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


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

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

Felix Qui,
Bangkok
Thailand




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

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

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



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

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

T.K.Chua,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia




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

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

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Belen Docena-Asuelo,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



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

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

Ted P. Penaflor,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rene Magtubo,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Baffled reader,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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




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

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

Old Man Tzu,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Celestino Pascual & Rocha Law Firm
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Rafaeld D. Guerrero III,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Arsenoio Unajan Baquilid,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

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




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

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

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



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

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

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




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

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

Kamal Gehi,
Subang Jaya,
Selangor



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

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

George Morgan,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Albert Eka Bariagua,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Goll Damud,
Madang,
Papua New Guinea





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

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

Ernie Lapuz,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney
Australia




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

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

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor,
President,
Malaysian Bar,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




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

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

Marjane Dy,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Selangor,
Malaysia



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

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

R H Suga,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Dislike,
Dishonest Politicians,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Jasmine Cho,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


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

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

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




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

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

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



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

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

Gerry Maglaya,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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

 


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

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

Sommaya Hakim,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Maria Teresa N. Ancahan,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Xuan Thuy Do,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

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




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

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

Regine Agapay,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 


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

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

Regine Agapay,
Pasig City,
Philippines

 


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

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

Lim Kim Chuan,
Masai,
Johor,
Malaysia



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

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

Ronald Benjamin,
Ipoh,
Malaysia




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

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

Wong Chun Wai.
Kular Lumpur,
Malaysia




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

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

GS,
Freelance commentator,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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



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

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

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

Roan Rey Tombado,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Steve Coyle,
Ampang,
Malaysia


 

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

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

David Lepi,
Southern Highlands,
Papua New Guinea

 

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

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

Ninot Aziz,
Rawang,
Selangor,

Malaysia

 

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

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

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



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

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

Leslie Lofranco-Berbano,
Fairview,
Quezon City



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

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

Belen Docena-Asuelo,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


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

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

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

CPL
Metro Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Street Justice,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea




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

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

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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




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

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

Regine Agapay,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Richard Yasi,
Wambu Logo,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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



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

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

Jeremias H.Tobias,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia

 


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

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

Jack Kukiwa,
Moral duty officer.
Madang,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Midnight Mango,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Richard Maribu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

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




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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney
Australia




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

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

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Malaysia


 

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

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

Daniel Reid,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Ezekiel Manaois,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Marjane Dy,
Manila,
Philippines


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

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

Reiner Lorenzo J.
Tamayo, RN,
Manila
Philippines



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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


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

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

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

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



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

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

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




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

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

Ramon Normon Torrefranca,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Jonathan Mok,
NGV,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

 

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

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

Concerned Citizen,
POM
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

G.Selva,
Ipoh,
Malaysia



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

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

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



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

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

Proactive Agent,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



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

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

Ed Dames,
Makati City,
Philippines



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

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

Glen Chatelier,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay started on January 27 and involved 5,000 volunteers.
Is this a change that would benefit the world?
Yes.
Is it already safe for swimming?
Not yet.
However, that’s a great start in turning this new year’s resolution into reality.
But, as later reports would reveal, it turns out that this rehabilitation has a hidden agenda, with plans of turning Manila Bay into a commercialized recreational center. The idea may be good for economic growth, but it will just add more harm to both the country and the environment.
The coliform in Manila Bay has reached 333 million mpn, more than the 100 mpn for it to be safe for swimming and consumption.
The bay’s main pollutants are the wastes from commercial and industrial facilities in the area.
If we add more establishments there, the worst may happen.
I oppose the reclamation of the bay because it will not benefit the country’s economy, only the prosperous few.
Does this project help street children live a healthy and comfortable lifestyle?
No.
Will this project help build shelters for underprivileged Filipinos?
No.
Will this project help solve poverty?
Certainly not.
Why not give priority to helping indigents rather than stuffing businessmen’s already deep pockets?
There are things that need more focus than just building more unnecessary establishments along an already deteriorating natural resource.
Instead of commercializing, why not practice the act of conserving?
Manila Bay has outstanding land and water features and just needs proper treatment.
Instead of new buildings, why not build playgrounds for children?
Why not promote activities that are good for the health in the area?
The government can organize fun runs or offer free bike rides - these activities do not harm the environment.
Instead of going commercial, why not develop Manila Bay into an eco-friendly recreational area?
We also have to look ahead.
Will this campaign of cleaning up the bay be sustained throughout the next few years?
Let’s hope the government picks the right path for one of the country’s most vital bodies of water.

