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7 March 2015

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The following information was released by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA):

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) today urged the Malaysian government to ensure that the “Kita Lawan” rally tomorrow (7 March 2015), organised by the opposition and civil society groups to express solidarity with opposition leader and former Deputy Prime MinisterAnwar Ibrahim, will be allowed to proceed peacefully. Anwar was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on trumped up sodomy charges. The expression of support by the regional human rights group for the rally and the right of Malaysians’ to peaceful assembly came in response to the police’s warning that the rally was deemed “illegal” and that the organisers will be charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the cornerstone of every democratic society for citizens to express their concerns on public affairs. The Dang Wangi police chief’s threat to charge organisers of tomorrow’s rally plainly demonstrates the police force’s ignorance on the rule of law, especially since the Court of Appeal had in April 2014 declared Article 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act unconstitutional,” said Evelyn Balais-Serrano, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

On 10 February 2015, the Malaysian Federal Court upheld the conviction of Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges under the Penal Code. The decision of the Federal Court has been heavily criticised by local, regional and international human rights groups as “politically-motivated” and falling below basic international fair trial standards. There has since been a series of arrests and investigations under the Sedition Act and the Penal Code against those who have criticised the court’s decision and the lack of independence and impartiality of the Malaysian judicial system, increasing the already rising number of persecutions targeted against government critics in a wave of crackdown on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly by the Malaysian government since the last couple of years.

“The Malaysian authorities must respect the right to peaceful assembly as it is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. The organisers and demonstrators must not be arrested, charged or investigated for merely exercising their Constitutional and internationally-recognised right. We strongly urge the police to allow the rally to proceed peacefully, instead of making threats or taking actions to disrupt it,” stressed Balais-Serrano.

About FORUM-ASIA:

FORUM-ASIA is a Bangkok-based regional human rights group with 47 member organizations in 16 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Geneva. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expressions, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.

For further inquiries, please contact:

John Liu, South and East Asia Programme Manager,[email protected] +66 802828610

3 January 2015

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South China Morning Post

A key Malaysian opposition party member has demanded an inquiry into remarks made by the country’s home affairs minister that former Macau junket operator and Asian gambling kingpin Paul Phua Wei-seng was assisting the government with matters of national security.

The call for the probe comes on the back of a report in the South China Morning Post last week that documented a letter sent by Malaysian cabinet minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to a senior FBI official vouching for the integrity of Phua, 50, who is currently facing illegal-bookmaking charges in Las Vegas.

“Mr Zahid writing the letter comes across as very shocking not only because the letter attempts to exonerate Paul Phua, who clearly has a chequered past, but also because Mr Zahid claims that Mr Phua has assisted with ‘projects of national security,’” Fahmi Fadzil, communications director of the opposition People’s Justice Party, told the Post yesterday.

“I will be discussing with several Members of Parliament on formally requesting a response from Mr Zahid in the Malaysian Parliament.”

Sarawak native Phua and his son stand accused of running an illicit gambling operation from luxury suites at the Nevada city’s Caesar’s Palace Hotel during the soccer world cup last year.

An online message – contested by Phua’s lawyers – found on his computer during a police raid suggested that bets of the alleged operation reached a “grand total” of HK$2.7 billion, according to court documents.

Phua has denied any wrongdoing.

In the “private and confidential” letter to FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, Zahid denied allegations made by US federal agents that Phua was a member of the notorious 14K triad.

He added: “Mr Phua has, on numerous occassions [sic], assisted the Government of Malaysia on projects affecting our national security and accordingly we continue to call upon him to assist us from time to time and as such we are eager for him to return to Malaysia.”

The letter, dated December 18, was submitted to the Las Vegas court last week, but was quickly withdrawn by Phua’s lawyers due to an objection by the Malaysian government.

However, the incident sparked concern in the Southeast Asian nation after being picked up by the Post.

“Like many out there, I was surprised to read a news report [on Zahid’s letter] in the South China Morning Post,” said Fahmi.

“I hope Zahid will be able to give an explanation … in order to dislodge the uneasiness among the people about this issue.”

