2 June 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

by Emad Shahin
30th May 2014

Egypt’s presidential election is another blunder on the road map. The first was the trumped up results of the constitutional referendum that the military-backed regime set at 98% approval, a clear reminiscent of the old authoritarian ways. The current presidential election too has been geared to ensure the victory of the July coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The process misses basic requisites of credibility: meaningful competition, free environment, neutrality of state institutions, and disappointedly to Sisi – a necessary turnout to confer legitimacy on the new regime and provide him with a strong mandate to rise as Egypt’s new pharaoh. As expected, he received a landslide victory, but a bitter one.

The military backed regime and its one-sided media machine did its best, including begging people to vote, extortion and threats of fines, to convince Egyptians to make an overwhelming turnout. This message was directed more to the US and the EU to prove the popularity of the coup leader and facilitate their full recognition of the new regime.

Egyptians, particularly the country’s youth and opponents to the return of an authoritarian police state, boycotted the election. They disappointed Sisi, who expected 40 million people to vote. Instead he got less than 15% turnout as confirmed by independent observers. The low turnout set the pro-coup media machine up in arms calling hysterically upon all Egyptians to save the day and the “beloved” general. More importantly, the low participation rate sends five strong messages to Sisi and his regional and Western backers.

1. Inflated popularity

The low turnout in the first two days of the elections revealed that the Sisi-mania that has swept Egypt for the past 10 months since the military coup was nothing but an orchestrated and inflated media stunt that does not reflect the realities of the country’s political landscape. Whatever popularity Sisi possesses, it does not rest on a solid constituency, but on diverse social segments with contradictory interests.

These include remnants of the old regime, segments of Christian Copts, and primarily citizens who initially supported him in hope for “stability” and economic recovery, but couldn’t care less about democracy or freedoms. It is now clear that Sisi has lost a good number of these elements who were not moved to go and vote for him. In short, his base of support might have been loud, as the media made them, but not large or committed enough.

2. Questionable legitimacy

The low turnout sends a clear signal that the field marshal’s legitimacy is going to be challenged no matter what his winning percentage will be. The alleged 30 million Egyptians who have participated in the 30 June demonstrations and the similar figure who took to the streets on 26 July in response to Sisi’s request for a “mandate” to fight potential terrorism vanished leaving everyone wondering where they went.

The wide boycott or apathy for the elections is yet another indication of the deep polarization the coup has inflicted on Egyptian society. The boycott went beyond the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamists to include youth, the revolutionaries and average Egyptians. The empty polling stations have succeeded in proving beyond doubt that the consensus narrative Sisi’s supporters have been relentlessly working to propagate to the world is nothing but a myth.

3. Unsupportive deep state

The first two days of elections raises questions about the extent of control Sisi has over the deep state. TV satellite channels exposed the low turn out and didn’t attempt to cover up the shocking lack of support, contrary to what they used to do during Mubarak’s time. Pro-coup TV show presenter, Ibrahim Eissa admitted that Sisi does not have a “political body” and that his campaign failed to run an effective electoral machine.

The Presidential Electoral Commission extended the voting period by a third day, thus shedding doubts on the credibility of the process and on Sisi’s expected victory. State institutions, the wide network of the former National Democratic Party and related businessmen who were believed to support Sisi appeared weak, unwilling or unable to deliver on their promises of mobilizing large numbers of voters as they did with Mubarak’s former PM Ahmed Shafeeq during the 2012 presidential elections.

Many attribute that to internal power struggles between the state’s different institutions, while others believe that Sisi lacks the experience and skills to efficiently run the system to his benefit. In either case, the efficacy of state institutions in the electoral process was undoubtedly a blow to the field marshal’s hopes.

4. No economic vision…No votes

Since the military takeover in July, Egypt has been witnessing a drastic economic deterioration. With the worsening economic situation and the decline in the standard of living of most Egyptians, many became increasingly disillusioned by Sisi’s repeated assertions that “he has nothing to offer” and may have reached the conclusion that nothing is likely to change with Sisi’s official inauguration.

It seems the field marshal’s “ingenious” suggestions for solving the unemployment crisis by providing the youth with vehicles to transport vegetables to “poorer areas,” exhorting Egyptians to divide the loaf of bread into four portions to save on wheat consumption, and using energy-efficient light bulbs to solve the electricity crisis have left many unimpressed.

5. People power

Egyptians have proved over the past three years that they will not allow a new pharaoh to emerge. The defiant slogan they raised during their popular uprisings in Tahrir 2011 “Down with the Next President” still holds and the phenomenon of “president for life” is a thing of the past. As they have previously done through mass mobilization and peaceful protests, they have once again established, by silence this time, that they, and not Sisi’s regional or international backers, have the final word.

The low turnout sends a strong message to the military establishment and its design to continue controlling the political process. It eventually needs to take one or two steps back and allow for a reset of a true democratic system and civilian control over the political process.

Egypt needs to build a rational state that respects the rule of law, pluralism, human rights and the fundamental basis of democracy. The alternative may not fall short of a third revolutionary wave. This time it will make sure to dismantle the police state and its authoritarian institutions.