John Alcance,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Angeli O. Marconi,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Abdul Fareed,
Abdul Gafoor,
President,
Malaysian Bar
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


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

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

Rueben Dudly,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Dr Jurgen Schofer, Ph.D,
Pasig City,
Philippines


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

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

Luis Antonio A. Bonifacio,
Floridablanca,
Pampanga,
Philippines



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

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

Datuk Wee Beng Gee,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia



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

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

Isidro C. Valencia,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Mehmet Hassan,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


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

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

Evelyn Silay,
Manila,
Philippines



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

The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 May 2019

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

Ann R. Aquino
Junior’s Journalist Club,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Teresita Quintos Deles,
Connvenor,
EveryWoman,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

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

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

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

Sibeymai,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

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

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

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu and Luvenraj,
Seremban,
Malaysia




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

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

Roman M Montenegro,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Ed Garcia,
Framer,
1987 Philippine Constitution
Manila,
Philippines

 

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

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

Dr Khor Swee Kheng,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



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

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

Fun Chee Chong,
Kulai,
Johor,
Malaysia



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

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

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



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

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

Michael Setter,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

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

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

Philip Wong,
Director,
Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs,
Kuching,
Malaysia

 


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

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

Shermaine Anacleto,
Manila,
Phiippines




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

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

Raul. V. Fernandez,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Jack Jenkins Hill,
Dawei township,
Tanintharyi,
Myanmar



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

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

Benjie Guerrero,
Manila,
Phiippines

 


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

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

Unwelcome Mango,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Bomai D Witne,
Brisbane,
Queensland,
Australia




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

Re: “Extraditions are not about justice”, in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 20.
Mr Sadoff is right that when extradition attempts fail, the person under
indictment can be exterminated by other means.
Unfortunately, he did not mention drastic and deadly action mostly illegal under international laws that a state can take, such as clandestine operations, including abduction and murder.
The USA made many attempts to extradite Osama bin Laden but the several countries suspected of hiding him claimed that they did not know about his whereabouts.
Ultimately, bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed by a US Seal team in
2011.
Although illegal, the Seal team’s bold raid to take down bin Laden was an
extraordinary operation which most legal experts, journalists, and media
mavericks in the West regarded as a resounding success.
It is also clear that most of the authoritarian states do not really care about
press freedom or international treaties.
In 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Thailand ranked 136 out of 180 countries.
Singapore is ranked 151, and Brunei leads the pack 152/180 for lack of press
freedom among its peers in the Asean.
When it comes to press freedom, in most Asian countries, the extraditions and exterminations are not about justice.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




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

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

Evelyn Silay,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Arnulfo M. Edralin,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Charlie Laureta,
Manila,
Philippines


 

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

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

A. Johnsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

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

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

Isidro C Valencia,
Manila,
Philippines

 


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

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

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,
Manila,
Philippines

 


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

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

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

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

 


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

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

A. Johnsen,
Bangkok,
Thailand



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

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

Maricor Salvador,
Manila,
Philippines

 


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

Rocky B Denoga,
Manila,
Philippines




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

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

Rene Torres,
Manila,
Philippines



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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


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

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

Nason Mul Solo,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

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

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

Regine Mamagat-Agapay
Batangas,
Philippines




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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia


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

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

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



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

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

David James Wong
Bangkok,
Thailand


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

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

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia

 

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

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

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

Songdej Praditsmanont,
Bangkok,
Thailand