- Anwar slams Najib over Allah acrimony
- ISIS and SISI
- The plane truth: Malaysia Airlines boss on what really happened the night flight MH370 went missing
Posted: 25 Jun 2014 10:13 PM PDT
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the lack of leadership from the prime minister and the courts has allowed “irresponsible elements” to hijack the discourse on the ‘Allah’ issue.
Anwar was lamenting the missed opportunity at a reasoned debate over theHerald’s ban on using the word ‘Allah’ arising from the Federal Court’s decision on Monday.
“It is unfortunate that a great opportunity has been lost for reasoned and enlightened thinking to prevail over rabble-rousing and extremist sentiments.
“The Federal Court’s non-decision and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s complete lack of leadership only place this country in further anxiety and uncertainty,” said Anwar in a statement today.
The PKR de facto leader said the Herald’s appeal was an “important legal and constitutional issue with major implications for Malaysians” and the Federal Court had the duty to offer its guidance.
He pointed to Perkasa’s controversial remark this week on thechopping of heads of those who ridicule Islam and the sultan as the result of the highest court’s failure to hear the case.
“Disturbingly, Perkasa has even suggested decapitation of those who disagree with it.
“The judiciary must not abdicate its duty. By not deciding, it allows irresponsible elements such as Perkasa, Isma and Umno to hijack the national discourse with divisive, confrontational and wrong-headed views,” Anwar said.
On Monday, four judges of a seven-memberFederal Court benchruled against granting leave to hear the appeal by the archbishop of the Catholic Church over the ban on its weekly publication from using the wor ‘Allah’.
Posted: 25 Jun 2014 09:47 PM PDT
The past month has presented the world with what the Israeli analyst Orit Perlov describes as the two dominant Arab governing models: ISIS and SISI.
ISIS, of course, is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the bloodthirsty Sunni militia that has gouged out a new state from Sunni areas in Syria and Iraq. SISI, of course, is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the new strongman/president of Egypt, whose regime debuted this week by shamefully sentencing three Al Jazeera journalists to prison terms on patently trumped-up charges — a great nation acting so small.
ISIS and Sisi, argues Perlov, a researcher on Middle East social networks at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, are just flip sides of the same coin: one elevates "god" as the arbiter of all political life and the other "the national state."
Both have failed and will continue to fail — and require coercion to stay in power — because they cannot deliver for young Arabs and Muslims what they need most: the education, freedom and jobs to realize their full potential and the ability to participate as equal citizens in their political life.
We are going to have to wait for a new generation that "puts society in the center," argues Perlov, a new Arab/Muslim generation that asks not "how can we serve god or how can we serve the state but how can they serve us."
Perlov argues that these governing models — hyper-Islamism (ISIS) driven by a war against "takfiris," or apostates, which is how Sunni Muslim extremists refer to Shiite Muslims; and hyper-nationalism (SISI) driven by a war against Islamist "terrorists," which is what the Egyptian state calls the Muslim Brotherhood — need to be exhausted to make room for a third option built on pluralism in society, religion and thought.
The Arab world needs to finally puncture the twin myths of the military state (SISI) or the Islamic state (ISIS) that will bring prosperity, stability and dignity. Only when the general populations "finally admit that they are both failed and unworkable models," argues Perlov, might there be "a chance to see this region move to the 21st century."
The situation is not totally bleak. You have two emergent models, both frail and neither perfect, where Muslim Middle East nations have built decent, democratizing governance, based on society and with some political, cultural and religious pluralism: Tunisia and Kurdistan. Again both are works in progress, but what is important is that they did emerge from the societies themselves. You also have the relatively soft monarchies — like Jordan and Morocco — that are at least experimenting at the margins with more participatory governance, allow for some opposition and do not rule with the brutality of the secular autocrats.
"Both the secular authoritarian model — most recently represented by Sisi — and the radical religious model — represented now by ISIS — have failed," adds Marwan Muasher, the former foreign minister of Jordan and author of "The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism." "They did because they have not addressed peoples' real needs: improving the quality of their life, both in economic and development terms, and also in feeling they are part of the decision-making process. Both models have been exclusionist, presenting themselves as the holders of absolute truth and of the solution to all society's problems."
