Aung San Suu Kyi 'should have resigned' over Rohingya Muslim genocide.

Aung San Suu Kyi should have resigned as Myanmar’s de-facto leader over the army’s mass killings of Rohingya Muslims, the UN’s human rights chief has said.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the Nobel Peace prize winner should have risked returning to house arrest rather than being a “spokesperson of the Burmese military”.

His comments come after the Nobel committee said Ms Suu Kyi would not be stripped of the prize she was awarded in 1991 for campaigning for democracy, despite a UN report concluding Myanmar’s army had carried out genocide against the Rohingya people.

The Buddhist-majority country’s military, which has been accused of systematic ethnic cleansing, has rejected the report.

Ms Suu Kyi last year claimed an “iceberg of misinformation” was fuelling allegations of Rohingya persecution.

Her silence over the mass killings has previously been likened by researchers to “legitimising genocide”.

“She was in a position to do something,” Mr Hussein told the BBC. “She could have stayed quiet – or even better, she could have resigned.

“There was no need for her to be the spokesperson of the Burmese military. She didn’t have to say this was ‘an iceberg of misinformation’. These were fabrications.

“She could have said, ‘Look, you know, I am prepared to be the nominal leader of the country but not under these conditions.

“Thank you very much, I will resign, I will go back into house arrest – I cannot be an adjunct accessory that others may think I am when it comes to these violations’.”

Ms Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest because of her campaign to bring democracy to Myanmar, which was ruled by a military junta for 49 years.

Her efforts made her an international symbol of courage and peaceful resistance to oppression, and following her release she led the National League for Democracy to victory in 2015, in the nation’s first openly contested election for decades.

But she has been strongly criticised for failing to speak out against the persecution of Rohingya, more than 700,000 of whom have fled the Myanmar’s Rakhine state for neighbouring Bangladesh since the military began a violent persecution of the ethnic minority in late 2016.

Ms Suu Kyi is yet to publicly comment on a UN Human Rights Council declaration on Monday that Myanmar’s army had committed genocide against the nation’s Rohingya.

In the damning final report of a UN fact-finding mission, investigators said Myanmar’s commander-in-chief and five other named generals should face prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Myanmar’s government has dismissed the report, accusing the international community of “false allegations”, and said its army had been responding to a legitimate threat from Rohingya militants.

“Our stance is clear and I want to say sharply that we don’t accept any resolutions conducted by the Human Rights Council,” Zaw Htay, the government spokesman, said.

He suggested the UN’s conclusions could not be trusted because Myanmar had blocked investigators from entering the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to comment on a UN report that concluded Myanmar's military had committed genocide.

The Independent, Published: 1 day ago
Aung San Suu Kyi 'should have resigned' over Rohingya Muslim genocide, says UN human rights chief

'She was in a position to do something,' says Zeid​ Ra'ad al-Hussein. 'There was no need for her to be the spokesperson of the Burmese military'

By Chris Baynes

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Pride and passion bring results

HAPPY Merdeka Day 2018, and what a rollercoaster of a year we’ve had, since we celebrated our last independence day.

There are more flags flying all over town than in the past few years. And, while there is a tremendous amount of trepidation about what the future holds, it cannot be denied that there is a sense of buoyancy everywhere in Malaysia.

I am writing this week’s column in my wife’s little “kampung” in the Austrian Alps, and even here, people have heard of our “new” Prime Minister, who was our “old” Prime Minister!

This is a great time to be Malaysian.

As a nation, we came together 61 years ago for our independence from the British. Our forefathers fought without bloodshed for our political, economic and social freedom.

The nation has worked hard, collectively, for prosperity and harmony in the face of our diversity.

Since our independence, the country has seen many glorious victories, peppered with some moments of regret. But the continued existence of this nation has only happened because generations of Malaysians have bought in to the idea of “being Malaysian”.

When we go abroad, we refer to ourselves as “Malaysians” and not to the specific race we were born into. And, we beam with pride when anyone speaks highly of our rather modest Southeast Asian nation.

For example, I was in a taxi a few days ago in Copenhagen, and the driver, who was originally from Pakistan spoke with gusto about how Malaysia was a beacon of light for other nations on how political change can be achieved by ordinary people. I sat at the back of that cab beaming with pride.

It’s really nice to be proud about being Malaysian.

We all connect with the idea of Malaysia, and this has kept us going for the last six decades, even when we face occasional adversities. Our goal of a unified nation with shared vision keeps us together.

Similarly, in your work-life, once you have determined your professional purpose, you will need to define goals that are aligned to this. It is a crucial process because goals ensure that you are living your professional purpose, and this makes you accountable for them.

And, you must be passionate about your goals.

History is full of examples of successful people, communities, and countries that focused energy, effort, and grit in the direction of pursuing their passion.

Our country today is an exemplar of this.

I’d like to remind you that the life you live today was built by your past actions. And once you nail down your professional purpose, if you do not take the necessary steps to act on goals that are in keeping with this, your future will not reflect your purpose.

No matter how inextricably linked you are with your current situation or job, do not kid yourself into thinking that it is permanent.

Just as you have created your current life, you can re-create it based on your professional purpose.

Alvin Toffler, the writer and futurist known for his discussions on modern technologies and the digital revolution, said the illiterates of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write, but are those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. So, it becomes vital that you believe that you can relearn and make changes in your life.

Accept that there may be gaps between where you are, and where you want to be.

Perhaps you will need to up-skill to acquire skillsets for what you want to pursue. Or perhaps you might not be able to leave your current job in an instant, and move to something more empowering. But, it is necessary for you to understand that this is not a permanent acceptance of your lot in life.

Strive to make change by taking small steps towards your end-point.

The Japanese philosophy of “kaizen” is arguably the best way of thinking.

It simply means change for the better, and it is about focusing on continuous improvement of personal working practices and personal efficiency.

Make the transition from living your current work-life to a purpose-fuelled one by being mindful of the steps you need to take.

Do not make unreasoned choices. A few years ago a participant in a training programme asked me for help to become a leadership coach. That, in itself was greatly commendable. But, she wanted to be hired right away.

I had to explain to her that it was not logical, because she was 24 years old and had no leadership

experience. However, in time as she aligns her work-life with this professional purpose, I have no doubt that she will get there.

I remind all my coachees and trainees that life is more than just attaining an end-point. It is ultimately about living in alignment with your purpose, so that you become the best version of yourself, just like our nation Malaysia aspires to become.

Have a glorious Merdeka Day!


New Straits Times, Published: August 31, 2018 - 8:00am
Pride and passion bring results
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”

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Be a productive Malaysian

FREEDOM is oxygen for the soul. One needs no other reason to celebrate its essence! As Malaysia grows and prospers, it continues to face challenges, while holding on to its cultural roots.

Every year, Aug 31 serves as a reminder of the good and bad times, happy and sad events, successes and failures of a diverse nation. As Malaysia celebrates its 61st National Day, we thank all our inspiring leaders who have helped define our country.

Before 1957, Malaysia was an agrarian economy, with rubber and tin as the main trading commodities. Business enterprises were small scaled, predominantly localised and family-owned. We have evolved over time, our economy has diversified beyond agriculture and primary commodities, and urbanisation has been rapid.

Productivity is one of the key drivers of economic success. The more productive a country’s workers are, the more value they bring to their employers and the economy. Generally, the higher the productivity of a country, the higher the standard of living.

Let’s do our part to be productive. Every day brings us a crushing wave of demands: a barrage of texts, emails, interruptions, meetings, phone calls, tweets and blogs − not to mention the high demands of our jobs − which can be overwhelming and exhausting. The sheer number of distractions can threaten our ability to think clearly, make good decisions and accomplish what matters most.

Let’s start with a simple guide to boost personal productivity:

FIRST, know when to take a break. Slogging in overtime may not be productive. We need to know when to take a step back and take a break. Jumping between tasks isn’t the most effective way to work.

When we prioritise, we can stay focused on one job (or at the most two) at a time and get it done effectively;

SECOND, eliminate unnecessary distraction, create a list of things you need to get done and focus on the essentials first. Focusing on one smaller task at a time can help you concentrate and reduce stress. Setting a goal with a deadline and sticking to it can increase productivity immensely.

Set personal and professional goals that are attainable and ambitious, even if the deadline is weeks away. Work towards something big and complete smaller tasks along the way. Instead of stressing over a task you’re unsure about, seek help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it means that you trust your colleagues enough to let them help you;

THIRD, don’t forget to reward yourself for completing the tasks. This gives you something positive to look forward to.

To keep the momentum and remain productive, we need to prepare for the next day. Jot down ideas or worries before you go to sleep to avoid them keeping you awake. Sleep and rest are important to keep your productivity level high; and,

FOURTH, try to eliminate distractions before bedtime like your cellphone, computer or television so that you can relax your mind and have a pleasant sleep. We’ve heard of the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”. In the world of productivity, that is very true. Going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier helps you to get in tune with your natural circadian rhythm and you feel more energetic too.

Clearly, such positive behaviour leads to a high level of commitment and discipline at work. It creates a positive culture and becomes the inspirational driver for engaging employees.

If you’re unhappy with what you’re doing, your work will reflect that. Finding pleasure in your work is important in performing at your best.

Successful company cultures manifest distinct characteristics for high productivity. It indicates growth and is typically driven by a high level of teamwork and engagement.

A company’s culture that embraces diversity is centred on tolerance and acceptance of others, which fosters teamwork and a sense of collaboration. A study shows that when employees are engaged, they feel valued, accepted, respected and able to perform their job in a positive work environment. What a wonderful platform to increase productivity!

Even the best-designed processes will fail without a supportive culture in the organisation that values goal commitment, self-motivation, continuous improvement, teamwork and respect for people.

In order to be productive, we need to be in a peaceful state of mind. When we have a clear view of our present situation and goals, we can be productive. But what is more important is to know the reasons behind our current situation and the motives encouraging us to move forward.

Malaysia has always sought to improve its productivity to enhance the living standard of its rakyat. These include supporting them with knowledge, skills and competencies. Without growth in productivity, disposable income and savings would not be possible. Opportunity for all people to improve their lot would cease.

No nation is perfect, but striving for perfection is an ongoing process and a positive sign.

Kita Punya Malaysia, a new National Day 2018 theme song, urges Malaysians to have a high degree of self-esteem while working together to develop our country. Let’s promise ourselves that we will do our bit to live in harmony and unity, with a strong affection for the nation.

Selamat Hari Kebangsaan 2018!

Let us do our bit to live in harmony and unity, with a strong affection for the nation.

Letter to New Straits Times, Published: August 31, 2018 - 10:48am
Be a productive Malaysian

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We had, in May, peacefully voted out the world’s longest ruling political party.

IT’S strange, but I have to go halfway around the world to the United States to actually come face to face to with our nation’s history of being a British colony.

Time and time again, I am confronted by that question that any foreigner would have to face in a distant English-speaking land: “Your English is amazing!”

This exclamation would then be followed by a variation of, “When did you learn how to speak English?”, by some random American to which I would reply, “Since birth”, much to wonder and amazement.

I would then have to explain that for a period of time, 131 years specifically, we were colonised by the British and, as such, have adopted much from them. Their education and legal structure, their strong sense of feudalism, and more than anything else, the Queen’s English.

“It’s really not a big deal,” I would say. “Most Malaysians speak three or four languages or dialects, and English is almost always one of them.”

When I shared that Malaysia will be celebrating its 61st Independence Day today, most were astonished. “Sixty-one years only? Wow, that’s a young country!”

I never looked at it that way.

As a proud millennial born in the late 80s, I have only known and existed in a free Malaysia. I have not known any wars, but I have known some form of rebellions through my participation in three Bersih rallies, done my share of griping against the establishment at the mamaks over my roti canai and teh tarik − but never had I ever been directly subjugated by a coloniser of my nation.

I am also very aware that we, as a nation, are not that patriotic − we tend to take Malaysia for granted. Americans, on the other hand, are very patriotic.

Almost everywhere I go to here − be it public space or residential − there will most probably be an American flag.

“It’s the greatest country in the world,” said yet another American to me, without any irony. “Yes, we are not a fan of our president now, but this nation is more than Donald Trump. Trump would be gone one day, but this country would still be here.”

Fact of the matter is, America has a lot of problems. It’s a huge nation that is increasingly being divided between the far right (Republican) and far left (Democrat). It has an unfathomable immigration issue that most Malaysians can’t even begin to understand, and its gun policy issue is such a mess now that most public spaces have taken to post “NO GUNS ALLOWED” signs.

But Americans remain ardently patriotic and proud.

In comparison, Malaysia is very much in a better position than America.

We had, in May, peacefully voted out the world’s longest ruling political party.

Our new prime minister is neither a global security threat nor an embarrassment the way Trump is and despite the shadow of the 1MDB scandal and our many gripes and complaints in Facebook’s comment section, we are for the most part, living the good and peaceful life.

So, why are we not proud? Why is it that the only thing that can unite us is our love for nasi lemak, rendang and Lee Chong Wei, but not for Jalur Gemilang or each other? Why, despite 61 years of independence, some of us do not have this pride for our nation, the way that majority of the Americans do?

I don’t have the answer to that, but I do know that the political change that took place in May has given me hope.

Hope for a new future that perhaps, in due time we can all shake off our chequered past from over a century of British colonisation to decades of questionable government rule to create a better, more inclusive Malaysia for all.

I, for one, know that I will be doing my part as I turned down a (theoretical) job offer from an American chief editor to work in the US, without a second thought. A year ago, I would have jumped at the offer, but after May 2018, I rather stay than leave.

Malaysia ini #kitapunya, and I will do my part to rebuild it.

Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia.

Malaysians, for the most part, are living the good and peaceful life.

New Straits Times, Published: August 31, 2018 - 11:11am
Rebuilding a new Malaysia, together
By Lidiana Rosli
The writer is embarking on the World Press Institute (WPI) Fellowship in the United States. WPI had, since 1961, gathered 10 international journalists annually for a whirlwind tour of the American press landscape

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Malaysians proved that democracy works.

Quite a few Malaysians − many of them young and mobile − made the momentous personal decision on May 9 to travel home (at great personal expense and inconvenience to some) because they really believed that their individual vote counts. The results of our collective vote reaffirmed them in such a conviction.

For these Malaysians, it is as if the nation has been reborn and Merdeka Day 2018 cannot but be especially meaningful for them because of that. And it is likely for this reason that the new Federal Government sees it fit to mark the day with perhaps extra vim and style.

Merdeka Day commemorates the day when the nation reclaimed its sovereignty. It also signifies freedom for Malaysians and nothing better exemplifies that than the freedom to exercise real political choice that a change in government epitomises.

The first time such change takes place is, as with most things, the hardest. But if it is really that meaningful, it also cannot be the last time. Nor should it induce in the popular imagination a certain cavalier-ness that having done it once, we will do so again with almost nonchalant regularity.

Change if we must, but not simply because we can. Any newly elected Malaysian government must constantly prove to us that it is truly worthy of getting re-elected or the opposition − having shown itself capable of mending its old ways − will deal the sitting government its comeuppance.

As we celebrate Merdeka Day on a hopeful and optimistic note of national renewal and rebirth, we must also not be carried away by any notion that democratic theory and practice do not diverge and often badly at that.

We live in an era where democratic dysfunction is plain for all to see in countries we once looked up to as political paragons. Be it the spectacle of an erratic and ill-equipped leader elected as president of the United States or Australia’s revolving-door governments coming even mid-stream between parliamentary terms, we are reminded of how democracies can go awry.

Barisan Nasional’s long and even predictable stewardship of the country at least made possible long-range planning which has undisputedly served the country well while it lasted.

One of the serious imponderables that Pakatan Harapan’s ascendancy must, nevertheless, cause us to mull over is whether it will not also make us look back with some nostalgia for the time when our government was not just governing on a strictly five-year span until the next electoral cycle kicks in.

Is a truly competitive two-party political system all that it is cracked up to be if at the end of the day, we get nothing but the governmental paralysis besetting Western democracies today?

Merdeka Day may lose its meaning, if, apart from joyous commemorations and celebrations, we do not also spare moments to reflect on all that is yet to be and how things may yet be. A renewed sense of national purpose must be channelled towards the serious challenges and work that lay ahead of us collectively.

Freedom may be a heady sensation but it must not become a licence for us to become a quarrelsome and disagreeable lot that makes working for the common good all but impossible.

We must all also be mindful of the reality that a change in government does not wipe clean the deep-seated fundamental issues bedeviling the country. These have much to do with the ongoing search for a true national identity beyond the multiple identities of race, religion or region.

The year’s Merdeka celebrations are a watershed moment for Malaysians who proved that democracy works − the nation came together and voted for a change in government.

New Straits Times, Published:
A watershed day
By John Teo
The writer views developments in the nation, the region and the wider world from his vantage point in Kuching, Sarawak.

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Dr M: PH guarantees justice for all after 'second independence'

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tonight gave the assurance that the Pakatan Harapan government guaranteed justice for all the people after their having achieved the “second independence” by rejecting a ruthless regime.

He invited the people to work together with the government to revive the country from the damage left behind by the previous government.

In his National Day 2018 message broadcast over television, Dr Mahathir said the people were celebrating the National Day this time with a sense of relief and comfort, free from the shackles of the previous regime.

“Indeed, this is our second independence. We are free from the shackles of a ruthless regime. Our lives are more comfortable.

“This PH government guarantees justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion,” he said.

Touching on the success of the nation, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia had developed rapidly in the early days to become an Asian Tiger and remained capable of becoming a developed nation by 2020.

Unfortunately, he said, a change in the administration had brought about a change of policies and approach, and the lawful systems of democracy and administration were discarded and replaced with other means.

“Such was the damage and pressure that the people endured, so much so that they felt they had achieved independence once again when the 14th General Election brought about a change of government,” he said.

In inviting the people to work with the government to revive the country, the Prime Minister reminded the people that the task was a heavy one but said nothing could stop the people and government working together.

“Ours is a heavy task. But no power can come between a people and government working together.

“We have seen how countries defeated and destroyed in war have risen again in a short time and progressed due to the spirit and efforts of the people and government.

“We are also capable of that. We, too, can revive our country, Malaysia. The government can administer well, exercise thrift, be disciplined and control greed. This is being done.

“The success in reducing debt is being seen, although it is still a little. The damaged administrative machinery has been restored. Insya-Allah (God willing), the actions being taken and to be taken will nurse the nation to health again.

“But the people have to play their role as well. If the government is unable to provide money as in the past, which was due to the wastage before, it will jeopardise the recovery process.

“After all, this government does not steal public funds to give part of the loot to the people,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Pakatan Harapan government would use a better approach by creating more jobs and business opportunities.

“This is returns from one’s own sweat and, of course, it is halal,” he added.

He said that in this context, the government would provide education and training as well as scholarships. Workers’ expertise will be enhanced so that their income can grow.

“We will raise wages according to ability. But it must be remembered that a rise in wages will be meaningless if the cost of living rises as well,” he said.

Dr Mahathir shared the formula to help raise the people’s purchasing power.

“To ensure that wage increases raise purchasing power, productivity must be enhanced through more efficient management, increased worker efficiency, use of machines, robotics and automation, and additional investment by employers.

“The government will give incentives and rewards to those who raise productivity at the lowest cost. The rising prices of industrial products must be controlled,” he said.

Dr Mahathir emphasised that the government would always help the people who were genuinely poor or disabled by giving better aid than BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid).

He said BR1M would be gradually reduced but the poor and unemployed and those unable to work would be given more meaningful assistance.

The Prime Minister

said that in line with this year’s National Day theme of ‘Sayangi Malaysiaku’, the love for the country would be able to overcome whatever differences, contradictions and suspicions that might arise.

“Hopefully, our aspiration for Malaysia to be progressive, peaceful and fair will remain forever. Love this Malaysia of ours,” he said.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tonight gave the assurance that the Pakatan Harapan government guaranteed justice for all the people after their having achieved the “second independence” by rejecting a ruthless regime.

New Straits Times, Published: August 30, 2018 - 8:59pm
PH guarantees justice for all after 'second independence' - Dr Mahathir

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National Day Message of PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Assalamualaikum and Salam Sejahtera to all Malaysians.

1. It is for the umpteenth time that we are celebrating the National Day. Officially, it is our 61st National Day, calculated from the announcement of independence on Aug 31, 1957, by Tunku Abdul Rahman at the Merdeka Stadium.

2. The Federation of Malaya, and later Malaysia, has been witness to many events since achieving independence from British colonial rule and becoming a sovereign state free to chart its own course in its own mould.

3. From that date, the government and the people have strived to realise that independence.

4. The challenges were not few. As a newly-independent nation, everything had to be done starting from scratch.

5. It was not something easy – almost all areas, experience and expertise belonged to the colonial administrators and intellectuals and very few among us had the capability to fully take over these responsibilities.

6. It was difficult even to implement certain portions of the administrative and legal systems left behind because these were designed to suit the needs of the colonialists. The local people found that it was inappropriate to fully accept these.

7. But we were better off than some other countries which had to endure situations far worse because the colonialists left them in disarray, without trained administrators and the appropriate legislation to implement.

8. Our country was fortunate because of the wisdom of the national leadership at that time which secured independence through negotiations and not rebellion and bloodshed. As such, the former colonialists were able to assist in terms of the security, administration and plans of the country.

9. Their assistance was not solely due to feelings of responsibility. It was due to the need for stability and peace to ensure that their investment in plantations and mining was safe.

10. The Federation of Malaya, which replaced the Malayan Union, was rich in terms of natural resources. This wealth contributed a great deal to the progress of the colonialists.

11. In this context, the independence gained will only be meaningful when we are able to wean neo-colonialism or economic colonisation from our tarnished independence. With our persistent efforts, we have been able to develop our country to redeem our wealth. One of these efforts was the ‘Dawn Raid’ to buy our Guthrie Plantation legally. But we were accused of having committed a seizure or nationalisation.

12. Nevertheless, we were still willing to accept foreign direct investment (FDI), including from the country of our colonial masters. But they were not allowed to interfere in the country’s politics and administration. We preserved our independence.

13. Then, the Federation of Malaya evolved into Malaysia. No one can dispute or match the willingness of the Malays to compromise.

14. Although Malaysia had its fair share of races and ethnic groups, it remained peaceful and stable and developed rapidly to become known as an Asian Tiger. Indeed, Malaysia remains capable of becoming a developed nation by 2020.

15. Unfortunately, a change in the administration had brought about a change of policies and approach. The lawful systems of democracy and administration were discarded and replaced with other means. As a result, Vision 2020 became an empty dream.

16. Such was the damage and pressure that the people endured, so much so that they felt they had achieved independence once again when the 14th General Election brought about a change of government.

17. Yes, the people achieved success due to their firm stand. But the benefits do not come rushing just because victory has been achieved. The action against the criminals, too, cannot be fulfilled immediately.

18. Just as we disliked the ways of the previous administration, we cannot put into practice the methods that we have hated. It takes time to bring about an administration by the rule of law. But, believe me, the criminals will eventually be punished in accordance with the offences they have committed.

19. In the meantime, the people and government should work together to revive the country. Ours is a heavy task. But no power can come between a people and government working together.

20. We have seen how countries defeated and destroyed in war have risen again in a short time and progressed due to the spirit and efforts of the people and government.

21. We are also capable of that. We, too, can revive our country, Malaysia.

22. The government can administer well, exercise thrift, be disciplined and control greed. This is being done. The success in reducing debt is being seen, although it is still a little. The damaged administrative machinery has been restored. Insya-Allah (God willing), the actions being taken and to be taken will nurse the nation to health again.

23. But the people have to play their role as well. If the government is unable to provide money as in the past, which was due to the wastage before, it will jeopardise the recovery process. After all, this government does not steal public funds to give part of the loot to the people.

24. That’s not the best way. This government will create more jobs and business opportunities. In this way, the income earned gives more satisfaction. This is returns from one’s own sweat and, of course, it is halal.

25. In this context, the government will provide education and training as well as scholarships. Workers’ expertise will be enhanced so that their income can grow.

26. We will raise wages according to ability. But it must be remembered that a rise in wages will be meaningless if the cost of living rises as well.

27. To ensure that wage increases raise purchasing power, productivity must be enhanced through more efficient management, increased worker efficiency, use of machines, robotics and automation, and additional investment by employers. The government will give incentives and rewards to those who raise productivity at the lowest cost. The rising prices of industrial products must be controlled.

28. The government will always help the people who are genuinely poor or disabled. They will be given aid better than BR1M, for instance. Giving RM500 or RM1,200 annually is not enough to enable one to live a comfortable life. Yes. BR1M will be gradually reduced but the poor and unemployed and those unable to work will be given more meaningful assistance.

29. We are celebrating the National Day this time with a sense of relief and comfort. Indeed, this is our second independence. We are free from the shackles of a ruthless regime. Our lives are more comfortable. This PH government guarantees justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion.

30. In line with the achievements and feeling that we have experienced and shared, the theme of this year’s National Day is ‘Sayangi Malaysiaku’.

31. It is hoped that this feeling will remain with all of us. I am sure that so long as this feeling remains with all of us, Malaysia will remain strong and progressive whatever the differences, contradictions and suspicions that may arise.

32. Happy National Day. Hopefully, our aspiration for Malaysia to be progressive, peaceful and fair will remain forever. Love this Malaysia of ours.

Thank you.

Bernama, Last update: 30/08/2018
English translation of National Day Message of PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

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 答 いや、財投を借りたわけじゃありません。

 問 え?

 答 財投を活用して、鉄道・運輸機構から借りたんです。民間会社としてやるんだから、政府からお借りするのはダメです。民間の金融機関から借りるのと同じ条件で借りたいと思います、と。返せるか、返せないか、事業をよく見て、あなたが判断してくれ、と。

 問 「あなた」というのは政府? 機構?

 答 政府だったり機構(だったり)、どっちでもいいんですが、貸すのが心配だったら貸さなきゃいい。向こうも納得して、私たちも納得して借りた。

 問 しかし、政府も機構も、そうした融資判断ができる能力はないのでは。

 答 それは向こうに失礼な話です。貸した方は貸した責任があるんですね。

 問 通常の融資スキームとは相当違う。

 答 だから、政府が本当に知恵を出されたということだと思います。


 「話があったとは聞きました。しかし、民間銀行はもちろん、うちでも1社に3兆円を貸し出すことはあり得ません。相手先が倒れたら、銀行も一緒に死んでしまう。うちも他の大手銀行も、1社2000億円がギリギリのラインです。30年返済据え置き? それはないでしょ」


 問 財投の決断は安倍首相がされたということですよね。

 答 いや、それはよく分かりませんが、安倍総理以下、国交大臣、あるいは担当大臣、政府としてなさった。

 問 最初に発言されたのは安倍首相だから、「安倍主導」で。

 答 「安倍主導」って……。

 問 ちゃんと返せると思っているから(貸した)。

 答 はい。





















リニア新幹線 夢か、悪夢か

金田 信一郎、藤中 潤

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Saudi Govt lauds Malaysian pilgrims for cleanliness

Please refer to the following articles in this Mr Yahho's Blog dated 2018年08月24日 "Japan culture":

Malaysian pilgrims' exemplary behaviour contribute to Masyair success
written by Sofea Chok Suat Ling
published : New Straits Times, August 23, 2018 - 1:51pm

MAKKAH: The Saudi Arabian government has praised Malaysian haj pilgrims' civic mindedness and called on other countries to emulate them.

Saudi vice minister of haj and umrah Dr Abdulfattah Suliman Mashat said Malaysia was the only country which cleaned up its tents in Arafah and Mina, and the open area in Muzdalifah where pilgrims spent half a night during Masyair.

He had requested for photos from Tabung Haji (TH) so that it could be used as a sample for other countries to follow in subsequent haj seasons.

"Keeping clean is part of our duty as Muslims. We would like to thank TH and Malaysian pilgrims for making this possible.

"We are also in discussions with TH on how to implement a green concept next year," he told Malaysian media after meeting with top TH officials at the ministry here.

Present were 6and Deputy head (pilgrims’ welfare) of the 1439H Malaysian haj season Nurrin Anuwar Shamsuddin.

TH had launched a cleanliness campaign and massive gotong-royong exercise during Masyair. Many pilgrims participated headed by TH volunteers called Sahabat Maktab.

The cleanliness campaign aimed to ensure tent and open sites occupied by Malaysians served as an example to be emulated by other countries.

Masyair refers to the massive movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Arafah for wukuf, onwards to Muzdalifah for half a night to pick up pebbles, and then Mina for the stoning ritual.

On the Kingdom’s future plans for the pilgrimage, he said that it would employ information technology and develop the holy sites.

Abdulfattah said the transformation of the haj and umrah formed part of Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia.

Vision 2030 includes a strategic and comprehensive plan to develop the sector to allow the largest number of Muslims possible to perform haj and umrah.

Abdulfattah said the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Abdulaziz al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, under Saudi's Vision 2030, wanted to make the haj and umrah easier for all and provide pilgrims with high-quality services.

A plan, he said, has already been drafted to develop the Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafah sites.

The other initiatives include improving relevant infrastructure, and building public transportation.

He said the new high-speed "Haramain Express" train would start commercial operations next year.

"The pre-operational trips have been very successful."

The Haramain high-speed rail project, also known as the "Western railway" or "Makkah–Madinah high-speed railway", is a 453km-long high-speed inter-city rail transport system in Saudi Arabia.

It links the cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), as well as Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA), using 449.2 km of main line and a 3.75km branch connection to KAIA.

The service is expected to carry up to 60 million passengers a year, including millions of haj and umrah pilgrims. Construction started in March 2009.

Using electric propulsion that will drive the trains to an operating speed of 300kph, the express train is expected to cut travel time between the cities of Makkah and Madinah to under two hours, instead of six hours by bus.

Abdulfattah said the Kingdom would be encouraging pilgrims to use the Haramain Express when it was fully operational.

[photo-1] Abdulfattah.

[photo-2] On Abdulfattah's left is TH head of the Malaysian 1439H haj delegation Datuk Seri Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman.

[photo-3] Malaysian pilgrims left their tents in Mina as clean as they found it.

[photo-4] Malaysian pilgrims cleaning up their tents in Mina.

New Straits Times, Published: August 27, 2018 - 3:14pm
Saudi government praises Malaysian pilgrims for being cleanest
By Sofea Chok Suat Ling

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The roar of the last Lion of Judah

Please refer to the following articles in this Mr Yahho's Blog :

2018年08月23日 "Avnery, Israeli peace activist who met Arafat, dies aged 94"
2018年08月25日 "Uri Avnery"

“If you don’t get my weekly column, it means I am dead,” wrote Israeli writer Uri Avnery to a friend. As I eagerly awaited Uri’s column each week, I feared that each new column might be his last.

And so it finally came to be. The renowned 94-year old writer and peace advocate finally succumbed to old age after a stroke and massive heart attack.

The roar of the last Lion of Judah (*) had been silenced.

I always considered Avnery as the wisest voice in the Mideast, and Israel’s last prophet. His voice was always rich in wisdom, morality and common sense. Few Israelis and even fewer Arabs attained his level of clarity and logic.

Whenever I grew weary writing columns and felt I could no longer go on, I told myself, “if 94-year old Uri can keep writing brilliant columns each week, then you too can keep writing. Back to your keyboard!”

Uri’s story was in good part that of modern Israel. He was born Helmut Osterman to a prosperous German Jewish family near Hanover. When Hitler came to power, they migrated in 1933 to Palestine with the 11-year old Helmut – who changed his name to the Hebrew, Uri Avnery.

In 1948, the young Avnery joined the underground Jewish guerilla force Irgun, fighting British and Palestinians and, later, Arab regular soldiers. Irgun committed numerous notorious terrorist acts and massacres that played a key role in driving the Palestinian population from their ancestral homes. He was seriously wounded and nearly died.

Two years later, he and three friends started a political magazine, “One World.”

Avnery was increasingly political and sided with Israeli expansionists. But he gradually came to see that peace and cooperation was the only solution for Israel. After Israel’s smashing victories over the Arabs in the 1956 and 1967 wars, he formed a leftist pro-peace party and won a seat in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. He helped found the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Council and the renowned Gush Shalom peace movement.

Avnery was one of the first Israelis to call for fair treatment of the Palestinians, over a million who had become refugees in 1948 and 1967. He urged Israel to sign a lasting peace accord with the Palestinians and return to them control of the West Bank, the old city of Jerusalem, Golan and Gaza – all occupied by the Israeli Army and growing waves of Jewish settlers.

Uri became the target of decades of hatred by right-wing Israelis. He was stabbed. He said things that were not said in public. He kept reminding Israelis that their Jewish ethics demanded fair and decent treatment of Palestinians, whom Israeli leaders preferred to call ‘cockroaches’ and ‘wild animals.’