- Emad Shahin is Professor of Public Policy, the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Editor-in-Chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics. He is currently a Public Policy Scholar at Woodrow Wilson Center and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Columbia University.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/five-messages-sisi-must-hear#sthash.uDGrLsKN.dpuf

27 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

25 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Anwar Ibrahim today said that an insult to Umno is not an insult to Malays. Calling them thieves, he questions why Umno should be allowed to get away with hateful speech if others can’t.

25 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

Anwar Ibrahim said if Pakatan Rakyat emulates Umno’s reaction to the “celaka” (damned) remark, they would need to storm Parliament on a regular basis.

“If that (Umno’s reaction) is to be a measurement, how many times would we need to storm Parliament due to the rude attitude and statements by Umno leaders and ministers?

“But we cannot do that,” he told journalists at the sidelines of his daughter’s wedding in Kajang this afternoon.

He was responding to Umno Youth’s storming of the Penang state assembly after Seri Delima state assemblyperson RSN Rayer labelled the party “celaka” in the house.

25 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

Insulting Umno does not mean insulting the Malays, PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.

“While we appreciate the struggle of previous Umno leaders, it does not mean we acknowledge the current leaders who are robbing the rakyat,” Anwar said.

“What is this nonsense that insulting Umno means insulting Malays? Umno is Umno. The Malays are Malays. They are separate.

“Brothers, who apparently rob the Malays, are idolised as defenders of the Malays.”

He said Umno leaders who defended the actions of Umno Youth members who barged into the Penang legislative assembly were irrational.

“If a DAP lawmaker is accused of insulting Umno and justifies the action of barging into the Penang assembly, then we would have stormed Parliament on numerous occasions.

“After all, Pakatan Rakyat has been insulted on numerous occasions in the Dewan Rakyat,” Anwar said.

The controversy began last week when DAP Penang’s Seri Delima state assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer uttered “Umno celaka” (Umno be damned) in a sitting.

Following Rayer’s remarks, a group of people claiming to represent Umno Youth barged into the Penang state assembly in search of Rayer.

Twelve people were arrested although they were later released on police bail.

The following day, another group of Umno Youth members demonstrated in front of the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

They intimidated DAP officials and even threatened to burn the building.

On Thursday, a group claiming to represent Umno Youth and Malay NGOs attacked the DAP office in Kuantan, damaging its front door and pelting eggs at the office.

24 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysia-Chronicle

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the country’s sole captain of the Transport Ministry, has been reported in his interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC), explaining with a view to justify why Malaysia did not scramble a fighter jet to the ill-fated MH370 has said that, “it was not deemed a hostile object and pointless if you are not going to shoot it down.”

The reported interview with ABC was on Monday.

Seriously, it now confirms two critical truths.

Firstly, the Malaysian military did not act decisively on the grounds of safety. If we are to examine the minister’s statement, it attests that ensuring that the nation’s assets and lives are being protected by the military in times of potential disaster is not a standard.

Secondly, the statement by the minister further reveals that Malaysia’s military standard operating procedure (SOP) is, a jet will only be scrambled into action for shooting down intruders.

Given this revealing admission by the defence minister who is also the deputy transport minister, and on hindsight, is it wrong to conclude the following:

One, if only the Malaysian military (air force) had recognised its role in ensuring the nation’s safety, it would have scrambled its jet fighter to get to the ill fated aircraft the moment the civil aviation authorities signalled the SOS call.

Two, if only the air force had gone after the plane over our airspace, then we would have known for sure what eventually happened to MH370.

Three, the entire world then would have been saved the millions of dollars and resources that have been going to waste looking for a ping in the deep, wide, blue ocean; and even looking in all the wrong places initially.

Four, and more importantly, search and rescue teams could have been dispatched to save the lives (if there were any still) from the crashing plane in quick time.

But all these were not to be. And now we know that it was simply because the Malaysian military did not send its jet out into the sky to follow a civilian aircraft in distress.

That brings us to a globally critical question: Why? Why did the Malaysian defence not do what is the most appropriate action at a time when the civil aviation authorities sent out an SOS?

In any other nation that professes to govern by the dictates of decent democracy and best practice governance, the minister accountable for his or her inability to see that the right action is taken at the right time by the right people, would immediately resign in disgrace.

Even in employment, failure to discharge responsibilities that eventually causes undue losses and suffering will lead to immediate dismissal if there is no resignation volunteered.

But what we are seeing here in the way we govern a nation, it is the citizens who are admonished and shut up when faced with a national disaster that has far-reaching consequences in addition to loss of lives, assets and dignity.

The leaders continue with business as usual and seem quite settled with a system that gives them absolute immunity from being affected by failures or even dereliction of duties.

In the end, just like the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder, no one is now responsible for the catastrophic failure of MH370 that has placed Malaysia in an extremely vulnerable position.

One, the airlines, Malaysian Airlines – a national carrier – is being besieged by a massive arrest on its reputation and financial status.

Two, it places the entire military (the Malaysian air force) on a bad pedestal. The reputation and ability of the many seniors and leaders within the force are being tarnished – though it is no fault of their own in all probability.

And three, if the former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent attestation that the plane may still be somewhere is anything to go by, it only puts our leader of defence and transport in dire circumstances.

