Archive for February 5th, 2014

Asia’s Dangerous Strongman Nostalgia

By William Pesek
Feb 4, 2014

Indonesia is growing at 6 percent, has rejoined the ranks of investment-grade nations, and after decades under the corrupt and repressive Suharto, has reaffirmed its place as the world’s third-largest democracy. Yet somehow enough Indonesians remember the Suharto years fondly that his Golkar Party has hopes of regaining power in upcoming elections.

Golkar isn’t alone in trying to exploit nostalgia for past strongmen (and -women). India’s Congress Party is trying to squeeze any remaining good feelings about the Nehru-Gandhi period (from 1947 to about 1989) to elevate lackluster heir apparent Rahul Gandhi. Even as China’s Xi Jinping pushes ahead with market reforms, he continues to pay homage to Communist icon Mao Zedong (1949-1976). Thais are destroying their economy rather than cut off support for tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-2006) and his sister Yingluck. Many Malaysians wax sentimental about the boom days of Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003). Japanese are indulging Shinzo Abe’s dangerous stroll down memory lane.

What gives with nostalgianomics? The yearning for yesteryear speaks to our disorienting times and a dearth of visionary leadership when it’s most needed. This is an upside-down era when the unthinkable has a way of becoming reality: The U.S. is a developing nation again; Europe is hitting up “poor” China to bail out its debt markets; central banks have gone Islamic with zero-interest rates everywhere; the free trade that once raised living standards now foments poverty. Many simply want to get off this crazy ride. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Reject Violence, Advocate Peaceful Dialogue’

By Advocates for Peaceful Dialogue

Last week a draft statement calling on leaders and rakyat of Malaysia to condemn violence and engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve current ethno-religious issues was circulated.

It is indicative of the dangerous times that Malaysians are presently living in that the draft quickly drew a strong response. More than 200 academics, thought leaders and civil society organizations from Malaysia and abroad, all of whom want to see the country thrive and fulfil its full potential, wrote in support of the statement.

The campaign reminding the country’s leaders – and in fact all citizenry – to stand firm against intimidatory acts and violence needs to be sustained.

To ensure that the campaign reaches far and wide as well as serves as a wake up call to the Government of the day to live up to its political and moral responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all Malaysians, the petition has been made available for access and endorsement through the following links:

Advocates for Peaceful Dialogue (APD)

  • Lim Teck Ghee, Director, Center for Policy Initiatives

  • Gregore Pio Lopez, Visiting Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University

  • Azmi Sharom, University of Malaya

  • Tessa Houghton, Centre for the Study of Communications & Culture, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

The contents of the petition are also reproduced below, as are the names of key academic signatories and civil society organizations from home and other countries of the world concerned about the future of Malaysia
Read the rest of this entry »


Best way for Cabinet to commemorate 111th birth anniversary of Bapa Malaysia is to revive the Inter-Religious Council which Tunku Abdul Rahman set up in early decades to nationhood to resolve inter-religious differences and promote inter-religious harmony

This is the third day of a week-long world-wide celebration of “World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014” (Feb. 3 – 9) and Malaysia, as a microcosm of global multi-racial and multi-religious society, should be in the forefront to promote interfaith engagement where people of diverse faiths can undergo a process by which ‘tolerance’ develops into ‘understanding’ and eventually lead to unity of heart and meaningful relationships.

I want to remind the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that on the first day of the World Interfaith Harmony Week last year on Feb. 2, 2013, he set the pace of the observance of the global interfaith harmony week and visited the places of worship of the nation’s five main religions in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, i.e. Sri Sakhti Karpaga Vinayagar temple, the Buddhist Maha Vihara temple, the Tamil Methodist Church, the Toaist Sam Kow Tong temple and the Madrasathul Gouthiyyah Surau.

On this day last year, he spoke about the need to hold on to the three principles of moderation, respecting those of other faiths, and fairness and being considerate.

But this year, not only the Prime Minister but the Department of National Unity and Integration in the Prime Minister’s Department, which is tasked with organising this year’s World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrations in Malaysia, lacks conviction and enthusiasm – which explains why the official portal of the Department of National Unity and Integration ( is a blank about national-level celebration events of the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 featuring the Prime Minister when I just visited it on the third day of the world-wide week-long commemoration.

In actual fact, the government should have gone out of its way to ensure that the events to celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week this year should be on a grander scale and more meaningful than last year bearing in mind that inter-faith relations, goodwill and harmony had never been so sorely tested in the nation’s history as in the past eight months – resulting in the worst racial and religious polarisation in the country as a result of the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension by a small group of reckless and irresponsible people who seemed to enjoy immunity and impunity for their nefarious and treacherous ends to provoke racial and religious strife in the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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