Interestingly, the two men who have best explained the Muslim world to westerners, Uri Avnery and the Austrian-born Leopold Weiss, known as Muhammad Asad, who wrote the great book, “the Road to Mecca,” were both Germanic Jews.

There would never be peace in the region, warned prophet Avnery, until Israel returned at least some land taken from Palestinians, and created a viable Palestinian state with full democratic rights and freedoms. Instead, Uri watched as Israel’s US-backed far right government arrested ever more Palestinians, grabbed more Arab lands, and prepared to create a full-fledged South African-style apartheid state.

Never one to mince words, Uri called Israel’s right, which just enacted a law making Israel an exclusively Jewish state (thus excluding its 21% Muslim and Christian population) ‘semi-fascist Jews.’ Israel’s far right now exercises decisive influence over the Trump White House and the US Congress.

Avnery became fast friends with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The two leaders could have created a viable Jewish-Arab state or federation. Sadly, Arafat was probably murdered and Avnery politically sidelined. In fact, Israel’s entire pro-peace left has dwindled to a fringe movement, isolated by its right-wing governments and Washington. Days after Uri died, Israel’s Likud coalition announced the expropriation of more Arab land on the West Bank to build 1,000 new homes for Jewish settlers.

Like most Jewish prophets, Avnery was loved or hated. He had no equal in the Arab world. Like Gandhi, his message was too logical and too uncomfortable for nationalist fanatics. His icy skepticism and clear thinking was a godsend in the overheated emotional hothouse of the Mideast.

Israel’s last prophet is gone. Rest in peace, Uri.

August 25, 2018
By Eric S. Margolis

(*) Lion of Judah

The Lion of Judah (Hebrew: אריה יהודה Aryeh Yehudah) is a Jewish national and cultural symbol, traditionally regarded as the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah. According to the Torah, the tribe consists of the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. The association between Judah and the lion can first be found in the blessing given by Jacob to his son Judah in the Book of Genesis.

The Lion of Judah is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation, as a term representing Jesus, according to Christian theology. The lion of Judah was also one of the titles of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and was depicted on the flag of Ethiopia from 1897 to 1974. Due to its association with Selassie, it continues to be an important symbol among members of the Rastafari movement.

... Wikipedia


One of the most popular stories in Singapore's history is the tale of how it earned the nickname of The Lion City.

In 1299 there was a Prince named Sang Nila Utama. He was the emperor of the Srivijayan Empire, which included Malaysia, Singapore and all of Sumatra.

One day, he decided that his empire needed a new capital and set sail with a number of ships to visit the islands off the coast of Sumatra. After several days at sea, he stopped his fleet at an island for a hunting trip. While chasing a deer, he reached the top of a hill from where he had a good view across the sea. A white beach caught his attention. His chief minister told him that this was the island of Temasek (meaning “Sea Town” in Old Javanese).

On their way across the sea to visit this island, they were caught in a violent storm, and the ship began to take in water. To prevent it from sinking, the prince ordered his men to throw all the heavy things overboard. Lastly he threw in his heavy golden crown as a gift to his grandfather, the Lord of the Sea.

The sailing party survived and landed at the mouth of the present-day Singapore River. Inland, while hunting, he suddenly saw a strange animal with an orange body, black head and a white breast. It moved fast and quickly disappeared into the jungle. His chief minister told him that it probably was a lion. As the lion was considered a sign of good fortune, he took this as a good omen and decided to stay and build a new city in Temasek. He renamed the city “Singapura” – derived from the Malay words “Singa” for Lion and “Pura” for city.

So now you know why Singapore is called ‘The Lion City’. However, studies of Singapore indicate that lions have never lived here and the animal seen by Sang Nila Utama was most likely a Malayan Tiger.

Sang Nila Utama ruled Singapore for 48 years and was buried on the foot of Bukit Larangan, today known as Fort Canning Hill.

See parts of this history around the Singapore River for yourself and board one of the numerous boats at Boat Quay, near the Asian Civilisations Museum. The boats go out to the mouth of the Singapore River from where you have a great view of the Merlion, which is the mascot of Singapore. This mythical creature has a lion’s head and the body of a fish to represent Singapore’s history as a fishing village when it was called Temasek and to reflect the story of how it came to be the Lion City.

Singapore - The Lion City

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Birthplace of Dr M

Alan Teh Leam Seng visits Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hometown for a glimpse of his childhood.

Something seems a miss when I park my motorcycle at Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir’s designated parking lot along Jalan Kilang Ais.

The birthplace of our beloved Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which is usually full of vehicles, is completely deserted. Passing the anomaly off as the effect of a mid-week working day in the Kedah state capital, I head towards my intended destination.

Stopping momentarily to admire a pair of golden orioles near the walking path, I am totally oblivious to the looming disappointment that lies ahead. A few metres ahead, the large “CLOSED” sign stops me dead in my tracks.

An accompanying notice put up by the National Archives explains that renovations and upgrading work are in progress. Left with nothing but despair, my next best option is to look for the elusive house through the gaps in the gate.

The simple and unassuming birthplace of our country’s leader slowly comes into view.

Separated by mere metres, I start to rue the missed opportunity.

Then, just a sIam preparing to go home disappointed, aman walks out into the open armed with a broom, dustpan and a huge black garbage bag. He walks forward after noticing my presence and starts explaining the closure.


Grabbing the opportunity to gather more information, I quickly strike up a conversation and soon learn that the house was built at the turn of the 20th century.

When Dr Mahathir’s father, Mohamad Iskandar, bought over the house for his growing family, it only had a solitary bedroom and did not have any electrical supply.

Standing on stilts, the elevated flooring consisted of thick wooden planks while up above, large pieces of white cloth under the attap roof formed the ceiling.

It is not difficult to imagine the situation in the house on the day Dr Mahathir was born.

The air in the bedroom must have been a crid with the thick smell of incense which was commonly used by midwives at that time to relieve labour pains.

The cries heralding Dr Mahathir’s birth on July 10, 1925 must have brought joy and relief to his father, siblings and everyone else in the house.

As a child, Dr Mahathir and his eight siblings grew up under the watchful eye of their mother, Wan Tempawan Wan Hanafi, who came from a long line of Kedah royal household courtiers. Being the youngest in the family, Dr Mahathir was given the affectionate nickname, Cek Det.

According to my new friend, the National Archives did a wonderful job when they restored and gazetted the house as a historical building back in 1992.

The simple but yet comfortable furnishings were properly refurbished and arranged to give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime peek into the early life of Dr Mahathir and his family.

The house is an important repository where implements from DrMahathir’s childhood are preserved for the benefit of future generations. Souvenirs and important memorabilia related to our revered leader’s days as a student are also on display in the living room cupboard.

Noticing my insatiable appetite for things related to Dr Mahathir, the caretaker quickly rattles off a list of places around Alor Star that I should visit. His effortless endeavour makes me believe that this is definitely not his first attempt.

The caretaker’s last piece of advice is for me to start by tracing the origins of Dr Mahathir’s alma mater, Alor Star’s Government English School and then slowly work my way to the other recommended places.


The school’s original site is located right in the middle of town but the tiny wooden building that once accommodated up to 50 students is long gone. In its place is a well-kept lawn spanning the distance between the Balai Nobat and Sultan Abdul Halim Gallery (former State Supreme Court).

Standing by the grassy edge, it takes little imagination to picture the school’s first headmaster, Dr Mahathir’s father, throwing open the doors on opening day to welcome his students on Dec 8, 1908.

Just like the newly refurbished Dataran Merdeka in front of the nearby Balai Besar this place is now popular with local residents taking leisure walks in the evenings.

Due to its strategic location directly opposite the 106-year-old Masjid Zahir, this entire area becomes a hive of activity during Ramadan where people of all races come together to partake in a daily mass iftar potluck.

Retracing Persiaran Sultan Abdul Hamid, I head towards Jalan Penjara Lama. According to records, Ku Baharuddin’s house on this road became home to the Government English School when its former building near Dataran Merdeka exceeded capacity in 1911.

More than a century has passed and no one today can tell the exact location of Ku Baharuddin’s home. One thing for sure, this place has recently experienced a revival of sorts and is now home to a bevy of hipster cafes and upmarket restaurants.

Owing to a marked increase in enrolment over the next four years, the Jalan Penjara Lama site soon ran out of space. In 1915, a 30-acre (about 12 hectares) plot on the school’s current site along Jalan Langgar was earmarked for development. Lessons formally began on Jan 1, 1917.

DrMahathir began his primary education at the Seberang Perak Malay Boys School in 1930. Owing to his superior command of the English language and competence in other subjects, he gained admission into the Government English School in 1933.

On Oct 25, 1935 Dr Mahathir and his peers had the once-in-a lifetime opportunity of witnessing his school’s name changed to Sultan Abdul Hamid College, in honour of the state’s ruling monarch at that time.

Arriving at the school just after noon, I soon discover that it is not a good idea to visit on a school day. My request for a casual walkabout was flatly refused but fortunately, I am granted permission to have a quick look at the school’s new Sultan Abdul Halim Centennial Hall which is just behind the guard house.

While advising me to return during the weekend for another visit, the guards also point me in the direction of another school directly behind Sultan Abdul Hamid College.

Accessible via Jalan Tanjong Bendahara, Sekolah Kebangsaan Iskandar came into existence in 1957 when the large number of students at Sultan Abdul Hamid College warranted a separation between the primary and secondary levels. This primary school was named in recognition of Dr Mahathir’s father’s contributions to the development of Alor Star’s early education.


After a quick banana leaf curry lunch at Annama Stall in Jalan Limbong Kapal, I quickly head off towards Lorong Setar to catch a glimpse of Dr Mahathir’s larger than-life mural. Despite being completed more than three years ago, this 30-metre tall artwork still manages to attract legions of selfie and wefie seekers daily.

Portrayed in a traditional Malay dress and black songkok against the backdrop of a two-storey pre-war shop house, Dr Mahathir’s mural appears to single handedly bring this otherwise quiet street to life.

Moving away from the crowd, I walk a short distance to reach Persiaran Sultan Abdul Hamid. To the locals, this entire area is known as Pekan Melayu. Prior to the turn of the 21st century, the shops here used to enjoy brisk business. Today, however, this place is only a shadow of its past.

Nevertheless, people still visit shop bearing the number 12 as it is the place where Dr Mahathir started the first Malay private clinic in Alor Star.

Opened in1957, Maha Clinic became the place where Dr Mahathir worked tirelessly to give back to society. At times, he not only provided free consultations but also paid for the return fare for his underprivileged patients.

On the way back to Lorong Setar to get my motorcycle, I drop by the old General Post Office to settle my outstanding utility bills. My interest is piqued after noticing several people purchasing the recently released stamps issued in conjunction with Dr Mahathir’s 93rd birthday celebrations.

Priced to reflect Dr Mahathir’s age, these stamps were sold out within days of their release as they are considered precious keepsakes. Luckily the post office here has some left over stock.

With RM5 from each purchase donated to Tabung Harapan Malaysia, I quickly take the opportunity to buy a set and at the same time show my patriotism by contributing to a worthy cause.

Leaving the post office, I ride towards the nearby Pekan Rabu in Jalan Tunku Ibrahim.

Recently opened after a three-year reconstruction period, this was the place where Dr Mahathir spent his time selling snacks during the Japanese Occupation.

One of the most sought items at Pekan Rabu today is the Songkok Style Tun.

Located on the ground floor of the building near the east entrance, Style Tun Songkok Malaysia opens daily from 9am to 7pm.

Owner Sardi Sahar says he uses a thick velvet fabric from South Korea that allows the songkok to be folded easily without compromising its shape. Apart from that,

Songkok Style Tun is also lighter and more comfortable to wear over long periods of time.

My final destination for the day takes me to Dr Mahathir’s personal home which is located in the quiet Alor Star suburb of Titi Gajah. Unsure about its exact location, I decide to stop at a restaurant located directly opposite the junction leading towards the Sultan Abdul Halim Airport.

Restaurant Citarasa TT Gajah owner, Abu Bakar Sidqi bin Zainal Abidin, happily tells me that Dr Mahathir’s house is just three doors away and adds that it is the only one with a police post by the main entrance.

I spend the rest of the afternoon chatting with Abu Bakar Sidqi, learning that Dr Mahathir only moved to Titi Gajah after his marriage to Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali on Aug 5, 1956. Owing to the deep affection for his mother who still lived at the Lorong Kilang Ais house at that time, the couple always made it a point to commute from Titi Gajah to visit her.

Before leaving, I reveal to Abu Bakar Sidqi the nature of my visit and he immediately beams with pride. Like many Malaysians, he is indeed grateful to Dr Mahathir for coming out of retirement for the beloved nation. Terima kasih, Dr Mahathir.

New Straits Times, Published:
Birthplace of Dr M
By Alan Teh Leam Seng

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Alma mater (母校)

MY alma mater Sekolah Seri Puteri (SSP) celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, ending the year-long celebration with a gala night dinner last week. Graced by its royal patron Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, the event saw the attendance of some 761 guests, of whom 106 were principals and teachers who had served at the school over the years.

Known as SMK Perempuan Jalan Kolam Ayer during its first 10 years, SSP is an all-girls boarding school named for its first location on a hill encircled by Sungai Batu in Kuala Lumpur. It took over the premises of a few buildings that survived World War 2, which were originally the Kuala Lumpur Technical Trade School, built in 1929 .

Its first principal, Adibah Amin, was given the responsibility of getting the school going. In 1968, the first batch of female students who came from all over the country enrolled at the school. A year later, Adibah left for the New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd. She was later awarded the Asian Journalist of the year in 1979 and the Tun Razak Prize in 1998 for her outstanding contribution to the development of education.

The growth of the school during its early years did not only take place at its location but also the surrounding area. I was among those who were in the school in the early 80s, witnessing the construction of Putra World Trade Centre that was later launched in 1985 by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister during that time. In 2003, the school moved to a new and bigger location in Cyberjaya.

The term alma mater however, is not of buildings or bricks and mortar but of people and relationships. This two-word Latin term when translated, literally means “nourishing mother”, representing the idea that schools play a special role in nurturing the development of their students − similar to the role of a parent, although not identical.

The word alumni, on the other hand, is first used to generally mean children abandoned by their parents and brought up by someone else.

What’s interesting is that both terms − alma mater and alumni − were linguistically connected
as they both derive from “alere”, a Latin term, which means nourish. Over time, both terms were used
to refer to an educational setting.

The emotive attachment to alma mater − pride, happiness, gratitude and nostalgia − are lifelong that usually grows on the students as they become older.

For a school to carry a “past” to “respect”, it is important to set the right tone for its future. What kind of tradition a new school wants is a vital question to set the foundation.

After attending the celebration at the SSP’s 10th speech day, Adibah, through her NST column, with the headline “My ‘baby’ is 10 years old today” wrote on
“the beginnings of a fine tradition”.

Pleased with how the school had turned out 10 years later, she pointed out, besides “impressive academic records and the promise of solid contributions in the future”, those who have left the school and graduated from universities, came back “giving tuition to their ‘adiks’ in the school for free, refusing to accept even petrol money”.

“Wanting to give back to the school” is also to become fully aware that a student does not achieve success on one’s own. The fact that one has been nurtured by so many, both intellectually and spiritually, gives rise to an obligation to nurture others.

School jubilees and centennials provide the perfect opportunity for reflecting on a school’s past and the successful students who have added to its reputation and history. The celebrations, usually organised by the alumni, can also be a magnet for present and past students.

But, a school’s alumni association is not only a forum for networking. For it to thrive and be effective, it needs a team of former students who is passionate about the school in relationship building and engagement.

The association can assist the school with opportunities to showcase the school and cooperate with projects and fundraising. Taking it further, its presence can serve to benefit the existing students, providing aspirations from the success of former students.

Today, 50 years on, SSP alumni (Puteri) does not only organise activities made up of the usual fundraising dinners and motivational talks. The Buddy Programme, for a start, is already into its second year, with hopes of becoming a social support system for current students to help, not only to improve soft skills, but also in stress management. A “foster parent” programme for alumni members to adopt students in the school who come from financially-challenged families called “Caring Hearts”, is also another initiative.

It is also Puteri’s hope to present a school bus as a gift for the school before the end of the year to commemorate its golden jubilee.

The golden jubilee celebrations for this year also saw a combined effort of not only the school
and Puteri, but also its parent-teacher association − another example of synergy towards excellence.

As a former student, I cannot deny the fact that my alma mater has shaped me into what I am today − from the teachers who have loved us like their own children to the schoolmates I call my sisters − they all have contributed to my learning and life
experience beyond what the academic lessons have done. And, not to forget the support staff who have provided services such as meals and beautiful grounds throughout my five years there.

Happy 50th Birthday SSP and here’s to many more years of excellence!

Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin (centre) looking on during the cheque presentation by Puteri president Mastura Ma'sud (right) to Sekolah Seri Puteri principal Roslina Ahmad at the Royal Gala Dinner to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary.

New Straits Times, Published: August 29, 2018 - 10:39am
Alma mater (母校), the nourishing mother
The writer, who is NSTP's education editor for English Content, was from Batch 1986 of Sekolah Seri Puteri.

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Halal economy

THE notion of halal economy is rooted in the development of the halal industry ecosystem. It basically refers to an economic ecosystem that is guided by Islamic values and principles.

The ecosystem consists of major categories of syariah-compliant business, such as food, tourism, lifestyle and finance.

Based on projections by KFH Research, the value of the global halal economy is expected to be US$6.4 trillion (RM26.26 trillion) this year.

This figure is slightly higher than this year’s US$5.16 trillion gross domestic product projected for Japan, which is the world’s third largest economy.

Of the US$6.4 trillion, Islamic finance and halal food sectors are expected to contribute US$3.91 trillion and US$1.6 trillion this year, (Malaysia International Finance Centre, 2014) respectively.

According to the Global Islamic Economic Indicator(GIEI), Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are two Islamic countries among the 57 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries and 16 non-OIC countries studied that have the best halal ecosystems. Singapore, the only non-OIC state listed among the top 15 GIEI countries (Thomson Reuters, 2016, 9-10), also has the best halal ecosystem.

Based on reports by the Islamic Development Bank or Thomson Reuters, the rapid growth of halal economy worldwide is driven by strong demand from Muslim and non-Muslim consumers.

This scenario is propelled by the rise of education systems and the increase in purchasing power among Muslim consumers.

What drives producers to engage in the halal economy?

Why are Italy, Spain, Thailand, Japan, China, Brazil and other non-Muslim countries keen to invest in the halal industry? They are willing to spend heavily on halal initiatives in their countries.

Why are the world’s conventional financial giants interested in the Islamic financial sector?

Similarly, what has led Brazil’s BRF, Nestle, Carrefour, Walmart, Mastercard and Marriot to engage in the provision of halal products and services through their branches around the world?

To attract consumers, producers and service providers highlight Islamic values, such as purity, integrity and caring, as replicas to the products and services they offer.

It has been widely reported that most British, French and Dutch people associate Islam with violence. It is an untenable generalisation to perceive Islam as such, but it is ironic that, at the same time, Western-owned companies are racing to dominate the world’s halal market.

It is not an exaggeration to say that profitability is the main motive that drives these companies to venture into the global halal market.

Similar observation is made in the Islamic financial system.

A study of the statistics related to the Islamic financial sector, both nationally and globally, will show us its rapid growth. For example, its total assets in 2011 were US$1.3 trillion. In 2014, it rose to US$1.8 trillion − an increase of 38.46 per cent in three years.

This figure is projected to double in the next five years (Kunt, Klapper & Randall, 2013, 2; Nazrin Shah, 2014, Hisyam, 2014).

Ironically, if we look at the rapid development in the Islamic financial sector − be it local or global − the fact remains that the rate of poverty and inequality among Muslims is unresolved or not dealt with properly.

According to 2010 World Bank estimates, 1.7 billion people worldwide lived below the poverty line. Of this total, 44 per cent, or 748 million, were in Muslim-majority countries.

In this regard, we may argue that the Islamic financial system, which is also a halal ecosystem, has failed to meet one of its original objectives of raising the standard of living of society through the concept of justice, social equality, brotherhood, welfare and cooperation.

To some extent, it has been perceived by some Islamic scholars as part of the conventional financial system operating in the capitalist economy.

In short, it is quite difficult to confirm that the halal economy supports sustainable development. This conclusion points to a contradictory reality.

While the halal economy provides a platform for stakeholders, such as entrepreneurs and consumers, to take advantage of the ecosystem, poverty, unsustainable consumption and environmental degradation persist and need to be addressed by industry players.

The focus is on efforts to strengthen the position in the marketplace and increase business profits.

The halal economy is an innovative and creative concept based on Islamic teachings. It began with a common concept known only to the Muslims.

Today, however, the concept of halal has been adopted and applied in the business world not only by Muslim entrepreneurs but also non-Muslim companies.

The concept is not limited to profits generated by business sectors, but also extends to
consumer communities, where they have more choice of products or services available in the market.

Despite these positive outcomes, it is imperative to note that anything build upon an Islamic epistemological foundation should also abide by and operate in accordance with the principles promulgated by Islam.

Therefore, if we want to achieve sustainable development through halal economy, all parties need to ensure that the Quranic guidelines and Islamic values are adopted and practised in every production, consumption and distribution activity.

Malaysia hosted The World Halal Week in 2016 in Kuala Lumpur. The rapid growth of halal economy worldwide is driven by strong demand from Muslim and non-Muslim consumers.

Letter to New Straits Times, Published: August 29, 2018 - 10:50am
Ensure Islamic values are adopted
By MUHAMMAD HISYAM MOHAMAD, Fellow, Centre for Economics and Social Studies, Institute of Islam Understanding Malaysia

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Malaysia will celebrate her 61st Merdeka on Aug 31.

IN a couple of days, Malaysia will celebrate her 61st Merdeka on Aug 31. This time it is not just a rerun for the 60th time so to speak. Rather it is one of a kind due to a variety of reasons.

Notable among them is the fact that the celebration will be held under the auspices of the newly minted Pakatan Harapan government. And this is a significant milestone to (re)shape the nation anew.

In view of this, the upcoming Merdeka event has been dubbed as the third in the series of Merdeka as it too "liberates" the country from an "incompetent" regime.

If the first (1957) Merdeka unshackled the country from the elitist clutch of colonial power, the third version did so from a ruling coalition of local elites who are out-of-touch with the rakyat.

Fortunately, both saw a "bloodless" (albeit reluctant) transition of power, but they were equally painful nevertheless.

These are vital reminders that must not be forgotten. In fact, the world over was amazed how Malaysians were able to conduct themselves very maturely in a democratic way.

More so because the 14th general election (GE14) was slotted much too close to May 13 – intentionally or otherwise.

The date in 1969 is by all counts a "dark spot" in the country's history, which otherwise remained remarkably peaceful within the civil sphere. Still, the general election reaffirmed that Malaysians are generally peace-loving and resilient people. Among them this time are a relatively large group of young voters born after 1969.

Be that as it may, the 1969 tragedy cannot be dismissed outright as it has a close link to the emergence of the second Merdeka.

Particularly beginning May 16 when the then democratically elected government was forced to give way in a favour of a National Operation Council (Mageran) that lasted until Feb 23, 1971.

Henceforth, the "return" to a democratic rule arguably is another form of Merdeka for the second time. After all, it led to the disbanding – quite willingly – of a "non-civilian, non-democratic" apparatus in preference of a voluntary restoration of an elected government with an even tighter set of caveats and the rule of law. This, however, as we found out recently, is not sufficiently so.

This is evident from the aftermath of the general election, where a massive clean-up is imperative, this time caused by unprecedented corruption and alleged abuse of power never seen before nationally or internationally as claimed by some.

It therefore marked another milestone in the country's struggle to steadfastly save the country from failing.

Indeed, prior to the general election, Malaysia's sovereignty was allegedly being threatened under the cloak of corruption and rampant abuse of power.

This is substantiated, of late, by several charges laid on the ruling elites working hand in glove with some unscrupulous power brokers, locally and abroad.

The alleged collusions were conducted away from public scrutiny, distracted by secessions of lop-sided mega-projects in the name of foreign direct investment – illogically practised and defined.

It is so lop-sided that the prime minister used the word "stupidity" to rubbish them.

One would expect, as we move closer to a developed nation status in 2020, words like "equanimity" becomes the key in describing the situation.

On the contrary, "equanimity" instead is scandalised, applied to a super luxury piece of property that is allegedly appropriated through the country's coffers.

The prime minister upped the ante when he made mention of a new type of colonialism that comes easy as soon as "stupidity" makes its mark.

In other words, Malaysia is a probable candidate to be (re)colonised, no matter how hard those implicated choose to deny it.

Especially when the other parties and power brokers involved are equally gullible, if not downright unethical.

That the prime minister courageously made such an observation during his latest official visit abroad speaks volumes of how vulnerable the situation is nationally.

Yet these are mere tips of the iceberg as even more cans of worms were uncovered within the 100-day period after the last election.

Just from this brief run down of events, one can already pick up ample reasons why the 61st Merdeka celebration is "special".

It is no less another wave of Merdeka that Malaysia (not just Malaya) gallantly "fought" to save the country from being subtly subverted, and its wealth and dignity squandered again.

Lest we forget many countries in the African continent are lamenting on such a fate as the rugs are being pulled right under them through the infamous tactics of "the debt diplomacy".

Malaysia therefore must keep the highest level of equanimity so as not to be manipulated into such unsuspecting diplomatic schemes aimed at undermining our sacred Merdeka.

Thus, come Aug 31 let us then stand shoulder to shoulder to forge a smarter and brave new Malaysia, riding on the third wave that we collectively created to fend all forms of conspiracies by (re)asserting #kitapunyaMalaysia in the spirit of Sayangi Malaysiaku.

The SunDaily, Posted on 29 August 2018 - 06:56am
Hail the third Merdeka
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (*)

(*) Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

KUALA LUMPUR: Professor Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak has been appointed as the sixth rector of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) effective Aug 1.

He replaced Professor Datuk Dr Zaleha Kamarudin who ended her term on July 31.

The Education Ministry in a statement said: “We believe that with his experience and leadership, he will be able to administer IIUM towards excellence and place the university as a global centre for reference in Islamic knowledge.”

Prior to his new appointment, Dzulkifli was Islamic Science University Malaysia (USIM) board of governance chairman.

Earlier, he was the first holder of USIM's Chair of Islamic Leadership and Principal Fellow at the Faculty of Leadership and Management.

Dzulkifli was also the fifth Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) vice-chancellor from 2000 to 2011.

Under his leadership, USM gained the APEX (Accelerated Programme for Excellence) status in 2008.

Dzulkifli has received Honorary Doctorates of Science from various universities globally for his contributions to the field of education. Among them are University of Portmouth (2008), University of Nottingham (2013), Mykolas Romeris University in Lithuania (2013).

Last year, he received 2017 Gilbert Medal from the Universitas 21, a network of 25 research-led universities around the world, making him the first from Asia to receive the award.

He was also a weekly columnist for New Straits Times from 1995 till 2016.

Professor Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak has been appointed as the sixth rector of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) effective Aug 1.

New Straits Times, Published: August 8, 2018 - 6:44pm
Prof Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak is new IIUM rector
By NST Online

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Aung San Suu Kyi stays silent on UN report on Rohingya genocide

The world was waiting for her to speak. But the day after a damning United Nations report concluded that genocide had occurred in Myanmar under her watch, Aung San Suu Kyi used a public appearance to discuss only poetry and literature.

Arriving at the University of Yangon 24 hours after the publication of the UN fact-finding mission’s report, which concluded that the Myanmar military had carried out a genocide of the Rohingya in Rakhine and were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states, the Myanmar leader chose to stay silent on all issues of politics and made no mention of the UN.

The former Nobel peace prize winner, who was once heralded as the face of a new democratic Myanmar, but whose government is now facing mounting calls to be investigated by the international criminal court (ICC) for war crimes, spent the afternoon talking to students about the merits of Gone With the Wind, and the differences between fiction and non-fiction.

The crimes uncovered in the UN report were carried out by the Myanmar military, over whom Aung San Suu Kyi, as de facto leader of the civilian government, has no control. However, the panel criticised her for her refusal to condemn the genocide of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine since August 2017, which has led to tens of thousands of deaths and forced 700,000 to flee over the border to Bangladesh.

The report said Aung San Suu Kyi had failed to use her “position as head of government, or her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine state”.

Overall, the Myanmar government and military’s response to the UN report was defined by a resounding silence, with no mention of the mission’s findings in the government-controlled newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar.

Myanmar’s military – which was found to have carried out “the gravest crimes under international law” including genocide, imprisonments, enforced disappearances, torture, rapes and sexual slavery – was outraged, however, that 18 Facebook accounts and 52 Facebook pages with which it was associated, including that of the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, were removed by the social media company minutes after the report was published.

Facebook said in a statement it had removed the accounts “to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions”. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP) spokesperson Thein Tun Oo denied that the pages had been used to spread hate speech.

“The Facebook page of the Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is publicising true and confirmed information for the public, the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] is essential for our country,” he told the Guardian.

Thein Tun Oo had told local media on Monday that to “say the whole Tatmadaw is making hate speech is a one-sided accusation”.

Facebook, which has come under fire for its failure to respond quickly to the spread of anti-Rohingya hate speech in Myanmar, said an investigation into the Tatmadaw accounts had found evidence they were using supposedly independent accounts to “to covertly push the messages of the Myanmar military”.

Thein Tun Oo called on Facebook to reinstate the pages, which had a total of 12 million followers, describing the Tatmadaw as “an organisation which gives information to the public”. A government spokesperson, Zaw Htay, told reporters he was in talks to get the accounts reinstated.

'They slaughtered our people': Rohingya refugees on Myanmar’s brutal crackdown.

Aung San Suu Kyi at Yangon university in Myanmar on Tuesday.

The Guardian, Last modified on Tue 28 Aug 2018 15.53 BST
Aung San Suu Kyi stays silent on UN report on Rohingya genocide

Myanmar leader uses first appearance since damning verdict to discuss literature
By Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Libby Hogan

A UN probe has called for Myanmar's military leaders to face justice for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, but the road to a tribunal will be long and complex, with China likely to block any prosecution of its ally at the International Criminal Court.

On Monday a damning report by a UN fact-finding mission said members of Myanmar's armed forces, including military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, should be prosecuted for their roles in violently expelling some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Refugees have recounted widespread stories of rape, murder and arson by security forces as they were driven from their homes.

The report was the most serious step towards accountability in the crisis to date but experts warn of major legal and diplomatic obstacles ahead.

- What's the quickest route to justice for the Rohingya? -

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. For proceedings to begin, the United Nations Security Council needs to refer Myanmar to the court.

But geopolitics is likely to get in the way with China and Russia -- which last week hosted Min Aung Hlaing -- able to veto any referral.

China has consistently refrained from condemning Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya, describing it as an internal matter.

"Rakhine State has very complex historic, ethnic and religious background," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

"So how to resolve this problem? Through negotiation and dialogue," she said, adding: "I think that blame on any side, or pressure, does not help resolve anything."

The Security Council is set to discuss Myanmar later Tuesday in New York.

- What about Plan B? -

If legal moves for the ICC stall at the Security Council, it could consider an ad hoc or mixed tribunal similar to ones created for Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Cambodia.

This would in theory require the cooperation of national authorities in Myanmar.

Another possibility stems from an unprecedented request by the chief prosecutor at the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, to extend its jurisdiction to Myanmar, which has not signed up to the court.

That's "uncharted territory", according to Kingsley Abbott of the International Commission of Jurists, who says the move may be possible because they crisis spilled over into Bangladesh, a member of the ICC.

If the court agrees, the prosecutor could launch a preliminary investigation and ultimately issue arrest warrants for Myanmar nationals.

But this would take time, requiring participation from Bangladesh in the investigation and -- somewhat implausibly -- Myanmar to hand over suspects.

- Who could be prosecuted? -

The court targets individuals, not countries. On Monday the UN probe named six senior members of the armed forces including military chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Investigators argue they bear responsibility because of their direct command over troops that carried out "clearance operations" in northern Rakhine state.

But the ICC cannot forcibly bring suspects from Myanmar, and would have to rely on member states to detain them in the event they travel abroad.

This has been problematic in the past.

In December 2017 war crimes judges criticised Jordan for failing to act on the Hague's warrant to arrest Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir.

- Could Aung San Suu Kyi face trial? -

Highly unlikely. The current calls are aimed at the upper echelons of Myanmar's security forces, and the Nobel laureate has no control over the military.

But the UN probe did call her out for not using her position as leader of the civilian government or her "moral authority" to try to stem the violence.

It also accused her administration of denying any wrongdoing, blocking the UN investigation, and spreading false narratives.

"Through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes."