Four, or are there far more hidden secrets that continue to keep the entire world of concerned and affected citizens in a solid wrap of known-unknowns?

It is therefore no surprise that citizens are urging Hishammuddin’s resignation.

24 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysia-Chronicle

Malaysia’s debt fuelled economy powered on steroids was the result of Bank Negara’s policy of low interest rates and the abundant availability of credit.

To avert the economy from free falling credit expansion measures are taken to stabilize the economy. Economic growth as measured by the GDP is now a function of Government and private consumer spending financed by the credit expansion or put it simply ‘debts’.

In the short run this might help mitigate the pain associated with a slowing economy such as a recession. Preventing a recession also means preventing the economy from performing its natural task on rebalancing such as getting rid of excesses accumulated along the way.

One of the side effects of excesses is the inflating of assets prices to bubble levels. As a result we have various bubbles blown in the stock market, real estate, bonds and futures market in Malaysia.

Mis-allocation of Resources

Bubbles are created by misallocation of resources because credit is not directed to the most efficient part of the economy. Take for example to prevent a downturn in our housing market, interest rates are kept low and credits are made easily available. With low down payments our local speculators are able to purchases a few houses in one go due to the low monthly mortgage payments.

It is like buying a lottery ticket where the returns are very high with a small investment. This can happen in the housing market if speculators can find greater fools to buy it from them every few months. With leverage of up to 300% in margin accounts, it will be difficult to prevent people from buying lottery tickets in the stock markets as well.

Betting on such high leverage can only go on as long as the markets keep going up. There will be bloodbath when the markets implode sooner or later. Other form of misallocation of resources or mal-investments happening around our country includes the following.

> Crony capitalism. Bankrolling cronies at the expense of other businesses in the economy. A good example will be supplying cheap electricity to IPPs (Independent Power Producers).

> Bailing out GLCs. Bailing out loss making GLCs like MAS, Proton and so on does not help improve the economy. It’s like throwing money into a bottomless pit. Better channel the funds to provide credit to other industries to help improve their capacity and efficiency.

> Cost Overruns in public projects. A good example is the recent KLIA 2 project. Construction costs have ballooned from an initial RM1.7 billion to more than RM 4 billion. One way to justify cost overruns due to the rise in raw material prices, raining season and so on is by issuing VO or Variation Orders. Variation Order is one method used by companies participating in a tender exercise to quote at a very low price. Once they landed the projects then they will use Variation Orders to mark up the costs of the project and hence generate hefty profits in the end.

> Overpriced Public Sector Procurement. Recent report by the Auditor General reveals of exorbitantly over priced items supplied to our Government. Procurements of RM500 screw drivers, RM2000 car jacks and RM30,000 notebooks are common occurrence in the public sector.

> Wastages. Again the Auditor General also reveals massive wastage in the public sector. Buying things like odd sized safety shoes, under powered computers, building unusable open air public futsal courts, unsuitable or unusable defence assets and so on.

The above shows how our Government literally throws ‘good money after bad’ but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier attempts to bolster consumer spending to lift the economy is not a long term solution either. As a result of the easy availability of credit through channels such as personal loans and credit cards, consumers are spending recklessly on fine dining, overseas travel, luxury goods and so on.

The following graphs illustrate the composition and extent of the debts incurred by both the private and public sector in 2012.

Debt
Domestic
Foreign
Total
Public
438
18
456
Private
749
239
988
Debt
Domestic
Foreign
Total
Public
51%
2%
53%
Private
87%
28%
115%
http://www.businesscircle.com.my/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/FIGURE-3-580x435.jpg

From above we can see that our households are spending un-necessarily. More than 70% of the debts are incurred by properties and followed by vehicles purchase. This unscrupulous spending has led to many of them unable to repay their debts and thus went into bankruptcy.

The following graph shows the number of bankruptcy cases in Malaysia is on the rise since 2002 and heightened after 2008.

Historical Data Chart

 

Repercussions of Debt Addiction

A recent study by HSBC shows that Malaysia’s addiction to debt has gone to unsustainable level and being one of the highest in Asia after China.

Malaysia’s credit intensity of Growth has increased to more than 2x in 2013. Credit intensity to growth measures the amount of borrowing or debt to achieve a unit of growth. Studies have shown that in normal circumstances in an efficiently managed economy a $1 debt will generate an increase of $1.60 in GDP growth. This is because due to the effects of fractional reserve banking and the multiplier effect generated from bank loans, the resultant GDP growth should be higher than money supply.

However as shown by the chart below, the credit intensity of growth in Malaysia soared from 0.7x during 2003-2007 to about 2.3x in 2013. This means that efficiency of capital utilization in Malaysia has been decreasing. To make it simple, during 2003-2007, we needed about RM0.70 to produce RM1 of GDP but in 2013 it went up to RM2.30. Thus our Government need to borrow more money to maintain the existing level of GDP growth.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2014/05/credit%20intensity%20asia.jpg

There are many ways a country can increase its economic growth like increasing productivity, capital investments, enhancing efficiency through technology, production processes and so on. To achieve any meaningful level of economic growth, the amount of funds invested into the economy should produce at least an equal amount of economic growth.