But the Arab public "is not stupid," Muasher added. "While we will continue to see exclusionist discourses in much of the Arab world for the foreseeable future, results will end up trumping ideology. And results can only come from policies of inclusion, that would give all forces a stake in the system, thereby producing stability, checks and balances, and ultimately prosperity. ISIS and Sisi cannot win. Unfortunately, it might take exhausting all other options before a critical mass is developed that internalizes this basic fact. That is the challenge of the new generation in the Arab world, where 70 percent of the population is under 30 years of age. The old generation, secular or religious, seems to have learned nothing from the failure of the postindependence era to achieve sustainable development, and the danger of exclusionist policies."
Indeed, the Iraq founded in 1921 is gone with the wind. The new Egypt imagined in Tahrir Square is stillborn. Too many leaders and followers in both societies seem intent on giving their failed ideas of the past another spin around the block before, hopefully, they opt for the only idea that works: pluralism in politics, education and religion. This could take a while, or not. I don't know.
We tend to make every story about us. But this is not all about us. To be sure, we've done plenty of ignorant things in Iraq and Egypt. But we also helped open their doors to a different future, which their leaders have slammed shut for now. Going forward, where we see people truly committed to pluralism, we should help support them. And where we see islands of decency threatened, we should help protect them. But this is primarily about them, about their need to learn to live together without an iron fist from the top, and it will happen only when and if they want it to happen.
Posted: 25 Jun 2014 09:45 PM PDT
Londoner Hugh Dunleavy has spent the past 107 days working tirelessly to find flight MH370. Here the Malaysia Airlines boss tells Lucy Tobin what really happened during the night that sparked a thousand theories
It was four in the morning and Hugh Dunleavy was heading to Kuala Lumpur airport to fly to a conference in Borneo when his phone flashed with an emergency text. Malaysia Airlines' commercial boss never made it to that conference. Instead he spent the next 72 hours working non-stop to find out why flight MH370 had gone missing and trying to explain his lack of an answer to hundreds of distraught relatives in a grief limbo.
The now-infamous flight lost contact with air traffic control at 1.34am on March 8, an hour after take-off. But in this, his first major interview since MH370 disappeared, Dunleavy reports it was three hours later by the time air traffic controllers — having tried and failed to get a response from the plane and from radar controllers in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China — sent that emergency text.
Dunleavy is one of London's brightest expats: he grew up in Ealing, took a PhD in physics at Sheffield University then started his career working in a role "I can't talk about" for the Ministry of Defence. He was the first to arrive at the airline's emergency control room that morning; then he became Malaysia Airlines' public face as the tragedy unfolded.
"My first thought was that the pilot had fallen asleep, or something had gone wrong with the communication system," he says. "We had five other aircraft in the sky nearby, so our senior pilots started contacting them, asking if they'd seen MH370, getting them to ping it. But we got no response."
Three months since that plane and its 239 passengers and crew went missing, there's still no trace. "Something untoward happened to that plane. I think it made a turn to come back, then a sequence of events overtook it, and it was unable to return to base. I believe it's somewhere in the south Indian Ocean. But when [a plane] hits the ocean it's like hitting concrete. The wreckage could be spread over a big area. And there are mountains and canyons in that ocean. I think it could take a really long time to find. We're talking decades."
Dunleavy replays the early hours of response, wondering what could have been different. "People say, 'Why didn't you work quicker?' But you're calling pilots, explaining the situation, waiting for them to send out pings, doing the same to the next plane, then the next, and it's four in the morning, you don't have 50 people in the office, only a couple. An hour goes by frighteningly quickly — you realise that the missing plane is now another 600 miles somewhere else."
A vigil for the missing flightThen there was the "frightening speed at which false information was coming in — after only an hour in the control room, rumours were coming in on social media. 'Your plane has landed in Nanning, China'. 'It's in the airport of an island near Borneo'. You've got to follow up, calling your local people, getting them out of bed to find up someone who worked at the airports — mostly remote places, not 24-hour operations — to check if the plane was there. We lost an hour just on that Nanning rumour."
Finding an AWOL plane wasn't a priority for international air traffic controllers. "We were calling, but they've got other planes in the air; they're saying, 'Your plane never entered my air space, so technically I don't have to worry about it at the moment'. They're not dropping everything to answer us."