- How is this playing out inside Myanmar? -

Myanmar has long denied accusations it committed ethnic cleansing or genocide.

It has reserved particular scorn for the ICC prosecutor's request on jurisdiction.

In August the government branded it "meritless" and called for it to be dismissed.

Myanmar says it has also established its own independent commission of inquiry -- a panel critics say is toothless.

The stateless Rohingya garner little empathy inside Myanmar and Min Aung Hlaing's military campaign has enjoyed support from the public, many of whom see it as a defence of the country from militants.

Rohingya refugees have recounted widespread stories of rape, murder and arson by Myanmar troops.

The UN probe names six senior members of Myanmar's armed forces including military chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Min Aung Hlaing's military campaign has enjoyed support from Myanmar's public.

AFP, Published: 28 AUG 2018
Will Myanmar's military face justice over Rohingya 'genocide'?

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Honey the lonely dolphin, abandoned in Japanese aquarium

TOKYO (Reuters) - The plight of a lonely dolphin and dozens of penguins that have been abandoned in a derelict aquarium in Japan since the start of the year sparked protests this week, with activists and ordinary Japanese alike calling for the animals to be saved.

The female bottlenose dolphin 和名:ハンドウイルカ, nicknamed Honey, was captured in 2005 near Taiji, a western port town that has become notorious for its annual dolphin hunt that was featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove”, media reports say.

The practice of Japanese aquariums buying dolphins from Taiji came under heavy criticism following the release of the film. The hunt involves driving hundreds of dolphins into a cove, where some are taken alive for sale to marine parks, while others are killed for meat. The Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums has since agreed to stop buying dolphins from Taiji.

The operator of the Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium in the city of Choshi in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo, shuttered the facility in January citing a decline in visitors after the 2011 earthquake and nuclear crisis.

Honey and 46 penguins, along with hundreds of fish and reptiles, remain at the aquarium, an official with the Chiba prefectural Health and Welfare department said.

Employees have been regularly feeding the animals, he added, but photos and video taken by activists in March and August from outside the park show Honey floating in a tiny pool in an eerily empty facility. In another picture, dust-covered penguins can be seen perched on a crumbling structure near a pile of debris.

“Honey is a symbol of both the problem of marine parks and Taiji’s hunting practices,” said Akiko Mitsunobu, chief of aquarium issues for Animal Rights Center, a local group.

“When we went to check on the facility, she was showing signs of stress, putting her head weakly in and out of the water.”

Repeated calls to Inubosaki Marine Park and its parent company went unanswered. A Choshi city official said they have also been unable to reach park representatives.

“I get feelings of danger and doubt from the fact that they are so silent about this,” said Sachiko Azuma, a representative of local activist group PEACE (Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation).

“As a group that handles animals, they have a responsibility to explain what they intend to do with Honey and the other animals.”

News of the abandoned animals spread quickly over social media, with Twitter users posting photos captioned “Save Honey”. A resort hotel’s offer to give them a new home sparked a flood of retweets.

“I beg the authorities to get in close contact with each other and push ahead with this,” wrote one Twitter user.

Honey, a bottle-nose dolphin, is seen at abandoned Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium in Choshi, Japan August 15, 2018.

Reuters, Published: August 28, 2018 - 2:40 PM
Honey the lonely dolphin, abandoned in Japanese aquarium, sparks public outcry
By Mayuko Ono

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こういう状況をみて、私は『芸人式 新聞の読み方』(2017年・幻冬舎)で次のように書いた。いわゆる「W吉田」について書いた項である。








するとどうなるか? 今回のように天下の新潮社に載るようなレベルではない言説が載ることになる。


























300社、トランプ氏抗議社説 報道の自由訴え』(読売新聞8月17日)


ボストン・グローブ紙は、トランプ氏が政権に批判的な報道機関を「米国民の敵」と呼んだことを踏まえ、「Journalists are not the enemy」(ジャーナリストは敵ではない)と題した社説を掲載。「持続的な報道の自由への攻撃が重大な結果をもたらす」と断じた。》(読売8月17日)

朝日も『トランプ節に対抗 米紙一斉社説』(朝日新聞8月18日)と大きく扱った。トランプ氏に抗議するアメリカの新聞については報じるのに、なぜ麻生氏の「挑発」についてはスルーなのか。










プチ 鹿島 (*)、お笑い芸人

(*) プチ 鹿島
1970年生まれ。オフィス北野所属。長野県出身。時事ネタと読み比べを得意とする芸風で、新聞、雑誌、Webなどにコラムを多数寄稿。TBSラジオ『荒川強啓 デイ・キャッチ!』『東京ポッド許可局』、TBS『サンデージャポン』出演ほか、『芸人式 新聞の読み方』(幻冬舎)などの著書がある。新聞6紙全紙、スポーツ紙、タブロイド紙購読中。

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Crisis on Earth

More than a year since the Islamic State group's expulsion from Mosul, Sana Ibrahim bears daily hardship to look after her 22 grandchildren, after losing five family members during the jihadists' occupation of the Iraqi city.

Dressed in a long black robe, 61-year-old Sana never seems to stop.

She is surrounded by children -- little girls with pigtails and little boys in colourful t-shirts, the youngest of whom is just two years old.

She also cares for her 71-year-old husband, Mowafaq Hamid, who has Alzheimer's disease.

Sana's greatest challenge is finding enough food for the household, which in total comprises 32 people.

During the jihadists' three-year rule of Mosul, her sons Fares and Ghazwan were abducted by the Islamic State group, along with her son-in-law Massud.

The men were members of the security forces and considered "apostates" by IS.

The group probably killed them, says Sana, who hopes one day to find their bodies.

Throughout the IS occupation, hundreds of government soldiers and police officers were kidnapped and executed by the jihadists, their bodies dumped in mass graves around the northern city.

Iraqi forces launched an offensive in 2016 to retake Mosul, prompting a months-long battle into the heart of the city which culminated in the jihadists' ouster in July 2017.

Two of Sana's other children were killed in the battle. Her 20-year-old son Youssef and her daughter Nour, 18, were shot by snipers as they tried to flee their longtime home in the Old City.

- Living on donations -

The historic district of western Mosul was devastated in the fighting.

Sana and her family had to rush to find a new place to live after their home was destroyed.

They moved to the eastern part of the city, paying 500,000 dinars ($430) a month to rent a house where they squeeze into a 150 square metre (1,600 sq foot) space.

Paying the rent is a struggle for Sana, whose four surviving children are all unemployed.

"We live thanks to the donations of charitable souls in Mosul. Without them we would have already have died from hunger and illness," she said.

During AFP's visit, one such benefactor appeared bearing bags of clothes and food.

The civil servant said she gives part of her monthly salary and that of her son to help struggling families.

She is far from the only one to help, said Sana as she separated two squabbling grandchildren and cleaned the face of a third.

In the small kitchen behind Sana, her youngest son's wife was busy preparing food for the increasingly impatient children.

- Future hopes -

Despite her busy daily life, Sana was clear when asked about her hopes for the future.

She wants her grandchildren "to study so that they can find good jobs and can get by," she added.

"I don't want them to beg on the streets like many other orphans."

In the absence of official statistics, non-governmental organisations have estimated there are more than 3,000 orphans in Mosul.

Sana is already "very proud" of her grandchildren who are old enough to attend school, all of whom passed their end-of-year exams.

Ahead of the new academic year, 12-year-old Iman was enthusiastic about returning to the classroom.

"At the moment I'm at secondary school, but I want to continue my studies," she said, as her grandmother looked on.

"I will go to university and become a doctor."

Grandchildren of 61-year-old Iraqi matriarch Sana Ibrahim share a meal in their family home in the northern city of Mosul.

Sana Ibrahim (C-L, behind), a 61-year-old Iraqi matriarch and caretaker for 22 grandchildren, sits with her family in a courtyard in their home in the northern city of Mosul.

Sana Ibrahim (C), a 61-year-old Iraqi matriarch and caretaker for 22 grandchildren, embraces her family members in a courtyard in their home in the northern city of Mosul.

AFP, Published: 26 AUG 2018
Iraqi grandmother faces daily battle caring for 22 children

Her fingers are bent from 20 years of collecting cardboard from Hong Kong's streets, but Au Fung-lan says she has no desire to give up the gruelling work.

At 67-years-old she is one of around 2,900 collectors, mainly women over the age of 60, whose frail figures are a familiar sight, guiding trolleys loaded with cardboard through a city clogged with traffic and people.

They pick up discarded packing boxes from shops, markets and residential buildings, selling them for a few dollars to recycling depots, where cardboard is more valuable than plastic.

The depots then ship it abroad -- up to 95 percent of it to mainland China in 2016, according to local authorities -- as Hong Kong has no recycling plants of its own to convert it into usable materials.

However, as China closes the door to imported rubbish, even from semi-autonomous regions such as Hong Kong, Au's livelihood is under threat.

Beijing no longer wants the country to be a global trash can and has already started phasing out taking solid waste -- a process it expects to complete by 2020.

Pragmatic Au says she tries not to think too much about her work drying up.

She continues to put in 14-hour days so she can afford a carer for herself and her 77-year-old husband, also a cardboard collector, when they finally decide to give up work.

"Some people think our work is arduous and look down on us. They say: 'You are so old, go home and enjoy life. Why collect cardboard?'" Au told AFP.

"But if I can still work, I don't want to rely on others."

- Risky business -

Au turned to cardboard collecting after being laid off as a factory worker and courier.

She has three grown-up children with jobs but does not want to depend on them for help.

By working from pre-dawn until dusk, she earns up to HK$300 (around $38) daily, selling 300 kilograms of cardboard at HK$1 (13 US cents) per kilo.

It is a phenomenal work rate and much higher than the average collector who makes around HK$47.30 a day, according to concern group Waste Pickers Platform (WPP).

Au attributes her bent fingers to years of tearing cardboard with her hands to flatten it.

She has been hit by a car twice, injuring her shoulders and feet as she pushes her trolley along a busy road to the local depot in the residential neighbourhood of Kwai Fong.

Her trolley and cardboard have also been confiscated several times by government hygiene inspectors.

But she says she enjoys what she calls the freedom of working for herself.

"I'm not afraid. I do it every day," she says.

As unofficial freelance workers, collectors like Au have no legal recognition or employment rights.

China's imminent waste ban could wipe out this informal economy, which NGO workers say is key to some of the city's elderly.

Eighty percent of the collectors are over 60, with the oldest in their 90s. Eighty percent are women and around a third work at least an eight-hour day, according to WPP.

Many are doing it to supplement their pensions and savings in a city where the wealth gap is growing -- the cost of living in Hong Kong ranked fourth highest in the world in 2018, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"Cardboard collecting is part of a sub-economy activity which supports grassroots residents' livelihoods," says WPP spokesman Tang Wing-him.

- Waste crisis -

WPP estimates at least 193 tonnes of waste paper is delivered to recycling depots by the elderly collectors each day.

Jacky Lau, director of a local business association for the waste and recycling industry, said the China ban could not only wipe out work for collectors like Au, but would be devastating for the cities' depots too.

If those businesses were forced to close there could be a "waste paper crisis" in Hong Kong as rubbish piles up, eventually ending up in landfill sites, he told AFP.

The city relies on landfills to dispose of most of its waste but they are already overloaded.

Lau says he hopes Hong Kong will still be allowed to export some waste to China, given its status as a Special Administrative Region of the country. Other countries are not an option due to the cost of shipping, according to Lau.

He also urged the Hong Kong government to speed up a plan to build a local recycling plant to process waste paper.

With the future uncertain, Au and her husband at least have a roof over their heads -- they own an apartment they bought in the 1970s, which gives them some security.

But it also precludes them from receiving government subsidies, except for a small monthly allowance for the over 70s, which Au's husband receives on top of his pension as a former bus driver.

Au's children have urged her to give up cardboard collecting, but she sees it as an investment in her future.

"I told them: 'If you think I bring shame on you, then don't call me Mum when you see me,'" she told AFP.

"They kept quiet after that."

Au Fung-lan is one of some 2,900 cardboard collectors, mainly older women, who are a familiar sight in Hong Kong

Au Fung-lan takes a break from her exhausting work to eat breakfast at a cafe in central Hong Kong.

Au Fung-lan's hands are bent from 20 years of collecting cardboard on Hong Kong's streets.

The future of Hong Kong's cardboard collectors is uncertain as China closes its doors to imported rubbish

AFP, Published: 26 AUG 2018
Sent packing: Hong Kong's elderly cardboard collectors

United Nations investigators on Monday called for an international probe and prosecution of Myanmar's army chief and five other top military commanders for genocide against the country's Rohingya minority.

"Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States," a UN-backed fact-finding mission said.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh after Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown last August on insurgents amid accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the mainly Buddhist country.

Myanmar has vehemently denied allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya rebels.

But in Monday's report, the UN mission insisted the army tactics had been "consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats."

The mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, concluded in a report that "there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) chain of command."

"The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts," the report said.

The investigators named Min Aung Hlaing and five other top military commanders, adding that a longer list of names could be shared with "any competent and credible body pursuing accountability in line with international norms and standards."

Criticism was also directed at Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been the target of global vitriol for a perceived failure to stand up for the stateless minority.

The report found that she had "not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events."

While acknowledging that she and other civilian authorities had little influence on military actions, it said that they "through their acts and omissions... have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes."

The investigators called on the UN Security Council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court, or for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to be created.

They also recommended an arms embargo and "targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible."

The UN investigators named Min Aung Hlaing and five other top military commanders in their report.

AFP, Published: 27 AUG 2018
Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted for 'genocide': UN probe

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Archbishop: Pope should resign

Pope Francis should rid the Catholic Church of "every rotten apple" and announce concrete measures against sexual abuse by the clergy during his visit to Ireland, a prominent Irish victim told AFP.

Marie Collins, who resigned from a Vatican commission on child protection last year over its failure to take action, said in an interview that the pontiff had to tackle the issue "head on".

"Every rotten apple should be got rid of and it should happen now," Collins said on the sidelines of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, ahead of the pope's visit to Ireland which starts Saturday.

Collins was assaulted by a priest as a 13-year-old while she was in hospital -- one of thousands of victims in Ireland, where abuse scandals have badly dented the Catholic Church's standing.

"Coming to Ireland, where we have such a history of abuse and so many have had their lives destroyed, it is important that while he is here this issue is addressed, and addressed face on, and we get clear words as to what he's going to do," said Collins, now 71.

Many ordinary Irish Catholics were "waiting to see this whole issue dealt with properly" and if it is not, "more people are just going to give up in despair and walk away", she said.

- 'Fear of how deep it goes' -

Collins welcomed a letter from Pope Francis this week condemning the "atrocities" revealed by a far-reaching US report into child sex abuse by priests in the state of Pennsylvania.

But she said the words of the leader of the world's billion-plus Catholics did not go far enough.

"It didn't give any concrete statements about what he was actually going to do," she said, calling for some "real sanctions" against those who perpetrate and cover up abuse.

"The reluctance to look into things properly and to behave properly is the fear of how deep it goes, how far it goes and how wide it goes.

"There is this mistaken idea that if we don't look at it, it will go away," she said.

- 'He could do no wrong' -

Collins had just celebrated her 13th birthday when she was assaulted by a priest, according to an account she gave at a Vatican symposium on abuse in 2012.

The priest -- "a skilled child molester" in her words -- began visiting her in the evenings while she lay in a hospital bed in Dublin.

"When he began to sexually interfere with me, pretending at first he was being playful, I was shocked and resisted, telling him to stop. He did not stop," she said.

"While assaulting me, he would respond to my resistance by telling me he was a priest, he could do no wrong," she recalled.

"He took photographs of the most private parts of my body and told me I was stupid if I thought it was wrong. He had power over me. I did not know how to tell anyone. I just prayed he would not do it again -- but he did.

"Those fingers that would abuse my body the night before were the next morning holding and offering me the sacred host.

"The hands that held the camera to photograph my exposed body, in the light of day were holding a prayer book when he came to hear my confession.

"When I left the hospital I was not the same child who had entered," she said.

- End Vatican 'resistance' -

After years of treatment for mental illness brought on by feelings of guilt, Collins finally told a doctor about the abuse when she was 47.

He persuaded her to tell the Church about it, but when Collins met with her parish priest, she says he refused to listen and blamed her.

"He said he saw no need to report the chaplain. He told me what happened was probably my fault. This response shattered me," she said.

A decade later while reading news about a serial paedophile priest Collins realised that other children might have been damaged by the same priest who hurt her and she again spoke up.

The priest was eventually prosecuted and jailed, and Collins has since become a leading voice in Ireland pushing for justice for victims.

Collins on Friday said only the pope could end Vatican "resistance", even if this meant removing people in high office.

"Every day children are being abused. So every day that goes by... more and more children are being harmed when they don't need to be harmed."

Marie Collins, who suffered sexual abuse by a priest when she was 13, has become a leading voice in Ireland pushing for justice for victims.

Marie Collins recalls: "While assaulting me, he would respond to my resistance by telling me he was a priest, he could do no wrong."

Marie Collins (L), a former member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors, walks with Archbishop of Dublin Diarmud Martin (R) after taking part in a panel discussion on 'Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults' during the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

AFP, Published: 25 AUG 2018
Irish sex abuse victim urges pope to remove 'every rotten apple'

Pope Francis has declined to comment on a claim that he ignored sexual abuse allegations against a senior clergyman amid speculation conservative elements in the Catholic hierarchy are using the issue to mount a "putsch" to remove the liberal pontiff.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican envoy to the United States, on Saturday said he had told Francis of the allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2013.

But rather than punish McCarrick, who was forced to resign last month, Vigano said Francis had lifted sanctions imposed on him by his predecessor pope Benedict XVI.

"Corruption has reached the very top of the Church's hierarchy," Vigano said in a letter published in the National Catholic Register and several conservative US Catholic publications.

But the pope refused to address the allegation on Sunday.

"I will not say a word about that. I think that the communique speaks for itself," Francis said on his plane as he flew back from Dublin to Rome.

The timing of the letter's release -- right in the middle of Francis's landmark trip to Ireland -- has raised speculation of a campaign against the Argentine pontiff by conservatives in the Church.

Francis told journalists to "read the communique attentively and make your own judgement," referring to Vigano's letter, which called on the pope to resign.

In his 11-page "testimony", Vigano, 77, who was a papal nuncio in Washington between 2011 and 2016, said Benedict XVI imposed canonical sanctions against McCarrick in the late 2000s.

McCarrick was forced to leave his seminary and live a life of penance after former Vatican ambassadors in Washington, now dead, reported him for "gravely immoral" behaviour with seminarians and priests.

- 'Homosexual networks' -

Vigano claimed Francis asked him about McCarrick when he took office in June 2013, but that the pope ignored his warnings.

He said the pope "knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator," adding that "he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end".

The pope accepted the resignation of McCarrick, now 88, in July, making him just the second cardinal ever to lose his status.

In his letter, Vigano condemned the "culture of secrecy" in the Church but also railed against "the homosexual current" he claimed was prevalent in the highest echelons of the Vatican and contributing to a "conspiracy of silence" over abuse.

"The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated," he said. "These homosexual networks ... are strangling the entire Church."

US cardinals Monday defended themselves against Vigano's allegations of a cover-up.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, a progressive, expressed "shock, sadness and consternation" at the wide-ranging allegations and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington denied any knowledge that his predecessor had been either sanctioned or accused of abuse.

- 'A putsch is afoot' -

"Make no mistake. This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis," said an editorial article on the website of the progressive National Catholic Reporter weekly.

"A putsch is afoot and if the US bishops do not, as a body, stand up to defend the Holy Father in the next 24 hours, we shall be slipping towards schism," the author Michael Sean Winters wrote.

"The enemies of Francis have declared war."

Nicolas Seneze, the Rome correspondent for the French daily La Croix, echoed that there is "a clear desire to attack Francis," telling AFP that "those who regard Francis as dangerous will stop at nothing."

Among ultra-conservative Catholics, the pope is regarded as a dangerous progressive more interested in social issues than traditional Church matters.

With his more conciliatory approach to the gay community Francis had raised hopes among that he might steer the Church towards greater acceptance of homosexuality but he remains in line with traditional Church teaching on sexuality and marriage.

- Abuse scandals -

During his visit to Ireland on Sunday the pope "begged for God's forgiveness" for past clerical abuse scandals, which have badly damaged the image of the Church in the Catholic stronghold.

His trip was met with enthusiastic crowds but also protests, with about 5,000 abuse victims and supporters attending a "Stand for Truth" rally in the capital Dublin.

The Catholic Church's standing has been badly dented by the abuse scandals. Stronghold Ireland has largely shed its traditional Catholic mores, voting earlier this year to legalise abortion after approving same-sex marriage in 2015.

Multiple probes in Ireland have found Church leaders protected hundreds of predatory priests and former Irish president Mary McAleese revealed this month that the Vatican had sought to keep Church documents inaccessible to government investigators.

The abuse scandals in Ireland are part of a worldwide crisis for the Vatican.

A devastating report earlier this month accused more than 300 priests in the US state of Pennsylvania of abusing more than 1,000 children since the 1950s.

Pope Francis has refused to comment on a claim that he personally ignored sexual abuse allegations against a senior clergyman.

The travels of Pope Francis since 2013

Pope Francis "begged for God's forgiveness" on Sunday for multiple abuse scandals within the Irish church but faced accusations by a former Vatican official that he had personally ignored allegations against senior clergy.

The Church's role and standing has been badly dented by the abuse scandals and the Irish have shed traditional Catholic mores, voting earlier this year to legalise abortion after approving same-sex marriage in 2015.

AFP, Published: 28 AUG 2018
Pope silent on claim he ignored abuse

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Residential buildings

FOREST CITY/KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday declared that foreigners will not be granted visas to live in the giant Forest City real estate project on the country’s southern tip, a major threat to the marketing strategy for the development.

It is not his first broadside against the plan by Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co (2007.HK) to create a new city that was envisaged to eventually house 700,000 people on reclaimed land near Singapore, but it could be his most damaging. The company has been targeting foreigners more than Malaysians for sales of the apartments.

A top official at the project told Reuters last week that in the weeks immediately after 93-year-old Mahathir came back into power, through a shock election victory in May, demand for the apartments had weakened, and that the uncertainty remained a concern.

Mahathir’s latest comments are likely to exacerbate those concerns.

“One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners,” Mahathir said at a news conference on Monday in Kuala Lumpur in response to a question from Reuters. “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here.”

Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s leader from 1981-2003, said the government’s objection was “because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats.”

Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd, the joint venture between Country Garden and the Johor state government that is developing Forest City, said in a statement it is in touch with Mahathir’s office as it seeks clarification. It said it believed Mahathir’s comments “may have been taken out of context in certain media reports” as they do not correspond with the content of a meeting between the prime minister and Country Garden Holdings Chairman Yeung Kwok Keung.

In that meeting on August 16, Mahathir “reiterated that he welcomes foreign investments which could create employment opportunities, promote technology transfer and innovations that could benefit Malaysia’s economic growth and job creation,” Country Garden Pacificview said.

It also said that it has complied with all Malaysian laws and regulations concerning approvals to sell to foreign purchasers.

Shares in Hong Kong-listed Country Garden, which rose as much as 3.9 percent on Monday morning, trimmed their gains to 2.5 percent after Mahathir’s comments.

Country Garden Chinese buyers now make up about two-thirds of the owners of the Forest City apartments that have been sold so far, with 20 percent from Malaysia and the rest from 22 other countries including Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.

Mahathir had capitalized on popular disquiet about Chinese investment pouring into Malaysia during his election campaign. He even suggested in a speech last December that he hoped Forest City would become an actual forest with baboons and monkeys as residents, according to local media reports.

Since becoming prime minister he has put the brakes on a number of China-backed projects, including the $20 billion East Coast Rail Link project and a natural gas pipeline project in Sabah. Plans for a high speed rail link from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, which was expected to be a big boost to the Forest City project, have also been suspended.


Forest City’s sales have picked back up in recent weeks, and the developer has been seeking to change the project’s image. Country Garden is trying to make it appear more Malaysian and less Chinese, according to the official, Ng Zhu Hann, who is head of strategy for Country Garden Forest City.

Country Garden is also willing to acknowledge for the first time that if demand does falter it will have to slow down the building of the development. It is eventually intended to be a $100 billion city, with apartment blocks, houses, office towers, hotels and shopping centers on four man-made islands.

“If the demand is there, we will build. If it’s not there, we will slow down,” Ng said in an interview at the gleaming Phoenix Hotel, one of the finished new structures on the first of the reclaimed islands. “So there’s no worry of a ghost town, oversupply - If the demand is not there, we won’t be building.”

Mahathir’s victory is the second big threat that the development - which is a partnership between Country Garden and the Sultan of Johor - has faced in the past couple of years. Beijing’s moves to stem capital outflows imposed after the yuan plummeted in late 2016 hurt mainland Chinese demand for the apartments.


Ng said what he called the “Chinese Stigma” is the biggest hurdle facing the project.

“What the Malaysian government does not want is a Chinese enterprise coming to Malaysia, taking government contracts, affecting the project opportunities of local developers, making the money and going back,” Ng said.

This has prompted a change in hiring strategy as Forest City seeks to recruit more Malaysians like Ng into senior management positions.

“My predecessor was a Chinese. In the past, our management had only one Malaysian, which was head of legal. This (my) position is usually held by a Chinese, but now I’m here,” said Ng, who is ethnic Chinese but from Malaysia.

Ng said that the political uncertainty had hurt investor sentiment.

“It’s not that people don’t want to invest, but people are now: ‘Let’s wait and see. What if they change their policy again?’ Political stability is one, policy stability is another.”

After Mahathir’s comments, Ng defended the local nature of the project.

“There are many Malaysians in this project,” Ng told Reuters. “1,100 out of 1,545 of the total workforce are Malaysians.”


At the end of a thirty-minute drive from the crossing from Singapore through palm oil plantations and jungle, the once sleepy town of Gelang Patah known for its mangroves and fishing villages now has a skyline of skyscrapers.

This futuristic development is only half of the first of four man-made islands envisioned for the development - only 2.7 square kilometers of the planned reclamation of 20 square kilometers.

Work to build more high rise residential towers, town houses and commercial buildings is continuing full steam, with dozens of heavy duty trucks carrying sand and materials while cranes dot a skyline that is growing taller and denser as high-rise apartments rapidly approach completion.

Forest City is barely inhabited, with only a handful of staff living at its service apartments and guests at its hotel.

But earlier this month, an international school opened its doors to the first 60 students - mostly from China and also from South Korea - to its 22-acre campus planted with “vertical gardens,” an Olympic-size pool and three yoga studios.

They will be knocking about the Shattuck St Mary’s school campus designed to accommodate 1,000 students as construction roars on in the backdrop.

Liang Ri Sheng, 44, who runs an electrical services company in Guangzhou, said he hopes Forest City will be the gateway for his son to an international life, riding on the strength of China’s Belt and Road regional infrastructure push.

“It will give both eastern and western exposure for my son. I think it’s good for my son’s growth and development,” Liang told Reuters. He was speaking before Mahathir’s latest remarks.

His family will be one of the first 482 to get the keys to their new homes by September.

Another buyer, Jackie Chan (not related to the actor of the same name), who bought an apartment in Forest City last year for around $140,000, said he hadn’t expected such a twist.

“When I bought it I was betting on long-term appreciation and didn’t expect there would be such a policy risk. But I’m not aiming for their immigration visa so there’s no impact for me. The investment amount is small so I’m just going to keep it as a vacation home,” said Chan, who lives in Hong Kong.

[photo] Residential buildings are seen at Forest City in Johor, Malaysia, August 20, 2018.

Reuters, Published: AUGUST 27, 2018 / 3:37 PM
Mahathir takes aim at Country Garden's giant development in southern Malaysia
By Fathin Ungku, Joseph Sipalan

BANGKOK/LONDON - A ban on foreigners buying homes in New Zealand is not enough to solve the problems of affordable housing and homelessness, analysts and campaigners said, as the country became the latest to impose curbs on non-residents buying property.

New Zealand’s parliament last week passed a law to bar many non-resident foreigners from buying existing homes in a bid to curb house price growth and reduce rates of homelessness.

The ban exempts Australians and may also exclude Singapore.

Foreign ownership has attracted criticism in recent years as New Zealand grapples with a housing crunch that has seen average prices in the largest city, Auckland, almost double in the past decade, and rise more than 60 percent nationwide.

But reaction to the ban was mixed, with some analysts saying it may help boost affordability, while campaigners said it would not solve the more pressing problem of homelessness.

“It will take some price pressure off the top end of the market, which may trickle through to affordability at the lower end. However, it won’t have much effect,” said Timothy Hazledine, professor of economics at the University of Auckland.

“There definitely is an affordability problem, generated simply by the pressure of demand on a finite supply of desirable real estate. Bans on foreign ownership are a tiny step in this direction,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday.

The United Nations estimates that globally, at least 150 million people, or about 2 percent of the population, are homeless. More than a fifth of the population lacks adequate housing.

Governments worldwide are under pressure to boost housing affordability and fix a growing problem of urban homelessness.

Canada last year recognized housing as a fundamental right, and committed to creating up to 100,000 affordable housing units and providing financial assistance to some 300,000 low-income households.

India has pledged to provide housing for all citizens by 2022, with an aim to build 20 million urban housing units and 30 million rural homes, although activists say the program does not address the problem of homelessness.


New Zealand has the highest rate of homelessness amongst wealthy nations that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, with almost 1 percent of its population living without a permanent shelter in 2015.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has unveiled an ambitious plan to build social infrastructure, including an extra NZ$634 million ($425 million) for housing to help thousands of residents sleeping in cars and shop entrances.

This is on top of the NZ$2.1 billion previously announced to fund Kiwibuild, a government building program to increase affordable housing supply.

The new law is unlikely to help the homeless, said James Crow at the advocacy group Gimme Shelter Aotearoa.

“Although this law allows a more level playing field for first home buyers, these are unlikely to be the individuals and families sleeping in cars every night,” he said.

“The major issue remains around affordable rental accommodation, as most homeless are renters. Better access to first, emergency shelter and then long-term rental accommodation is a critical next step to resolving (homelessness),” he said.

With at least 55 percent of the world’s population living in urban centers, homelessness is ever more apparent, from Los Angeles to Auckland.

This has fueled resentment against foreign buyers who are accused of pushing up house prices, and often leave their properties vacant for several months of the year.

In London last year, squatters briefly occupied a mansion left empty by its foreign owner in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods.

Foreign home buyers in New Zealand made up about 3 percent of property transfers overall, according to official data, which does not capture property bought through trusts.

The majority of buyers were from China and Australia.

The ban will not have “a significant impact” on house prices, said Bindi Norwell, chief executive at the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, a lobbying body.

“Nor will it help young people into their first homes,” she said in a statement.

Instead, increasing supply, reducing bureaucracy, and easing mortgage restrictions for first time buyers are “more appropriate measures” to boost affordability, she said.

New Zealand is not alone, though: Switzerland has long had limits on foreign ownership of property, while authorities in Vancouver and Toronto have imposed foreign buyers’ taxes to cool house prices ranked as among the least affordable in the world.

While not always feasible, some controls on foreign buyers are needed on residential properties in big cities, said Chris Hamnett, emeritus professor at King’s College London.

“I welcome what the government of New Zealand has done - it is a way of protecting the residents and the housing future of a small country,” he said.

Reuters, Published: AUGUST 22, 2018
Will banning foreign buyers solve homelessness in New Zealand?
By Rina Chandran, Umberto Bacchi

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Why Mahathir dared to say ‘no’ to China

FORMER US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, when pressed by Australia's former prime minister Kevin Rudd to take a firmer stance against China over issues relating to South China Sea, once replied: "How do you deal toughly with your banker?"

By 2012, China was the largest purchaser of the US Treasury Bills, in order to exercise more leverage on the White House, Congress and the Senate. This is a practice learned from Japan, to keep the Washingtonian establishment happy – invariably delirious with a strong US dollar and a low interest rate to keep the American economy churning. Whether this worked or not, no one knows.

Between 2008 and 2016, the Barack Obama administration did try its best to pivot to Asia, indeed, to rebalance the preponderance of China over the entire Asia Pacific.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the region's last post-colonial leader who outlasted Sukarno, Suharto and Lee Kuan Yew, just taught Clinton how to say the most difficult word in high diplomacy.

Not only did Mahathir say "no" to three China projects in Malaysia, he said them in Beijing before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

To those who are not familiar with saying no to China or anyone powerful, Mahathir had just crossed the line. How did he do that?

To the cynics, Mahathir had gone from gutsy and bold to being literally mad. One certainly does not say no to the great powers, let alone China.

There are US$134 billion worth of Chinese commercial endeavours spread over 11 projects throughout Malaysia.

