Japan, reverting to its history’s infamy !


The ghosts of Japan’s imperial past have returned to haunt the nation, its government, and the other countries in this region.

Japan imperialismIF anyone still doubts the controversies about Japan’s current nationalistic urges, news reports and media commentaries in the region clearly confirm they persist.

Nations sometimes have leaders who shoot themselves in both feet and then promptly stuff them in their mouths. Japan’s current leaders have lately outdone all these others before.

Opinion leaders in the region have recently noted the excesses of right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, its various indiscretions, and the reactions to them.

Much in the simmering controversies, notably in South Korea and China, comes courtesy of Abe’s team in Tokyo’s establishment. He, his deputy Taro Aso and some of their appointees have actively stoked the embers of regional contention.

Abe, the nationalist grandson of imprisoned Nobosuke Kishi, a suspected “Class A” war criminal, had briefly served as prime minister before without much controversy.

But by courting contempt this time in trying to rewrite history and defiantly visiting Yasukuni War Shrine honouring war criminals to proclaim that Japan did nothing wrong in World War II, Abe got the trouble he risked getting.

Aso himself is a “veteran” in provoking controversy. As foreign minister before, he was even more defiant and unapologetic than Abe, and has lately called on Japan to learn from Nazi Germany.

Their appointees such as chairman Katsuto Momii and governor Naoki Hyakuta of public broadcaster NHK have likewise made outrageous comments about Imperial Japan’s atrocities.

Momii said the sex slaves that Japanese troops made of Korean women was a common occurrence of any country at war, earning a rebuke from the United States.

Hyakuta championed Imperial Japan, denying that the Nanjing Massacre ever happened.

Abe’s choice of other controversies at the same time included efforts to rewrite the post-war Constitution to make it less conciliatory, revising past apologies for the war, and hardening Japan’s claims to disputed maritime territories.

The result: aggravating relations with South Korea and China. Although China-Japan relations are often said to be fraught because of Japan’s horrific wartime incursions, Tokyo’s relations with Seoul are even worse.

Even at the height of activism against US imperialism decades ago, Japan remained the biggest sore point for Koreans.

Now Abe is even less popular among South Koreans than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with two successive Presidents – and conservative ones at that – underscoring this position.

In a Korean press commentary on Thursday, Abe was described as having “become by far the most hated Japanese head of government for Koreans in recent decades”.

With 82% of Koreans convinced that Japan has not atoned for its sordid past, others have called Abe by worse names.

But have Abe and his inner circle learned anything from all this? They have offered retractions and apologies when pressed, but remained firmly set in their views.

Yet it need not be so. It was not like that for many years before.

In the 1990s, NHK invited me to give a seminar to regional news correspondents at its headquarters in Tokyo.

I was then holding a fellowship at a Japanese policy research institute to examine the prospects for regional cooperation, which happened to be a time of some regional ferment.

I introduced South-East Asia’s history and cultures without mentioning the atrocities committed by Imperial Japan, because there was no need to. Yet a young newsman later approached me to say he knew of Japanese war crimes despite all the denials.

A senior NHK staff who shared the taxi with me later explained that the common image of a constantly apologetic Japanese people was a misleading stereotype. Wherever these NHK people have gone today, they do not seem to be represented in its board.

Around that time, “maverick” Japanese historian Saburo Ienaga was entangled with the Japanese government in several court cases over an accurate depiction of Japan’s role during the war.

In Tokyo’s clumsy attempts to whitewash its wartime atrocities, the Education Ministry rejected Ienaga’s school textbooks. As he arrived at the courthouse to take on the authorities, he was cheered by a supportive Japanese public.

The Japanese public has repeatedly been more enlightened and liberal than any nationalistic government or self-proclaimed “liberal” party.

Commentators put this difference down to a flawed and dysfunctional political system, despite a mantle of democracy.

A recent commentary excused Japan in otherwise unfavourable comparisons with a contrite Germany because of “cultural” differences. However, while Germany assists in the international pursuit and prosecution of Nazi war criminals, Japan has the Yasukuni Shrine glorifying such criminals instead.

The commentary added that Germany was different in being offered full membership of a European community.

Actually, Japan was offered both membership and leadership of an East Asian Economic Grouping, when its economy was stronger and China’s ascendancy was still in its infancy, but Tokyo rejected it outright.

It was further said that like Germany, full atonement is best done in groups. But very much unlike Germany, there are groups in Japan that continue to deny wartime atrocities and – like Hyakuta and his ilk – insist that Imperial Japan had done Asia a favour with invasion and occupation.

Hardly anyone who has suffered Japanese wartime occupation would believe that tale. Japanese forces had never invaded North-East or South-East Asia only to grant independence to the countries there.

Among these reactionary and revisionist groups was a far-right party that had organised an international conference in Tokyo to argue these points some two decades ago.

As I entered the hall as an observer, I was swiftly introduced to a war veteran who had proudly published a book to “prove” that the Nanjing Massacre was a myth.

When former Malaysian foreign minister Tun Ghazali Shafie spotted me in the hall, he came over to assure me that everything was under control and that the Malaysian embassy had a staff present to take notes.

I looked around and saw a young Malaysian diplomat trying to make sense of the proceedings.

The organisers had invited foreign speakers like Ghazali to endorse their views, to which he hastened to reply that all he meant was that the region should look to the future together rather than dwell on the problems of the past. They did not seem to take note of the nuances.

Such extremist groups remain active in Japan, and have become even more vocal and visible than before. Observers note that they have lately moved from the margins to the mainstream of Japan’s body politic.

What is the sum total of their impact on Japanese officialdom? How far has their influence strayed beyond Tokyo?

Earlier this month, a Japanese diplomat based in Kuala Lumpur reviewed some of these issues with me in a private discussion.

He was a youngish, liberal-minded officer about the same age as the NHK news correspondent who confided in me in the 1990s.

In the course of our discussion I mentioned that although South Korea and China are often cited as griping about Japan’s militarist past, people in South-East Asia who had also suffered Japanese imperialism feel the same without necessarily announcing it to the world.

He expressed surprise, not knowing before that anyone in this region had suffered anything under Japan during the war.

Tokyo’s history deniers and revisionists seem to have scored some success after all.

Contributed by Behind The Headlines Bunn Nagara, The Star/ANN

  • Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
  • The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own 

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NSA’s secret MYSTIC system is capable recording 100% of foreign country’s telephone calls


NSA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine – one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

http://wapo.st/1gyqVaz

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.

Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Barack Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch – meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.

In the view of U.S. officials, however, the capability is highly valuable.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to comment on “specific alleged intelligence activities.” Speaking generally, she said “new or emerging threats” are “often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.”

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, in an emailed statement, said that “continuous and selective reporting of specific techniques and tools used for legitimate U.S. foreign intelligence activities is highly detrimental to the national security of the United States and of our allies, and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.”

Some of the documents provided by Snowden suggest that high-volume eavesdropping may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already. The RETRO tool was built three years ago as a “unique one-off capability,” but last year’s secret intelligence budget named five more countries for which the MYSTIC program provides “comprehensive metadata access and content,” with a sixth expected to be in place by last October.

The budget did not say whether the NSA now records calls in quantity in those countries, or expects to do so. A separate document placed high priority on planning “for MYSTIC accesses against projected new mission requirements,” including “voice.”

Ubiquitous voice surveillance, even overseas, pulls in a great deal of content from U.S. citizens who telephone, visit and work in the target country. It may also be seen as inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.”

In a presidential policy directive, Obama instructed the NSA and other agencies that bulk acquisition may be used only to gather intelligence on one of six specified threats, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The directive, however, also noted that limits on bulk collection “do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection.”

The emblem of the MYSTIC program depicts a cartoon wizard with a telephone-headed staff. Among the agency’s bulk collection programs disclosed over the past year, its focus on the spoken word is unique. Most of the programs have involved the bulk collection of either metadata – which does not include content – or text, such as email address books.

Telephone calls are often thought to be more ephemeral and less suited than text for processing, storage and search. Indeed, there are indications that the call-recording program has been hindered by the NSA’s limited capacity to store and transmit bulky voice files.

In the first year of its deployment, a program officer wrote that the project “has long since reached the point where it was collecting and sending home far more than the bandwidth could handle.”

Because of similar capacity limits across a range of collection programs, the NSA is leaping forward with cloud-based collection systems and a gargantuan new “mission data repository” in Utah. According to its overview briefing, the Utah facility is designed “to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.”

Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said history suggests that “over the next couple of years they will expand to more countries, retain data longer and expand the secondary uses.”

Spokesmen for the NSA and the Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declined to confirm or deny expansion plans or discuss the criteria for any change.

Based on RETRO’s internal reviews, the NSA has strong motive to deploy it elsewhere. In the documents and interviews, U.S. officials said RETRO is uniquely valuable when an analyst first uncovers a new name or telephone number of interest.

With up to 30 days of recorded conversations in hand, the NSA can pull an instant history of the subject’s movements, associates and plans. Some other U.S. intelligence agencies also have access to RETRO.

Highly classified briefings cite examples in which the tool offered high-stakes intelligence that would not have existed under traditional surveillance programs in which subjects were identified for targeting in advance. Unlike most of the government’s public claims about the value of controversial programs, the briefings supply names, dates, locations and fragments of intercepted calls in convincing detail.

Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving U.S. citizens would be gathered from the country where RETRO operates.

The NSA does not attempt to filter out their calls, defining them as communications “acquired incidentally as a result of collection directed against appropriate foreign intelligence targets.”

Until about 20 years ago, such incidental collection was unusual unless a U.S. citizen was communicating directly with a foreign intelligence target. In bulk collection systems, which are exponentially more capable than the ones in use throughout the Cold War, calls and other data from U.S. citizens and permanent residents are regularly ingested by the millions.

Under the NSA’s internal “minimization rules,” those intercepted communications “may be retained and processed” and included in intelligence reports. The agency generally removes the names of U.S. callers, but there are several broadly worded exceptions.

An independent group tasked by the White House to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended that incidentally collected U.S. calls and emails – including those obtained overseas – should nearly always “be purged upon detection.” Obama did not accept that recommendation.

Vines, in her statement, said the NSA’s work is “strictly conducted under the rule of law.”

RETRO and MYSTIC are carried out under Executive Order 12333, the traditional grant of presidential authority to intelligence agencies for operations outside the United States.

Since August, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and others on that panel have been working on plans to assert a greater oversight role for intelligence gathering abroad. Some legislators are now considering whether Congress should also draft new laws to govern those operations.

Experts say there is not much legislation that governs overseas intelligence work.

“Much of the U.S. government’s intelligence collection is not regulated by any statute passed by Congress,” said Timothy H. Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties on Obama’s national security staff. “There’s a lot of focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is understandable, but that’s only a slice of what the intelligence community does.”

All surveillance must be properly authorized for a legitimate intelligence purpose, he said, but that “still leaves a gap for activities that otherwise basically aren’t regulated by law because they’re not covered by FISA.”

Beginning in 2007, Congress loosened 40-year-old restrictions on domestic surveillance because so much foreign data crossed U.S. territory. There were no comparable changes to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and residents whose calls and emails now routinely cross international borders.

Vines noted that the NSA’s job is to “identify threats within the large and complex system of modern global communications,” where ordinary people share fiber-optic cables with legitimate intelligence targets.

For Peter Swire, a member of the president’s review group, the fact that U.S. citizens and foreigners use the same devices, software and networks calls for greater care to safeguard privacy.

“It’s important to have institutional protections so that advanced capabilities used overseas don’t get turned against our democracy at home,” he said.

© 2014, The Washington Post/http://www.ticotimes.net

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MH370 pilot was political fanatic?


MH370-Zaharie Ahmad

Police are investigating the possibility that the pilot of missing Flight MH370 hijacked his own aircraft in a bizarre political protest.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. And hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur it is understood 53-year-old Shah attended a controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years.

Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.

Police sources have confirmed that Shah was a vocal political activist – and fear that the court decision left him profoundly upset. It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew.

Scroll down for video

Timeline: The above graphic shows how the situation may have developed

Sudden ascent and dive points to cockpit takeover

Sudden ascent and dive points to cockpit takeover

The final picture: The missing jet is pictured here in February this year above Polish airspace

The final picture: The missing jet is pictured here in February this year above Polish airspace

Yesterday, Malaysian police searched his house in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam, where he had installed a home-made flight simulator. But this newspaper can reveal that investigators had already spent much of last week examining two laptops removed from Shah’s home. One is believed to contain data from the simulator

Confirming rising fears, Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that MH370 was deliberately steered off course after its communication system was switched off. He said it headed west over the Malaysian seaboard and could have flown for another seven hours on its fuel reserves.

It is not yet clear where the plane was taken, however Mr Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have been making for one of two possible flight corridors. The search, involving 43 ships and 58 aircraft from 15 countries, switched from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. 

In another dramatic twist early Sunday Indian officials however, said the search was on hold until ‘fresh search areas’ were defined by Malaysia. It is unclear what the reason was for the delay. 

Data showing the number of plausible runways where the plane could have touched down – which need to be at least 5,000ft – offer a baffling number of potential locations.

According to a map drawn up by U.S. radio station WNYC, there are 634 locations which could fit, from Australia to the Maldives to Pakistan.

However, the true number is likely to be even higher, as estimates of how far the plane could have travelled have been increased since the calculations were carried out.

US investigators say faint ‘pings’ were being transmitted for several hours after the flight lost contact with the ground. 

Meanwhile, military radar showed the jet climbed to 45,000ft – above its service limit – which could have been a deliberate attempt to knock out the passengers and crew.

Anwar Ibrahim is a broadly popular democracy icon and former deputy prime minister whose prosecution on a charge of sodomy is seen by many Malaysians as political persecution

Activist: Captain Zaharie Ahmad ShahAlso raided: Fariq Abdul Hamid
Investigation: Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, left, was a political activist who attended a tense trial on the day of the flight, investigators believe. He was flying service MH370 alongside Fariq Abdul Hamid, right, from whom investigators have been keen to deflect suspicion
Jailed: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim leaving court in Putrajaya on March 7
Jailed: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim leaving court in Putrajaya on March 7

Hunt: Investigators have riaded the houses of both pilots. Pictured is where co-pilot Hamid lives in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb

Hunt: Investigators have riaded the houses of both pilots. Pictured is where co-pilot Hamid lives in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb

The raids on Captain Shah’s home appeared stage-managed as a display of intent after the Prime Minister said the focus of the investigation was now on ‘crew and passengers’ as a result of the latest leads.

But investigators have told the Mail on Sunday inquiries into the background of the pilot actually began days earlier.

Malaysian police, helped by FBI agents from the US, are looking into the political and religious backgrounds of both Zaharie and his co-pilot. Zaharie’s home was sealed off yesterday as police spent an hour inside.

However, a senior investigation source said two laptops were taken from the property in low-key visits by police early last week despite a series of denials by officials that his home had been searched or raided.

One laptop taken away is thought to contain data from the flight simulator while a second contained little information. Zaharie’s personal laptop was not found, and is thought to have been with him in the cockpit of the plane, the source said.

Zaharie’s co-workers have told investigators the veteran pilot was a social activist who was vocal and fervent in his support of Ibrahim.

‘Colleagues made it clear to us that he was someone who held strong political beliefs and was strident in his support for Anwar Ibrahim,’ another investigation source said. ‘We were told by one colleague he was obsessed with politics.’

In their interviews, colleagues said Zaharie told them he planned to attend the court case involving Anwar on March 7, just hours before the Beijing flight, but investigators had not yet been able to confirm if he was among the crowd of Anwar supporters at court.

Zaharie is believed to be separated or divorced from his wife although they share the same house, close to Kuala Lumpur’s international airport. They have three children, but no family members were at home yesterday: only the maid has remained there.

JAILED FOR FIVE YEARS: MALAYSIA’S OPPOSITION LEADER

Anwar Ibrahim is a broadly popular democracy icon and former deputy prime minister whose prosecution on a charge of sodomy is seen by many Malaysians as political persecution.

Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.

Captain Shah, who is thought to have attended the trial in Putrajaya hours before flying, is thought to be incensed by the verdict.

Co-workers have told investigators the veteran pilot was a social activist who was vocal and fervent in his support of Ibrahim.

Investigators said: ‘We are looking into the theory that Zaharie’s political beliefs may be a factor. There are huge sensitivities surrounding this but we cannot afford not to pursue any angle brought to our attention.’

In the days after Flight MH370 disappeared, Zaharie was affectionately described as a good neighbour and an eccentric ‘geek’ who had a flight simulator at home simply because he loved his work so much.

Malaysian officials initially appeared keen not to direct any suspicion towards Zaharie or his co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, who was last week revealed to have invited two women passengers into the cockpit and smoked on an earlier flight to Phuket.

But evidence of the way the plane’s transponder and communication systems were disabled and the way the plane was expertly flown over the Indian Ocean apparently using navigational waypoints meant only a skilled aviator could have been at the controls. Investigators were also baffled by why, if hijackers took over the plane, there was no Mayday call or signal from the two pilots to say the cockpit had been breached.

At yesterday’s press conference, the suspicion over the pilot’s involvement mounted as prime minister Najib Razak said that investigators had found ‘deliberate action’ on board the plane resulted in it changing course and losing contact with ground crews.

As a result of the new information, Malaysian authorities had ‘refocused their investigation on crew and passengers aboard’, he said. Police sealed off the area surrounding Zaharie’s home and searched the house shortly after the press conference.

Mr Razak said the new satellite evidence shows ‘with a high degree of certainty’ that the one of the jet’s communications devices – the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System  was disabled just before it had reached the east coast of Malaysia. ACARS is a service that allows computers aboard the plane to relay in-flight information about the health of its systems back to the ground.

Shortly afterwards, near the cross-over point between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic controllers, the plane’s transponder, which emits an identifying signal, was switched off or, less likely, failed.

According to a military radar, the aircraft then turned and flew back over Malaysia before heading in a north-west direction.

On board: Student Firman Siregar, pictured centre with his family, was one of the 239 aboard Flight MH370
On board: Student Firman Siregar, pictured centre with his family, was one of the 239 aboard Flight MH370

Multinational: Indonesian rescue personnel join in the search for the missing plane

Multinational: Indonesian rescue personnel join in the search for the missing plane

Search: Investigators from countries around the world have been scouring the oceans

Search: Investigators from countries around the world have been scouring the oceans

A satellite was able to pick up a ‘ping’ from the plane until 08:11 local time, more than seven hours after it lost radar contact, although it was unable to give a precise location. Mr Razak went on to say that based on this new data, investigators ‘have determined the plane’s last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors – north from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand, and south from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

If as suspected the plane was diverted into the Indian Ocean, the task of the search teams becomes more difficult, as there are hundreds of uninhabited islands and the water reaches depths of around 23,000ft.

Countries in the plane’s potential flightpath have now joined a huge effort to locate the missing passengers, but China described the revelation as ‘painfully belated’. And FBI investigators say the disappearance of MH370 may have been ‘an act of piracy’ and that the possibility that its hundreds of passengers are being held at an unknown location has not been ruled out.

Meanwhile, leading aviation lawyer James Healy–Pratt, who is helping relatives, said Malaysian Airlines had declined to buy Boeing’s Airplane Health Management system, which monitors systems in real time and could have alerted it to any potential problems, rather than having to recover a black box. 

‘If the transponder was manually disabled then one can only hope that the black boxes were not also manually disabled,’ he said. ‘Otherwise, the truth will never be known.’

The revelations about Zaharie’s political affiliations are highly sensitive in a country where political dirty tricks are widespread.

One of the investigation sources said: ‘We are looking into the theory that Zaharie’s political beliefs may be a factor. There are huge sensitivities surrounding this but we cannot afford not to pursue any angle brought to our attention.’

Separately, a police source told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I can confirm our investigations include the political and religious leanings of both pilots.’

Zaharie joined Malaysia  Airlines in 1981. He became a captain about ten years later  and has clocked up 18,360 hours of flying experience.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581817/Doomed-airliner-pilot-political-fanatic-Hours-taking-control-flight-MH370-attended-trial-jailed-opposition-leader-sodomite.html#ixzz2w7YgUEpc
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- Sources: The Daily Mail UK

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Western hegemony & violence: ousting democratically-elected leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere!


Ukraine_chandramuzaffarCity on fire: Anti-government protesters clashing with police in the centre of Kiev in Ukraine. — AFP

The ousters of democratically-elected leaders have often been carried out directly or indirectly by champions of democracy themselves.

IF Ukraine is on the brink of a catastrophe, it is mainly because the present regime in Kiev and its supporters, backed by certain Wes­tern powers, violated a fundamental principle of democratic governance. They ousted a democratically-elected president through illegal means.

President Viktor Yanukovich, who had come to power through a free and fair election in 2010, should have been removed through the ballot box.

His opponents not only betrayed a democratic principle. They subverted a “Peace Deal” signed between them and Yanukovich on Feb 21 in which the latter had agreed to form a national unity government within 10 days that would include opposition representatives; reinstate the 2004 Constitution; relinquish control over Ukraine’s security services; and hold presidential and parliamentary elections by December.

According to the deal, endorsed by Germany, France and Poland, Yanu­kovich would remain president until the elections.

His co-signatories had no intention of honouring the agreement.

Without following procedures, the parliament – with the backing of the military – voted immediately to remove Yanukovich and impeach him. The parliamentary speaker was elected interim president and after a few days a new regime was in­­stalled.

One of the first acts of parliament was to proclaim that Ukrainian is the sole official language of the country, thus downgrading the Russian language, the mother tongue of one-fifth of the population.

Anti-Russian rhetoric which had become more strident than ever in the course of the protest against the Yanukovich government has reached a crescendo in the wake of the overthrow of the government.

The protest gives us an idea of some of the underlying issues that have brought Ukraine to the precipice.

There was undoubtedly a great deal of anger in the western part of the country, including Kiev, over the decision of the Russian-backed Yanu­kovich to reject closer economic ties with the European Union (EU) in favour of financial assistance from Moscow.

It explains to some extent the massive demonstrations of the last few months. Police brutality, corruption within the government and cronyism associated with Yanu­kovich had further incensed the people.

But these legitimate concerns tell only one side of the story. The protest movement had also brought to the fore neo-Nazis and fascists sworn to violence. Armed and organised groups such as the Svoboda and the Right Sector provide muscle power to the protest.

They are known to have targeted Jewish synagogues and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

It is the militias associated with these groups that are in control of street politics in Kiev.

Elites in Germany, France, Britain, the United States and within the Nato establishment as a whole are very much aware of the role of neo-Nazi and fascist elements in the protest and in the current Kiev regime.

Indeed, certain American and European leaders had instigated the demonstrators and were directly involved in the machinations to bring down Yanukovich.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland had in her infamous telephone conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine admitted that her country had spent US$5bil (approximately RM16bil) promoting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine.

For the United States and the Euro­pean Union, control over Ukraine serves at least two goals.

It expands their military reach through Nato right up to the doorstep of Russia, challenging the latter’s time-honoured relationship with its strategic neighbour. It brings Ukraine within the EU’s economic sphere.

Even as it is, almost half of Ukraine’s US$35bil (RM115bil) debt is owed to Western banks, which would want the country to adopt austerity measures to remunerate them.

It is largely because of these geopolitical and geo-economic challenges that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin is flexing his military muscles in Crimea, in the eastern Ukraine region, which not only has a preponderantly Russian-speaking population but is also home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Besides, Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilisation.

This is why Putin will go all out to protect Russian interests in Ukraine, but at the same time, there is every reason to believe that he will avoid a military confrontation and try to work out a political solution based upon the Peace Deal.

The catastrophe in Ukraine reveals five dimensions in the politics of the ouster of democratically-elected governments:

  •  The determined drive to overthrow the government by dissidents and opponents, which is often un­­compromising;
  •  The exploitation of genuine people-related issues and grievances;
  •  The mobilisation of a significant segment of the populace behind these mass concerns;
  •  The resort to violence through militant groups often with a pronounced right-wing orientation; and
  •  The forging of strong linkages between domestic anti-government forces and Western governments and other Western actors, including banks and non-governmental organisations, whose collective aim is to perpetuate Western control and dominance or Western hegemony.

Some of these dimensions are also present in Venezuela where there is another concerted attempt to oust a democratically-elected government.

Some genuine economic grievances related to the rising cost of living and unemployment are being manipulated and distorted to give the erroneous impression that the Maduro government does not care for the people.

President Nicolas Maduro, it is alleged, is suppressing dissent with brutal force.

The truth is that a lot of the violence is emanating from groups linked to disgruntled elites who are opposed to the egalitarian policies pursued by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

They are disseminating fake pictures through social media as part of their false propaganda about the Venezuelan government’s violence against the people – pictures which have now been exposed for what they are by media analysts.

Support for this propaganda and for the street protests in Venezuela comes from US foundations such as the National Endowment for Demo­cracy (NED). It has been estimated that in 2012 alone, the NED gave more than US$1.3mil (RM4mil) to organisations and projects in Vene­zuela ostensibly to promote “human rights,” “democratic ideas” and “accountability.”

The majority of Venezuelans have no doubt at all that this funding is to undermine a government which is not only determined to defend the nation’s independence in the face of Washington’s dominance but is also pioneering a movement to strengthen regional cooperation in Latin Ame­rica and the Caribbean as a bulwark against the US’ hegemonic agenda.

It is because other countries in the region such as Bolivia, Brazil, Argen­tina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Paraguay know what the US elite is trying to do in Venezuela that they have described “the recent violent acts” in the country “ as attempts to destabilise the democratic order.”

A third country where a democratically-elected leader is under tremendous pressure from street demonstrators at this juncture is Thailand.

Though some of the issues articulated by the demonstrators are legitimate, the fact remains that they do not represent majority sentiment which is still in favour of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

As in Ukraine and Venezuela, violence – albeit on a much lower scale – has seeped into the struggle for power between the incumbent and the protesters. However, foreign involvement is not that obvious to most of us.

Both Yingluck and the protest movement are regarded as pro-Western. Nonetheless, there are groups in Washington and London who perceive the current government in Bangkok as more inclined towards China compared to the opposition Democratic Party or the protesters.

Is this one of the reasons why a section of the mainstream Western media appears to be supportive of the demonstrations?

There are a number of other instances of democratically-elected leaders being overthrown by illegal means.

The most recent – in July 2013 – was the unjust ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. In 1973, President Salvador Al­­lende of Chile was killed in a coup engineered by the CIA.

Another democratically-elec­ted leader who was manoeuvred out of office and jailed as a result of a Bri­­tish-US plot was Mohammed Mosad­degh of Iran in 1953.

It is only too apparent that in most cases the ouster of democratically-elected leaders have been carried out directly or indirectly by the self-proclaimed champions of democracy themselves! It reveals how hypocritical they are.

What really matters to the elites in the United States, Britain and other Western countries is not de­­mocracy but the perpetuation of their hegemonic power. Hegemony, not democracy, has always been their object of worship.

By Chandra Muzaffar – The Star/Asia News Network
> Dr Chandra Muzaffar is president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
 Related posts:

US double standard on terrorism encourages slaughters


Kunming terrorist Knife attackMass Knife Attack in China Kills 29 People More than ten people armed with knives rampaged through a train station in southwestern China killing dozens of people and injuring 130 others 

China vows to crackdown on violent terrorist attacks

  • < Video
    Washington encourages attackers by downplaying terrorism
    .
    For the world’s “most active human rights defender,” the latest random killing of 29 innocent civilians at a crowded Chinese train station is too insignificant to be a terrorist activity.

The U.S. Embassy in China has downplayed the severity of the bloody carnage in southwestern Kunming City, calling it on its official Weibo account a “horrible and totally meaningless act of violence,” short of calling the murderers “terrorists.”

The wording is the continuation of the government’s ambiguous stance on China’s counter-terrorism drive in Xinjiang, the northwestern autonomous region haunted by suicide bombs and deadly assaults.

In a related development, CNN, which apologized after its biased news photo editing in reporting of the March 14 riot in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa in 2008, has again showed its doubts and disbelief, if not irony, by using quotation marks around the word “terrorists” in its latest reportage of the Kunming slaughter.

How the U.S. government and some media described the terrorist attacks in China has revealed their persistent double standard in the global fight against terrorism.

Their leniency for the terrorists is sending signals of encouragement to potential attackers.

This is not the first time they have adopted this double standard on terrorism.

In October, CNN published an op-ed article titled “Tian’anmen crash: Terrorism or cry of desperation?” after separatists in a vehicle slammed into the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, killing five and injuring 40.

The latest train station killings, which evidence pointed to politically motivated Xinjiang separatists, is the latest in a spate of terrorist attacks carried out by them.

It is perpetrated by non-state entities, involves violence and designed to have psychological impact far beyond the immediate victims.

It is China’s “9/11,” only on a smaller scale.

The latest civilian slaughter conforms with any typical terrorist attack and bears striking similarities with what happened in Boston and Nairobi, which the U.S. government condemned as terrorism without a minute’s hesitation.

Behind its wording is the entrenched U.S. belief that the Xinjiang murderers were the “ethnically oppressed seeking autonomy.”

Nothing, however, justifies the act of realizing political and religious motives by slaughtering the innocent.

Washington is once again playing its “counter-terrorism card.” For the U.S. government and biased media like CNN, the only standard for terrorist activities is whether it happened within the territories of its own or its allies.

The U.S. government and biased media should know that their double standard on terrorism will one day backfire and hurt their own interests.

Commentary by Gui Tao Xinhua

Related posts:

1.  Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013

2. Terrorists Attack Kunming Train Station, China’s 9/11 ! 

3. Video: Kunming terrorist attack suspects captured

4. Empathy, love soothe pains after Kunming terrorist attack
After a stabbing rampage cast a shadow over China’s Kunming City, residents and people throughout the country have lamented the loss of lives while delivering support to those haunted by the horror.
5. China journalist association slams Western media on Kunming attack coverage
The All-China Journalists Association on Monday condemned Western media for their “double standards” reporting on a deadly knife attack in southwest China’s Kunming.

Terrorists Attack Kunming Train Station, China’s 9/11 !


Horror: Photos shared on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo showed bodies strewn across the floor

Nothing justifies civilian slaughter in China’s ’9-11′

China was outraged and the world shocked after separatists from Xinjiang knifed down innocent civilians at a crowded train terminal in Kunming Saturday night.

It was a typical terrorist attack and also a severe crime against the humanity.

It was China’s “9-11.”

Any explanation for the attack, like those in previous cases elsewhere in China, would be feeble at the bloody scene, where mothers, sons and daughters were slaughtered by strangers. Nothing justifies such a carnage against innocent civilians.

This was a random attack, with the sole purpose of causing the greatest casualties and impact within the shortest period of time.

It seems that the terrorists have had their way. Their killing spree has left 29 dead and over 130 injured, shrouding the southwestern city and the whole nation in terror.

This is not the first time that terrorists from Xinjiang launched deadly attacks over the past months, years and decades. In October 2013, Xinjiang separatists on a vehicle slammed into the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, killing five and injuring 40.

The latest attacks in Beijing and Kunming have clearly indicated a despicable trend that separatists are targeting civilians out of Xinjiang.

It also showed a shift in their attack strategies from targeting symbols of the government, such as public security stations and police vehicles, to roadside civilians.

If the proliferation of their terrorist attack is not reined in, more innocent people will fall victim.

The latest attack showed that China’s recent decision to set up a state security committee, headed by President Xi Jinping, to improve systems and strategies to ensure national security is very timely and necessary.

A nationwide outrage has been stirred. Justice needs to be done and terrorists should be punished with iron fists.

Countries and institutions such as the UN and France have condemned the attack. More voices of condemnation are expected.

Anyone attempting to harbor and provide sympathies for the terrorists, calling them the repressed or the weak, is encouraging such attacks and helping committing a crime.
-  Xinhua

Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013


Video:

China published a report on the United States‘ human rights record on Friday, in response to U.S. criticism and “irresponsible remarks” about China.

“The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013″ was released by the Information Office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, in response to “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013″ made public by the U.S. State Department on Thursday.

Press TV
China’s report states that there were serious human rights problems in the U.S in 2013, with the situation deteriorating in many fields. Once again posing as “the world judge of human rights”, the U.S. government “made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks” on almost 200 countries and regions, the report says.

The United States carefully concealed and avoided mentioning its own human rights problems, according to the report.

THE WORLD THROUGH PRISM

The U.S. government spies on its own citizens to a “massive and unrestrained” degree, the report says.
The report calls the U.S. PRISM surveillance program, a vast, long-term mechanism for spying on private citizens both at home and abroad, “a blatant violation of international law” and says it “seriously infringes human rights.”

The U.S. intelligence services, by virtue of data provided by Internet and telecom companies — including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo — “recklessly” track citizens’ private contacts and social activities.

KILLER ROBOTS AND DEAD CONVENTIONS

The report quantifies drone strikes by the U.S. in countries, including Pakistan and Yemen, which have caused heavy civilian casualties. In Pakistan alone, since 2004, the U.S. has carried out 376 drone strikes killing 926 civilians.

The U.S. has not ratified, or participated in, a series of core UN conventions on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT

Solitary confinement is prevalent in the U.S., the report says.
In U.S. prisons, inmates in solitary confinement are enclosed in cramped cells with poor ventilation and little or no natural light, isolated from other prisoners; a situation that takes it toll on inmates’ physical and mental health.

About 80,000 U.S. prisoners are in solitary confinement. Some have been held in solitary confinement for over 40 years.

RAMPANT GUN VIOLENCE

The rampant U.S. gun culture breeds violence that results in the death of 11,000 Americans every year.
The report cites figures from the FBI that state firearms were used in 69.3 percent of the nation’s murders, 41 percent of robberies, and 21.8 percent of aggravated assaults.

In 2013, 137 people were killed in 30 mass murder events (four or more deaths each).

A rampage in the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C. left 12 people dead, according to the report.

UNEMPLOYMENT AND HOMELESSNESS

“The U.S. still faces a grave employment situation with its unemployment rate still high,” the report says.

Unemployment for low-income families has topped 21 percent. The homeless population in the U.S. has climbed 16 percent from 2011 to 2013.

There are also many child laborers in the agricultural sector in the U.S. and their physical and mental health is seriously compromised, the report says.

Friday’s report was the 15th such annual report published by China in response to U.S. attacks.

Related:

Commentary: U.S. should “sweep its own doorstep” on human rights

BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) — A Chinese idiom says that all will follow one who is personally upright, even though he does not give orders; but if he is not personally upright, they will not follow, even though he gives orders.

Attributed to Confucius (551 BC-479 BC), one of the greatest Chinese philosophers in history, the idiom is an important tenet for the Chinese. Full story

Full text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013
U.S. biggest violator of non-Americans’ human rights: China report
China issues report on U.S. human rights
Commentary: U.S. not a human rights judge with flawed record

China, Australia hold 15th human rights dialogue
 
China: Dialogue is the way to resolve human rights differences
 
China says courts do not help human rights
 
China elected to UN human rights body

Show times: confused of Ibrahims; satay in Kajang, who will be MB Selangor Malaysia?


DS Anwar Ibrahim dan satay kajang di dun kajangYouTube

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Lately, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, we have been seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim.

THERE is something odd going on lately in Malaysia. For some seriously strange reasons, whether by design, fate or plain coincidence, Malaysians are seeing, reading or hearing about people or issues that involve the name Ibrahim. So let us go through the current hot list.

Anwar Ibrahim

He sure knows how to confuse us. We all thought he wanted to be Prime Minister. