Exclusive: US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun says the United States is ‘puzzled’ by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s decision to maintain the Sedition Act.
The Malaysian government is fooling the Philippines — again. It already freed last month Manuel Amalilio from a 20-month prison term for passport fraud. But it is breaking its promise to deport him to Manila, to face worse charges of scamming 15,000 Filipinos of P12 billion (891M ringgit, $205M). Supposedly its Ministry of Home Affairs has changed its mind about extraditing the fugitive out of “neighborliness.” Just like that. So the Interpol, Philippine courts, and Amalilio’s victims, mostly working-class Muslims like Malaysians, are left twisting in the wind.
Manila had trusted Prime Minister Najib Razak’s word too much. Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Feb. 2013 already alerted the Philippines about impending deceit. He divulged then, through this column, that Amalilio held high influence. The conman is a nephew of Razak’s foreign minister, solicitor general, and the Sabah chief minister (see Gotcha, 2 Feb. 2013). They were not mere ruling party mates of the PM; the Sabah politico, one of Malaysia’s sleaziest for multimillion-dollar bribes from forestry grants and money laundering in Hong Kong, was Razak’s main bankroller. Malaysian sources hinted of the kinsmen’s ties to Amalilio’s Ponzi scheme in Muslim Mindanao. So it was unlikely they would turn him in to Philippine justice.
Razak’s officials were in fact already playing games at the time on Philippine counterparts. Amalilio, since fleeing from Mindanao in Nov. 2012, had been spotted several times partying in Sabah. Informed by Malaysia Interpol, Philippine lawmen flew in to take custody. At the airport, however, Sabah local cops stopped the flight and retook the fugitive. Purportedly he had just been charged with entering his Sabah home state on dubious travel papers, so had to be tried. Whereupon, they checked him into a hospital suite, and in two days “sentenced” him to prison till 2014. Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, who was helping Amalilio’s victims file charges, was so stunned that he publicly denounced the odd twist of events. The to-do subsided only after Razak’s gofers promised Foreign Sec. Albert del Rosario and Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to deport their criminal countryman after serving jail time.
Last month, upon Amalilio’s release, de Lima tried to collect on the Malaysian promise. The Home Ministry gave no reason for withholding Amalilio from justice. That is just Razak’s “neighborliness” with a nation of the same Malay race. Implicated years ago in murder and multimillion-euro kickbacks, Razak simply is untrustworthy.
It matters not to Razak that Manila is a major ally, whose help he needs when Malaysia chairs next year the ASEAN economic integration. Forgotten perhaps was Malacañang’s all-out war against a titular Sultan of Sulu, whose ragtag army had “invaded” Sabah in 2013. (Razak falsely had linked Anwar to that side issue in a vain attempt to silence him about Amalilio’s political and blood ties. Two of Anwar’s fellow-oppositionists, MPs Tian Chua and Rasiah Sivarasa, were charged with sedition for meeting in Manila, at the height of the Amalilio furor, with scam victims, prosecutors, and Filipino newsmen.)
Razak’s duplicitous treatment of Manila is highlighted by a similar row with New Zealand. Last May police there charged a Malaysian envoy with sexual assault and burglary. Invoking diplomatic immunity the offender fled to Kuala Lumpur and from there slandered the female complainant. New Zealand persisted with its raps, forcing Razak to turn over the envoy last Oct. of course, con artist Amalilio enjoys from Razak more than just diplomatic cover.
* * *
Englishman reader John Denne expounds on the nursery rhyme, “Ring a ring o’ roses,” which I cited Friday in relation to quarantining:
“When growing up we were told that the rhyme referred to the Great Plague of London, a severe strain of flu. It was thought that heavily scented flowers were a form of defense. Moneyed folk then surrounded themselves with such flowers, especially English roses, and wore flowers on their dress. The first signs of disease in sufferers were sneezing, which turned to fever and death. (This also led to people blessing someone who sneezed.) So the poor children would mock them and sing, ‘A ring, a ring of roses, a pocket full of poses. Atishoo! Atishoo!, They all fall down’.”
