grassroots stakeholders such as the fisherfolk?
The government must cease and desist from the massive conversion of productive coastal communities and fishing waters into ecotourism hubs, and maintain our marine ecosystems as a source of livelihood for small fisherfolk.

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

 

 

Number of proposed federal states
Have increased from 12 to 18 in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 26 July 2018

Please allow me to thank Antonio Montalvan for the positive points he made in his July 23 column “Federalism is a road to discord”.
Some of his conclusions, however, were, to say the least, off-tangent.
He seems to have misinterpreted a number of our comments on the rationale for our consultative committee’s recommendations to revise the 1987 Constitution.
It is true that in 2018, I filed a resolution to adopt the federal system where I suggested that our republic should have 11 federal states.
At that time, it did not include the Cordilleras.
A few months later, in a forum in Baguio, vocal activists from the Cordilleras criticized that uninformed omission and convinced me that their region should be treated as one of the federal states in Luzon.
Thus, the number of federal states that I subsequently proposed was increased to 12.
But, now, the committee has recommended to the President the creation of 18, not 12, federal states.
Also, Montalvan’s allegation of what I said in a television interview that “North Mindanao State ‘may be divided’ into northwestern and northeastern” failed to capture the intent of my statement that the boundaries of the proposed federal states were subject to revision pursuant to the better judgment of the people concerned.
Indeed, I suggested that, if only to facilitate the discussion, for Mindanao we would limit our proposal to create only three federal states: Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and the Bangsamoro.
Incidentally, I also mentioned in many forums on federalism that it is possible for the federal state of the Bangsamoro to have two autonomous regions: one for the Muslim-dominated provinces in mainland Mindanao, and the other for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
He also bewailed my alleged statement “in a January 2017 forum [that] Masbate, currently counted as part of Bicol, would be included in Central Visayas.”
Again, he does not seem to realize that I have, in fact, ceaselessly advocated in federalism forums that the choice of the people as to which federal state they wish to belong should as much as possible be respected.
May I respectfully stress that our work in the consultative committee was merely recommendatory.
In plain language, the President, to whom our output was addressed, had full discretion to use only a part - or the whole or none - of the said recommendations as he wished.
In the performance of our work, the President never interfered.
If Montalvan has evidence to the contrary, he should feel free to reveal it accordingly.
Lastly, may I express the wish that in discussing issues of national importance, we avoid name-calling or attributing ill motives to those engaged in the discussion.
His branding me, for instance, as an “oligarch” is so far from the truth.

Aquilino Pimentel Jr.,
Member,
Consultative Committee,
Manila,
Philippines




Australia's state run media
Forecasts civil war in Cambodia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 July 2018

Cambodian PM Hun Sen has vowed to unleash civil war if he is not reelected ( abc news 28/7 ).
The Cambodian dictator will get reelected in a far from free and fair election and Julie Bishop and her gang in the Australian government will continue business as usual with the dictator's regime.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 

Who are the goodies and the badies
In the Philippine ideological war?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 July 2018

Last July 23 (Monday), I have seen State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte in simplicity.
Not because it was planned theatrically by a film director Joyce Bernal but because bamboozled issues have been surrounding Duterte nowadays yet his feet are well-grounded minus the buzz words coming out from his mouth.
The septuagenarian has still the guts to lead this nation in a very different path the way the past five presidents since Cory Aquino.
While he has laid good accomplishments of this nation in whole of the nation approach, there has been several spiralling issues fluctuating up and down just to play the mind of the people and the government.
While a suspected Maute-ISIS member was killed in Lanao this week, the communist terrorists groups in the guise of New People’s Army (NPA) terrorist rebels made an unprecedented act of killing one retired solider.
This is not actually new but will the projection of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to negotiate with the government, why do their members keep on killing innocent lives?
Did they think that a retired man is a waste of life?
Have they thought of the family of the deceased?
Additionally, there are memebrs of AFP who were caught in crossfire and got wounded via NPA bombing in the South.
The even abducted tribal leader in Surigao!
What kind of move is that?
Is that what you call since peace deal to feed among Filipinos after a long sumptuous negotiation for nearly 50 years of debacle?
Sadly, there are also people who mimic or copycat the act of NPA.
Like for example a fake NPA who extorted a sum of amount mounting to P10 million.
If you are watching WOW Mali then you have been wrongly victimized not in a funny mood.
On the other hand, there is a good peace development in Kidapawan where their mayor agrees to have a localized peace talks with NPA and government.
Another is that some amazonas (femme fatal NPAs) surrendered in the hands of our authority in Surigao. I mean, there really is no way better than asking ourselves: WHO REALLY IS BAD AND GOOD?
People will laugh of this but hey, 50 years of hell-bent ideology have always misdirected millions of lives; both in rebellion and ideological phantasm.
We have to remind ourselves with greater heights of achieving what really needs to be done.
Peace and Development for all of us!

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

 


Apology from the EU to Japan
For call to abolish death penalty
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 July 2018
First published in the Japan Times, Friday 13 July 2018

As a European, I am writing to apologize to the people of Japan for our arrogant and embarrassing habit of interfering in the internal affairs of your country.
Regarding the recent executions of the convicted perpetrators of the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subways, the European Union again issued a statement calling on Japan to abolish the death penalty.
I find these unsolicited interventions inappropriate for at least three reasons.
First, Japan is a vibrant democracy, with a free and open political debate, and a highly educated and well-informed population.
Japanese universities conduct leading criminological research in Japan and across Asia.
The idea that the Japanese people and their elected representatives are unable to devise their criminal laws without “advice” from the EU seems preposterous.
Second, Japan has a well-functioning criminal justice system, and some of the lowest levels of violent crime in the world.
Data shows that the Japanese people have an exceptionally high degree of confidence in their police, prosecution service and judiciary. Europeans should learn from Japan, not lecture it.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the government of Japan would never openly express its views on any internal policy of either the EU or its member states.
Not that there is a shortage of human rights problems in Europe that could be commented on, but doing so would be considered improper and disrespectful.
Japan’s criminal justice system draws upon norms and values that have evolved over a very long time.
We Europeans must learn to show respect for the fact that people of different cultures have different norms and values.
Whether or not Japan should retain the death penalty is a debate for the Japanese people and not one in which foreign governments should get themselves involved.

Marcus Baltzer,
Honiara,
Solomon Islands



Call for enforcement of Local Government Code of 1991
Not federalism for Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, WEdnesday 25 July 2018

The theory of lawyer Raul Lambino that “bringing local government closer to the people will improve the lot of the poor” (“Will ‘bringing government closer to the people’ help the poor?” Mapping the Future, Business, 14 May 2018) sounds redundant, because the present decentralized form of local governments was precisely designed by law to work like that.
Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, is replete with clear provisions that prescribed peoples’ participation in all aspects of local development programs, be it in health, education, environment, agriculture, public works, social welfare, the criminal justice system, tourism and the like.
Its core purpose till today is to “privatize” public administration or “reinvent” the way we govern to help the many who are still poor.
May I cite the case of Nueva Vizcaya, a very poor province in 1992, where more than half of the population was living below the poverty line, but whose provincial governor at the time used local autonomy and limited devolved powers more creatively by empowering people to rise above their poverty.
He used simple but practical approaches in arresting environmental degradation, for example: “Take care of the people and they will take care of the forest,” he said.
In a short time, the province earned recognition in forest management, peace and order, prison management, health, etc. and was a recipient of awards from Galing Pook.
After 12 years of sustained people’s participation in governance, the province’s poverty level of 52 percent in 1992 dropped dramatically to a low of 4 percent in 2003! In addition, Nueva Vizcaya distinguished itself as having generated the highest per capita income among 78 provinces in the Philippines.
Based on this well-documented success story of local autonomy, decentralization and devolution, there seems to be no need to shift to federalism to kick poverty and attain peace and order in the country.
What is needed is for the Department of the Interior and Local Government to enforce and monitor Local Government Units (LGU)s to faithfully implement the Local Government Code.
It may also be helpful for the congressional oversight committee to introduce meaningful amendments to the code.

Virgilio A. Tiongson,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Philippine urban masses are the constituency
For a radical alternative to Duterte

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 July 2018

Richard Heydarian proposes in “Leni and the ‘third way’” in Philippine Inquirer 10 July 2018 that Vice President Leni Robredo be remade into a third way alternative à la Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
The third way is aka “neoliberalism with a human face” or “austerity lite.” Thus, Robredo already is the third way.
She embodies a continuation of Edsa and the failures of elite democracy.
In contrast, President Duterte has made a career out of lambasting Edsa from the right.
An alternative to Mr. Duterte should come from a critique of “trapo” democracy from the left.
Heydarian posits that a radical alternative has been eclipsed by the hegemony of neoliberalism.
But Blair and Clinton’s swing to the right paved the way for the rise of extremism. Their abandonment of their traditional base made workers prey to the demagoguery of right populists.
Heydarian insists that socialism has been made passé by postmodernism.
Yet socialists Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders belie this.
Corbyn is poised to become the United Kingdom’s next prime minister, and Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump in the election.
Despite predictions of the death of grand narratives, socialism is alive and kicking. The defeat of workers’ struggles heralded the birth of globalization, but capitalist greed is engendering resistance.
The majority of millennials in the United States prefer socialism.
An unknown New York socialist just trounced a high-ranking Democrat in the primaries.
Elsewhere, radicals, not third way politicians, are the rivals to authoritarian leaders. A leftist just won Mexico’s election.
In Europe, social democratic parties have collapsed and new radical parties are battling the extreme right for hegemony.
Mr. Duterte has harvested the discontent with Edsa democracy and is trying to channel it into support for dictatorship.
But after two years of broken promises, Mr. Duterte’s ratings are down, especially among the urban masses who are reeling from “endo” and inflation.
They are the constituency for a radical alternative to Mr. Duterte and the failed Edsa regimes.

Rene Magtubo,
Chair,
Partido Manggagawa,
Manila,
Philippines


Removal of anti-dynasty provision in Bangasamoro Basic Law
Could bring to naught good governance in Muslim Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 July 2018

Recently, the 17th Congress of the Philippines passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law on third and final reading last May 2018.
After the House of Representatives, in a 227 to 11 vote, approved their version of the bill, the upper house with all 21 senators present approved what was known as Senate Bill 2408 on its final reading.
The 21-0 vote came around 1 a.m. on May 31, 2018, two months before third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PPRD).
As a result, there has been some applause from the stakeholders. Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the Administrative Region in Muslim Mindanao which the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is slated to replace, praised the legislative branch for the law’s passage.
On the other hand, not everyone is pleased with the version that has been approved.
Veteran journalist and known administration critic in a post discussed the reasons for Rep. Sarah Elago’s (Kabataan party-list) decision to vote against House Bill 6475.
Some have warned of how self-defeating an ineffective Bangsamoro Law could be. Some say that the Senate’s version of the BBL would be different from the initial proposal of Malacañang and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
Just last week (20 July), Malacañang touted that President Duterte may sign the Bangsamoro organic law before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque thanked the members of Congress for reconciling their versions of the bill, one of the priority measures of the Duterte administration.
The bicameral conference committee approved the proposed Bangsamoro organic law on last 18 July (Wednesday), a year after the Bangsamoro Transition Council submitted its draft to the President.
While the law will optimistically succeed in bringing peace and stability in the region (as favorable to their demands in the South), the BBL’s lack of effective measures to address governance issues hounding the soon to be replaced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for decades, is not an assurance to address the longstanding problem of poverty.
Meanwhile, the removal of the anti-dynasty provision, similar to the one found in the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law, could put to naught other measures that Congress has put in place to promote good governance in the Bangsamoro region. Among them are the provisions that promote accountability by maintaining the Commission on Audit as the exclusive auditor and tighten the qualification of Sharia’h court justices.
The Bangsamoro government is also given the power to create government corporations but they should comply with the provisions of the GOCC Governance Act. It may also enact its own civil service rules that should be compliant with existing rules.
While there is a question whether BBL will be commensurating Philippine political security, we may give the measure at least two years to deliver on its promises before passing judgment on the measure.
Anyway, the proposed BBL could be repealed by Congress if the same problems such as secession and hostilities arise during the first two years of implementation of the new organic act of Mindanao.
I am excited what will be the aftermath of BBL, SONA, and Federalism in general after this week and beyond.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Mania,
Philippines


Call for Islamic economic model
For Malaysia's Bumiputra's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 July 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 17 July 2018

Two weeks ago, a recommendation to introduce an Islamic economic model in Malaysia was made by well-known economist Tan Sri Dr Kamal Salih in response to a query on the bumiputra agenda.
He was of the view that the capitalist model that has been followed in Malaysia has not been able to address the equity agenda in the country.
Malaysia as a nation is blessed in many ways: abundant natural resources, geographically well-placed, free from natural disasters and a relatively good economic planning framework.
While it is not perfect, no one can deny Malaysia’s good performance especially for a multi-ethnic and multireligious country.
In the context of the bumiputra agenda and in the name of equity, various measures and policies were implemented to facilitate active participation of bumiputras in the modernisation and industrialisation processes.
However, it is the government’s own reports as well as interesting studies, such as by Muhammed Abdul Khalid (“Colours of Inequality”, 2016), that show the shortcomings of these policies and numerous other forms of inequality and equity that must be addressed.
In the 11th Malaysia plan, it was acknowledged that intra-bumiputra inequality was an issue to be given serious attention, for example the poor condition of the bumiputra in Sabah.
The weak position of the Malaysian Indian community also led to a dedicated Malaysian Indian blueprint a few years ago.
One must also look at wealth inequality as an important form of inequality among all ethnic groups in Malaysia today.
Median household income is still shockingly low.
The attention given to the Bottom 40, or B40, in the 11th Malaysia Plan is proof of this. Employee Provident Fund (EPF) statistics have also clearly stated that the concentration of savings in EPF accounts is very skewed to a small wealthy upper middle and upper income group.
What seems to be very clear is that affirmative action policies to assist the disadvantaged cannot be based primarily on ethnicity.
It would just create inequality between the rich and poor in all communities, including the bumiputra!
The wealth inequalities measured by the Gini Coefficient for Tabung Haji savings and Amanah Saham Nasional unit trust schemes show very high concentrations in the hands of a very small super rich segment of bumiputra.
The Islamic economic model proposed by Kamal calls for an emphasis on socioeconomic justice as its paramount feature and objective.
Distributive issues cannot be left as a by-product of growth.
The capitalist approach glorifies “free markets” in the name of economic freedom. However, freedom has to be for all members in society and not just for the privileged few who have financial capital.
Affirmative action in economics must be reoriented along economic lines and criteria.
The abuse and misuse of these policies clearly shows that socioeconomic equity cannot be achieved with the current capitalist model.
The Economist’s recent “Crony Capitalism Index” puts Malaysia in second place, which is not a praiseworthy situation.
It is an indication of how abuse and misuse of an equity agenda can lead to the proliferation of a rentier class in society.
Since an overwhelming majority of bumiputra are Malays and by definition, Muslims, the use of an Islamic economic model is rational and logical.
Besides the more technical side of an Islamic economic model, one must also give attention to the importance of “correct” values, attitudes and mindset for sustainable development.
Promoting ethical economics must be the way forward for new Malaysia where pursuit of material gains is not an end in itself but a means to achieving greater success. Income levels may increase but not at the expense of creating widening inequalities among members of society.
Developing a new economic model requires the acceptance of the fundamental principle that ethics cannot be separated from economics.
As stated by Kamal, the ethical values promoted in the Islamic economic model are universal.
The challenge is not religion as a source of ethics but how we understand religion and apply it in plural Malaysia.
An Islamic economic model can play a positive role in Malaysia not only for the bumiputra community but for all Malaysians.
It is imperative for our policy makers to realise that religion, an important source of values for all communities in Malaysia, can be a uniting force in new Malaysia. The challenge is how we present it and how we learn to understand and accept others in our common land of opportunity.
Another challenge is to develop these workable models and to implement them effectively.
An ethical economy and promoting socioeconomic justice for all must be part of that new Malaysia - and Malaysians of all faiths should be able to contribute to this.

Mohamed Aslam Haneef,
Centre for Islamic Economics,
International Islamic University Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for Filipino's not to ruin
President Duterte's State of the Nation Address
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 July 2018

July 23 was declared as a special non-working holiday at some areas in Manila which will be affected by the State of Nation Address (SONA).
But first of all, do you know what SONA is?
SONA or the State of the Nations Address is an annual event in the Republic of the Philippines in which the country's President reports to the Filipino people the status of the nation, normally during the joint opening session of the two chambers of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It is also the time of the year where the broadcasters, newscasters, tv networks will come as one to witness the President’s SONA.
It is important for the Filipinos because the President will enumerate his achievements and plans for our government and country.
3rd SONA of President Duterte will be supported by the AFP anf PNP and they will be put on hightened alert to keep the SONA out of its threats.
Protesters are also expected to work on the rally and make scenes as the President gives his speech.
This SONA is not for his self, but for us fellow Filipinos.
Let us not be impolite to the President.
Give him the respect that he really deserve.
What he is doing is for the Filipinos and for the country.
Do not ruin his 3rd State of the Nations Address, just let the President deliver all the things that he wanted to say and take something good on it that would help you improve yourself as a Filipino.
Let’s start the peace on this day by giving respect to the father of the country.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines


Philippine prisons are overpopulated
And a breeding ground for infectious diseases
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 16 July 2018

It is a clear and undeniable fact that the current conditions in Philippine prisons are appalling, more so when you look at it from a public health perspective.
Our dingy, overpopulated jail cells are the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases.
Through antigenic drifts and shifts aggravated by extreme close contact between the inmates, the next deadly viral epidemic might just originate from our overcrowded prisons.
Looking back 100 years ago, the deadliest recorded event in human history - the Spanish flu pandemic - occurred partly due to the cramped living quarters shared by soldiers during World War I.
Infectious diseases thrive in densely packed populations.
When one factors in the substandard healthcare in Philippine correctional facilities, it is clear that the jails in our country - which, according to a recent Commission on Audit report, are overpopulated by a staggering 511 percent - are ticking time bombs.
One should also note that prisons are open, not closed, societies.
There are always people coming and going: wardens, visitors, and even the prisoners themselves.
A novel viral strain that develops inside prison walls can easily be transmitted to the population at large.
Not only are the conditions in Philippine jails inhumane and unethical, they are also grave threats to public safety.
The state should realize its constitutional mandate to protect our health (Article II, Section 15) and immediately take a proactive stance against the ever-worsening conditions in our country’s prisons - for our sake, and for the prisoners’ sake.

Nicolas Czar B. Antonio,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Carbon trade is a valuable assett
To PNG development and economic growth
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday, 21 July 2018
First published in the National, Monday 16 July 2018

As the chairman of Vanimo, West Sepik, I extend my appreciation to those who assisted me with the opportunity to establish ‘carbon trade’ in our country:
Carbon trade is one of the valuable assets to our country’s development and economic growth.
It can play an important role in improving the living standards of our people in the nation, for instance, a country like Vietnam has developed in bigger scale, because of carbon trade being the core foundation to their country’s economic growth and development as well as other countries around the world.
Carbon trade can be categorised into four different types of categories: Grey carbon; green carbon; brown carbon; and blue carbon
As naturalised citizens of Papaua New Guinea we should be responsible for our natural resources and encourage reforestations to areas that are experiencing deforestations and prevent any form of treat to our natural resources.
Basically our main aim is to trade our natural carbon to other countries so that the outcome can benefit our people and the nation, especially, economic growth and any form of development in our country.
If other countries can practically build that capacity, why not Papua New Guinea?

Martin Wai,
Chairman,
Vanimo, West Sepik,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Philippine IS Maute
Self fund arms
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 July 2018

Are we safe or not?
Recently, authorities here on Monday arrested the wife of the new head of Maute terror group in an operation that also killed a suspected bomb expert.
On one hand, Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, police regional director, said Nafisah Pundug, wife of Owaidah Marohombsar Abdulmajid, aka Abu Dar, was arrested during a raid by the police and military.
Dar had assumed leadership of Maute after its founding leaders, Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute, were killed in Marawi last year.
Abu Dar replaced Isnilon Hapilon as Islamic State (IS) emir in Southeast Asia after Hapilon was also killed in Marawi as per reliable source.
Moreover, Morales said Nafisah was “undergoing interrogation.” “She did not resist arrest and she did not deny being wife of Abu Dar,” Morales said. Furthermore, the raiding team killed Najib Calimba Pundug, alias Najib Hussein, 32, a suspected bomb maker, during the 2:30 a.m. operation to arrest Nafisah in the village of Fatima.
A pistol, bomb-making materials, two hand grenades, an IS flag and a white car were found in the house. Najifah Pundug Macaraya, Nafisah’s sister, admitted that Najib was, indeed, a Maute member.
“We have been telling him to surrender,” Najifah told reporters after she and six others were also arrested for alleged obstruction of justice.
Meanwhile, Najib was in the Department of Defense Arrest Order No. 1 as a high-value target.
It is troubling to know that yet a known fact that the Maute-inspired bomb maker can come and go in the village and the neighborhood was unaware that he was wanted by the law.
This is alarming since a village is a private place and if they can operate inside, they can even operate elsewhere like the recent Maute sub-leader entrapment that was held in captivity in Tondo.
Second, given the capability of IS and Maute combined (international and local), it is evident that they can provide arms or money to buy arms by themselves in illegal permit or by a third party provider.
In fact, the raiding team was out to serve the arrest warrant but as the law enforcers entered the house, Najib opened fire with a .45-caliber pistol.
So where did he get that?
Somebody could have supplied their group not only in GenSan but also in areas where sub-leaders of Maute operates as well.
There is no better way of surrendering and be protected by the rule of law than the rule of IS terrorists whose ideology are hell-bent.
And I see strong alliances with various security agencies to quell possible crimes to be committed by lawless elements like Maute.
The government and military are doing its best to magnify the security.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




No support for the CPP-NPA-NDF unholy trinity
From the Philippine state guided by God
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 July 2018

With all the more contestation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as they rejected the Duterte regime’s so-called “localized peace talks” last July 13, it goes to show the real intent in the peace process which is to DERAIL the process in whatever means they can keep up with. Traitor as I call the very act.
Pure insinuations and baseless accusation not even tried in any court every time they unwarrantedly call the Peace Talks as “pretend talks” where they keep the mockery alive versus Duterte who allegedly pretends to be wanting peace while actually waging total war against the people.
Bigotry to highest level isn’t it?
Moreover, another self-proclaimed political shaman of leftists beefed up the claim of its group.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate cited alleged Armed Forces of the Philippine’s (AFP) anomaly wherein the P192.5 million PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program in Maguindanao is unconstitutional and had driven corruption among others.
This is his style of bandwagoning to the recent statement of Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza that he decided to give it back the extra amount for newer version of budget resolution to be used for current allocation compare with 2012.
Since it is unliquidated funds as noted by Commission on Audit (COA), it is subject for a return and better to change its specification to be suitable in current demands. I mean what is wrong with that?
At least, the sum of money will be returning back soon to government and be useful in other projects to alleviate people’s lives.
Unlike CPP-NPA-NDF, they always kill, steal, and destroy the future of the Filipinos and continually lie to the public; labelling the localized peace talks as a sham, a waste of people’s money, and are doomed to fail.
They protruded that the Peace Talks is a worn-out psywar tactic to project victory to conceal the continuing failure of the AFP to suppress the people’s resistance and stem the steady growth of the NPA.
Pure deception and usage of fellow Filipinos such as innocent Indigenous People (IP) like Lumads and alike.
Also, straight from the horse’s mouth of Joma Sison and his cohorts, he summoned that Duterte’s “localized peace talks” dovetail with such corruption-riddled programs as the “balik-baril program,” the Comprehensive Local Integration Program and the recent surrender campaign, pointed out the CPP.
He deceives people when he says that only local government officials and military field officers are happy with the ‘localized peace talks,’ a money-making racket with hundreds of millions of funds that will surely end up in their pockets.
What is their basis of this?
No any amount of evidence but lies!
They do not even tried to take lead in form of the court, right?
Always words of deception and actions of killings.
Now, how about the CPP-NPA’s multi-million revolutionary taxes that keeps on ballooning in illegal platforms coupled with crimes and arsons?
Not to mention they have monkey business supported by left leaning organizations in Congress and Professors in various universities.
Uh-uh!
Now, is they are serious enough as a learned citizen as they claim in universal communism being its main source of ideology, then why do they keep on resisting to be equal with the government.
Let us not support their unholy tactical alliances or as call Unholy Trinity (CPP-NPA-NDF) along with politicians like Zarate in mask – just to advance an evil people’s protracted warfare’ a poison of the mass in the guise of civil war that they have been planning to continue.
An evil and heartless rage despite local peace talks. Instead of respecting the state authority frantically guided by God, you keep on acting as PEACE KILLERS!
Say what, Joma Sison?

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines


Autonomy for PNG provinces could end up being
The People's Republic of Papua New Guinea
First published in The National, Monday 16 July 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 July 2018

The recent article in The National some days ago highlighting the Government’s move to grant autonomy for New Ireland, East New Britain and Enga is a move with a motive.
The general explanation given by the Government is that these provinces were doing well or managing their affairs really well compared to the others.
However, when every other province eventually does well and becomes autonomies; where can we go?
If this happens, the people are going to vote for the governor; and somehow, if the constitution is amended to allow the prime minister to be voted by these governors, where again do we end up?
Political scientists out there should name what type of government this can be; possibly a republican government that will be called the People’s Republic of Papua New Guinea
If that move merges with the different types of cultures and societies we have, then that would be a political reform; and the birth of a new era in Papua New Guinea politics.
Brilliant idea.

Smith LAMA,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Chinese tourist arrivals to Thailand may drop
If Thailand is percieved as dangerous and unsafe to visit
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 9 July 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 July 2018

I would like to bring your attention on the worrying similarities shared by the
two major news items of the past week.
I am referring to the young Thai footballers trapped in a cave in Northern
Thailand, and the over 30 Chinese tourists killed in a horrific naval incident
in southern Thailand.
Both cases involve one of grandest industries of the Kingdom - tourism - and
show an alarming lack of effective set of rules and enforcement, so as to ensure
people's safety.
As a law lecturer at a Thai University and an attorney-at-law, these tragedies
touched me deeply.
First, we sadly witness every day that safety concerns are widely ignored in
Thailand.
No matter whether in construction sites, touristic attractions, logistics or manufacturing SMEs (the backbone of the Thai industrial sector), workers do not wear any helmets, safety shoes, glasses, or gloves.
How could the Thailand 4.0 master plan become a reality, if even the most
elementary rules about work safety are infringed on a daily basis?
Second, careless and irresponsible behaviour is so widespread in Thailand, at
some point it became the new normal.
Reckless Thai people don't just harm tourists' lives, as in the case of the Chinese travellers in Phuket.
They also affect the lives of their fellow countrymen - how is it possible that every
Songkran festival, which should happily mark the beginning of a new year, is a
heart-rending war bulletin about hundreds of Thai people losing their lives due
to deadly car accidents?
Third, there are massive issues related to people's education, and effective law
enforcement by Thai authorities.
As it is widely known that the monsoon season is unpredictable and potentially
dangerous, people's education and awareness in this regard should be enhanced.
However, since education can produce results only in the long run, it is up to
Thai policymakers and law enforcement authorities to show clearly that safety
will become a primary goal to pursue, in factories, construction sites, and
tourist spots.
Signals claiming ridiculously "safety first" or disclaiming any responsibility if tourists enter a cave, are not the right responses to such a dramatic emergency.
Beyond strictly enforcing the current set of rules, hard choices should be made:
for instance, revoking the licences to the non-compliant owners of boats,
closing down caves during the rainy season, as well as prohibiting boat trips
during the same season.
One may wonder whether this can affect Thai tourism.
It can, indeed.
However, we must look at the bigger picture.
Thailand did astonishing work to scale up its tourism sector, from 10 million
arrivals in 2014 to over 35 million in 2017 (of which approx 10 million from
Mainland China only).
Thailand is the only Asian country to make into the rankings of the 10 most-visited nations worldwide.
However, it is equally easy to face a sharp decrease of arrivals, if the kingdom ends up being perceived as the Land of Death, rather than the Land of Smiles.
Consider what happened to the South Korean tourism sector, when Sino-Korean
relations deteriorated a few years back.
The number of Chinese arrivals dramatically dropped.
The same can happen in Thailand if Chinese travellers perceive Thailand as a
dangerous and unsafe nation to visit.

Pietro Borsano,
Bangkok,
Thailand



What will happen Christians in Mindanao
On the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 July 2018

Before the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been the hot topic that may make or break.
They say that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) later this month, Malacañang.
In my recent recollection, Duterte has convinced the two chambers of Congress to adopt the House of Representatives' version of the bill. Both houses of Congress approved in May their respective versions of the proposed BBL after Duterte certified the bill as urgent.
Historical-politically speaking, the enabling BBL law of the 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is pegged to install a Bangsamoro political entity in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Accordingly, the said version provides that the six (6) municipalities of Lanao Del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato could vote to join the BBL territory in a referendum to be conducted on the mother territory of the areas involved.
On one hand, the challenge is the assurance of passage consonance with President’s intervention tilting constitutional provisions and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Umali.
We can also deduct that the failure ofthe bill to pass under the previous administration was an evident of questionable provisions faced on constitutionality. Moreover, the commonality of both versions of BBL (then and now) is technically to envision in granting wider self-rule to predominantly Muslim provinces and cities. On the other hand, we do not agree that in the case of absolute passage of BBL, it will definitely heal "historical injustices" suffered by the Moros despite the fact that Duterte is banking on the bill's passage.
Meanwhile, if other legislators are contending that the government is only trying to prevent bloodbath between Muslims and non-Muslims in Lanao del Norte, a Christian-majority province.
But it is not like that.
For example in Lanao del Norte wherein majority are Christians. Christians live in coastal areas, in the interior, there are MILF municipalities.
Sometimes you have problems like Mamasapano, areas that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and New People's Army (NPA) can enter the same as true with location of entry point of kidnappers and criminals as their hide-out.
Whenever there is kidnapping in Christian towns (aside from Lanao el Norte), the government has to work with the interior.
Now, here is the dilemma.
If those perpetrators will run away from the jurisdiction, the government has to run to the interior.
But that is not allowed.
There is a need for closed ordination with Bangsamoro Chief Minister.
So what will happen to Christians if they feel they cannot be protected by the government?
Possibly, pointing arms at any Muslim coming down from the interior which happened before.
Now, I believe that under the Senate and House versions, the areas shall vote on whether or not they want to be included in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
In other words, the mother units must first give permission for the addition or removal of areas.
If there are violations in the 1987 Constitution and be agreed hitherto, I will support whatever will be the result if things will be baked up the procedural and substantive process of law.
Regarding Federalism, we do not simply agree on the draft as of now.
We are also looking in our own end whether it will give us a different outlook of security upon it implementation.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Third State of the Nation Address (SONA)
Not expected to be peaceful
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 July 2018

As President Rodrigo Roa Duterte continues his administration, terrorists are being more aggressive with their criminal acts.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will deliver his 3rd Statement of the Nation Address on the 23rd day of July 2018.
And as a Filipino, I personally expect that this won’t be as peaceful and as smooth as we think.
Protests and rallies are here and there.
PLUS the force of founder of Communist Party of the Philipines (CPP), Joma Sison, will surely make a scene.
Aren’t we used to it yet?
But I know, the Armed Forces won’t be bothered.
This is not new to them and this is just a normal scenario from the terrorists.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is always prepared, ready and alert for such things as this, so for my fellow Filipinos, we don’t need to get worried because Sison’s force is nothing compared to AFP.

Emjae Macalintal,
Iloilo City,
Philippines


 

The Oust Duterte Movement in the Philippines
Similar to Oust Erap Resign Movement
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 July 2018

This is an reaction regarding the issue "Joma Sison: No more peace talks, better to oust Duterte" June 29, 2018.
The communist guerillas can no longer negotiate with the Duterte administration Joma stated.
He also mentioned that it is easier and productive for NDFP to participate in the Oust-Duterte movement.
"The Oust Duterte Movement" continues as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -National Democratic of the Philippines (NDFP) - New People's Army (NPA) -NDFP as their main and primary nationally coordinated mass movement, mass action and alliance-united front initiatives; very similar to their special political operations during the Anti-Dictatorship in the Marcos government and the OUST-ERAP resign movement which became historically successful.
The truth is nothing will change, whoever takes Duterte's position as president Why?
Simply because CPP-NPA-NDFP are well known traitors, are insincere and distrustful when it comes to peace negotiations.
No wonder why they're running 50 years (golden anniversary) on their anniversary.
I can say that President Duterte, together with the entire government is right to take a position that any serious and sincere peace negotiations be rational, practical and decesive.

Ann R. Aquino,
Lyceum of the Philippines,
Cavite,
Philippines


 

Hague Joint Declaration of 1992
Has been exploited by CPP-NPA-NDF
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 July 2018

It is good to hear that the finalization of localized Peace Talks is getting a drumbeat in the government.
I do remember that all the negotiation process between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic of the Philippines (NDFP) way back in 1986.
From their perspective, they has seen and even pointed out the idea of localized conduct of peace talks in 1986 is a BIG ERROR.
What they have been pushing is the fair game to the hands of state security forces and they do want another incident of capturing so they decided to make things within the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration (HJD) framework.
From my perspective, I can tell the difference between a genuine intent of negotiating and not.
To be honest, I can surmise the fact that the abovementioned Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 has been exploited by CPP-NPA-NDF for the past almost five decades.
Like a mother’s instinct, they want milking and protection from someone else. In their case, they found refuge from the sleight of hand of HJD 1992.
Ironically, they are very active in dismantling the government via international organization by resounding and reverberating all lies and deceptive narratives from the Philippines to be heard conspicuously by the international community.
Like for example the International Solidarity Network which have acted solely on the basis of Joma Sison’s plain and baseless forward statement and communique.
Now, are they serious enough to engage with the government or they only breed another force of anti-administration campaign against the current administration to oust Duterte?
This is not impossible given the clout they have already established under MAKABAYAN bloc and its parties and along with interest groups.
Meanwhile, I salute our troops for the Abu Sayyaf surrenders in Sulu and Basilan; 3 and 13 respectively. Always abounding by grace and protection from God, we can see that little by little, not only NPA have started surrendering but also other threat groups like ASG and BIFF.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for founder of Communist Party of the Philippines
To come out of exile and reassess the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 July 2018

It’s been 30 years since the Communist Party of the Philippines founder, Jose Maria Sison departed our country.
He cannot discern the changes in the Philippines particularly the industrial side wherein he thinks that it looks and still is the same - that most filipinos are peasants.
I think it’s time for Joma to come home and look around, ask himself if our nation has made any progress from the day he left.
Maybe it’s the right moment for him to analyze who really is responsible for the problem in our country for decades.