In an efficient economy, this will mean that an X amount of investment should produce an X amount of growth. In layman’s term a RM 1 input (debts) should produce a RM 1 output in GDP. In a debt laden economy like Malaysia, our Government has to increasingly rely on debts to enhance its economic growth.

Before we go on let me present you two graphs which are important for our analysis. Those are the GDP annual growth rate and Government Debt to GDP.

Malaysia GDP Annual Growth Rate

 

Malaysia Government Debt To GDP
The following table is generated from the above GDP growth, Government Debt to GDP and the GDP growth rate to Government Debt.
Year
GDP Growth %
Debt/GDP %
GDP Growth/Debt %
2008
4.87
41.24
11.8
2009
-6.7
52.82
-12.6
2010
7.55
53.51
14.1
2011
5.12
54.25
9.4
2012
5.62
53.3
10.5
2013
4.65
54.8
8.4
Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia
As can be seen, the third column which is the GDP/Debt growth rate has been sliding since 2010. The negative ( -6.7%) growth rate in year 2009 was due to the effects of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.
However economic growth did picked up in 2010 to 7.55% but at the expense of higher debt load which seen soared from 41.24% to 52.82%. This represents an increase of 28% in the Debt/GDP. This can be illustrated graphically below.

 

The above chart illustrates the effects of earlier mal-investments on our economy. Due to misallocation of resources much precious capital are wasted because they are redirected to inefficient sectors of the economy.

Thus there is not much economic benefit or productivity generated from those investments. As a result the GDP Growth/Debt or economic growth generated by debt has been sliding downwards since 2010 from 14.1% to 8.4%. Although our Government Debt to GDP increased to a record 54.8% which is only a tad lower than the stipulated 55%, we achieved a lower GDP growth of 4.65%. The reason for this is that we have reached a diminishing return on our debts which can be shown by the following graph.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-a74UaQR0pV4/TqSPyxLneYI/AAAAAAAAPzU/_RLVqIfpt-A/s1600/Debt%2BCurve.jpg

As seen there will be a saturation point where any additional debt will not boost productivity and thus increasing the debt load will lead to lower productivity.

Another setback of depending on debts to finance economic growth is the increasing amount of future interest payments. If we use the current benchmark of 10 year bond rates which is 4.01% as our costs of funds then the interest rates due to our Government in 2013 will be (4.01% x RM456 billion) = RM18.69 billion.

Please note that our interest payment will rise this year because not only our Government Debt/GDP has risen to 54.8% last year but our GDP also rose by 4.65% last year. Below I present to you the estimated amount of interest due to our Government this year, where:

10 Year Interest rate = 4.01%

Government GDP/Debt in 2013 = 54.8%

GDP in 2012 = US$303.53 billion

GDP in 2013 = (4.65% x US$303.53) = US$317.64 billion

Today’s Exchange rate USD/MYR = 3.21

Thus,

Interest Due = 4.01% x $317.64 billion x 3.21 x 0.548 = RM 22.4 billion.

What other repercussions?

There are three consequences arises from using debts to finance economic growth.

Firstly, there is a trade off in what we called ‘opportunity costs’ in economics. Opportunity costs in this case refer to alternative ventures that are forgone in order to pay for the interest rates. Money used to pay interest rates instead can be diverted to build more schools, hospitals, roads, bridges or parks for that matter for the benefit of the people.

Secondly, due to the diminishing return on debts, more money will be needed to achieve the same amount of growth. To further accelerate growth obviously more debts will be incurred due to the mal-investment arises as a result. So, what is the point of diverting more money into a bottomless pit? The following chart shows this phenomena that is affecting not only Malaysia but most of Asia.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2014/05/Credit%20growth%20asia.jpg

Lastly and most importantly our Government is plundering tomorrow’s treasure today. As seen, our interest payments will keep rising when as long as we are addicted to debts. Put it simply, we are spending our children’s wealth and leaving them paying the bills tomorrow.

What used to be the traditional Capitalistic model of economic growth where capital is generated from savings as a result surplus production has now transformed into a ‘something for nothing’ economic system where we don’t need to save in order to generate capital.

Governments can now generate capital by a new technology called the ‘Printing Press’ where they can churn out as much money as they can. The ability to print money has led to an enormous abuse of power by our politicians as they can buy influence and power through corruption. And at the same time they can prohibit capitalism, competition and freedom which led to many monopolies in our country.

Monopolistic companies such as Tenaga Nasional and Plus are able to maintain high prices and raising prices without the need to worry about competitors. Thus, we don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why RM1 in debt generates less than RM1 in GDP growth is not sustainable.

It is just a matter of time when our economy will be CRASH landing. The current state of affair of our country can best be summed up by the following phrase.

When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you…you may know that your society is doomed. – Ayn Rand

24 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

Pakatan Rakyat leaders came together last night in a show of force for the mini-finale in the Bukit Gelugor by-election campaign which ends at midnight today.

They were greeted by about 3,000 who packed the Han Chiang College hall amid an air of festivities, with the crowd in high spirits, cheering loudly whenever the coalition’s top leaders arrived.