* * *
Filipinos would learn historical lessons from the book, “Panahon ng Hapon: Sining sa Digmaan: Digmaan sa Sining (Japanese Occupation: Art in War: War in Art.” Published 1992 in 50th anniversary commemoration of World War II in the Philippines, it features the body of literary and artworks during conflict.
That conflict, editor Gina Barte reminds, began with a militaristic neighbor-state grabbing surrounding islands. Concept was by Bing Roxas, then chief of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Barte was director of the CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino.
Now head of the International Council of Museums-Philippines, Barte sees repeats of history. She endorses map exhibitions and researches on the trueness of the Philippine claim and the falsity of China’s “nine-dashed line” over Scarborough Shoal. Foremost scholars on the topic are Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Dr. Jay L. Batongbakal, experts on Law of the Sea.
United States Vice-President Joe Biden has expressed concern over the stifling of the opposition in Malaysia with the use of the Sedition Act and other laws.
He also commented on the upcoming verdict for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s final appeal against his sodomy conviction.
In a Twitter posting today, Biden said amid growing US-Malaysia ties, the Malaysian government’s use of the legal system and Sedition Act to stifle the opposition raises rule of law concerns.
However, he expressed hope that the government would make things right through Anwar’s case.
“Anwar’s appeal gives Malaysia a vital chance to make things right and promote confidence in its democracy and judiciary,” Biden added.
Biden’s call today is reminiscent of former US vice president Al Gore who had famously rebuked the Malaysian government for suppressing freedom, even praising Malaysians who had rallied against former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad as “brave”.
”And so, among nations suffering economic crises, we continue to hear calls for democracy and reform in many languages – people’s power, doi moi, reformasi.
”We hear them today – right here, right now – among the brave people of Malaysia,” Gore had said back in 1998 at the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, although he had always been criticised for trying to foster closer ties with the US, made a complete U-turn when he announced that the Sedition Act will be retained as well as fortified at the Umno general assembly last week.
Najib had said that the Act would be strengthened to protect Islam and other faiths, as well as to deal with calls for secession of Sabah and Sarawak.
The Federal Court is still preparing the judgment on Anwar’s final appeal to set aside his conviction and five years’ jail sentence for sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, six years ago.
The highest court in the country will make its ruling on whether to allow or dismiss Anwar’s appeal to set aside his conviction and jail sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal on March 7 this year, after it had overturned a High Court decision to acquit him.
Kebetulan pada jam 1.00 pagi saya membelek karya R. Ng Ronggowarsito (1802-1873), Zaman Edan. Ronggowarsito adalah pujangga Jawa terbesar yang dianggap sebagai penutup segala pujangga jawa kerana selepas beliau tidak ada lagi pujangga. Antara karya beliau yang wajar ditekuni –
Hidup di zaman edan
Gelap jiwa bingung pikiran
Turut edan hati tak tahan
Jika tidak turut
Batin merana dan penasaran
Tertindas dan kelaparan
Tapi janji tuhan sudah pasti
Seuntung apa pun orang yang lupa daratan
Lebih selamat orang yang menjaga kesadaran
Puncak zaman terkutuk
Kebenaran tak lagi tampak oleh mata hati
Kejernihan pikiran telah tumbang
Memang belum saatnya reda
Bahkan malah makin menjadi
Dijalankan sekehendak hati
Menjadi jalan keuntungan diri
Gelap hati gelap tindakan
Membawa kacau-balau isi dunia
Sekilas saja telah terlihat
Keadaan zaman yang makin gawat
Berantakan dan ruwet kehidupan umat
Hilang sudah ketenangan
Orang menangis di sebarang tempat
Membongkar gunung gunung
Tanpa ada yang berani mencegah
Tekut terkena semburan ludah
Yang beracun dan mematikan
2.45 Petang/ 4 Disember 2014
On November 18, 2014, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, founder and board member, IIIT; leader of the Malaysian opposition; and former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, shared his “Reflections on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring” with the general public at the IIIT headquarters in Herndon, VA.