Ann R. Aquino,
Lyceum of the Philippines,
Cavite,
Philippines



In praise of international spirit of cooperation
In rescue of Thai soccer players
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 July 2018

The spirit of cooperation of the international community in the effort to rescue the 12 young Thai soccer players and their coach trapped in a treacherous cave shows just how precious human life is and what great value the human community attaches to it.
In light of that it boggles the mind why so much human life is wasted - including that of countless children - in wars and conflict and political leadership displaying no qualms about going down that path?
That remains humanity's shame.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 


Support for peace talks between Philippine government
And Philippine Communists to be held in Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 July 2018

The negotiation is indefinitely on hold yet new conditions are being initiated for the resumption of peace talks that are likely to be rejected by the communist rebels, including holding negotiations in the country, dimming the prospect of a settlement of the nearly 50-year-old insurgency under President Duterte.
“The doors for the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) are still open,” presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said in a statement on July 5, 2018.
On the other hand, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) lauded that by completely shutting the door to the negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial law or a general crackdown, use the terror proscription against the CPP and New People's Army (NPA) against his critics and dissenters against his tyranny, and push Charter change for pseudo-federalism to perpetuate himself in power.
I do not know where do they get the idea but those are usual rhetoric being pushed by the enemies.
What a profound propaganda and stupidity!
They see themselves as gods of oracles without conscience in committing crimes.
CPP has no right to revoke his proclamations.
They must respect all accords reached by the two sides since 1992, and agree to hold the talks here in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the other conditions set by the government like that there must be no power-sharing or a coalition government with the communist rebels, a stop to their revolutionary tax collection, and a ceasefire agreement requiring the New People’s Army (NPA) encamped in designated areas – are technical turn of event in the history of negotiation with Red.
This eventual decision of the President are manifestations of clarified issues within the organization of CPP-NPA; with all crimes and atrocities.
I support the President and the negotiating panel that the Peace Talks be held in the Philippines.
In addition to holding the talks in the Philippines, rather than abroad as has been done since 1992, we believe that the resumption would be subject to other wishes of the President.
Meanwhile, we can the crackdown of CPP-NPA wherein it lost 7,531 fighters, most of them by surrendering to the government in the first six months this year.
I contest that Duterte is driving another nail to completely shut down the NDFP-GRP peace talks; adding that the condition was “unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP."
It is actually the CPP-NDFP which has been faking the leads to divert peace into sham.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty.
Manila,
Philippines




Five Presidents since establishment of CPP-NPA
Have failed in peace talks
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 July 2018

President Duterte has again called for a cancellation of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) -New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (NDPF) that was first scheduled on June 28 purportedly to buy more time because he was not yet ready for it.
Philippine government Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza stated the government needed more to time ‘consult’ the general public about the talks, as the reason why it was cancelled indefinitely.
Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and National Democratic Front (NDF) founding chair, Joma Sison, for his part, is now acting like a ‘cry baby’ who had been left alone by his playmates, urging his comrades to single-mindedly wage people’s war against the Duterte government to ‘liberate’ the Filipino people.
From my point of view, President Duterte should have not pronounced the resumption of the peace talks with Reds after he totally scrapped it in November 23 last year for the latter’s insincerity and untrustworthiness.
Based on reports, the CPP-NPA had been suffering huge losses in the countryside due to the intensified military operations against them and the huge number of their comrades surrendering to the government side.
Talking peace with traitors, insincere and untrustworthy CPP-NPA is just a waste of time, money and effort as their leaders are still hell bent on enriching themselves from their extortion activities and grabbing power from the government.
The President has given several pre-conditions (that remain unheeded) against the Reds before talking peace, and they include: stop attacking government forces and facilities; stop their extortion thru revolutionary taxes and stop killing innocent civilians opposed to them.
There had been five Presidents since the CPP-NPA was created 49 years ago, and all these Chief Executives tried but failed to talk peace with them.
And I think President Duterte is also doomed to fail on his desire to hammer out a peace deal with the local communist movement whose leaders won’t stop at nothing until they have grabbed power to rule and run the government.

Edgar Lalantacon,
Toril,
Davao,
Philippines



Philippine government and Communist Party of the Philippines
To talk about ceasefire and socio-economic reforms
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 July 2018

Isn't the resumption of talks with the communist rebels just a waste of time?
A month after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the talks over the rebel attacks on troops, he gave a statement saying that there are certain conditions that are no longer negotiable.
The government and the communist party have agreed to resume peace negotiations.
The talks are expected to focus on shaping bilateral ceasefire agreement and socioeconomic reforms.
He said that the rebels must discontinue collecting revolutionary taxes, release soldiers held in captivity and avoid appealing ownership of territories,
There are certain conditions to me which are no longer negotiable so either I have it before I embark on another journey of peace talks (or not),” he added in a press conference.
He clearly mentioned that if the rebels don’t accept his conditions that he has imposed that he cannot deal with them anymore.
He strongly urged the rebels to release all prisoners of war.
The rebels must stop turning away troops in their self-claimed territories, stop extortion and stop arson.

Ann R. Aquino
Lyceum of the Philippines,
Cavite,
Philippines

,

Call for termination of peace talks
Until Joma Sison is out of the picture
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 July 2018

The Armed Forces of the Philippines wants to terminate the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People’s Army (NPA) - National Democratic of the Philippines (NDPF) and take Joma Sison out of the picture.
The termination does not necessarily mean that the peace talks will no longer pursue.
The AFP, and not only them but for us fellow Filipinos and even the Indigenous People, what we want is genuine and sincere peace talks that embodies the people to put an end to this fighting and war so that peace can be achieved.
But how can we achieve the peace that everyone is aiming for if these forces of Joma Sison is still part of the story?
CPP-NPA-NDF is only wanting to have peace negotiations for some reasons and some of these reasons are; to cope and conduct their double-talk, to push their “Oust Duterte Movement” and to impose their 4Rs (Regroup, Refubrish, Recruit and Recover their lost grounds) while the peace process is ongoing.
As a Filipino, I am so much in favor of the termination of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF because no matter how long the talks may be, if Joma Sison is still around, there’ll be no peace for us so better take away Sison on the picture and let the peace be processed.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for leftwing parties and entities in the Philippines
To form unified party for next elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 July 2018

Since part of the Philippine government agenda is to end the communist armed struggle in the country, it might be a good idea to raise questions on why the communist, socialist and labor movements in the Philippines have not developed the way the other movements in Europe did.
Along this line, the government should abandon its dreams of ending the armed struggle if its focus is just on institutionalizing reforms to uplift the workers’ welfare, protect indigenous people, and deliver basic services, among other concerns. Communism is not the product of poverty, although poverty drives people to take up weapons; but it is the communist party that shapes the armed struggle in the country as it is now.
Thus, the government cannot continue to dismiss communism as the root cause of violence by sticking to its reformist policies (if we can call porridge-feeding and doles reformist) in order to prevent the radicalization of the masses.
Because as long as the violent ideologies exist, there will be people willing to die for it.
An ideological movement is equally important and is not too late.
Lastly, what I would also like to see is the cohabitation af all leftwing parties and entities (similar to the Plural Left of France in the 1990s) into a unified party in next elections, to show that the workers can rise and their interests can be advanced peacefully.

Nikki Del Rosario
University of the Philippines,
Diliman,
Philippines

 

 



Call for Peace talks on 50-year-old insurgency
To be held in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 July 2018

The negotiation is indefinitely on hold yet new conditions are being initiated for the resumption of peace talks that are likely to be rejected by the communist rebels, including holding negotiations in the country, dimming the prospect of a settlement of the nearly 50-year-old insurgency under President Duterte.
“The doors for the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) are still open,” presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said in a statement on July 5, 2018.
On the other hand, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) lauded that by completely shutting the door to the negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial law or a general crackdown, use the terror proscription against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) against his critics and dissenters against his tyranny, and push Charter change for pseudo-federalism to perpetuate himself in power.
I do not know where do they get the idea but those are usual rhetoric being pushed by the enemies.
What a profound propaganda and stupidity!
They see themselves as gods of oracles without conscience in committing crimes.
CPP has no right to revoke his proclamations.
They must respect all accords reached by the two sides since 1992, and agrees to hold the talks here in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the other conditions set by the government like that there must be no power-sharing or a coalition government with the communist rebels, a stop to their revolutionary tax collection, and a ceasefire agreement requiring the New People’s Army (NPA) encamped in designated areas – are technical turn of event in the history of negotiation with Red. This eventual decision of the President are manifestations of clarified issues within the organization of CPP-NPA; with all crimes and atrocities.
I support the President and the negotiating panel that the Peace Talks be held in the Philippines.
In addition to holding the talks in the Philippines, rather than abroad as has been done since 1992, we believe that the resumption would be subject to other wishes of the President.
Meanwhile, we can the crackdown of CPP-NPA wherein it lost 7,531 fighters, most of them by surrendering to the government in the first six months this year.
I contest that Duterte is driving another nail to completely shut down the National Democratic of the Philippines (NDPF)-GRP peace talks; adding that the condition was “unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP.
It is actually the CPP-NDFP which has been faking the leads to divert peace into sham.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Peace talks in Mindanao
Between CPP-NPA-NDF not sincere
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 July 2018

The conduction of peace talk and local process is opposed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Joma Sison group who are insisting on conducting the peace talks outside the country.
I can only see that the reason for this is that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People’s Army (NPA) - National Democratic of the Philippines (NDF) is just using the peace talks as their tactics and way of manipulating their own lies.
The documents which has been signed such as the Hague Declaration, CASER and some others are all being used and manipulated by the CPP-NPA-NDF to take advantage of their tactics.
This peace process of the CPP-NPA-NDF doesn’t aim for a sincere attainment of peace for the Filipinos but instead, they are using the peace process just to strengthen their armed struggle and revolutions against the government.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines



Phillipine communist rebels planning to
Oust President Rodrigo Duterte by October
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 July 2018

As agreed upon during backchannel talks, the supposed resumption of formal negotiations was set to proceed on June 28 in Norway.
A stand-down agreement was signed on June 8 and was supposed to take effect on June 21, a week before the opening of formal talks.
But the talks' resumption was aborted because Duterte said he needed more time and more consultations with the people. Enraged by Duterte's move, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman and National Democratic of the Philippines (NDPFs) chief political consultant Jose Maria (Joma) Sison said it was better to oust Duterte.
But later, Joma softened his stance saying that talks was still possible.
However, the military has openly expressed support for the idea of abandoning the peace talks.
Now, the irony is that the communist rebels are planning to oust President Rodrigo Duterte by October.
This is claimed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as it expressed support for the total termination of peace negotiations.
AFP spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said on July 3 that the ouster plot was allegedly contained in documents recovered by soldiers and confirmed by testimonies of communist rebels who have surrendered.
Accordingly, there is such plan that was hatched during the period that there was a lull in the operations because of the ongoing ceasefire.
In terms of credibility of documents, Arevalo made assurances these were “credible” pieces of information from surrendered members of the New People’s Army.
He also declined to enumerate the measures being done to pre-empt the supposed plan of the communist rebels, saying that such operational details could not be divulge.
Moreover, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) crafted a 3-year plan to advance their revolutionary movement, which includes starting the “Oust Duterte Movement” if the chief executive will not agree to a coalition government.
On the other hand, the CPP has been proliferating that Lorenzana is a war promoter and consummate militarist.
He wants no non-military end to the civil war in the Philippines.
He fears losing significance if the present civil war in the country is settled politically through peace negotiations.
To him, the only solution is to recruit more and more soldiers to the AFP in order to lay siege on thousands of barrios nationwide and sow terror among the people. What a traitor CPP!
Further, the 3-year plan was crafted in two occasions during the last unilateral ceasefire covering the period 2016 until January 2017, wherein the CPP-NPA-NDF held the largest and 2nd People’s Congress from October to November 2016 and the Central Committee Plenum in December 2016. By January 2017, the National Military Commission of the [CPP-NPA-NDF] reinforced the earlier plenum Agenda.
I agree with their claims of destabilization.
I can recall when Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison said he has nothing to do with the group yet he called the Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM); calling for the ouster of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last 2017.
Using the lull in the fighting because of the ceasefire they were able to consolidate, recover their lost ground/mass base and expand their influence.
So are they really serious in Peace Talks?
You tell Filipinos of this Republic.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine public officials
Helping themselves to taxpayer money
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 July 2018

We read with unspeakable outrage the news, “Calida among top 10 highest-paid in gov’t” in Philippine Inquirer June 26, 2018, detailing the millions of pesos of taxpayer money public officials are helping themselves to.
While the President who runs the whole country receives only about P2.5 million a year, the errand boys appointed by him to help him run the country receive between P12 million-plus and P14 million-plus a year?
And they say public service is such a thankless job.
Let’s cut the BS!
Seriously, with so much taxpayer money to pocket, who needs gratitude?

Henrico Henson,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Call for accountability in Philippines
For death in custody
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 July 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 July 2018

We join those who mourn and denounce the death of Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, 25, and call on authorities to hold accountable those who allowed his death to happen.
Tisoy’s death in custody is neither the first; nor will it be the last.
From February to April 2018, three suspected drug users died at the Pasay police station, apparently due to illness aggravated by exhaustion.
Between May and June 2018, five persons detained at police jails in Quezon City and in Manila also died, either due to heat stroke or illnesses made worse by overcrowding and lack of health and sanitation facilities.
How can such incidents happen in a place where police officers are supposed to look after the safety and security of persons under their custody?
How can they claim to be protectors of the people when the people feel fear rather than security when under the grip of their power?
How can we rejoice at their proclaimed triumph over criminality when ordinary citizens, whose only fault is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, are shoved into jail because someone very powerful ordered a crackdown on loiterers and
alleged criminals?
In commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture last week marking the adoption of the UN Convention Against Torture on June 26, 1987, we ask for an end to violence, torture, and impunity.

Rebecca Lozada,
Advocacy officer,
Balay Rehabilitation Center Inc.,
Manila,
Philippines




Phillipine President Duterte accused of using CCP and NPA
As scapegoat to declare martial law nationwide
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 July 2018

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison said on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte was just using the communist movement and the New People’s Army (NPA) as his “scapegoat” to declare martial law.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, Duterte is not interested in the peace negotiations but in scapegoating the CPP and NPA for the purpose of declaring martial law nationwide or a state of emergency in his mad drive to establish a fascist dictatorship under the guise of charter change to federalism,” Sison said in a statement posted on the National Democratic of the Philippines (NDPF) website on Friday.
Sison further noted that Duterte also reneged on his promise of amnesty and release of political prisoners.
Sison reiterated his disagreement on transferring the venue of peace talks to Manila, stressing that such move would render peace talks resumption “impossible.”
It was Sison who has been too adamant and arrogant at this point; lamenting the “repeated whimsical termination” of the peace negotiations, saying it is likely that Duterte will soon lead the current three-month suspension of the talks to another end. In fact, Sison has canceled the negotiations with the government.
It is a fact that the Duterte administration has suspended the peace talks with the communist rebels three times already DUE TO NPA’s criminal acts on the ground but not solely because of government’s capriciousness.
I do not believe Joma Sison’s claim that they are willing to resume the peace talks with the government and it was Duterte who kept on changing his mind.
Who said an anti-rhetoric against Peace Talks recently?
It was not Duterte administration but them (CPP-NDFP) thru Joma Sison.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines




Don't blame Philippine President Duterte for delay
In peacetalks with Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 July 2018

Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and National Democratic Front (NDF) founding chair, Joma Sison, made an unbelievable pronouncement once again.
After begging for a cease fire and peace talks, Joma Sison is now turning his point the other way around.
Sison said that they will no longer clinch with the government.
This only goes to show that he and his force is not sincere about the peace talks. They are just using the peace talk as an instrument and strategy to pursue their armed struggle and advancing their political movement so that they can take over our government if they succeed with the armed struggle.
The peace talks are just his way to strengthen his force and regain lost ground.
Given the fact that the military are the enemies of the terrorists, if Sison is really sincere about peace, they will stop their criminal acts especially when civilians are involved..
They also admitted that the peace talks are basically a support for their armed struggle.
Do not blame the President for delaying the talks because he probably knows the real intention of Joma Sison for begging for peace talks and he surely knows that his county men will suffer if the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - National Democratic Front (NDF) succeeds.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines


Call for Philippine President Duterte not to release
Political prisoners all at the same time
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 July 2018

We’ve been at war with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for 50 very long years.
And on May 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte promised amnesty and release of all prisoners which is said to be a lie.
President Duterte cannot release all the prisoners at one time.
Freeing these political prisoners won’t ever be good for the people around.
This may actually harm us because we all know that the prisoners are under the control of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and National Democratic Front (NDF) founding chair,Joma Sison.
The decision made by the President is not just for himself but for the safety of the people on his country.
Joma Sison is just using the peace talks to free those prisoners.
I know in fact that he is not really sincere in having the peace talks.
They don’t even have any plans to have peace.
Because if they do, the first thing that they’ll do is to stop their criminal acts.

Jhoi Lorenzo,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Filipinos to put an end to war between
Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 July 2018

I have been hearing news regarding the resumption of peace talks and later another turn of events in terms of its cancellation.
Based on the pronouncements of the Presidents and the officials concerned, the government told the public that President Duterte is prudent enough to realize for another sort time; taking one moment to re-examine the content of the Peace Talks with all due diligence of political correction by himself and subject matter experts.
The suspension will be until after three months before another round will welcome both panels to agree or agree on terms and conditions that has set and will be set for final approval; if the upcoming negotiation will be a final blow without demise and bismarck reaction from Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic of the Philippines (NDFP).
On one hand, the President’s recent declaration to continue the talks signify adherence to the primacy of the peace process and settle the conflict thru peaceful means.
Now, I can see that the government has long proven its sincerity in the negotiation table to reach the goal of having just and lasting peace with the CPP-NDF-NPA. From the accounts of news and testimonies, this is evident in the numerous attempt of the Duterte administration to resume peace talks. This only goes to show that the safety and well-being of the Filipino people is paramount in the current thrust of Duterte administration.
From the viewpoint of security, armed struggle being forwarded by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People's Army (NPA) has no place in a just human society.
All Filipinos must work together to put an end to armed struggle which has caused tremendous sufferings to our people.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines

 


Allegations of looting by soldiers in the liberation
Of Islamic city of Marawi is baseless.
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 June 2018

Ever since Marawi has started and been liberated from the hands of Maute-ISIS inspired terrorists, rumors, hearsays, and atrocious commentaries have been circulating to dissuade the people from believing Government’s efforts regarding Marawi rehabilitation.
Recently, members of the House Makabayan bloc filed a Resolution 1973 seeking an investigation into the human-rights situation and the status of rehabilitation in the Islamic City of Marawi.
Basically, it was spearheaded by ACT-Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago specifically asked the House committees on human rights and Muslim affairs to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on reports of human-rights violations in Marawi and other grave concerns of the local people on the government’s post-siege rehabilitation plans in Marawi.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, in its report on November 2017 said that the Philippine security forces violated the prohibition on the use of torture and other ill-treatment of people in their custody, adding that most of the violations were carried out against civilians who were escaping from the besieged lakeside town and seeking military protection.
All the allegation that Makabayan has been purported like the alleged several complaints of looting by soldiers is baseless.
This is to derail the on-going rehabilitation and recovery of the people in Marawi by instilling the bad light of government’s effort in alleviating the people’s lives out of misery.
It is funny that that they use narrative that soldiers have forced their way inside abandoned homes and took household items and other properties.
To back-up their claims, they use Marawi residents themselves who, by the way, allegedly and gravely concerned that there is no clear and comprehensive rehabilitation plan for internally displaced persons, no recognition and accountability over the government’s failure of intelligence and failure to stop the entry of terrorist groups in Marawi, absence of any government statement or commitment to indemnify lost lives and compensation for damaged properties, no assurance of rebuilding of destroyed mosques and madrasah, and absence of clear government statement on lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
That is their usual rhetoric and we have to take advantage of these things to counter-narrative.
Lastly, non-state actor like Amnesty International (AI) is another rejoinder of plot twisted story to counter the government’s initiatives of rehabilitation to advanced their ploy and tactics.
These issues, since hot as of now, will be used to negate AFP, DND, and Duterte administration.
I support the government in any probable investigation, compensation and accountability that may bring back lost and shattered lives, properties, culture and dignity of the people.
But we also challenge those groups to file a petition to make the probe more enduring as it is deemed important for the people to regain a part of their lives and culture.
Otherwise, any words are just mere demagoguery.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines




Philippine teachers and students
To be drug tested
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 June 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 27 June 2018

President Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs” may soon place thousands of primary school children in harm’s way.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) announced last week that it is seeking authority from the Dangerous Drugs Board to impose annual drug tests on teachers and school children starting from the fourth grade.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) justified the move as an attempt to identify 10-year-old potential drug users so they “can get intervention while they are still young.”
But this proposal, the latest dangerous move in Mr. Duterte’s antidrug campaign that has already claimed the lives of dozens of children, will place schoolchildren at even graver risk and raises human rights concerns.
Taking a child’s bodily fluids, whether blood or urine, without their consent may violate the right to bodily integrity and constitute arbitrary interference with their privacy and dignity.
Depending on how such tests are conducted, it could also constitute degrading treatment, and may deter children from attending school or college for reasons unrelated to any potential drug use, depriving them of their right to an education.
The government should provide children with accurate information about the potential risks of drug use, not put them in the crosshairs of a summary killing campaign that has already claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Filipinos.

Phelim Kine,
Deputy director,
Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Philippine government
To retreat from antipoor programs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 June 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 27 June 2018

The administration seems determined to carry out its policy that those who have less in life should have nothing in law.
Here in Palanan, Makati, the poor homeless sleep on sidewalks.
Those in their tiny places in the sun make “tambay,” suffocated as they are in their shanties.
Jobless for lack of employment opportunities.
They make “tambay” to while their time away.
Congress has repealed the law against vagrancy.
Having preempted the field nationally, no local ordinance can override national law and policy.
Given abject conditions in a country with 11 million unemployed, one has the human and constitutional right to be a bum.
The administration should retreat from its antipoor programs.

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Manila,
Philippines



Malaysians say no arm twisting in donations
To government to pay 1MBD debt
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 June 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 26 June 2018

I refer to the letter “Make sure it’s voluntary” in The Star, June 18.
The writer, Born Again Malaysian, must have been recently resurrected because he or she seems to be confused about the people’s willingness to donate to Tabung Harapan.
The writer implies that there might have been some form of coercion in making donations to the fund.
There is no truth whatever to this imputation as we have not heard or read about any arm-twisting to compel Malaysians to donate.
If the writer has evidence contrary to this, it should be made public.
For the information of the writer, Malaysians in their thousands have voluntarily and spontaneously come forward in their patriotic zeal to contribute.
The response was so remarkable that within the first 24 hours, RM7mil had been donated to Tabung Harapan.
Even children undertook to wash cars in Taman Yarl, Jalan Klang Lama to raise money for this fund.
In another example of patriotism, we saw 12-year-old Ervin Devadasan handing over his entire savings, which he collected for more than eights years and kept in a piggy bank, to Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader Lim Kit Siang.
Recently, Sabah’s Servay Hypermarket donated RM1mil and encouraged Sabahans to donate too.
In praising Malaysians for being very generous, Datuk Seri Lai Kock Poh, chairman of Servay Hypermarket, said, “We have had so many generous donors as seen from the updated amount in Tabung Harapan and this is an indication that Malaysians truly care for the country.”
On June 25, less than a month after it was launched, the fund breached the RM100mil mark!
There are numerous examples of Malaysians expressing their loyalty to the country by contributing to this fund. But instead of praising this effort, Born Again Malaysian seemingly attempts to create an impression that there could have been some form of coercion.
Can those who have been hurt or offended please speak up?
The truth must be told otherwise they will be seen as casting a wet blanket over this sincere effort to help the country.

A Malaysian Always,
Penang,
Malaysia




Call for Philippine President to push for implementation
Of Hague Court ruling on UNCLOS
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 June 2018

Chinese encroachment at Panatag Shoal (internationally known as Scarborough Shoal) has brought nothing but hunger to fishermen in this province and nearby Pangasinan, a group of subsistence fisher folk said.
As per report, in a three-page letter to President Duterte, the fishermen asked him to enforce the country’s sovereign rights over traditional Filipino fishing grounds now being controlled by the Chinese Coast Guard. The fishermen gathered here on Wednesday for a forum on the impact of Chinese aggression on the local fishing economy.
While the Philippines is trying to mend ties with China, what China has been doing is an assertion of their own historic rights that definitely shakes the consciousness of most Filipinos in the hot contested areas along South China Sea (SCS) / West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Meanwhile, the meta-narrative of most academicians has always been strongly on disagree of RP’s conduct when it comes to Foreign Policy.
But we have to be careful on this move since any miscalculation on the part of China will definitely resort to any debunking of relation like in trade tariffs (i.e. US-China deal-making right now in international trade).
The challenge is on how the President Duterte to push for the implementation of the ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which gives Filipinos the freedom to fish in the shoal but at the same time allow the President to feel free to choose its action.
I support the fishermen to continue going to the shoal for their own livelihood but we do not encourage them to instil in their mind to be a subject or object of evidence so it can be used against China for that matter.
That can exploited by interest group by politization.
Yet, we need to have a continuous advocacy to expose the real intent of China in patrolling the Scarborough Shoal guided under the rule of law.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines


 

Call for political parties in Malaysia
To pay tax
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 June 2018
First published in the Star 19 June 2018

Since GST is now zero rated, there is a need to immediately fill the gap in tax revenue.
One of the sources is income tax.
The general public and even politicians may not be aware that political parties in Malaysia are exempted from paying income tax, as per Income Tax (Exemption) (No. 22) Order 2002 PU(A) 208, which states: “All income from YA 2001 of a political association, are exempt from payment of income tax.”
This income tax exemption order dated April 19, 2002, exempts a “political association” (political party) from the payment of income tax in respect of all income (retrospectively) from the year of assessment 2001.
To partly make up for the loss in tax revenue resulting from the zero rated GST, and to partly contribute to the repayment of the trillion ringgit national debt, the Finance Minister should immediately revoke the Income Tax (Exemption) (No. 22) Order 2002 PU(A) 208 and, if possible, make it effective retrospectively.
There are political parties in Malaysia that own a lot of properties all over the country.
These properties are probably generating huge amounts in rental income that rightfully should not be exempted from tax.
Besides rental income, some political parties may also be engaged in profit-making ventures and would have millions of ringgit deposited in banks and earning interest.
These should all be subject to income tax.
Political parties that do not have any income do not have anything to worry about as there is no tax for them to pay.

HJK,
Melaka,
Malaysia




Peace talks an opportunity
To revive Red's dying cause
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 June 2018

It has been long years since the negotiation started between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
As per account today, the CPP-NDFP insists that the talks could still proceed even if delayed for one or two months as long as these were held in a neutral venue abroad as agreed upon by both parties based on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) they signed in 1995.
Under the agreement, consultants and staff of the NDFP who are part of the negotiating team are granted immunity from arrest and detention and are provided safety guarantees.
Joma Sison has been pushy on this ever since.
He even noted recently that holding formal peace talks in the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte insists will spell doom for negotiations between the government and communist rebels and the end of peace negotiations if Duterte will dictate the venue where he can conduct surveillance and control.
We can see that he has been enticing the public to connect any move by the government in probable human right violation.
In fact, he gratified this claim by saying that the most effective way for the government to end the peace negotiations is to dictate that the venue is under the control of Duterte and his military brutes.
BUT, there is a BIG BUT here.
A game changer happened too on 14 June when the President canceled the resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, scheduled for June 28.
The date was agreed upon by government and NDFP negotiators in a series of back-channel talks.
What the president meant is to hold the negotiation in the Philippines next month but gave no specific dates.
From the heck of negotiation between the GPH and CPP-NDFP, it has been visible that the usual argument of latter is that revolutionaries do not negotiate under the terms and conditions of an emergent fascist dictatorship and in a place where mass murders are occurring with impunity.
Of course, no one wants to be betrayed by its own action if the ranks of CPP-NDFP lead consultants be adhering to the ploy of the government but if they will not, eventually all the efforts have been made by Reds will be futile and definitely create rounds and series of atrocities.
Meanwhile, I believe that Sison will only recollect the speak on the account of 1986 Talks wherein they will probably be emphasize that said the experience of the rebels during a ceasefire and failed peace negotiations in the Philippines in 1986 had taught them life-and-death lessons.
From there, the NDFP negotiators, auxiliary personnel and peace volunteers were all placed under surveillance.
When the negotiation broke down in early 1987, lots of them were arrested, detained, tortured and killed.
Personally, Joma Sison always demand for the release of ALL political detainees in past peace talks.
Once released, they create an issue to disrupt the talks knowing your rabid comrades are back in the underground to advance CPP-NDFP’s lost cause.
Also, CPP-NDFP’s tactical ploy in peace talks are considered to win political concessions and score propaganda mileage while, at the same time, the NPA tries to weaken the will of the military to fight through increasingly bold tactical offensives that is detrimental to broader reach of final resolution in the almost five (5) long years of armed struggle and protracted people’s warfare. Buying time as we see.
The public must be cautious on this because that narrative is intended to demolish the reputation of the current government to pursue a peaceful negotiation.
On one hand, take away the limelight of a third party and "internationalized" peace talks, Joma will lose his fangs to demand for the moon and the stars. Whether any peace talks location be held on a "neutral ground" or not, is irrelevant because CPP-NDFP and its cohorts only use the peace talks as an opportunity to expand, consolidate and gain concessions to revive Joma Sison and the entire Red’s dying cause.
Give everyone a break with your nonsense and start abiding in the customary law of your own state Philippines if really are nationalist by heart and mind.
Go back and live a peaceful life with fellow Filipinos.
In a nutshell, the deferment of formal peace talks was meant to give way to public consultations on substantive issues raised during the back-channel negotiations. Amidst this challenges, I support the President and the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) to have more time so we could at least consult our constituents weather this arraignment will beneficial to both sides and the greater Filipino interest.
Either or, the rule of law must prevail and people’s security deem an important factor to turn all toils in peace negotiation as good means to ends.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Ban on entry to US on human rights grounds
Not indefinite
The Southeasteast Asian Times, Friday 22 June 2018

We learn from The Southeast Asian Times article ' Cambodia's general Hing Bun Hieng banned from entry to US ' ( 18 June ) that the military general has been banned because his security unit had allegedly attacked protesters including members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, killing 16 and injuring dozens including a US citizen." General Bun Hieng has been implicated in multiple attacks on unarmed Cambodians for many years...".
How long will the US ban stay in place?
Will it remain until the general becomes a successful political leader?
We recall Narendra Modi was banned from entry to the US because of his alleged complicity in the Gujerat Riots which resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of Muslims.
What happened to the ban after he became the PM of India?
There is no ban against the North Korean dictator Kim Jong - un, is there?
Why not?
The hypocrisy and political expediency surrounding US bans stinks.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



No amount of fish from China is enough to cover
The shame and dishonour done to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 June 2018

First published in the Philippine Inquire, Tuesday 19 June 2018

I refer to the report China has given more ‘fish’ to the Philippines", says development expert, in Philippine Inquirer 13 June 2018, particularly the strange and utterly abhorrent contention of so-called “development expert” George Siy when he stated that: “Over a hundred million dollars have been waived in terms of the loans for the NorthRail project…”
I have serious doubts about the expertise of this person by virtue of the fact that he equated the honor of the country to economic aid and monetary benefits.
An individual who truly loves his country will never ever exchange for whatever benefit or compensation the integrity and sovereignty of his nation.
Sovereignty is not for sale, and people who disregard the importance of their nation’s dignity and honor have no right to be free and call themselves sovereign.
I vividly remember a scene in the film “The Last Samurai,” when Katsumoto (tribal lord and leader of the rebelling samurais) is about to rejoin the government council.
Katsumoto tells Minister Omura, who appears to be proforeigner: “We are a nation of whores selling ourselves.”
The same can be said about the position of that so-called development expert.
No amount of “fish” which, ironically, belongs to us in the first place, or economic aid packages and developmental projects from China or any other empire, would be enough to cover the shame and dishonor being done to us by the Chinese every day in our very own territory.

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega,
Manila,
Philippines



Joma Sison Philippines home coming
Could go the way of Benigno Aquino
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 June 2018

While U.S. President Trump and North Korean Leader Kin Jong-Un has already met up with a good concession with regard to the denuclearization issue, I can tell the difference between Kim Jong Un (a well-known communist) and another Communist wannabe in greater Southeast Asia - Joma Sison.
Although this week is the Europe trip of Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza, President Duterte summoned Sison to go home for the negotiation of peace talks to resume.
The conduct of conversation, as per President, is more beneficial than assessing everything in Norway.
One might say that this is another strategy of the current administration to counter the dominance of Sison on the foregoing negotiation.
Another might say that if Sison will come home, he might probably be killed in the Philippines synonymous with what happend with Benigno Aquino.
Meanwhile, Joma Sison will always be a forever coward in my eyes.
He is way older than our Constitution but his wisdom falls under the pit of hellish evil for personal interest.
If you are an effective leader of CPP, then why don’t control your men on their atrocities.
We cannot discount that there has been a good development between GPH and CPP-NDFP but NPA’s rebuttal has been pegged to corruption of the mind.
If only Joma Sison can be like Kin Jong Un on peace building resolution, things will roll differently.
I still believe that everybody’s gain is far from over if he will not be selfish enough on this.
Come on Joma Sison, man up!

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Phiipppines

 

 

Two kowtowing reasons in the Philippines
Why New People's Army are surrendering
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 June 2018

Once a traitor, always a traitor.
I don’t know okay but if you will give me a fair share of opinion regarding the recent slained New People's Army (NPA) in Misamis Oriental and septuagenarian New People Army (NPAs) who have been giving up the fight, I certainly will just repeat the nodding in favor with the government’ effort in combating insurgency in the Philippines.
On the other hand, I guess there are two kowtowing reasons why there are still surrendered NPAs.
One, they still have vested interests to unify New People's Army (NPA) conglomerates and the second, is to earn more money compare with the professionals in suburbans.
In relation with the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the national government, rebels who surrendered to the government with their firearms are given monetary assistance of P15, 000 and P50, 000 for livelihood projects coupled with trainings and technical support from appropriate government agencies which are also accorded to their dependents to ensure sustainability.
Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) focuses on integration of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front who decided to abandon the armed struggle and rejoined the mainstream society.
Meanwhile, I laud the local government units and partner agencies for jointly facilitating the release of the fund assistance to the former rebels; young and septuagenarians.
I encourage the public to denounce New People's Army (NPA)
Do not be like those people who tolerated extortion s and atrocities of New People's Army (NPA) like the recent 7 million that was being torched by the government.
They have all the luxury of time to start a new life, a changed and good one.
That sum of money probably be another source of fund in recalibrating their plans and organization to make it stronger.
Never again support or participate in any form of armed struggle or legal struggle they keep on pushing through.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



US-North Korean agreement
There is always hope
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 15 June 2018

Re: "Trump announces halt to US-S Korea war games", in Bangkok Post, June 12.
Critics of the US-North Korean agreement are right to tamp down expectations a
bit, but there is a big difference between cautious-optimism and outright
cynicism.
Time will tell what the true intentions of all concerned really are, but Buddhism teaches that there is goodness to be found in everyone if we are willing to look hard enough.
Tuesday's summit was a substantial, historic step towards world peace between
two very strong world leaders.
Many enemies have become great friends in recent years, but the process has never been instant or free of growing pains - a common excuse used by assassinaters of joy" who just want to kill any hope that things can get better.
They can, in fact.
World peace and progress towards it hinges on the growth of hope.
Never give up on hope.
There is always hope, and a lot of people went a long ways in this world on nothing but hope.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Conference of the States-Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention
All agree on one point
That the global regime of non-proliferation is in a state of deep crisis

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 June 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Tuesday 12 June 2018

By the initiative of the US, the UK, France and Germany, supported by Australia and Canada a special session of the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is to be held on June 26 – 27.
As these countries declare their intent to convene the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) for good purposes to condemn the use of chemical weapons in the UK, Iraq, Malaysia and Syria as well as to prevent such incidents in the future.
In fact, the western “quartet” is planning to use the special session of the Conference of the States-Parties (CSP) for even greater incitement of anti-Russian and anti-Syrian hysteria around the so-called “Skripals’ case” and the Syrian “chemical dossier”.
There should be no doubt about this scenario.
Such a move can be partially explained by the desire of the Western group to compensate its loss of grounds in the settlement of the situation in Syria and in the Middle East as a whole.
At the same time they still dream to achieve their main goal - to discredit and topple the government of Bashar Assad.
To achieve these goals the opponents of the official Damascus would like to authorise the director-general of the Technical Secretariat to “identify” the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons - a mission that has nothing to do with the role and mandate of the director-general.
There are no relevant provisions in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) at all.
But it clearly specifies that in case of a serious violation of the CWC such information should be submitted for consideration of the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly.
What we see now is an obvious attempt to manipulate the Convention, to interpret its provisions in accordance with the selfish interests of a small number of countries. The situation is even stranger since the states-parties presumed guilty have long been designated by the Western countries.
The proposed idea about attributive functions is not new - it was “fully tested” during the work until November 2017 of the demised OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
The main goal of this proposal is the creation of a mechanism under the control of the Western group, which will make conclusions required by them.
So called “good intentions” declared by the US, the UK, France and Germany are a clear attempt to mislead the states-parties.
It is possible to only agree with one point proclaimed advanced by a number of Western States: the global regime of non-proliferation of chemical weapons based on the CWC is indeed in a state of deep crisis and needs to be protected.
OPCW suffers from the ongoing insinuations from the US, the UK, France and some other countries, their attempts to use the purely technical platform of the OPCW for the benefit of realising their own geopolitical intentions.
Washington, London and Paris repeatedly demonstrated their disinterest in conducting objective and professional investigations of cases of chemical terrorism in Syria and endless provocations with the use of toxic chemicals by militants and the NGO affiliated with them – like “White Helmets”.
Twice over just a year in violation of the UN Charter and other fundamental norms of international law, Washington first single-handedly, and then all three Western permanent members of the UNSC carried out an act of the military aggression against a sovereign state. They launched missiles at Syrian military and civil infrastructure sites.
They did not intend to wait for any investigation by the OPCW of self-orchestrated “chemical incidents” in Khan-Sheikhun on April 4, 2017 and in Douma on April 7, 2018.
Due to unprecedented pressure on the leadership of the Technical Secretariat, the US, the UK, France and Germany dictated the Fact-finding Mission (FFM) methods of its work and achieved the dominance of obedient representatives of NATO countries within the FFM.
The FFM is conducting its activities remotely, until recently without a single visit to the places of the alleged incidents, relying primarily on the falsified “evidence” provided by the opposition.
The situation was partially reversed only now –thanks to the efforts of the Russian and Syrian military forces that provided appropriate security conditions during the visit of the FFM specialists to Douma in April-May.
It is noteworthy that the states led by Washington ignored the briefing organised by Russia and Syria at the OPCW HQ on April 26 on one of the staged footages by the “White Helmets” related to the alleged use of toxic chemicals in Douma.
The allegations of the use of chemical weapons over there were completely denounced at the briefing.
The US was unable to obtain the endorsement of its anti-Syrian draft decisions at the extraordinary EC meetings in November 2017 and April 2018.
A significant number of states-parties decided not to associate themselves with those politically biased documents.
Now the US and the UK, with the support of France and Germany, seem to have decided to bring this issue to the CSP in hope to get the desired number of votes there.
It is important to take the current situation at the OPCW with all seriousness.
If the plans to authorise the director-general of the Technical Secretariat at a special session of the CSP to “identify” the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons succeed that could lead to the disruption of normal work of the OPCW as one of the most successful disarmament mechanism.

Embassy of the Russian Federation in Cambodia
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Justice for everybody
In the New Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 June 2018
Frist published in the Star, Tuesday12 June 2018

I refer to Tun Daim Zainuddin’s interview with Bernama on 11 June, when he announced, as Chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), that in economic and financial management, the Government should ensure justice for everybody.
This is indeed a welcome move in the Government’s economic policies. Interestingly, this was actually the original philosophy stated in the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970.
Unfortunately, this fair and reasonable thinking got distorted and derailed later due to abuse and cronyism.
Then income inequality set in and seeped right through the whole economic and financial system.
This unhealthy trend was then aggravated by corruption, expenditure wastage, inefficiencies and the politicisation of finance and economic management, as we now see from the red files revealed by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
The NEP aimed to eradicate poverty regardless of race, and it did, in all fairness, reduce overall poverty substantially; however, its poor implementation left too many Malaysians of all races in financial straits that made it exceedingly difficult for them to make ends meet and put food on the table.
Daim and the venerable CEP must be highly commended for addressing the punitive problem of income inequality, regardless of race and religion.
We have to now move more strongly towards income-based economic and financial policies and phase out race- based economic policies.
The poor of all races and religions must be shown the same compassion and care according to justice and our religious and moral values.
As Daim rightly stressed, “once you address inequalities, everybody will be happy.”
Yes, Tun Daim and the Council of Eminent Persons, we are mostly happy already by your breakthrough in introducing new policies and new planning in the new government.
We hope the pace of change gathers more momentum, but in cautious and prudent ways.
We all hope that Daim and the CEP will carry on with their fresh thinking and planning and better implementation, so that the New Malaysia will continue to move forward for the benefit of all Malaysians, and especially the less fortunate.
Like many, I also hope that the CEP will continue to serve as a national advisory and monitoring council even after the first 100 days!
All we want is for the Govern-ment, as Daim says, “To be fair to everybody and to take care of their welfare”, in the New Malaysia.
Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin to all Malaysians!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Chairperson Asli-CPPS,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



What does stand down mean
To communist rebels in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 June 2018

Casting doubt of shadows were highlighted when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, reacted separately to an Inquirer report that the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) may cease hostilities as early as next week under a preliminary truce proposed by government and rebel negotiators.
Lorenzana said the military might be the only party that would stand down under an agreement being finalized in back-channel talks between negotiators from the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
He said rebel documents indicated that the insurgents were “actually intensifying their expansion of their areas.”
Now, the stand-down agreement, which would require both sides to suspend offensive operations against each other, was meant to stimulate the atmosphere for peace negotiation two weeks before the resumption of the peace talks as per Joma Sison, CPP Founder.
We have to set questions like: What does stand down mean to communist rebels anyway?
We might assume coming from Defense Secretary’s mouth that stand down means cease operations.
Stand down for them might mean there would be no attacks but we suspect they will continue their recruitment.
They also have to stop that if there is a stand-down.
Now, although the military was doubtful about the rebels’ sincerity and apprehension is always there, we have to see the ends of all the means.
The question of sincerity will always be there because of our past experiences
I am still hopeful that the New People’s Army (NPA) abide by any form of ceasefire agreed by both sides.
Still, we have to be cautious he added. But we are hopeful, hoping this time they’ll mean what they say; like words that needed to be translated to genuine action.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines



Praise for the Mahathir government
For revistiting the Malaysian Indian Blueprint
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 June 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 June 2018

I refer to the report, “Task force meant to review projects for Indian community”, that appeared in the Star on Monday 11 June.
I laud the announcement by Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran that the new government will review all existing projects in two weeks’ time when it meets.
Malaysians of Indian descent comprise 2.2 million out of 32 million people in Malaysia.
Issues such as red identity cards, lack of citizenship, education in Tamil schools without adequate facilities - all this affects especially those in the B40 category, with a monthly income up to RM3,855.
This amount is insufficient to manage a family with the ever-increasing cost of living currently.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has repeatedly said “the Indians were nation builders who built roads, railways, schools, ports just like the Chinese who worked in the tin mines”.
Together they managed the twin pillars of the nation, rubber and tin, that supported the government of the day.
However, according to a report in the Economist magazine in 2003, Indians comprise 60 percent of urban squatters and 41 percent of beggars.
Over 800,000 Indians were displaced from the estates in the 1970s with promises that they would be reskilled and given outplacement – none of which took place. This resulted in a huge increase in urban squatters and a rise in gangsterism.
It’s good that the new government’s special task force is revisiting the Malaysian Indian Blueprint!

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Call for English competency test
For public servants in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian TImes, Weddnesday 13 June 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 11 June 2018

As a government servant for almost 20 years, I strongly agree with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to have high ranking government officers take an English competency test.
I would be even happier if it is made compulsory for all government servants.
Throughout my journey in a department that deals with the public, I have witnessed many high ranking officers who are unable to speak even basic English when dealing with foreigners.
The best part of it is, they would call the non-Malay office boy to do the explaining. Isn’t that embarrassing?
When applying for certain posts through the Civil Service Commission, one has to sit for online exams.
This is so that the commission can filter for candidates who are really qualified before the interview sessions.
My humble suggestion is to include an English test with the exams.
It will be more productive compared to current exams.
Another thing that struck me during my two decades in service is how some civil servants give more priority to functions and feasts rather than work.
Do we really need elaborate feasts during working hours?
Imagine, civil servants wrapping food or even cooking in the office pantry during working hours.
Do civil servants in developed countries do this?
I hope Tun M will change this work culture.
This is only a small part of what is happening in the government sectors.
I hope there will be a tremendous change in the civil sector within five years.
Kudos to Tun M and the team for making a huge impact in just one month.
But remember:
Change starts with each individual, not only with an entire government.

Servant for Government,
Seremban,
Malaysia


 

 

Future coups less about tanks in the streets
More about manipulation of voters through social media
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 June 2018

Re: "Fostering norms to sustain Thailand's democracy", in Bangkoik Post, Wednesday 6 June 2018.
Ken Lohatepanont surely knows that Thailand is not the world's most coup-prone
country.
That dubious honour goes to Chile and Haiti no matter how you adjust the figures.
The argument centres on how you define a coup.
Hun Sen in Cambodia came to power 21 years ago through a putsch, but most commentators have forgotten that.
Future historians may well deem Donald Trump has engineered a new type of coup in the US, especially if he wins a second term which is certainly possible.
He will have used electoral success to empower himself and his cronies - through use of his huge pardoning powers for example - and manipulated the agencies of the federal government to be his loyal lapdog.
It is comforting to think that a fostering of democratic norms can prevent
another coup in Thailand.
However, future coups worldwide may well be less about tanks in the streets and more about the manipulation of the voters through
social media.

Barry Kenyon,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Halt to hostilities between Philippine Government
And Communist New People's Army imminent
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 June 2018

Back-channeling in negotiation is as important as ever.
A halt to hostilities between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) ahead of an interim peace agreement and a formal ceasefire could start as early as next week, according to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison.
Interestingly, the coordinated unilateral ceasefires will be accompanied by an amnesty proclamation and the signing of an accord on agrarian reform and rural development, and a separate one on national industrialization and economic development, which are parts of the broader Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.
Also, the signing of the interim peace agreement (IPA) would soon follow the resumption of formal peace talks set for June 28.
The IPA will pave the way for a formal ceasefire between the military and NPA for the duration of the formal talks.
The President had promised to end the nearly 50-year Maoist insurgency, which has killed more than 40,000 people, by finding a political solution, but he abandoned the peace efforts last November, complaining of repeated rebel attacks.
His administration later petitioned a court to declare the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations.
It also sought to declare about 600 people, including about two dozen rebel consultants in the talks, terrorists.
A good strategy here is that said the government may ask the court to put its petition on hold if the talks resumed.
If a final peace agreement is signed, the petition could be withdrawn.
On the other hand, why talk to Joma Sison when he cannot anymore control the NPA's management for revolutionary taxes? It's a waste of money on the part of govt.
Meanwhile, the stand-down agreement, which would require both sides to suspend offensive operations against each other, was meant to stimulate the atmosphere for peace negotiation two weeks before the resumption of the peace talks. But then again, we cannot trust this.
It would glide to the coordinated unilateral ceasefires under a joint monitoring committee and with more elaborate terms to ensure the stability of ceasefire
Let’s wait and see.
Looks like Sison is not the only head or has the absolute power of the Communist party.
When an institution has enjoyed for a long time the benefits, comfort and holding power, it's hard for them to just give up.
How many peace talks already the government has entered with these groups and all went down to drain?
The same thing like the TRAPOS politicians.
They are not giving up easy that is why the political dynasty exist or hard to stop. The moment we assume that most of the member of the CPP-NDFP tagged along with NPA, shall need second look for a serious look; enough to affirmatively leverage with the government’s effort.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty
Manila,
Philippines



Appointment of non-Muslim Attorney General
No longer an issue in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 8 June 2018

The appointment of lawyer Tommy Thomas as the new Attorney General will hopefully send a signal of a significant shift towards meritocracy as a criterion for choosing the best candidates to hold top positions in the public service.
In the past, especially after the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1970, the main criterion was race.
After nearly 50 years of the affirmative action policy for eradicating poverty especially among the Malays and increasing their participation in the modern sectors of the economy, they have advanced in all fields to the level where they are today confident of their own abilities to succeed without the need for state crutches.
With their broader vision of a Malaysia that we all can be proud of, the appointment of a non-Malay Attorney General is no longer an issue because most Malaysians agree that it is for the good of the country that appointments to top positions in government, especially the judiciary, civil service, police and military, should be based on merit and not race, religion or political connections.
Most Malaysians agree with the Prime Minister that Tommy Thomas is the right man to make the change become a reality.
However, several Muslim groups opposed his appointment on the fear that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Council of Rulers would not get an Attorney General who can advise them on Islam and the application of syariah values in government administration.
Their fears are misplaced because the best values that need to be integrated at all levels of government and also among the royal households are integrity, transparency and accountability, especially in spending taxpayers’ money.
They are universal values that define a good government and which the country badly needs to revive the economy and give the young hope for their future.
This is the best advice any Attorney General can give to the Agong and all the Malay Rulers that there is nothing more Islamic than a country that is united, happy, free and prosperous.
Islam and the Rulers will get a good name when Malaysia becomes a true democracy where no one is above the law, in the same way that the monarchies in the United Kingdom and Europe have made themselves and their royal families more popular by shedding their feudal past and moving with the times to be accountable to their people in both their public as well as private life.
The people have voted for change to a more responsible government.
In this effort, the new government must honour its election manifesto, which includes a promise to create an independent director of public prosecution separate from the Attorney General’s Chambers so as to make the public prosecutor free from ministerial control, similar to the system in other democracies.
Parliament should also be reformed to establish select parliamentary committees with responsibility for providing oversight on the executive so that ministers and their civil servants can be held to account for mismanagement and abuse of power. These and other reforms such as on the judiciary, Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), police and the civil service as well as on political financing, as highlighted by G25 in its presentation to the Committee on Institu­tional Reforms recently, should be carried out as soon as possible to demonstrate the seriousness of the new government for change.
It is encouraging for us in G25 to hear the AG saying these reforms will be his priority to ensure separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive.
It’s this principle of checks and balance that differentiates between a democracy and a totalitarian regime or a religious autocracy.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



China cannot match
Philippine courage and nationalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 June 2018
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Thursday 7 June 2018

Even the country’s defense chief issued a statement implying that we don’t stand any chance against China.
There may be some truth to it in terms of our current military capabilities, but let us not forget to take a look at our valiant past.
Simply giving in to another country’s baseless demand without any sign of hesitation will be a big insult to those who offered their very lives for the sake of our freedom.
This is not to say that our lives should be put on the line, without having any practical means to defend ourselves.
We must not forget that there are plenty of alternatives we can take advantage of without resorting to conventional war.
Filipinos are well-known for their audacity and resilience, be it from man-made problems or natural calamities.
Our national heroes, despite the enormous lack of weaponry needed to defend our country on equal footing with their adversaries, were courageous enough to fight with whatever was left for them to utilize - because that is what their sense of patriotism urged them to do.
If there are things that China cannot match, these are our courage and nationalism. They may have greater powers, but unlike them, we have the delicadeza not to claim what is not rightfully ours.
Though we have been awarded the landmark UN tribunal ruling on the South China Sea, we remain amiable and decent enough not to retaliate against China’s tasteless bullying.
That, together with a thorough strategy, will suffice for us to win this war.

Kara Martina Pacumio,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for each Malaysian to contribute one Ringgit
Towards restoring Malaysia to its former glory
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 1 June 2018

I shall not beat about the bush.
The euphoria of having the elections go the way the victors wanted is over.
It’s the hard work now of rebuilding the country.
We cannot sit back and watch the Pakatan Harapan government roll up their sleeves and start the rejuvenation of our country.
It’s no more a matter of them, you or me. It’s a matter of we and us.
We cannot allow the country to bleed any more.
We, and I mean every one of us, have a part to play in this cleansing process of restoring Malaysia to her former glory of being united and less debt-ridden.
The Cabinet has taken a pay cut of 10 percent.
So do we sit back and say, “Ah, they can afford it. Let them. They will be able to get alternative returns anyway?”
What nonsense!
What are we going to do about it?
How are we playing a role in this restoration period?
Please let me forward some suggestions in my humble opinion.
I know one or two will definitely get the flak but remember, we are all in this together.
We have a population of about 31 million.
If everyone were to contribute just one ringgit, we would be able to gather RM31mil in just one day!
It’s simple but workable.
I am sure there will be others who will be willing to fork out even more. Malaysians are known to be generous.
At least we can fill up the coffers of the nation to a certain extent.
We have to help the government; after all, the end clientele will be the citizens, us.
Although it would be fantastic to abolish tolls, perhaps a second look at this is advisable.
Yes, this is going to get me some flak but would it not be better to reduce the toll rates to amounts that are more affordable?
In this way, at least the toll collections can be used to rebuild the nation and help perhaps in sectors which need a financial boost, such as healthcare.
Just check out the government hospitals and you will see what I mean.
With budgets cut by the previous government, fewer medicines are being dispensed and pensioners cannot claim for many medicines.
We are all Malaysians!
We need to be united and think of ways, no matter how small, to make the atmosphere more conducive and harmonious for peaceful yet aggressive development.
Our schools should be national schools where trust and respect should be the order of the day.
Children of different races mingling with each other in these schools would be able to cast aside their preconceptions about others.
It is time to tighten our belts.
Don’t expect bonuses for one or two years.
Let’s consider these bonuses to be a little financial contribution to our nation.
Our country is bleeding.
Let us all help to stem the bleeding.

Shobha,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Philippine Supreme Court Judges
Take their own sweet time to do their job
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 June 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 29 May 2018

The sluggishness of the Supreme Court in decision-making is already beyond redemption. There is nothing anyone can do about it given the impunity with which it has, since time immemorial, disregarded what the Constitution says for it to decide cases within two years only.
"Chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. to hold so many high magistrates liable for “culpable violation of the Constitution” rings too hollow to be taken seriously “Davide: 8 anti-Sereno justices may be impeached,” in Philippine Inquirer, 18 May 2018.
He was chief justice from 1998 to 2005.
He couldn’t do anything about it then, how could he expect anyone else to do so now?
That sluggishness is not only endemic among the high court magistrates who have incurable delusions of being too “supreme” to be held publicly accountable for anything they do or not do, but also among their employees who also take their own sweet time to do their job.
To illustrate, a resolution was promulgated by the Supreme Court in January 2018. It was mailed to the parties only in May 2018 as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope - or about four months thereafter!
My stepmother who practices law says that’s normal and has come to accept it in stride.
To law students like me it sucks!
If nothing can be done anymore about the behavior of senile magistrates who should really retire early, for love of country, there is no excuse for their clerks to behave the same way.
Why should it take them four to five months to process and then mail issuances of their bosses to the parties concerned?
Para bang mga langaw na nakapatong sa ulo ng kalabaw at akala kalabaw na rin sila!
That certainly aggravates the already never-ending infernal delays litigants have to suffer.
Alas, it is doubtful if the Supreme Court can discipline them since it is more guilty by far of the same sin.

Carmelan. N. Noblejas,
Manila,
Philipinnes



Thai University Central Admission System (TCAS)
To serve the wealthy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 June 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 3 June 2018

Re: "Complex education," in Bangkok Post, Friday 1 June 2018
I have to wholeheartedly agree with Baffled Mango that the Thai university
Central Admission System (TCAS) system is a disaster that should never have been implemented.
What I haven't heard is any rational reason from any government officials as to why they feel that this awful system is at all necessary.
On the face of it, the TCAS seems like just another government programme that is
ripe for corruption to serve the wealthy.
The thousands of worthy students who were denied placement under the TCAS, or placed in a university that doesn't suit their intended fields of study, will likely support this view.
Why the Thai government should choose to create a "middleman" sort of clearing
house to deal with college applications is beyond the imagination, other than to
ensure that the children of influential people are given preferential
consideration.
The Bangkok Post reported in its May 31st edition that "the Council of
University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) said the flaws will serve as a lesson for improving the system for next year."

That is hardly good news for this year's qualified graduates who have studied hard, some at the top of their classes, only to be denied their dreams to study at a university that they are certainly qualified to attend.
The whole concept of TCAS denies these students their right of access to the
universities of their choice.
It reduces gifted students down to the level of cattle to be fed through a chute and divided among the universities without much regard for their abilities.

Dave Proulx,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for credible opposition party to protect
Principles of democracy in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 June 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 25 May 2018

The party that many have given their votes to all their adult life failed miserably to see the writing on the wall and its leader had shown the classic example of the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand.
Furthermore, the sycophants around the leader did not have the courage to tell their “emperor” that he had no clothes on.
Now, the emperor has resigned as leader but will remain as a member of a party “yang tiada tolok bandingnya (incomparable)”.
True, the party has contributed tremendously to the development of our country, but no thanks to the erstwhile leadership which brought disrepute to Malaysia.
The blame should also fall on those around the leader for prevaricating and preferring to defend an individual rather than the party.
A new management team with no baggage and untainted by the disgrace of the old is needed to regain the confidence and support of the people even to become a credible Opposition.
And we do need a credible Opposition in order to establish a healthy two-party political system to protect the principles of democracy, parliamentary decorum and integrity. As the new government settles down to the task of governing, it will certainly welcome constructive debates on issues of growth and development.
We are still lacking champions for many causes at Parliament level.
For example, issues on science and technology affecting national development and those having implications on industry and business development are seldom debated, unlike in Britain where there is a science committee in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The call for the establishment of our own Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has not been heeded.
We need a credible Opposition to ensure a harmonious, prosperous, progressive and sustainable Malaysia moving into the future.
Parliament must not be allowed ever again to become a hotbed of hate, divisive and polarising politics.
Having a healthy political check and balance will go a long way towards ensuring this.

Tan Sri Omor Abdul Rahman,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Small political parties will matter more than before
In Cambodian July elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 June 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 28 May 2018

Competing political parties are vital to pluralism and liberalism.
Such is the hallmark of Cambodian democracy today.
The 6th general election scheduled to take place on July 29 will be an interesting political development as small political parties will matter more than before.
Some parties will receive more votes and get some seats at the National Assembly if they perform well.
Both the existing and new emerging parties can be proactive by engaging the grassroots and being innovative in their strategies.
They need to design practical policies to protect the interests of the working class, the farmers, the less privileged, and the marginalised.
Political vision and leadership are vital to small parties.
They need to be able to structure people’s electoral choices, articulate and aggregate public opinion and concerns, and transform public sentiments into votes and actions.
Alleging small parties as “puppets” of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is counterproductive to democratisation. Small parties pursue their own policy agenda, knowing that if they are just “yes men” of the Cambdoan People's Part (CPP) they will not get popular support.
The main threats to democracy in Cambodia are the extreme views and actions of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement that advocate for regime change in Cambodia by all means including a people’s revolution which is not a smart and sustainable solution; it will destroy hard-earned peace, development, and democracy.
Foreign powers should further encourage Cambodia to promote dialogue among the parties and encourage them to debate emerging national and international issues either at the national assembly or at public platforms.
Such a dialogue mechanism helps promote trust, consultation, and consensus among the different political parties.
Democracy is not only about elections but more importantly sustainable active participation of the people, either directly or indirectly.
Political parties, big or small, are instrumental in representing and protecting the people’s interests.

Suos Yara,
Member of Parliament,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Genocidal treatment of indigenous Australians
Indictment of the Australian State
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 June 2018

The son of legendary US civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., condemned Australia's treatment of its indigenous people in a speech in Alice Spring on Tuesday.
He said it was wrong, unjust, unfair and ungodly for an affluent country like Australia to do that ( The Southeast Asian Times 2/6/18 ).
That must stand as a serious and shameful indictment of the Australian State.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



China becoming stronger
In tie-up with ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 June 2018

If you are looking for China’s access point to ASEAN, this news is captivating.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, made the remark while meeting with his Laotian counterpart Bounnhang Vorachit at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 30.
Focal points considered as area of cooperation are the following: as economy, technology, security, finance and national defense.
Notably, Bounnhang called Xi a close friend who is trusted by the party, government and people of Laos.
The important consensus reached by the two leaders during Xi’s visit in November is being implemented and it has led to a higher level of bilateral relations, he said.
I believe that President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts with Laos to build a community of a shared future for China and Laos to bring more benefits to the people of both nations.
From Laos’ perspective, China has been an ingredient of progress in economic development, social harmony, reform and opening-up and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
China has played an important role in global and regional affairs and made prominent contributions to the peace and development of northeast Asia.
This is why Laos feels gratitude for China’s selfless support and help.
This is the same narrative of China towards Philippines since 2016 even after The Hague Ruling tilted in favor with Philippines.
As on old ally of China, Laos will continually make a good connection with China same with Cambodia. Remarkably, China and Laos are communists and share the same value at different level of public governance.
Under one communistic ideology, the concept of a community of a shared future for China and Laos has been widely accepted by the two parties and countries, and the concept has drawn the blueprint of a bright future for bilateral ties.
Will this be a way forward of China in making joint efforts with the Philippines to translate the concept of building a community of a shared future for China and Philippines into action?
We see China becoming stronger when it comes to tie-up with ASEAN especially that there is an upcoming 15th China-ASEAN Expo from 12-15 September 2018 at Nanning, China that will be hosted by Cambodia.
I can say that China will continue to tie-up with Philippines to enhance strategic communication, strengthen common political ground and launch dialogues in various areas.
The grand narrative here is somewhat may make or break the political grounds between two states and among ASEAN regional bloc.
But let me remind that we do not compromise with China but we respect the guiding thought on building a community of a shared future for China and ASEAN in the coming years to come along with other old and new allies that my contribute to Philippine’s development.
We can assume that there will more boosting of exchanges of governance experience, enhance cooperation in all areas and push the building of the Belt and Road in the region.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Political correctness over intellectual acumen
In Malaysian universities
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 May 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 May 2018

Recent events involving the National Professors Council have brought to the fore the question of academic integrity and intellectualism in our higher education system.
The National Professors Council was originally envisaged as a think tank to advise the government through the Higher Education Ministry on pertinent educational matters towards achieving intellectual excellence.
At the same time, it was also to function as a watch dog in the implementation of educational policies as well as to further the interests of the academic community.
It was supposed to be nonpartisan and to serve as an interface between the Government (Higher Education Ministry) and academia. It was to be a professional body whose functions were based on the principles of academic integrity and intellectual competence.
However, this was not to be as the leadership used the platform to advance personal and sectarian interests.
It further degenerated into a partisan entity when it came under the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department.
From then on, the chairman and heads of clusters, who prioritised their vested personal partisan interests, abandoned the objectives of an independent academic think tank to pander to the powers that be.
The conduct of the National Professors Council reflects the malaise that has become endemic in universities with a culture that emphasises political correctness over intellectual acumen.
Top level management in the universities are selected based on political correctness rather than intellectual excellence.
Unfortunately, the attitude of the National Professors Council and universities are symptomatic of a declining intellectual acumen that would hinder the development of an inquiring and thinking mind.
Thus, there is a need to develop an ecosystem that functions without fear or favour among the academic community to foster intellectual and critical engagement.
In that respect, universities should be managed by professionals with sound academic credentials and managerial skills irrespective of race or creed.
Therefore, with the new government that promises a fresh mindset, it is hoped that the academic community and especially the universities will revert to the original pristine objectives in guiding and allowing the exploration of knowledge from various perspectives and be accommodating of differing views of both the lecturers and students that challenge political, cultural and intellectual traditions.
In short, the universities should be spared any intrusions that tend to put a caveat on intellectual freedom and expression.

Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Penang,
Malaysia

 


What would the Philippines do if Australia retaliates
Against deportation of Australian nun?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 May 2018

An utterly unconstitutional, immoral and super ridiculous act against Sister Pat of the evil regime.
This is in reference to the burning news concerning the struggle being waged by Sister Pat against the sinister powers that be.
We all know the relevant facts and the pertinent antecedent information with regard to the background and status of the said religious person.
She has been in the country for nearly three decades, religiously, persistently and relentlessly pursuing social justice, due recognition and human dignity for the people of Mindanao, especially those who belong to the lowest stratum of our society, specifically the indigenous and minority.
Though, she is an Australian, it is my form and so hold that due to the length of time that she spent here and the unexplainable super love that she has shown to our people and all those unlimited time fighting, struggling and standing up for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, the helpless, the hopeless and all those people who are oppressed and persecuted by the system - there is no shadow of doubt whatsoever in my mind that is she indeed more Filipino than some of our countrymen who does not contribute whatsoever for the development of our society in particular and the country as a whole!
The barbaric, utterly illegal and undeniably constitutional act committed to her by the powers that be specifically by the Immigration Bureau, with the connivance it seems of the so-called Justice Department through the egging and instruction of Malacanan is not only a mockery of justice, but undeniably the heights of absurdity.
In my view, the barbaric and utterly inhumane act committed and continuously being done by the nefarious and evil powers that to Sister Pat is a grave violation of the constitution specifically for not respecting the due process rule and the right of sister Pat to have her day in court.
The constitutional provision of Due Process is applicable to all, both the citizens and the foreigners.
Hence, there is a grim dangerous tendency in this case of Sister Pat, if the evil and sinister powers that be proceed in bastardizing the process and viciously violating her rights.
Besides the fundamental law, corollary to this case are the provisions of international laws, such as those Treaties, Conventions and Agreements that this country had agreed, signed and vowed to follow and observe.
Hence, there is a great possibility that this case may assume an international character by virtue of the question of the inner moral content of this specific case.
I just hope that those idiots from Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the biggest bastard, the “supreme evil lord” from Malacanan are well aware that sister Pat is an Australian citizen!
I hope that they are also ready for the possible backlash, at home and abroad, and the dire consequences of their evil and illegal actions.
What would they do, if Australia decides to retaliate?
Is this the kind of foreign policy that they want?
Before I end, I would very much like to ask: if Sister Pat is Chinese, will she suffered all of these sufferings?
The whole bloody “case” is a shame and a sham!

Jose Mario De Vega,
Assistant Professor IV,
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy,
University of Makati,
Philippines

 


China is not a threat
According to Malacanang
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 May 2018

China is not a threat - that is according to Malacañang.
From the given narratives of the President from the past few months, it is safe to say that the Philippines and China has already developed a sense of congeniality that is bounded by economic diplomacy over politico-military security.
On the other hand, the invoice of pluralists contend against the efficacy of too much close with China.
In fact, citizen and netizens are beginning to notice increasing number of young Chinese men and women filling up the condominium units, a times over 70 percent are rented by them.
With this, the offensives of China mainland tantamount to progress; from petty peddlers to shop owners to information technology and of course, to financial capital.
If China is not threat, I don’t know how this rhetoric explains the activities and happenings of Chinese; from low to high-profile locations.
Other Chinese companies are expected to be involved in land reclamation and development of various sectors such as in industry and electronics, industry parts, infrastructures, and construction.
In connection therewith, the Philippines will be joining for the first time in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime war games to be held in Hawaii next month.
This move by the Philippines does not necessarily a big deal with China.
For others, this might be symbolical especially to ASEAN and larger Asia Pacific observers but in my quest of analysis all throughout the time, China does not care. They see Philippines as a state still so they will probably respect our share in RIMPAC same way they join military drills.
But it does not follow that US can alter the reality of moves China in South China Sea.
Partners or Master.
Sovereign or vassal.
Independent or Dependent.
These comparative words can deduce what is the current stand of the Philippines in the foregoing issues in the contested maritime and territorial domain; whether we see China as a threat or not.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for opening of files on 1969
Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur
First published in the Star, Tuesday 15 May 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 May 2018

My mother’s family lived smack in the middle of the chaos that erupted on May 13, 1969.
I have lived all my life hearing stories of that dark episode in our history.
Among the stories of chaos and people who never returned home, one always stood out for me.
That day, their little village in the city rose up and looked after each other.
My grandma’s home was turned into a community cooking station as my uncles were the only ones who could go out and get food.
You see, my grandfather and uncles were cops and only they were allowed out.
So they, a mixed community, worked as one and looked after each other.
But they never forgot the fear.
I have been hearing about that fear my whole life.
The same fear stopped them from daring to make any changes to the government. The same fear made them convince their children to vote with care, which is why I never thought I would see a change of government in my country in this lifetime.
Every single analysis I have written in the past has never predicted this.
But I guess at some point, people decided enough is enough to being scared.
Forty-nine years after May 13, the country has finally stopped being afraid and changed its governing party.
And it happened in a democratic and peaceful manner.
Malaysians proved to the world that we can do it without rioting.
We have always prided ourselves on the importance of doing it the right way and this is one of our biggest achievements.
We have inspired people from around the world, and I have friends of various nationalities telling me this.
Change is important and inevitable.
Change must happen regularly to keep the governing bodies on their toes. Let us not allow our government to cultivate arrogance ever again.
The past few days have been unexplainable.
It doesn’t help that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has gone on his usual hyper mode and I’m barely sleeping because I don’t want to miss a thing.
My personal wish of this new government is that it would one day open the files of May 13 not to conduct a witchhunt but to give closure to the many folks who were present that day.
May we never be ruled by fear again.
For those who are still afraid of past fears that have been ingrained in you, it’s okay.
Many of us will continue to be neutral voices that question both sides.
I hope that from today, you will start believing that we are Malaysians first.
It is essential that we put the interest of the country and our brothers and sisters first before our personal beliefs.
More importantly, we now have a new date to never forget – May 9, 2018.

Visithra Manikam,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia

 

 

Call for patience in Malaysia
Government in unchartered waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 25 May 2018

I am a Japanese novelist who has published more than 50 books in various countries.
I have lived in Malaysia for three and a half years and I am so impressed with the outcome of the 14th General Election and what Malaysians have achieved.
The coalition ruled the country for decades.
No one expected it to be defeated.
When people first saw the stunning result, almost everyone was at a loss for a while.
Then they realised it was the beginning of a new era. I am not writing about Malaysia.
I am writing about my own country.
Congratulations, Malaysians!
You have finally decided to change your government.
You have shown your ability as a mature democratic nation by making this decision.
When I saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declare Pakatan Harapan’s victory on TV at midnight, I was deeply touched.
To be honest, I had a little pain in my heart.
At that movement, I thought about my country.
As a person who has experienced a similar situation, I would like to share what I saw and felt back then even though it is somewhat bitter for me.
In 2009, I was excited as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defeated the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a general election.
The LDP and its allies had governed Japan since 1955 except for a very short period in the 1990s.
When I was young, it seemed the LDP would reign forever but then DPJ won the election with a super majority.
I believed my country had finally got a two-party system and that DPJ would introduce some measures which LDP had ignored for a long time, such as an effective child allowance system and open immigration policy.
Not only I but also all the people hoped that those measures would spur Japan’s sluggish economy.
Sadly speaking, this was a delusion.
What we saw after the election were endless internal fights within DPJ.
Our elected representatives immediately engaged in internal fights again and again.
The first prime minister from DPJ resigned a year after his inauguration.
The second prime minister also left his office a year after his appointment.
The third lasted only for a year.
We had three prime ministers in three years!
What was worse was that DPJ decided to increase the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 10 percent even though retaining the current rate was one of the most important promises they made in the campaign.
Many Japanese people felt betrayed and as a result, DPJ lost terribly in the next general election.
DPJ doesn’t even exist now.
The party dissolved like sugar in water, and so did our hope for a brighter future, the two-party system and a more democratic policy process.
Policies that once shone brightly were miserably dumped and drenched in muddy water and the Japanese people lost interest in politics.
LDP is back on the stage now and it looks set to reign forever again.
I feel like my country would never change the government even if the ruling coalition is extremely corrupt.
So, I am jealous of you, Malaysians. You have got a right to build a modern democratic nation.
Be patient, Malaysians.
Don’t make the mistakes my country did.
It will take a while to see your government work well as you are now in uncharted waters.
I hope your politicians will maintain order and cohesion and help each other to serve the rakyat.
If they start internal fights due to selfishness like the politicians in my country did, you should stand up and tell them that unity is crucial to building a better future.
Freedom, democracy and transparency are not given naturally, these are cultivated by all the rakyat.
Your beautiful country taught me about the importance of unity when I first came here.