As Bukit Gelugor candidate Ramkarpal Singh arrived at 9pm, shouts of “Ramkarpal! Ramkarpal!” reverberated in the hall.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng received the same reception when he arrived at 9.43pm as the crowd chanted his name repeatedly.

Shouts of “Reformasi” accompanied by DAP, PKR and PAS flags were seen waving vigorously as PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim arrived at 9.50pm with a sling around his right arm, an injury which he sustained in a minor car accident last week.

Many jostled to snap photos of Anwar and a few reached out to touch him as he was ushered into the hall amid loud cheers from the crowd.

As opposition leader started to speak, many tried to inch their way to the area in front of the stage to hear him.

Anwar spoke fiercely and at the top of his voice, telling Penangites not to be scared of the small group of samseng (gangsters) who forced their way into the Penang legislative assembly on Wednesday.

“Umno is getting desperate and lack issues – that is why they have the samsengs. Are you sacred of the 20 Umno samsengs who entered the Dewan? Don’t be scared of them!” he stormed.

“This is not ‘69 when the racial riots happened. This is not a battle for Umno but a battle for all Malaysians. This is not a fight only for the Malays or Chinese but for all Malaysians,” he added to loud cheers from the crowd.

“Theirs is dirty politics, but we must continue to fight them. Tell the Malay samsengs that their fight is not with the Chinese alone but with all Malaysians,” he added.

Where are you, Zahid?

Anwar gave an assurance that Guan Eng would take the Penang assembly intrusion seriously, saying he would stand with the DAP secretary-general to see this through.
He ticked off Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, asking, “Where are you? Are you doing your job?

“If BN cannot ensure the safety and security of the nation or defend the unity of this country, then please leave!” he said to thunderous applause.

He was referring to the angry mob who were after Seri Delima assemblyperson RSN Rayer for calling three Umno leaders – MPs Reezal Merican Naina Merican (Kepala Batas) and Shabudin Yahya (Tasek Gelugor) and Umno state deputy chief Musa Sheikh Fadzir – “celaka” (damned).

Rayer was upset with the trio for being part of a rally in Seberang Jaya in January where banners blaming DAP for the May 13 racial riots were unfurled.

Polling for the Bukit Gelugor by-election – a contest between DAP’s Ramkarpal and three independents – is on Sunday.

23 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Foreign Policy

Thailand’s modern era has now seen so many coups that scholars have lost count. On Thursday, the Thai military once more overthrew the government, marking the 12th coup since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. But between the failed coups, aborted putsches, and successful revolts, scholars don’t really know many times a Thai government has experienced a violent challenge to its rule.

“Please share your knowledge to help us count Thailand’s military coups once-and-for-all,” Nicholas Farrelly, a Southeast Asia scholar and a professor at Australian National University, wrote on the website New Mandala this week.

Despite robust economic growth and fitful steps toward full democratization, Thailand can’t seem to escape from under the shadow of its long history of military coups. Prior to this week’s events, which saw the military first impose martial law and then remove the government outright, the last coup occurred in 2006, when the army ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This time around, it’s Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her political allies who find themselves in the military’s cross-hairs.

With soldiers surrounding government buildings and tanks parked in the streets of Bangkok, the Thai military is casting itself as a purveyor of order. “In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again?.?.?.?and to reform the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power,” Gen. Prayuth Chan-ochoa said in a televised address to the nation.

The military has also detained politicians on either side of the country’s political divide, including the prominent protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, which allows it to claim a patina of neutrality in Thailand’s increasingly bitter political sparring. Thailand’s aggressive anti-government protesters have succeeded in sowing chaos in the run-up to the coup, carrying out protests for the last six months and clashing violently with the government. At least 25 people have died and images of streets shut down by protesters have only reinforced Thailand’s image as as a tinderbox of Southeast Asia. As a result, revenue from tourism, a crucial sector of the economy, has seen a marked decline.

In carrying out a coup and deploying soldiers to the streets, the Thai army has at least brought that unrest to an end. As has occurred with previous Thai coups, the return to order on the streets will surely be enough to lead some to call Thursday’s events “good coup.” That would be a mistake.

We’ve often written about the concept of a so-called “democratic coup”here at Foreign Policy, and this isn’t one. If the notion of a democratic coup sounds oxymoronic, consider the examples Ozan Varol, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, cites in his research on the matter: the Turkish coup of 1960 that saw the overthrow of the Democrat Party, which had cracked down on civil and press rights; the 1974 coup in Portugal that saw the end of the Estado Novo military government; and the 2011 coup that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

The last example illustrates how fraught the concept of a democratic coup remains. In the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall, Egyptian voters elected a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, as the country’s new president. Morsi himself was removed from power a short time later after millions of protesters took to the streets to decry his government and accuse it of trying to impose theocratic law. Three years later, Morsi is facing criminal charges, thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been imprisoned, and Egypt is hurtling toward what increasingly appears likely to become a new military dictatorship.