With a polite explanation to three of China's top leaders – President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Chairman of the National People's Congress (equivalent to a parliament) Li Zhangsu – he said that Malaysia "cannot afford" three of the government-to-government projects. But the optic of affordability can only tell half the story about the 93-year-old.

Unrelenting Dr M for decades now

Back in 1970s, he had written an academic article in the prestigious Third World Quarterly, a journal that used to publish the works of Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram, one of the best development economists in the world to date.

No foreign leader dared to publish in this journal, for fear of being seen as a leftist at the height of the Cold War. With sheer intellectual passion, Mahathir contributed the article to that journal anyway.

By 1988, he had also co-wrote a short book with Shintaro Ishihara, the former Tokyo mayor, who was often misunderstood in China and Japan as a right winger. In that book, both of them peddled the thesis that Japan can say no to the US, invariably, the West. On the part of Asia, Mahathir argued along the same line.

The original partner of Ishihara was the co-founder of Sony, the late Akio Morita. Both had jointly argued in Japan, that the Land of the Rising Sun was sufficiently sophisticated enough to say no to the US in that if Japan refused to divulge all the knowledge on the semi-conductor or microchip that goes into the making of an F-15 or other such American made super jets, the defence industries of the US would immediately be crippled.

Morita, however, backed out from further co-authorship of such works, in order to protect the expansion of Sony into US mainland by 1990s. But by then, Mahathir had summoned the courage to express similar views with Ishihara. Indeed, to take Look East Policy further and deeper.

From 1990 to 1997, Mahathir was unrelenting in pushing the idea of East Asian Economic Group (EAEG), which morphed into East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC).

The idea was sufficiently provocative to draw then US secretary of state James Baker to warn Japan and South Korea not to endorse it. They didn't.

Be that as it may, by 1990, Mahathir had peddled the idea to then Chinese prime minister Li Peng, that too at a time when China was being ostracised by the rest of the world over the Tiananmen Tragedy on June 4 just a year prior.

This trip, and the idea of China leading East Asia, went down very well with Beijing. Mahathir was seen as a visionary statesman in China, and is still seen in that context.

Beijing understands

In Li's press conference in Beijing on Aug 21, the Chinese prime minister spent the first five minutes praising Mahathir on his role as a national leader who understood the importance of regional peace, economic prosperity and joint strategic development. Invariably, as neighbours who were capable of reaching win-win outcomes regardless of the traditional economic or new (disruptive) economic order.

Old or new, in other words, China and Malaysia would forge ahead together. That strategic DNA was laid by Mahathir as early as 1990. Therefore, when he said no to China, Beijing understood that he was not being fickle or indecisive. They knew he had done his homework.

Hence, in the international press coverage of his trip to China, there was no unnecessary alarm on Aug 22. This further implies that Malaysia and China have reached a strong understanding that certain projects of questionable values can indeed be stopped, revised, even abolished. Strategic parity between China and Malaysia had been restored.

More importantly, saying no to any powers – great or small and including Singapore – involves huge degrees of conviction and commitment too.

Besides, this was a "no" that had the support of the majority of Malaysians, in turn, the entire Malaysian Cabinet and civil society.

But, more importantly, Mahathir has been consistent with his views on colonialism, corruption, and sheer commercial charade camouflaged as infrastructure projects.

Seeing eye to eye with Xi

In the press conference with the Chinese prime minister, Mahathir did not rely on any talking points from the Foreign Affairs Ministry let alone the new Special Envoy to China Tan Kok Wai.

Mahathir said: "Malaysia does not want colonialism. Indeed, Malaysia wants fair trade. Not just free trade." These words were not jarring to China or Chinese diplomacy the least bit. Why was this the case?

Starting from 1975, Chairman Mao had espoused the theory of three worlds, which included the developed, semi-developed and underdeveloped world.

Deng Xiao Ping, who was then returning from the purge of the Cultural Revolution, was given the responsibility of articulating the "three worlds theory" at the United Nations General Assembly.

More importantly, Deng affirmed that China would always support "the Third World," or the underdeveloped world.

Between 1975 and 2017, there is no evidence that China had walked away from this concept, even though the Cold War had ended in 1988 with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Mahathir knew then, as he knows now, that China would understand the plight of Malaysia if he has the privilege to explain it to Xi, whom at the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1975, was sent to the farms in the outbacks of China, as Xi had once put it, to "eat bitterness".

In other words, Mahathir knows that when push comes to shove, Xi is a man of reason.

More remarkably, it should be mentioned that Mahathir had once written a letter to Xi to revive the Silk Road (in Central Asia and Altaic regions), which the president, according to Mahathir in an interview with South China Morning Post last month, had added with a "maritime belt". Mahathir, in more ways than one, does see eye to eye with Xi.

Saying no to the West

Saying no to China involves huge amounts of prior intellectual honesty and consistency, both of which Mahathir possesses in sheer abundance. This is because he has had the habit of saying no to the West before, indeed, long before he was compelled by current circumstances – what Mahathir had earlier called "Najib's stupidity" in signing lop-sided contracts – to say no to Xi.

Rather than worshipping Japan, as some misunderstood, Mahathir had also said no to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), back in 1985.

To be sure, it was Jica that first proposed the East Coast Railway project. But during Najib's tenure, some of his special officers and ministers took to dusting off the old Jica railway paper to transform it into a China Belt and Road project.

This was known in the inner circle of Umno as "tukar kulit", meaning "to change the title of any policy or commercial paper to make it one's own". For lack of a better word, Najib's special officers and Cabinet had got themselves into the game of cheating since the railway project was not their original conceptualisation.

In this sense, there was nothing remarkable about saying no to China, since Mahathir has had many opportunities to turn down many different countries and great powers before.

When Australia and New Zealand first expressed their wishes to be part of the East Asian Economic Group or Caucus, Mahathir told them to be satisfied with their membership in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec).

It was only during Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's time as prime minister that the two countries were allowed to join the inaugural East Asian Summit in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In fact, Mahathir and his Cabinet are currently saying no to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or any variety that comes from it. Thus, saying no is difficult only if a country wants to ingratiate itself to others.

During Najib's time, he was surrounded by thousands of "yes" men and women. They led him into a ditch, as Khairy Jamaluddin admitted, by not telling the truth on a daily and consistent basis. Mahathir, on the other hand, is a master at saying no based on simple principles and consistency.

The people have given the prime minister two thumbs up with an approval rating of 71%; while his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim agree with his decisions. Such unity, and collective consistency, are the stuff that make a country strong. Mahathir just executed what had otherwise been the will of Malaysians too.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 27 August 2018 - 11:33pm
Why Mahathir dared to say ‘no’ to China
By Phar Kim Beng
Phar Kim Beng was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com University.

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Has Globalization Enhanced Development Cooperation?

PROTRACTED economic stagnation in rich countries continues to threaten the development prospects of poorer countries.

Globalisation and economic liberalisation over the last few decades have integrated developing countries into the world economy, but now that integration is becoming a threat as developing countries are shackled by the knock-on effects of the rich world's troubles.

Trade interdependence at risk

As a consequence of increased global integration, growth in developing countries relies more than ever on access to international markets.

That access is needed, not only to export products, but also to import food and other requirements.

Interdependence nowadays, however asymmetric, is a two-way street, but with very different traffic flows.

Unfortunately, the trade effects of the crisis have been compounded by their impact on development cooperation efforts, which have been floundering lately.

In 1969, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries committed to devote 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) in official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries.

But the total in 2017 reached only US$146.6 billion (RM602 billion), or 0.31% of aggregate GNI – less than half of what was promised.

In 2000, UN member states adopted the Millennium Development Goals to provide benchmarks for tackling world poverty, revised a decade and a half later with the successor Sustainable Development Goals.

But all serious audits since show major shortfalls in international efforts to achieve the goals, a sober reminder of the need to step up efforts and meet longstanding international commitments, especially in the current global financial crisis.

Aid less forthcoming

Individual countries' promises of aid to the least developed countries (LDCs) have fared no better, while the G7 countries have failed to fulfil their pledges of debt forgiveness and aid for poorer countries that they have made at various summits over the decades.

At the turn of the century, development aid seemed to rise as a priority for richer countries.

But, having declined precipitously following the Cold War's end almost three decades ago, ODA flows only picked up after the 9/11 or Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Monterrey Consensus, the outcome of the 2002 first ever UN conference on Financing for Development, is now the major reference for international development financing.

But, perhaps more than ever before, much bilateral ODA remains "tied", or used for donor government projects, rendering the prospects of national budgetary support more remote than ever.

Tied aid requires the recipient country to spend the aid received in the donor country, often on overpriced goods and services or unnecessary technical assistance.

Increasingly, ODA is being used to promote private corporate interests from the donor country itself through ostensible "public-private partnerships" and other similar arrangements.

Not surprisingly, even International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff have become increasingly critical of ODA, citing failure to contribute to economic growth.

However, UN research shows that if blatantly politically-driven aid is excluded from consideration, the evidence points to a robust positive relationship.

Despite recent efforts to enhance aid effectiveness, progress has been modest at best, not least because average project financing has fallen by more than two-thirds!


Debt is another side of the development dilemma. In the last decade, the joint IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and its extension, the supplementary Multilateral Debt Relief initiative, made some progress on debt sustainability.

But debt relief is still not treated as additional to ODA. The result is "double counting" as what is first counted as a concessional loan is then booked again as a debt write-off.

At the 2001 LDCs summit in Brussels, developed countries committed to providing 100% duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) access for LDC exports.

But actual access is only available for 80% of products, and anything short of full DFQF allows importing countries to exclude the very products that LDCs can successfully export.

Unfortunately, many of the poorest countries have been unable to cope with unsustainable debt burdens following the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, there has been little progress towards an equitable and effective sovereign-debt workout framework despite the debilitating Argentine, Greek and other crises.

Technology gap

In addition to facing export obstacles, declining aid inflows, and unsustainable debt, the poorest countries remain far behind developed countries technologically. Affordable and equitable access to existing and new technologies is crucial for human progress and sustainable development in many areas, including food security and climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

The decline of public-sector research and agricultural-extension efforts, stronger intellectual-property claims and greater reliance on privately owned technologies have ominous implications, especially for the poor. The same is true for affordable access to essential medicines, on which progress remains modest.

An international survey in recent years found that such medicines were available in less than half of poor countries' public facilities and less than two-thirds of private facilities. Meanwhile, median prices were almost thrice international reference prices in the public sector, and over six times as much in the private sector.

Thus, with the recent protracted stagnation in many rich countries, fiscal austerity measures, growing protectionism and other recent developments have made things worse for international development cooperation.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 26 August 2018 - 08:06pm
Has globalisation enhanced development cooperation?
By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 27): The 100-day report by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) was never meant to be published for the public, said economist Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

“We never wrote it with the intention of getting it published,” said Jomo, who served as a member of the council.

“Our intention was always to provide advice to (Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad), and we expect he in turn will share it with the relevant Ministers and then they will make the decisions,” he told reporters after delivering a talk on the country’s economic policy organised by the Perdana Fellows Alumni Association.

He added that the report, which addresses specific problems, is not a “coherent report” like the New Economic Model and contains sensitive information.

“Some of the items are sensitive. The Government must be capable of getting advice which not everyone (is privy to). There are many things which are very delicate. Information can be abused,” Jomo explained.

“For example, there are details which obviously would affect certain businesses, and we have to be very careful about them. Likewise, there are things which affect other countries,” he added, stressing that it is important for the public to realise this.

“Too many people have a lot of misconceptions about the CEP,” he said, citing the assumption that the council members were paid by the Government for their services as an example.

“The CEP was never paid a cent. Not even my travel fare to go to (the meetings). There was no question of us being paid for (by taxpayers). We have never asked for and do not intend to ask for money.

“The problem now is that the CEP is already mired in controversy. People think we're doing all kinds of things when in fact, it hasn't. I'm speaking to you now not as a CEP member (currently),” Jomo said.

Although the council’s initially mandate had ended on Aug 19 upon conclusion of its 100-day term, Jomo said council members can and should be called upon to assist Dr Mahathir if needed.

“Our role, and the reason why we accepted it, is to be helpful to Tun M. I do think that there are certain areas where he would need help...he should call upon us individually for help with specific tasks,” he said.

Jomo added that the controversy surround the CEP, its role and the report were an unnecessary distraction for the Government.

“It's very important for people to realise that although this Government must be more transparent, must be more accountable, it doesn't mean that every step of the way, everything is (publicised),” he said.

However, he was open to the idea of making certain parts of the report public if they do not involve any sensitivities.

The Edge Markets, Published: August 27, 2018 22:29 pm +08
CEP report never meant for public scrutiny − Jomo
By Samantha Ho
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河北新報、河北春秋、2018年08月28日 火曜日




■ 国民はバカにされている



■ 映像なら政府の答弁姿勢伝わる



■ 各地の取り組みとノウハウ共有を





北海道新聞、08/28 05:00

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Food for thought

Food waste is a bigger problem than many people realise.

HAVE you, like me, ever wondered why many Malaysians don’t finish the food on their table when they eat out?

Never mind the fact that most would never clean up after their meals, finished or unfinished (just go to any of the food courts near you, and you will know what I mean).

Malaysia evidently has a long way to go in many areas, especially etiquette and sustainability.

But we cannot afford to slack off anymore, as the implications of not minding issues of food wastage run deep.

Statistics tallied by SWCorp Malaysia show that Malaysians generally produce 38,000 tonnes of waste per day, and from the pile, about 15,000 tonnes make up food waste.

About 8,000 tonnes, or 60 per cent, of the food wasted daily is avoidable food waste (which refers to disposal of edible food such bread crusts, juice pulps etc).

If you think that’s not alarming enough to get you questioning your habits, think again: of the 8,000 tonnes, about 3,000 tonnes is actually still edible. Rationed well and proportionately, the amount could feed approximately two million people.

Folks, that’s more than the size of Kuala Lumpur’s population.

Somehow, these jaw-dropping findings have not stopped many people from rethinking their food purchasing and eating habits, as it’s easier instead to complain about expenses.

But would they consider the fact that perhaps their thinning wallets are due to compulsive buying and very much mindless ways of eating?

That Malaysians spend a quarter of their income on food and beverages alone says as much.

Reports have also shown that we pile about 450g of food on our plates, yet we dare wonder why Malaysia is ranked as the country with the highest cases of diabetes and obesity in all of Asia.

With our perception limited to only our linear observation of day-to-day routines and happenstance, it’s easy to assume that our actions do not have consequences.

But when it comes to food wastage, out of sight is not out of mind.

We may think nothing of the unfinished buns and rice on our lunch plates, or the vegetables rotting away in our fridges, but their ultimate disposal has serious consequences on our environment.

For one, we are steadily running out of landfill spaces on which our wastes are deposited.

Then, there’s also the fact that the daily waste our bin amounts to a bill of approximate RM225; this translates to RM2,700 a year, which is more than a month’s salary for many.

Blind to the socio-environmental gaps that our own overconsumption generates, we don’t think twice of footing up to RM40 billion for imported food.

With more than five million tonnes of food disposed yearly, so it’s rather apt to say that we Malaysians are active contributors to the global statistics of 1.50 billion tonnes of waste generated per year.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the global poll: Malaysia’s food wastage rate is the third highest in the world, after the United Kingdom and Germany.

On an individual level, people must know that wasting food is not okay, as it indicates one’s lack of self-awareness, moral conscience, and respect for one’s surroundings.

When we waste food, we disrespect other people.

Picture ourselves as the poor and needy: how great would we as the starved and impoverished feel when we see others more privileged than us wasting away the energy supply and nutrition that we could have received?

When we buy more produces for our house and order more dishes at the restaurant than we actually need at every given time, we are also really just setting them up as markers for increased carbon footprint and environmental pollution.

The overall solution to food wastage, and ultimately socio-environmental problems, must be a multi-pronged approach.

True change can only take place with the occurrence of the following scenarios:

WHEN people start to realise they can and should examine why they like to waste;

WHEN society (made up of said people) starts to appreciate nature and the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional benefits it provides, enough to want to preserve it; and,

AND sustainable channels for diverting food waste from limited landfills are opened.

Tighter legal enforcements against commercial food wastage and excessive organic disposals should first be implemented to have immediate effect.

We only need to look up to fellow offender, Germany, to take heed: in owning up to its problem, the German government released an official law entailing that individuals who do not finish their food will be fined on the spot.

People are quicker to realise the immediacy of an issue when they are made vulnerable to financial-legal sanctions, but of course, slapping fines onto
civilians is not sustainable on its own.

Corporations and brands across the food industry would also do well to perform as much environmentally focused corporate social responsibility efforts as possible, to tap into people’s awareness.

On top of that, efforts to compost wastes should be made commercial, and perhaps even compulsory, by the government as part of introducing sustainability into our daily living.

All in all, it takes an entire nation to spark awareness surrounding the issue, and we all know that as Malaysians, we often only need the right push.

About 8,000 tonnes of the food wasted daily in Malaysia is avoidable food waste.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 11:31am
Food for thought
By Ahmad Kushairi, News Editor (Weekend/Probe/Special Report), New Straits Times

HAVING been a resident of Kedah over the past two decades, I must confess that I am privy to a series of efforts by the state government to seek legitimate and equitable compensation from the Federal Government for what it viewed as a sacrifice for the benefit of the nation.

First, the state had to forego development because it had to preserve a large tract of high-grade and fertile padi fields in the state (estimated at 115,000 hectares) to help feed the nation. Second, it had to preserve its watershed areas to provide water to Perlis and Penang.

Third, there is the complicated issue of compensation for the “loss of Penang island and Province Wellesley” which some local scholars viewed should have been resolved by the Federal Government a long time ago.

This newspaper recently quoted Kedah Umno Youth information chief Syed Mohd Johan Rizal Syed Unan Mashri as urging the present state government to press on its demand for “rice royalties” from the Federal Government (“Kedah should demand rice royalties” − New Straits Times, July 27).

He said the Federal Government had lately shown that it was prepared to pay oil royalties (as high as 20 per cent) to several states such as Kelantan and Sabah.

Johan added that Kedah had “sacrificed” much to supply the entire country with rice and such “royalties” would be commensurate with the state’s status as the rice bowl of the nation.

In addition, the state is compelled to maintain more than 300,000 hectares of reserved forests in Pedu and Ulu Muda to supply water required for the state as well as Perlis and Penang.

He said he was encouraged by the recent debates in Parliament where Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had expressed the Federal Government’s commitment to pay oil royalties to some states.

Taking that as a positive sign, now is the appropriate time to press on with Kedah’s demand for compensation, he added. He urged Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, who is Kubang Pasu member of parliament, to table a motion in Parliament for the royalties to be debated.

Two years ago, the then menteri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah told the media that the state government was “in the process of getting compensation from the Federal Government” for its “sacrifice” in having to preserve water catchment forests.

In the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-15), the Economic Planning Unit projected that water demand in Kedah and Penang would triple over the period 1995-2020. The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve area (a vital water catchment for the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams) supplies water to Kedah, Penang and Perlis. Water from Muda provides 80 per cent of treated water supply to Penang (a water deficit state) and 96.5 per cent to Kedah and 70 per cent to Perlis.

When economic growth triples in the Northern Corridor Economic Region by 2025, there will be an even bigger demand for water in Kedah, Penang and Perlis.

More than a decade ago, the late Datuk Dr Afifuddin Omar, a former deputy finance minister in the Barisan Nasional government, had called upon the Federal Government to pay Kedah RM1.2 billion a year as compensation because that would be the amount the state could have earned if it had been able to utilise its land to plant oil palm instead of padi.

By requiring Kedah to plant padi, the late Afifuddin said the Federal Government was able to save billions annually from rice imports.

To conclude, I observe that everyone in Kedah (leaders on both sides of the political divide, scholars, civil servants and the general public) whom I had met over the last two decades are all in complete agreement that the Federal Government should compensate the state for the sacrifice it had made all these years. It is long overdue.

Boys walking through padi fields in Kota Sarang Semut in Alor Star, Kedah, the rice bowl of Malaysia

New Straits Times, Published: August 23, 2018 - 10:09am
Rice royalties for Kedah?
The writer formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for private practice, the corporate sector and academia.

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What makes Malaysia a home to us

FOR the expatriate community, the annual holidays are over.

We have all undertaken the pilgrimage to and from our home countries. We have met family and friends. We have made memories and filled our suitcases with essentials, which we can but choose not to live without. It’s time to settle back into our Malaysian lives.

Except, I’m not sure where home really is any more. I say, “I go home” when I fly out of Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of summer. But I also say it when I fly back to KL at the end of the holidays. Confusing, isn’t it?

Schools are back in session. Work has piled up here in our absence. There are more than just a few uniquely Malaysian things that we missed while we were away. We are ready and a little anxious to get cracking at our daily routine.

While we carefully unpack our loot, aka aforementioned “essentials”, (I tend to bring cheese and chocolate, lots of them. Others carry books, hair colour, cosmetics, even shoes and bras. Don’t ask!), we look forward to all the experiences that make Malaysia feel like home.

What makes our homes away from home feel like the real thing, you ask? I recently came upon
a list of occurrences every Malaysian has probably done at least once in their lifetime. While I can’t lay claim to every one of the 54 listed events, there are quite a few that my expatriate friends and I can relate to, quite a few that we look forward to.

Number one on the list says “Complain about the weather”. So true! Even if the family back home thinks we have lost all common sense, we complain about the weather. It’s too hot, too humid, too hazy, raining, not raining. We miss the changing seasons.

Sixteen positions on the said list are taken up by eating habits; no big surprise there. Even if we haven’t adopted every last one of the typically Malaysian culinary oddities (I still can’t sprinkle salt and pepper on my fruit, nor can I stand the smell of durian), we very much look forward to a taste of teh tarik and roti canai at the local mamak stall. Nasi lemak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as in the wee hours of the morning after a long night out definitely makes Malaysia feel like home to us. A hearty banana leaf meal eaten with our hands gives us the impression of belonging here, even if we often make a bigger mess of it than many locals do.

The pasar malam is featured on this list. Roaming about such a market on a Sunday night, scouting for all sorts of random knick-knack, has become a ritual we didn’t know we missed while we were away for the summer.

We would feel offended if mistaken for tourists in KL, so we are grateful for the local families taking pictures in front of the Petronas twin towers. If they do it, so can we.

Our children share some uniquely Malaysian experiences with their local friends as well. Eating ABC (ais kacang) by the roadside, school trips to Petrosains and the batik factory, birthday parties at the fast food joint, vividly coloured birthday cakes, messing up the star while trying to draw the Malaysian flag, singing their little hearts out in a more or less accurate rendition of Rasa Sayang while dressed up in traditional attire, are fond childhood memories they will hold dear forever.

The list goes on and on. But when we proudly introduce our visitors from overseas to roti tisu and miss Malaysian food when abroad, when we get invited to Raya open houses, when we are upset about the fact that friends back home can’t pinpoint Malaysia on a map and we become defensive as soon as a foreigner dares criticise Malaysia, we know for sure that a part of our heart will forever belong here in this country.

A hearty banana leaf meal and hot steaming teh tarik are among the local culinary delights the expatriate community looks forward to.

New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 12:25pm
What makes Malaysia a home to us
The writer is a long-term expatriate, a restless traveller, an observer of the human condition and unapologetically insubordinate

IT was one Saturday when everyone else was asleep that I woke up at 5am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So I headed for the garden and tidied it. Then I continued with household chores like washing the laundry and general cleaning. I proceeded to do some cooking and then did some painting and writing. After that, I walked to the gym.

The above certainly sounds like a journal entry or an example of a paragraph used by a teacher to illustrate chronological organisation in writing. When the beloved woke up, he saw what I had accomplished and asked, “Where did you get all the energy?”

I was trying to think of a good answer when I remembered the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The bottom line is some people are industrious while others are lackadaisical. We have those who accomplish much and others who are inclined to park off on the couch, play online games and do very little else. Even in the animal kingdom, we have some that do most of the work and others, very little.

A United Kingdom psychiatrist and book author Dr Neel Burton has much to say about laziness, which, according to Wikipedia is “a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so”. In order words, a person is lazy when he is able to carry out some activity, but is reluctant to do so because of the work involved.

Underlying psychological reasons pertaining to this attitude could be the lack of self esteem or a fear of failure. So laziness is a way to sabotage themselves. By not doing the work, they tell themselves they have not failed but rather they never tried. Another interesting view is that there is a relationship between dopamine levels and a willingness to work hard. There are some super foods that increase dopamine levels and it is said that one of them is dark chocolate.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2012) by researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that dopamine levels in the areas of the brain influence a person’s personality − whether he is a go-getter or a procrastinator.

Apparently hardworking people have the most dopamine in two areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation.

Then there is learned industriousness.

It may be difficult to explain human tendencies but I do believe that to a great extent, what we are is the result of modelling and the environment. Our backgrounds and the way we have been brought up influence how we approach day to day living.

For us who did not have much materially when we were growing up, we would have the added reason to work hard and achieve. We tend to value what we have and also avoid wastage of any kind. In addition, if we were constantly surrounded by parents or caregivers who worked very hard so that our basic needs were met and we could have that little extra, we would then try to emulate their work ethics. This, of course, is a general observation and there are exceptions to the rule.

A child living in an environment where hard work equals success will certainly view his future differently from another child who has been given everything. An adult living in a society where there are no social welfare privileges knows he has to work to survive. He cannot expect to receive freebies or allowances or discounted housing.

I’ve taught students and worked with colleagues and bosses who were very conscientious and it was such a delight. Conscientious people want to do a task well and they take obligations to others seriously. They are efficient and organised, self disciplined and dependable. It is not only doing big jobs that matter but small jobs are equally important.

Sometimes, when I’m asked to give a talk or to host an event, I try my best to make sure that it is done well. So I spend many days and nights planning and bringing the project to completion successfully. In the course of it, I’ve been asked, “why do you put in so much effort? They won’t appreciate it” to which I’ll thank them for their concern, but to me even if one person is blessed by the talk or the event, then it has made all the effort worthwhile.

So, back to the question of how I had all the energy to do what I did. I think the secret lies in the mystery that the more you give, the more you have. Or, it could be the ginseng.

There are those who work hard and there are those who are inclined to lay around, play online games and do very little else.

New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 12:29pm
The more you give, the more you have
The writer was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is

SEREMBAN: At first glance, Jade Nur Moulin, from France looks like a typical playful seven-year-old girl.

But ask her a question in Bahasa Malaysia and you will be surprised not only by her fluent response in the language, but also in a thick Negri Sembilan dialect.

Jade, the third child of Nurazimah Karim, 43, from Malaysia and Nicolas Moulin, 48, from France made headlines recently after her video talking in a Negri dialect went viral, shooting her name to instant fame.

When met at the Imperial Suite Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson Resort Hotel here recently, Nurazimah said, living thousands of miles away from Malaysia didn’t deter her from teaching her kids her mother tongue.

“My children can talk in French, Bahasa Malaysia and English. But I normally will talk with them in Bahasa Malaysia so that’s how they learn and pick up the language,” said the former banker.

“At times, when I talk on the phone with family members, I love to use Negri’s dialect as my father is originally from Negri Sembilan. Jade used to mimic what I said and I guess that’s how she developed the skills,” she said.

Nurazimah added, she was shocked when she first heard her daughter talking in Negri’s dialect, which then had prompted her to record the video, before uploading it on her Instagram account.

“I didn’t expect at all that the video would become the talk of the town and went viral. When family members and friends back home alerted me about it, only then I realised that my daughter had become an instant superstar,” she said laughing.

Nurazimah said, despite French being the first language used by her husband and her three other children - Adam Daniel Moulin, 16, Ida Aili Moulin, 12, and Anna Syifa Moulin seven-months, Bahasa Malaysia has never been sidelined.

“Teaching my children Bahasa Malaysia is also one of the ways to educate them about Malaysia. I have been talking to them in Bahasa Malaysia since they were born and that has helped them to master the language well, besides French and English.

“I have been living in Paris for 17 years. But Malaysia has always been in my heart and until today, I still feel homesick at times,” she said.

“I love sharing stories about Malaysia to my children – it’s like a therapy for me whenever I miss home. My children too love Malaysia so much and look forward to our annual trip here every year, and definitely spending time with their cousins and other family members here is something they love to do,” said Nurazimah, who runs a travel company business with her husband in Paris.

Her food service delivery, Nasi Ayam Paris is also a hit among tourists in Paris, of which her customers include Malaysian celebrities and VIPs.

“When you are far away from your country, you tend to look at it at different perspective and appreciate it more. The variety of colours that Malaysia has, is what makes it beautiful.

“The country has come a long way since we first celebrated our first Merdeka in 1957. And now that we are going to celebrate the country’s 61st Merdeka Day this year, I hope all of us Malaysians, near and far can stay united, through thick and thin,” she said adding that although she won’t be around to celebrate Merdeka Day, she planned to cook Malaysian dishes for her family on Aug 31.

“Life is equally good in Paris, but one day, God willing, my family and I will return to Malaysia for good,” she said.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 3:16pm
Despite living far away in France, Malaysia is still close to their hearts
By Nur Aqidah Azizi

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Happy Merdeka Day

GEORGE TOWN: Every year on Merdeka Day, a octogenarian will reminisce about being present during the historic moment when the first premier of the country Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj announced the country's independence at Stadium Merdeka.

Yusoff Azmi Merican, 80, admits that he still feels the euphoria and excitement of being there.

"At that time I was only 18, it was 60 years ago in 1957, where people don't have the luxury to travel outside from their home state.

"I was with my other two friends who took a train on Aug 29 with one intention - to witness the proclamation of our independence," he told the Sun at his home in Jalan Kelawei recently.

Yusoff said his journey to Kuala Lumpur was quite memorable as the train that they took was packed with people who were also heading there for the same reason.

He said although the train was full of people, it did not dampen their spirits to witness the Merdeka proclamation.

The Penang Free School student said that as a student who took great interest in history, he remembered how his teacher whom he recalled simply as Mr. Davis, had encourage them to go to Kuala Lumpur.

"Davis is from Scotland, he told us that our country was going to have a big moment in history, so we should go and witness it."

The former headmaster of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Francis Light also showed the National Day program booklet that was written in Jawi titled "Perayaan Kemerdekaan Ibu Kota Persekutuan − Aug 27 hingga Sept 8" which he keeps until today.

Yusoff said the program booklet has the details and photographs of Tunku, the new Cabinet and organizing committee's detail.

Besides the booklet,he also owns a collection of newspaper articles on the first day of Merdeka notably from the Straits Times, Straits Echo and also Singapore Standard.

He said the times before Merdeka and the present era has a vast difference where people during that time live at the modest way possible, unlike now where people are wealthier.

Yusoff also recalled when the Father of Independence Tunku Abdul Rahman appeared at Stadium Merdeka on the Aug 31 few hours after heavy rain that force the Merdeka celebration to be postponed for several hours.

He said that did not dampen the spirit of people who were drenched and has been there since early in the morning.

"When Tunku arrive with his dignitaries, there is a feel of euphoria and excitement that I cant describe until today, but for sure it was a feel of patriotism," he said.

Yusoff said nothing can beat the excitement of the Merdeka celebration on Aug 31, 1957, although the country has moved forward.

"The celebration during that day is the greatest, not even one Merdeka celebration after that can beat it," he said.

Yusoff Azmi Merican, at his home in George Town, Penang on Aug 23, 2018, pictured with his collection of newspapers with articles about the Merdeka Day celebration in Kuala Lumpur in 1957.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 23 August 2018 - 09:05pm
Octogenarian recalls Merdeka Day
By Imran Hilmy

Exploit the present to will a national identity − we have to think and act Malaysian first, while acknowledging that we are ethnically different.

THIS Merdeka Day marks the first celebration after a change of government three months back. The national coalition has bowed out after 61 years in office. The remarkable win by Pakatan Harapan has given us an anticipation of good things to come for the new Malaysia. As we revel in the present we need to press on towards the mark of nationhood.

First, our nation should go beyond race and creed to forge a national identity − but not of the Procrustean variety. To digress, Procrustes, in Greek mythology, was a robber who killed his victims in the most merciless and bizarre way. He made them lie on an iron bed. He would then force them to fit the bed by cutting off those parts of their body that extended out. If the victims were short, he would stretch them until they fitted the bed.

National identity is nothing like fitting the Procrustean bed. We do not want to ignore our individual differences. In some countries, for example, homogenisation of language and culture is all-embracing. Citizens have to even take on names endorsed by the dominant culture.

A recent poll of 15 countries by the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank, reveals that a common language is the most important factor of national identity. True, but speaking the national language alone will not count for national identity. Neither is national identity about brandishing a tech-enabled, world-class Malaysian passport.