Tsumugu Hasimoto,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Little prospect of outburst against Thai military rule
While its role is glamourised as saviours
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 May 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 26 May 2018

Re: "Lasting lessons from Malaysia for South East Asia", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Friday May 25.
There is a common thread that links all Asean members.
Historically speaking, some are autocratic, a few of them are authoritarian and others are ruled by a combination of corrupt elite and military rulers.
I am not sure what kind of lesson Thailand can learn from Malaysia where Mr Najib was on the top of the list of most corrupt politicians in the region.
What sort of lesson can Thai people learn from Malaysia when the duly elected governments in Thailand are uprooted, not at the ballot box, but by a junta?
There is a very little prospect of a tsunami or an outburst against the military
because its role has been glamourised as a saviour.
In a country where politicians are bundled together with corrupt civil servants, police force and mafia, there is little hope of cultivating any form of a democratic system.
Hence the use of force and fear will continue to shape its politics and culture.
Democracy is not just about conducting elections, it is about empowering
citizens.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Filipinos to celebrate
Liberation of Marawi
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 May 2018

Liberation is more important than the breaking point, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.
He will visit Marawi City on the first anniversary of its liberation by government forces from terrorists in October saying, “We will go on the liberation of Marawi not at the start of the siege on May 23. Why honor the anniversary of the siege?”
With President’s statement, I am also urging Filipinos to look back and celebrate their country’s triumph over violent extremism.
Marawi has been liberated.
If we have to look back to it, let’s do so to learn from it and move on.
As a critique, the military may not have been as prepared as the local police (as foretold by outsiders) but we have to take not that any initial information is always coming from the ground which means police personnel has always been the first taker of any reaction from the enemies since Philippine National Police (PNP) is under Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Meanwhile, toe backtrack, the Marawi City Mayor was very much aware of the situation, which led to the secured premises of vital infrastructure including the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the hospital at Amay Pakpak which was recovered after a short gun-battle.
The disaster response preparedness of the province executed their response immediately setting up command and control.
What was underestimated was the ferocity of the jihad mind set of the Islamists.
If there was an institution that was not prepared, it was the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The response to the capture and confirmation of the identities of the jihadists should have prompted them to raise the issue to the UN Security council of the presence of foreign funded Islamists.
The issue in Syria of the fate of the captured, the conditional surrender, the dead Islamist is whether to allow Shari’ah justice or the bill of rights to prevail Turkey is silent but that is basically the issue. In a democracy like the Philippines, where the bill of rights is supreme, we should have deported those ISIS Islamists to their home countries and have them deal with the problem.
Indonesia, for example, has publicly tried the Bali bombers and promptly sentenced them to death under a Shari’ah tribunal.
As of this moment, the situation in Marawi has stabilized.
Security forces are in full control of the situation.
The armed men we are dealing with are not ISIS but members of Local Terrorists Groups. Meanwhile, the Battle for Marawi underscores the complexity of urban warfare compounded by the unfamiliarity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to fight in cities but in the end, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wins the war for people’s security and welfare.
In line with this, we urge the public to pay tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of 165 soldiers who were killed.
One year thereafter, we recall memories and success stories.
This is for all Filipinos!

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




The Malaysian People's Party
Is watching Dr Mahathir
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 18 May 2018

Congratulations to the new Pakatan Harapan government and especially to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, our seventh prime minister.
It has been a tough and challenging time for Dr Mahathir and the other Pakatan leaders immediately after the 14th General Election as much groundwork has to be done in forming a new government.
Malaysians, and people around the world too, are amazed by Dr Mahathir’s strength and spirit; he has made the impossible possible in steering Pakatan to victory in the 14th General Elections (GE14).
Pakatan MPs and ADUNs, you must now stand united to rebuild the nation.
When you were the opposition, you were able to perform well even with the minimum allocation you received.
You did your part for your constituency and country.
Now that you are the government, we, the rakyat, are expecting more from all of you.
There are true leaders among you who have been fighting for change for many years, and the dream has come true at last.
But everyone is fighting for position now.
If you are a true fighter, position and fame will be given to you at the right time.
Meanwhile, please stop demanding for more positions just because your party won more seats in the election.
Remember that Malaysians voted for Pakatan Harapan.
Let Dr Mahathir decide the overall structure of the new government as he has been prime minister before.
His decisions are bound to be accepted by the Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM, Malaysian People's Party) raky at.
Together we stand, divided we fall.
And watch out, too.
We, the rakyat, are watching your action, reaction and your performance.

Thomas Zacharia George,
Banting,
Malaysia




China's naval power is seen as striving
To overtake U.S. power in Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 May 2018

China is getting bigger with its first home-built aircraft carrier that has completed five days of sea trials, putting it closer to joining its sister flattop in the country’s increasingly powerful fleet.
The still-unnamed ship completed all assigned tasks before returning to its construction yard in the northern port of Dalian, state media reported.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was bought as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine and was commissioned in 2012 along with its flight wing of Chinese J-15 fighter jets.
What is interesting here is that the carriers are based on the former Soviet Union’s Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for take-off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
This unveiling of power capability of China is seen as striving to overtake the U.S. as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world’s largest navy in numbers of vessels.
The ever unchanging narrative of China is that its aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, but they are also seen as backing up Beijing’s claims to self-governing Taiwan and virtually the entire South China Sea. Ironically, China’s narrative is widely accepted by its allied states.
China’s capability might be alarming I believe that even if we are synonymous like David, the Philippines is always prepared whatever the stake will be; cooperation, coordination or anything in between.
I do not see this as a threat but in case they go beyond the glib of language of security, we need to defend what we needs to be defended for our people.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Manila China relationship cannot be seen
To erode Philippine national security or sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 May 2018

In South China Sea, I can sense that the small power shifts from Westerlies to Easterlies will make a BIG impact in Southeast Asian security.
This has been clearly visible from the first two quarters.
Last April, China was seen to be aggressive militarily in the South China Sea but come this month (May), China made an unprecedented move in the contested region – landing BOMBERS on SCS isles with their famous H-6K from China’s military base on Woody Island in the Paracels.
While China has installed jamming equipment in the contested Spratlys Islands last month.
This kind of pre-positioning is somewhat alarming among ASEAN member states specifically for claimant states; deemed as militarization of the South China Sea according to some analysts and experts.
Before, there was a suspected communications and radar jamming equipment on Mischief Reef, the largest of China’s seven outposts that is located within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Now, we see a double edged sword of China’s defense diplomacy that has already put the Philippines in demise.
Whether we like or not, Duterte’s seemingly acting as alter ego and lapdog of Xi Jinping is technically working as hedging strategy too.
He could have forecasted since he took the seat that agitating China’s ego (soft or hard), will eventually leads to inevitable war (military or trade) or any sort of it.
On the other hand, US warships can only be determined as soft as it has been since former President Obama’s Pivot to Asia stratagem.
A lot see US as inept and can only perform its regular freedom-of-navigation exercises in the contested sea as its usual force projection, in an attempt to prevent a Chinese lockdown.
But to no avail, the creeping power of China is a strong renegade over US clout.
Lastly, for oppositionists (i.e. Congressman Alejano and Senator Trillanes), they only trigger the public to demonize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Executive Department to inject a unwarranted syringe of venom – a more chaotic rift they kept on insinuating.
Philippines must also be alert though and I know that we are mature as a state to allow such kind of caprices of self-centered propaganda.
At large, the AFP still knows that based on 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Article 1 that Manila’s improving relations with China cannot be used as an excuse to erode our own national security or sovereignty.
In this regard, the Philippine military has also have even bigger threats to address: threats like cyber security and terrorism.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,
Manila,
Philippines




Scale of justice tilted to the unprecedented
Removal of the Philippines sitting chief justice
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 May 2018

The Supreme Court being the Olympus of the country’s premier magistrates, the dream pedestal of every lawyer and aspiring law students, amidst all controversy of personal enmities and affairs with the executive, has bowed down to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in favor of the unconstitutional quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.
Voting 8-6, it is with great regret and disappointment that the scale of justice has initially tilted to the unprecedented removal of the sitting chief justice, not through the provision of the Constitution that limits such authority within the House of Representatives and the Senate, but through a circumvention of the proper process.
No one can deny that the decision is a blatant violation of the very integrity of the Constitution they vowed to uphold.
What has happened is a cop-out of justice seemingly fueled by their lack of personal esteem for Sereno. The last bastion of democracy has unfortunately started to fall.
The seeming disregard for justice that they have committed evidently tramples the authority and trust of the people vested upon them as signified by their dignified robes.
The dignity of their sacrosanct commitment to arbitrate with the dictates of jurisprudence has been blemished.
With the subversion of the checks and balances and with the impairment of their own institution, they have sunk the Supreme Court into a deep quagmire.
And now, how will the populace rely on the judicial independence of the Court if impartiality has been compromised despite all heads turned to them?
With all due respect, we implore the “supremes” to hold sacred once more their vow to defend the power of the Constitution and embody the paramount judicial independence in rectifying their final and landmark decision to the expected motion for reconsideration.
This is not about the recently removed Sereno and their personal disputes, but this is definitely about the future of the judiciary as an institution at stake. Please, be not on the wrong side of history!

Jay Ramos,
Manila,
Philippines




Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox
Ordered to leave Philippines by 25 May
The Southeast Asain Times, Monday 21 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 18 May 2018

There is only a week left before Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox’s stay in the Philippines will be considered undocumented with her missionary visa downgraded to a tourist visa.
The Bureau of Immigration has ordered her to leave the country by May 25 for being an “undesirable alien” who “interferes” in the political affairs of the Philippines.
Sister Pat’s case is only one of the many modes of the reactionary character of the Duterte administration in stifling dissent.
Sister Pat stayed in the Philippines for 27 years espousing selflessness in pursuit of her noble mission to help poor Filipinos.
She did not come to the Philippines aiming for a leisurely life as a tourist but went to the most remote and poorest areas where poor farmers, workers, indigenous people, and the urban poor continue to struggle.
By declaring Sister Pat as an “undesirable alien,” President Duterte, in effect, is implying that it is undesirable to help the poor and marginalized.
He has a twisted concept of “sovereignty.”
While he invokes “sovereignty” in the issue of Sister Pat’s alleged “interference” in the political affairs of the country, he cannot even raise a simple whimper of protest, and has instead offered the Philippines to be a province of China.
Sister Pat’s persistent fight to stay in the country is an example of enduring struggle for meaningful transformation.
She is a true Filipino by heart whose life is an affirmation of humility, compassion and love for the poor.

John M. Lozande,
Secretary general,
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Filippino's to think twice
About loan agreements with China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 17 May 2018

The country’s loan agreements with China for its infrastructure projects will not entail any collateral, according to the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team, allaying fears the Philippines will similarly fall into the mainland’s debt trap like other countries”,“DOF: No collateral for China loans,” In Philippine Inquirer 15 May 2018.
We must think twice.
Think of the Chinese government’s invasion of Philippine territories in the Spratlys and West Philippine Sea.
There is no need for us to see an official document marked “collateral” signed by officials concerned.
In the same issue of the Inquirer, and previous issues as well, we read updates on the aggressive and ominous Chinese military buildup going on out there on said Philippine territories.
No collateral?
Filipino citizens, think twice!
No need to think a third or fourth time.
Just twice.

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



Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak
To be held accountable under PM Mahathir Mohammed
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 May 2018

With newly elected PM Mahathir Mohammed's order to lift the Official Secrets Act seal on the 1MDB, put in place by former PM Najib Razak, it appears that the former PM Najib Razak will now finally be held to account ('Malaysia's Official Secrets Act lifted on 1MDB audit report' The Southeast Asian Times 17/5/18).
Najib is alleged to have transferred US $700 million from the state fund into his private bank account when he reportedly was Finance Minister and Chairman of the state fund ( 1MDB ).
From its own investigation the US State Department reckons the amount involved is as high as $1.7 billion.
It's suspected a $250 million super yacht was bought with that fraudulently acquired money apart from other upmarket investments in Manhattan and Britain.
Democratic accountability and the rule of law has regained its rightful place in Malaysian society.
That is as should be.
In a democracy power is always held to account.
That's what makes a democracy qualitatively different to a dictatorship.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales
Australia



 

Malays trusted Dr Mahathir
More than they trusted United Malays National Organisation
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 May 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 14 May 2018

The one undeniable conclusion that can be drawn from the 14th General Election (GE14) is that democracy is alive, well and maturing in Malaysia. Despite allegations of bias in the various election machinery, the opposition coalition managed, for the first time in Malaysia’s history, to garner sufficient votes and parliamentary seats to set up a federal government.
Democracy, however, is a multi-faceted creature and travels with an entourage. Among others, the doctrine of separation of powers, the rule of law, meritocracy and personal freedoms accompany democracy.
It will be a significant challenge for the incoming ruling coalition to accommodate these travelling companions while not jeopardising the fragile balance among the multiracial, multireligious and multicultural masses which form the Malaysian people.
On the positive side, at the helm of our new government is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is probably the man most suited and capable to successfully pull off this daunting task.
Although touted as the coming of age of Malaysian politics, my personal view is that a mature democracy is not metamorphosed overnight.
And just to avoid misinterpretations, by mature democracy I mean a society which is able to accept and adhere to measures enacted by a democratically elected government even though some or even a majority of that society’s members do not wholeheartedly agree with these acts or policies.
Thus, once the euphoria of winning a historic victory simmers down and the real work begins, Dr Mahathir and his cabinet will have to decide on quite a few sensitive and all too real issues.
An example is to what extent meritocracy will be implemented in the immediate aftermath.
Please do not get me wrong, I support equal opportunities for all regardless of race, gender, religion or other differences inherent in a diverse society such as ours. I also believe that not implementing m eritocracy fosters laziness, corruption, feelings of disenfranchisement and intolerance.
On the other hand, I also believe that sincere and mutual respect must be the bedrock upon which a meritocratic society can be built.
Without this respect, the same feelings of disenfranchisement and intolerance may arise and perceived injustices would result in meritocratic policies being viewed as oppressive even though the opposite is true.
So, in implementing meritocracy and other well-developed democratic policies, the newly elected government must also concurrently seek to carry out measures which foster sincere mutual respect among Malaysia’s diverse society.
It is vital for the development of our democracy that all races, especially the majority race of the Malays, not be given the impression that they have paid too high a price to depose of an autocrat.
I acknowledge that in saying this I may be wildly presumptuous and am underestimating the voting maturity of the majority of the Malays.
If so, I apologise to those who take offence.
Needless to say, as I have a right to an opinion, I also respect anyone’s right to civilly disagree with me.
All Malaysians must also bear in mind that although both loose and formal opposition political coalitions have existed before, none had been viewed viable enough by a sufficient number of voters to break the Barisan National stronghold of the federal government.
I would submit that on this occasion, the viability only existed because of the elderly but brilliant politician leading the coalition. In truth, Malays trusted Dr Mahathir more than they trusted Umno.
Let us not take one step forward and two steps back in developing our democratic values.
Let us build a nation which will be, in time, immune to the vagaries of race, religion and other differences.
Let us not rush self-righteously into the future but tread carefully.
Above all, let us preserve the peace our nation has enjoyed, for only with continued peace can we concentrate on developing ourselves and ensuring our nation’s success.

Ahmad Zaki Ismail,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Call for respect and tolerance
Of non-Muslims in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 May 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 14 May 2018

Much has been made of the fact that our seventh Prime Minister and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali and the deputy prime minister are all doctors who appear to have come at the right time to heal the nation of the many things that have been ailing it.
In the days and months to come, economists, financiers and business people will be training their eyes on the fiscal state of the nation and making recommendations to address the attendant issues.
The newly elected government has promised a slew of measures to ease the financial difficulties of the rakyat as well as re-examine mega projects and deals. The lawmakers, meanwhile, are going to have their hands full with alleged legal and financial transgressions that have taken place over the past few years.
While all of these are taking place, I sincerely hope the new government will also pay attention to restoring the heart and soul of the nation.
Close to 13 million people or 82.2 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in an election that has changed Malaysia’s political landscape forever.
Many flew or drove miles to return to vote, and young and old patiently stood for hours for their turn at the polling booths to elect leaders that we hope will have the interest of the rakyat at heart.
We hope the leaders we elected will help us rebuild the nation with a culture that no longer solely emphasises material wealth.
We need our leaders and citizens to work towards the greater good and with a common sense of purpose.
The amazing outpouring of patriotism, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia and sense of pride and accomplishment that were seen in writings, postings and pictures in social media following the announcement of the results of the elections attest to the joy and hope of everyone for a new beginning.
Let this be translated into a renewed vigour by every citizen to work together towards rebuilding Malaysia without race and ethnicity defining us, backed by policies and programmes to ensure that.
Our doctors in charge will have to inject a large dose of respect and tolerance as necessary medicine into our society that has in the last few years seen an erosion of the harmonious and mutually respectful way of life that we once enjoyed in this multiracial country of ours.
After the episodes of inter-religious conflicts that have been fuelled by increasing conservatism and ethno-religious politics, such as the ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims and harassment of or attacks on non-Muslim houses of worship, policies and programmes to improve and promote religious freedom as enshrined in our constitution will need to be established or improved upon. The new administration will need to ensure that these policies are on par with international human rights standards, especially in terms of religious freedom and the right to religious expression.
In addition, respect and tolerance of sexual diversity and basic human rights and dignity need to also be practised. Practices such as the demonisation of transgenders and other sexual minorities must no longer be tolerated.
While the French national motto of liberty, equality, fraternity had its origins from the 1848 February revolution, we in Malaysia have proudly shown the world that the people’s desire for change can be achieved through a peaceful democratic process.
Fundamental to this desire for change has been the growing concern and impact of the large income disparity between the rich and poor and a desire for a just and caring society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably distributed.
While the need to fix the ever-increasing financial gap is essential and urgent, other forms of inequality will also need to be addressed.
Equality must be promoted and practised in every aspect of life.
Central to this is to recognise the equality of all individuals as citizens and as children of God.
Replacing the decades-long race-based policies with one that is merit-based and favours the poor in general regardless of race or religion will be one of the biggest challenges the new government has to face.
Much hope is being pinned on this new administration to right the wrongs of the last few decades and to rebuild the nation.
How­ever, change can only come if each and every one of us embraces a new culture that values integrity over dishonesty, excellence over mediocrity, and hard work over handouts.
Openness, transparency and accountability will be our new essential medicines. Malaysia has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, is free from natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, and is on a strategic geographic location.
Our diversity is our strength. Let us together move forward to heal and rebuild the nation and put it back on track to become a developed nation not just in our economic achievements but also in our moral substance and values.

Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman,
Dean,
Faculty of Medicine
Universiti Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for street names in Port Moresby
Ahead of APEC meeting
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 May 2018
First published in the National, Thursday 10 May 2018

Despite having lived in this city for over 30 years, I still do not know the names and locations of some roads and streets.
New roads and streets have been constructed and are in use, but they do not have names and signpost labels.
Port Moresby, being the nation’s capital and the gateway into the country, has fast becoming a modern metropolis and we expect foreign visitors to increase.
These visitors cannot even find the streets indicated in old city maps, because they have no signs to mark them.
Even worse are the new ones that have no names.
I understand the city commission, under Governor Parkop and the city manager, are responsible for these streets and roads.
It is imperative, therefore, that NCDC must promptly set side funding to have people name and label the streets.
This is in fact a national embarrassment, so the city administration must act quickly.
Naming and labeling of these modern roads and streets must be prioritised and completed
before the months of August to October.
This is because during that period we expect foreign visitors to flood the city to witness the Apec meeting in November 2018.

Lore Wani,
Boroko,
NCD,
Papua New Guinea




Call for adoption of science and technology
To improve socio-economic status of Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 May 2018
First published in the Star, Sunday 13 May 2018

The 14th General Election showed that Malaysians are politically mature and democracy is still very much alive in our country.
All parties showed responsibility and the Election Commission carried out its duties satisfactorily according to the law, rules and regulations.
Syabas to the new representatives who have been chosen; those who lost, please do not lose heart as you have done your part and will have opportunities in the future.
To the civil servants, continue your efforts to make Malaysia a well-managed country.
I had in a previous letter pleaded for a peaceful campaign and balloting.
At the polling centre at Bangsar, people were very friendly and the officials on duty carried out their work efficiently.
I would like to ask all the leaders to adopt the spirit of mandelaism, which I coined in December 2013, and resolve conflicts through perseverance, tolerance and peaceful negotiations unfettered by past bitterness.
We should continue to adopt science and technology to improve the socio-economic status of the country together with some old-fashioned moral and cultural ethics.
I have confidence in the experience and wisdom of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his team to manage the country. God bless Malaysia.

Ahmad Mustaffa,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



President of dissolved Cambodian opposition CNRM party
Accused of carryng out anti-China campaign
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 May 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, 9 May 2018

Sam Rainsy, president of the illegal Cambodia National Rescue Movement, is misleading the world and discrediting Cambodia for its fast development.
He is carrying out an anti-China campaign in order to damage the image of China as well as to challenge the legitimacy of the Cambodian government, which has cemented close ties with Beijing.
Mr Rainsy is not consistent and does not respect his own words.
In his interview with Phoenix Television in 2014, he said, “CNRP is ally of China”.
He even firmly expressed his support of “China’s assertion of sovereignty” over the South China Sea and claimed that “CNRP stands with China”.
China is not a threat to Cambodia and the region.
The rising power of China has benefited and will continue to generate opportunities for the whole region.
Cambodia has an advantage in seizing the opportunities due to the political trust it has garnered and its geographical proximity to the economic center of the world. Some concerns over the increasing economic presence and influence of China in Cambodia are legitimate.
However we need to understand that many Chinese investment projects generate job opportunities and incomes for our people.
For instance, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China in 2013 is a new catalyst of global growth.
BRI is an inter-continental economic venue for more than 60 countries to cooperate and connect.
Mr Rainsy has raised concern over the debt service issue.
Let’s apply statistics here.
Cambodia’s debt to GDP ratio remains low at 37 percent in 2017 – it is below the average ratio for a developing country that is at 40 percent.
From 1996 to 2017, the debt to GDP ratio was at 35 percent.
We should not be too much worried that about the fact that 60 percent of Cambodia’s debt is owed to China.
This is due to the economic size of China.
Such debt would not make Cambodia to become a “province of China” but instead will strengthen the complex interdependence between both countries.
China has more stakes in Cambodia. Both countries and people will benefit from a high-stakes bilateral partnership. Historically, China does not pose any threat to Cambodia.
There is no strong scientific proof that indicates Chinese investments adversely affect Cambodia’s ecological balance.
Concerning the hydroelectric power plants, the benefits overweight the costs. Cambodia needs cheap electric power supply to accelerate economic growth and of course it needs to compromise a certain degree of environmental cost. Environmental and social impact assessments were carried out before constructing the dams. The cost of electricity has continually dropped to less than 20 cents per KWH.
Energy security is critical for the development of Cambodia and China is also the main producer of solar panels.
Future cooperation on solar energy will help diversify the sources of energy of Cambodia.
Chinese investments in Cambodia concentrate on labor-intensive industries particularly the garment industry which provides about one million jobs to Cambodian workers.
The current minimum wage is $170 per month.
If a worker wishes to work overtime then he/she will earn nearly $300 per month. This salary is relatively higher than that of Laos, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
China has started investing more in the semi-skilled and skilled manufacturing sectors.
Technology and knowledge transfer is taking place, although at a slow speed.
China has a great source of knowledge to transfer to Cambodia as it is pursuing an innovation-led development model.
Chinese aid has significantly contributed to the improvement of the living standard of the local people.
For instance, early this year China pledged to provide 100 Cambodian children who have congenital heart disease with free surgery in three years in a programme called “China-Cambodia Love Heart Journey”.
Also every year, China provides about 200 scholarships to Cambodian students to pursue their higher education in China.
Cambodians should not be afraid of the rising economic presence and influence of China.
They need to adapt and explore ways to grasp the opportunities stemming from China’s economic powerhouse.
Of course to optimize the benefits from China – either through development assistance or trade and investment – Cambodia needs to strengthen its governance and capacity.
Both the public and private sectors in Cambodia need to enhance their capacity to better grasp the opportunities generated by China, particularly under the new initiatives such as Belt and Road Initiative and Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.

Suos Yara,
Member of Parliament of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia



Call for end of exploitation
Of Filipino domestice workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 10 May 2018

Since the Marcos regime, remittances from overseas Filipinos have grown in volume and value; the benefits of these inflows to our country cannot be overemphasized.
It must be recalled, however, that the deployment of workers beyond our shores was started only as a temporary measure during the Marcos era but the succeeding administrations failed to put a stop to it, particularly the placement of helpless Filipino women as domestic helpers in foreign households where culture, values and religion were alien to them.
Looking back, succeeding administrations after Marcos were blinded by the dollar sign at the cost of our country’s social fabric.
So what started as a temporary thing is now a permanent fixture of our socioeconomic life.
Today, no less than 10 million Filipinos - more than half of them deployed as household help - are sweating it out in foreign lands to help their families back home to survive.
Undoubtedly, Filipino women working as maids are the most vulnerable sector. Are our national leaders even aware that there are cultures in certain parts of the world where a woman, working alone in a foreign household, is looked down upon with utter contempt?
Given this cultural milieu, is it so difficult to imagine that deploying our womenfolk to such unfamiliar environment would be tantamount to sending lambs to the lion’s den?
Through the years so many “horror stories” primarily involving our women overseas workers have been occurring tragically on a regular basis.
They used to sleep on top of refrigerators; now they are being stored in them like meat.
President Duterte is on the right track in ordering a deployment ban to Kuwait.
It is hoped that before Mr. Duterte’s term ends, the sending of Filipino domestic workers overseas, particularly to the Middle East, would be terminated. I have no doubt that our President could do it.

Jorge B. Osit,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for Malaysians not to vote for
Extremists, deviationists, racists and religious bigots
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 May 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 8 May 2018

On the eve of polling day for Malaysia's 14th General Election, we the voters are faced with a major dilemma.
Having had a reasonably and relatively peaceful, stable and successful country since independence, we now face the dilemma of voting for either continuity or change in government!
How then do we try to resolve it?
Firstly, since there are little real ideological differences in the electoral manifestos of the major political parties, we could fully utilise the power of the people’s vote on the careful choice of the candidate offered to us.
We should choose only the honest, able, service-oriented and dedicated candidates with a proven track record.
Secondly, we should reject outright those candidates who are known to be extremists, deviationists, racists and religious bigots who have run down other religions in our precious multicultural society.
Thirdly, all those candidates who have said or done anything to erode national unity should be rejected at the polls without hesitation.
We should vote only for the candidates who aspire to make Malaysia great, united and moderate, progressive and prosperous and, most importantly, united.
If we follow some of these principles and arguments, and of course your very own, we the voters will overcome the doubts and fears, and the dilemmas we face as we prepare to vote tomorrow.
But to choose the right leaders, we have to turn up in full force and vote wisely.
We all hope that we will have a clean, free and fair election that will give us pride and maruah (dignity). Jom undi!

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



Was removal of comfort women statue due to
Fear of losing Japanese aid to Philippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 4 May 2018

I have never heard of anything more disgusting and cowardly than the report about the “comfort woman” statue, newly installed on Roxas Boulevard, removed after a mere four months “Removal of ‘comfort woman’ statue draws protest,” in Philippine Inquirer 29 April 2018.
The fact that the National Historical Commission, the Manila government and Tulay Foundation initiated the installation of the statue makes it laudable indeed.
But the report does not state if those organizations were consulted before the statue was removed.
On whose orders, and why was it done in the dead of night?
It reminds of the stealthy and nefarious way Ferdinand Marcos’ corpse was carted to Libingan ng mga Bayani not long ago.
The German death camps, like those in Auschwitz and Dachau, still stand in Europe to remind people of war crimes.
Statues on comfort women exist in the United States and some other places as reminders of atrocities committed by Japan during World War II.
But even though that country has acknowledged its past crimes, it still has not atoned properly on the matter of the forced prostitution of women in Asia.
Why is Manila behaving in such a pusillanimous manner?
Or is it just carrying out orders from the Duterte administration to remove the statue, fearful of losing aid provided by Japan?
The admirable Teresita Ang See and her group need more supporters to display true patriotism in this country, something which too many of our officials cannot do. The demand to remove Marcos from Libingan ng mga Bayani failed.
This time we should all demand that the statue be put back where it belongs.

Isabel T. Escoda,
Cebu City,
Philippines




If the opposition wins the elections
Malaysia will be sidelined from OBOR
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 May 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 4 May 2018

IF the Opposition wins:
1. ECRL, TRX, Country Garden and all the China projects will be halted and Malaysia will be sidelined from OBOR (One Belt One Road).
China will buy more palm oil from Indonesia rather than Malaysia. Malaysia’s palm oil industry, after being boycotted by the EU, will have more problems with China’s boycott.
Our port industry, especially at West Port and Port Tanjung Pelepas, will decline and many Malaysians will lose their jobs.
Shipping, logistics and even manufacturing will decline as Malaysia, strategically positioned between the East and West sea lanes via the Straits of Malacca, will lose its significance.
It will become cheaper for factories to relocate to Thailand. Industry 4.0 (the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies) will also take a bad hit, not to mention the DFTZ (Digital Free Trade Zone).
2. GST will be abolished and the Government will lose a huge income stream.
With Petronas not as formidable as it was in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the 2000s, the Government will have to find alternative income sources.
Privatisation will be increased to sell more assets to “friendly parties” via cheap loans guaranteed by the Government.
The national debt will go up like it did in the 1980s and 1990s. Remember the debt-to-GDP ratio back then?
3. Tolls will be abolished by the Government to buy back (highway) assets, as Tony Pua has said.
Without oil money, and with China and the Middle East not as strong as before due to the decline in oil prices (plus, they have been focusing on their own super projects like Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain) and with Saudi Arabia also modernising, Malaysia has nowhere to go except for borrowing money from, say, the United States, while at the same time privatising other assets.
Without GST, government employees will also be retrenched to work with corporations, which are already overburdened with high labour costs, with many moving overseas especially the Chinese tycoons.
So privatisation to cronies to hire these government servants will only make sense.
Crony capitalism will return where indirect taxes in other forms like in the 1980s and 90s will return.
Think about it, with the oil subsidy in the 1980s and 90s, the price of petrol at the pump was three to four times the price of Brent crude oil.
Now without the oil subsidy, the price ratio of pump to Brent is only 1.3 times.
If the opposition wins, they will gloss over taxes and call it a subsidy to hoodwink the rakyat.
4. BR1M will also be abolished and the B40 people (those in the bottom 40 percent of income) will be encouraged to work hard and be thankful to newly privatised companies.
However, to be globally competitive, these privatised companies will have to keep costs low and our high income nation dreams will be destroyed.
Foreign workers will return as in the 1980s and 90s to compete with locals. Industry 4.0 modernisation, which the whole world is going through, will not happen in Malaysia.
The NEP (National Economic Policy, affirmative action for bumiputra) will come back stronger.
Prior to the NEP in 1974, our GDP per capita was only behind Japan and Singapore in the whole of Asia. But by 2003, our GDP per capita had become lower than Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
If the opposition takes over, by 2023 we will be behind Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
This is because as China evolves, its manufacturing costs will be only 20 percent cheaper than the United States and China-friendly countries will inherit its low-cost economy. But remember, Malaysia will not be one of them.
5. All said and done, privatisation and crony capitalism will return, only that this time there will be little oil money to bail out mistakes.
The only way is to have fake subsidies funded by the rakyat. The rakyat will suffer but will still clap their hands.
The happiness index will be the key KPI, just like in some countries, where the poorest people in the world are also the happiest.

Ng Yeen Seen,
Ceo of Centre for Research, Advisory & Technology (CREATE)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Chinese investment in Cambodia
Lacks transparency
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 May 2018
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Monday 30 April 2018

Following The Phnom Pen Post’s article titled Hun Sen comes to China’s defence, praises investment and development aid (April 26), I would like to make the following remarks.
The main problem with Chinese investments is their complete lack of transparency, which favours corruption among both Chinese investors and Cambodian government officials.
These investments generally consist of “win-win-lose” arrangements, with the Cambodian people being the silent loser.
Foreign investments are expected to create jobs in the host country, which is not the case for Chinese investments in Cambodia because the needed workers are brought from China, where a portion of the money from the “investments” therefore returns.
Moreover, transfer of technologies - another benefit normally associated with foreign direct investment - does not exist.
With the import of Chinese labour, no Cambodian workers are trained to acquire professional skills and there is no opportunity to develop the human resources the country badly lacks, as pointed out by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself as an excuse for the omnipresence of Chinese workers.
The Hun Sen government is therefore developing a vicious circle that maintains Cambodia in ignorance, poverty and dependence.
We often notice that, when dealing with Hun Sen’s Cambodia, China generously gives with one hand but greedily takes back with the other immediate and disproportionate advantages in the form of mining, forest and land concessions as well as lucrative risk-free business contracts, for example in the production of hydroelectricity.
Massive Chinese tourism is organised around Chinese companies and the remaining money left in Cambodia hardly outweighs the ecological and social costs incurred by our country.
We know Hun Sen desperately needs China’s support to help defend and protect his regime because China does not pay any attention to the rule of law, democracy and human rights in countries where it “invests”.
By recklessly siding with China just to cling on to power Hun Sen shows his economic shortsightedness and his lack of consideration for Cambodia’s interests.

Sam Rainsy,
Former president of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party
President of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement



The Philippine government attack on sister Patricia Fox
Is an attack on the church of the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Damdaming Katoliko sa Teolohiya (DaKaTeo), also known as the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines, condemns the arrest, detention of and deportation order against Sister Patricia Fox.
Sister Pat, a 71-year-old regional superior of the international Catholic congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, follows in the footsteps of many foreign missionaries who have chosen to serve our people and who have shown what it means to be truly in solidarity with God’s suffering people.
She has been living in the Philippines for the past 27 years.
She headed the formation program of her religious congregation in the country in 1990.
Sister Pat, who is also a lawyer, has been involved in helping peasant and tribal communities in their fight for their right to life and right to land.
Her duty as a religious missionary brought her to places where there is great oppression and lack of recognition of basic human rights. She has tirelessly and selflessly dedicated her missionary life to accompanying the poor and spreading the Gospel of liberation.
To accuse her of engaging in “illegal political activities” is to misunderstand the demands that the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels her and other missionaries to enflesh.
To promote and defend the rights of the poor is an act of evangelization that is at the heart of the call for God’s Kingdom.
We believe the arrest and detention of Sister Pat is part of a large-scale crackdown of the government against church people and organizations that oppose antipoor government policies and that criticize its dubious human rights record.
The attack on Sister Pat is clearly an attack on the church of the poor and an attempt to silence dissenting forces against the creeping authoritarianism and increasingly oppressive policies of the present administration.
We urge the government to step back, respect the democratic space, and, in the name of religious freedom, let church people do their prophetic-missionary work for the upliftment and defense of the dignity of the poor.