In those first hours, Malaysia Airlines' executives all thought the plane had diverted — not crashed. "But by 06.30, the plane was supposed to be landing at Beijing. People were waiting for it; we had to do a press release," says Dunleavy. The media swarmed in Beijing, and 130 Malaysia Airlines executives needed to get there — but none had Chinese visas. "No one wants to talk about that side of things but it took hours, not minutes, to sort it all out — there were negotiations. Eventually we got to Beijing at 10.30pm. Then officials came to our plane to issue visas, which took another two hours."
By midnight, when Dunleavy approached the Beijing hotel ballroom that hosted sobbing, frustrated relatives, he and his colleagues needed Chinese police protection to take them through the bowels of the hotel to avoid being besieged.
"As far as the families were concerned, the plane had been hijacked by terrorists, the Malaysian government was negotiating with them, and we weren't telling them. I knew that wasn't happening — there had been zero communications from MH370."
For the first 48 hours, Dunleavy and the airline's team of "care-givers" didn't sleep, dashing between the hotel's ballroom and chaotic press conferences. "No one went to bed. But we had no news. Conspiracy theories were coming out — blaming Chinese scientists on board, the mangosteen [4.6 tons of the exotic fruit were on board], all this rubbish. Every news channel had some 'expert' — who'd never been to Malaysia, and had no idea about our planes — coming up with stories about what may have happened. Then a family member would latch on to one of those ideas that appealed to them. There would be 50 different people all arguing about 50 different scenarios, and I'm saying — through a translator — 'I can't tell you what happened until we find the plane', over and over."
About 32 hours after MH370 went missing, Dunleavy entered the ballroom, got everyone's attention, and said: "I think you all need to be prepared for the worst."
The 61-year-old describes the scene to me as we sit in the relaxed backdrop of the Langham in the West End, but he still pales as he remembers: "That's when the screaming started. One person had a heart attack. Others fainted. People started throwing things at me, mostly water bottles. The police were standing there, but they said 'this is part of our culture, it's normal' and that they wouldn't interfere unless they started throwing chairs and tables."
At its peak, the ballroom hosted 1,500 people. Dunleavy says much of the relatives' anger was directed at the Malaysian government. "They blamed them for not tracking the aircraft more solidly." The first week was spent searching in the south Indian Ocean — before an official source revealed the plane had been spotted on military radar making a U-turn and heading towards an island in the Malacca Strait.
"I only heard about this through the news," Dunleavy says, for the first time letting anger inflect his voice — a hybrid English-German-Canadian accent thanks to a string of airline career moves. "I'm thinking, really? You couldn't have told us that directly? Malaysia's air traffic control and military radar are in the same freakin' building. The military saw an aircraft turn and did nothing.
"They didn't know it was MH370, their radar just identifies flying objects, yet a plane had gone down and the information about something in the sky turning around didn't get released by the authorities until after a week. Why? I don't know. I really wish I did.
"It made people look incompetent, but the truth is, it's early in the morning, you're not at war with anyone, why would you jump to the conclusion that something really bad is now transpiring?"
Dunleavy is adamant Malaysia Airlines did the best it could for the Chinese relatives on board MH370, paying for hotel rooms, food bills, distributing $5,000 to families and organising 520 passports and Malaysian visas plus a plane for the Chinese to fly to Kuala Lumpur, only for the vast majority to decide to stay in Beijing. But the carrier faced global criticism for texting relatives that it was "beyond doubt" their loved ones were killed.
"That wasn't done in a callous way," Dunleavy says, "we only got 15 minutes' notice that the government was going to make that announcement, there were six hundred people in six different hotels, and they had suggested text messages to us at the start. We thought, 'isn't it better they get the message before the media relays it?'"
The airline expects the tragedy to cost up to $500?million. Three months on, Malaysia Airlines is getting back to business. It's Dunleavy's job to make passengers want to fly on the carrier again — demand slumped after MH370, and bookings from China fell 65 per cent. The airline will this year install pioneering technology (from Inmarsat, the Old Street firm which gained global fame for its satellites' role in the search for MH370) that means if a plane ever deviates from its flight path, it will send out a signal.
"We will always remember MH370. We will take care of the people and we're working on what sort of a memorial we will have. But we are a business. We have to keep flying, we have 20,000 staff, shareholders, and 50,000 passengers each day. We owe it to them to get the airline back and move beyond MH370."
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