Citing “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you” (Q. 4:59), Anwar attributed the Arab Spring uprising to the ruling elite’s view that the masses cannot protest whatever policies they decide to follow because they are, at least in their own minds, legitimate rulers. Opposing this concept, he asserted that the rulers must govern according to the maqasid in order to achieve the public good – something that they clearly are not doing. Thus the reforms must be systemic, for the entire system is riddled with corruption, abuse, violence, and self-aggrandizement. For the last decade IIIT has been active in this area and has produced many publications in an ongoing attempt to inform Muslims of what the maqasid are and how they can be implemented in contemporary societies.
Citing the lack of ethics in governance, Anwar stated: “The context of the atrocities inflicted upon by the masses was shocking.” Moreover, many “experts” who never saw the upheaval coming asserted that it would not spread beyond Tunisia, thereby showing their inability to understand or even sense the pervasive nature of Arab demands and expectations that finally erupted.
Initial hopes that Arab Spring would succeed in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya turned out to be a mirage in the case of the last two. Those countries that managed to oust their leaders were basically bankrupt, and the Islamists assumed power with simplistic and unrealistic ideas about what they could accomplish and how soon they could accomplish it. With little financial and other support from the Muslim world and the West, the early advances made began to be rolled back as more and more promises went unfulfilled.Dr.Abubaker Alshingeiti, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Dr. Hisham Altalib, and Dr. Emad Shahin
On the whole, Anwar considers the Arab Spring a catastrophe, for now it is not the colonial powers destroying the countries but the countries destroying themselves. The West’s failure to formulate a firm policy toward Syria and ISIS (i.e., a “policy of ambivalence”), when added to an incoherent and inconsistent policy of “supporting democracy” in the region, has left the Arabs confused and cynical.
Muslims have quite a lot to learn from this whole experience, among them the following:
1. They must become inclusive by forming coalitions and alliances to achieve common goals. The time of combative rhetoric is over, for it only alienates others and turns them into unnecessary enemies. As the world saw in Egypt, Islamists must become more flexible, adapt to existing governing realities, get the military back into the barracks, be patient and practice restraint, be humble enough to admit that they need help, and show more compassion and understanding for others.
2. They should study what has transpired in non-Arab Muslim countries: Pakistan (under Muhammad Ali Jinnah), Indonesia’s peaceful transition to democracy, and Turkey’s successful campaign to end the army’s influence in the political arena.
3. They should take the concerns of non-Muslim communities seriously and make a good-faith effort to address them. After all, these citizens are also part of the nation.
During the Question and Answer Session, he made several more points in response to the audience’s many questions:
1. The regional upheaval will continue because the underlying causes remain unaddressed.
2. The new leaders were unqualified to rule because living in a dictatorship deprived them of any chance to learn how to govern. All they had were theories, which turned out to be not very helpful when implemented.
3. It is time for “constructive intervention” so that ASEAN member countries can seriously address long-term problems affecting Muslim minorities in Burma/Myanmar, southern Thailand, the southern Philippines, and Aceh. The leaders of these countries must understand that more killing cannot resolve the underlying problems of underdevelopment and marginalization; what is needed is social justice.
4. The ulema have to understand that the many personal and other freedoms enjoyed in the West are necessary for the Muslim world to become full of new – and real – democracies.
2 December 2014
At the UMNO general assembly, PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak made a scurrilous and slanderous attack upon Pakatan Rakyat and myself that RM100 million had been offered to Anifah Aman in order for him to come over to PR.
This false allegation is the subject matter of a defamation suit brought by me against Anifah Aman. Despite the fact that the trial is ongoing, Najib chose to repeat Anifah’s latest baseless allegation that one Ishak Ismail had approached him on my behalf and made such an offer.
In reaction to this blatant falsehood Ishak has publicly stated on 1 December 2014 that he had never made any such offer to Anifah. On the contrary Ishak had confirmed that it was an intermediary acting for Anifah who had approached him instead.
Ishak has now rightly and boldly challenged Anifah to repeat this allegation outside of court where he will be not protected by legal immunity.
I now call upon Najib to retract this false statement made at the UMNO assembly and to apologise to myself and Pakatan Rakyat.
Money politics and corrupt methods has always been the hallmark of UMNO and BN; Pakatan Rakyat has never practised and will never tolerate money politics or corruption. We will save this country by reasoned arguments and by the example of good governance in the States administered by us.