Damdaming Katoliko Sa Teolohiya (DaKaTeo)
Manila,
Philippines



Development of Port Moresby
At the expense of the rural populace
The Southeast Asian Times, Sayturday 5 May 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Government’s focus now is being concentrated only on developing Port Moresby.
Papua New Guineans have witnessed Port Moresby changing overnight with huge projects such as sports stadiums, flyovers, bridges, huge buildings, etc.
Most of our leaders will say, “Port Moresby is the eye and gateway to Papua New Guinea”.
Yes correct, we understand that.
But the question is: Is Port Moresby the entire Papua New Guinea?
Is Port Moresby the only place contributing to the Government purse?
Why are we doing that while our rural populace is still struggling to see, feel and access basic Government services?
Government service delivery mechanism still has huge gaps to patch.
One example: Our provincial governors received provincial services improvement programme (PSIP) grants and all MPs received district services improvement programme (DSIP) grants.
Where is the LLG (LLGSIP) component for all our elected presidents?
Our rural population does not see any changes because the Government does not give direct funding to our local level governments.

Hanam Bill Sandu,
Concerned Citizen,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea




Business in Port Moresby and Goroka
Taken over by foreigners
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 May 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 2 May 2018

It would not be a surprise if foreign businesses operating in Papau New Guinea are operating without an ‘IPA Foreign Enterprise Certificate’ but with only the ‘IPA Company Incorporation Certificate’ or ‘IPA Business Name Certificate’.
And, if they have one, then was it given when they had an initial bank balance of K100,000?
What is the shareholding sharing percentage with the nationals if any are involved?
It would be interesting to do a massive inspection and auditing on this right throughout the country.
Send them packing out of the country, and punish those aiders.
I am in Goroka now, and it seems like what is happening in Port Moresby is also happening here: All the trade stores, tucker shops and business are taken over by foreigners.
These foreigners should have their visa checked as well.
Foreigners with work visa permits should not do or own businesses in Papua New Guinea.
Foreigners with dependent visa permits should not get employment, do businesses or own businesses in Papua New Guinea. Period.
This also includes foreigners doing health businesses in Papua New Guinea.
Is this how leaders and employees of the Government and business sector aid foreigners to come and do this in this country?

Dr James Naipao
President
National Doctors’ Association
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Motive for killing of anti-mining priest
In the Philippines is apparent
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 April 2018

It quite frankly is sickening to learn that a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Mark Ventura, known as an anti-mining priest, was shot dead as he was blessing his parishioners at a church service at a gymnasium in the Phillipines early Sunday morning
( southeast Asians times 1/5/18 ).
Another priest, Fr Marcelito Paez, was similarly executed by unindentified gunman in December 2017.
The killers might be unindentified but the motive for the killing is apparent : to silence influential critics of corporate greed and political patronage.
And, we in the democratic world had come to believe that the Phillipines was heading towards becoming a good democratic country with the end of the brutal Marcos dictatorship.
That has not happened, has it?
The saying that the more things change the more they remain the same seems to apply aptly to this troubled country.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


Call for education in forest ecology for those
Responsible for the destruction of Doi Suthep forest
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 May 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 30 April 2018

Re: "Regime must forget 'face' and do right thing", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 28.
A person doesn't have to be a legal scholar, a judicial expert, or even a forest ecologist to know what is the "right thing" to do with respect to the judges' housing complex carved out of the forest on the lower slopes of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.
Even a cursory glance of the aerial photos of the ugly gash inflicted on the Doi Suthep forest screams, "This is not right!"
This affront to one of the last remaining bits of intact forest around Chiang Mai should be bulldozed and restored to forest immediately, and the people responsible for wreaking such destruction should undergo some basic education on forest ecology and environmental values.
And, please park the goofy idea of allowing the houses to be occupied for 10 years and then assessing the situation.
We all know that if these villas are occupied now, they will forever be occupied.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Rural activists and agrarian reform advocates
Under attack in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 May 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 April 2018

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines denounces the decision of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to forfeit the missionary visa of our former national coordinator, Sister Patricia Fox, NDS.
Sister Pat has been here in our country for 27 years doing missionary work with the rural poor.
She has seen the miserable conditions of Filipino farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people.
Called by her faith, Sister Pat supported the plight of the rural poor for genuine agrarian reform.
The decision of the BI is hasty, baseless and unjust.
As a rural missionary, Sister Pat is merely extending her solidarity with the Filipino rural poor and fulfilling servant leadership through collective witnessing and prophetic action.
Under the Duterte administration, rural sectors, activists, and agrarian reform advocates have come under increasing attack.
This is part of the administration’s effort to terrorize and silence those who are speaking up against the worsening state of human rights in the country and to suppress the growing dissent of the Filipino people amid antipeople policies of the government.
We rebuke this attack against Sister Pat and against her Christian missionary commitment.
We enjoin the Church people and other sectors to stand with Sister Pat in her plight against this injustice.

Sister Elenita Belardo, RGS,
National Coordinator,
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines



Don't be surprised if Marcos propagandists
Join the present Duterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 30 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 April 2018

Did you know that as early as the middle ’70s, former president Ferdinand Marcos and his cohorts already considered him a hero together with Imelda Marcos?
This was done when they were included on the list of heroes in books published by the Marcos regime’s education ministry for the subject Araling Panlipunan (social studies).
With their pictures, the write-ups about Mr. and Mrs. Marcos were placed alongside the country’s authentic heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar and Francisco Balagtas.
Textbook writers from the education ministry’s home office on Arroceros Street and later in Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros where the Commission on Elections’ office is now located were reportedly afraid to defy the order to include the Marcoses in the roster of heroes of the Philippines, while others readily agreed to the project to ingratiate themselves to the Palace occupant.
That’s only one scheme where Marcos tried to fool the people, especially the students.
But these unprincipled people - especially the writers and peddlers of lies, falsehoods and half-truths - did not succeed in their evil scheme to mislead the people.
They later reaped the consequences of their bad intentions.
The judgment was very clear.
The Filipino people became fed up with gargantuan cases of corruption, oppression under a tyrannical rule, wanton disregard for human rights, freedom, truth and justice, cruelty to opposition leaders and unimaginable abuses of the dictatorship.
And it happened.
Filipinos staged a peaceful four-day revolution which reverberated around the world.
On February 22-25, 1986, they ousted the regime which ruled the country for 20 years, 14 years of which was under dictatorial rule.
And the rest was - and is - history.
The Filipino people became known and acknowledged by the international community for their contribution to the cause of justice, freedom and democracy. “People power” became a byword and model, especially in Eastern Europe.
What happened to the paid hacks who masqueraded as “writers” of textbooks in the public schools?
Many of them became silent and kept a low profile away from public eye.
The thick-skinned among them tried to ingratiate themselves to the new administration which replaced the unlamented martial law regime.
The cowards sought refuge with the scoundrels.
We won’t be surprised if, after their hiatus, they will surface again and join the present administration.

Pakapalan lang! Nakakahiya!
Eusebio S. San Diego,
Founder,
Kaguro and former president,
Public Teachers Association,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Thai education is limited to
Cram, jam and pass the exam
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 April 2018

Re: "Education sandbox: Reforming the way to reform", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday 25 April 2018.
Reforming education in Thailand will require removing people who have their
heads buried in the sand.
In the name of reforms, there is a lot of talk but no "walk the walk".
Most Thai state-run schools, colleges and universities still proudly use the "big brown envelope" approach for face-to-face teaching.
The instructors are given brown envelopes by the principal, directors and deans with the syllabus, teaching instructions, test and exams.
The instructors open the envelopes and teach to the tests, that too, in a way that half the class goes to sleep. In a nutshell, Thai education is largely limited to "cram, jam and pass the exam".
The educational reforms in Singapore are based on two major factors - the use
of English language and embedding of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) at all levels and using technology in the delivery of the curriculum or the
teaching methods.
In addition, extensive training of teachers as well the educational innovation and practices has led to creating a world-class educational system.
The Singaporean model makes it clear that all teaching and learning should focus
on excellence.
Pride, identity, jobs, careers and success will follow.
Hence, any educational reform in Thailand should focus on the three major components: the teachers, the curriculum and the mode of delivery for which competent visionary professionals are needed.
Thailand needs more highly trained teachers in the areas of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) and English.
Thailand 4.0 will require policy makers and teachers with vision, not bureaucrats with their eyes or heads in the sand.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Boracay tourist Island cleanup
Does not include solutions for stray animals
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 28 April 2018

First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 25 April 2018

We represent the Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (AARRC) based in Kalibo, Aklan. AARRC is a local animal welfare organization for cats and dogs and we specialize in disabled animals.
Our mission is to serve the community in which we operate by providing sustainable solutions for stray animals and associated issues.
As far as we are aware, none of the communications about the proposed Boracay cleanup released so far addresses animal-related issues.
We strongly believe that a cleanup wouldn’t be complete without a sustainable, animal-friendly and effective method of stray animal population control.
Although we have unsuccessfully tried to convince local authorities of the need for a continuous program, the cleanup will further increase this need as we expect that a significant portion of migrant workers leaving the island are going to leave their pets behind.
In cooperation with the Philippine Pet Birth Control Center Foundation and other welfare organizations, as well as local government units, we intend to organize a spay/neuter/vaccinate/deworm program that efficiently addresses issues related to stray animals.
However, the clearly earmarked animals that go through our program should not be harmed or detained by the local authorities because this will jeopardize the continuity of the program.
In addition to this program, we also intend to rescue a number of dogs and cats for adoption at a later time.
Our request to you is two-fold: Firstly, we implore you to consider promoting the only proven and efficient method of stray animal population control, spay/neuter, which in combination with vaccination and deworming, will form the basis for future work and a healthy future for both animals and residents and visitors to the island. We offer to help organize and implement this program in cooperation with the cleanup authorities.
In return we ask that the animals in our program be exempt from capture and euthanasia by local authorities to safeguard the continued participation of both foreign and national sponsors.
Secondly, to be able to help the cleanup effort, our people all based in Aklan and helpers will likely require occasional access to the island and we ask for your cooperation in granting them this access.

Michel J.L. Van Der Kleij,
Emmy Karnot,
Ralf Schatz,
Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippine Benedictine Sisters cannot comprehend
Government capitulating sovereignty to China
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 26 April 2018

We, the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of the Manila Priory and the academic community at St. Scholastica’s College, express our deep concern over the disturbing events happening in our country that pose a serious threat to the democratic and moral foundations of our society.
We protest the continued killings, mostly of poor people in relation to the war against drugs even after the change in command of the Philippine National Police.
We are ashamed of the invectives spewed by President Duterte against international bodies and officials who have expressed concern over these killings, and those who have declared their intent to investigate them in the performance of their duties.
We are alarmed at the suppression of dissent, critique and opposition in the following cases:
The unjust detention of Sen. Leila de Lima using fabricated evidence and testimonies of compromised witnesses.
The impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno without citing any impeachable offense and the attempt to unseat her unconstitutionally through quo warranto.
We are appalled by the disrespect for the law by those who are supposed to enforce and protect it.
The attempt to silence Rappler through the withdrawal of its license to operate and by the discrimination against its reporter.
The recurring threats against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
And lately, the arrest and detention of Sister Patricia Fox who has spent over 27 years in the Philippines helping to protect the rights of the poor especially the farmers.
We cannot comprehend how a supposedly “independent foreign policy” has our government virtually capitulating sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea to China.
We strongly oppose the changing of our Constitution through a constituent assembly and without thorough study, especially of provisions that would repeal the protection of our patrimony.
We unite with all freedom-loving citizens in standing up to oppose these threats to democracy and the erosion of our moral fabric.

Sister Mary Francis Dizon,
OSB President St. Scholastica's College,
Sister Adelaida Ygrubay,
OSB Prioress Missionary Benedictine Sisters
Manila,
Philipines

 


Cronyism means giving important jobs
To your pals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 17 April 2018

Re: "Cronyism 'typical'?" in Bangkok Post, Friday 13 April 2018
Khun Korn Chatikavanij said, "First, we need to establish that governments are in power to do a job and the civil service is the manpower it needs to use to effect its policies".
Surely you must have excluded Yingluck's government?
Two weeks before the coup, the Constitutional Court sacked Yingluck, then caretaker prime minister, and nine of her ministers for "improperly" sacking National Security Council secretary-general Tawil Pliensri.
About the meaning of "cronyism", I think Khun Korn is too picky.
It is generally accepted that the word means the practice of giving important jobs to your pals, siblings, including people you can trust, regardless of their qualifications.

Somsak Pola,
Samut Prakan,
Thailand



The Ati Negritos are the victims
Of Boracay tourist Island habitat destruction
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 21 April 2018

In recent weeks, much has been written about the environmental disaster borne out of greed wrought on tourist magnet Boracay.
We would like to point out one aspect that, thus far, seems to have been minimally discussed.
The Ati Negritos, the original inhabitants of the island, are primary victims of the habitat destruction and pollution in this location and it has become increasingly difficult for them to make a decent living the traditional way.
In 2012, the Ati were awarded a certificate of ancestral domain title, comprising of a plot of a mere 2.1 hectares in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.
However, this tiny piece of land is not only insufficient to cater to the community’s needs, encroachments on it also have continued to take place.
A win-win solution could be giving what is left of the island’s public timber lands Philippine Indigenous Communities Conserved Areas (ICCA) status. This would imply, that the Ati community is made the steward of these lands.
In this capacity they could help conserve the natural resources therein, with actual use limited to “light” traditional occupations, such as the gathering of wild foods, medicinal herbs and other nontimber forest products.
This is not a new idea.
Way back in 2012, during the “Dimgo Ke Eata Ribo” cultural revival festival and development forum held in Malay, Aklan, a senior officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources suggested exactly this option.
Now appears to be the right time for considering implementation.

Conchita C. Calzado,
Chair,
Melvin R. Guilleno,
National program coordinator,
Sentrong Pagpapalakas ng Negritong Kultura at Kalikasan,
Philippines



Australian missionary, Sister Patricia Fox
Target of Philippine political persecution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 22 April 2018

The Church in the Philippines lives in perilous times as an increasing number of clergy, religious and church workers face unspeakable violence and whose rights are violated by President Duterte’s administration.
Church people who join the pilgrimage of poor communities and support their struggle for justice, peace and human dignity suffer state-perpetuated political persecution.
The assault against Sister Patricia Fox, who is an Australian religious missionary and the regional superior of Our Lady of Sion Sisters in the Philippines, is the most recent blow against church workers and religious institutions.
For the past 27 years, she has immersed herself in the arms of the toiling Filipino masses and worked hand-in-hand with farmers, supporting through her prayers and selfless service their struggle for land and life.
Sister Pat, as she is known in the ecumenical community, was illegally arrested by elements of the Bureau of Immigration at her residence in Quezon City.
She was detained for two days, from April 16 to 17, following allegations of her participation in political actions against the Philippine government.
The soft-spoken and good-natured missionary nun was released, following strong condemnation from faith communities, human rights defenders, and members of civil society groups and peoples’ organizations.
We cannot comprehend why church people become targets of political persecution.
When has it become a crime to accompany the poor and the oppressed in their struggle?
When has it become a crime to preach the words of God and live out the works of Christ?
Recent events manifest a systematic state-sponsored attack on church people.
Last December. 4, Catholic priest Marcelito Paez was killed after facilitating the release of a political prisoner.
On May 11, 2017, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and peace advocate Carlo Morales was arrested, detained for nearly a year, and was recently released upon the granting of his bail plea.
We hold the Duterte administration accountable for the many cases, documented or otherwise, on the persecution of church people.
We demand that this administration stop the increasing and increasingly hostile attempts at silencing church people who accompany those that experience far greater historical and structural injustices.
We call upon all Christians and people of good will to boldly resist state violence and political oppression, and continue to stand up for and work in solidarity with the poor, deprived and oppressed, so that justice and peace may reign and life, in all its sanctity and dignity, can be enjoyed.

Bishop Deograacias S. Iniguez Jr.,
Rt. Rev. Felixberto L. Calang, IFI.,
Co chairs,
Ecumenical Bishops Forum




Philippine president Duterte
Given royal treatment in China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 April 2018

In light of the presence of the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea, the “royal treatment” accorded President Duterte during his recent visit to China brings to mind Francisco Balagtas’ “Florante at Laura” that I learned in high school:
“Kung ang isalubong saiyong pagdating ay masayang mukha’t may pakitang giliw,
lalong pakaingata’t kaaway
na lihim siyang isaisip na
kakabakahin.”

Joe Laynes,
Manila,
Philippines

 


It wasn't the Chinese who said
Chinese and dogs not allowed
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 April 2018

This is regarding the Inquirer’s headline, "China military planes land on Philippines reef" 18 April 2018.
President Duterte said it does not make sense ruining our relationship with China as the Chinese are our friends.
Really, what is the sense in challenging China while it lands planes in some territory that it claims as its own?
Yet, we allow the United States, Japan, Australia, Russia, India and many other countries to anchor in our ports.
China and the Chinese have been our friends since years back.
Many other races have inflicted hardships, murder, rape, slavery and other crimes upon us.
The Chinese in our country were also victims.
Whoever said: “Chinese and dogs not allowed” or “Filipinos and dogs not allowed”?
Certainly, not the Chinese.
By pursuing an independent foreign policy, we are a friend to everybody and we get aid from China, the United States, Japan, Australia and Russia.
We need all the help to improve our lives and make our internal security strong, for as long as the aid has no strings attached.

Antonio E Sotelo,
Retired Lietenant General,
AFP,
Manila,
Philippines

 



May the best candidate
Win in the Malaysian elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 April 2018
First published in the Star, Tuesday 17 April 2018

As a former senior civil servant (secretary-general, Transport Ministry) and thus like all members of the G25, I humbly congratulate my former colleagues warmly for their excellent letter “Current reality in Malaysian politics” in The Star, April 16.
I sincerely believe that the deep patriotic and nationalistic sentiments expressed in the G25’s timely message have the full support of most former and current civil servants, the armed forces and police, other uniformed services and members of the entire public service like teachers and those under the big Cuepacs umbrella.
Indeed, the vast majority of the 1.6 million public servants would surely support fully the brave message from G25, which has appealed to all eligible voters to come in full force to vote.
This clarion call is particularly pertinent as we, Malaysian citizens, have a great opportunity to exercise our sacred duty to vote wisely instead of, as some plan to do, irresponsibly wasting or spoiling our precious votes.
Too many Malaysians also just grumble and won’t vote.
Please do so and feel better for it!
G25 has requested employers to liberally grant leave to their employees to encourage them to vote.
This is essential as the Election Commission (EC) has made it somewhat difficult for voters by not holding election day on a Saturday to help the out-of-town voters to cast their votes.
The business sector must also realise that they can only prosper if there is an able government with good governance.
So please do your part to make sure that we all get the best, honest, efficient and compassionate government for all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.
G25 has also urged the Election Commission (EC) to be free and fair in conducting General Elections 2014 (GE14).
Already, the Election Commission (EC) has created some public doubts with their latest redelineation exercise, the choice of Wednesday for election day and inability to reduce or erase some public concerns of possible malpractices on polling day.
As G25 has well cautioned, international and local observers will watch with eagle eyes all the happenings at the polling stations and maybe the EC itself too.
So let’s work hard for legitimate election results to justify a legitimately elected government that we can all be proud of.
G25 has already mentioned the need to “restore confidence in the future of the country as a stable and mature democracy”.
Will GE14 be able to restore this confidence?
G25 has called for all political parties to avoid “exploiting the issues of race and religion”.
Any candidate who stoops so low as to use racial and religious sensitivities for their parochial political gain should be rejected by the voters.
This will teach irresponsible politicians and candidates a good lesson and enable us to show that Malaysians are now mature.
We all, especially youths, have a special responsibility to do good on this matter.
G25 also called upon the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police to ensure that all candidates obey the law in their campaigns.
This is vital as any disrespect for the law can lead to lawlessness and even instability, which can seriously affect the social sustainability and unity of our beloved country.
As an honorary commissioner of the MACC, I would also stress the need for the Commission to effectively combat and control money politics.
This alone could corrupt the whole election process and distort or destroy the whole foundation of our electoral system.
The MACC and police must be more determined to fight money politics and any corruption or bad practices during the elections.
GE14 provides the best opportunity we’ve had so far to strengthen the growth and development of a more meaningful “two-party electoral system” that is less race- and religious-based.
There should therefore be more national socio-economic and political structural issues to debate and discuss during the election campaigning.
We have to ensure that the best candidates are elected to serve our people fairly and justly and on a sustainable basis.
We hope and pray that we will all strive to fulfil the amanah which the Almighty has blessed us with to do our duty to fully support the G25 stand and message to serve God, King, country and our Malaysian society to the best of our abilities.
May the best candidates, political parties and promises prevail. And God bless Malaysia!

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

 



China or England
Who is the real thief ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 17 April 2018

Re: "A thief is a thief", in Bangkok Post Friday 13 April 2018
Jack Gilead tried to claim that China is as greedy as the UK, by saying "Chinese
forcibly marched uninvited into Tibet in the 50s."

Can J Gilead answer me who invited the Briton to cross the ocean to usurp India
also the Australian continent, Falkland island, Gibraltar, etc.?
While Tibet has been a part of China off and on for thousands of years, it
wasn't long ago when British troops lead by Col Francis Younghusband marched
into Tibet of course uninvited after occupying India.
In the process,
thousands of innocent Tibetans who only had ancient weapons to defend themselves were slain.
Can J Gilead answer me who is the real satanic thief is, China or
England?

Prasan Stianrapapongs,
Chon Buri,
Thailand




Call for learning centre to teach Thai History
In opposition to self determination
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 13 April 2018

Re: "Army chief: Turn Doi Suthep complex into learning centre", in Bangkok Post Wednesday 11 April 2018
I like army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad's suggestion that the "housing project
for judicial officials at the foot of Chiang Mai's Doi Suthep be turned into
learning centres."

The most appropriate learning centre is one devoted to teaching the history
of the supreme pillar of the Thai nation from which all other laws and institutions derive their legitimacy, the constitution, and the sad history thereof at the hands of those opposed to the Thai people determining their form of society and its government as though they were a free people.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine indigenous communities attacked by military
Under the guise of “Oplan Kapayapaan.”
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 April 2018

Agriculture paved the way for the civilization of the world, but without land tillers, it would be impossible to cultivate millions of hectares of lands to produce food and materials that sustain the world until today.
Yet, no matter how essential lands are in producing and sustaining the necessities of the people, farmers are not given equal importance in order to enjoy their rights as land tillers, at least in the Philippines.
Seven out of 10 farmers still remain landless due to land monopoly by oligarchs and landlords.
Lands tilled for agriculture are either in the form of haciendas owned and operated by landlords and politicians, or owned by foreign investors as plantations.
Thus, farmers continue to be farmworkers, silently enduring the low wage from farming and high debt from usurers and their landlords.
Further, when farmers start to collectivize themselves and push for their right to land and just compensation, they end up being tagged as rebels or allies of the New People’s Army, hence killing them is so easy.
A current study of human rights group Karapatan has documented 126 victims of extrajudicial killings as of December 2017; 110 of them were peasants and leaders. The majority of these killings happened in Mindanao.
Various human rights violations were also filed such as illegal arrest, torture, forcible evacuation, threat, harassment, and intimidation.
There are also cases of indiscriminate firing and forced/fake surrender of farmers as rebels.
Indigenous communities are also affected due to militarization.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the primary force of counterinsurgency in Mindanao, attacking peasant and indigenous communities under the guise of “Oplan Kapayapaan.”
All these violations are seen as the government’s tack to secure lands for local and foreign investors and to pave the way for foreign loans from international financial institutions for President Duterte’s “Build, build, build” infrastructure program.
The infrastructure projects will require thousands of hectares of lands to be converted, thus displacing more farmers and indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
Using the rights-based approach, all these cases clearly violate human rights using its three principles - respect, protect, fulfill.
As a duty-bearer, the government has the obligation to refrain and prevent others from interfering with the enjoyment of the rights of the people.
The government also has to adopt appropriate measures toward the full realization of the people’s rights.
But with the present administration, the state vividly prevents the farmers to enjoy their rights.
Economically, farmers are still deprived of their land, and their wages are still low. Socially, they cannot access basic services due to inadequate government services especially in rural places. Politically, they are silenced when they voice out their needs and demands to call out for adequate support.
They are robbed of self-determination, human rights, and social justice.
The vicious cycle of a farmer’s life must be stopped.
A farmer’s life is not a toy that can be played with by a powerful entity any time.
A farmer’s life is precious as it sustains the people of the world.
If they die and cease to exist, who will feed us in the future?

Sarrryna Gesite,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for inclusion of environmental conservation
In Malaysia's general election
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 April 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 13 April 2018

We would like to remind the leaders of every political party in this country to include environmental conservation in their election manifestos for the 14th General Election.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 countries including Malaysia in September 2015 at the United Nations Summit encompass environmental, social and economic dimensions.
These are now considered as universal goals for development and indicators of a country’s wellbeing.
We believe that environmental conservation deserves greater emphasis in your aspirations for our country.
Sustainable development should be a goal that ensures a win-win situation in the environmental, social and economic dimensions.
By telling voters of your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia, you will allow them to make informed decisions about their candidates.
Please recognise the environmental aspirations of the citizens of Malaysia, especially the youth, by including these concerns in your party manifesto and also ensuring that they are given top priority to ensure sustainable development for current and future generations.
Also, please inform voters how you will work towards realising these aspirations in the first 100 days of successfully forming the next government.
Malaysia is recognised as one of the top 12 countries in the world for mega-biodiversity.
Blessed with tropical rainforests, mangroves, peatland and montane forests, Malaysia is ranked fourth in the world for having the most tree species.
Our surrounding seas are important parts of the Coral Triangle, which contains more than 75 percent of the world’s known coral species.
Our biodiversity is certainly one of the reasons why many tourists come to Malaysia.
As we all know, humans cannot survive without nature.
While development is meant to improve our standard of living and grow our economy, unsustainable development will inadvertently destroy the very element that provides the services we take for granted such as our clean air, fresh water, food and protection against extreme weather.
In the end, we would be left worse than expected.
But this need not be the case.
We must aim to achieve development in a sustainable way to balance our aspirations for economic growth without compromising our natural capital (environmental assets, social systems, cultural resources).
Only then can we ensure higher standards of living for our current and future generations.
In the absence of sustainable development and without proper protection of nature, the risks of flash flood, air pollution, landslides, shortage of clean water resources and expanding urban heat islands will increase.
We have already seen instances of this happening and the frequency and intensity will only get worse due to the pressures of increasing population and changing climate.
The forests, wetlands and oceans play vital roles in providing food, nutrients and recreational space for humans, regulating the climate and buffering against extreme weather.
We are putting forth this appeal in a neutral and non-partisan manner on behalf of our supporters – your constituents.
They expect us to engage with the political system to advocate sustainable development and to urge political leaders to make this a priority above party politics.
Announce to the voters your aspirations and plans for sustainable development in Malaysia and allow them to make informed decisions with their votes.

Biji-Biji Initiative
Civil Society Organisations for Sustainable Development Goals (CSO)-SDG) Alliance Ecocentric Transitions
Ecoknights
Environmental Protection Society Malaysia
Friends of Sarawak Museum
Hunger Hurts Malaysia
Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral
Malaysian Nature Society
Powershiftmsia
Reef Check Malaysia
Sabah Women's Action Resource Group
Sabah Environmental Trust
Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society
Sarawak Eco-Warriors
Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Treat Every Environment Special (TREES)
Wetlands International Malaysia
WWF-Malaysia


 

 

It's fine saving the environment
But don't people's livelihoods matter
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 April 2018

In dealing with Boracay and the aftermath - feared chaos, massive layoffs, business losses - we ought not to forget, as Lon L. Fuller said, that: “…government is a human affair, and that men are ruled, not by words on paper or by abstract theories, but by other men. They are ruled well when their rulers understand the feelings and conception of the masses. They are ruled badly when that understanding is lacking.”
Here we know what conquering former generals Roy Cimatu and Eduardo Año, and their commander in chief want.
Have they factored in what Boracay’s poor masses, local officials, and civic, business and religious leaders, want?
What they want, hardly reported, should have been factored in to avoid another confusing fire-aim-ready decision.
It’s fine to save the environment but don’t people’s lives, livelihood and well-being also matter?
Given what President Duterte does in thrashing the Chief Justice, no local court in a terrorized judiciary would meddle.
Absent the reign of terror, a tough and fair-minded judge could have patiently guided the parties to an expedited win-win solution, not one imposed by outsiders or “dayo.”
On the timing for instance, maybe closure should not be on April 26 but a few months later so everyone would have a chance to adjust and avoid unemployment and starvation, or resort to crime - survival is the first law of mankind - and bankruptcy.
A truly independent judiciary can decide on the least restrictive alternative to arrive at the greatest good for the greatest number.
In his mythopoetic “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers,” Fuller also said: “I must confess that as I grow older I become more and more perplexed at men’s refusal to apply their common sense to problems of law and government.”
So if I may ask, with Mareng Winnie Monsod, “How was close-Boracay decision made?” in Philippine Inquirer 7 April 2018, "Get Real".

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

 

 

Bonds forged between New Mexico National Guard
And Philippine Scouts are unbreakable
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 April 2018

My name is James Alderman, a retired American soldier living in Bacolod City with my Filipino wife, Lynn, since 2009.
Ramon Farolan’s column, “Bataan revisited” 4 September 2018, was true and factual. I have read Stanley Falk’s book.
The only thing I disagree with is what he wrote in the final paragraph.
Farolan is perhaps unaware that the US Army does remember Bataan and Corregidor. Perhaps the largest ceremony outside the Philippines takes place at White Sands in New Mexico every year.
The Death March is reenacted through the desert and almost every major unit in the US Army sends participants.
Last year over 23,000 people, soldiers and civilians took part.
I took part in two of these marches while I was assigned in Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Philippine Scouts are honored with a statue at the main entrance to White Sands.
The bonds forged between the 146th Coast Artillery Regiment of the New Mexico National Guard and the Philippine Scouts are unbreakable.
We do remember the “humiliating defeat.”
Pearl Harbor would be another example.
From the ashes of total defeat comes a stronger bond and lessons learned in order to not let it happen again.

James Alderman,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Why shouldn't the Pacific Islands
Have Chinese military bases?
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 April 2018

If China is to build a military base in Vanuatu (as is being claimed by Australia)
then it shows Vanuatu and indeed other Pacific island countries have wisened up and no longer put their eggs in one basket, the basket of the surrogate of their European colonial rulers in the region.
Australia is guided by its own national interest in the adoption of its foreign policy. Why shouldn't small Pacific island countries do the same in the post colonial era?
What gives the Australian state the right to bitch about who is building a military base where?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Philippine rice farmers call for food security
Through food self-sufficiency
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 April 2018

We, small Filipino rice farmers, call on the government to immediately incease the support price for palay to enable the National Food Authority, the alternative buyer of our produce, to ensure sufficient buffer stocks, and to reduce dependency on rice importation.
Palay support price is the government’s guarantee for a fair return of our little investment.
Yes, the current farm gate price of palay may be high but the harvest of many from our ranks is procured at a lower price as loan payments to traders - the real benefactors of this price escalation.
We are not delighted at the present high retail price of rice in the market since we are also at the losing end as consumers.
As a result of inflation, we also suffer from the erosion of our purchasing power.
In Indonesia, for example, rice farmers are assured of a fair price of their produce through a government support price that is higher than the prevailing world market price.
Its government also subsidizes the price of farm inputs and provides budget for research and development, infrastructure and credit.
President Duterte is pursuing an aggressive infrastructure investment under the “Build, build, build” program.
Soldiers and the national police, other public sector employees including Cabinet officials and legislators, have benefited from salary increases (and relief from income taxes), while minimum wage earners from the private sector are free from income taxes resulting in an increase of their take-home pay.
Yet we, in the farming sector, are deprived of the same preferential attention from the government.
Our country must not just rely on the kindness of neighbors and other developed countries for our food security. Instead of spending taxpayer money on projects that benefit only a few, the government should not ignore farmers.
There has to be adequate farm funding and other farmer support programs to increase income and consequently improve the country’s food production.
Pursue food security through food self-sufficiency!
Increase the government support price of palay from P17 to P22 per kilo!
Implement policies to reduce cost of production and price of farm inputs!

Edwin Y. Paraluman,
Chair,
Philippine Farmers Advisory Board,
General Santos City,
Philippines



Call for Malaysia's politicians to return
To the fold of country and nation first
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 April 2018
First published in the Star, Monday 9 April 2018

I wrote a letter to the editor on December 11, 2012 to urge political leaders and eligible citizens of Malaysia to campaign peacefully so that the old and young could cast their votes in the 13th General Election without any fear.
In the short time of about six years, the mode and spirit of campaigning has evolved from the festive-style atmosphere back then to the rancorous events of the present where opposing sides hurl personal assaults against each other.
The democratic process we have been practising has been taken to the streets. Political speeches are no longer subtle and light-hearted but threatening and vulgar, especially at branch level.
Leaders of all political parties and their lieutenants who intend to deliver speeches in public should be reminded that 99 percent of Malaysians are literate and are now exposed to news from multiple sources, including from outside the country.
It is time the egoistic characters return to the fold of “country and nation first.”
The mature leaders must remind themselves and their over-zealous spokespeople to use respectable words and phrases and that the election campaign is not war or a fight with enemies.
It’s a once-in-five-years’ opportunity for the rakyat to choose a leader whom they think is fit to govern the country.
Try to campaign with dignity this GE14.
It doesn’t mean campaign speeches have to be mundane or delivered without gusto.
I am for a boisterous gathering myself but speeches must be factual and stay within the political arena.
Do not cook up tales that hurt innocent people.
There are so many issues of importance to the people and the environment to talk about, including food (availability, affordability and accessibility), health, education, income disparity, environmental destruction, sensible spiritual guidance and so on. Peaceful campaigns also reflect the intellectual nature and maturity of the party and candidates.
I pray for justice and peace, and all the best to the parties that put the rakyat before self.

A. Mustaffa Babjee,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


 


Call for Thai PM to look into threats made
Over posting of ancient kings wearing pollution masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 9 Apr 2018

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should look into the case in which the Chiang
Mai governor has threatened the editor of a Chiang Mai magazine with criminal
charges - for posting on Facebook a student's painting of ancient kings wearing
pollution masks.
Most Chiang Mai people regard the editor in this case as one of our city's
leading citizens.
He has been fighting for the preservation of the city as a peaceful locality as well as a popular tourist attraction.
Chiang Mai governors are appointed by the central government.
They come and go as per the government's command.
Hence unavoidable misunderstandings and conflicts sometimes occur between the governor and locals.
The government should be reminded that governors are transitory; while we the
people of the city are destined to die here - along with our children and
grandchildren.
With that said, the government should be careful not to allow the
misunderstanding between the city governor and the local citizens to develop
into a large-scale conflict.