Varol defines a “democratic coup” according to the following criteria:

(1) the coup is staged against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime; (2) the military responds to persistent popular opposition against that regime; (3) the authoritarian or totalitarian regime refuses to step down in response to the popular uprising; (4) the coup is staged by a military that is highly respected within the nation, ordinarily because of mandatory conscription; (5) the military stages the coup to overthrow the authoritarian or totalitarian regime; (6) the military facilitates free and fair elections within a short span of time; and (7) the coup ends with the transfer of power to democratically elected leaders

On point one, it fails for Thailand: The ousted government was democratically elected and had taken steps to reconcile with the protest movement by promising new elections. And while the military certainly responded to popular opposition, the governing coalition’s ability to consistently win popular elections would point to their support among the people. On point three, the government had called for new elections in response to the protests. On point four, it depends on whom you ask. On the fifth criteria, the answer is an obvious no. And on points six and seven, it remains to be seen — and the country’s long history of coups certainly doesn’t point toward an answer in the affirmative.

But there’s a more important reason why Thailand will probably never see a democratic coup: its Borgian elite politics that made military intervention an accepted tool of maintaining the elite’s grip on power.  The current political stand-off centers on the enduring political divide between the country’s elite and a political movement led by the Shinawatra clan and with its powerbase in rural areas. Shinawatra’s populist political movement has redistributed power in Thailand away from the elite networks that dominate the capital, and this has made the country’s army officers, judges, monarchists, and bureaucrats profoundly worried. The only problem is that Bangkok’s elites are completely incapable of cobbling together an electoral coalition capable of winning a national election.

In a fascinating 2013 paper Farrelly — yes, the poor scholar asking for your help tallying Thailand’s coups — paints a portrait of a craven Thai elite that gladly sends the military into the streets for motives both nefarious and underhanded. Farrelly quotes a 1972 article that describes a coup of the previous year. It could just as well have run today:

The actual causes of the [November 17, 1971] coup lay in Thailand’s factional politics, the legislative threat to bureaucratic privilege, and pressure from younger military officers to do away with the trappings of democracy to protect their own political power base.

While Thailand’s king is a revered figure, the country’s elite has come to use him as a pawn in their attempts to hold on to power. Farrelly argues that Thailand’s coup culture is largely centered around the idea of protecting the king, the threats to whom are mostly manufactured reasons to send tanks into the streets. But the safety of the monarchy has nonetheless become a rhetorical gloss whose continued deployment provides the basis of an elite culture all too willing to use the military to achieve its political goals.

Indeed, on Thursday Gen. Prayuth assured Thailand that the military “will protect and worship the monarchy.”

The same can’t be said about the country’s struggling democracy.

23 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

The families of flight MH370 passengers and crew have derided Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s weak defence of military inaction during the early hours of the plane’s disappearance, and in a show of anger some have even demanded that he step down as the acting Transport Minister.

Hishammuddin told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview aired on Monday that the Malaysian military had been told to keep an eye on the plane but allowed it to disappear off their radar after considering it to be non-hostile.

His statements have drawn much flak from the families of those on board the ill-fated jetliner, who said he has only fuelled more questions instead of providing answers to the incident.

They also said the statements by Hishammuddin, who is also Defence Minister, smacked of incompetence and that more honest people should be allowed to lead the investigation into the aircraft’s disappearance, instead of covering up the military’s and the government’s flaws.

Indian national Pralhad Shirsath whose wife was a passenger on the plane, questioned how the plane was allowed to pass through Malaysian airspace without any action taken, when the military knew that M370 was missing or in trouble.

“If they have reason to hide information, they should tell us and probably we will try to understand them”. – Pralhad Shirsath, husband of passenger on flight MH370.

He said the minister’s statement only showed that it was part of “a plan” to make the plane disappear with some purpose.

“Mr Transport Minister said, ‘If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it up?’

“Well, he should understand that sending up military planes does not always mean shooting it down, but rather investigating risk and taking action (when it was already identified as a commercial jet and non-hostile but travelling through Malaysian territory without authorisation) in terms of giving feedback to those to whom the plane belongs (I assume military did not know it was Malaysian flag carrier at that time),” Shirsath told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.

“Or is it OK to fly over Malaysian territory without prior permission or clearance?” he asked.

Shirsath believed that the latest revelation only proved that the Malaysian government was hiding more information from the families and the public.

“If they have reason to hide information, they should tell us and probably we will try to understand them,” he said.

Shirsath also said Malaysia’s image has been dented by the way the government has dealt with the tragedy. He was puzzled as how the people who ruled the country and those in charge of the search and rescue operation managed to remain in power.

“How can Malaysian people tolerate these blunders? These leaders must step down and more honest people should lead the investigation,” he said.

“It is not too late, they should tell us all truth, stop misguiding the media and families and make sure passengers and crew return to their homes safely and we will forgive them,” he added.

A Twitter posting by relative of an MH370 passenger, criticising Hishammuddin over his interview with Australia's Fourcorners programme.

A Twitter posting by relative of an MH370 passenger, criticising Hishammuddin over his interview with Australia’s Fourcorners programme.Sarah Bajc, the partner of passenger Philip Wood, echoed Shirsath’s sentiment, saying it is both absurd and perilous for any civilian or military flight observer to disregard an unidentified airplane.

“I believe the Malaysian people and the investigation into MH370 would be well served by Hishammuddin’s resignation. My guess is that most feel that way but I would not presume to speak for others,” she said.