Phua was Macau’s top earning junket operator a decade ago, before becoming a prominent high-stakes poker player.

Weeks prior to his arrest in Las Vegas last summer, he had been detained in Macau in a crackdown on an online betting ring that, according to Macau police, took HK$5 billion in wavers. He was deported from the territory.

The raid remains the largest strike on illegal bookmaking in the gambling hub’s history.

Zahid himself has been the subject of a number of controversies. In 2013, the minister faced public uproar after remarks to a group of town elders seemed to suggest he was friendly with an outlawed crime gang. Zahid claimed he was quoted out of context.

1 January 2015

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South China Morning Post

Paul Phua Wei-seng, the former Macau junket operator facing illegal bookmaking charges in Las Vegas, is assisting the Malaysian government in matters of national security and is not a member of Hong Kong’s 14k triad society, a Malaysian cabinet minister has told US authorities.

“Mr Phua is neither a member nor is he associated with the ‘14k Triad’, Malaysia’s Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote in a letter to Mark Giuliano, deputy director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Mr Phua has, on numerous occassions [sic], assisted the Government of Malaysia on projects affecting our national security and accordingly we continue to call upon him to assist us from time to time and as such we are eager for him to return to Malaysia,” Hamidi wrote in the letter dated December 18.

The letter, marked “private & confidential”, was submitted to the United States District Court in Las Vegas on Monday by Phua’s defence team. Phua’s lawyers have consistently refuted the allegation that Phua has ties with Hong Kong’s organised crime groups since his arrest in July.

In his letter, the minister did not elaborate on what matters of national security Phua assisted the Southeast Asian nation. His office could not be reached for immediate comment on Tuesday.

Phua, 50, and his son stand accused of running an illegal gambling operation from suites at the Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas during the soccer world cup earlier this year.

An online message found on his computer during a police raid suggested that bets of the alleged operation reached a “grand total” of HK$2.7 billion, according to court documents. US federal prosecutors alleged the group made a profit of US$13 million in June and July on soccer bets.

Phua’s lawyers are challenging the admissibility of evidence including the online message in court.

The allegation that Phua is a triad member is based on an FBI internal document previously submitted to the court, according to which Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) informed the FBI’s representative in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, of his ties to the criminal organisation.

“The RMP has identified the 14K Triads as a local organised crime syndicate involved in illegal drugs, illegal gambling and money laundering activities in Malaysia,” the internal FBI document dated July 17, 2008, read. “The RMP has also identified Malaysian Phua Wei Seng as a 14K Triad member.”

The Malaysian citizen with roots in Sarawak was Macau’s top earning junket operator a decade ago, before becoming a prominent high-stakes poker player. In 2011, he was granted a diplomatic passport by the European microstate of San Marino as its ambassador to Montenegro.

In June, Phua was arrested in Macau in a crackdown on an online betting ring that, according to Macau police, took HK$5 billion in wavers. He was deported from the territory.

The raid remains the largest strike on illegal bookmaking in the gambling hub’s history.

The Las Vegas trial’s other defendants – who include three Hongkongers and Malaysian junket operator Richard Yong Seng-chen – this week pleaded guilty to misdemeanours and were sentenced to unsupervised probation and fines.

Among the documents US prosecutors submitted to the court in Las Vegas is a passport scan of another key casino junket operator Cheung Chi-tai, labelled under the file name “HK Boss”.

Cheung is wanted for questioning by Hong Kong police. The Hong Kong resident has been called a leading triad member in the money-laundering trial of Carson Yeung Ka-sing, the former owner of soccer club Birmingham City.

In response to a question about Phua’s ties to Cheung, defence co-counsel David Chesnoff and Tom Goldstein said he had none. “The only link to the case at all comes from documents found in the Caesars Palace villa of another defendant who is unrelated to Mr. Phua and has pleaded guilty in the same case. It is a false connection.”

READ THE FULL LETTER

24 November 2014

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by Anwar Ibrahim, Leader of Opposition Malaysia and former Deputy Prime Minister

Stanford University on November 20, 2014 hosted by Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and Muslim Student Association

I begin by making some bold assertions. We, as in we all, regardless whether it is the Muslim world or the West or Asia, are facing great challenges. This is no time for equivocation.