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thai ancient kings today
Might appreciate wearing masks
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 8 April 2018

Re: "Magazine sued for 'blasphemous' kings painting", in Bangkok Post, March 31.
Chiang Mai governor Pawin Chamniprasat said that the Three Kings Monument is
"very sacred", but other than in obligatory state-sponsored rituals, older Lanna
folk may not choose to propitiate this site in preference to others.
Designed by a Bangkok-based artist and inaugurated in 1970, the monument represents a Bangkok version of Lanna history.
King Ramkhamhaeng is depicted on the auspicious north side in accordance with his perceived senior status, his right hand gesturing as if in authority.
The apparel of the three kings portray them as akin to Devas before whom others
might become mere specks of dust, probably of less than 2.5 microns given how
many float around the city these days. Like many of the city's residents, were
the kings alive, they might appreciate having masks.

Kuntree Bumkhin,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Low standard of workers in Malaysia
Due to wage stagnation
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 8 April 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 7 October 2018

I refer to the letter “More guides for workers” in The Star, April 4.
I would like to thank the writer for the thorough overview of the initiatives undertaken by the National Institute Of Occupational Safety And Health (NIOSH) to ensure the safety of workers, particularly those in the construction industry.
I believe that if accidents in the workplace continue to occur despite all the good and appropriate steps taken by the authorities, then they must be due to the workers’ own disregard for their personal safety.
This could mean that the standard of workers is lower now that it was in the past, a situation brought about by wage stagnation.
A contractor will now get lower quality workers rather than pay higher wages.
The person himself /herself must have the first line of defence.
A worker must be able to judge when the situation is safe for him, and thereby determine whether he can or cannot do a job.
He can refuse to do the task if he feels it would put his life in danger.
Workers who both need the money and also want to live will take any job without considering their personal safety.
Employers will take advantage of this situation.
Language skills here are crucial.
A person cannot value his life unless he/she has good language skills.
By the same token, an employee, and an employer too, cannot understand the instruction unless he/she understands the language.
Although courses are conducted for employers and employees on safety measures to be undertaken while at work, is the course instructor sure that his/her audience has sufficient language skills to understand the information being delivered to them?
It is possible that most workers just nod in approval, get on with the work and so get their pay even though they haven’t really understood what has been said.
Punishment is also crucial.
A good one makes the culprit understand the gravity of his/her offence and make him decide never to commit the offence again.
Contractors and sub-contractors who do not meet safety standards as directed by the relevant authorities and thereby endanger the lives of their workers, while also compromising the quality of the work they do, should be instructed to do the same work they told their workers to do, for a certain time under the same conditions and circumstances.
This should give them a feel of the situation and make them learn to treat their workers with respect, justice, and conside­ration.

Marisa Demori,
Putrajaya,
Malaysia



Police reports on extrajudicial killings
To be admitted in Philippine court
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 April 2018

On behalf of the petitioners and all family and kin of victims, CenterLaw thanks the Supreme Court for rejecting Solicitor General Jose Calida’s appeal to rescind its 5 December 2017, order requiring the submission of official police reports on the killings of drug suspects during the implementation of “Oplan Tokhang.”
This is an important step in the search for accountability for the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Tokhang operations.
We are fortified by this triumph of the rule of law.
The Supreme Court has demonstrated with this initial order that it will perform its role as our people’s beacon and bastion of justice.
We hope that the information that will be gathered from these documents will help not only the families of EJK victims, but more importantly the authorities, to file the necessary cases against those responsible for the killings.
The information the Court requires the Philippine National Police (PNP) to submit are what it is actually required to produce under the PNP’s own Manual of Operations.
These are no national security documents.
These are documents meant to ensure that the PNP’s officers and men faithfully comply with the rules of due process and the human rights of the subjects of their future operations.
In fact, these are documents that loved ones of anyone killed during police operations are entitled to have under the PNP’s own rules.
It is in the best interest of the PNP and its top officers to comply with the Court’s order, if only to show that the government is willing and able to prosecute unlawful deaths arising from Tokhang operations.
We hope that this will start the police in doing what it should be doing for each and every crime, regardless of the perpetrators.
CenterLaw trusts that this directive by the Supreme Court will help save lives and promote the rights of the Filipino people.

Center for International Law (CenterLaw)
Manila,
Philippines



Claims of racial and religious discrimination rejected
In Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 April 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 4 April 2018

There have been reports about Malaysians using racial and religious discrimination to seek asylum in other countries after failing to fulfil the stipulated immigration conditions for permanent stay there.
Their claims of racial and religious discrimination are lame excuses as there are many Indian, Chinese and other races holding senior positions in government and public organisations in Malaysia.
You can find mosques, churches, and Indian and Chinese temples everywhere here for people to practise their religious beliefs freely.
So how can these people claim that they are being discriminated against because of their race or religion?
I agree that there are some extremists here who have uttered discriminatory remarks on religion and race but these are in the minority and their views are rejected by the majority of the population.
There are a few extremists advocating white supremacy in the United States of America and Australia, so are we going to believe that there is widespread racial discrimination in these countries?
There are many Malaysians with vast experience in their profession who have migrated to countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Unable to obtain jobs in the same field in their adopted country, they cried discrimination even though the real reason might be because their experiences were not relevant.
A senior bank manager with vast experience in Malaysia may have to start as a junior executive in his or her adopted country in order to acquire the necessary local experience to become a senior executive.
Similarly, a senior Malaysian advertising executive may face the same problem obtaining a senior position in Australia.
This is not discrimination. .
Those who use racial or religious discrimination in Malaysia as grounds to obtain permanent residence in other countries should be rejected.
I know a few people who were holding good jobs in other countries who have returned to Malaysia for good.
They are highly educated professionals who would not have returned if there was widespread racial and religious discrimination here.

Thomas Foo,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia



The Jabidah massacre
Signaled the legitimacy of the Moro
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 April 2018

As our forefathers did five decades ago, the Moro youth and students vow to continue the fight for the right to self-determination in defense of the Bangsamoro, even as the government continues to disregard the civil and political rights of the Moro people and wages wars that destroy people’s lives and communities.
Akin to the Jabidah massacre on March 18, 1968, and a long list of mass killings by the Marcos regime, the Moro people - the Maranao in particular - were subjected to the same situation: Marawi City was bombed incessantly by the military under the pretext of capturing international terrorists.
Our fellow Maranao were subjected to various human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests, forced evacuations, and their houses and properties destroyed and looted.
The Jabidah massacre reminds us of how the Philippine government plotted the taking of Sabah, through a covert military operation -“Oplan Merdeka”- that used the Moro youth as soldiers to stage an attack that would claim Sabah.
Defying the operation, these youth were killed and evidence of the operation were covered up.
The Jabidah massacre signaled the legitimacy of the Moro people to take up arms in defense of their communities and people, and wage the struggle for right to self-determination.
As the government continues to commit wars and a genocidal campaign, the fervor to continue the arm struggle intensifies.
The massacre that happened decades ago paved the way for the rebirth of the Moro people’s armed struggle, and the present situation of the Bangsamoro might again ignite the need to revolt.
We must be reminded of the tragedy and significance of the Jabidah massacre in the history of the Moro struggle and the challenges that lay ahead of us.
Let us continue to fight amid martial law in Mindanao and the government’s bogus war against terrorism.
Justice must mean liberation of the Bangsamoro from discrimination, land-grabbing, militarization, and national oppression. Justice must mean our right to self-determination.

A-Jay Datun,
Chair,
League of Filipino Students,
Mindanao State University (MSU)
Philippines



Thai Lese Majeste law stops
Anti-smog campaign in Chiang Mai
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 April 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 April 2018

Re: "Magazine sued for 'blasphemous' kings painting", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 31 March 2018
Yet again the knee jerk reaction in Thailand to any criticism is to kill the
messenger rather than fix the problem.
Your report says the governor of Chiang Mai wants criminal charges laid against
a local magazine for posting a "blasphemous" painting on Facebook showing
ancient kings, Mengrai, Ramkhamhaeng and Ngam Muang, wearing pollution masks as part of a campaign to protest against hazardous smog.
The English-language magazine Citylife Chiang Mai posted the illustration by a
local teenage artist to promote a rally urging authorities to tackle the toxic
haze that plagues the northern province annually.
The charge of blasphemy, if correctly translated and reported, is ludicrous as
these three long historical kings were mortals, and the use of the Computer
Crime Act to press the charge is risible.
We can only hope this case will be treated with the contempt it deserves and be thrown out.
So to governor Pawin Chamniprasat: Do the job you are paid to do and clean up
the pollution and stop acting like a petulant child.

David Brown
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for boycott of zoos
That hold animals captive for profit and entertainment
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 April 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 30 March 2018

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is concerned about the alleged shooting of a chimp at a zoo in Langkawi, which was highlighted by animal rights activists.
Why was the chimp shot?
Because it made a daring escape from its night den, into its enclosure and into the open?
Adult chimps can be very dangerous and they can be a threat to people in zoos, if they escape.
But zoos must also be prepared with humane options or non-lethal methods of subduing a chimp, such as a tranquilliser dart or net, for cases of escaped wildlife. At the time of this escape, the zoo was closed to the public.
In this case, serious questions need to be raised immediately about how an adult chimp managed to escape, and why the animal was shot dead.
Zoos are required to ensure that enclosures and boundary fencing are designed and maintained to prevent escapes.
In the wild, chimps live in large groups.
It is psychologically damaging for them to be in small barren cages because they lack mental stimulation and the company of their own kind.
Action should be taken against the zoo’s management for any psychological abuse suffered by the chimps.
Often, animals’ normal behaviour is seldom discussed, much less observed, and their natural needs are rarely met.
The Zoo Licencing Act should be amended to force zoo managers to ensure the psychological needs of the animals are met.
The only welfare protection zoo animals have is not to be treated cruelly.
The fact that an animal is not able to behave in a normal way for its species is not considered cruelty.
This means that local zoos can continue to house animals in a space likened to a “menagerie from the last century.”
Wildlife officials need to heed increased public awareness of the suffering of captive animals and listen to wildlife experts who recommend that zoos be phased out. SAM believes that visitor experience at zoos should not be considered more important than animal welfare.
If one is truly concerned about the impact that zoos have on animal welfare, it is best to stay away from zoos and businesses which hold animals captive for profit, and as a source of entertainment.

S.M. Mohd Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Penang,
Malaysia




Philippine divorce bill
Passed with avalanche-like speed
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 April 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 March 2018

As I read the editorial about the divorce bill in Philippine Inquirer, 24 March 2018, I recalled what Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, a Polish poet, rightly said: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
The avalanche-like speed with which the divorce bill went through Congress was timed with the publishing of a survey which claims that more than 50 percent of Filipinos are in favor of divorce.
If the task of lawmaking is now a matter of following the party line and clamor of surveys instead of the pursuit for society’s good, then citizens have reasons to be afraid.
King Henry VIII, having been denied a divorce by the pope, proclaimed himself head of the Church of England, followed by a cruel persecution of those who opposed him.
Thomas More, although he was the king’s chancellor and friend, was no snowflake. Of course, he was beheaded; but his head now wears the halo of a saint.
As to the king, he married five other women after dumping his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Two of them, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, ended up decapitated, accused of infidelity.
History’s snowflakes pass into oblivion, but it is their descendants who will have to extricate themselves from all sorts of social avalanche.
It would be wise not to attempt to bend the arm of the Church to get from her what we want (which we know to be wrong, like divorce) - the purpose of that arm is not to strike but to pardon, and to pull us out of the muck into which we thoughtlessly jump (quite frequently).

Fr. Luis P. Supan
Quezon City,
Philippines




Call for environment crime verdict in Indonesia
To serve as a model for ASEAN and Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 April 2018

The Indonesian anti- corruption court's decision to send the Sulawesi governor
Nur Alam to jail for 12 years and to fine him $US 72,000 for misuse of authority - for bribery in the granting of mining licences that led to environmental destruction -
( The Southeast Asian Times 31/3 ) should serve as a model for other countries in the region that corrupt leaders will be held to account no matter how high your status.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Philippine government, Catholic Church and Business
To reduce poverty
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 March 2018

A report showed that there are now 26 million people who are under the category of “poor” and half of them are living under “extreme poverty.” in "Earning less than $1 a day, that is equivalent to P30 per kilo of rice and one small can of sardines."
In a “talipapa” or wet market in Taguig City, I witnessed an 8-year-old girl haggling with a rice store owner if she could buy one-half-kilo of rice.
I was luckier because my money was good for buying a kilo of rice for my six children. A day after, I saw that same girl riding a jeepney with her tambourine, singing a plaintive song and begging for money.
We are familiar with dramatic scenes of poverty in the Philippines.
Our priests preaching in the holy altar have been pontificating the neglect and deprivation of people who are destitute, lacking the basic necessities of life and how our better-off brethren should share their blessings.
Pope Benedict XVI said: “There are clear signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have huge resources for disposal. Given the dramatic nature of the problem, reflection, and analysis are not enough—action must be taken.”
Poverty causes the breakdown of life’s values.
This is one situation where our Church hierarchy is having difficulty in imparting to indigents the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
How can you explain succinctly our Catholic faith to people who have “empty stomachs”?
Instead of avoiding the issue, this is one of the challenges for our laypeople and Church authorities: How to motivate, reach out, and nurture the virtue of faith. Instead of discouragement, this is the best time to sow good faith because a lot of Catholics are moving out from our camp to join other sects.
A fast-growing sect employed a recruitment method by providing employment, job promotion, and feeding programs to these poverty-stricken Catholics. And instantly, many have forsaken their Catholic faith.
The head of the family is under pressure for providing the needs of his family under a Catholic’s faith versus a new faith.
A solution to this economic crisis, according to Pope Benedict XVI, is to strengthen the family, the fabric of our society.
The government, Catholic Church, and business sector should work together to reduce the poverty gap in the Philippines.

Isidro C. Valencia,
Manila,
Philippines




Slower economic growth and less investment
As Malaysian talent moves to Singapore and Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 28 March 2018

The National Transformation Programme (NTP) is successful but will this success be sustained?
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak presented the NTP Annual Report 2017 with much justified fanfare last week.
He was also interviewed by the NTP adviser Datuk Seri Idris Jala on a wide range of socio-economic issues raised in a survey of thoughtful Malaysians.
The PM said that “Malaysia is now at the cusp of rapid change” and stressed that “the Government is determined to drive the country’s development to greater heights in the future.”
He also “urged Malaysians to place their confidence in the efforts undertaken.”
All this is well and good but there are many Malaysians who believe that while we can celebrate our NTP successes now, future progress can be questioned unless we adopt new and fundamental development strategies.
Even the past successes can be qualified as they have shown some weaknesses that are not highlighted in the NTP Report.
In fact, the report should have shown more balance and indicated plans on how to overcome our current structural weaknesses to ensure sustainable success as well. Let’s examine how the NTP Report could have been better balanced.
Firstly, while it is true that the economic growth rates, especially the 5.9 percent expansion last year, have shown much success, what assurance is there that we will be equally or more successful in achieving high rates of growth in future?
What new strategies do we envisage to attain faster and sustained economic expansion?
Even the wide public consultations on TN50 do not indicate the vital need for major changes in our socio-economic sector.
It seems to be more of the same and this is unwise for future sustainability.
How can we then assume that we are “no longer stuck in the middle income trap” given our reluctance to introduce more essential competitive policies to take on our economic rivals in Asean and all over the world?
The NTP has to undergo more structural changes in order to sustain its laudable successes!
Secondly, higher growth rates have not sufficiently raised the standard of living and quality of life of Malaysians in the bottom and middle income groups.
In fact, the rakyat have been suffering from low salaries and steadily rising prices of goods and services.
The Happiness Index for Malaysia does not show that our people are really happy. Will the Government use this UN-sponsored Happiness Index more extensively in our annual budgets and the five-year economic plans to ensure that high-growth rates bring greater benefits to the middle and bottom income groups?
What is the use of high-growth rates when the rich gain more than the poor? Instead of being confident in our economic growth, the rakyat could become more depressed and even feel relatively neglected by public policies!
Thirdly, unemployment should decline with higher economic growth.
But among youths, especially fresh graduates, unemployment is rising.
There must be many things wrong in our economic planning and implementation for this sorry state of affairs.
Our education system at school and tertiary levels should take some criticism for this. Is there an avoidable mismatch in our labour market?
Are our new graduates weak in critical thinking, subject content and communication in English?
Are we churning out graduates who meet the rapidly changing demands of the digital economy?
If this is the case, can the unemployed feel confident of benefiting from the projected “greater heights” in the future?
We have to be careful to avoid social unrest emerging from this dissatisfied sector of our society.
Fourthly, our national institutions are vital for our survival and further success.
The sustainable success or failure of our institutions was unfortunately not emphasised in the NTP Report.
Economic growth, better income distribution, higher quality of life and indeed greater happiness cannot be built up and adequately sustained without having stronger national institutions.
Thus, more strenuous efforts have to be made by the Government to strengthen our national institutions as a high priority.
The parliamentary system, judiciary, Election Commission, Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commis­sion and the entire civil service, among others, must step up the fight against money politics.
This is essential to strengthen and sustain national unity, peace and security and racial and religious harmony.
The NTP Report should focus on the soft side of development as well to achieve sustained success.
Fifthly, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Goals, including our environmental protection, could have been given more prominence.
Again, what use is our emphasis on economic growth if we inadvertently and carelessly destroy our earth?
We hope future NTP reports will stress not only growth and infrastructure projects but also the means of providing basic needs and human rights and attaining the UN Sustainable Goals to directly benefit all Malaysians.
We need a more bottoms-up, less top-down approach in our socio, economic and even political development.
Malaysian talent and skilled workers who are now in very short supply will then be encouraged to stay at home and contribute to a more progressive nation.
If our talents continue to move to Singapore, Australia and elsewhere, there will be slower economic growth and even less investment.
The NTP report is most welcome because it lists down many successes.
But unless more structural and long-term reforms are introduced soon after GE14, these successes will not be sustainable.
We cannot afford to follow past policies that served us well before, particularly in the future.
We have to transform more radically and change direction to truly break out of the middle income trap.
If we don’t do so soon, our economy will just chug along like an old and tired locomotive!
In fact, as a nation, our prospects for further progress and national wellbeing may decline.
These structural reforms must be introduced by the NTP as soon as possible to meet our national challenges and aspirations for TN2050!
For this reason, we must all vote wisely.
God bless Malaysia’s future!

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




Malaysia is rightly concerned about
Security personnel in schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 26 March 2018

Writer James Campbell and those whose work he quoted in his opinion piece in the New Straits Times, “Consequence of increased security in schools”, March 23, rightly observe that the more non-white students a school has, the more likely it is to have security on campus and to have students arrested.
But, this is no doubt because more crime, especially violent crime, is committed in these schools by non-white students from impoverished backgrounds with multiple problems like absent fathers and criminal parents or siblings.
The problem among ethnic minorities is not unique to America.
Look at the knife crime statistics among black teenagers in London.
Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect their pupils from crime, and security personnel are a regrettable, but, reasonable solution.
What matters is how they are used and how they are presented to students and parents.
Firstly, I feel they should not be seen as the bogeymen to be avoided.
They should be integrated into the school community so that children feel free to engage with them at any time, as with a neighbour or neighbourhood police officer.
Secondly, it should be made clear to students and parents on joining the school community that crime will not be tolerated but will be dealt with.
And herein can lie a problem.
In my home city, Melbourne, Australia, we have, for some time now, had a problem with theft and violent crime committed by immigrant youth to whom the courts give a verbal slap on the wrist and release.
When they re-offend, the process is repeated many times over in some cases.
So, the judiciary needs to be brought on board so that there is consistency in sentencing, insofar as it can be achieved without being unfair.
Thirdly, programmes where youth of concern are taken to prisons so they can see what awaits them have had a measure of success.
Campbell is right to be concerned about security personnel in schools, but the solution is not to wish them away, thereby leaving students at more risk, but to bring them into a planned and integrated programme for the benefit of the school community.

Anthony J. Whitmarsh ,
Victoria,
Australia

 



Catholic Church preoccupied with self preservation
No time to prepare couples for marriage
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 March 2018

In his column on “Irregular Families?”, 23 March 2018, Michael Tan revealed some very significant government statistics on Filipino marriages i.e., declining number of marriages in the last decade, a third of the female population that were never married, a significant percentage of women in live-in relationships.
They constitute a disconcerting set of factual realities that can explain the acceptance by the majority of our predominantly Catholic nation of the divorce bill and should jolt the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy from its complacency and ivory-tower dogmatism.
If the state of many marriages in the country is so distant from the permanent, stable, and sacred state that is envisioned for couples bound together by the sacrament of matrimony, something must be wrong with the way Catholics are being formed and guided by the Church.
This explains why Catholics can have a casual and dispassionate attitude toward divorce and the dissolution of marriage bonds.
As a Filipino Catholic, I think that our institutional Church has been generally remiss in guiding its members, particularly those facing distressed marriages, and providing them pastoral care and doctrinal formation.
It has been too preoccupied with self-preservation and maintaining physical and bureaucratic structures to even have time to prepare couples for marriage and resolving marital difficulties.
More fundamentally, it has for centuries routinely shepherded a community of believers that has not gone past ritualistic practices and self-oriented spirituality owing to its own ministers’ neglect of the spiritual formation needs of the faithful.
The result has been a church of unthinking, passive and doctrinally and spiritually undernourished members, who believe that being a Catholic in good standing merely entails attending church services on Sundays and major liturgical feasts (Lent, Advent, feast of patron saints) and for more enthusiastic members becoming church servers of the parish priests (lay ministers, lectors, etc.).
I am saddened as a Catholic by these developments and close to losing hope in ever seeing the Church recover from its sick and lethargic condition.
No wonder many erstwhile Catholics (here and elsewhere) have either stopped practicing their religion finding it irrelevant in their personal lives, joined other non-Catholic Christian religious sects which are able to offer greater fellowship and spiritual dynamism, or simply became an agnostic or atheist.
Sadly, the Church hierarchy and ordained ministers have much to do with these tragic outcomes because they have not seen and addressed the growing uneasiness and deterioration in the faith of their flock that they are supposed to shepherd.
They seemed content and even pleased with the status quo for as long as church coffers are overflowing, Mass attendance is high, church buildings are constantly being added or improved, and lay leaders are kept at bay and submissive in parish pastoral councils.
Despite being 80-percent Catholic (at least nominally), the Philippines remains to be immersed in widespread poverty and endemic corruption, and the majority are not morally disturbed by, or at least tolerant of extrajudicial killings, and now, are even in favor of having divorce in the country. This should be a huge wake-up call for the institutional Church!

Donato P. Soliven,
Antipolo City,
Philipinnes

 


Call for the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the
Human Rights of Older Persons as model for Asia-Pacfic
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 15 March 2018

Re: "Showing our age" in Asia Focus, March 12.
If, indeed, "ageing is a privilege" or even a "most glorious opportunity",
because not everybody gets to age, is it possible to extend the privilege of
longevity in the future?
While a universally acceptable answer is still on the waiting list, Asian
countries could take useful inspiration from the practice of Latin America in
this field.
The adoption of the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons (2015) might be used as an encouraging model for negotiating a similar Asian-Pacific legal instrument on the matter.
The Inter-American Convention (41 articles), in force from January 11, 2017,
defines ageing as a gradual process that develops over the course of life and
entails biological, physiological, psychosocial, and functional changes with
varying consequences, which are associated with permanent and dynamic
interactions between the individuals and their environment.
The lifetime knowledge of senior citizens, their talents and competence are an added value for society and should be seriously taken into account and strictly protected by law.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine president Duterte
Wants to pull out of International Criminal Court
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 25 March 2018
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 March 2018

As a history teacher, I must object to President Duterte’s order to quit the International Criminal Court (ICC)
With it, we lose our dignity as a nation.
The ICC is part of the United Nations, and the Philippines is part of the United Nations. Back in 1945 when the UN was founded, there were only three other Asian nations that participated.
Our officials signed the original charter, hoping that we would become an upstanding member of this important organization.
The UN and the Philippines both grew up together.
Since 1945, our soldiers have been actively involved in peacekeeping missions. Our dues have helped other nations, and during catastrophes, the UN has helped us.
We have gotten advice from Unicef on Filipino child health and welfare.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea backed us up in the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.
Our government and nongovernment officials have become leaders in the organization.
Carlos P. Romulo was elected president of the UN.
We have been president of the Security Council seven times.
The UN and its judicial wing, the ICC, put pressure on nations to uphold human rights.
We agreed to these human rights.
We agreed to uphold the goals of this body.
Yet now, President Duterte wants to pull out of the ICC, and put our good reputation in the trash bin.
If he does not have anything to hide, why is he afraid?
Why must we tear up our agreement with the rest of the world?
Obligations are obligations and should not be thrown away, just because of the bad behavior of one president.

Jonatgan C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines




Friends of the Earth Malaysia call on the government
To protect critical water resources
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 March 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday, 22 Mar 2018 Thursday 22 March 2018

This year’s theme for World Water Day, “Nature for Water”, explores nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
The central message is that nature-based solutions such as planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains and restoring wetlands are sustainable and cost-effective ways to help rebalance the water cycle, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods.
The Eleventh Malaysia Plan recognises forests as the nation’s natural capital due to the ecosystem services they provide.
This can be exemplified by the importance of the forest reserves in Ulu Muda, Kedah which are vital sources of water for Kedah, Penang and Perlis, supplying 96 prcent, 80 percent and 70 percent of the daily water needs in the respective states.
In conjunction with World Water Day, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) is calling on the Malaysian Government to protect critical water resources in this country to ensure water security.
This requires classification of permanent reserved forests for protection purposes, proper management of wetlands and intensifying efforts to harvest rainwater.
A permanent reserved forest (PRF), unless classified under Section 10, subsection (1) of the Forestry Act 1984, is deemed to have been classified under Section 10 (1) paragraph (a) as timber production forest under sustained yield.
Failure to classify the PRF means that state governments can issue permits to take forest produce from the PRF, hence threatening its ecosystem.
The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve situation, where logging and mining activities have been approved, is reflective of the need for a uniform national policy to protect forests in Malaysia as national water catchment areas.
Rivers are the main source of raw water in this country. In Peninsular Malaysia, the major rivers flow from the Main Range, which forms the backbone of the peninsula. The major rivers that flow towards the Straits of Malacca include Sungai Muda, Sungai Perak, Sungai Bernam and Sungai Linggi. Sungai Pahang, Sungai Rompin and Sungai Kelantan flow towards the South China Sea. The sources of all these rivers are inevitably enveloped in tropical rainforests that catch water for the rivers.
Under the Federal Constitution, the governance and protection of the rivers as raw water resources come under the jurisdiction of state governments. Classification of forests as soil protection forest, flood control forest, and water catchment forest is crucial to protect water resources.
However, when it comes to the governance and protection of forests that catch water for the rivers, very few states have passed state enactments. In Penang, a total of 62.9km2 of forests have now been gazetted and protected as water catchment areas. Other states appear to be reluctant to pass similar laws, possibly due to potential losses in revenue from premiums and royalties from logs and other forest products.
The sixth Sustainable Development Goal commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution. Hence, Malaysia’s rainforests must be protected as national raw water catchment areas to ensure sustainable water supply for the people. We strongly urge that the power of protecting critical water catchment areas be brought under Federal legislative powers. This is because if the rainforests are destroyed, the rivers will eventually run dry, causing a national water supply crisis that would affect millions of people and disrupt economic activities.
Rain water, an accessible and sustainable water resource, is an important component in attaining water security. In this context, protecting the forests, rivers and wetlands which are natural water catchments should be regarded as a matter of national interest.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
President,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Penang,
Malaysia

 


Chinese community in Malaysia has realised
That hoping for fairness will get them nowhere
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 March 2018
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 23 March 2018

In his recent editorial about Chinese votes in Barisan Nasional’s equation, A Jalil Hamid, in my opinion, penned an interesting point: “The reality is that the Chinese could probably have made up their mind long ago.”
This is worthy of deeper appreciation, taking into account how the Chinese community reacted to certain issues that cropped up recently.
Several political analysts echoed similar observation about the relative calmness among Chinese voters this time around compared with the previous two general elections, the last one being emphatically labelled as “the Chinese tsunami” that reduced MCA and Gerakan representation in BN to the lowest in BN history, with the cheeky catchphrase “apa lagi Cina mahu?” coming along later.
The observation about calmness, however, may not be credible when measuring the reaction of the Chinese community when issues close to their heart are being scrutinised.
A case in point, the sudden and unsubstantiated accusation against billionaire Robert Kuok by a blogger.
The Chinese community viewed the attack as “blasphemy”, given Kuok’s stature in the global Chinese community.
The testimony about Kuok’s contribution and the legacy that he built stamped the journey of an ordinary man who worked his way to the pinnacle of success.
It accorded Kuok the status of a living legend.
Credit to the prime minister for putting an end to an issue that many believed should not have started in the first place.
Nonetheless, those who have observed the development of the issue would find it difficult to justify that the issue was to BN’s benefit, especially from Chinese voters’ perspective.
Moreover, the reaction from the Chinese community also serves as a chilling reminder that while it is true to suggest that the Chinese community seems calmer and more sensible, but when the wrong button is pushed, it will unleash a tidal wave that will slam through any structure that stands in its way.
That issue taught all parties a lesson, but it also exposed what matters the most to the Chinese community - the aspiration for fairness.
This aspiration may sound general, but, throughout many generations of struggles and sacrifices, the Chinese community has realised that hoping for fairness would get them nowhere.
To realise that aspiration, they would have to earn it, which motivated many into making political choices that they believe were correct and relevant to the aspiration, even if it meant siding with an unproven political alliance over an established one.
Fairness also means not living in denial and not practise double standard.
These are the 101 of Malaysian Chinese political behaviours worthy of attention if one is to make further assessment of the Chinese sentiment.
It is not without reason why some opposition leaders thrive in political debates with emotional rhetoric because they know which issue would rally the Chinese sentiment the most.
Looking beyond the Chinese vote bank, many studies have been conducted about Chinese voting trends, mixing it with the political inclination of other communities.
Research houses and think tanks have also revealed their numbers on what they believe is the baseline figures of Chinese support for BN after dissecting the below 15 per cent registered in the last election, which contributed to the triumph of the opposition in Penang and Selangor.
The next general election promises a different battle ground.
The Penang government is no longer scandal-free as it once proclaimed; Selangor has its own issues to deal with, including the water crisis; the dissolution of Pakatan Rakyat after bitter squabble with Pas; DAP forging another political marriage with a leader it once chastised for decades; the peculiar emergence of spoil-vote movement; and, the birth of many small political parties that called themselves the third force.
Due to the conflicting chemistry in the opposition pack, some analysts are confident that the instability of the pack would irk the Chinese community, hence, returning 10 to 15 per cent of Chinese votes back to BN.
This is good enough to deliver additional parliamentary seats to MCA and Gerakan.
DAP did not take that equation as a reliable indicator, judging from its decision to shift party big names to contest in Johor and taking the fight for Chinese political hegemony to top MCA leaders’ stomping ground.
Some say this daring strategy was fuelled by the DAP leadership’s confidence that the opposition alliance, with Bersatu in the mix, would deliver enough Malay votes to make up for a loss of Chinese support.
That sense of supreme confidence by DAP about a Malay vote swing is the reason why DAP leaders are singing the praises of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 92.
They hope to create a Malay tsunami led by the former prime minister to offset a loss of Chinese votes.
And, that is why Lim Kit Siang, the “Mursyidul Am” of DAP, who spent a few decades condemning Dr Mahathir, is embracing him in what many bill as Lim’s final attempt to dethrone BN.

Lim Chee Wei,
Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Philippine President Duterte accused of eliminating competition
To facilitate Chinese business and capital investment
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 March 2018

We in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment decry the recent
statements of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to allow Macau gambling company Galaxy Entertainment Group to push through with the
construction of a casino, one of two pending, in Boracay.
It smacks of hypocrisy, if not duplicity, to sensationalize the crackdown on tourism
establishments aggravating ecological carrying capacities on one hand, then
allow large-scale entertainment facilities on the other.
Foreign big businesses trump environmental and people’s interests once again
despite the bombastic pronouncement of President Duterte to blow up erring
establishments.
This is hypocritical especially in the context of apparently clearing the beaches only to eliminate competition for incoming Chinese business and capital investments whose entry into this country the government has been facilitating.
Local government data show there is an average of 781 visitors per day over the
past six years.
A 1998 study by tourism scholar William Trousdale already indicates that even at that level of visitors’ number in those years, the island has already been loaded with garbage pollution, e-coli contamination, and water depletion.
Almost 10 years ago, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources called for a “tourism limit.”
These two megacasinos are clearly two steps backward from the ongoing tourism
crackdown.
Just imagine what would happen to the island if the 781 average number of visitors per day is increased by another 4,224 visitors per day, twice the average number of visitors an individual casino in Macau receives in a day.
The average rate of 345 visitors per day has already been shown to be
detrimental, what more with the influx of tourist-gamblers should this push
through?
The Duterte administration, especially its environment and tourism agencies,
should go beyond its “papogi” crackdown and ensure that the development of
tourism hubs especially in critical ecosystems should be sensitive to local
ecological boundaries, cultural development, and community development.
We reiterate our call on the Duterte administration to strictly enforce a
moratorium on new tourism construction projects and issuance of business
permits, including the planned casinos.

Leon Dulce,
National coordinator,
Kalikasan Peoples's Network for the Environment,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Infighting among justices of the Supreme Court
Makes you wonder if the Philippines has gone to the dogs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 13 March 2018

John Nery’s March 13 column, “Enrile is proof of politicized Court,” seemed to speak the truth about how easy it is to make “fools” of supposedly brilliant minds dispensing justice and passing final judgment upon the lives and fortunes of the people of this benighted nation - if “considerations” outside the merits of the case come into play, as they often do where VIPs are involved.
Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile got the full benefit of a friendly majority in the Supreme Court who granted him bail in a nonbailable plunder case “on grounds that Enrile did not even raise!”
For so-called “humanitarian” reasons, those justices handed his freedom over to him on a silver platter.
Nery omitted to mention the case of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo whom the majority of the Supreme Court justices too eagerly did the huge favor of acquitting before trial could be terminated by a lower court.
What do Enrile’s and Arroyo’s cases have in common?
Special consideration was apparently given to their political and social status and, of course, their “pitifully poor state of health.”
Enrile was portrayed to be almost dying and, if his detention continued any longer, to surely die!
Arroyo was portrayed as about to physically and mentally fall apart but for the ubiquitous neck brace she was wearing during photo opportunities.
And as soon as the Supreme Court set them free, Enrile became the picture of spectacular health.
He even went campaigning for his favorite candidates during the 2016 elections. On the other hand, Arroyo immediately shed off her neck brace and was herself the picture of an old lady still in the pink of health.
Special treatment from the Supreme Court, not medical attention from doctors, was all they really needed to bring them back to “normal.”
Did the Supreme Court justices whose hearts supposedly bled for them realize they’ve been had?
It would be very naive of everyone to think that those justices were fooled at all. To paraphrase Nery: Supreme Court justices have no problem bending over “backwards and sideways and upside down”- in deliberately mocking all laws of the land where favored parties are concerned.
What kind of rotten justice regime is this?
The present infighting among the justices of the Supreme Court themselves, and the battle lines drawn between “red” and “purple” among lower court justices and judges and instigated by Court Administrator Midas Marquez himself who is shamelessly using the influence of his office, make the people wonder if this country has already gone to the dogs!