Leader of the Opposition
By Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate Economic Sciences)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Human beings have always lived in groups, and their individual lives have invariably depended on group decisions. But the challenges of group choice can be daunting, particularly given the divergent interests and concerns of the group’s members. So, how should collective decision-making be carried out?
A dictator who wants to control every aspect of people’s lives will seek to ignore the preferences of everyone else. But that level of power is hard to achieve. More important, dictatorship of any kind can readily be seen to be a terrible way to govern a society.
So, for both ethical and practical reasons, social scientists have long investigated how the concerns of a society’s members can be reflected in one way or another in its collective decisions, even if the society is not fully democratic. For example, in the fourth century BC, Aristotle in Greece and Kautilya in India explored various possibilities of social choice in their classic books, Politics and Economics, respectively (the Sanskrit title of Kautilya’s book, Arthashastra, translates literally as “the discipline of material wellbeing”).
The study of social choice as a formal discipline first came into its own in the late eighteenth century, when the subject was pioneered by French mathematicians, particularly J. C. Borda and Marquis de Condorcet. The intellectual climate of the time was greatly influenced by the European Enlightenment, with its interest in reasoned construction of a social order, and its commitment to the creation of a society responsive to people’s preferences.
But the theoretical investigations of Borda, Condorcet, and others often yielded rather pessimistic results. For example, the so-called “voting paradox” presented by Condorcet showed that majority rule can reach an impasse when every alternative is defeated in voting by some other alternative, so that no alternative is capable of standing up to the challenge of every other alternative.
Social choice theory in its modern and systematic form owes its rigorous foundation to the work of Kenneth J. Arrow in his 1950 Columbia University PhD dissertation. Arrow’s thesis contained his famous “impossibility theorem,” an analytical result of breathtaking elegance and reach.
Arrow’s theorem shows that even very mild conditions of reasonableness in arriving at social decisions on the basis of simple preference rankings of a society’s individuals could not be simultaneously satisfied by any procedure. When the book based on his dissertation, Social Choice and Individual Values, was published in 1951, it became an instant classic.
Economists, political theorists, moral and political philosophers, sociologists, and even the general public rapidly took notice of what seemed like — and indeed was — a devastating result. Two centuries after visions of social rationality flowered in Enlightenment thinking, the project suddenly seemed, at least superficially, to be inescapably doomed.
It is important to understand why and how Arrow’s impossibility result comes about. Scrutiny of the formal reasoning that establishes the theorem shows that relying only on the preference rankings of individuals makes it difficult to distinguish between very dissimilar social choice problems. The usability of available information is further reduced by the combined effects of innocuous-seeming principles that are popular in informal discussions.
It is essential, particularly for making judgments about social welfare, to compare different individuals’ gains and losses and to take note of their relative affluence, which cannot be immediately deduced only from people’s rankings of social alternatives. It is also important to examine which types of clusters of preference rankings are problematic for different types of voting procedures.
Nonetheless, Arrow’s impossibility theorem ultimately played a hugely constructive role in investigating what democracy demands, which goes well beyond counting votes (important as that is). Enriching the informational base of democracy and making greater use of interactive public reasoning can contribute significantly to making democracy more workable, and also allow reasoned assessment of social welfare.
Social choice theory has thus become a broad discipline, covering a variety of distinct questions. Under what circumstances would majority rule yield unambiguous and consistent decisions? How robust are the different voting procedures for yielding cogent results? How can we judge how well a society as a whole is doing in light of its members’ disparate interests?
How, moreover, can we accommodate individuals’ rights and liberties while giving appropriate recognition to their overall preferences? How do we measure aggregate poverty in view of the varying predicaments and miseries of the diverse people who comprise the society? How do we arrive at social valuations of public goods such as the natural environment?
Beyond these questions, a theory of justice can draw substantially on the insights and analytical results emerging from social choice theory (as I discussed in my 2009 book The Idea of Justice). Furthermore, the understanding generated by social choice theorists’ study of group decisions has helped some research that is not directly a part of social choice theory — for example, on the forms and consequences of gender inequality, or on the causation and prevention of famines.
The reach and relevance of social choice theory is extensive. Rather than undermining the pursuit of social reasoning, Arrow’s deeply challenging impossibility theorem, and the large volume of literature that it has inspired, has immensely strengthened our ability to think rationally about the collective decision-making on which our survival and happiness depend.