France’s defeat at the Franco-Prussia war in 1871 caused Ernest Renan, a French historian, to contemplate what defines national identity. He considered a nation, in essence, as consisting of two parts − the past and the future. The “rich inheritance of memories” constitutes the past; the people’s will to build their public life together constitutes the present and future. This common will transcend race, colour, origin and religion.

Although it assumed a racial undertone at the turn of the 20th century, the German “volksgeist”, or national spirit, signifies a common set of mental, moral, and cultural traits.

Synthesising these conceptions, shaping a national identity requires of us an unrelenting will to forge a shared set of values upon the anvil of mutual respect for one another and for one another’s arts, languages and cultures. The Rukun Negara embodies much of what we consider to be shared values.

Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian sage, once said: “Forget the past, for it is gone from your domain! Forget the future, for it is beyond your reach! Control the present! This is the way of the wise.” We should, therefore, exploit the present to will a national identity. We want to think and act Malaysian first while acknowledging that we are all ethnically different.

This national identity is still work in progress. It requires conscious daily exertion at it. Communal politics and extremism might nibble away at this identity. We just need to keep working at it ever harder. Our celebrations commemorating Merdeka should give us the motivation to persevere. If we can forge such an identity, it will be a lasting testament to our maturity as a nation.

Second, the purpose of politics is the protection of human rights and the promotion of equality. Politics should create an environment where individuals can develop their God-given talent to the full and live without discrimination of any kind. Our institutions should be pluralistic and inclusive. They should promote equality of opportunity and productive activity. Together, these should enlarge the economic pie that can be equitably shared as widely as possible across all communities. A government that cannot develop such institutions to improve its people’s livelihoods will soon lose its credibility and legitimacy to govern.

Third, we take sardonic delight in claiming that we have first-world infrastructure but a third-world mentality. That should make us work even harder at our civic mindsets. We need to spread goodwill and civic consciousness in schools, on the road and in the use of public facilities and amenities. We need to be slow to judge but quick to understand. God does not propose to judge us in the here and now. So, why should we?

Fourth, we need to redouble our efforts to save our environment to leave a sustainable economy for posterity. Just as we did while growing up, we want our children to fish and play in clean rivers. As our fathers did, we desire to fly kites with our children in green open spaces. And we yearn to see our children get about unchaperoned.

And so, as our nation celebrates its 61st anniversary, we must dedicate ourselves to fortifying our common will. As Tunku Abdul Rahman, our founding father, once said: “We are all Malaysians. That is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”

Hitherto, the resolute determination and sacrifices of Malaysians have been a bulwark against the forces tearing at the seams of our pluralistic society. We have responded to the call of the wise Tunku: “We must each always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves … to make Malaysia − the land we love − a happy abode for all of us.”

Let us continue to do so. Happy Merdeka Day!

The Jalur Gemilang at Merdeka Square. ‘We are all Malaysians. That is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.’ − Tunku Abdul Rahman.

New Straits Times, Published: August 24, 2018 - 8:18am
Forging a national identity
By Datuk John Anthony Xavier
The writer, a former public servant, is a principal fellow at the Graduate School of Business, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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Be compassionate to important people

I WAS at the hospital for my son Omar’s follow-up check-up recently when someone tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Hello aunty!” I turned around and instantly recognised her as the girl who used to come to our centre for children with special needs.

Anne (not her real name) had always been a cheerful and happy child. When she grew older and became more independent, her parents decided that she no longer needed to go to the centre. Her “education” was enough and it was time for her to help at home and maybe even get a job to help support the family.

Anne was categorised as a “slow learner” and couldn’t continue in the normal school setting. So she was trained in living skills, and basic reading and writing. She’s someone I’d term as “highly functional” and could do things for herself. What I didn’t expect was for her to be her mother’s caregiver.

I thought she was there at the neurology clinic for her own check-up. It turned out that her mother had suffered a stroke the year before and needed medical treatment. So Anne brings her mother to the hospital by taxi, leads her limping mum to the respective rooms, collects the medication and goes home. I’ve bumped into them several times in the last few years and always marvelled at how the tables have turned.


This isn’t the first time I’ve met children with special needs who have grown up to be their parents’ caregiver. In the three decades that I’ve been a caregiver and worked with people with special needs, I’ve seen how parents give their all for their child, struggling with their disabilities and never giving up despite the odds.

Nothing was ever too much − the long hours, the incredible journeys and ridiculous locations, as well as the tools and contraptions needed to improve their abilities. Many parents of children with special needs would be familiar with torch light flash therapy and eye patches to strengthen the weaker eye, pulleys for baby-sized weights to strengthen certain weak muscles, standing frames to train the legs for weight-bearing, audio books to teach songs, words, phrases, numbers and counting, and even treks in the house for creeping and crawling movements to improve patterning for the brain.

We put our child through the rigours. The child sometimes cries with exhaustion, protesting and forever threatening to go on strike. Parents seem heartless and insist that training goes on. We cannot stop. We cannot give up. Okay, so maybe we can take a short break and do something fun − but we get back on track.

Teaching special children new tasks and skills take longer than it would for ordinary children. Some eventually get it, but others take what seems like forever.

Fast forward 20 years of doing this. I met with some friends and they told me that they’re so glad that they were tough in the early years because their child learnt what needed to be learnt and could care for themselves. Not only that, they’re able to help around the house. Some even have jobs and earn a decent amount, which adds to their sense of worth and self-esteem. The best part of it all, these parents tell me, is that this special child is at home with them. Not leaving the house to lead their own lives isn’t an issue because that’s certainly a better option than having to send them to a facility cared for by strangers.

Additionally, it’s because of this child that some parents don’t really suffer from the empty nest syndrome when their other children leave. Certainly parents miss having all their children at home with them.

Such parting is sweet sorrow; one that clenches the heart as you watch them grow up and take their place as useful citizens of the world. That process of letting go is difficult, and we as parents would do well to remember that it will happen at some point. That’s why we need to prepare ourselves for it by having a strong circle of friends and doing activities we enjoy after retirement.

Some of my friends tell me when the house is quiet and there’s just the two of them at home, it’s comforting to have this child bring you a drink and remind you to take your medications. He or she may not be able to do the more complicated tasks, but having someone to look out for you is certainly comforting.

Not all special children blossom into independent adults due to their disabilities. Some would forever be in your care and need assistance for everything. But there are those who blossom because you never gave up on them. All those years you’ve put into your special child haven’t gone to waste. You have found kindness returned.

New Straits Times, Published:
Never give up on your special needs child
By Putri Juneita Johari
Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang.

RECENTLY, a good friend was diagnosed with kidney failure. It was devastating news for all of us as he’d always been such a bubbly guy. When he received the confirmation, he was down for several days and we tried our best to cheer him up.

Today, he’s started to get back up again although his weekly routine now includes several trips to the dialysis centre. Such is the effect of kidney failure. Our kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood, which are then excreted in our urine.

When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and waste can build up. Dialysis is the only way to discharge these harmful wastes from the body.

While some of us may not have to go through the hassle of dialysis for the body, my friend’s situation reminded me that all of us still need to have a “dialysis” for our souls.

What do I mean? Throughout the day, we would have likely created some “emotional waste” as we face the challenging world. Whether on the road, in the office or at home, we go through an emotional roller coaster on a regular basis. The mixed feelings and negative emotions can accumulate faster than our ability to discharge them.


There are many types of emotional waste that may taint our hearts. Chief among them are envy, greed, ego and prejudice. These are clear signs that the heart is not clean, and that unlucky person will never experience true happiness.

Before we start blaming others, let’s look at ourselves first. Let’s take envy as an example. How many times have we felt genuinely happy for someone’s good fortune without the slightest trace of envy?

What about the time we felt that “justice is done” because someone we don’t really like is having some trouble? Chances are, every one of us would have experienced this negative feeling at some point.

At home, many parents also create emotional waste, maybe inadvertently, by ruling with an iron fist and without care for the children’s feelings. The home becomes a battleground, devoid of love and happiness.

As such, a good cleansing for the soul is needed. There is no better time than now to do it. Let’s discharge all envy, prejudice and selfishness as we travel the road to happiness together. Be compassionate to important people in our lives, be it our employees, helpers, children or even people we don’t really like.

Find humility in our hearts to put ourselves in their shoes and truly feel what they feel. Spread the love as we make our long journey with our loved ones. Once we’re able to do this, we’re well on our way to a cleansed soul. Just like a dialysis patient feels fresh and healthy after a session, we can look forward to happier and brighter days ahead once the toxins are out of our system, physically and emotionally.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 2:10pm
Dialysis for the soul – why we all need it
By Zaid Mohamad
Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces.
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Sauce-y tale of perseverance, a tale of survival "Thye Woh"

“THREE bottles of soya sauce please!” hollers an elderly woman, her voice shrill above the din in the decades-old provision shop.

Despite being separated by no less than 15 shoppers, I can clearly hear her complaining to the counter workers about an obscure brand bought by her daughter-in-law at a local hypermarket.

“The mass-produced product doesn’t do my cooking justice. Like my mother before me, I only use the superior soya sauce sold here. My daughter-in-law still has much to learn. The ones she bought are so one dimensional, lacking in depth of flavour and fragrance found in the ones which are traditionally fermented and brewed,” she attests strongly.

Her grouses are so loud that it eventually attracts the attention of a well-dressed man who happens to stride in via the main entrance. Judging from his demeanour and those of the shop employees greeting him, it’s obvious that he belongs at the top of the management hierarchy. Realising his presence, the elderly woman immediately greets him warmly and repeats her complaints like a broken record.

The man, who obviously knows her by appearance, offers a sympathetic ear and tries his level best to pacify her by personally attending to her needs. Looking at the incident unfold right before my eyes, it suddenly dawns upon me that I’m witnessing the very reason why the company, Thye Woh, still enjoys the patronage of an enviable legion of loyal customers despite being one of the earliest establishments in Alor Star’s Chinatown, Pekan Cina.


My interest piqued by the episode, I make my way towards a nearby shop assistant with a barrage of questions. He gives me a rather perplexed look and then, without saying even a word, walks up to his superior.

The duo start conversing in what sounds like Cantonese. Soon after, the assistant beckons me to approach. Before returning to his task, he introduces me to Tham Kwong Soon, who’s the joint director of the company with his younger brother, Tham Kwong Cheong.

Leading me upstairs and away from the hustle and bustle of the retail area, Kwong Soon expresses his curiosity at my interest in his company. He smiles widely when I tell him of my high regard for Thye Woh’s long and illustrious history as generations of Kedahans have come to appreciate and trust its quality products.

Upon reaching the sparsely furnished office which he shares with the rest of his management staff, Kwong Soon reaches for a thick hard cover book chronicling all the Chinese businesses in Alor Star and begins flipping the pages. He stops at a page already bookmarked with a used envelope.


“Can you please come and help?” he calls out to a woman who turns out to be his wife, Chuah Kim Eng. Speaking in fluent Hokkien, Kim Eng starts peeling back the years to the time when Kwong Soon’s grandfather and Thye Woh founder was growing up in China.

Born in 1879, Tham Chan Yong only had two brief years of formal education at a village school during his childhood years. Then, in 1891, he left for Guangzhou to work as an apprentice. Despite his tender age of just 12, Chan Yong was already determined to learn as much about business as he could. Eight years later, in 1899, Chan Yong decided to broaden his horizons and traced the coast northwards to Hangzhou.

There, he took up a clerical position at a shop dealing in ivory. The job proved to be unsuitable. Within three short years the ambitious young man made a life-changing decision to leave the shores of China and sail to Penang, at that time part of the British-ruled Straits Settlements.


Chan Yong remained in Penang for 11 years before boarding a steamer destined for Alor Star in 1913. While the text doesn’t provide a reason for this move, it can be safely speculated that Chan Yong was attracted to Kedah’s growth potential after suzerainty of the state, together with those of Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu, was transferred to the British upon the signing of the Anglo Siamese Treaty just four years earlier.

Within weeks of his arrival, Chan Yong joined forces with several like-minded people and opened a sundry shop under the name of Chop Thye Hong in Pekan Cina. The company traded primarily in kerosene which was in demand as lighting fuel. Electrical supply had yet to be introduced in Alor Star at that time. Apart from that, Chan Yong also invested in the highly profitable tin mines in Perlis’ Kaki Bukit area.


Thanks to his strong business acumen, Chan Yong shot to prominence within a year of his arrival and was elected leader of the Cantonese community. At around the same time, Chan Yong, who had always regretted his lack of education, decided to focus his attention on the sole Chinese school in Alor Star which was located at the Cantonese Association on Jalan Penjara Lama.

During his two-year tenure as the school president, Chan Yong used his influence to raise funds as well as improve the classroom environment for the students who were all boys. He also worked tirelessly for the admission of girls into the school, an idea which he may have acquired during his time in Penang.

By 1918, the first batch of female students began attending classes. Chan Yong’s preoccupation with the school came at the expense of Chop Thye Hong. The wheels of financial ruin had already been set in motion by the time efforts were put in place to shore up the business by branching into the bread and earthenware trading.


Not one to give up easily, Chan Yong moved his family into another shop further down the street and started rebuilding his business from scratch by setting up a new entity making soya sauce called Thye Woh.

He probably got the idea after recalling that families back home in China often brewed the flavourful condiment for their own consumption. Chan Yong was fortunate that his new venture ticked all the right boxes and he regained much of his wealth within a short period of time. The 1920s was an era of rapid growth for Kedah and the population in its capital, Alor Star increased many folds.

People clamoured for Thye Woh’s soya sauce to flavour their food as soon as news of its launch reached their ears. “And that was how Thye Woh came into existence,” Kim Eng quips as she reaches the end of the last paragraph. “Is that all? Chan Yong’s story has been nothing short of amazing so far but surely there must be more. What happened after Thye Woh was established?” I ask the couple.


A pause and Kim Eng confesses: “We’re unsure about the rest as it all happened such a long time ago. What we know is only through oral history told by the older members of our family. Anyway, there are some old photographs in one of the bedrooms in front which may help.”

Her words are like music to my ears and over the next hour, we embark on a truly enthralling journey back in time. Apart from vintage photographs, we also found various other memorabilia related to Thye Woh’s history.

Fortunately for me, these items managed to successfully jolt Kwong Soon and his wife’s memory and before long, the Thye Woh story resumes. In his lifetime, it seems that Chan Yong had three official wives. The first was a girl from Guangdong province, Loke Fong Sin, while the second was Chow Fong Qing, a Peranakan Nyonya.

Between them, Chan Yong was blessed with five sons with Kwong Soon’s father, Tham Kok Pon being the youngest. The revival of Chan Yong’s fortunes at the new premises was primarily attributed to his third wife, Ho Fong Ming.

Despite being barren, she was the driving force behind Thye Woh’s early success. Fong Ming’s presence at both the sales counter as well as the soya sauce factory in Jalan Kampong Perak, together with the invaluable help of Kok Pon and his second eldest brother, was enough to ensure that the company ran like a well-oiled machine.

Things went on smoothly for Thye Woh until the arrival of World War 2. Like the rest of Malaya, life took a turn for the worse in Alor Star when the Japanese Imperial Army arrived in December 1941. Food shortage became a common occurrence and hardship prevailed.


At this juncture, Kwong Soon interjects: “During the early days of the Occupation, several Japanese troops turned up without warning at our factory premises. They brought provisions and ordered Fong Ming and her servant girls to cook for them.

She obliged, thinking that it was just a one-off incident. But fate had it that the soldiers liked her cooking so much that their presence became a daily occurrence.”

The soldiers, he adds, were surprisingly generous and always brought along extra provisions which benefitted the employees immensely. “Furthermore, it was beneficial for Thye Woh to be in the good books of the Japanese soldiers during those uncertain times,” continues Kwong Soon before relating an incident that clearly showed the better side of the aggressors.

“A few days after news of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki broke in early August 1945, the same soldiers arrived at our factory with two lorry loads of soya beans. They thanked my stepmother for her hospitality, handed over the unexpected gift and left, never to be seen again.”


Chan Yong died in 1952, just three years after Kwong Soon was born. While juggling between their studies, Kwong Soon and his brother slowly learnt the ropes of the trade from their father.

“Soya beans, flour, salt and water. These ingredients when properly processed, all come together to form a sum much larger than its parts. Right from the beginning, my brother and I learnt that soya sauce offers much more than mere saltiness. Thanks to a painstaking process of fermentation and ageing, our product has umami, fragrance and a slight hint of sweetness in the aftertaste,” shares Kwong Soon.

He proceeds to explain the laborious production process which is still used today. The soya beans are first steamed and allowed to cool before being coated with wheat flour and left on trays for a few days to start the initial stages of fermentation. Then, the mash is mixed with brine in large covered earthen jars and left to sit in natural outdoor heat for about three months.


During the wait, dozens of processes are taking place in the pre-soy sauce mixture. The starch from the flour breaks down into sugars while the soya bean protein changes into various organic compounds which give the darkening brew its unique identity.

“The ancient jars at our factory are priceless as they have a ‘memory’ and become more seasoned with each passing batch. As a result, the sauce that they produce also becomes better,” adds Kwong Soon before drawing a parallel with the way Chinese chefs treasure their old woks.

Before leaving, Kwong Soon proudly shows me the various products sold at Thye Woh’s retail area.

“Discerning customers favour the premium light virgin brew soya sauce which is marketed under our Three Goats and 666 brands while those from the middle income bracket and hawkers go for our cheaper 333 and444marque,” he explains before sharing that these brands have been around ever since Chan Yong’s time.

“A lot of people were illiterate in the past so my grandfather resorted to these easy to remember numbers and pictures on the labels to help customers identify Thye Woh’s products easily,” adds the third generation owner.

Towards the end of my visit, our conversation inevitably drifts to questions about the future. Drawing a deep breath, Kwong Soon eventually admits that the number of traditional soya sauce makers in the country is on the decline.

“We’re one of the last few remaining traditional soya sauce producers who insist on doing things the old fashioned way. Holding dear to our heritage and knowing that generations of our loyal customers appreciate our products are already more than what Thye Woh can ever ask for,” concludes Kwong Soon, his voice low.

# For details, contact Thye Woh at 43,Jalan Pekan Cina, Alor Star, Kedah. Tel: 04-732 2346

[photo-1] Chan Yong, the founder of Thye Woh.

[photo-2] Thye Woh is one of the oldest establishments in Alor Star.

[photo-3] A postcard sent from Thye Woh to Penang in 1951 to order raw ingredients.

[photo-4] Kwong Soon scrutinising several vintage paper bags produced by Thye Woh in the past.

[photo-5] Kwong Soon is the third generation owner of Thye Woh.

[photo-6] View of the earthen jars at Thye Woh’s new factory in Mergong, Alor Star.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 8:00am
Tale of perseverance for one of the last remaining soya sauce producers in Malaysia
By Alan Teh Leam Seng

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A new Nation is born on Aug 31, 1957

“NATIONAL Day Celebrations Programme by the Sabah State Government.”

The small white booklet with words in the Malay language catches my eye as I’m browsing through the contents of my bookcase. I’d bought so many collectibles in the past that I simply cannot recall when this particular item was purchased. Simply passing off my forgetfulness as a lapse in memory, I turn my attention to the contents.

Conscious of the fact that Merdeka Day is just around the corner, I study the pages which are still in very good condition despite their age.

Published in1972 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Independence of the Federation of Malaya, the 18-page booklet starts off with full page photographs of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Yang di-Pertua of Sabah and also the state’s Chief Minister.

Following that, the programme goes on to record the different activities planned to celebrate the historic date. Reading the detailed hour by hour narration, it’s not difficult for me to imagine the excitement and joy shared by my fellow Malaysians present in Kota Kinabalu on the morning of Aug 31, 1972.


The highlight that morning was the march past which moved through most of the popular public spaces like the Kampong Ayer Roundabout, Jalan Laiman Diki, Jalan Tugu and Jalan Pantai before dispersing near the Harrisons and Crossfield building, a prominent Kota Kinabalu landmark.

Then, just as the last few members of the parade started to arrive at their penultimate assembly area, a fleet of helicopters and planes from the Sabah Flying Club began taking to the skies. The skilled pilots mesmerised everyone with their well-choreographed manoeuvres and gravity-defying aerial displays. The fly past was indeed a fitting finale for that morning.

While invited guests converged later that afternoon at Prince Philip Park for the National Day Tea Party, the public was given free access to the Sabah Flying Club where joy rides were organised to give Sabahans a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy a bird’s eye view of their town and its surrounding areas.


Reading about the other interesting events held during the week-long festivities in Sabah piques my interest and before long, I start probing a little further back in history to find out what actually transpired on Aug 31, 1957, the momentous day that marked the birth of our new Malayan nation.

Fortunately, I don’t have to look very far as the past issues of the Straits Times newspapers and annual magazines in my collection offer ample information on this memorable moment that changed the course of history for Malaya. The numerous articles and photographs all share a general theme − the very true sense of inter-racial goodwill that prevailed among fellow Malayans as they gathered at the Federal Capital Kuala Lumpur to witness scenes of splendour and solemnity that truly befitted that great occasion.

Those who gathered at the Padang at midnight on Aug 30, 1957 will always remember the stirring moments leading up to the time when Malaya claimed its rightful place among the nations of the world after becoming a free, independent and sovereign country. In his article The Merdeka Pageant, published in the 1958 issue of the Straits Times Annual, reporter William Fish vividly described the time when searchlights focused on the Sultan Abdul Samad building clock tower as the last seconds of colonial rule drifted away.

As many as 100,000 Malayans held their breath and watched in silence as they waited for the much anticipated midnight chimes. When the clock finally struck at the top of the hour, the entire place reverberated with an almost synchronised cheer of Merdeka!

Everyone, not only those in Kuala Lumpur but in all four corners of the country, rejoiced as the Federation of Malaya or Persekutuan Tanah Melayu finally achieved self-rule. Fish noted a great surge of goodwill among everyone present. The racial divide was breached as groups of Malays spectators grasped the hands of their Chinese counterparts while Indian onlookers did likewise to everyone around them, regardless of race or colour.


About half of Malaya’s population was under the age of 15 and much had to be done to keep the country on the right side of progress. First in a long list of major priorities was to rapidly industrialise agrarian Malaya to keep its export industries competitive and reduce imports of manufactured goods. The other immediate concern was the future of the all-important rubber industry.

At the end of the Second World War in 1945, synthetic rubber was just a poor substitute for natural rubber and had limited use. The1950s, however, saw the introduction of special purpose synthetics which closely mirrored the natural properties of the product that Malayan rubber trees produced.

Natural rubber was under threat and more had to be done to increase its competitiveness. On the security front, the Communist war in the jungles of Malaya was far from over. The newly-formed Malayan Cabinet members, led by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, present at the Padang that evening were fully conscious of the barbed wire and fences that both defended and imprisoned the new villages that littered the Malayan countryside, some barely a few of kilometres from Kuala Lumpur itself.

Regardless of the uncertainties and the overhanging Communist threat, Tunku and his team chose to look on the positive side of things as Merdeka became a reality. The Kedah prince mingled with the people and soaked in the carnival-like atmosphere. According to Fish, Tunku beamed proudly like an ew father and, in the heat of the moment, did a little celebratory dance. While throwing his arms wide in a gesture representing freedom, Tunku almost knocked his songkok off balance!


Anticipating the next item on the agenda, the people watched silently as the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the Federation flag took its rightful place at the top of the flag pole for the first time in independent Malaya’s history.

This spectacle was followed by the successive playing of God Save the Queen and the Malayan national anthem, Negaraku, for the first and last time. Sir Donald MacGillivray, whose appointment as British High Commissioner ended as midnight struck, offered a broad smile to the cheering crowd. Confident of Malaya’s future as a promising young nation, MacGillivray had delivered a heartfelt message to all Malayans during the signing of the Federation of Malaya Agreement a month earlier.

In it, he penned these encouraging words: “Weep not for the past, fear not the future.”

As the distinguished guests began making their way out of the Padang towards their luxurious accommodations at the newly-opened Federal Hotel, people from the nearby villages were simply too excited to think about sleep. They were busy making final preparations to arrive at the recently built Stadium Merdeka before the next dawn appears. They had a date with destiny and simply couldn’t afford to be late.


It rained heavily in Kuala Lumpur on Merdeka Day and many spectators present saw the showers as a good omen. To them, it was a way of washing away all the scars, troubles and unhappiness of the land and allowing Malaya to start anew, on a clean slate.

Despite the downpour, everyone, including the nine Malay Sultans, foreign dignitaries and members of the Federal cabinet, arrived at the stadium early. Then, just before 8am, the organising committee made the decision to put back the proclamation back by one hour as the weather was expected to be clear by then.

The spectators watched in silence when the Malay Rulers headed out to the centre of the arena as soon as the clouds broke. This was quickly followed by the handing over of the constitutional Instrument of the Transfer of Power and Independence by Queen Elizabeth II’s representative, the Duke of Gloucester.

The Duke who had previously visited Malaya some 28 years earlier, said in his speech: “It’s a source of great joy to me personally that I should now come again for so memorable an occasion in the history of Malaya.”

In his article, Fish went on to report that Tunku Abdul Rahman gave a speech after receiving the Instrument of Independence. Tunku said: “I’m indeed proud that on this, the greatest day in Malaya’s history, it falls to my lot to proclaim the formal independence of this country.”


The first Prime Minister of Malaya then proceeded to read the Proclamation of Independence. During the course, he was interrupted repeatedly by an overzealous crowd which comprised nearly 20,000 spectators. They kept on chanting: Merdeka!.... Merdeka!

Tunku acknowledged his fellow Malayans and his speech culminated in the chanting of Merdeka! seven times with the boisterous crowd joining in. The ceremony continued with the raising of the National Flag of Malaya accompanied byNegaraku played by the Royal Malayan Military Band and a 21-gun salute.

After that, the Bilal invoked the blessings of God for the new nation and gave a thanksgiving prayer in honour of the momentous occasion. The familiar cry of Merdeka continued to reverberate throughout the week-long festivities in Kuala Lumpur as well as in the villages and towns across the length and breadth of Malaya. It dominated every facet of the celebration held, be it an afternoon garden party, lavish dinner banquet, raucous water pageant or even the elaborate fireworks display. Merdeka was a pre-independence slogan that had finally become a reality for all Malayans.


Just four days later, on Sept 4, 1957 Kuala Lumpur once again played host to an impressive ceremony where Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the Ruler of Negri Sembilan, was installed as Malaya’s first Yang di-Pertuan Agong or Supreme Ruler.

The ceremony, steeped in age-old Malay culture and tradition, took place in Istana Negara’s Balairong Seri. Also present at that event, Fish witnessed palace guards and umbrella-bearers lining the walls of the throne room looking smart in their formal attire while standing shoulder to shoulder with journalists and television crew from all over the world.

While watching the event unfold amid the stirring drum-beats of the ancient Nobat (Royal Musical Ensemble), it suddenly dawned upon Fish that the installation presented a unique opportunity for all Malayans. For the very first time in history, the citizens of Malaya were able to pay homage to a single person who symbolised their unity as a nation in the eyes of the world.

Conducted completely in the Malay language except for the portion when the proclamation was read, the ceremony reached its climax when Tuanku Abdul Rahman unsheathed and kissed the Keris Panjang Diraja (Royal Long Keris) given to him by the Grand Chamberlain. The blade belonging to this royal regalia was specially crafted by skilled artisans after blending the blades of 11 ancient kerises collected from the nine Malay States and two former Straits Settlements of Melaka and Penang. This ceremonial weapon, which is still used during royal installations to this day, symbolises the power and authority of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

While returning my precious keepsakes back to their rightful place, I call to mind Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir’s decision to select Putrajaya as this year’s venue for the 2018 Merdeka Day celebration. I cannot agree more with Dr Mahathir’s choice as our nation’s administrative capital is indeed the best place to symbolise the administration of the new government under Pakatan Harapan.

Like the celebrations in 1957, the one held this year to commemorate our 61st anniversary of independence will be a truly historical moment for all Malaysians as we decorate our homes with the national flag and join hands to build a better future for ourselves. With Jalur Gemilang flying proudly in all corners of the nation, Malaysians are definitely living up to this year’s National Day theme Sayangi Malaysiaku (Love My Malaysia).

[photo-1] The 1972 Sabah booklet commemorating the 15th anniversary of Independence.

[photo-2] 20,000 people were present at the Merdeka Stadium on Aug 31, 1957

[photo-3] Tunku receiving the Instrument of Independence from the Duke of Gloucester.

[photo-4] Men raising the Federation flag after the Union Jack was lowered for the last time.

[photo-5] Men from the Malay Regiment march past Tuanku Abdul Rahman during the Merdeka Review parade.

[photo-6] Tunku Abdul Rahman receiving the ‘Father of the Nation’ medallion.

New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 2:20pm
Going back in time when our nation was born
By Alan Teh Leam Seng

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十二 前記諸目的ガ達成セラレ且日本國國民ノ自由ニ表明セル意思ニ從ヒ平和的傾向ヲ有シ且責任アル政府ガ樹立セラルルニ於テハ聯合國ノ占領軍ハ直ニ日本國ヨリ撤収セラルベシ










植草一秀の『知られざる真実』2018年8月27日 (月)

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How to develop a good reading habit

Americans are not good readers.

Many blame the ubiquity of digital media. We’re too busy on Snapchat to read, or perhaps internet skimming has made us incapable of reading serious prose. But Americans’ trouble with reading predates digital technologies. The problem is not bad reading habits engendered by smartphones, but bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads.

Just how bad is our reading problem? The last National Assessment of Adult Literacy from 2003 is a bit dated, but it offers a picture of Americans’ ability to read in everyday situations: using an almanac to find a particular fact, for example, or explaining the meaning of a metaphor used in a story. Of those who finished high school but did not continue their education, 13 percent could not perform simple tasks like these. When things got more complex − in comparing two newspaper editorials with different interpretations of scientific evidence or examining a table to evaluate credit card offers − 95 percent failed.

There’s no reason to think things have gotten better. Scores for high school seniors on the National Assessment of Education Progress reading test haven’t improved in 30 years.

Many of these poor readers can sound out words from print, so in that sense, they can read. Yet they are functionally illiterate − they comprehend very little of what they can sound out. So what does comprehension require? Broad vocabulary, obviously. Equally important, but more subtle, is the role played by factual knowledge.

All prose has factual gaps that must be filled by the reader. Consider “I promised not to play with it, but Mom still wouldn’t let me bring my Rubik’s Cube to the library.” The author has omitted three facts vital to comprehension: you must be quiet in a library; Rubik’s Cubes make noise; kids don’t resist tempting toys very well. If you don’t know these facts, you might understand the literal meaning of the sentence, but you’ll miss why Mom forbade the toy in the library.

Knowledge also provides context. For example, the literal meaning of last year’s celebrated fake-news headline, “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,” is unambiguous − no gap-filling is needed. But the sentence carries a different implication if you know anything about the public (and private) positions of the men involved, or you’re aware that no pope has ever endorsed a presidential candidate.

You might think, then, that authors should include all the information needed to understand what they write. Just tell us that libraries are quiet. But those details would make prose long and tedious for readers who already know the information. “Write for your audience” means, in part, gambling on what they know.

These examples help us understand why readers might decode well but score poorly on a test; they lack the knowledge the writer assumed in the audience. But if a text concerned a familiar topic, habitually poor readers ought to read like good readers.

In one experiment, third graders − some identified by a reading test as good readers, some as poor − were asked to read a passage about soccer. The poor readers who knew a lot about soccer were three times as likely to make accurate inferences about the passage as the good readers who didn’t know much about the game.

That implies that students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.

First, it points to decreasing the time spent on literacy instruction in early grades. Third-graders spend 56 percent of their time on literacy activities but 6 percent each on science and social studies. This disproportionate emphasis on literacy backfires in later grades, when children’s lack of subject matter knowledge impedes comprehension. Another positive step would be to use high-information texts in early elementary grades. Historically, they have been light in content.

Second, understanding the importance of knowledge to reading ought to make us think differently about year-end standardized tests. If a child has studied New Zealand, she ought to be good at reading and thinking about passages on New Zealand. Why test her reading with a passage about spiders, or the Titanic? If topics are random, the test weights knowledge learned outside the classroom − knowledge that wealthy children have greater opportunity to pick up.

Third, the systematic building of knowledge must be a priority in curriculum design. The Common Core Standards for reading specify nearly nothing by way of content that children are supposed to know − the document valorizes reading skills. State officials should go beyond the Common Core Standards by writing content-rich grade-level standards and supporting district personnel in writing curriculums to help students meet the standards. That’s what Massachusetts did in the 1990s to become the nation’s education leader. Louisiana has recently taken this approach, and early results are encouraging.

Don’t blame the internet, or smartphones, or fake news for Americans’ poor reading.