So, let me first state firmly: Islam and democracy are fully compatible. The contention that they are diametrically opposed to each other is without foundation.

Secondly, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, ISIS and all other terrorist organizations that resort to killing innocent people, raping, kidnapping and forced conversions have no legitimacy whatsoever and the term Islam or Islamic state cannot be ascribed to them. Period.

Thirdly, the ulema, Muslim clerics, influential Muslim organizations and all eminent Muslim democrats must condemn not just these extreme and violent groups but also the dictatorships and autocratic regimes in the Muslim world that have persistently denied democratic rights to their citizens, and whose human rights record could put even North Korea to shame.

Fourthly, even as the tentacles of ISIS appear to be spreading across Syria and Iraq, Islamophobia is spreading at an even faster pace all around the world. In consequence, bona fide Muslim organizations and Muslim democrats become targets even as ordinary Muslims fall prey to ‘hate crimes’.

(more…)

20 November 2014

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[Not related with the video, below is the response from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) regarding this issue earlier]

CAIR Responds to ‘Bizarre’ Move by UAE

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/16/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today responded to reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has added CAIR to its list of “terrorist” groups.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“We are seeking clarification from the government of the United Arab Emirates about this shocking and bizarre report. There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list.

“Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of violent extremists.

“We call on the United Arab Emirates cabinet to review this list and remove organizations such as CAIR, the Muslim American Society and other civil society organizations that peacefully promote civil and democratic rights and that oppose terrorism whenever it occurs, wherever it occurs and whoever carries it out.”

Among its many anti-terror initiatives, CAIR recently joined a number of national and local Muslim scholars and leaders in Washington, D.C., to release a first-of-its-kind open letter in Arabic (with English translation) signed by more than 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders refuting the ideology of the terrorist group ISIS and urging its supporters to repent and “return to the religion of mercy.”

CAIR: U.S., World Muslim Leaders’ Open Letter Refutes ISIS’s Ideology, Urges Supporters to ‘Repent,’ ‘Return to the Religion of Mercy’

http://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12663-muslim-leaders-open-letter-refutes-isis-ideology.html

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

20 November 2014

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Published on 19 Nov 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim talks about his commitment to the ideals of empowerment, justice, and equity. His trials have included arrest and imprisonment for his unrelenting campaign against corruption and but he soldiers on as the strongest-ever challenge to the ruling coalition in Malaysia. In this talk, he explains his determination to continue the “Reformasi” campaign and the struggle for freedom and democracy despite a looming five-year prison sentence.

Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, once a rising political star expected to succeed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is now the leader of the Malaysian Opposition. The creator of the “Reformasi” campaign of reforming the Malaysian political structure, he is an ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice in bridging the gap between East and West. He is viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

19 November 2014

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 The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat: The Life of Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim. By Charles Allers. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. 345 pp.

 

Any attempt at offering a biography of Malaysia’s enigmatic politician Anwar Ibrahim (b. 1947) will be intriguing for many reasons. Perhaps more than any other political igure in contemporary Malaysia, Anwar has led a life whose vicissitudes have seen him oscillating from high points — popular student irebrand, social activist–intellectual, rising star of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), handpicked protégé of  Prime  Minister  Dr  Mahathir  Mohamad (b. 1925), minister and deputy prime minister, right down to the lowest points that one can imagine — twice an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee, convict stripped of human dignity, constantly excoriated opposition leader and purported hypocrite accused of heinous sexual crimes unbecoming of a professed Muslim holding leadership aspirations in religiously conservative Malaysia. Harnessing information from variegated sources, including personal interviews and published analyses of Malaysian politics and of Anwar Ibrahim’s diverse roles in it, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat should be commended for ably capturing the different and even contrasting nuances of Anwar’s political life.