Meanwhile, Syafinaz Hasnan, the sister of M370 crew Mohd Hazrin, described Hishammuddin’s statements as insensitive.

“I am saddened by the way the government has dealt with the military issue. They are also very confused with their own twisted information. Now everyone knows how incompetent they are and how vulnerable our country can be,” she said.

K.S. Narendran, husband of Chandrika Sharma, one of the five Indian nationals on board MH370, found the minister’s stance and the defence “outrageous”.

He said what occured showed total neglect and incompetence on the part of the various  authorities in handling the incident, and urged Hishammuddin to stop defending the indefensible by covering up military flaws.

He also said the public was not easily taken in, regardless of whether Hishammuddin had appeared sombre or savvy, contrite or confident,
collaborative or combative on television.

“The families and the world deserve to hear the truth and the only way the government can hope to redeem themselves is by refusing to be the agents of those who want to protect their interests, seeking forgiveness for specific lapses and making amends,” said Narendran.

Lokman Mustafa, whose sister was on board the plane, said the lack of action from the military only revealed the mentality which resulted in the Lahad Datu intrusion.

“Either our military men were not inquisitive enough, or just plain lazy, which of course means a dereliction of duty. Or worse, could this be a conspiracy to hide something?” he asked.

“Let’s put it this way, if we hear strange sounds on our roof, do we get out to check what’s causing it?

“We may, or may not… but because our military men are paid to ensure our safety, they have to determine whether its hostile or otherwise. Just because ‘we’re not at war with anybody’ does not mean we should allow any aircraft to trespass into our airspace and quietly glide out to sea, because it might be Lahad Datu intruders again, or MH370. But I guess some people never learn,” he said.

In the interview with ABC, Hishammuddin said the military did not send a plane up to investigate as “it was not deemed a hostile object and pointless if you are not going to shoot it down”.

He said this in defence of the military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet after flight MH370 had disappeared from civilian radar on March 8 when its transponder stopped transmitting around 1.21am during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The military radar tracked it after it made a turn-back and turned in a westerly direction across the peninsula.

“If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” Hishammuddin told ABC.

Delays in pinpointing the Boeing 777-200ER’s location led to days of searching in the South China Sea before analysis from British satellite firm, Inmarsat, pointed to the Indian Ocean as its likely course.

Hishammuddin had also said that had the jet been shot down with 239 passengers and crew on board, “I’d be in a worse position, probably”.

He said he was informed of the military radar detection two hours later and relayed it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who then ordered a search in the Malacca Strait.

This was the first time that Malaysia has said that civil aviation authorities told the military to keep an eye on the aircraft – a fact which was not mentioned in the five-page preliminary report on the plane’s disappearance released by the Ministry of Transport on May 1.

The much-criticised preliminary report made no mention of the instructions from the civil aviation authorities to the military to monitor the plane.

Instead, the brief report, which was sent to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), revealed a chaotic four hours after communications between Malaysia air traffic controllers, Malaysia Airlines and other regional air traffic controllers, before a hunt was initiated.

The Malaysian authorities have been severely criticised over their handling of the investigations into the missing jetliner with the international media, family members of passengers and crew, with the public accusing them of hiding and delaying information.

A survey commissioned by The Malaysian Insider last month showed that more than half of Malaysians polled believed that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government had been hiding information about flight MH370′s disappearance.

23 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Milli Gazette

By: Dr Javed Jamil

While on one hand, terrorism, in fact violence of all hues and colours, whoever the culprits, whoever the victims and whatever the place, has to be condemned in no uncertain terms, on the other hand, all the factors related to the rise of terrorism of any colour have to be addressed if it is to be controlled. The role of the precipitating factors, the media in fanning hatred, the politicians, community leaders and executives, the military and the police – all have to be analysed.
Elections have ended. Exit polls have already positioned Narendra Modi in the Prime Minister’s seat. Within a couple of days, the new government will take the office. But if the post-poll events are any indication, we may be heading for a difficult time. As if the communal polarization during the Election campaign was not enough, the BJP candidate Giri Raj Singh has come up again with a statement, which points to the aggressive intents of the new leaders of the country. “Those who want to stop Modi”, he roared, “have their Makkah and Madina in Pakistan”. He went further to ask “why all those arrested on the charges of terrorism belong to a particular community.”

A few days back, on a TV debate, my co-panelist was Vijay Sonkar Shastri, BJP spokesman and former MP. He expressed the same sentiment though in a little more polished way. “This is extremely unfortunate”, he said, “but the truth is that Muslims alone are terrorists”. When I started countering him giving data on terrorism, which showed that Hindu terrorism has been the biggest menace in the world including India, he smiled and said, “You are a dangerous debater Dr. Javed and if I pass a few hours with you, I will end up having hridaya parivartan (change of heart)”.

The trend in recent years has been that while the Hindutva lobbies and the media try to project all terrorist violence as Muslim, some Muslim leaders and mediapersons behave as if a Muslim cannot be a terrorist at all. Both are extreme positions that need to be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.