Romano M Montenegro
Manila,
Philippines

 


Under the equal protection clause of the Phillipine Constitution
There is space for LGBT couples
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 20 March 2018

Oscar Franklin Tan frequently likes to skewer - unsuccessfully - in his columns
the fact that I challenged alone, without a partner, the unconstitutionality of
the Family Code’s exclusion of same-sex couples from the definition of marriage.
He tries to poke fun at the supposed basic violation of legal procedure in
challenging a law.
He is entitled to his armchair criticism but the critic must also be critiqued lest the criticism misleads the public.
We must ask the hard questions.
Has he attended the latest Mandatory Continueing Legal Education (MCLE)
on political law discussing the trends about legal procedure in constitutional law? Does he know about the newest doctrines on the expanded power of judicial review?
Has he read the latest jurisprudence where petitioners successfully challenged laws such as the Reproductive Health Law and Cybercrime Prevention Act, even if the petitioners were not personally and directly injured?
Most worrisome, has he read the petition in full?
The petition has been uploaded by different news sites but it doesn’t seem he has read the procedural parts arguing that the Supreme Court should adopt Justice Arturo Brion’s “fresh approach” in his separate opinion in the case of Araullo v. Aquino.
It’s understandable that he calls “vigilante lawyering” what is legitimately accepted in other liberal countries as public interest litigation.
He has never been a pro bono advocate in court for issues involving public interest and has never appeared before the Supreme Court for oral arguments to the best of my knowledge.
The role of advocacy is to push the boundaries of what is possible within a
given framework.
Advocates do not bend or break the law.
Advocates find spaces of inclusion.
And under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, there is a space for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) couples.
Oscar Tan himself argued as much in his past column on October 22, 2014.
Of course I am not the best petitioner.
The best petitioners are the gay and lesbian couples.
But no one dared to file a case until after I filed mine.
Tan seems to not have read or learned about the latest news.
A petition-in-intervention was filed (almost a year after my petition) by gay and
lesbian couples - Rev. Crescencio Agbayani and Marlon Felipe, and Maria Arlyn
Ibanez and her partner.
And they have trusted me to represent them as well.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court will hear the case through oral arguments on June
19.
If Tan thinks many lawyers are engaging in “vigilante lawyering,” he should show
them what the proper way of lawyering is by appearing in oral arguments before
the Supreme Court.
Otherwise, his columns will forever remain as extrajudicial opinions.

Jesus Nicardo Falcis111,
Same-sex marriage petitioner,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Filipinos to speak up
On the killings
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 March 2018
First published in The Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 March 2018

Alarmingly, yet another minor was killed recently.
As was expected, a cop is the alleged culprit.
I could not help but wonder what has become of this country and of our government.
Indeed, we have been baffled since July 2016, but from my point of view, the situation is becoming increasingly worse that even a boy in his teens could fall as victim.
What if one of these days the victims’ age would get even younger?
Do we have to wait for that horrifying circumstance to happen?
I am not inciting, but rather imploring citizens to speak up, because it seems that we are again being cloaked by the evils of an autocratic leadership.
Not since the regime of Marcos have we witnessed how uniformed men could be as bloodthirsty and ruthless, and how the state is inclined to blatantly commit atrocities against its own citizens.
The statistics alone corroborates our continued degeneration.
Should we expect the worst in a few years or so?
Is it plausible, should these killings continue, that we would soon be regarded by the international community as the summary execution capital of the world?
It couldn’t be denied that impulsive pronouncements were likely behind this mess that has already cost the lives of thousands.
Had the words been weighed carefully or had we witnessed statesmanship, the war that was “meant for the future of the children” wouldn’t have resulted in unwanted casualties.
Yes, tolerance of the disparities of our beliefs is everyone’s responsibility in a democracy.
But isn’t the danger of being misguided also a price one has to pay for democracy? If those millions of followers of Mocha Uson are all existing individuals, I really feel sorry for them.

Ian Carlo Aragon,
Manila,
Philipines

 


Cambodia is not a federal state of Australia
And not a colony of Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 12 February 2018

Dear sir,
The Phnom Penh Post reported in an article on 07 February 2018 mentioning about the motion raised by Australian lawmaker Mark Butler, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, to press the Australian government to take action to defend Cambodia’s “fledgling democracy”.
“Cambodia has reached a point of deep political crisis”, “I call on this Parliament to acknowledge that Australia has an important role to play in the safeguarding and furthering of Cambodian democracy”.
His speech was commended by Mu Sochua, whose delegation will visit Australia for the full month of March, and will meet with Butler and other members of Parliament personally, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
He raised this motion in an almost empty chamber with the presence of eight people including himself.
He did make some other speeches regarding Kem Sokha’s arrest.
In his previous speech on 23 October 2017, he said: “In September I spoke in this chamber on the arrest of Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodian opposition party, the CNRP, on charges related to a speech he gave here in Australia…Last month I met with the former opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, and several leaders of the local Cambodian-Australian community. There are now very serious doubts about any prospect of free and fair elections being held when they’re due, in mid-2018. This silencing of the voice of the people is of deep concern to the Labor Party.”
His motion raised the question who is Mark Butler?
What is his connection with Cambodia?
Why all of a sudden has he made headlines about Cambodia?
He is definitely not John McCain, whose father had a bloody connection with the US invasion of Cambodia, and McCain himself had a bloody hand owing to his cooperation with Islamic terrorist groups within the framework of the “Arab Spring” in Libya and Syria and with extreme-right groups during the “Colour Revolutions” in Eastern Europe, according to Khmer expert Raoul Marc Jennar. McCain is still haunting Cambodia as if Libya and Syria’s blood is not enough for his thirst for global regime changes.
From his background, he does a have superficial connection with Cambodia that can be seen through an international network of opposition parties.
One would wonder whether he had ever been to Cambodia.
When the Southeast Asian region is now more concerned about humanitarian crisis such as the Rohingya issue, Mark Butler has not made any headlines raising concern about this issue.
This questions his ability to get himself updated about the current regional trends, not to mention the ability to grasp the complexities of Cambodian politics. Such background does not give him the slightest credibility to comment and make judgments on Cambodia’s democracy.
His own party in fact is facing a “democratic crisis”.
He said in one of his January speeches that Labor “remains a party that gives ordinary members fewer rights than any other Labor or social democratic party I can think of”.
Troy Bramson wrote in an article of The Australian on January 30, 2018, that “When Mark Butler was elected Labor’s national president in 2015, it was on a platform to bring sweeping changes to Labor’s structure, philosophy and culture…Almost three years on, Butler’s presidency has been one of unmitigated failure. He has not achieved anything that he spent years pushing for – greater internal accountability, transparency and democracy. And he did not even try. He has been a president missing in action. He has not led any debate, formally proposed any reforms or used his authority in any noticeable way…Butler has been a useless national president. If there is a backroom buffoon, it is Butler.”
For Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, Mark Butler is a hypocrite for his criticism on the government’s energy policy.
In February 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled South Australia a “socialist paradise” that needs home generators to keep the lights on and called the state’s approach to renewable energy “absurd” and “hypocritical”.
“Does the honourable member (Mr Butler, Labor MP for Port Adelaide) have a backup generator at home?
Does he really do that? I think he probably does.
“I think he has got it hidden under a tarp in the garage because he knows that in that socialist paradise, you can’t keep the lights on.
“The minister suggests maybe he has a bicycle. Maybe he has become a political version of a squirrel, running around keeping the lights on in his place there in South Australia.”

After all, Cambodia is not a federal state of Australia and definitely not Australia’s colony.
By demanding Cambodia reverse our judicial decisions, he is rudely provoking Cambodia’s judicial sovereignty.
This is driven by the “colonial mentality” that was commonly seen in imperialist powers, which such countries should be ashamed of themselves.
Some countries obstinately view Cambodia’s legal measures as inferior to theirs and Cambodia’s refusal to act on their demands as not being on legal differences but as political differences, with their fixed mind that they are representing the world’s only source of political correctness.
Defining Cambodia’s domestic legal measures as political persecution and arbitrarily demanding Cambodia to act according to their will with a clear contempt toward Cambodian law, if it is not a colony then what is?
MP Mark Butler should clear the “democracy” mess in his own party first, address challenges in his state and Australia, and try to learn more about Cambodia probably from former Australian peacekeepers who might have a better ability to compare Cambodia in the 1990s and the current Cambodia.
Finally, he should awake from his colonial mindset for such a mindset is no longer a noble enterprise of civilisation as conceptualised and justified in the “The White Man’s Burden” by Rudyard Kipling.
Cambodia is not Australia’s backyard and Cambodians are not Australian aborigines.

Chan Kunthiny,
Political analyst,,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 



Philippine withdrawal from International Criminal Court
Will plunge the Philippines deeper into the quagmire of impunity
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 March 2018

President Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court gives the false impression that government agents, especially our police force, can continue to perpetuate a culture of impunity and that they can evade international accountability for crimes against humanity.
CenterLaw shares our people’s fear that this attempt to withdraw from the ICC will plunge the country deeper into the quagmire of impunity - one that has already claimed thousands of lives.
Contrary to the President’s claim, the Rome Statute became effectual as domestic law when the Senate gave its concurrence to the Rome Statute in 2011.
Said concurrence by the Senate is a necessity provided for under Article VII Section 21 of the Philippine Constitution.
This is a point well established in our constitutional jurisprudence as the “doctrine of transformation.”
There is no further requirement of publication in any newspaper of general circulation to make the treaty binding upon the Philippines, as the President contends. In fact, the Philippines now has an International Humanitarian Law Act, Republic Act No. 9851, which allows our courts to try cases cognizable by the ICC under the principle of complementarity.
The President’s claim that we embraced membership in the ICC on false representations of complementarity by its international proponents is erroneous. The country in fact had a leading participation in the establishment of the ICC, as the Philippines actively participated in the drafting of the Rome Statute.
The Philippine delegation brought with them to the Rome Conferences in 1998 our rich jurisprudential heritage in international criminal law, borne of our country’s tragic experience in World War II, and embodied in the landmark war crimes cases of top generals of the Japanese Imperial Army - Tomoyuki Yamashita and Shigenori Kuroda.
The ICC’s initiation of preliminary examination on his drug war does not deny him his right to due process and his right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Even if the process progresses to the investigation proper, he will be accorded his right to contest the charges, or even disclaim the court’s jurisdiction to try him.
The principle of complementarity triggers the ICC’s jurisdiction over a situation in a state party if that state party is unable or unwilling to prosecute international crimes happening within its territory that are cognizable by the ICC.
The attempt to withdraw from the ICC will not save anyone responsible for crimes against humanity from the ICC’s jurisdiction. The rules of the ICC are clear that it has jurisdiction over crimes committed in a state’s territory while the latter was a party to the Rome Statute.

Center for International Law (CenterLaw),
Makati City
Philippines




Thailand imports fish products from Japan's
Nuclear meldown Fukushima coast
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 March 2018

Your March 9 editorial, "Fretting over fishy business", justly criticises the
Thai government's impetuous commitment to being the first overseas importer of
fish products from Japan's Fukushima coastline, which was devastated by a
nuclear meltdown in 2011.
To make a melancholy addition, Thai consumers have long been exposed to
pathogenic and toxic microorganisms that cause food-borne diseases.
I allude to filth and poor hygiene practices in dirty premises where food is prepared daily, which might sadly include most of the restaurants and street stalls throughout
the country.
Rodent and cockroach infestations are prevalent, sparing no luxurious department stores or buildings, an alarming fact customarily brought under general notice but tolerated perhaps by the majority of Thai people.
Negligence in this matter is as unwise as it is malicious.
The infection of food is an avoidable evil.
The government can no longer afford to be complacent about food safety and sanitary regulations.
Food businesses are obligated by their professional conscience, too, to ensure that high standards of cleanliness are maintained.
Those who fail safety inspections and endanger consumer health must receive harsh punishment.

Kusala Dhamma,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for change to ruling that foreign workers
Can only work as cooks in Malaysian restuarants
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 March 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 15 March 2018

The Immigration Department’s ruling that “Foreigners can only be hired as cooks” in The Star, March 13 and not as front liners such as waiters and cashiers need to be addressed urgently by the Government.
This is especially in view of the fact that some 2,000 Chinese coffee shops and 400 Indian-Muslim and banana leaf restaurants ceased operation last year, “Eateries seek urgent govt help with labour problems” in The Star, March 12.
Eating out is a great Malaysian tradition which also provides a relatively affordable outing for time-restricted working families.
These budget food outlets are good, too, for our tourism business.
It is common knowledge that frontline jobs in these food outlets are not popular with local workers.
Thus, it is rather fortunate that we have a willing and ready foreign workforce who are happy to do these jobs that take up many hours of the day.
Local workers demand much higher pay and better working conditions than can be afforded by the budget of Chinese and Indian coffeeshop-style outlets.
It is only a practical and common sense option to allow these food outlets to employ foreign workers for any role they are deemed suitable, be it waiters, cashiers, cleaners or cooks.
The Government has always prided itself on looking after the interests of the ordinary rakyat.
Therefore, please review and change the Immigration Department’s ruling to make life easier for these food outlet operators and, by extension, for the rakyat.

Sze loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Malaysia



Ask not what Papua New Guinea can do for you
Ask what you can do for Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 March 2018
First published in the National, Tuesday 13 March 2018

If you are someone who thinks that success will come and find you at your doorstep, then you are wrong.
Wake up Papua New Guineans, hard work is what you need in order to succeed. Show me someone who does not work hard and I’ll show you a lazy person who begs all his life.
We can never change this country if we are expecting everything to be given to us.
John F Kennedy, the late American president, said it well. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
We were all born with a purpose.
There is something that you can do that others cannot do.
No matter where you are, no matter how many people look down on you, you are an important to humanity.
See it from this perspective: If all we have in this country are doctors and engineers, who will teach our children?
Who will produce our food in the garden?
Who will drive us around?
And most importantly, who will be our patients.
So now I believe you can see the importance of every human being on this planet.
Being a film director does not make me better or worse than a bus driver.
Being a journalist does not make me better than the mother who is selling food in the market.
We all need each other to make life possible.
You should find the courage wherever you are to find the best in yourself and give it all out to the world.
Be the best you can be.
Never rest for something low.
If you are a security guard, be the best security guard this country has ever had.
If you are a cashier, be the best cashier this country has ever had.
Take pride in whatever you do even if others don’t see it.
Know this for sure: Whatever you are doing is helping humanity .
Don’t live to die my friend but die to live.

Glen Burua,
Divine Word University,
Madang,


Gun deaths in Thailand
More than double of that in America
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 13 March 2018

It is incredibly frustrating to read on a continual basis the product of
media-programmed minds regurgitating the latest liberal agenda in the Bangkok
Post. Thai and foreign contributors alike are now parroting the need for gun
control in the United States, cued by media hyper-attention to the latest school
shooting in Florida.
The fact is the rate of gun deaths in Thailand is more than twice that of
America, yet Americans own more than six times as many guns per capita as Thais!
There is no second amendment in Thailand, carry permits are uncommon, and
hunting is a minor occupation, so gun control is presumably in effect in this
country. So how does one explain the fact that Thais kill more than twice as
many of their fellow citizens with guns as Americans, (who have by far the
highest rate of gun ownership in the world)? Furthermore, the overall murder
rate in both countries is quite similar and approximates the global average.
Gun control is not the antidote to overwhelming anger. A solution which resorts
to happiness as an alternative to anger may have a better chance of success.

Michael Setter,
Chon Buri,
Thailand



Philippine president accused of blatant distrespect
For the Magna Carta of Women and the 1987 Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 11 March 2018

Change is not coming when even the frontrunners of supposed change become the bearers of discrimination against women. The President’s series of anti-women remarks and rape jokes are a blatant disrespect to the Magna Carta of Women and the 1987 Constitution.
Female critics are unceasing subjects of sexist slurs in online spaces. These remarks are a reflection of a sexist and misogynist culture that targets and punishes women for being women, and contribute to the invisibility and normalization of sexual violence against women and girls. This makes access to justice for women and girls challenging and elusive especially when the judicial institutions that are supposed to ensure legal remedies are also being threatened.
We cannot and never will be silenced. We must not fear these attacks against women and girls by any individual or institution.
We continue to resist the continuing disrespect to women and girls’ rights, dignity and freedom.
We call on all women, allied individuals, organizations, and social movements to continue to challenge and expose institutions and agencies that reproduce a sexist and biased culture against women and girls.
We are in solidarity with those who continue to fight for human rights and justice, with those who detest this administration’s war on drugs, with those who oppose the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, with those who continue to fight for their ancestral lands, with those who are relentless in fighting for women’s human rights.
As long as discrimination and sexual violence against women and girls persist, women will continue to rage and resist.

Jelen C. Paclarin,
Executive director,
The Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thai government to prohibit
The catching and marketing of crabs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 11 March 2018

I was pleased to learn about the government's policy for crab banks for pou ma
for conservation reasons as well as boosting the fishermen's income in Bangkok Post, March 7.
I believe the policy does not go far enough to conserve the crab as long as
female crabs are allowed to be caught.
As mentioned in the article, only about 1 percent of crab eggs survive the natural process to become adult crabs.
I suggest a policy to prohibit catching and marketing female crabs as being done in the USA where female blue crabs (Callinectus sapidus) along the East Coast of the USA are not allowed to be caught.
For info, male crabs are bigger in size and have more meat for consumption.
The situation is even more critical for mud crabs or pou talay as it is a common
practice among many Thais to consume crab eggs.
As a result, mud crabs become so scarce that the price is around 1,000 baht/kg as most of the bigger size being marketed have to be imported from Myanmar.
As a crab lover, I request the government to issue a policy in prohibiting
catching and marketing female pou ma and pou talay so we and our children will
have plenty of crabs in the near future at an affordable price.

Paisan Loaharanu,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for Malaysians to vote wisely
In Malaysia's 14th general elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 March 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 7 March 2018

I recall as a 13-year-old listening to Datuk Zainal Alam singing that catchy, simple but so meaningful song “Vote... vote... vote... everybody vote.
When you vote, you must vote wisely.
What people say, you jangan peduli. Use your head. Think very carefully”
over the radio.
This was before the first General Election in 1955.
So the question for the 14th general election is what are our standards for electing those who will lead us.
We must elect women and men known for their wisdom, who stand for reason, are courageous, honourable, upright and not tainted by self-preservation or aggrandisement.
If in the next 60 years we are not a great nation, it will be because we failed to demand these high qualities from those who represented us in our legislature and because our culture and morality were not able to control the political forces that governed us.
We need leaders with understanding and foresight who will commit to improving the quality of education in the country.
Such an endeavour requires cultivating the minds of our children and youths.
It will require investment in people more than infrastructure or hardware and not just financial allocations but our time, energy and genuine dedication.
It must be channelled not just for the acquisition of knowledge but, more importantly, to build character, cultivate competencies and the entrepreneurial spirit, inspire creativity and critical thinking and develop problem-solving capabilities too.
Our leaders must also be prepared to work cohesively to ensure we have quality human capital to match the challenges of the times.
Of course, major societal issues we face, such as drug addiction and trafficking, abuse of human sexuality, inequality and poverty (even if only certain segments of society are affected), and crime in all its manifestations must be addressed as these can easily deprive us of the quality human capital we need.
At the macro-level and in our mutual relations across borders and globally, we must be an active part of the effort to deal with the challenges of protecting our security in the face of internal and external forces, climate change, conserving the environment and our natural resources, and addressing the issue of migrant labour upon which we have become overly dependent, and undocumented migration. All these require leaders with vision.
We are now standing at the crossroads. As Zainal Alam exhorted us more than six decades ago, come GE14 let’s vote wisely.

Rueben Dudley,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



Letter to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte
In defence of Rafael Baylosis
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 March 2018

Dear President Duterte,
As a defender of truth and justice, I write in behalf of Rafael Baylosis whom I have known for many years as an intellectual. He is not the person that the military and police claimed him to be just to back up the illegal and warrantless arrest they effected.
Despite my age (I am 82), allow me to participate in establishing the truth about him. His objective in all his activities has all been for the good of the country to be attained in peaceful ways and means. And I pray for continued strength for him and for “small people” like me to attain this objective.

Remedios C. Balbin, Phd.,
Foundation for Social Justice.
Manila,
Philippines

 


Decentralisation in Cambodia
Is a roadmap to improved governance and democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Thursday 22 February 2018

Decentralisation gives more power to districts and communes.
In the past two decades, the government has transferred about $2 billion to lower level administrations in an effort to decentralise.
The figure was revealed yesterday during the first day of a two-day conference on decentralisation on Koh Pich.
“Based on these resources, lower level administrations implement many small infrastructure plans including rural roads, irrigation systems, rural sanitation construction and water supply construction, along with schools and health centres,” a statement released after the conference said.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who presided over the meeting that included thousands of commune officials, said that decentralisation reform has helped increase the capacity of lower level governance.
“Decentralisation is a roadmap to better governance and democracy,” said Mr Kheng."
The funds given to districts and communes allow those administrations to manage their own affairs and provide good public services.
“Commune council members are the main people to implement democracy and decentralisation,” he added.
Sak Setha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said the budget transferred to lower level administrations has increased every year.
In 2017, the government transferred $97 million to the commune level and we transferred $108 million to the commune level for 2018,” said Mr Setha. “We hope that the lower level administrations will use the budget to aid the people.”

Mai Vireak,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia



Advice wanted on what colour shirt to wear
In Cambodia
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 28 March 2918

I am a foreign retiree and have been living in Cambodia for several years now after becoming fed up with Thailand, where I tried to retire to quite a few years ago.
My life as a retiree started well enough in Thailand and it was certainly cheaper than living in my own country, England.
At first the hot and spicy Thai food didn’t agree with my stomach and I needed to get a good pair of running shoes, but then I discovered a lot of Irish and English pubs with real food – fish and chips, toad in the hole and bangers and mash.
Then there was some sort of political trouble and thousands of people took to the streets wearing yellow shirts.
They set up stages, made speeches and generally made a nuisance of themselves.
Not too long after they disappeared, another group of angry people wearing red shirts took over the centre of Bangkok.
It was dangerous to go to that area and eventually Thailand’s army got rid of them, but not before buildings were burned and a lot of people were killed.
I saw it all on the BBC from the safety of my apartment.
My English-speaking landlord had advised me to throw out all my yellow and red shirts so I wouldn’t get mistaken for a local with a political agenda.
Then another group of angry people took to the streets, mostly wearing yellow shirts again, and blew whistles non-stop and nearly drove everybody crazy.
So I decided to move somewhere more peaceful and came to Cambodia.
There’s English and Irish pubs here and the bangers and mash is cheaper than Bangkok. And so is the beer.
But now I read in the papers that there’s warnings about a colour revolution in Cambodia.
I don’t have any interest in politics anywhere, but I want to be sure I don’t wear the wrong colour shirt when I venture out.
Can you advise me on a neutral colour so I’m not mistaken as one of the rabble rousers?

G Raffe (ret),
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia




Cambodia calls on Council of the EU
To respect Cambodian sovereignty
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 March 2018
First pulished in the Khmer Times, Friday 2 March 2018

Your Excellencies,
Cambodia’s democracy is on the right track, with the presence of a multiparty political system, freedom of the press, and respect of civil and political rights.
It is not fair and just to see Cambodia only from one negative angle.
The statement of the Council of the European Union on Cambodia is flawed – it does not reflect the realities in Cambodia and violates Cambodia’s sovereignty and self-determination.
Cambodia is a sovereign country and this sovereignty must be fully respected.
It is a UN member state along with your countries and the UN charter very clearly stipulates that “no state has the right to intervene directly or indirectly for any reason whatsoever in the domestic affairs or in matters affecting the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
The Paris Peace Agreement that you raised in your statement also mentions about non-interference in any form, whether direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of Cambodia.
In the agreement, all signatories have the duty to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality and national unity of Cambodia.
We express our sincere gratitude to countries that have assisted Cambodia in restoring and rebuilding Cambodia.
However, we need to live in dignity as an independent and sovereign state. Cambodia has experienced and is now confronting again the pressures and attempts of some foreign countries to impose a new type of colonialism.
Cambodia is a fully independent state and a responsible member of the international community.
The Cambodian people have suffered enough – going through three decades of civil war and foreign intervention – and we will take all measures at any cost to maintain peace and stability.
We don’t want to see a return to the country’s tragic past.
Your conclusion based on the inputs from the opposition movement does not reflect realities on the ground.
You have been politically manipulated.
Most voters casted their vote for the Cambodia’s People Party and they are confident the ruling party will carry on with its development mission, as promised. However, the Western-backed former opposition party with lesser votes has been trying to take the ruling party and the Cambodian people as hostages, hindering Cambodia’s democratic process and causing setbacks to the country’s development and people.
The Cambodian people do hope that the Council of the European Union would continue to support peace and development in the country through your official aid assistance programmes.
We also hope your investment and purchase orders from Cambodia would continue.
We urge you to castigate the outlawed opposition movement and advise them to behave responsibly and professionally.
They should not hurt their beloved country.
The Cambodian people are against any form of violence.
They know what it’s like to live in blood and tears that has caused families to be separated for decades.
The pain, till today, lives on.
Orchestrated regime change by the West only has one result: it ends up in war and tragedy.
If you decide to cease aid, investments, or impose a ban on Cambodian products, based on the opposition’s call, it means you are taking sides to destroy the Cambodian people’s livelihood and to kill our country’s thriving democracy.
The Cambodian people strongly believe that the Council of EU will respect Cambodia’s self-determination and continue to support the democratic process that is evolving and thriving in the country rather than imposing conditions that require Cambodia to violate the will of the majority and rule of law. Democracy does not work unless peace and development prevail.

Pol Peanorin,
Political researcher,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia


 

Singapore
Is a good friend of both China and the US
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 March 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Monday 12 February 2018

I refer to the commentary by Chan Kunthiny, titled “Can Singapore be an honest regional broker?”, published by Khmer Times on 1 February 2018.
The commentary seems to suggest that Singapore has taken sides against China.
I am writing to correct this misperception.
Singapore is a good friend of both China and the US.
The 2017 visits of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Beijing in September and to Washington DC in October highlight the importance Singapore pays to broadening and deepening ties with our major partners.
Other Singapore leaders also regularly visit both China and the US to better understand the respective government’s priorities and perspectives. Economically, Singapore has been the largest foreign investor in China since 2013 and is the second largest Asian investor in the US, which is a testimony to the confidence we have in both economies.
Our cooperation with China has been longstanding.
Our multi-faceted cooperation with China has constantly evolved to keep up with each other’s changing developmental priorities and capabilities.
Aside from our three government-to-government projects of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city and the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, we have many high-level bilateral mechanisms for both sides to discuss existing and new areas of cooperation.
Singapore has consistently supported China’s peaceful development and welcomed China’s active participation in a rules-based international order. We are an early supporter of Chinese initiatives such as the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
This is because Singapore believes that a successful China is not only good for its citizens but for the region and the world.
At the same time, we also support continued US engagement in the region. As a major investor and security guarantor in the region, the US has undergirded peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific since the end of World War Two.
As previously articulated by my Prime Minister, Singapore believes that the Asia Pacific region is big enough to accommodate both China and the US. We do not see a growing Chinese role in the region as being at the expense of US contributions to regional stability, security and prosperity.
We fully agree that the US and China should “cultivate common circles of friends” and Singapore is part of this common circle of friendship.
Singapore seeks to be a friend to all and an enemy to none. We are a founding member of Asean and will always advocate for Asean’s unity and centrality. As Asean 2018 Chair, Singapore will continue to promote an open, transparent and inclusive regional architecture and act as an honest broker to build trust between all regional stakeholders.
It would be most appreciated if Khmer Times can publish this letter in full, in the interest of professionalism, objectivity and openness, so that your readers can be accurately informed.

Michael Tan,
Singapore Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 


Call for Phillipine government to answer
For killings in war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 March 2018

The assertion by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that critics of the government’s “drug war” have “politicized” and “weaponized” human rights in Philippine Inquirer 1 March is totally without basis.
It only serves to frustrate calls by many on the Duterte administration’s accountability for atrocities related to the so-called war on drugs. The truth is, the Philippine government needs to answer for the more than 12,000 lives lost without due process in this brutal campaign across the country. The government should stop depicting itself as the victim.
The Philippines should heed Iceland’s call to cooperate with a mission of experts mandated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UNHCHR should take all the necessary measures to help end extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war and bring those responsible to justice, including establishing an independent international body to investigate these abuses, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

Carlos Conde,
Philippine researcher,
Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Filipinos say of the proposed divorse bill
"Till death do us part"
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 March 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 March 2018

And so, a divorce bill is now being cooked in Congress.
A grandson of mine asks me why I am against divorce, even if we are today the one and only remaining country in the whole world that does not allow it.
My answer is plain and simple. I do not wish to lose or remove this time-honored vow—as well as the rings, which symbolize unending relationship—in our wedding ceremonies:
“…In sickness or in health,
In happiness or in sorrow,
Till death do us part…”

Or else, let the couples and the solemnizing priest or other authority altogether indulge themselves in monumental hypocrisy!

Rudy L. Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

UNESCO in Papua New Guinea
Is awaiting appointment of a head
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 March 2018
First published in the National, Monday 19 February 2018

I am writing in response to Papua New Guinea Tauna’s ‘Government questioned’.
Thank you for your sentiments shared in light of the matter.
With regards to the Papua New Guinea National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was created under three National Executive Council (NEC) decisions to be a standalone organisation from the Department of Education.
These decisions supported it to be given autonomy status.
The agency currently is in impasse due to political manoeuvering and other issues unbeknown.
The agency is still awaiting the appointment of a head.
While this is ongoing on, certain individuals have been apppointed and are being paid.
I am speaking for and on behalf of all current staff who are the original substantive position holders since this organisation was granted autonomous status in 2008.
We are currently in the dark as to why we are not given access to normalcy.
Why there is also another office created against National Executive Council (NEC) directives with people placed against our positions?
They do not know their job descriptions and most of all, the roles and functions of Unesco in the country.
Respective authoritative bodies such as National Executive Council (NEC) and Department of Personnel Management are still confused with Unesco’s mandates and its role in member states.
This is causing inconvenience to projects that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), should be implementing in the country.
We are all professionals in our jobs in each field of competency that Unesco covers.
We were selected through the correct Government selection process.
We feel we need the rightful authorities to step in and assist us.
We cannot just shut down an international organisation which was in Papua New Guinea before Independence and has played an important role in the development of this country.

UNESCO
Cie Vous,
Port Moresby,
Papua News Guinea




Thai PM changes his mind on southern Thai
Coal-fired power plants
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 March 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 24 February 2018

Re: "Ministry downplays need for southern power plants," in Bangkok Post, Friday 23 February 2018.
What a difference a day makes!
For years, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Energy Ministry have insisted that the southern coal-fired power plants were absolutely essential for the energy security of the country.
They repeatedly warned of dire consequences for the economy should the
power plants not be built.
Now that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reluctantly agreed to put the
southern power plants on hold, suddenly the story has changed and energy
officials report that power needs can be met with biogas and other renewable
energy.
It really begs the question of what kind of energy expertise the country
possesses and/or alternative motivations for building power plants when the
political winds are so favoured.

Samanea Saman
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for removal of PNG Church Health officials
On Integrated HR Payroll system Management System (Alesco)
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 Feb 2018
First published in the National, Thursday 15 February 2018

To clarify, Unesco does not have an office in Papua New Guinea.
Its regional office is in Apia-Samoa which manages the affairs of the 16-member states, including Papua New Guinea.
Any member state around the world has what is called national commission for Unesco (Natcom).
The national commission for Unesco is established in a country by the government of the host country.
As a constituent element of Unesco and a unique network within the United Nations system, national commissions are a very special resource for the organisation.
They contribute significantly to the pursuit of its objectives and the conceptualisation and delivery of its programmes.
National commissions are crucial to forging partnerships with civil society, local authorities, the academic community, the private sector and other core stakeholders.
They are vitally important to enhancing the visibility of the organisation and protecting its image.
They are also actively helping to strengthen Unesco’s action in the field, as well as in UN-common country programming exercises.
For Papua New Guinea, this has been lagging since assuming its autonomous status in 2008.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand have national commission as a programme unit under their departments of foreign affairs.
I can’t understand why Papua New Guinea Government wants it as an autonomous status when it, in its wisdom, amalgamated it with the Education Department.
Let it be in its current form and remove the 30-plus officers on the Integrated HR Payroll system Management System (Alesco) payroll.
This is a total wastage of taxpayer money which can be saved and used for purposeful development for the people of this country.


Midnight Owl,
Post Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

 


Charges against Senator Leila de Lima changed from
Illegal drug trading to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 February
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 25 February 2018

Today marks the first year of Sen. Leila de Lima’s unjust detention.
She was arrested not because the government has a case, let alone strong evidence
against her, but because she adamantly opposed its murderous war on drugs making her the first high-profile political prisoner of the Duterte administration.
She is also a victim of a vicious political vendetta because she questioned
President Duterte’s abuse of power and approval of extrajudicial killings since
he was mayor of Davao, and now his failed war on drugs.
Powerful personalities now affiliated with the current administration whom De Lima pursued as justice secretary are also likely behind her persecution.
Government resources are continuously being used to brainwash the public to
believe that De Lima is an evil woman, corrupt and a conduit in the illegal drug
trade in the New Bilibid Prison.
But almost a year after her arrest, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has affirmed that drug trade in the state penitentiary continues to flourish.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the President are suspiciously silent on this issue because we suspect they have an “ex-deal” with these convicted drug lords in exchange for their false testimonies against De Lima.
Three hundred sixty-five days after her arrest, government prosecutors just
recently amended their charge against the lady senator from “illegal drug
trading”
to “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading,” meaning, she was
detained for the wrong accusation.
This is a violation of her constitutional right and the “grossest injustice” as described by Justice Antonio Carpio.
Three hundred sixty-five days and counting but De Lima’s vindication will come
in the same way that justice will come for the families and victims of thousands
killed in this administration’s bloody and shady war on drugs.
The Free Leila Movement challenges every Filipino to actively seek this justice.

Regina Mabalatan,
Convenor,
Free Leila Movement,
Manila,
Philippines



Cambodian senate and legislative elections to go ahead
Without Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 February 2018
First published in the Phnom Penh Post, Thursday 22 February 2018

Editor,
Cambodia’s Senate election is to be held on February 25.
According to the Constitution, out of the 61 senators, two are to be nominated by the King, two to be chosen by the National Assembly and the remaining 57 must be elected essentially by a college of commune councillors who are themselves elected through universal suffrage at local elections.
The problem with the new Senate to be formed next Sunday revolves around the legal status of 5,007 Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-affiliated commune councillors out of a total of 11,572 (43 percent) who are called to participate in the vote even though they have never been elected through universal suffrage: those 5,007 councillors affiliated with the ruling party were actually “given” their seats which originally belonged to 5,007 councillors affiliated with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who were duly elected at the June 4 commune elections.
The seat “redistribution” immediately followed the much-decried dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on November 16.
If the Senate election is to proceed the way the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)-led government plans it, the consequences will be as follows:
The will of 3.05 million Cambodian citizens (representing 43.8 percent of the electorate) who voted for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) at the last local elections, will be totally ignored.
With its 5,007 elected councillors being stripped of their positions and their rights to elect senators, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) will be deprived of up to 25 senator positions (out of the 57 up for grab) it is entitled to.
By expediently and timely dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and “redistributing” to itself the 5,007 commune councillor positions originally won by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) through universal suffrage, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will secure 100 percent of the 57 senator seats up for grab, which concretely announces the return to a one-party system as before the signing of the 1991 Paris Agreements on Cambodia.
The world community of democratic nations must denounce and condemn such an electoral farce, which is to be followed by another one: the legislative election due to take place on July 29 this year.
This is an important test of consistency and firmness for the international community. Those who will condone Cambodia’s February 25 Senate election are likely to condone the July 29 legislative election which is going to take place without the participation of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as the only parliamentary opposition party representing half the nation.
But those who uphold democratic rules and principles will condemn both polls as undemocratic and the ensuing government as illegitimate.