This piece also appeared on Project Syndicate.
© Project Syndicate
The visit by Pope Francis to Turkey gives new meaning to religious tolerance and understanding between Christendom and Islam and heralds a new chapter in relations between the two great civilizations.
In a radical departure from the conventional papal posture, Pope Francis prefers to relate rather than pontificate and that has made all the difference.
To begin with, he goes to Turkey not to preach but to reach out, very much in the tradition of Christ, with humility and peace to the Muslim world as signified by Turkey, having already made his rounds to Jordan and Palestine.
Even more significantly, he has led by example in being the first pontiff to eschew the stereotypical association of Islam with extremism and violence, no doubt one of the glaring features of Islamophobia particularly in the West that is spreading at an even faster pace than the tentacles of the reviled Isis and the so-called Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
This genuine desire for understanding must therefore be received warmly and reciprocated with an equally genuine desire for the same from leaders of the Muslim world.
In this regard, President Erdo?an has done just that in publicly praising the pope for his “efforts to spread world peace, tolerance, peace and co-existence.” More than just words, this is a gesture that will go a long way towards blazing the trail for a new chapter in Muslim-Christian relations in general and in mending the strained relationships of the past.
Once we get past the theological polemics which more often than not puts a strain on inter-religious relations, the matters that bind these two great faiths should be reason enough for cultivating greater tolerance and mutual respect.
There is no doubt that issues that bind all faiths and communities such as equity and justice, peace, the dignity of man, the need to alleviate the plight of the poor and the marginalized must continue to dominate the discourse.
While detractors will be quick to point out that one swallow does not make a summer, it is hoped that, emulating the positive steps being made by the Pope and President Erdo?an, world leaders of all major faiths will focus their energies on resolving these issues with a fervour and commitment driven by common ground that we share rather than the differences that are exaggerated.
World Forum for Muslim Democrats
30th November 2014
Jelajah RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Ke Pulau Pinang, Selangor & Sarawak
27 November 2014 – Khamis – PULAU PINANG
1) 6.00 ptg – Ucaptama – ” THE FUTURE OF ASEAN,
BEYOND ASEAN VALUES” -
KASYP ALUMNI CONFERENCE
Lokasi: Hotel Vistana Pulau Pinang
2) 8.30 pm - MAJLIS PENGHARGAAN SEMPENA
KEMENANGAN TEMPAT PERTAMA –
MEDAN SELERA BERSIH & SELAMAT
PERINGKAT KEBANGSAAN 2014
Lokasi: Komplek Bukit Gedung, BATU MAUNG
3) 8.30 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Pusat Khidmat DUN Permatang Pasir,
1) YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
2) YB Dato’ Mansor Othman
3) YB Khalid Samad
4) YB Dato’ Salleh Man
5) Pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat Negeri
28 November 2014 – Jumaat – PULAU PINANG
1) 9.00am - UCAPTAMA MAJLIS PENGIKTARAFAN DAN
IJTIMAK AL- HUFFAZ PERINGKAT NEGERI
PULAU PINANG – KALI KE 7 – 2014
Lokasi : Yayasan An Nahdhoh, KUBANG SEMANG,
28 November 2014 – Jumaat – SELANGOR
1) 8.00 – 12.00 mlm – Ceramah – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Jalan Indah 2/1, Puchong (Sebelah Petron)
1. YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
2. YAB Azmin Ali
3. YAB Lim Guan Eng
4. YBhg Mat Sabu
5. YB Dat’ Husam Musa
6. YB Hanafiah Maidin
7. YB Gobind Singh & Pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat
29 November 2014 – Sabtu – SARAWAK
1) 4. 00 ptg – Ceramah – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Kampong Logan Bunut, Tinjar, BARAM
2) 7.00 – 11.00 mlm – Ceramah – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Waterfront, MIRI
30 November 2014 – Ahad – SARAWAK
1) 10.00 pg – Perjumpaan Pimpinan Muda Sarawak
Lokasi : Grand Continental Hotel, KUCING, SARAWAK
2) 2.00 ptg – Mesyuarat Majlis Pimpinan Negeri
3) 4.00 ptg – Ceramah – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Kampong Santubong, SANTUBONG
4) 6.30 ptg – Himpunan Perdana – RAKYAT HAKIM NEGARA
Lokasi : Desa Ilmu, KOTA SAMARAHAN
1. YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
2. YB Baru Bian
3. YB See Chee How
4. YB Ali Biju
5. YB Nurul Izzah Anwar
6. YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad
7. YB Sim Tze Sin
8. YBhg Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution
PEJABAT DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM
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’.