Far from being a blatantly lattering portrayal of Anwar Ibrahim as a consummate political leader once touted to be Malaysia’s “Prime Minister in waiting”, Allers’ account does not refrain from detailing episodes of Anwar’s political career that have exposed him to allegations of inconsistency, opportunism and unprincipled politicking. One example is Anwar’s alleged compromise on money politics during his days of ascendancy in UMNO, culminating in the victory of his Wawasan (Vision) Team — of which present Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin were members — in the fractious party elections of 1993. While employing analyses proffered by scholars critical of Anwar’s having indulged in patronage politics such as K.S. Jomo, Edmund Terence Gomez and Kikue Hamayotsu, Allers balances his account by citing

 

 

the analyses of Peter Riddell, Meredith Weiss and Khoo Boo Teik, among others, all of whom are inclined to offer mitigating factors in explaining Anwar’s antics in exculpatory terms.

Another instance of vacillation in Anwar Ibrahim’s political posture that Allers chronicles is his position on the draconian ISA, which had authorized detention without trial since its inauguration in 1960. Quoted in 1992 having defended the selective retention of the Act, Anwar remained mute for the large part of Prime Minister Mahathir’s recurrent instances of recourse to the oppressive legislation. These instances resulted in gross violations of human rights, as during the Operation Lallang round-up against civil rights campaigners in 1987 and the government’s clampdown on the Darul Arqam dakwah (missionary) movement in 1994. Only when out of power, and after undergoing the traumatic experience of both preventive and judicial incarceration from the time of his post-sacking arrest in 1998 until 2004, did Anwar unwaveringly oppose the ISA. For the record, Prime Minister Najib Razak eventually announced the repeal of the ISA in September 2011, but replaced it the following year with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012.

Just prior to Operation Lallang, Anwar — in his capacity as minister of education and with the backing of the chauvinistic UMNO Youth then led by Najib Razak — also clashed with proponents of Chinese-medium education  who  resented  what  they  regarded as Anwar’s unwarranted intrusion into their affairs. Such dabbling in ethnocentric politics, which diehard Anwar supporters would rationalize as a means of winning over the grass-roots Malay-Muslim support necessary for political advancement in UMNO, remains a black spot in his career. That career has featured an otherwise inclusive appeal to harmonious ethno-religious relations in the manner of convivencia in medieval Spain. The question of Anwar’s mixed history of yielding to pragmatic politics aside, Allers gives prominence to pluralism as a major aspect of Anwar’s religio-political thought that has gained credence globally, especially since his heavy-handed treatment by Malaysia’s ruling establishment  after  1998. Amidst the trials and tribulations that have befallen Anwar as a political

 

 

practitioner, Allers argues that his numerous writings and speeches relect fundamental consistency, rooted in his irm belief in not only the compatibility of but also the convergence between Islamic and universal principles such as freedom, justice and democracy. Anwar has been critical of Muslim leaders who have denied their citizens the rights due to them as human beings. Such criticisms have not, however, stopped Anwar from being honoured by his co-religionists with frequent accolades and speaking invitations from the Muslim commonwealth, not least from Turkey and Indonesia — the two countries to which he has most often referred as model Muslim democracies.

On the whole, Allers’ book is a sympathetic rendering of Anwar’s professional life, but it falls short of being unduly laudatory. Notwithstanding contradictions pertaining to his political praxis and the continually scurrilous attacks upon Anwar’s reputation engineered by Malaysia’s state-controlled mainstream media, the fact that an American-based pastor could take the trouble to conduct both primary and secondary research in producing The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat speaks volumes about Anwar’s untainted image in the eyes of admirers worldwide. Upon reading Allers’ book, one may wonder if Anwar would not have fared better as a globe-trotting international statesman preaching the virtues of democracy in an increasingly plural world. He was, after all, once considered for the post of secretary-general of the United Nations — a itting position from which to articulate a vision that has resonated across borders on matters such as “transcending tolerance” and masyarakat madani (civil society).