Blame ignorance. Turning the tide will require profound changes in how reading is taught, in standardized testing and in school curriculums. Underlying all these changes must be a better understanding of how the mind comprehends what it reads.

The New York Times, Published: Nov. 25, 2017
How to Get Your Mind to Read
By Daniel T. Willingham
Daniel T. Willingham is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of “The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.”

[Read more]

「真っ当な対策があれば、原発事故はなかった」 地震学者・島崎氏が見たもの
8/23(木) 9:14 配信 Yahoo!ニュース 特集

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Taiwan marks 60 years since China attack

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called for unity and vowed not to bow to pressure from Beijing on Thursday as the island marked the 60th anniversary of a deadly Chinese artillery attack.

The anniversary of the assault on tiny Kinmen island, known as the “823 bombardment”, comes as China steps up pressure on self-ruling Taiwan, which it sees as part of its territory to be reunified.

China’s People’s Liberation Army fired 470,000 shells at Kinmen and nearby islets in 1958, killing 618 servicemen and civilians in an attack that lasted 44 days.

Kinmen is part of Taiwan, but lies less than two miles off mainland China, at the narrowest part of the Taiwan Strait.

“When we remember the ‘823 bombardment’ 60 years later, we will not forget the spirit of solidarity,” Tsai said on her Facebook page.

“When we face diplomatic suppression we will not forget how strong our country can be when we are united,” she added, saying that while Taiwanese people cherished peace they would not take national security for granted.

Tensions with Beijing have worsened under Tsai because she refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

In response, China has ramped up military drills and poached Taiwan’s official diplomatic allies − El Salvador became the third this year to switch ties from Taipei to Beijing on Tuesday.

At an anniversary ceremony held in a former army bunker and combat centre in Kinmen, Taiwan’s Defence Minister Yen De-fa said today’s troops in Taiwan must again make “combat preparations” in the face of what he described as a growing military threat from China.

Hundreds of soldiers, relatives and veterans, some in their 80s and 90s, gathered at a Kinmen cemetery where victims of the 1958 bombardment were buried.

Lai Jen-hsien, 83, remembered the attack.

“We were joking it was firecrackers, but then all of a sudden it was a rain of them (artillery),” said Lai, who was in the combat engineer battalion in Kinmen at the time.

He told AFP he did not think history would repeat itself on Kinmen.

“Peace is priceless. War is ruthless. We should try our best to peacefully handle the fate of people from both sides of the (Taiwan) Strait,” Lai said.

China has sought to bring Taiwan back into the fold since nationalist troops fled to the island after their defeat by communist forces on the mainland in 1949.

Kinmen historically often found itself on the frontline, although now the island is a popular tourist attraction for both mainland Chinese and Taiwanese visitors.

Its most famous souvenirs are kitchen knives made from the remnants of artillery shells.

Taiwan’s honour soldiers stand in front of a monument to the cemetery of the National Revolutionary Army during the 60th anniversary of the ‘823 bombardment’ in Kinmen on August 23, 2018.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

Hong Kong Free Press, Published: 24 August 2018 07:50
‘We will not forget the spirit of solidarity’

Taiwan marks 60 years since China attack as tensions rise

HONG KONG − The White House on Thursday accused China of “apparent interference” in El Salvador’s domestic politics after the Central American nation established diplomatic ties with Beijing this week.

The statement also sharply criticized El Salvador, saying the United States would re-evaluate its relationship with the country.

The Trump administration’s comments are its strongest pushback to date on China’s efforts to curb the international recognition of Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy Beijing claims as part of its territory. They also reflect a growing unease about China’s growing influence in a region where the United States has long been the dominant force.

El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan on Tuesday, leaving Taiwan with just 17 formal diplomatic partners. China has stepped up its campaign to woo Taiwan’s diplomatic partners since Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan’s president in 2016, replacing a more pro-Beijing leader.

The White House comments were far sterner than those made by the State Department after other countries in the region, including Panama and the Dominican Republic, switched ties from Taiwan to China.

It accused El Salvador’s government of making the decision, which “affects not just El Salvador, but also the economic health and security of the entire Americas region,” without transparency months before an election.

“The El Salvadoran government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States, and will result in a re-evaluation of our relationship with El Salvador,” it said.

The White House’s toughened its tone toward countries that have shifted recognition from Taiwan to China this summer after Burkina Faso made the switch in May.

“Previously it was unusual for the U.S. government to make such remarks, if for no other reason that the U.S. itself made this switch in 1979,” said Ross Darrell Feingold, a Taipei-based consultant who advises on political risk in Asia.

When the United States established formal ties with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it ceased formal relations with Taiwan. But the United States maintains a robust informal relationship with Taiwan, and recently unveiled a $250 million complex in its capital, Taipei, that serves as a de facto embassy.

The stronger U.S. tone likely reflects the influence of John R. Bolton, a staunch Taiwan defender who became President Trump’s national security adviser in April, Mr. Feingold said.

“Bolton has a long record of support for Taiwan, including changes to the traditional approaches to the trilateral U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, so it is no surprise that we are seeing something different by way of a U.S. response to China’s actions that reduce Taiwan’s international space,” he said.

The government of El Salvador, which is led by a party of former leftist guerrillas, has also been a frequent target of Republican critics.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said this week that he had spoken with President Trump about ending American aid to El Salvador after it established formal ties with Beijing, and he would join with a fellow Republican, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, to carry that out.

Mr. Gardner told Reuters on Thursday that he would introduce legislation that would enable the State Department to use aid and other levers to encourage countries to maintain Taiwan ties.

Mr. Rubio wrote on Twitter that there “would be real consequences in our relationship with #ElSalvador if they broke with #Taiwan in favor of #China. They think we are going to react the same way we did to #Panama & #DominicanRepublic. They are very wrong.”

In January the Trump administration canceled a program that allowed 200,000 Salvadorans to temporarily live in the United States. That move prompted criticism that it would destabilize a country struggling with high levels of street crime.

President Trump has shown before that he is willing to shake up the traditional framework of ties between the United States, China and Taiwan. In December 2016, before he had assumed office, he took a congratulatory call from President Tsai, breaking with decades of precedent. He later said in a phone call with China’s president, Xi Jinping, that he would abide by the “One China policy,” under which the United States does not formally recognize the government of Taiwan.

Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said Friday he was not worried that Taiwan could be used as a pawn of the United States in the current trade dispute with China.

“We understand Washington D.C.’s support of Taiwan continues to be very strong,” Mr. Wu told Bloomberg. “Taiwan is a positive element in the U.S. economy and I just don’t worry that Taiwan is going to become a chip to be negotiated with by the U.S.”

El Salvador’s acting foreign minister, Carlos Castaneda, left, and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, at a ceremony in Beijing Tuesday to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Taiwan’s embassy in San Salvador. El Salvador’s decision to cut ties leaves the Taipei government with just 17 formal diplomatic partners.

The New York Times, Published: Aug. 24, 2018
White House Criticizes China Over El Salvador Recognition
By Austin Ramzy

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Rohingya crackdown anniversary

THAINGKHALI REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh − Mohammad Hossain knows the man who led the attack on his village, joining with Myanmar soldiers to seize his Rohingya neighbors and, as he put it, “cut them into pieces.” Two years earlier, he said, the same person locked him in a dungeon and burned his legs with a hot metal rod and shoved needles under his fingernails.

It was the same man who Mostafa Khatun said raped her repeatedly over several days, then slit the throat of her husband during the soldiers’ attack on their village.

Nearly two dozen Rohingya Muslim refugees shared similar stories, detailing years of oppression and abuse that culminated in the mass slaughter of Rohingya in the village of Chut Pyin, Myanmar, on Aug. 27 last year. One man above all, they say, is responsible: They know where he lives, they know his cellphone number.

He is Aung Thein Mya, the administrator still in charge of several villages including Chut Pyin. There is little sign he will ever face punishment.

One year after Myanmar’s military began its broader campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya − burning villages, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh after raids by Rohingya insurgents on several police checkpoints − there has been almost no progress in holding anyone accountable.

Efforts by the international community have largely faltered and have focused primarily on the country’s leadership: the generals who are widely accused of orchestrating the killing and ethnic cleansing, and Myanmar’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate whose failure to stop the violence has drawn condemnation abroad.

Aung Thein Mya is not a soldier at all. He is a civilian administrator, and part of an ethnic minority, the Rakhine, who have themselves long been persecuted by the military and the country’s Bamar Buddhist majority, but joined in the campaign against the Rohingya.

In a telephone interview, Aung Thein Mya denied the abuse accusations and said he was not even present during the massacre, contradicting more than a dozen witnesses.

The abuse described by the residents of Chut Pyin, which in the Rohingya’s language is named So Farang, is echoed in testimonies from villages across the region. And it bolsters concerns by human rights officials about the ability of Rohingya refugees, who now number over a million, to ever return peacefully to their homeland.

After decades of playing the Rakhine against the Rohingya, turning victims into conspirators, the Bamar Buddhist authorities have made ethnic hatred the defining reality of Rakhine State, a strip of land along the Bay of Bengal in western Myanmar that the Rohingya have inhabited for centuries.

“Both communities live in fear of each other,” said Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In Chut Pyin and other villages in the region, Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya villagers have long lived in uneasy segregation beside one another, competing for access to rice fields, fishing ponds and lands to graze their cattle. The distrust bloomed into hostility during World War II, when the Rakhine and Rohingya supported opposing sides in the war: The Buddhists supported Japan, while the Muslims helped Britain.

Under the political dominance of the country’s generals in recent decades, Rakhine Buddhists like Aung Thein Mya have had the upper hand in the state, filling most local administrative positions and lording over the Rohingya, who over the decades have been stripped of their citizenship and freedom of movement.

A report published in July by an advocacy group, Fortify Rights, describes how the military, with the help of local Buddhists, meticulously planned for genocide and other crimes against humanity in the year before the attacks. Sharp tools that could be used as weapons were confiscated; fences around Rohingya homes were torn down; and thousands of troops were deployed to Rakhine State.

Through that year, and for years before, Aung Thein Mya kept the Rohingya under his charge in a state of terror, Rohingya witnesses said. He stole their livestock and produce, charged exorbitant fees for everything from grazing rights to marriage proposals, and inflicted vicious punishment for even minor indiscretions, locals said.

Just the mention of his name provoked a scalding hatred. “He tortured us so much that I feel like I could eat him raw,” one refugee, Abdullah, said.

Investigators from human rights groups documented similar abuses in Chut Pyin. Amnesty International, in a June report, cited witnesses who said Aung Thein Mya “had long harassed them.”

Reached by telephone, Aung Thein Mya, who is still in office, was almost smug. He denied the accusations against him and insisted that he enjoyed a cordial relationship with his Rohingya neighbors, even as he referred to them using racial slurs or as “Bengali,” a term meant to convey, falsely, that they are not native to Myanmar, but rather illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The Rohingya, he said, burned down their own houses and fled for reasons unknown to him. But now that they are gone, life for him and his neighbors has improved, he said.

“I don’t want them to come back here,” he said in the interview. “Our village is peaceful without the Bengali.”

Methodical Torture

About 90 miles from Chut Pyin, most of the village’s survivors are gathered in Block C-10, one of the more enviable sectors in the huge Thaingkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh. The block sits on a hilltop, benefiting from a gentle, if occasional, breeze that wards off the oppressive heat, sour aromas and swarms of black flies that make life in other parts of the camp more miserable.

Still, there is no running water or electricity, nor is there much prospect for jobs or lives beyond dull subsistence on the handouts of foreign aid groups.

Much of what has been built here this year − warrens of bamboo shelters piled on bald, treeless hills − is still at risk from late summer monsoons, while the scourge of deadly diseases like cholera and diphtheria is expected to continue.

But everyone here has a reason for choosing this version of hell over the one left behind.

About a month after the violence, one former resident of Chut Pyin, Ahmad Hossain, 25, surveyed his fellow survivors from the village, he said.

By his count, 94 people who had made it to the camp had been wounded by gunshot, and 19 women said they had been raped. And by his count, 358 people in Chut Pyin were killed in the attack on Aug. 27, including his father, a brother and a sister who survived long enough to tell rescuers that she had been raped before she was shot.

His data is close to estimates from international human rights groups.

But for many, the trauma began long before last summer’s violence.

The torture chamber that Aung Thein Mya kept near his house had a dirt floor and no windows, and it reeked of urine and feces, according to 12 people who described their experiences there. For days, sometimes weeks, they were confined in the dark, their hands and feet bound, they said. It was hot and infested with mosquitoes. They were given minimal food and water, constantly beaten or worse.

Five men described and drew a wooden device they called a “foot locker” that resembled a medieval stocks. There were two of them in the room, each with six holes, used to lock the feet in place during torture.

Two years ago, Aung Thein Mya’s people came for Mohammad Hossain, a 40-year-old father of seven, while he was at work in his shop. He said he was never told exactly why, though they seemed to be suggesting he was a Rohingya insurgent.

“They were asking me again and again: ‘Where is your weapon? Where did you hide them? Where is your gold? Where did you hide your money?’” Mr. Hossain said.

He was taken into the room, handcuffed, blindfolded and locked into the stocks. The torture began at 1 a.m., when Aung Thein Mya arrived.

Mr. Hossain said his wrist was sliced with a knife, and needles were shoved under his nails. Then Aung Thein Mya went to work with a red-hot iron rod, producing still-visible scars on both of Mr. Hossain’s hips, his inner left thigh and the backs of his legs.

This went on for 13 days, Mr. Hossain said. He was given almost no food and had to buy his own water.

“They used to give me a little bit of salt and old rice,” he said. “I was unable to eat it.”

Women endured a different kind of abuse.

I had sought out Mostafa Khatun, 25, because others had told me Aung Thein Mya had personally killed her husband, Abdul Hashem, that August day. She confirmed this.

“They slaughtered my husband in front of me and my kids,” she said. “Aung Thein Mya, himself, slit the throat.”

But that, she said, was just the culmination of the horror her family had endured. Four or five days before the attack on Chut Pyin, she said, Aung Thein Mya went to her house looking for her husband. He gave no reason.

“I assume he was doing this to other women also just to torture Muslims,” she said. “He and his fellows would arrest Muslim men and detain them at his place until a fair amount of money was paid.”

Ms. Khatun said she told him her husband was out working, but Aung Thein Mya refused to believe her. He accused her of hiding her husband and had her arrested and taken to his home, along with her four young children, she said.

She said he bound her arms and legs with rope, and beat her with a strap and an iron rod.

“He was asking me again and again: ‘Where is your husband? You will be detained here as long as your husband doesn’t show up,’” she said.

For three or four days, she said, she and her children were held in the room without food. “My kids were also starving with me.”

One night, she said, at around 1 or 2 in the morning, Aung Thein Mya went to her. “He beat me and shut my mouth and raped me,” she said. “My kids were screaming in fear. He did all this in the dark.”

She was released, she said, after her neighbors arrived with money to pay him off.

Pressed about why Aung Thein Mya was so interested in her husband, Ms. Khatun was evasive. According to Amnesty International, the disappearance of an ethnic Rakhine man weeks before the violence that August seems to have touched off a wave of arbitrary arrests.

Ms. Khatun suggested that her husband had intentionally stayed hidden during the days she and her children were held captive to avoid a worse fate.

“If he came, he would have been detained and he would have been killed by Aung Thein Mya,” she said.

Three other women in the camp described similar abuse as they tried to protect their husbands, including Sobia Khatun, 30, who is not related. In her shelter at the camp, Ms. Khatun demonstrated how Aung Thein Mya and a deputy had wrapped her head scarf around her face to prevent her from crying out.

“They hurt me so much that I was weeping and begging for their mercy,” she said.

The Big Man

Aung Thein Mya was on his way home from a meeting in Rathedaung, the administrative center of his region, when I reached him by phone using a number that one of the Rohingya refugees had given me in Bangladesh. We spoke with the help of an interpreter for about an hour. After that, he never again answered his phone.

He said that he was 57 and had lived in Chut Pyin for more than three decades.

He said he oversaw four other villages besides Chut Pyin. He claimed he was voted into office with significant support from what he termed the “kalar,” a common pejorative for the Rohingya.

His version of life in the villages was a mirror image of what the Rohingya had described. In Aung Thein Mya’s telling, his people, Rakhine Buddhists, had for years lived in fear of their Muslim neighbors, though he had difficulty explaining why.

He had never seen a Muslim carrying a weapon, nor had any Rohingya ever attacked the Buddhist section of Chut Pyin. He said his nephew had been killed by Rohingya, but could not provide details or contact information for the man’s immediate family. He did say that groups of Rohingya would occasionally go into the Buddhist section at night and make threats.

“Whenever they came we mostly didn’t hear clearly what they were saying, but we knew that they would harm us,” he said.

Never had he detained anyone in his house, he said.

He had a close working relationship with Ahmad Hossain, he said, the man from the Thaingkhali camp who had collected data on the dead and wounded. Mr. Hossain worked as the Rohingya’s administrative liaison to Aung Thein Mya, and in interviews described being subjected to daily verbal and physical abuse.

Aung Thein Mya saw their relationship differently.

“He called me ‘Uncle,’” Aung Thein Mya said, adding that he went to Mr. Hossain’s wedding. “I feel like we are very close.”

Mr. Hossain confirmed that he indeed used to call Aung Thein Mya ‘Uncle,’ but only, he said, because it seemed to annoy him. Other residents said Aung Thein Mya frequently attended Rohingya weddings, but only to confiscate the fattest chickens.

Though numerous accounts portray Aung Thein Mya as the architect of much of the Rohingya’s suffering in his district, he is also a cog in a much larger machine: the methodical oppression of ethnic minorities by the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and Myanmar’s Bamar Buddhist majority.

As a local administrator, Aung Thein Mya is beholden to the Tatmadaw and would have been expected to carry out the government’s oppressive policies against the Rohingya or suffer the wrath of the security forces, said Matthew Smith, the chief executive of Fortify Rights, which tracks violence against the Rohingya.

“They are extensions of the state, and they act as such and in some cases commit violent abuses against the local population,” Mr. Smith said.

Day of Death

The village of Chut Pyin is divided into two lobes, connected by a small road and a river that runs through them. The Rakhine Buddhists inhabit the northern lobe. The Rohingya live in the south.

On Aug. 27, Aung Thein Mya arrived in the Rohingya section of the village at around 9 a.m. accompanied by a group of soldiers, witnesses said, and stole a widow’s cow. What happened next was described by six witnesses, including Shom Khatun, the cow’s owner.

Aung Thein Mya had the cow slaughtered and the meat cooked in a large pan as a curry. Just hours before the violence began, Aung Thein Mya sat down with his comrades and ate the curry in view of the people he was about to massacre.

The killing started around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, witnesses said.

Abdul Hashem, a 73-year-old religious leader, said he was with a group of men at the mosque before afternoon prayers. Karima Khatun, 20, said she was cleaning the kitchen when she saw soldiers approaching her home. Roushon Ali, 48, said he heard someone give an order for everyone to come out of their houses.

Aung Thein Mya seemed to be helping soldiers identify targets, witnesses said. Mr. Hossain, the administrator’s former subordinate, said he saw Aung Thein Mya talking on his phone immediately before the shots rang out.

“We are ready on this side,” he said he heard Aung Thein Mya say. “Come and shoot soon. Kill. Kill them all.”

“After that they started shooting,” Mr. Hossain said. He watched the carnage, he said, while hiding in a pond with seven other people. “People were dying. Injured people were screaming in pain. They were being burned alive. Some people were hiding in the hills, some were in the ponds, some were in the bushes, some were in the toilets.”

Fir Mohammad, 16, said he bolted out the back door when soldiers rushed into his house. Almost immediately, he was hit by a bullet, which entered his back and burst from his chest.

“When I first opened my eyes, I saw the military was torching houses, shooting and killing people,” he said. He then lost consciousness and awoke days later in a nearby village where his mother had dragged him.

Karima Khatun hid with her two young sons in a rice field.

“There were bullets like raindrops from every side,” she said. One of them, she said, sliced through the small body of her 2-year-old son, Muhammad Anas. He lingered alive for a few hours while she tried futilely to find him medical care.

At the center of the carnage was Aung Thein Mya, though witness accounts varied, distorted by time and trauma. Some said he was carrying an assault rifle and joined soldiers in the shooting. Others said he carried only a long knife or sword.

Fatima Khatun said she saw him throw a toddler into a burning house.

“The baby was running away,” she said. “His mother was shot, so he was frightened. The chairman grabbed him and threw him into the fire.”

Human rights groups documented similar accounts. In a June report, Amnesty International, citing witnesses, described Aung Thein Mya as “leading the vigilantes who participated in the village’s burning.”

Chut Pyin residents told Fortify Rights that Buddhist civilians armed with swords beheaded people who had been shot by soldiers.

The killing lasted until the evening, witnesses said. Roushon Ali said the last time he saw Aung Thein Mya was at sunset.

“I saw him walking randomly, looking for survivors,” Mr. Ali said. “If he saw any alive, he made sure they were dead by cutting their throat.”

The Thaingkhali camp for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, in March.

The New York Times, Published: Aug. 24, 2018
For Rohingya, Years of Torture at the Hands of a Neighbor
By Michael Schwirtz

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Malaysia’s stand of non-alignment in geopolitics

ON Feb 13 last year, a 46-year-old man initially identified as Kim Chol was murdered at klia2 when a VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was smeared on his face by one of his assailants. He was later identified as Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Malaysians were shocked about how the murder was executed, and suspicious of the motive and the place where it occurred.

Malaysia is known for its vigour against transboundary crime and terrorism. When a high-profile murder occurred despite the security measures, it is disturbing and worrying.

On March 4 last year, the government expelled North Korean ambassador Kang Chol as a persona non grata under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations 1961 due to his unwarranted statements that portrayed Malaysian authorities as inept in investigating the murder. He had also publicly denounced the post-mortem. His allegation was an abuse of his diplomatic immunity that violated Article 41(1) of the convention.

On March 1 the same year, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and four other suspects were charged with murder. After listening to the testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses, the Shah Alam High Court, on Aug 16, ruled that the prosecution had a prima facie case and ordered the accused to enter into defence. Ironically, chances of bringing the masterminds to justice are slim despite a Red Notice being issued against them by Interpol.

It is predicted that the outcome of the trial will have substantial diplomatic effects on Indonesia and Vietnam.

Historically, diplomatic immunity has forged diplomatic
relations and courted controversies. As a founding member of Asean, preserving regional safety and economic longevity are Malaysia’s priority.

These endeavours are meaningless without an impartial law governing the affairs of diplomats. Unfortunately, the Vienna Convention is incapable of deterring Pyongyang’s interference in Malaysia’s internal affairs, which is prohibited by Article 41 (1).

Malaysia and North Korea are worlds apart, but to maintain enduring diplomatic relations demands complete understanding and, thus, disputes are inevitable. With gaps in regulating diplomatic immunity, the strength of the Vienna Convention is weakened by its vagueness, which results in a lack of enforcement and, ultimately, a lack of respect.

Protecting victims of crime is as crucial as attaining justice in trials. However, this aspect of justice is often overlooked as the focus of a trial is on the culprit.

In offences committed by diplomats, the rights of their victims are inadequately protected by the law. Unknown to many, the victim’s family’s welfare is gravely affected by the death of the breadwinner.

Where the victim is a foreign citizen, it becomes an international concern. In the United Kingdom, a scheme to compensate victims of crimes, namely the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), has long been enforced to safeguard their welfare.

Additionally, the Diplomatic Indemnity Insurance (DII) scheme aims to install a systematic vetting recruitment of diplomats, which will ensure that Pyongyang will scrutinise the disciplinary records of its diplomats so that only the best candidate is sent to Malaysia.

Both initiatives are designed to help victims access a faster and fairer compensation, and protect the public from reckless diplomats. Although VCF is yet to be established here, provisions under Sections 426 (1A), (1B) and 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code empower a judge to order the convicted accused to compensate the victim.

Sadly, these provisions are toothless. Section 432(2) is inadequate since the maximum sum allowed is a paltry RM1,000. Moreover, a judge is probably not the most suitable person to evaluate damages in criminal cases and it is best left to an expert to appraise damages.

Jong-nam is survived by a wife and six children. Hypothetically, the convicted accused will be ordered to compensate Jong-nam’s wife. However, its practicality will be questioned. This is where VCF is needed to compensate victims and to complement the law.

In managing diplomatic disputes, Putrajaya must analyse methods to revitalise bilateral relations. Employing options, such as Track 1.5 and/or Track 2 Diplomacy, is laudable.

Besides that, China can be a
facilitator, while respected individuals like former United States presidents Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama could be mediators.

Carter proved his mettle during the 1994 US-North Korea nuclear weapons crisis, while the latter has been praised for his efforts to promote the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

South Korea employed Track 2 Diplomacy when it invited Pyongyang to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic in Pyeong-chang on Feb 9.

Despite criticism, President Moon Jae-in believed “Olympic Diplomacy” offered a respite from the escalating crisis. Pyongyang also realised that the timing was unsuitable for a nuclear weapons test or inter-continental ballistic missiles launch.

The Winter Olympics 2018 shall be remembered as the event that halted the standoff between the US and North Korea, which may encourage more measures aimed at integrating Pyongyang with the rest of the world. The apex of Olympic Diplomacy was materialised when US President Donald Trump met Jong-un for a peace summit on June 12 in Singapore.

Diplomatic immunity is often manipulated by diplomats, but it is an anathema to the authorities. The lack of strict supervising of how it functions has resulted in its abuse.

Protecting victims of domestic and transboundary crime remains an important pillar of justice. Hopefully, by implementing VCF and DII in Malaysia, such reforms can benefit all.

Diplomacy is the best way to resolve a crisis and serves to reflect Malaysia’s stand of non-alignment in geopolitics.

Despite the adverse response from Pyongyang, Malaysia will defend justice for all individuals, regardless of their nationalities.

The cauldron for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Alpensia resort in Pyeongchang. The Winter Olympics shall be remembered as the event that halted the standoff between the US and North Korea, which may encourage more measures aimed at integrating Pyongyang with the rest of the world.

Letter to New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 11:43am
Need to better protect crime victims

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Trio of documentary filmmakers interpret the history of Malaysia

“ONE of the things I look forward to the most when I do any documentary is the fact that I’ll be a changed person when I finish,” declares documentary filmmaker, Ahmad Yazid Ahmad Puad, his eyes dancing under his stylish dark-rimmed glasses. From my perch inside the spacious meeting room of Rack Focus Films in Bukit Tunku, I can see the sun shining gloriously outside beyond the oversized windows.

On the trees, macaques swing with gay abandon, oblivious to the ‘Spanish Inquisition’ taking place inside the beautiful bungalow that the company has called its home for the last couple of months. Meanwhile, seated opposite me and looking on expectantly is a trio of talented documentary filmmakers.

There’s the 34-year-old Yazid, his slight frame wrapped in a sporty-looking jacket presumably as a shield against the chills of the air conditioning in the room (“We’ve been up all night editing. The deadline is going bonkers!”); Rob Nevis, a soft-spoken 54-year-old Sri Lankan filmmaker who has made Malaysia home for more than 10 years, and attractive American/Sarawakian Lydia Lubon, 39, whose last documentary, Operation Sumatran Rhino, was shown on National Geographic.

These are the guys at the helm of the historical documentary, Road to Nationhood, which will be airing its Season Three offerings on the evening of Merdeka. Season 1, which premiered back in 2016, was Road to Nationhood: Journey to Independence, a two-part series charting Malaysia’s journey to independence. It was followed by Road to Nationhood: Formation of Malaysia the following year, which took off after Malaysia gained independence from the British on Aug 31, 1957, and outlined the untold political and economic struggles Malaysia had to face prior to 1963 when the Federation was created.

It was also in Season Two that we saw Singapore no longer being a part of Malaysia. Season Three is Road to Nationhood: The Undeclared War (Konfrontasi) and Road to Nationhood: The Rajahs and Rebels (Part 1) and Sarawak Reclaimed (Part 2).

The former, Road to Nationhood: The Undeclared War tells of what happened during the turbulent years of Konfrontasi. In the 1960s, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s proposal to form Malaysia was vehemently opposed by President Sukarno of Indonesia.

Sukarno believed that Malaysia was an invention and tool of the British, a form of neocolonialism designed to let the British withdraw from their colonies, while still maintaining control from a distance.

What started as a diplomatic snub turned into border skirmishes, reaching a nadir when Indonesian troops parachuted into Peninsular Malaysia − despite the fact that there never was a formal declaration of war. Meanwhile, Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed covers the history of Sarawak from its early days under the White Rajahs straight through to when they achieved independence − and then immediately after becoming a part of Malaysia.

In the process, some like Datu Patinggi Ali and Tun Jugah worked with the outsiders, while those such as Rentap and Penghulu Asun opposed them. In the end, all had a role in shaping modern-day Sarawak.

The New Straits Times Press (NSTP) and Rack Focus Films recently signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on expertise and resources for the production of Season 3, with the former providing photographs and newspaper articles sourced from its comprehensive archival content. This year marks NSTP’s third year of collaboration with Rack Focus Films.


Self-confessed history buff, Nevis, recalls clearly how it all started. He remembers that he and Yazid were actually working on a military documentary called Blade Runners: Codename Operation Gonzales at the time, a story set in 1974 where Malaysia’s Special Service Regiment went after communist insurgents in a search and destroy mission deep in Malaysia’s jungle.

“And then Yazid found the New Straits Times Press Group Publications book of the same name at the NST’s resource centre. It was sometime in 2012. He was so taken by the images inside and wanted to do something.”

Continuing, Nevis, who’d previously worked on a number of Hollywood productions while with Sri Lankan film production company, Asian Film Location Services (a one-stop-shop film and television production and location services company specialising in international productions shooting in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia), adds: “I remember asking him why he wanted to do another Merdeka documentary. To be honest, I hadn’t really seen that many Merdeka documentaries; the ones I had were so news reel-like.”

But, says Nevis, Yazid’s enthusiasm for it was infectious. “He kept exclaiming how rich the images were and that we needed to do a documentary. He was adamant that we could make the images come to life. Before you knew it, we ended up discussing about animating certain parts, using the green screen to do small movements, like the hand, or waving the hat.”

With a smile, Nevis concedes that the turning point for him personally came when they were doing Operation Gonzales and got the opportunity to interview General Tan Sri Datuk Mohd Ghazali Mohd Seth, the son of Datuk Mohd Seth, the deputy chief minister of Johor during Merdeka.

“He told us some untold stories about his father and how Tunku managed to convince him to accept his proposals when he was in London, despite everyone knowing that Johor wasn’t in agreement. It was an exciting piece of information and had never been captured. It’s an untold story about Merdeka.”

Then they met with Datin Paduka Tan Siok Choo (Cheng Lok’s granddaughter) recalls Nevis, and she regaled them with stories about her father’s and grandfather’s journey. “So we started collecting these untold stories. That’s how it all started.”

The team, shares Nevis, pooled their resources and commenced shooting sometime in 2015 − before Finas had even approved their papers. Chuckling, Nevis says: “It was the craziest thing to do but we believed in it so much. Most of the archives for Road to Nationhood didn’t just come from Finas or RTM. We had stuff from Getty, BBC, IWM (Imperial War Museum).Our archives budget alone was about RM200,000.”

Also, as the idea for the project had been inspired by the NSTP’s book, the team went to meet with NSTP’s Group Managing Editor at the time (today the Chief Executive Officer),Datuk Seri Abdul Jalil Hamid and Azizi Othman, the-then NSTP’s Special Projects, Executive Editor (today its General Manager, Digital Business and Development).

“They liked the idea of the project and subsequently came on board with their rich archives. That’s when our partnership started. We’re really blessed because NST has a real goldmine there!”


The interviews for the series were predominantly conducted by Yazid, who also wears the hats of director, scriptwriter and executive producer. Meanwhile, the interviews for the Sarawak episodes were carried out by Lubon, the project’s creative producer, who’s of Iban-descent.

Recalling his opening confession about how cathartic the whole experience can be, Yazid says: “I’ve grown a lot from doing this project. Almost 90 per cent of the things I discovered through the course of doing this documentary, I hadn’t known before. And it really blew my mind.”

Leaning forward, the affable Johorian confides that he used to hate Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister. “I grew up in JB and everyone hated him. But after doing last year’s documentary − on Formation −I discovered that Lee Kuan Yew actually did a lot to make sure that Malaysia happened. Then I started growing fond of him. I still think he could have done things differently but I appreciate every single effort that he made to ensure that Malaysia happened.”

Chuckling, he adds that Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno, grew on him too. “We just finished the edit for Konfrontasi − The Undeclared War. I used to dislike him but through this project, I realised that he had great visions for his country. Maybe he was just standing on the wrong side of history. But nevertheless, he had great ideas about what nation identity should be and the importance of investing emotionally with the country. I think Malaysia today can learn from Indonesia’s spirit of nationalism!”