Sam Rainsy,
President of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement and former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party

 



The International Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
Performance in Malaysia worst in five years
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 February 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 23 February 2018

As the former president of Trans­parency International Malaysia and now an honorary commissioner in the MACC, I am deeply disappointed with Malaysia’s poor performance in the International Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
We have dropped seven places from 55 to 62 out of 180 countries.
Our CPI score has declined to 47/100, well below the perceived passing mark of 50/100.
This is the worst result in the last five years.
It’s not only deeply disappointing but gravely disturbing and damaging to Malaysia’s aspirations in building the image of a developed or high-income nation.
Why did the CPI fall so fast?
MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, the whole of Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and indeed the Government and the minister in charge must be very upset with the result.
The reasons for the fall have been partially provided frankly by Dzulkifli himself in an immediate and knowledgeable response.
He says that it’s the overall perception of the country.
It’s not corruption per se in its narrow concept but the decline in good governance. He is surely right.
This means that too much politicking, growing racial and religious intolerance, wastage of public funds, a weakening of morality and some big scandals are also responsible for the bad Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
And don’t forget money politics which will be rearing its ugly head soon.
All the good work done by the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to robustly fight corruption has been negated by the apparent inability to do more to contain grand corruption.
Although medium-sized and petty corruption could have been reduced, it is the grand corruption that matters to Transparency International in Berlin.
What can be done now to improve the Corruption Perception Index (CPI)?
Many recommendations made by TI Malaysia and other NGOs have been presented and pushed for a long time.
But they have been dashed in the hope that we can combat corruption within the current framework of governance.
This mild approach can’t achieve much, as the latest depressing Corruption Perception Index (CPI) result has shown.
What is needed are more radical and meaningful structural reforms.
For example, the MACC should be made responsible only to Parliament and report directly to Parliament.
The Whistleblower Protection Act must be improved.
This will encourage more whistleblowers to come out without fear of being charged and convicted themselves.
The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should also be a more independent body with full powers to hire and fire its staff who would not be beholden to government employment.
There are many other global best practices to adopt if we are really serious about combating corruption more effectively.
There is no need for the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to ask the Government for feedback or direction on what to do next to get out of this corruption trap.
The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is fully aware about what has to be done.
Let’s hope it will give the Cabinet a full and honest appraisal on what has gone wrong and what needs to be urgently done to prevent further deterioration in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
Then let the rakyat judge the future direction to fight corruption which is causing inflation and undermining national unity and destroying our national soul.
God bless Malaysia!

Tan Sri Ramon Vavaratnam,
Chairman,
Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI),
Center for Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 



US embassy in Phnom Penh denies US involvement
In attempt to overthrow Hun Sen government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 February 2018
First Published in The Khmer Times, Thursday 22 February 2018

Dear sir,
Do you know what is “plausible deniability”?
It is, in the American law, the ability of senior officials to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy.
In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves. The expression “plausibly deniable” was first used publicly by CIA director Allen Dulles.
In 1956, the US National Security Council decided to support with money, arms and ammunitions the Khmer Serei, an extreme right militia based in South-Vietnam and Thailand and opposed to then Prince Norodom Sihanouk. But in 1956, Washington vehemently denied any support to these rebels.
In 1959, there were three attempts to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk and even to kill him.
Traitors like Son Ngoc Thanh, le leader of the Khmer Serei, Dap Chhuon and Sam Sary, all against the policy of neutrality and all passionate supporters of the USA, were the operators of the CIA, as it is proved today by the archives.
But in 1959, the Americans denied that the USA was involved in the plots for a regime change.
In 1963, the Khmer Serei activities increased dramatically as they were integrated partly in Special Forces under US command.
But in 1963, the State Department informed the Cambodia’s Ambassador that there was no evidence of American involvement with the Khmer Serei.
When all the CIA activities against Norodom Sihanouk during the previous decade have been confirmed and explained to President John Kennedy, he decided to send Dean Acheson, his special envoy, to Cambodia to normalize the relations between the two countries.
But he was assassinated two days later.
The 18 March 1970 coup led by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, (soon joined by Son Ngoc Thanh), was coordinated by the CIA station and American military intelligence in Saigon, with the implication of Khmer Serei in deadly anti Vietnamese demonstrations in Phnom Penh. Of course, Nixon and Kissinger denied their involvement in the change of regime.
These are facts and there are undisputable.
Reacting to the recent accusations and indictments about a US-backed plot by the CNRP to overthrow the Cambodian government, the Embassy of the United States of America in Phnom Penh called this accusation "absurd" and “without a shred of serious credible evidence”.
A strong denial, indeed.
Like in 1956, 1959, in 1963, in 1970.
No doubt, on behalf of “plausible deniability”.

Raoul Marc Jennar, PhD, is a Political scientist.
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia

 

 


Rampant poaching biggest threat
To pangolins in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 February 2018

Pangolins, the majestic ant- and termite-eating secretive, solitary and nocturnal mammal, are facing an alarming decline in number in the wild.
There are eight species of pangolins known to zoologists: four from the continent of Africa and another four from Asia.
In the Philippines, the endangered pangolin can be found in Palawan.
The biggest threat to pangolins has been rampant poaching, which is the single biggest factor for their rapid decline across China and Southeast Asia.
Pangolins are currently the most trafficked and poached mammal on the planet and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has listed them as one of the species that is in immediate need of maximum conservation efforts, or else they run the serious risk of becoming extinct.
The massive trafficking and killing of pangolins in China and Vietnam for their scales (believed to have medicinal properties, with no scientific foundation) and bush meat as a delicacy in several high-end restaurants are posing serious threats.
If the Chinese, South and Southeast Asian governments do not take appropriate steps in the conservation of pangolins, the majestic mammal has very little option left.
Asian countries need to work jointly in cracking down on illegal wildlife markets.
A multination joint management of fringe, remote border areas, natural forests and wildlife could help in pangolin conservation.

Saikat Kumar Basu,
Lethbridge,
Canada

 

 

Papua New Guinea citizens
Pitted against each other

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 February 2018
First published in the National, Monday 19 February 2018

Papua New Guinea’s youths can become agents of change or they can become a very destructive force in our society.
You just have to walk the streets of our overcrowded cities and towns to get an impression of what good or evil our youngsters are capable of in a very tough economic environment.
The youths are a force to be reckoned with nowadays.
Their youthful energy has an uncanny ability to multiply itself into a myriad of ugly encounters on the streets where they congregate every day.
Recently, while waiting for a Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) at the Mt Hagen bus stop, a drunk young man walked up to me and pulled out a bush knife tucked under his trouser belt.
I put on a bold face and did not give in to his malicious intent.
He left me and instead grabbed an elderly woman nearby who was also waiting for a Public Motor Vehicle (PMV) bus.
The poor woman was scared out of her wits.
The incident I had witnessed is a scenario that repeats itself across Papua New Guinea towns every week.
The experience is not new to me, but what is profoundly disturbing is that ordinary citizens are pitted against each other in their never-ending struggle for survival.
The masses are battling against each other for survival, all the while wallowing in the muddy waters of a very stifling socio-economic environment created by sinister forces from both within and beyond our borders.
Like a flock of sheep bound for the slaughterhouse, the masses are being dragged deeper and deeper into the abyss of insecurity and social disintegration.
The common folks are battling against each other all the while, not caring or seeming to know that we can find a way out of our dilemma if only we can channel our collective energies against the institutionalised injustices prevalent in this country.
We can find a way out of our dilemma if only we can seriously fight against corruption, which is the most-serious impediment to progress in our country.

Paul Waugla Wii,
Wandi,
Chimbu,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte
To lift martial law in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 19 February 2019

I recently heard three lumad women give their testimonies on their experience in Mindanao.
They are sending a plea to President Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao.
Apparently, the military is using that as an excuse to harass the villagers.
The lumad people had decided to establish their own school in their locality as there was none and they felt the need of education for their children.
However, the military started accusing them that what they did was illegal, harassing the teachers.
At the same time, the military was using drones to spy on them, limiting the amount of rice that they can bring to their village.
When the harassment continued, they decided to evacuate the place and settle somewhere else.
The women also fear that putting a price of P20,000 for each alleged member of the New People’s Army could incite violence and create division among the lumad people.
Anybody can point out anyone allegedly to be an NPA. In my opinion, such a strategy is a devious manipulation on the vulnerability of people who are poor.
It is also reminiscent of the Pharisees paying 20 pieces of silver to Judas to point out Christ - a betrayal. Training their youth to become Cafgus (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) makes no difference, or at most, just complicates the
ituation.
So, Mr. President, if you truly love Mindanao as you have always claimed, it is imperative that you lift martial law in Mindanao.

Sr Nenita Tapia, MM,
Manila,
Philippines



A Philippine federation
A brighter model for the Philipines indigenous
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 12 February 2018

The Inquirer’s editorial, “Where will the lumad go?” 8 February 2018 is a question applicable to other indigenous Filipinos like the Dumagat of Sierra Madre
Mountain Range, Aeta of Caraballo, Igorot of the Cordillera, Mangyan of the
island of Mindoro, and many others, when claimed ancestral domains and lands are
offered by the government as collaterals in enticing multinational investments.
I am an Igorot who is like any “lumad” whose sense of being is tied to a claimed
ancestral home territory.
Culture and history are results of creative interactions in these home territories.
Such bodies of knowledge are transmitted by one generation to another through
dialects and languages.
That bodies of knowledge form part of the Filipino heritage which President Duterte and minions of Imperial Manila need not destroy.
Destroying it would contradict his proposal of turning the Philippines into a
federal republic, which I think is a brighter model where indigenous people
could federate in order to have stronger representation in building a federal
state.

Manila,
Philippines


Fiji police track record
Far from exemplary
The Southeast Asian Gimes, Monday 19 February 2018

Editor,
In his/her illuminating letter (The National 2/2/18, Southeast Asian Times 5/2/18 ) Nongli Eniil Ngalkhay informs us that in PNG " The majority of our people are now in great fear of police, rather than criminals" and appeals " to the police hierarchy to train and their officers to treat and talk to the people with respect, according to the laws of this country. We hope to see change in the near future".
Is that change to come from the cooperation in capacity building and institution strengthening between the PNG Police and the Fiji Police as reported in the Fiji Times article ' Fiji-PNG sign MOU for police cooperation' ( Feb.16 )?
I hope it does because Fiji police own post-coup professional track record is far from exemplary .

Sincerely,
Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia


Call to free Mali the elephant
From Manila zoo
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 February 2018

Thirty-five-plus years ago in a lush forest in Sri Lanka, Mali, a barely past-weaning baby elephant, was stolen from her mother.
She was transported to a zoo in Manila where she continues to languish to this day. Elephants are intelligent and very familial.
Can you imagine being separated so young from your mother?
Mali has led a sad life in captivity, alone, no other elephant for company.
Jeered at by onlookers, Mali has no veterinary treatment and paces daily in her small captivity area.
Thousands of caring people around the world have petitioned to have Mali moved to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand for rehabilitation.
The powers who run the zoo refuse to let Mali live the natural life she was intended to live. Mali deserves to roam free and smell trees, leaves and walk in grass.
Her feet are sore and cracking from pacing the dry dirt in her small enclosure.
Many animal organizations have tried to purchase Mali to release her.
The Manila Zoo refuses to let Mali live naturally.
It is so sad to see her hold her own tail for comfort.
Is there no humanity that can be compassionate for a poor neglected elephant such as Mali?
Peta Asia has worked hard for her release.
Please live with compassion.
Speak up for Mali’s release to Boon Lott.
Contact the zoo, tell them how you feel.
Contact local officials who can help free Mali.
Go see Mali if you can, it will bring tears to your eyes.
Animals suffer at the hands of humans who only think of their ego and greed.
Please help free Mali. She deserves to live the life she was intended to live as a free elephant.

David Knightly,
United States



Call for decentralization
Of Philippine government
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 February 2018

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are mandated by our Constitution to make legislation.
To do their job, the same Constitution allows them to conduct “hearings in aid of legislation.”
Invited to these “hearings” are resource persons - not accused persons who need to be investigated or cross-examined.
These are not and should not be “investigations,” or worse, “trials” - which are unconstitutional.
And many of these “hearings” or “investigations” or “trials” do not result in the creation of legislation.
Because of the free, nationwide TV coverage, our publicity hungry senators and congressmen really grandstand in verbal bullying in aid, not of legislation, but of titillation and demolition.
We have enough laws. And we’ve had enough of senators and congressmen who waste taxpayer money in pursuit of personal political glory.
It is time to remove one layer of national politicians - replace them with the new legislature of governors and mayors - thus decentralizing our government and saving billions.

Amanado Munda,
Manila,
Philippines






"I disapprove of what you say
But I will defend to the death your right to say it
"
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 February 2018

President Duterte’s threat to UP student ralliers sends repressive signals.
Is it only the administration’s bloggers who may invoke Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?
The youth’s hearts and minds are part of the shaping of Philippine democracy - indeed a very human journey of both faith and doubt. But, as Wilson Mizner once said, “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.”
One hopes that even now that we have made some progress from a state of democracy which Aristotle observed as “… a government from the hands of men of low birth, no property and vulgar employments.”
On a lighter vein, for there is wisdom in occasionally laughing at ourselves, we could enjoy the humor of Logan Pearsall Smith: “The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists the circulation of the blood.”
Youthful vitality might be flawed, but a society transforming itself needs it: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” (Aphorism). May I paraphrase J.B. Priestley as a last sobering thought: “Like its politicians, and its war, so society has the youth it deserves.”

Virginia Calptura,
RCSJ,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for United Nations to investigate
Drug war killings in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 11 February, 2018

A Philippine court filed murder charges against three police officers for the alleged summary execution of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos during an antidrug operation on August 16, 2017, in Caloocan City, north of Manila.
The killing of the teenager prompted mass protests.
Police antidrug officers claimed they killed Delos Santos after he fired on them during an antidrug operation.
However, both witness accounts and close circuit television camera footage indicate that police executed the unarmed youth while he was in police custody and dumped his body in an alley.
This case is a rare instance in which the Philippine justice system has taken genuine steps to prosecute anyone for killing suspected drug users and dealers under President Duterte’s “war on drugs,” launched in June 2016.
The handful of previous prosecutions of police personnel implicated in the thousands of alleged drug war killings have not resulted in convictions.
In July, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa reinstated 18 police officersfacing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera, Leyte. Dela Rosa announced that those officers, released on bail in June, “can be utilized again by the PNP for whatever assignment.”
This, despite compelling evidence that the officers committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a jail cell on November. 5, 2016. Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by Mr. Duterte that he was a drug trafficker.
Accountability for drug war killings has been hobbled by the refusal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the government to allow for an independent inquiry of those deaths.
Dela Rosa has dismissed calls for such an investigation as “legal harassment” and said the demand “dampens the morale” of police officers.
In August, Mr. Duterte vowed to pardon and promote any police personnel implicated in unlawful killings.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has sought to deter calls for accountability by deploying blatant falsehoods to whitewash the antidrug campaign as lawful and rights-respecting.
These challenges underscore the need for a United Nations-led investigation to help provide accountability for all drug war victims, including Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Phelim Kine,
Deputy Director,
Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch




Philippine grandmothers ask questions about
The administration of the deadly Dengvaxia vaccine
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 February 2018

My grandson Isaac is one of the 830,000 children administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine. Ordinary layman that I am, I think the core of the problem emanated from political intervention with the consent of former health secretary Janette Garin.
Some questions:
Who gave the order to Garin to purchase and implement?
Sino kaya ang “tirador” if she is not the one?
Who gave the assurance for funding?
Who gave the legal basis that it does not  violate election laws?
Why did then President Noynoy Aquino give the go signal after the Sanofi meetings?
For and on behalf of the 830,000 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, my grandson included, I want to know:
How long do we have to wait for the vaccine to do damage?
One, two, three years ?
Does anyone feel the pain of the parents whose children died?
Can you quantify the cost for the loss of a loved one?
What is this we hear that drug companies are funding government personnel from the Department of Health, (DOH) Food and Drug Administration, etc.?
Is this country already under “mafia-controlled” multinational drug companies?
Will the government correct the situation?
To Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Budget and Management officials under P-Noy, among others, have you considered the future of the 830,000 persons who are still in a quandary until now?
We just hope that your conscience will bother you daily with sleepless nights coupled with nightmares for the next 2,274 days (830,000 vaccinated individuals divided by 365 days) if ever you live that long.

Roy Agbayani,
Manila,
Philippines




Senate investigation to start into
Philippine acquisition of war ships
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 February 2018

This is in response to “That sinking feeling: The story behind Navy chief’s sudden fall” 28 December 2017 by Nikko Dizon regarding the alleged anomalies of the frigate acquisition project of the Philippine Navy.
I have been following this issue with great interest since I am really alarmed with how powerless we are in international disputes.
We need warships to give us a certain measure of confidence in dealing with other countries that wish to intrude on our sovereignty.
As a concerned citizen, my view on this is simple.
Let me throw out a few questions which have been bugging me to start the discussion. Why are some people so hellbent on insisting that a certain brand be used for the so-called combat management system for the warships we want to buy? As I understood it, isn’t this against our procurement law?
To add to all these, it seems to me that the words used in the arguments are mere “copy-paste” of each other, from news sources, blogsites, to statements of politicians.
I am not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but the similarities are really obvious. Is this nothing more than an elaborate PR operation or “operation giba”?
It makes me wonder who would benefit the most should the project fail. I hope that the people behind all of these realize what they are doing.
They are endangering the security of the Filipino people by blocking a very important modernization project.
I can’t wait for the Senate investigation to start so we can finally shed light on the matter.

Nonie Arasa,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Philippines demand reimbursement
From Sanofi Pasteur for Dengvaxia vaccine
The Southeast East Asian Times, Monday 12 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 8 February 2018

The Department of Health has finally come to its senses by demanding a full reimbursement of P3.5-billion-worth of Dengvaxia vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, bought under the Department of Health (DOH) massive immunization program.
I fully blame Sanofi for withholding its advisory during the contract signing that the vaccine, when given to subjects who have not been previously infected by the dengue virus, can develop a more serious form of the disease called dengue hemorrhagic fever with overall bleeding tendencies to vital organs like the brain, liver, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and skin. With uncontrolled bleeding, the patient goes into hemorrhagic shock or syndrome and ultimately, dies. Corticosteroids had been tried but were not successful.

Eliseo R. Reblando, MD.,
Past president,
Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for LGBT to be included
In Japan school curriculum
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 February 2018
First published in The Japan Times, Friday 26 January 2018

It’s time to make a change!
Regarding the January18 story, Kojien dictionary criticized for ‘inaccurate’ entry on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT).
A vast majority of Japanese citizens are still uneducated about these existing communities.
The inaccuracy in defining the term LGBT by the publisher of Japan’s most authoritative dictionary is certainly an issue that should not be taken lightly.
However, the bigger problem revolves around the fact that school administrators and educators have yet to expand awareness of the LGBT community and modify their current ineffective school curriculum.
As Mameta Endo states, “the mistake by the authoritative dictionary reflects the reality of Japanese society, where many are still uninformed on issues related to sexual minorities.”
The most simple solution is for school administrations to start organizing an LGBT-inclusive school curriculum, teaching students about homosexuality as part of sex education. Doing so will not only help educate students on the topics of the LGBT community, but will also spread awareness and safety to those regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Japan certainly has a long way to go, but education is our best solution.

Kaho Toyoyama,
Ashiya,
Hyogo Prefecture,
Japan

 

 

Call for the USA to apologise
For support given to Pol Pot
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 February 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 7 February 2018

To ignore or to rewrite the past are efficient tools for governments that want to fool the people.
The US embassy in Phnom Penh on Sunday gave a new example of such “diplomacy as the patriotic art to lie” (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce).
In a statement about January 7, the US embassy wrote that “Phnom Penh was liberated from the notorious Khmer Rouge regime”.
You read well: the representation of the US government is calling January 7, 1979, a liberation.
More: they “celebrate the ingenuity, courage and perseverance with which the Cambodian people have emerged from this period of darkness…”!
Who are they kidding?
What was the US reaction in 1979 about that liberation?
A strong condemnation of “the military violation of Kampuchean sovereignty and replacement of the government by force”. They said that the Pol Pot’s government was “the only legitimate government of Cambodia”.
In 1979, not that word about a liberation.
They decided that the legitimate ambassador of the Cambodian people at the UN was a representative of Pol Pot.
The victims were represented by one of their torturers.
They decided to support a decision that prohibited any aid for the development of Cambodia, a country devastated by the US bombing and a population of survivors from one of the worst criminal regimes in the twentieth century.
In 1979, the USA denied the right of Vietnam to protect its own security as it was, since 1975, under violent and bloody attacks by the Pol Pot regime that had caused thousands of casualties.
They denied to Vietnam the exercise of a right recognised by article 51 of the UN Charter.
In 1979, the USA denied the request for liberation expressed by thousands of Cambodians that had fled to Vietnam to escape the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. The US that pretended to defend human rights refused to recognise the fundamental right of the Cambodian people to overthrow a regime of terror and to request the assistance of a foreign country to achieve such a goal (a right yet recognised in 1971 to the people of Eastern Pakistan that became Bangladesh).
The US position lasted 12 years.
A delay in the reconstruction of a Cambodian society and the recreation of human resources that has still consequences today.
Instead of giving the impression that they used to support the Cambodian people after the 1979 liberation, the USA should apologise for their diplomatic and military support given to the Pol Pot’s movement during the 12 years that followed the fall of this barbaric regime.

Raoul M. Jennar, PhD,
Doctor in Khmer Studies,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia





Call for China to assure ASEAN
That China is not pursuing an expansionist policy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 February 2018
First published in the Khmer Times, Wednesday 7 February 2018

China’s growing influence is not welcome by Asean member countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Within the increased power competition between China and the US, when Cambodia is seen as China’s vessel state, Singapore is seen as the protector of the American international order.
The Philippines is seen as the hypocrite that cannot cry foul in its own house.
Vietnam is seen as the “complicater” or like pills that give everyone sleepless nights at every multilateral forum.
Indonesia is seen as the big brother without followers.
Malaysia is becoming invisible.
Laos, Myanmar and Brunei are voiceless.
Lastly, Thailand is seen as the number one escaper that no one can ever catch.
In the good old days, Indonesia used to have big clout when it was holding a neutral position that could accommodate and give space for maneuvering for both big and small states in Asean.
It no longer does that once it became one of the actors in influence and competition.
Externally, the US is dividing Asean.
According to the National Security Strategy of the US published in December last year, the US will strengthen “quadrilateral cooperation” with Japan, Australia and India and will “re-energise alliances with the Philippines and Thailand and strengthen partnerships with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and others to help them become cooperative maritime partners”.
The US has shown assertiveness at the beginning of the year and shows no restraint in instigating China. Its rationale is “all operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”.
For this year, it is likely that the US, India, Japan and Australia will gear up their mutual coordination within “quadrilateral cooperation” to give an impression that China’s containment policy is heating up.
This will create tension in the region unless North Korea once again diverts regional security attention.
If such tension between China and “quadrilateral” alliances lasts, coupled with a partially unwelcoming Asean, China’s image will likely suffer.
Amid such an unfavorable environment, maybe China should start rethinking its Asean policy to give less focus on multilateral engagement and promote more bilateral dialogues. It is in the interests of China and all Asean member states if China diverts its focus to promote trust and confidence not through “money”, but through bilateral dialogues and practical cooperation with the understanding that some states see China as a “money-bags” to be exploited and blackmailed by their unfavorable positions.
Should China wish to use Asean platforms to promote its image as a benign superpower and that its growing influence is to everyone’s benefit, China needs to assure all the suspicious states that it will not pursue an “expansionist” policy that it once endured and was humiliated as a victim of Japan’s aggression and expansionism.
For the current environment between China and Asean, trust is elusive and a mere illusion and China needs to accept this inconvenient truth.

Soun Nimeth,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia


 

Sorcery
A growing concern in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 February 2018
First published in the National, Wednesday 7 February 2018

Sorcery is becoming more common in all parts of Papua New Guinea and appearing on our daily media.
People are blaming and accusing each other for practising sorcery.
I say that the practice of sorcery is real.
This is due to my personal experience, which I was one of the victim of sorcery-related illnesses.
Medicine could not help me cure me, so I had to travel all the way from Pangia Secondary School in Southern Highlands to the north coast of Madang for a witchdoctor to treat me.
And I got better after the treatment, which would have cost my parents almost K2000 to seek treatment in a hospital.
Of course there are lack of conventional evidences, but the practice is growing.

Philemon L. Piriwi,
Yamba Village (RAKS)
Ialibu,
Southern Highlands
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Rohingya or Bengalis?
In Thai government report on Rakhine state
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 February 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 6 February 2018

Former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai says one of the objectives of the
government-appointed advisory board he heads in Myanmar is to narrow the "big
gap of international interpretation and domestic interpretation of what happened in Rakhine state".

It is a challenging objective because the Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw
are obviously in denial about the violence in Rakhine.
That's why they banned independent media, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations from northern Rakhine after the latest violence began in August.
The access ban creates a delicate issue for the board led by Mr Surakiart.
Its role is to provide advice to another panel formed by the Myanmar government to implement recommendations on Rakhine state made in August by a commission headed by former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan.
Noting that "full transparency is the most effective way to dispel false and
inaccurate representations of the situation on the ground",
the Annan commission recommended "full and regular" access for media to all areas of Rakhine.
It is this recommendation that raises questions over State Counsellor Aung San
Suu Kyi's reportedly "furious" response when Bill Richardson raised the issue of
the two Reuters reporters on trial in Yangon before his dramatic resignation
from the board.
Mr Richardson cites her as saying that the decision to charge the reporters
under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, after they were arrested in unusual
circumstances with documents about the security operation in Rakhine "was not
the work of the advisory board".

How can that be if the Annan commission specifically recommended media access to Rakhine?
As the commission noted in its final report, policies based on media restriction that inhibit the flow of information are counterproductive.
It added: "More than anything, they undermine trust in the Government, and give the impression that Myanmar has something to hide."
Mr Surakiart said he believed the credibility of the advisory board was intact
despite Mr Richardson's departure.
Many will be watching to see if the board's final report to the Myanmar government uses "Rohingya", or if it acquiesces to policy and calls the victims of violence "Bengalis", because Nay Pyi Taw wants the world to believe they are all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Geoffrey Goddard,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Duterte administration
Accused of authoritarian rule
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 5 February 2018

The present administration seems to be rattling impulsively toward authoritarian rule.
See how it appointed former military and police officers to key government or civilian positions.
What expertise did these men in uniform learn to make them competent in the field of civilian posts like environment, ecology, food authority, irrigation administration, etc.?
Recent events show how this government gradually tries to destroy the check and balance roles of its coequal branches in government including the Fourth Estate, the bedrock of a working democracy.
It coerces into submission through a supermajority coalition, like in the case of the House of Representatives, which is currently becoming too subservient with what the executive branch wishes.
Apparently unable to stand the continued independence of the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the helm, the minions of this administration ran roughshod into stockpiling a mountain of cases out of trumped-up molehill issues.
All these were done ostensibly to shame, maim and coerce into compliance or at worse, force the lady Chief Justice to vacate her position out of pressure or fear for her life and her family’s.
Once it succeeds to overthrow CJ Sereno, a new and more submissive chief justice would then be handpicked by the President assuring him of a Supreme Court that kowtows to his whims and caprices.
The recent radical decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission against Rappler canceling its registration to continue operating as an online media entity without due process is a bad omen to the independence and objectivity of the press as the Fourth Estate.
It proves the present dispensation is dead serious in maiming and killing dissent at all costs.
Earlier threats hurled by the President against critical media are worrisome indications that this administration abhors the plurality of opinions, which are hallmarks of a good leadership and a vital element in forming best decisions in a strong democracy.
Exchange of opinions and ideas whether positive or negative are primordial ingredients for an intelligent, enlightened, morally guided presidency.
As citizens of this country who benefited from over 10,000 brave young men and women who had shed their blood against the Marcos dictatorship to regain our lost democracy and freedom, let us learn from our darkest lessons and experiences by being vigilant.
Lest it would be late to learn that our hard-earned democracy has been snatched away from us by those in authority who profess to defend the democratic constitution.
But they lied.

Romy O. Ponte,
Manila,
Philippines




Papua New Guinea people fear police
Rather than criminals
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 February 2018
First published in the National, Friday 2 February 2018

The police force is an important institution in any country.
It protects and guides citizens accordingly.
Once a person commits a crime or breaks any law, police then step in to deal with him or her.
Some police officers act beyond standard practice.
They take advantage of ordinary people, destroy their properties and worst of all, spit betelnut on someone’s face.
That is a very animalistic behaviour.
I witnessed this on two different occasions at Gerehu.
The first one was between a taxi driver and police officers next to the main bus stop.
An officer spat a mouthful of betelnut right onto the face and body of a taxi driver who stand helplessly.
Members of the public who saw what happened were shocked.
The other occurred on the opposite side of the same bus stop at Gerehu.
It happened to the driver of the Route 9 bus, I was in.
I saw officers on this Chinese-donated vehicle approach the bus driver, ask him if he knew how to drive, hurled verbal abuse at him and then landed a punch on his face.
He then copped a mouthful of betelnut spit from one of the officers s we watched helplessly.
The majority of our people are now in great fear of police, rather than criminals.
This is so unlike the past.
This is an appeal to the police hierarchy to train and their officers to treat and talk to the people with respect, according to the laws of this country.
We hope to see change in the near future.

Nongii Eniil Ngalkhay,
Dulumb Koiyange,
Papua New Guinea

 


Philippines give green light for Malaysian
And Indonesian vessels to enter Philippine waters

The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 February 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 2 February 2018


Last Saturday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave the green light for Malaysian and Indonesian vessels to enter Philippine waters in pursuit of pirates, kidnappers and militants.
The clearance to enter our neighbours’ waters is part of a trilateral maritime security agreement discussed by Malaysia’s defence and foreign ministers with their Philippine and Indonesian counterparts.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) chief Hazani Ghazali welcomed this new development.
The opening of the maritime borders between the three countries will cut the lag time between when a Malaysian vessel has to halt its pursuit at the border and when the neighbouring country continues the chase.
Before this, criminals and terrorists were able to seek refuge upon reaching Philippine waters because entry by foreign armed vessels without permission is an intrusion into the nation’s sovereignty.
Esscom oversees security in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), a special security area spanning some 1,700km of coastline in the east coast of Sabah.
To boost the security of Esszone even further, vessels used by Esscom should be able to outrun the fastest speedboats, or carry a high-speed helicopter on its deck, to drive fear into any intruders and inspire confidence for safe passage in the Sulu Sea.
Crime or corruption occurs when perpetrators think they can get away with it, including snatch thieves on motorcycles, as it is common for many of them not to stop at red lights.
Likewise, if the escape routes are cut off, it would not be just another day in the office for pirates, kidnappers and terrorists should they strike again.

CY Ming,
Ampang,
Malaysia


 


Call for amendment to Local Government Code
For Philippines under federalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 2 February 2018

As an American living in the Philippines, please allow me to give advice on the federal system.
Although many Americans like how the federal structure works there, they have a different history.
The United States of America started out as 13 separate states, not one nation. People identified first with their state, and after decades, identified primarily as an American.
This is not the Philippine experience.
There is a bigger problem.
Depending on which state you live in of course, Americans pay about one-half of their taxes to their city and state, and the other half to the federal government. People like it because the local people best know where their money should go, and it is easier to keep track of government projects.
Here, federalism plans are vague.
But it’s easy to see the big financial problem.
According to the National Statistics Office, the National Capital Region and Calabarzon together produce 53 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Under federalism, why would the local elected officials of these rich areas fund projects in needy South Cotabato or Eastern Samar?
Even if the infrastructure is needed in these provinces, why would the local elected officials be generous to outsiders?
Clearly, underfunded Mindanao and Samar will sink.
Saying this, I realize that when I go to the province, people complain about the arrogant rules made by our national government.
Their complaints seem justified.
But there’s no need to change the Constitution to address that; it can be done by amending the Local Government Code and professionalizing the system.
The provinces should be are of the false promises of their local officials.
Under federalism, the needed money will not be shared.
Be careful what you wish for!

Jonathan. C. Foe,
Manila,
Philippines





Call for mandatory death penalty
In Malaysia for corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 February 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 31 January 2018

Social media has become a hobgoblin that’s running amok with its swiftness and ease of use.
It has become the playing field for calumnious postings without much regard for human etiquette and respect.
The Malaysian political arena has not been spared either.
One of the favourite allegations among the cyber troopers is corruption. Corrup­tion allegations have been directed at both the Government and Opposition. Half-baked “evidence” are presented to prove the allegations.
This is not good for most of the rakyat who do not have the capacity to vet through such allegations.
This letter is written in the hope that corruption will be totally wiped out and no further allegations will be made.
Like it or not, being exposed to such unrestrained propaganda can leave a bad impression on the rakyat.
It has become deeply ingrained among some that Malaysia is not a country of law and they feel the leaders are able to carry out whatever they desire.
I beg to differ.
Malaysia is still governed by law.
Our nation’s leaders still have to toe the line set by our Federal Consti­tution.
As such, to prove that the Government is sincere in combating corruption, I implore it to introduce a mandatory death penalty for corruption.
We stifled drug trafficking in Malaysia via the mandatory death penalty.
We can do the same for corruption.
Let us make Malaysia a respectable country with zero tolerance for corruption.

Mohamed Hisham Yahya,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




Call for Philippine senate to ensure
Charter change for federalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 30 January 2018

Senators insist that they should vote separately for or against Charter change.
Big question: What happens if the Senate cannot get the three-fourths majority vote?
It will mean that all the “blah … blah … blah …” as well as the work of the consultative committee headed by former chief justice Reynato Puno would go down the drain.
The House of Representatives leadership is correct that the voting must be three-fourths majority of both chambers to ensure that Charter change for federalism shall push through.
Consuelo de amor propio - allow the senators to vote separately, but in computing the three-fourths majority, the total must be the entire Senate and Congress membership.
We should not allow the Senate to trap Charter change.

R.T.Agbayani,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Obesity increasing in Thailand
But not in Laos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 February 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 29 January 2018


Re: "Fast-food track to obesity"
, in Bangkok Post, Monday 29 January 2018
I'm not sure how PostBag contributor Eva Redelinghuys has managed to come up
with her unsupported observation that "since about 2010 the number of fat people - especially in Bangkok - has increased yearly", which she attributes to fast food outlets here.
She then suggests Laos has acted better in never allowing fast food joints into
that country, resulting in "hardly a fat person in the street".
Perhaps dear Eva is unaware that Laos is a communist state with its poverty-stricken people unlikely to be able to afford fast food, or fattening food for that matter.
Is that the price she would want for slim people?

Martin R,
Bangkok,
Thailand