Anwar Ibrahim has, however, been at the end of the day, a true Malaysian and Malay-Muslim at heart. Sacriicing the comforts of possible retirement amidst global adulation, he has remained irst and foremost  concerned  with  reform  in  Malaysia.  On  the  basis of his capricious record, sceptics might nonetheless see in him a power-hungry individual intent on avenging the injustices done unto him, his family and his loyalists. His detractors, meanwhile, will be perennially scheming to prevent his rise to the apex of national leadership. This is evident in the recent Court of Appeal ruling

 

 

dismissing his previous High Court acquittal on fresh allegations of sodomy. This unexpected verdict rendered meaningless a by-election dubbed the “Kajang Move” and designed to install Anwar as chief minister of Selangor, purportedly as a launching pad to the prime ministership.

Whatever the outcome of his judicial troubles, Anwar’s place in Malaysian history is assured. While Anwar’s practical contribution remains constricted, his post-Reformasi discourse and programmes offered to Malaysians a viable alternative to the condescending, hegemonic and racialist politics to which they have been subjected by the UMNO-led political establishment since independence. Putting aside technical weaknesses such as the frequent presence of too many quotations from authors of divergent viewpoints in single sentences, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat manages to capture Anwar’s undying vision of a better deal for Malaysia, Malaysians and Malay-Muslims. Allers contextually locates the heritage of that vision in Malaysian Islam’s legacy of sui-centric religious tolerance and Anwar’s own socio-religious upbringing at home and school, particularly at the English-orientated secondary institution, the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar. Whether Anwar’s lofty ideals see the light of day during his lifetime is left for Malaysians to decide in forthcoming polls.

 

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid

School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia; email:

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

DOI:  10.1355/sj29-3n

Adat and Indigeneity in Indonesia: Culture and Entitlements between Heteronomy and Self-Ascription. Edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2013. 240 pp.

 

Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin has contributed to academic debates about indigenous Balinese traditions and rituals for the last two decades. Her latest edited volume targets a wider readership than fellow

This review was published on Sojourn Magazine.

11 August 2014

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Mewakili seluruh kepimpinan dan akar umbi KEADILAN, setinggi ucapan tahniah diucapkan kepada sahabat saya Recep Tayyip Erdogan di atas kemenangan beliau melalui Parti Keadilan & Pembangunan (AK Party) dalam pemilihan Presiden tanpa perlu melalui pusingan kedua.

Pemilihan Presiden ini yang julung kali diadakan dalam sejarah demokrasi Turki nyata sekali memberi impak positif buat Turki dalam mendepani arus perubahan. Meski berhadapan saingan sengit, keupayaan Erdogan meraih lebih 50 peratus undi membuktikan AKP di bawah kepimpinan Erdogan diyakini untuk terus mengemudi Turki.

Doa kami di Malaysia buat Erdogan dan AKP agar terus memainkan peranan aktif dan istiqamah demi memperjuangkan keadilan sejagat.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

17 July 2014

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Shah Alam. 16/7/2014

12 July 2014

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Further to our earlier denunciations of the atrocities; we reiterate our condemnation of the latest massacre of more than 100 Palestinians including women and children in the Gaza by the Israeli regime of Netanyahu and call on the international community to collectively put pressure to stop the atrocities.

It is clear that the Israeli regime is exploiting the killing of the three Israeli youths as a pretext to attack Gaza and start a chain of violence and bloodshed so as to destabilize the unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

In his desperate attempts at destroying the prospect of a united Palestinian state in the near future, Netanyahu is prepared to drag the Israeli people to the brink of outright war.

No doubt, he is committing these acts of violence with impunity, emboldened by the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union will condemn these crimes, let alone intervene to stop them.

In this regard, the Western powers have once again displayed hypocrisy in their muted response to the atrocities. This is a disgraceful abdication of moral responsibility and exposes their double standards to the cause of democracy, freedom and justice.

Even more tragic is the fact that Muslim countries, except possibly Turkey and Iran, appear to be powerless in the face of these unmitigated acts of violence and cruelty while so-called jihadists are keener on killing fellow Muslims and proclaiming a caliphate than helping their downtrodden Palestinian kin.

Meanwhile, the Western media continue to report the latest rounds of violence in its usual skewered manner by its constant reference to Hamas firing of missiles into Israel so as to justify Israel’s utterly disproportionate retaliation.