The truth is that while the majority of terrorism related violence in India in the last 40 years has been non-Muslim, a few terrorist attacks might have been perpetrated by Muslims. But If we count the deaths in all the terrorist attacks allegedly by Muslim outfits, these do no cross 1500. These include all the major attacks including the serial Mumbai attacks after Babri Masjid demolition and 26/11 attack in Mumbai.  http://creative.sulekha.com/hindu-terrorism-versus-muslim-terrorism-in-india_497274_blog

Now let’s have a look at the other terrorist attacks in the country.

Deaths related to Naxalite violence [1]
Period Civilians Security forces Insurgents Total per period
1989–2001 1,610 432 1,007 3,049[84]
2002 382 100 141 623[85]
2003 410 105 216 731[85]
2004 466 100 87 653[85]
2005 524 153 225 902[86]
2006 521 157 274 952[86]
2007 460 236 141 837[86]
2008 399 221 214[87] 834[88]
2009 586 317 217 1,120[89]
2010 713 285 171 1,169[90]
2011 275 128 199 602[91]
2012 146 104 117 367[92]
2013 123 83 136 342[93]
TOTAL 6,615 2,421 3,145 12,181

Based on the above displayed statistics, it can be determined that more than 12,000 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 1980, of which more than half died in the last ten years. The unofficial figures put the toll several times higher.

In the violence related to Sikhs, several hundreds have been killed by Sikh militants. In Hindu-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, more than 2000 Sikhs died.

Then there are killings related to ULFA. According to a Wikipedia report, “In the past two decades some 18,000 people have died in the clash between the rebels and the security forces. So it can be seen that the violence involving Sikhs, Naxalites and ULFA has killed more than 30000 people in last 30 years.”

Hindu violence is not confined to India. In Sri Lanka, more than 60000 people have died in Tamil related violence. (http://netwmd.com/articles/article1120.html)

In Nepal, Maoist violence has also killed hundreds.

There are people who try to argue that Naxalites, Maoists and ULFA activists are not religion-inspired. But the truth remains that they are all Hindus according to demographic records. And violence is violence, whether related to communal sentiments or to any other cause. Violence in the name of religion cannot be described as more condemnable than that related to any other ideology. Violence has to be condemned in proportion to the casualties it causes. Moreover, the killers of Sikhs in Delhi riots and those of Muslims in various riots have been the hardcore believers in Hindu scriptures. This does not in any way mean that Hinduism or any other religion is responsible for such violence. This shows that mutual hatred often leads people to indulge in violent attacks against one another. The majority communities or powerful groups anywhere in the world routinely indulge in riots or the government forces act on their behalf. The weaker communities and groups resort to terrorism and other forms of hit and run strategies.

It is clear that the percentage of deaths in terrorist attacks in India attributed to Muslims is not more than 4-5 percent. In my previous article on riots, I have already shown that the number of Muslims killed in riots in India is at least three times the number of Hindus killed.

Link of Terrorism with Riots

While it will be wrong to assume that the anti-Muslim riots and Babri Masjid demolition were the only factors responsible for the rise of some alleged Muslim terrorist organizations, it will be totally out of place as well to dismiss this factor altogether. Some analysts have argued that “terrorists” are the product of a certain mindset. They may be partially right. But it is also right that such a mindset needs fuel to prosper, and events like Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots multiplied with a widespread feeling of discrimination provide sufficient fuel for that purpose to be achieved. While on one hand, terrorism, in fact violence of all hues and colours, whoever the culprits, whoever the victims, whatever the place, has to be condemned in no uncertain  terms, on the other hand, all the factors related to the rise of terrorism of any colour have to be addressed if it is to be controlled. The role of the precipitating factors, the media in fanning hatred, the politicians, community leaders and executives, the military and the police – all have to be analysed. On top of tem, all communities have to be socioeconomically empowered and all kinds of discrimination have to be eradicated. Only then we can hope of a lasting peace.

If the impression has gathered momentum that all or almost all terrorists are Muslims, it is on account of the media and biased activists. Every month, several Naxalite and Maoist attacks take place killing scores of people. But the electronic media hardly covers them except for a few hours. On the contrary, if an attack is believed to be caused by some Muslim terrorists, the coverage continues for days. Nobody in India knows the names of the leaders of Naxalites and other such organizations but, thanks to the media and communal organizations, the names of the Muslim terrorists are widely known. Even the Muslim spokesmen of parties like Congress appear to be taking apologetic and defensive approach and nobody bothers to present the true statistics nailing the malicious propaganda against Muslims.

 

23 May 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

A prepatory meeting for a World Forum for Muslim Democrats met yesterday in Jakarta to discuss the convening of the Forum’s first global conference.

Chaired by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim with the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in collaboration with the Habibie Center and the Foundation for Political Economic and Social Research (SETA) from Turkey, it was decided that the first conference will be held in Malaysia.

The primary goal for the World Forum for Muslim Democrats is to establish a common platform for leaders, intellectuals and professionals of the Islamic faith to articulate their progressive views on matters pertaining to freedom, democracy and justice.

Nevertheless, it was stressed that the Forum will be inclusive of the multifarious political and religious persuasions in order to promote greater understanding and dynamics in the discourse.

In this regard, it is envisaged the conference will attract participants from political parties, civil society organisations, intellectuals and the media.

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