Concurring, Nevis chips in: “It’s been like jumping into a gold mine of knowledge doing this project. I didn’t know much about Datuk Onn Jaafar (former Chief Minister of Johor in the-then Malaya) before but after I learnt what I learnt, I believe that he should have been the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. Not Tunku. But his ideas were ahead of time. It has been a journey doing this and I’ve grown a lot.”


When Yazid and Lubon made their first foray into the country’s documentary making scene, sometime in early 2000, it was a fairly non-existent industry. Yazid was then a cameraman/editor at Carter Productions and it was there that he met Lubon, a freelance production assistant.

Today, Yazid acknowledges that the industry has grown somewhat (although he believes there are only about four production houses actually producing ‘real’ documentaries) but there remains some confusion as to what actually constitutes a documentary.

Shaking his head exasperatedly, Yazid says: “People are confused between documentary and TV programme.” A documentary, he continues, has a story. “It’s not about having a host appear at some tourist site and telling you what you’re seeing. With documentaries, you tell a story within your factual realm... but the story is still there.”

His brows furrowing, he attempts to elaborate. “It’s like you have Batman who’s fighting the Joker and there are explosions in between. And in the end, the hero wins. The same formula applies with documentaries. You find a character, for example, in our show, we make Tunku the hero or protagonist. So he’s going to go through challenges in order to achieve Merdeka. We have to treat him just like how fiction filmmakers treat their superhero. Like Batman or Jason Bourne or whatever. So there’ll be things that he doubts along the way and then he comes back to what he really believes in. At some point, he feels that he’s almost failing but then, he perseveres. The result? We get Merdeka. So that’s a story. With TV programmes, they just tell you what it is and then, “Bye, bye, jumpa lagi minggu depan (See you next week!).””

So what makes a bad documentary? “When you approach it likeapower point presentation,” replies Yazid, again his brows furrowing.

“One of the key ingredients of a good documentary is a good story and a good story requires an emotional ride, emotional journey. In any emotional journey, there has to be triumphs and failures. But a lot of the things that we see on local TV don’t show that. Factual storytellers commit that sin of always thinking that they need to say everything great about whoever it is. Isn’t it obvious that Tunku was great because he failed so many times?”

His voice laced with passion, Yazid shares: “When I first opened the book by NST and realised that, wow, Tunku was actually told to ‘eff off’ by the British in 1954 and in turn, Tunku was like, screw it, I’m still going to go and I’m not giving up. It was an eye opener. Tunku went around Malaya to try to win the elections with MCA and MIC. And then he almost gave up thinking that it wasn’t going anywhere in 1955. But suddenly he won the first Malayan election in 1955, which people hadn’t expected as the British had done everything to ensure his failure so that Datuk Onn Jaafar (then with Parti Negara) would win. But Tunku won − by one seat.”


The team is keen to emphasise that what the audience sees when they watch Road to Nationhood stems from their perspective. “We’ve never claimed that our story is the truth,” says Yazid emphatically, adding: “Have you seen this thing that’s gone viral on social media? There’s this cylinder and a guy standing on the left and another guy standing in front of it. The guy who is standing on the left sees something round, while the guy who’s looking on from the front, sees it as a rectangle. But which one is right? Well, it depends on where you’re standing. It’s always about perspective.”

But, continues Yazid, what people need to understand is that even though it’s perspective, everything in the documentary is factual. “We didn’t lie that Merdeka is on Aug 28. We didn’t lie and say that Tunku went to London in 1956 for the Merdeka Mission to ask from the British if they would let us be independent after he achieved his success in the elections of 1955. It happened.”

Here’s an example of their perspective. Independence didn’t come from Umno. Umno never thought of it. Umno liked to be under the British. The person who brought up the idea of independence, and someone who was within Umno, was Datuk Onn Jaafar − and he took it from the Left.

Says Yazid: “It was the Left who wanted independence, ever since after the war. The Communists were championing this idea. If you check the details, Umno, until 1949, you never heard of them mentioning anything about wanting independence. They liked the British to pamper them. It was the Left that brought up the idea, but in our documentary we never said that Datuk Onn Jaafar came up with the idea for independence. He was championing the idea. The Left had already been talking about it from the beginning. The Malay Nationalist Party, Kesatuan Melayu Muda... they were the ones talking about independence. Maybe it was because they were on the wrong side of history. They weren’t on the victors’ side.”

His tone wry, Yazid continues: “The British were the victors. And the good thing about Umno was that they knew how to play the game. The Left didn’t. They only wanted to play their own game. But Umno? They said, ok, which game is going to make us successful? We’ll choose that game! So that’s our perspective. There’s no such thing as truth. I always say that truth is a big BS!”

Hitherto the solemn observer, Nevis finally offers his thoughts: “I enjoyed meeting all these people who’d walked through history. And one of the people that we met twice for the Formation of Malaysia and this time, Konfrontasi, was Datuk Dominic Puthucheary. On my first meeting with him, he asked me, “What’s this about Merdeka? Which story are you telling?” Of course we told him the mainstream story. And then he sat back in his chair and said, “Well, the lion never gets to tell his story does he?””

Noting my look of confusion, Nevis elaborates: “What he meant was that it’s always the case that the hunter gets to tell his story because he’s the victor. He shoots the lion and the lion dies. You never get to hear the lion’s side of the story. Coming back to our meeting, we were talking about Konfrontasi. He’s one of the last in that age group who journeyed through that period. He was in prison. Lee Kuan Yew put him there. I asked him, “Datuk, what remains in your memory?””

His voice low, Nevis continues: “He said that he was grateful to God that he has his nice little office where he can write his memoirs (Puthucheary is working on a book called Once There Was A River). And then he said, “... but what a tragedy it is when your memories are filled with sad things too, like when the British came down here and put their guns to our heads saying we had guns − when actually, all we had were books. We had freedom but it was taken away. And then we got it back.” It’s deep and I enjoy learning from these personal stories of these great people.”

A solemn hush descends around the room, the only sound to pierce the silence coming from the incessant hum of the air conditioner. I’m the first to break the spell.

“So what’s next guys?” The ‘spell’ broken, Yazid is the first to reply: “I didn’t think that we were going to go beyond one hour! Today, we’re talking about Season 3. Thanks to NSTP, we’ve been able to continue the journey. Our plan is to make it into Season 5 and ending it all in 2020. Certainly, there’ll be a lot more stories coming out in the next two years.” They also have plans to expand the project beyond Malaysia.

Concludes Yazid: “We have to find more sponsorship, of course. We’re looking to franchise this into other countries. One of the most fascinating histories of the world is the history of India. Maybe we can do the Road to Nationhood of India. Or even Indonesia. The same thing that we’re doing right now can be replicated.”

As for next year, Yazid and team are already onto another gem − sports history. “We’re trying to relive some of the great sporting moments that occurred in Malaysia in the last 40 to 50 years. One of my idols when I was growing up was the boxer, Sapok Biki, who won the gold medal in the light flyweight class at the 1998 commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. An Iban, he’s now a ranger in Kluang. I’m definitely looking forward to this!”

SEASON 3 will air on National Geographic Channel and Astro Maya HD, Prima, Hello and Astro Awani on Aug 31, 2018

[photo-1] Storytellers (from left) Rob Nevis, Lydia Lubon and Ahmad Yazid.

[photo-2] Working with the design team for the final leg of production.

[photo-3] Tunku Abdul Rahman with President Sukarno.

[photo-4] Preparing for interview with Professor Michael Leigh, historian on Sarawak with Australia National University.

[photo-5] The book that inspired the documentary "Road to Nationhood".

[photo-6] Members of the North Borneo delegation being entertained to a farewell dinner by the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra at the Residency, Kuala Lumpur.

[photo-7] Jason Brooke, the grandson of the last ruling Rajah Muda of Sarawak, His Highness Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, and a prominent representative of the Brooke Dynasty in Sarawak.

[photo-8] Behind the scene

[photo-9] Yazid interviewing Datuk Dominic Puthucheary, former politician with PAP Singapore in the 50s and 60s and Barisan Nasional under Gerakan in the 80s.

[photo-10] Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 8:00am
Of truth and perspective – trio of documentary filmmakers interpret our nation's history
By Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal

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Lesson in patriotism

I felt like a fly on the wall, standing there a distance away from the gathering crowd and yet feeling like a part of them; the connection being a corner of the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield.

And more importantly, the connection there was the shared history.

The sprawling 60.7ha site of lush green trees in the West Midlands of England, a one-and-a-half hour train journey from London, features over 330 “thought-provoking memorials” − a section is being dedicated to British servicemen, women and civilians who died during the Second World War, the Emergency and conflicts in the Far East.

The group of men and women in their seventies had walked in silence along the footpath provided by the National Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association to participate in a brief yet poignant memorial service for the fallen heroes, who sacrificed their lives defending their colony in the East.

The late summer breeze was a welcome respite for members of the Malayan Volunteers Group (MVG) who organised this event, as they made their way for their annual wreath-laying ceremony − this time to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Victory over Japan Day.

Scattered around the lawn were benches and tributes to all ranks of the former Malayan Singapore and Borneo police forces, members of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force and many more.

Many plaques were attached to trees, some were personal tributes to loved ones. I read some of the tributes and felt a certain feeling − these people here, their heads bowed in silence − had lost their loved ones defending my country that is now Malaysia. Most must be in their late seventies and many remembered that as two- or three-year-olds, they were being evacuated with their mothers as the Japanese made their surprise and quick move to occupy Malaya, Singapore and neighbouring countries.

Their fathers had either stayed on in Malaya to be volunteers and helped in the war efforts, or were captured as prisoners of war in the notorious Changi Prison.

Their motto “Andainya Kita Terlupa” etched in the memorial stone brought tears to my eyes, releasing the build-up of emotions that I had earlier kept in check during the readings in the chapel nearby.

There, pages from journals and diaries of those caught in the conflict were read out by their next of kins; all a lesson in history for me, some 12,874km away from home.

One read about a typical day in Changi Prison from the diary of CA Scott − detailing the condition in a Changi barrack and another read a poem about the meaning of freedom. Rosemary Fell, 78, the founder of MVG, remembered nothing of the war.

Born in Singapore in 1940, she was evacuated with her mother when she was two.

Her father, a headmaster at Bandar Hilir English School in Melaka, stayed behind and joined the Melaka Volunteers Corp in charge of the signals section.

He was then moved to defend Singapore on the south coast.

“After the fall of Singapore, my father was captured, taken to Changi and later to work on the Burma death railway, where he died,” said Rosemary, who formed the MVG with other children of the volunteers to keep the memory going. Another child evacuee-turned-volunteer is Guy Scoular, who was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1940.

His father worked with Boustead and when the Japanese landed in Kota Baru, he and his mother were shipped out to Bombay. So much history to be learnt in one afternoon, but the MVG newsletter, aptly named Apa Khabar, has more stories from journals and diaries that had given me further glimpses into the past and I am determined to know more.

The event at the Arboretum could not have come at a better time − three days earlier I had visited an 83-year-old Malay lady and her English husband just outside London. She narrated the war atrocities that she as a 10-year-old witnessed. As her young mother and other mothers had to be hidden away in the jungles, she had to grow up fast taking on responsibilities to look after her younger brother.

It was only during nightfall that her mother would return briefly and she would hold her mother’s mosquito-bitten hands through the gaps in the floorboards; listening to her whispers of concern whether she had fed her brother or had left any food for her father. She sang haunting Japanese songs that she and her three other friends would sing as they climbed up trees to warn villagers of Japanese soldiers coming into the village, her face taut with pain of memories being slapped and kicked when she marched out of step. After that both husband and wife recalled the ugliness of the racial conflict of May 13.

In the same week, I had visited a former British soldier in Southampton, who in his sarung of kain pelikat, and while cooking his favourite curry, narrated to me how his unit operated during the emergency − dropping off supplies to soldiers fighting the communists.

This year, Malaysia celebrates her 61st year of independence from the British and as the country gears up for the celebrations with a new government at the helm, there’s much talk about patriotism or the lack of it.

There’s so much angst and bickerings and they are all from within. We have been through worse but we have survived. Surely any differences that we have now could be ironed out and let us show this spirit of patriotism − not just for this month, not just for parties, but for our country Malaysia.

The memorial service held by members of the Malayan Volunteers Group at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield.

Here lie the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives defending their colony in the East.

New Straits Times, Published: August 26, 2018 - 10:40am
Lesson in patriotism
By Zahara Othman

[Read more]

The Guardian, Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017 16.53 GMT
Let’s go to … the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Its new Remembrance Centre has just opened, in time for Armistice Day. But also take time to explore nearby lovely Lichfield and its medieval cathedral

By Rachel Dixon

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Libraries relevant

KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time in the 83-year history of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the notable congress is being held here in Malaysia.

In line with the theme of the congress “Transform Libraries, Transform Societies”, there will be presentations which address the role of libraries in delivering the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

A significant event that will take place at the congress will be the launch of the Global Vision Call For Actions − a global project which aims to create the biggest ideas store for actions by libraries in providing equal and free access to information and knowledge, supporting literacy, learning and reading, engaging with communities and focusing on the advancement of communities.

The week-long congress, which starts today, is organised by IFLA, Librarians Association of Malaysia and the National Library of Malaysia, with the support of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry. It is also supported by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) − an agency under the ministry that provided its expertise in preparingfor the successful bid for the congress.

Ministry secretarygeneral Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah said: “This is an iconic moment for Malaysia and our tourism board, as whenever there is a congress of this scale, the country generates a lot of income.

“Business tourism is among those that generate highest income to the tourism industry.

He said the ministry hoped that conferences such as these would encourage delegates to return to Malaysia for future visits with their friends and family.

More than 3,337 participants from 111 countries, including the United States, China, Singapore and Germany, have registered for the congress.

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa will be the keynote speaker, while Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi will speak at the opening ceremony today, and a special message from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be delivered.

Almost 250 sessions with more than 600 paper presentations will allow participants to discuss, debate and exchange ideas on issues related to the library profession.

Leading edge initiatives will be presented and experts will be present.There will be 121 poster presentations on topics, such as ”The Role of NGOs in library development” (Bangladesh) and “Makerspace at the library” (Sweden).

A trade exhibition will also be held.

Library visits to 44 Malaysian libraries will be arranged to allow participants to visit the National Library of Malaysia, academic libraries, public and school libraries.

The National Library has contributed so much to the advancement of the libraries in the country and we are incorporating digital as well right now, said National Library of Malaysia director-general Datuk Nafisah Ahmad.

“Malaysia has advanced immensely in this area and we are forward thinking.

”The world of technology has evolved; children can read books in the comfort of their homes via our website: www.u-library.gov.my.”


New Straits Times, Published: 25 AUG 2018
KL hosts IFLA world libray congree

KUALA LUMPUR: Role of libraries is still relevant despite challenges of digital information and social media, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi.

He said libraries will still be relevant if it can transform to meet the information needs of society.

“In fact, from the ministry’s point of view, libraries are important cultural and tourism institutions which are two complex and layered fields of modern civilisation and both sectors are known to bring positive effects on social development.

“Through digitalisation, libraries further contributed to the progress of social development based on knowledge and run by digital technology,” he said in his speech during the official opening of 84th International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress today.

Present at the event were; Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa; Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik; International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions president Gloria Perez-Salmeron, IFLA secretary-general Gerald Leitner; National Library of Malaysia director-general Datuk Nafisah Ahmad and Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Mhd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz.

Meanwhile, on the seven-day congress, Mohamaddin said it offers a good opportunity for all delegates to interact with one another and to gain new insights and views, especially coming from those with various background and diverse experiences.

“I believe this prestigious congress will give Malaysia the opportunity to showcase the services and facilities of our libraries and share best practices in librarianship, information management and communications technology.”

He said the congress, with the participation of more than 3,370 delegates from more than 111 countries, is expected to generate more than RM40 million.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a special short video message, to welcome the delegates of IFLA said nowadays libraries no longer serve as repositories of books but also central entity to the acquisition of information and knowledge.

“We saw libraries have evolved considerably. With the rapid development in research and information technologies, libraries worldwide have changed not only its role and functions but in terms of contents and appearances.

“Let us work together to ensure that we conserve and preserve information that is freely available to everyone in line with the theme.”

The congress is held from Aug 24 until 30 with almost 250 sessions and more than 600 paper presentations which will allow participants to discuss, debate and exchange ideas on issues related to the library profession and leading edge initiatives will be presented and experts will be present.

There will be 121 poster presentations on topics, such as “The Role of NGOs in library development” (Bangladesh) and “Makerspace at the library” (Sweden) and a trade exhibition will also be held.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mohamaddin Ketapi (four left) with Mayor of Kuala Lumpur,Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz (two right), Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa (three right) and President IFLA, Gloria Perez Salmeron (three left) take a group picture after opening session 84th IFLA WLIC 2018”Transform Libraries Transform Societies” at KL Convention Centre.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 3:45pm
Libraries still relevant despite the advent of digital information and social media
By Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi

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Uri Avnery

THERE is only one name that I go for when I want to read about the Israeli mind − Uri Avnery. Well, maybe two. The other is Amira Hass of the Haaretz newspaper.

Avnery is a well-known name for those enamoured about the Israel and Palestine conflict. That includes Hass. They are what I'd like to term as the Israeli peace promoters. In fact, during the Palestinian Intifada in 2003, Avnery travelled with other Israeli activists to Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters in the occupied West Bank, to act as a human shield against what they said were Israeli plans to assassinate PLO leader, Yasser Arafat.

Hass herself has not done too shabbily when it comes to upholding Palestinian rights. Starting from 2003, she is the only Jewish Israeli journalist who lived full-time among the Palestinians. She did her reporting in Gaza from 1993 and in Ramallah from 1997.

As for Avnery, every time he writes on the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I can only say “well said, sir”, as he explains and elaborates, taking into account the history and context of the issue. I see him as an even-handed writer and opinionist, juggling between fantasy and reality, wanting an Israeli state that really practises democracy with an equally democratic Palestinian state. I believe he meant well, but I think he knows too, that talking about how to achieve peace is one thing, but actually achieving it is another. He had even admitted that it would be impossible after the approval of the “Basic Law: Israel the Nation State of the Jewish People”.

So, peace between Israel and Palestine? Maybe not in my lifetime. Certainly not in his, as Avnery died on Monday, Aug 20, at the ripe old age of 94, of heart attack.

The editor of Counterpunch website, Jeffrey St Clair, sums up Avnery nicely with a short eulogy titled, “A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018”:

“Avnery, who was one of the first Israelis to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, was 94. He lived a sprawling life. He was born in Germany in 1923 and his family fled to British Palestine a few months after Hitler came to power. As a young man, he dispersed leaflets for the Irgun, a terrorist Zionist organisation, and it haunted him for most of his life. Avnery would later play chess with Yasser Arafat and become one of PLO’s most ardent Israeli defenders.”

Quite a transformation. Born in Germany during the Hitler era. Fled to Palestine then helped out a terrorist group that purged thousands of Palestinians before changing to a peace activist. Avnery did tell about an interesting exchange of words with former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, most pertinent to non-Jewish people too, in a column titled, “Who the hell are we” in his last article to Counterpunch.

He said: “Years ago, I had a friendly discussion with Ariel Sharon. I told him: “I am first of all an Israeli. After that I am a Jew.” He (Sharon) responded heatedly: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!”

The classic chicken and egg question. Chicken first or egg first, or is it the other way around? Whichever way one thinks, Avnery clearly interprets the “Basic Law” as the final nail in the coffin for a democratic Israel. He asks what is new about the new law? It contains two important omissions of a “Jewish and Democratic” state, and full equality between all its citizens, without regard to religion, ethnicity or sex.

“All this has disappeared. No democracy. No equality. A state of the Jews, for the Jews, by the Jews.” It is this attitude of showing what the Israel state is doing wrong that makes Avnery and Hass a different breed.

Consider Hass’ recent article titled, “Israel Conducts Mass Psychological Experiment on Gaza”, which essentially tell Israelis that they're also being experimented on by the Zionist rulers, not just the Gazans. It is an experiment in obedience and cruelty. While Gazans are being forced to accept every Israeli cruelty, among them including not enough clean water, only four hours of electricity daily, lacking medical care, not permitted to study abroad and being bombed from time to time.

How long can the Gazans hold on and suffer? And, how long will the Israelis wait to no longer be afraid about retaliatory actions from the people there, the biggest prison in the world?

“From the moment in 1991 when we cut the Gazans off from the West Bank, we’ve been declaring that the enclave should develop as a separate entity, and we’ve hoped that Egypt would swallow it up or that it would be declared an independent Palestinian state. To our chagrin, that hasn’t happened”, said Hass.

Avnery and Hass, therefore, are going against the flow when it comes to the issue of peace in the occupied Palestinian land.

Now, we are being told about the “deal of the century” by the new American administration of Donald Trump. However, Palestinians may not be surprised anyway, as the American linguist, historian and thinker Noam Chomsky rubbished Trump's initiative which has not been fully explained to the public yet, and one reason being that Trump is only thinking about Iran.

Avnery does have a simple advice to Israelis and Palestinians alike. In September 2013, he wrote: “There are two nations in this country, and they must choose to live together or die together. I hope they choose life.”

Well said, sir. Wise words, indeed.

Uri Avnery (left) , a left-wing peace activist, who became the first prominent Israeli to meet in public with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1982, died on Monday in a Tel Aviv hospital.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 11:39am
A different breed
By Azman Adbul Hamil
The writer is NSTP Convergence Editor (Foreign).

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US, world’s biggest market for human trafficking

COMPILING the value of human trafficking is inherently problematic because of many unknown facts and figures but the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently said that the scourge of human trafficking is a lucrative global industry worth some US$1.5 billion (RM6.16 billion) − and still going strong.

Human trafficking will thrive further because of its economic significance; however, the entire world needs to be united in cracking down on all the players in the trade’s supply chain, as it were, both at the source of supply and in the market where demand exists.

The US is the world’s biggest market for human trafficking in value terms, according to the FBI. Aside from the ill-gotten money that fills the pockets of the operators, the grief and pain inflicted on the victims, usually young females, need to be urgently addressed. The US government, according to the FBI, is taking action to curb the scourge and deter those responsible for proliferating the scourge.

Going into graphic details of the horrendous treatment meted out to victims of human trafficking, they usually carry lifelong the physical, mental and emotional scars of their cage-like confinement by their handlers.

An all-female FBI expert team recently highlighted the pecuniary motivation driving this nefarious human trade, not sparing even 10-year old girls who are forced into prostitution through physical and emotional pressure.

“It’s a US$1.5 billion industry worldwide … this is an estimated value of the entire world’s human trafficking. The FBI compiles these figures from various sources,” said Laura Riso, a senior FBI representative who works with victims of human trafficking, during a recent meeting at the State Department’s New York Foreign Press Centre.

According to Riso, human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminally-organised trade with various manifestations, including prostitution, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, etc. FBI sources said that over 6,000 children were “recovered” − not just rescued, as Riso put it − since 2003, and some 2,500 convictions pronounced on the perpetrators.

Some 40 per cent of the child victims were connected with strangers online. Although the FBI grapples with several areas of crimes such as terrorism, cyber-crimes, crimes against children, and others, it is also focusing on human trafficking.

Trafficking is different from human smuggling. International law defines smuggling of persons as procuring “the illegal entry of a person” into a country “in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit”. In other words, smugglers help people cross borders undetected in exchange for payment.

Trafficking of humans, on the other hand, is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of power “for the purpose of exploitation” with exploitation referring, “at a minimum” to “the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

Traffickers engage in moving people from one place to another without the latter’s informed consent, and exploit them along the way or at their final destination.

In short, the smuggled person consents to being moved from one place to another, while trafficking victims have either not agreed to be moved or, if they have, have been deceived into agreeing by false promises, only to face exploitation. While smuggling ends at the chosen destination where the smuggler and the smuggled person usually part ways, traffickers exploit their victim at the final destination and even beyond that point. Another difference Is that smuggling always involves crossing international borders, while trafficking occurs regardless of whether victims are taken to another country or moved within a country’s borders.

FBI records list some horrifying cases of torture and physical abuse inflicted on young girls with skulls broken, broken or missing teeth, and other physical distortions. Riso narrated the case of a young girl who was pregnant at age 10; others had been forced by their pimps − known as “Daddy” − to have sex with “Johns”, the customers, some 30 or more times a day. Indeed, the pimps use ugly tattoos on the bodies of the women to mark their “ownership” of the girls.

“Human trafficking is worse than drug dealing. While drugs are sold once, trafficking victims are sold over and over again,” Riso said, adding that the FBI cooperates with Interpol, and non-governmental organisations to track down the syndicates.

While the flesh trade in the US is, largely, catered to by South American and Mexican women, there is growing trafficking from Asia. China, according to the FBI, is the largest source of Asian women trafficked to the US. But, women from other Asian countries were also spotted, notably from Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Waves of refugees such as Syrians, the Rohingya and others are potential constituencies for exploitation by traffickers.

FBI representatives are posted as “legal officers” in many US embassies abroad, including in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other places around the world where they cooperate with the local authorities. Riso explained that these are safeguards aimed at curbing trafficking, considering that the US has become the number one destination country to bring someone for sexual exploitation.

Whether the FBI has an effective reach in countries considered the source of women trafficking can be debated, but the harsh truth is that we are not talking about commodities being traded − we are talking about human beings who are being sold as slaves in lucrative “markets” worldwide by greedy operators whose manipulative ways have caused irreparable physical, mental and emotional harm to the victims.

Slavery may have been officially banned, but it still exists and flourishes in various manifestations. The world can stop this scourge if it is united and determined to fight it.

A suspected victim of human trafficking praying at a government shelter in Takua Pa district of Phang Nga, Thailand. Women and children are most commonly trafficked into forced sexual exploitation, begging and domestic work.

New Straits Times, Published: August 25, 2018 - 11:36am
A billion-dollar industry
The writer is a New York-based journalist with extensive writing experience on foreign affairs, diplomacy, global economics and international trade.

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私は、直言「さようなら「新聞を読んで」」を出してこう書いた。 「・・・「新聞をラジオで語る」という二重にアナログ的な手法は「古い」のかもしれない。でも、人々がすべて地デジやネットに向かうわけでもない。「多種多様化」しているからこそ、最も「古い」タイプのものが存在する意味があるのではないか。半世紀以上続いたこの番組を廃止するにあたって、新聞の「古さ」を念頭に置いたNHK上層部の判断には疑問が残る」と。














なお、トランプが、批判的メディアのことを「国民の敵」(The enemy of the people)としたことに対して、全米の400を超える新聞がトランプ批判の社説を一斉に出して、報道の自由を訴えた(『朝日新聞』8月18日付)。「米国の偉大さは、権力者にも真実を突きつける自由な報道機関に支えられている」(ボストングローブ紙)。日本の新聞も、「新聞を読むな」という圧力に抗して、安倍政権に対するチェックをしっかり行うべきだろう。

早稲田大学 水島朝穂のホームページ、2018年8月27日

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note、2018/05/22 06:35
考えない日本の私 − さとり世代として

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No safe level of alcohol

PARIS: Even an occasional glass of wine or beer increases the risk of health problems and dying, according to a major study on drinking in 195 nations that attributes 2.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year to booze.

“There is no safe level of alcohol,” said Max Griswold, a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington and lead author for a consortium of more than 500 experts.

Despite recent research showing that light-to-moderate drinking reduces heart disease, the new study found that alcohol use is more likely than not to do harm.

“The protective effect of alcohol was offset by the risks,” Griswold told AFP in summarising the results, published in medical journal The Lancet on Friday.

“Overall, the health risks associated with alcohol rose in line with the amount consumed each day.”

Compared to abstinence, imbibing one “standard drink” – 10 grammes of alcohol, equivalent to a small beer, glass of wine or shot of spirits – per day, for example, ups the odds of developing at least one of two dozen health problems by about half-a-percent, the researchers reported.

Looked at one way, that seems like a small increment: 914 out of 100,000 teetotallers will encounter those problems, compared to 918 people who imbibe seven times per week.

“But at the global level, that additional risk of 0.5 percent among (once-a-day) drinkers corresponds to about 100,000 additional deaths each year,” said senior author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington and a director at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“Those are excess deaths, in other words, that could be avoided,” she told AFP.

The risk climbs in a steep “J-curve“, the study found.

An average of two drinks per day, for example, translated into a 7.0 percent hike in disease and injury compared to those who opt for abstinence.

With five “units” of alcohol per day, the likelihood of serious consequences jumps by 37 percent.

The “less is better, none is best” finding jibes with the World Health Organization’s long-standing position, but is at odds with many national guidelines, especially in the developed world.

Britain’s health authority, for example, suggests not exceeding 14 drinks per week “to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level.”

“There is always a lag between the publication of new evidence and the modification and adoption of revised guidelines,” said Gakidou, who admitted to being an “occasional drinker” herself.

“The evidence shows what the evidence shows, and I – like 2.4 billion other people on the planet that also consume alcohol – need to take it seriously.”

Overall, drinking was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease in 2016, accounting for just over two percent of deaths in women and nearly seven percent in men.

The top six killers are high blood pressure, smoking, low-birth weight and premature delivery, high blood sugar (diabetes), obesity and pollution.

But in the 15-49 age bracket, alcohol emerged as the most lethal factor, responsible for more than 12 percent of deaths among men, the study found.

The main causes of alcohol-related deaths in this age group were tuberculosis, road injuries and “self-harm“, mainly suicide.

King’s College London professor Robyn Burton, who did not take part in the study, described it as “the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol use to date.”

The examination of impacts drew from more than 600 earlier studies, while a country-by-country tally of prevalence – the percentage of men and women who drink, and how much they consume – drew from another 700.

Both were grounded in new methods that compensated for the shortcomings of earlier efforts.

Among men, drinking alcohol in 2016 was most widespread in Denmark (97 percent), along with Norway, Argentina, Germany, and Poland (94 percent).

In Asia, South Korean men took the lead, with 91 percent hitting the bottle at least once in a while.

Among women, Danes also ranked first (95 percent), followed by Norway (91 percent), Germany and Argentina (90 percent), and New Zealand (89 percent).

The biggest drinkers, however, were found elsewhere.

Men in Romania who partake knocked back a top-scoring eight drinks a day on average, with Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Ukraine just behind at seven “units” per day.

Ukranian women who drink were in a league of their own, putting away more than four glasses or shots every 24 hours, followed by Andorra, Luxembourg, Belarus, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Britain, all averaging about three per day.

The most abstemious nations were those with Muslim-majority populations.

Even an occasional glass of wine or beer increases the risk of health problems and dying, according to a major study on drinking in 195 nations that attributes 2.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year to booze.

New Straits Times, Published: August 24, 2018 - 7:07am
Zero tolerance: no safe level of alcohol, study says

Drinking a glass of French red a day will not keep the doctor away, a major new study reveals.

People who live very long and happy lives will often claim that it was drinking a glass of red wine -- or maybe even a glass of brandy in the morning -- that has kept them going for so long.

And the French wine industry has even gone to great lengths to dispute the claim by France's Health Minister Agnes Buzyn that wine was just as dangerous as any other alcohol.

But, according to a major new study into the effects of drinking alcohol, even an occasional glass of wine or beer increases the risk of health problems and dying.

The report, which attributes 2.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year to booze claims no amount of drinking is good for you.

"There is no safe level of alcohol," said Max Griswold, a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington and lead author for a consortium of more than 500 experts.

Despite recent research showing that light-to-moderate drinking reduces heart disease, the new study found that alcohol use is more likely than not to do harm.

"The protective effect of alcohol was offset by the risks," Griswold told AFP in summarising the results, published in medical journal The Lancet on Friday.

"Overall, the health risks associated with alcohol rose in line with the amount consumed each day."

Compared to abstinence, imbibing one "standard drink" -- 10 grammes of alcohol, equivalent to a small beer, glass of wine or shot of spirits -- per day, for example, ups the odds of developing at least one of two dozen health problems by about half-a-percent, the researchers reported.

Looked at one way, that seems like a small increment: 914 out of 100,000 teetotallers will encounter those problems, compared to 918 people who imbibe seven times per week.

"But at the global level, that additional risk of 0.5 percent among (once-a-day) drinkers corresponds to about 100,000 additional deaths each year," said senior author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington and a director at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

No doubt the news will be enough to galvanise France's wine producers once again.

Wine-making and drinking is intrinsically French, produced for centuries in all regions of France and central to the country's economy.

There is even a wine marathon in the Medoc wine growing region in which participants are served glasses of red at drink stations. and Bordeaux is home to the €81 million Cité du Vin, described as the biggest wine museum in the world.