The media and Western leaders continue to downplay if not entirely ignore the fundamental issue of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel’s blatant disregard of UN Resolution 242 in their barefaced drive for territorial aggrandisement.

Indeed, the current round of murdering and wounding of hundreds of innocent Palestinians is but yet another episode of the continuing saga of brutality, ruthlessness, inhumanity, and injustice committed against them by the Israelis.

Anwar Ibrahim
Member of Parliament,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader
Malaysia

4 July 2014

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Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has denied accusations by the Malaysian Government that he’s trying to smear the country’s reputation overseas, by calling on foreign governments to speak out against human rights abuses in his country.

Click here to watch the full interview on ABC Australia.

3 May 2014

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http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-01/one-missing-jet-one-sunken-ferry-two-responses

There are no ideologues in a financial crisis, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke once said. Clearly the same doesn’t hold true for political crises, as a comparison of Malaysia and South Korea very quickly reveals.

Tragedy has struck both nations in recent weeks, their travails played out in horrifying detail on the world’s television screens. Fairly or unfairly, the hunt for a missing Malaysian airliner and the desperate attempt to rescue and now recover victims from the sunken Sewol ferry are being viewed as tests of the governments in Putrajaya and Seoul, if not of Malaysian and South Korean societies. The grades so far? I’d give Korea an A-, Malaysia a D.

In the two weeks since the Sewol tipped over and sank — almost certainly killing 302 passengers, most of them high school students — Korea has been gripped by a paroxysm of self-questioning, shame and official penitence. President Park Geun Hye issued a dramatic and heartfelt apology. Her No. 2, Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, resigned outright. Prosecutors hauled in the ship’s entire crew and raided the offices of its owners and shipping regulators. Citizens and the media are demanding speedy convictions and long-term reforms.

And Malaysia, 55 days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished? Nothing. No officials have quit. Prime MinisterNajib Razak seems more defiant than contrite. The docile local news media has focused more on international criticism of Malaysia’s leaders rather than on any missteps by those leaders themselves.

Both countries are democracies — Malaysia’s even older than South Korea’s. The key difference, though, is the relative openness of their political systems. One party has dominated Malaysia since independence, while Korea, for all its growing pains and occasional tumultuousness, has seen several peaceful transfers of power over the past quarter-century. Unused to having to answer critics, Malaysia’s government hasresponded defensively. Korean officials, on the other hand, are reflecting, addressing the anger of citizens, and delving into what went wrong with the shipping industry’s regulatory checks and balances.

That’s why Korea is likely to come out of this crisis stronger than ever, unlike Malaysia. The two nations responded similarly after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, too. Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sought to prove Bernanke’s axiom wrong, bizarrely blaming some shadowy Jewish cabal headed by George Soros for the ringgit’s plunge. Malaysia didn’t internalize what had gone wrong or look in the mirror. It didn’t admit it had been using capital inflows unproductively and that coddling state champions — including Malaysia Airlines — was killing competitiveness. Never did the ruling United Malays National Organization consider it might be part of the problem.

Contrast that with Korea’s response to 1997. The government forced weak companies and banks to fail, accepting tens of thousands of job losses. Authorities clamped down on reckless investing and lending and addressed moral hazard head-on. Koreans felt such shame that millions lined up to donate gold, jewelry, art and other heirlooms to the national treasury.

South Korea’s response wasn’t perfect. I worry, for example, that the family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, that helped precipitate the crisis are still too dominant a decade and a half later. But the country’s economic performance since then speaks for itself.

Now as then, Korea’s open and accountable system is forcing its leaders to look beyond an immediate crisis. Ordinary Koreans are calling for a national catharsis that will reshape their society and its attitude toward safety. Park’s government has no choice but to respond.

Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, appears to be lost in its own propaganda. To the outside world, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Husseinperformed dismally as a government spokesman: He was combative, defensive and so opaque that even China complained. Yet Hishammuddin is now seen as prime-minister material for standing up to pesky foreign journalists and their rude questions. The government seems intent on ensuring that nothing changes as a result of this tragedy.

As hard as it seems now, South Korea will move past this tragedy, rejuvenated. Malaysia? I’m not so sure.

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