There was a time when I would not be caught dead supporting Anwar Ibrahim. This was the time of development and the virtues of authoritarianism in getting things done.
Mahathir was my hero. He still is – for the brave stand he took during the 2008 Asian financial crisis against all odds and criticisms from western financial moguls especially against George Soros whom he accused of sabotage. He introduced controls to protect the Malaysian ringgit. That was also the time when he went against Anwar Ibrahim when it seemed that his deputy prime minister was wavering in his support for Mahathir’s policies.
Close Filipino friends were in Kuala Lumpur for the trial of Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. We stood at different parts of the courtroom. I went to see Mahathir in his office outside the city convinced that it was the development path that was more significant than Anwar’s fight for freedom and democracy.
The same Filipino friends of Anwar Ibrahim in court have sent his speech in Georgetown University to this column as he awaits the decision from Malaysia’s High Court expected any day.
* * *
Ibrahim’s speech in Georgetown addresses Filipino reformists of today, too. I like especially the part when he said that he would return to Malaysia soon. He could opt not to. But he said the cause of democracy is a habit of the heart.
He could not leave the youth he had inspired to continue the job. It would be unfair to them. In a way, we who have worked hard for constitutional reform in the Philippines for many years can learn from his speech. Like him we continue to fight against those who would destroy our institutions because we believe that we can mature in a democracy and continue the fight for reform and save our institutions under a rule of law. We must have faith and preserve our values. All this I take to mean as a response equally relevant to us in Bayanko.
It would be so easy to give up, but who is to do it if so many are mesmerized by what they think is progress and development?
* * *
In the same speech, he compares the Reformasi as the journey to Ithaka. This is a poem written by Constantine Cavafy. I would like to share this poem with this column’s readers as a source of inspiration to keep them strong and determined for the struggle now and in the days ahead.
“When you set out for Ithaka ask that your way be long, full of adventure, full of instruction. The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon – do not fear them: such as these you will never find? as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon – you will not meet them unless you carry them in your soul, unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long. At many a Summer dawn to enter with what gratitude, what joy – ports seen for the first time; to stop at Phoenician trading centres, and to buy good merchandise, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, and sensuous perfumes of every kind, sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can; to visit many Egyptian cities, to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But don’t in the least hurry the journey. Better it last for years, so that when you reach the island you are old, rich with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth. Ithaka gave you a splendid journey. Without her you would not have set out. She hasn’t anything else to give you. And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you. So wise you have become, of such experience, that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.” It is not just for the few but for the rare and “crazy.”
* * *
News reports have been coming out that “we are now in a post crisis period.” I was with a group last night who were not aware of the reports. If we are now in this post crisis situation what is the government doing about it?
“The Nasdaq reports that “looking back to between 1945 and 2008, we see that the frequency of financial crises and recessions is quite high: on average, there is one crisis every 58 months (using data from the US National Bureau of Economic Research). In other words, statistically speaking we should expect the beginning of the next crisis in April 2015, which would end by March 2016. So are we in a post- or a pre-crisis period?”
There is another perspective to the crisis. This comes from Jose Alejandrino, member and adviser of Bayanko. He gathers facts that are available in many news reports.
‘The Japanese economy sank further in the 3rd quarter after a severe contraction in the previous quarter, pushing it into recession. The Russian economy is on the edge of recession due to economic sanctions imposed by the West as punishment for interfering in Ukraine. The Eurozone is also on the brink of recession due to high debt, low growth, and high unemployment. The German economy, the powerhouse of Europe, only grew by 0.1 percent in the 3rd quarter.?IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde and Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned of a spectre of stagnation sweeping Europe.?The economies of the emerging markets are all slowing down.? All this will impact severely on the US economic recovery.