In France, the wine market is worth €28.3 billion ($32 billion) in 2015, France remains by far the largest exporter in terms of market share value, with 29 percent, equivalent to €8.2 billion.

However, the number of people drinking wine in France does seem to be dropping.

On average the French drink around 44 litres of wine each per year, a steep drop on the 160 litres downed annually by the average adult in 1965.

Perhaps this report will be enough to make it drop even further.

AFP/The Local, 24 August 2018 13:14 CEST+02:00
Drinking glass of French red a day not good for health, major study reveals

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Trump's impeachment warning

US President Donald Trump and his allies tried to head off mounting talk of his impeachment Thursday, warning it would sink the world's largest economy and spark a public "revolt."

After Trump was implicated as a co-conspirator in two campaign finance violations, both of them federal felonies, he and his closest advisors offered dire words of caution about the consequences of removing him from office.

"I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor," the president warned in an interview aired Thursday on talk show "Fox and Friends."

"I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job."

The president's personal lawyer-cum-spokesman Rudy Giuliani echoed that stark warning, hinting at political unrest.

"You would only impeach him for political reasons and the American people would revolt against that," he told Sky News while on a golf course in Scotland.

The comments came after two of Trump's former top aides -- onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime lawyer Michael Cohen -- were found guilty of various financial crimes in a one-two punch for the president.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in the form of hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump, which he said he committed at the behest of the then-candidate.

Although Cohen did not name the women, they were believed to be porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, making Trump an -- as yet -- unindicted co-conspirator.

In another hammer blow Thursday, The Wall Street Journal and other US media reported that the CEO of tabloid publisher American Media, David Pecker, has been given immunity by prosecutors investigating the payments, opening a new area of vulnerability for Trump.

Pecker's company publishes the National Enquirer.

A president can be removed from office by Congress for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

- 'Will not be improperly influenced' -

As the legal net closed in on Trump, he renewed attacks on his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an apparent attempt to have him squash awkward investigations that could endanger the president.

The president has repeatedly berated Sessions for recusing himself from the federal probe into Russian election meddling, which has expanded into questions of collusion and obstruction of justice as well as the financial dealings of Trump associates.

"I put in an attorney general that never took control of the justice department," he complained to Fox News, fueling rumors he may fire Sessions and install someone more pliant.

That prompted Sessions to fire back that he would not be swayed, in a remarkable public broadside.

"While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations," he said.

Lawmakers from Trump's own Republican Party warned the president they would not confirm a new attorney general if Sessions -- a former senator -- was fired.

"It would be a very, very, very bad idea to fire the attorney general because he's not executing his job as a political hack," said Senator Ben Sasse.

- Hush payments 'not a crime'? -

Trump's story about Cohen's payments has changed multiple times over the past year, and in the Fox interview aired Thursday, he tried several ways of defusing the allegations.

Trump claimed his former lawyer "made the deals," and insisted that Cohen's actions were "not a crime," while going on to claim that "campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly."

Trump then said the hush payments were financed with his own money -- to which Cohen had access -- and that while he had no knowledge of them at the time, he had since been fully transparent.

In entering a guilty plea, Cohen said under oath that the payments were made "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" -- a clear reference to Trump.

Cohen also has pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud.

- Cooperating 'almost ought to be outlawed' -

In the sit-down with Fox, Trump slammed his once close associate for "flipping," saying it "almost ought to be outlawed."

Trump conversely praised Manafort for going to trial -- the first case stemming from Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe to go before a jury -- and eschewing a plea deal.

Asked if he was considering a pardon for Manafort, Trump told Fox only that he has "great respect for what he has done, in terms of what he has gone through."

On Thursday, Trump ignored questions from the press on the issue.

But Giuliani floated the idea that Manafort -- who faces more charges more directly related to the Russia probe -- should hold out for a pardon.

Recounting pardon discussions with Trump, Giuliani told The Washington Post: "We told him he should wait until all the investigations are over."

"The real concern is whether Mueller would turn any pardon into an obstruction charge," Giuliani said.

As Washington grapples with the latest upheaval in Trump's stormy presidency, the brash leader appears adamant on riding it out.

US President Donald Trump was dealt back-to-back blows in the cases of his former lawyer Michael Cohen (L) and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort (R).

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was one of Trump's earliest supporters, but their relationship quickly soured when Trump took office.

AFP, Published: 24 AUG 2018
Team Trump warns impeachment would prompt revolt, economic crash

My inbox was full on Wednesday. Michael Cohen. Paul Manafort. Collusion! Corruption! Grifter! Crook! These were the words that kept popping up in emails from people who see Cohen’s plea deal as a vindication of their deeply held opinions of the president. Trump supporters who emailed me had a different set of themes: Mueller, Clinton, Obama, double standards, conspiracy − all the way up to ruling-class privilege.

The president’s detractors claim that Cohen’s plea agreement proves that President Trump violated campaign finance regulations. It does no such thing. For example, the payment to Stormy Daniels was, according to Rudy Giuliani, reimbursed − and was therefore a personal expenditure. There is a strong legal case that even in the context of a political campaign, paying hush money, while tawdry, is not illegal.

More to the point, since when did campaign finance violations become this country’s idea of an impeachable offense? There is simply no precedent for imposing the political equivalent of the death penalty in such cases. The Obama campaign paid $375,000 in fines for its violations of election law. A similar case was unsuccessfully brought against the former Senator John Edwards for payments he made to keep an adulterous affair secret while he was running for president.

Given all this, and Justice Department guidelines against indicting a sitting president, we are left with a situation in which Democrats seeking adjudication of their allegations would have to pursue impeachment in the House and, if they were successful there, a subsequent trial in the Senate. But any such action is fraught with political peril. Turning the midterms into a referendum on impeachment could easily backfire.

Campaign finance laws exist to ensure that the ability to influence elections is contained within prescribed boundaries. In other words, any violation of those laws represents illegal influence on an election. But if campaign finance violations now become impeachable offenses, what does the future hold? For one thing, elections wouldn’t be able to settle anything. If a new precedent is set lowering the bar for removing a president from office, we will see more attempts to invoke that precedent and nullify elections. This would simply repeat what is happening now: an attempt to change a political conflict into a legal one.

Separately: If you haven’t read Jonathan Rauch’s essay (*) from Wednesday on the missing link between prosperity and happiness, you should. It’s thoughtful and original.

The New York Times, Published: Aug. 23, 2018
Why Are We Talking About Impeachment?

If campaign finance violations qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors, elections won’t be able to settle anything.

By Christopher Buskirk

(*) Jonathan Rauch’s essay

Why Prosperity Has Increased but Happiness Has Not

Our well-being is local and relative − if you live in a struggling area and your status is slipping, even if you are relatively comfortable, you are probably at least a bit miserable.


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Addressing the world's most pressing problem

It is not merely an economic issue, but a political and moral one as well.

INEQUALITY, or the widening ratio between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, is fast becoming an issue with dire political and moral considerations.

Both the 2016 “Brexit” referendum and the election of Donald Trump were made possible by disgruntled voters who were fed up with the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

In Asia, inequality is likewise quickly becoming a political issue. China was one of the most equal societies in the 1980s but is now one of the least so. Chinese leaders have attempted to redistribute wealth more equally but many still feel unjust. Although China does not have free elections, fears remain among the Communist Party of a rising anti-elite sentiment. In Southeast Asia, the economic success of the Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) nations has overshadowed the resulting inequalities. Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have one of the highest GINI coefficients (a higher coefficient indicates less equitable income distribution) in the developed world.

Inequality is driven by globalisation and technological change. In 1997, economist Dani Rodrik warned that the social costs for countries opening up to trade had been underestimated. Countries made their goods more competitive by lowering costs, in particular wages. Consequently, unions were abolished, and labour became cheaper. Wages entered freefall and unemployment figures increased.

According to Oxfam International, 82 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest one per cent of the global population while 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth. Oxfam attributes rising inequality to wage restraint, tax dodging, and the squeezing of suppliers by profit-hungry companies.

There are two main groups: the world’s poorest five per cent and the middle and lower-middle classes in advanced countries and in some emerging countries. Much of contemporary discussion revolves around the middle and lower-middle classes. Collectively, this group represents the 75th to 90th percentile of global income distribution.

Although they are not necessarily poor, their real income gains are essentially zero owing to uneven income distribution. They have been locked out of economic growth since the 1980s. The perception that market gains have gone disproportionately to the top one per cent has bred discontent among this group.

Multiple factors explain why this group has been left behind. Skills-biased technological change is one main source. Workers have also received a declining share of income in the last 30 years as business-owners profit from productivity gains. The reduced role of unions has also suppressed wages. Demographic processes (for example, an ageing society) also contribute to greater inequality.

Rising inequality entails large social costs. Countries with wider income gaps tend to have worse health and social problems. Their citizens tend to have worse physical and mental health, and homicide rates are higher. At a macro level, inequality is a source of social conflict within a country and dampens a country’s overall growth. It has resulted in dissatisfied populations who want greater political accountability.

There is great pressure to address inequality. In 2018, an Oxfam-commissioned global study surveyed 700,000 people across 10 countries and found that nearly two-thirds of all respondents thought that the gap between the rich and the poor needed to be urgently addressed.

Inequality is best tackled at multiple levels. At the national level, ensuring that the wealthy pay fair taxes is key. Governments could also look at increasing spending on public services such as healthcare and education and making them more widely available. The main idea is to compensate those who have been hurt by inequality.

To this end, Asean countries have addressed the issue in a number of ways. In Singapore, income inequality remains high despite past government efforts to mitigate the issue. The Singapore government recently announced that it would tackle inequality early during a child’s pre-school years to level the playing field and allow those who would have been left behind to close the inequality gap.

In Malaysia, the government has addressed inequality through several initiatives, including raising minimum wage, and narrowing the gender pay gap. While these have helped, concerns remain over savings inequality and an uneven tax system. In Thailand, both state and national governments have launched programmes that feature innovative methods tackling economic inequality. These methods include e-commerce coaching, micro-loan provisions, and vocational training.

At the global level, inequality is a top concern. This is reflected by its inclusion as the 10th Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations. International organisations (IOs) such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank have huge roles to play in closing the North-South divide. This support could be in terms of financial assistance, differential treatment in trade, and capacity building initiatives.

IOs and other civil society actors have also proposed or implemented policies that would help assuage the divide. For example, Christine Largarde, managing director of IMF, has called for better wealth distribution and for countries to embrace inclusive growth. This entails greater emphasis on retraining and vocational training, preparation for technological advances, and stronger fiscal policies. Separately, Oxfam’s recommendations for businesses include limiting returns to shareholders and management and ensuring that workers receive a minimum “living” wage.

Inequality is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed lest policymakers be held accountable by discontented citizens. Having borne witness to what has happened in the West (e.g. Trump, Brexit), policymakers in Asean countries should take heed and address inequality adequately through domestic policies and leveraging multilateral initiatives.

Policymakers in Asean should address inequality, otherwise discontented citizens will hold them accountable.

New Straits Times, Published: August 21, 2018 - 8:43am
Addressing the world's most pressing problem
By Amanda Huan
Amanda Huan is a senior analyst with the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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米中対立と日中改善 −− 。「日米同盟基軸」以外の選択肢を持たない安倍政権にとっては、相反する外交ベクトルの進行である。「板挟み」状態と言ってもいい。北京もそこを突いて「友好」カードを切ってくるかもしれない。


田中明彦・政策研究大学院大学学長は、外務省発行の隔月刊誌「外交」 で「全体像を示した戦略文書を早期に公表することが望ましい」と提言した。「戦略の全体像」が見えないと言っているのだ。さらに相澤輝昭・笹川平和財団海洋政策研究所特任研究員は、「日本政府、外務省が実際には何をしようとしているのか、その実践の部分がなかなか見えて来ない」とも書く(笹川平和財団「海洋安全保障情報特報」)。


Business Insider、Published: Aug. 21, 2018, 05:20 AM

岡田充 [共同通信客員論説委員](*)

(*) 岡田充

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an ill-functioning democracy

WILL Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad step down on May 9, 2020 after holding office for two years? Nine years after being appointed as independent directors of public-listed companies (PLCs), why must shareholders vote for their reappointment every year instead of every three years?

Both issues spotlight the merits and drawbacks of term limits.

In theory, term limits are necessary to prevent a concentration of power at top echelons of the political hierarchy while a tenure exceeding nine years could threaten the independence of a PLC director.

Under the Securities Commission's Code on Corporate Governance, extending the tenure of an independent director of a PLC beyond the ninth year requires the approval of shareholders annually.

Arguably, if the electoral process is fair to both incumbents and challengers, elections are held regularly and voters are given a real opportunity to terminate the tenure of the prime minister (PM), why is there a need for term limits?

Similarly, if all directors must be re-elected at regular intervals by shareholders at the annual general meeting, doesn't this render the annual re-election of independent directors redundant?

One argument against term limits is it restricts the options available to voters and shareholders.

Richard Briffault, professor of legislation at Columbia Law School and vice-chairman of Citizens Union in the US, describes term limits as "the denial of the democratic right to vote for the candidate of voters' choice".

A classic example is the US. Because American presidents are legally prohibited from contesting for a third term of office, President Barack Obama was forced to be a non-contender in the November 2016 presidential elections.

Assuming term limits are desirable, a more difficult question is determining how long should a person remain in office. Too short a term could render the leader ineffective while a too-long tenure risks entrenching the incumbent.

Another related issue is whether term limits should also apply to state chieftains. In the US, only 37 out of 50 states impose term limits for governors while similar restrictions for legislators prevail only in 15 states.

Interestingly, Promise 12 in Pakatan Harapan's (PH) manifesto titled "Buku Harapan" adopts an all-encompassing approach – the tenure for the prime minister, mentri besar and chief minister is limited to two terms.

Writing in The Chronicles of Philanthropy, Rick Moyers points out two disadvantages of term limits. First is the lack of continuity, particularly if one term is very short.

"Making important decisions about an organisation's mission and direction requires in-depth knowledge and an understanding of history and context," he says.

"Frequent changes of leaders may risk the organisation becoming "rudderless," he suggests.

Second, term limits can be used as an excuse not to address performance issues, he adds. Why bother to discuss a board director's poor performance if the incumbent will be rotated out soon, he suggests?

In the US, few presidents have attempted to remedy deep-seated intractable economic problems. One example is the typical American worker's stagnant earnings totalling US$44,500 a year; adjusted for inflation, this is roughly the same pay as 40 years ago.

Why initiate remedial action that could take years to implement, requires elusive bipartisan support, risks angering strong vested interests while the benefits are visible only after the incumbent's eight-year tenure?

In Malaysia, after nine years, independent directors must be re-elected annually or be re-designated non-independent – a requirement that could discourage companies from extending their tenure. Lacking capable and highly experienced directors could inhibit PLCs from venturing into areas that are high risk but profitable and with long lead times.

Proponents for term limits argue in developing countries where the ruling party has held the reins of power for decades, possesses the ability to utilise vast public resources during the election campaign and can amend electoral procedures to enhance their chances of winning re-election, term limits may be deemed essential.

Malaysia's recent 14th General Election (GE14) is one example. The Election Commission disallowed the registration of the opposition coalition PH, polling was held on a Wednesday instead of the more usual Saturday while Mahathir's photo was cut out from campaign billboards.

Ironically, such unfair tactics made voters even more determined to defeat the ruling Barisan National coalition.

Instead of instituting term limits, some analysts argue a two-pronged approach is needed – reduce the power of political and corporate decision-makers and institute strong checks and balances.

Writing in Americas Quarterly, Patricia Navia argues the push to eliminate presidential term limits should be seen as a symptom of an ill-functioning democracy rather than its cause. It would be wiser, therefore, to fight the disease itself – not the symptoms, she adds.

Whether in politics or in the corporate world, the disease requiring an urgent cure is a leader enjoying untrammelled power without significant restraints.

The SunDaily, Posted on 23 August 2018 - 09:18am
Fight the disease, not the symptoms
By Tan Siok Choo
Opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any organisation she is connected with.

[Read more]

Patricia Navia, Limit the Power of Presidents, Not their Term in Office

Steven Griner, Term Limits can Check Corruption and Promote Political Accountability

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Challenges facing 'The Alliance of Hope'

There is still much to be done by the new government.

THERE is little sense in grading a new government on its performance in its first 100 days in office especially if it has just replaced the world’s longest running coalition in power.

Pakatan Harapan itself had set the stage for this evaluation by pledging to fulfil 10 promises within 100 days in its election manifesto. The 100 days idea is nothing more than a political fad that originated with the Franklin Roosevelt presidency in the United States of America. It is totally inappropriate in our context following the monumental challenges that have unfolded which require an appraisal that is non-partisan, fair, continuous and comprehensive.

It is that sort of appraisal that society should provide as feedback to the PH government. The aim would be to encourage the positive dimensions in PH’s governance and to caution against negative aspects of its performance.

Since corruption and abuse of power associated with the previous Barisan Nasional government was a major factor in its downfall, the PH leadership is doing the right thing in exposing the terrible wrongdoings related to the 1MDB scandal and other financial shortcomings.

Understandably, the focus has been former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and the seizure of handbags, jewellery and other expensive acquisitions. In the course of these revelations, the Malaysian public has become acutely aware of the debts that the government had accumulated in recent years. In order to reduce these debts, mammoth projects undertaken with Chinese companies and the Singapore government have had to be cancelled or postponed.

The PH government has also sought to address some of the woes of the people as expressed during the election campaign. It has abolished the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST), stabilised the price of petrol and postponed the repayment of PTPTN loans for graduates whose salaries are below RM4,000 per month.

While these are among the positive measures, one should not ignore the gross errors and outright fumbles committed by the new government and entities associated with it. I shall highlight just one. For a short while in July, Malaysia found itself in an embarrassing situation with two chief justices. It arose partly because in hastening a transition of authority in the judiciary, respect for the independence and integrity of the institution was set aside.

In spite of this, the PH government continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the vast majority of the people as reflected in a number of surveys. It is perceived as sincere in its endeavour to rectify the shortcomings of the previous government.

Nonetheless, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his government will be facing monumental challenges in the days ahead.

Even in combating corruption − PH has yet to present to Parliament a bill to regulate political financing and to make electoral funding transparent.

The declaration of assets and liabilities of ministers and deputy ministers at the federal level to the public through the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is awaiting implementation.

Other proposals on barring close relatives of power-holders from bidding for federal or state government contracts and projects or on minimising and eliminating the role of “middle-men” and proxies in procurement exercises involving federal and state entities have not been pursued with vigour.

Strengthening democracy has been largely about rescinding laws such as the Sedition Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), among others. But even this remains an unfulfilled promise. However, enhancing human rights must mean more than rescinding authoritarian laws. Some of the vile and vicious excesses of social media have convinced a lot of human rights advocates of the importance of integrating rights with responsibilities. A more profound commitment to responsibilities at all levels could help develop a deeper attachment to the principle of amanah (trust) which, in turn, will reinforce the spiritual-moral foundation of life and society.

An equally crucial challenge confronting the PH government is the situation of the relatively poor and disadvantaged. Increasing and equalising the minimum wage nationally is one of the prominent pledges. The government is also very much aware of the need to improve the quality of public housing, public education, public healthcare, public transportation, and public amenities in general, which will impact positively upon the life of the poor. But there is no sign yet to suggest that PH is moving in that direction in a concerted manner.

The other fundamental challenge revolves around ethnic relations. Remarks and demands made in the first 100 days reveal ethnic and religious fault lines that the coalition has not dealt with as a grouping. For instance, the uneasiness among some Malays caused by certain senior government appointments indicates not only a lack of appreciation of the Constitution but also points to a superficial understanding of what citizenship in a modern society entails.

Similarly, inaccurate views about the ethnicity of ancient communities in the region, the flow of peoples within Nusantara and the reality of colonial migration and its adverse impact contemporary ethnic relations, show how much ignorance prevails among PH leaders. One gets the impression that PH has not really imbued its leadership and membership with knowledge and understanding of how the Malaysian nation-state evolved essentially from Malay sultanates shaped by the colonial experience and the non-Malay presence. Without such understanding, it will be difficult to navigate ethnic relations in the country.

PH has also got to deal with the calls for greater autonomy from the citizens of Sarawak and Sabah. Enforcing the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 is a PH promise though very little appears to have been done in concrete terms.

Forging a foreign policy of dignity that safeguards Malaysia’s independence and sovereignty has become a much greater challenge today than it was when Dr Mahathir first became prime minister in 1981. The United States’ negative response to the rise of China in recent decades has transformed Asean into a potential cockpit of conflict. To minimise tension and to avert serious friction, Malaysia together with its Asean neighbours will have to engage not just the US and China but also other states in Asia such as Japan, the Koreas, India and Pakistan in constructive dialogue.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad greeting the people after Hari Raya Aidiladha prayers at Masjid Negara on Wednesday. While the new government continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the people, it will be facing monumental challenges in the days ahead.

New Straits Times, Published: August 24, 2018 - 8:15am
Challenges facing PH
The writer is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Perpaduan Malaysia.

* The Alliance of Hope (Malay: Pakatan Harapan; abbrev: PH)

* 'Hari Raya Haji' is the local Malaysian name for the Muslim holiday of 'Eid al Adha', “the Feast of Sacrifice”. It is also called “Hari Raya Korban” and, in by pronouncing what are normally three words as one, “Aidiladha”.

THERE'S never been a dull moment on the news front since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government took over Putrajaya following the May 9 general election.

Gone are the days when journalists as newshounds had to deal with run-of-the-mill news stories coming from ministers or government officials as was the norm in the past.

This past week or two has been particularly stimulating for reporters, always on the lookout for what they call a good story or a story with a high news value. In fact, they have never had it so good as now.

One such news story is the revelation by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that the previous Barisan Nasional government had failed to return over RM16 billion in income tax and real property gains tax refunds to individuals, businesses and organisations over the last six years due to a shortfall.

Prior to this, Lim had also disclosed that the previous government had not returned more than RM19 billion in goods and services tax (GST) refunds to businesses although it was statutorily required to do so within 14 days.

The finance minister said this was because the then government had considered the money as revenue and used up the funds.

I spoke to one of the country's top corporate leaders on this and he admitted to being thoroughly disgusted after knowing such things were happening.

"People like us have to slog so hard to pay hundreds of millions in taxes to the government only to know so much money has gone haywire," he said.

Commenting on this, former second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said questions over unreturned income tax returns should be directed at former treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah and Inland Revenue Board (IRD) chief executive officer Datuk Sabin Samitah.

Irwan was relieved of his duties soon after the new government came to power.

Johari told a daily that the government should lodge a police report if there were elements of criminal breach of trust. Besides being head of the treasury, Irwan was also then chairman of IRD.

"I'm surprised that he didn't pick up all this," Johari told me.

Then came another startling news the PH government had terminated the privatised contracts awarded to two companies, which have been collecting traffic offenders' summonses under the Automated Enforcement System (AES) in what has been described as one of the most lopsided deals ever signed.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced that over 3.1 million unpaid summonses worth RM435 million would be cancelled and the Road Transport Department would fully take over its operations from next month.

The juiciest bit in this remarkable political will to nullify summons arrears had to come from Loke himself when he described the AES agreement as a document that "only a fool would sign".

Even if all the outstanding fines were collected, the money won't go to the government but would be paid to the two concessionaires whose operating expenditure was mainly in installing cameras to nab traffic offenders.

God only knows how such a deal was worked out and clinched in the first place and some have questioned, too, the role of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) here. The EPU is supposed to be the agency to scrutinise privatised deals and protect the nation's economic interest.

"It was a very lop-sided deal that mostly benefited the two companies, which was why the government decided to cancel it. We also disagree that enforcement be privatised," said Loke. The AES took off in 2012 and almost RM129 million was paid to the two companies since then in two-tier payments.

After the fines were later reduced from RM300 to RM150 following a public outcry, the companies virtually laughed all the way to the bank because the whole amount from the reduced summonses went to them with the government never benefiting from it.

Another shocking news that Loke unravelled was that in 2015, the government instructed Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera or the Armed Forces Fund Board, which was set up to help boost the welfare of ex-servicemen, to take over the two companies by paying a whopping RM555 million in compensation.

Some NGOs, concerned with our ex-soldiers and the like, have cried foul over this and have demanded a further probe. Such sweet deals given away at the public or nation's expense should no longer be allowed in the future.

But to me as a journalist, the best news story of late came from none other than Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself.

He told civil servants as well as military and police personnel not to be so blindly loyal to the government to the extent they are willing to break the law if asked to.

In other words, government officers who find that their instructions, usually from ministers, are clearly wrong or criminal in nature should not obey such orders.

Using an extreme analogy, he said: "If, as the prime minister, I order you to kill someone, should you do it? There's a difference between an instruction in accordance with certain policies and an order to commit a crime," he said.

This is the first time in the history of the civil service as well as the police and the military that such a clear-cut instruction has come from the prime minister himself and it would make people, like the secretaries-general of ministries and the directors-general as heads of departments, have a clear directive and conscience in this crucial matter.

I know for a fact that there have been cases in the past when these top civil servants had been transferred out or put to pasture so to speak for not obeying such orders from their political bosses because such instructions were against rules and regulations.

The prime minister put the icing on the cake on Wednesday when he announced in China that the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), originally slated to cost RM55 billion and the contract already awarded to a Chinese group, would now be cancelled.

There is no way that this project, whose final costs were reportedly expected to hit over RM70 billion, would ever be viable whichever way we look at it and are the kind of ventures that Mahathir said could only worsen the country's debts and lead to bankruptcy.

While Loke had said only fools could sign a contract such as for the AES, Mahathir pointed out when referring to the ECRL that Malaysia had never before witnessed such foolishness in negotiating contracts.

As he put it: "Such stupidity has never been seen in the history of Malaysia".

This would result in massive compensation, which would be worked out while Malaysia must find a way to exit the ECRL at the lowest cost possible.

"But this is our own people's stupidity. We can't blame the Chinese for that," the prime minister said.

The cancellation of the ECRL under construction once again not only is a manifestation of the government's political will but political will of the highest order.

The SunDaily, Posted on 24 August 2018 - 08:21am
Never a dull moment news-wise
By Azman Ujang

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To boost multilateralism

As the role of states wanes, countries that provide space and incentives for non-state actors stand a better chance at achieving meaningful progress.

AMIDST the ongoing trade tensions, the High Level Political Forum, the United Nation’s meeting to review progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ended on a sobering note last month. A ministerial declaration, the outcome of the forum, while adopted, was put to a vote and agreed by all but two countries in the world, with a United States being one of those that voted against it.

To the casual observer, this may seem like looking at the glass half empty. Only two countries out of 193 did not agree to a declaration that merely reaffirmed the international commitment to SDGs and, admittedly, may not have much of an impact on the ground anyway. However, the declaration fell short of an international consensus, with the mantra “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, and with the US − the largest donor in foreign aid − voting against it, it loses a degree of legitimacy. More importantly, diplomatically, it is a sign that the current strains on multilateralism in trade and security are now spilling into development cooperation.

The lack of cooperation is not only in rhetoric but can also be seen in foreign aid flow. The UN’s agreed target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development aid by developing countries continues to be missed, with only five of 29 countries meeting this target. More worryingly, foreign aid has declined with countries’ spending 0.31 per cent of their combined gross national income in 2017, down from 0.32 per cent in 2016.

This has impacted efforts to resolve global development issues. The SDG review, which monitors 17 goals and 169 targets on global development priorities, shows some worrying trends. Among them, 2.3 billion people lack a basic level of sanitation service while almost one billion people have no access to electricity.

Alarmingly, these challenges will only get worse, being amplified by conflict, climate change and growing inequalities. For example, after significant progress made previously, we are now seeing an increase in the number of undernourished people, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mainly due to conflicts and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change.

As a consequence, some have said the SDGs are merely acting as a tool to monitor our demise rather than as a framework for action. At a time when UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns that “as today’s problems grow ever more global, multilateralism is more important than ever”, the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation and institutions is being questioned.

Looking at the glass half full, however, there can be reason for some degree of optimism by observing the High Level Political Forum. Much of it came not from governments, though, at least not national governments.

More than 200 mayors from all over the world attended the meeting, with New York City presenting the first ever voluntary local review on SDGs and paving the way in demonstrating how cities can take the lead in sustainable development. The Republic of Ireland gained plaudits by having youth delegates as part of its national review presentation.

Malaysia’s very own Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh used her celebrity status and UN Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador role to promote sustainable fashion.

While there is nothing new about the involvement of non-governmental individuals and organisations within the multilateral process, now municipalities, NGOs, youths, academics and other stakeholders are playing a leading role in intergovernmental forums.

This raises two important points. Firstly, the decision-making structure under the auspices of the UN General Assembly based on “one state, one vote” is becoming less and less relevant. As the outcomes in the form of declarations are being questioned, those that are influential in mobilising action − governments or otherwise − are the key players in such a forum. Powerful networks of businesses, NGOs and academics − often from developed countries − have emerged to become influential in shaping the agenda at the UN.

Secondly, the positions that countries take during the negotiations may not necessarily reflect what is happening domestically. New York City is a case in point, where despite the US current distrust of the multilateral system, the city is strongly advocating implementation of the SDGs.

Both points above suggest that countries that have strong capacities beyond government − such as civil societies, academics and businesses − that are involved in development issues will fare better at both diplomatic and domestic implementation levels. Countries and governments, including Malaysia, should take note of this and support non-government entities that can contribute to development cooperation and action.

At a time when identity politics and economic nationalism threaten to dominate both national and international politics, countries that provide the space and incentives for various stakeholders to participate and contribute to development goals will stand a better chance at balancing diplomatic outcomes with meaningful progress.

Flags of member states are pictured outside the United Nations in Geneva on Feb 27.

New Straits Times, Published: August 21, 2018 - 8:49am
Look beyond govt to boost multilateralism
By By Alizan Mahadi
The writer is fellow, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia.

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● 失言議員続出の裏で ささやかれる「質の低下」の原因








● 見栄えと経歴の良さで決まる!? 候補者選びの眼力も低下








● SNSで露呈する 勉強不足や人間性の問題






Yahoo! Japan News、8/23(木) 6:00配信
[Source]--Diamond Online

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The living Years

THE social media was abuzz with a story that went viral recently about a young bride who passed away less than 24 hours after her wedding. She was Fatin Nursyahirah Yusuf, and her brother, Shukur, shared the moving story in his Facebook account about his younger sister whom the family fondly called Kakak.

Fatin, who had Stage Four sarcoma cancer, passed away soon after the solemnisation ceremony.

“God loves her more and she left us at dawn on Saturday with Mama, Abah (father), her husband, Mak Besah, and myself by her side,” Shukur wrote in the post.

The amazing thing was that her husband, Azzam and his whole family had decided to proceed with the ceremony despite Fatin’s worsening condition. It was the least they could do to fulfil her last wish.

“It was a new motivation for Kakak as Azzam was determined to make her his wife. Only God knows the level of his sincerity, accepting an ailing person into his life. His family was equally great, supporting his decision to proceed with the wedding. We’re grateful that God had sent them into Kakak’s life, people with clean hearts and pure intention to find her a cure as well as provide emotional support,” wrote Shukur.


This story is a great lesson and reminder for all. Firstly, it shows that love is a powerful remedy for the soul. Even in her dying hours, Fatin could smile radiantly in her wedding dress. Azzam would not let anything come in the way of their love, not even terminal cancer.

Love is indeed eternal. A person may die but true love lives forever. Secondly, we should not take anyone for granted, much less our loved ones. Unfortunately, many people do. They get stuck in the “love comfort zone” where they stop trying to enhance or even express their love.

Do we wait for our loved ones to pass on before we begin to miss them? A better strategy is to make it count while they’re still around. Ensure that we spend time together and appreciate them regularly. Better still, surprise them occasionally to show our love. Whether it’s for our spouse or children, we don’t have to wait for special occasions.

Create opportunities to mend broken relationships. Appreciate what the family has done for us even if we do not like it. Chances are, their intention was noble, even if their method wasn’t to our liking.

After all, we’re their flesh and blood and they only want the best for us. At the end of the day, life is too short to be disconnected from our own family. Regardless of the difference, there will surely be a way out for all. We just have to continue connecting and not follow our negative emotions too much.

Just like that popular 80s song The Living Years reminds us:

Say it loud, say it clear

You can listen as well as you hear

It’s too late when we die

To admit we don’t see eye to eye

Fatin Nursyahirah Yusuf passed away less than 24 hours after her wedding.

New Straits Times, Published: August 18, 2018 - 2:15pm
Make your love count while your loved ones are around
By Zaid Mohamad
Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces.

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got

You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts

So Don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up, and don't give in
You may just be OK.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

I wasn't there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

Mike & The Mechanics - The living Years

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