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Khamis, 8 Mei 2014

Anwar Ibrahim

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Anwar Ibrahim


The geopolitics of MH370

Posted: 08 May 2014 07:28 PM PDT

The Economist

Having bashed Malaysia over the missing flight, China is now making up

THERE will be no let-up in the efforts to find the missing Malaysian Airlines jet Najib Razak, Malaysia's prime minister, vowed on May 5th. Despite his promise, however, there is growing acceptance that it will take months even years to find any trace of flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8th. Hopes that any of its passengers might still be alive must also be cast aside. The new search area in the Indian Ocean will alone cover 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 square miles)—and that is on top of the 4,600,000 square kilometres already scoured. Because the focus of the search-and-rescue mission has now moved to the west coast of Australia, Malaysians have some breathing space to reflect on a traumatic two months in the glare of the world's attention. The country has taken a battering, but the longer-term damage is another matter. The saga has emphasised how much Malaysia matters in the geopolitics of the region: the two Pacific superpowers, America and China, have both come to play big roles in the search for the missing plane, if in very different ways.

In any reckoning, Malaysia's handling of the loss of MH370 has been a public-relations disaster. The tone was set during the first week by the authorities' confusion, stonewalling and contradictory messages. One of the gravest flaws has been a deep reluctance to release information, however innocuous. This antagonised the victims' families. And the problem persists. On May 1st the Malaysian government published a much-heralded report on the disappearance of the plane. This turned out to consist of just five pages, containing little new information. But, as one government adviser admitted: "If we had got this out there in the first week, there wouldn't have been a nine-week drumbeat of everyone calling us lying bastards."

Opposition politicians and critics of the government say that the damage to Malaysia's reputation is a result of the country's poor governance. Malaysia, the argument goes, is more authoritarian than democratic, with little transparency or accountability in government.

There is some truth to that. But government officials are justified in feeling frustrated that the failures of communication have overshadowed their success in efficiently putting together an extraordinary coalition of countries to look for the plane. On the technical side, many acknowledge that Malaysia has done an adequate job with the relatively limited means at its disposal. It has also gone beyond the call of duty in opening up to its search partners, sharing sensitive details of its military radar system, for example, with the Chinese.

One person who has stood up for Malaysia over MH370 is Barack Obama. During a recent long-scheduled visit to Malaysia, the American president went out of his way to laud the country's leadership of the search operation. America has contributed a vast amount of equipment, man-hours and money to the search for the missing plane, out of all proportion to the three Americans (out of 227 passengers) lost on the flight. This has brought the two countries closer, at a time when America is searching for new and reinvigorated alliances in the region. Historically, there has been a good deal of anti-Americanism in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but for the time being that seems to have been stilled. Mr Obama got a hero's welcome from everyone.

That in turn may help account for the zigzag course of China in the MH370 affair. The flight was en route to Beijing, and over half the passengers were Chinese. But rather than support the Malaysian government in the first month or so, China seemed to incite the distraught families into ever fiercer, often histrionic, criticism of Malaysian officialdom, perhaps to deflect attention from the possibility that the plane might have been downed by home-grown terrorists. The Chinese did nothing to dispel some of the alternative, wilder conspiracy theories circulating in Beijing.

In recent weeks, however, the tone has changed. The Chinese ambassador to Malaysia has told the Chinese-language press in Kuala Lumpur that his country accepts that the disappearance of MH370 was not some dark conspiracy and that Chinese-Malaysian relations are unaffected. The wave of criticism in the official Chinese press has largely abated. Perhaps China feels, in the regional battle of wills with America, that it needs good relations with Malaysia and that these were threatened by its attacks. Malaysia is China's largest trade partner in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). It also has a large ethnic-Chinese population, and thus could be helpful in its disputes in the South China Sea with other ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, both firmly backed by America.

Mr Najib makes an official visit to China at the end of this month, marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, initiated by Malaysia's then prime minister, Abdul Razak, Mr Najib's late father. With power so finely balanced in the region, China will strive to make the visit go smoothly, including keeping angry families at a face-saving distance.

I smile and bid you goodbye

Posted: 07 May 2014 11:24 PM PDT

Eulogy by Anwar Ibrahim on the occasion of the memorial service for
the late Irene Fernandez, on 30th April, 2014

Except for family members and fellow activists of the era then, many
are not aware that Azizah and I were close friends with our dearly
departed sister Irene Fernandez. Our friendship goes back to our Youth
Council days.

So, her passing on was a deep personal loss.

Today, we mourn her absence. We have lost a champion of the weak, the
poor and the marginalized. We have lost a fighter of true grit in the
face of persecution and constant harassment by the authorities.

Yet, while mourning for our loved ones is good for the soul, nothing
should hold us back from rejoicing in the memory of the good times, of
the moments of joy and of the great contributions she has made to our
lives.

I remember the very emotional moments during the launching of KEADILAN
at the Renaissance Hotel. Well, I use the word 'remember' in a special
sense because I could only get a second hand account. At that time, I
was still lodging at Sungai Buloh. But that's Irene for you – no airs,
no pretensions, no-holds barred of course and no holding of emotion
either.

Very headstrong and by virtue of her convictions, very gung-ho at a
time when this phrase wasn't that much in use yet.

Who would imagine that even then in the 70's during my ABIM days when
I got to know her, for study groups comprising Sixth Form students,
Irene was handing out xeroxed copies of passages from Frantz Fanon’s
The Wretched of the Earth?

That's how far ahead she was; and so imbued with the sense of
idealism that in that innocent and naive way but with a heart full of
kindness and sincerity, she felt that these students were ready for
the profound message of Fanon.

That preoccupation with the role of class, the struggle for national
liberation against colonial domination, and oppression of the weak and
the marginalised came eventually to define her work.

That was why she wouldn't budge an inch when fighting for the
downtrodden and exposed herself to criminal charges when she published
that now famous report on the migrant workers.

When she was found guilty in 2003 and sentenced to one year's jail, I
was looking forward to having 'working sessions' with her at the
Sungai Buloh conference hall for political prisoners! But as we know
that's history.

Today, there is so much religious tension being fuelled by
irresponsible groups and the compliant media. Back then, Irene and I
used to have very engaged and healthy inter-faith discussions. ABIM
was always reaching out to the others and vice versa. Irene was at the
centre of the discourse.

I know for sure Irene, emotional as she was prone to be at the right
time, was not the type to indulge in self-pity. Pity on others yes,
but never on herself. So, I think it is only fitting that I close my
eulogy with a short poem from one of our favourite Asian Renaissance
poets Rabindranath Tagore.

This is entitled Farewell My Friends from the Poems of Gitanjali :

"It was beautiful as long as it lasted

The journey of my life.

I have no regrets whatsoever

Save the pain I’ll leave behind.

Those dear hearts who love and care…

And the strings pulling at the heart and soul…

The strong arms that held me up

When my own strength let me down.

At every turning of my life I came across good friends,

Friends who stood by me,

Even when the time raced me by.

Farewell, farewell, my friends

I smile and bid you goodbye.

No, shed no tears for I need them not

All I need is your smile.

If you feel sad do think of me

For that’s what I’ll like when you live in the hearts

Of those you love, remember then

You never die."

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