A world recession cannot but affect the Philippines. In my previous postings, I warned of external and internal factors that will hit the Philippines in 2015. A world economic recession is the external factor. It will reduce considerably the country’s exports and manufacturing, increasing further the already high unemployment and poverty rates. These are the internal factors. The social repercussions will add to the revolutionary situation already present in the country with a do-nothing government and wide discontent. It could sweep away the established order.”
Is this the divine intervention that will happen to finally awaken Filipinos to the dire economic and political situation in the Philippines?
US citizen Mohamed Soltan has been in an Egyptian jail for over a year, and on hunger strike for nearly all of that time. He has smuggled a letter out of prison to mark his 27th birthday today (November 16th). There is also another hearing in his trial today, and the judge in charge of the case is the same one who sentenced the Aljazeera journalists to lengthy jail terms, as well presiding over the trial of known activists Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdelfatah. The text of Soltan’s letter is as follows:
For the first time in the pre-season, I came late to JV basketball practice. I had made the team at 336 pounds, during my junior year in high school, even though all of my classmates were playing varsity I was just happy to make the team. That day, Coach Slappy looked at me as I entered the gym, and without giving me the chance to explain my tardiness he put his index finger up and circled it in the air, directing me to run laps. I was OK with the punishment for the tardiness, but what I wasn’t OK with was his insistence on the “finger-circling” when I asked and continued asking as I ran, “How many laps coach?”
That day I felt that I had received the worst punishment. I could have ran 100 laps had the coach let me know how many laps I needed to run, but the psychological punishment was, for me, nothing short of torture. That day I ran 29 laps around the basketball court, but every lap felt like it would be the last one. By the time Coach Slappy remembered to tell me to stop I was mentally and physically drained.
I remember this story as my 27th birthday, my second in prison, approaches and as I finish 290 days on hunger strike. One hundred and fifty pounds lighter and exactly 10 years later, I am sitting in an underground Egyptian dungeon reflecting on that basketball season and its relevance to my current circumstances. I have lost the sense of hunger; I lose consciousness often; I wake up to bruises and a bloody mouth almost daily; and physical pain has become the norm, with my body numb as it eats away at itself. None of that is as painful as the psychological torture that the ambiguity of my detention (which is under an indefinite temporary holding law) is imposing. This is a dark and gloomy nightmare; I have no clue about how it descended on me so suddenly; I don’t know how long it will last; nor do I know how and when it will end. Although it is a much more extreme feeling than that of Coach Slappy’s punishment, it is nonetheless similar; mental and physical depletion. I do not know how long until this “punishment” ends, so every day passes like it is the last, slow and excruciating.
And just when the rare tears filled up my eyes as I went down memory lane to that basketball season, it all began to come together. That year I stopped smoking sheesha, lost 60 pounds, worked extra hard every practice, and moved from benching the JV team to 6th-man, to a starter. By the end of the year I was on the varsity basketball team with my classmates.
I realised then that, on that one day when Coach Slappy decided to punish me, he was testing my mental strength, my potential, and whether I had enough heart for the game. He kept this up for the rest of season, and I was certainly transformed into a better basketball player. My mental strength would be cultivated through these tests because I trusted him and that he was making me a better player.
I could not help the tears flowing down my bony cheeks as I thought of my weakness and inability to fully trust in God’s wisdom as much I did Coach Slappy’s. There is no comparison of course; this current test is much more extreme and definitely more painful, but just like the former made me stronger so too is this going to make me stronger. Just like I was prepped to be a better basketball player, I am being moulded by God to be a wiser human being, an effective leader, and a stronger advocate of freedom and peace. My coach’s words, “Hate every moment of training but love and cherish every second of victory,” are ever-so relevant today.
A ray of optimism has lit my heart. That’s the thing about birthdays, anniversaries, New Years, etc.; they inspire reflections over the past, thoughts and emotions around purpose, priorities, plans, future and hope.
I wipe my tears and, just as I begin to prepare for night prayer to thank God for all His blessings, I smile as I remember what I told myself 10 years ago during the 29th lap: “This has an end.”
Lieman maximum security prison
13 November, 2014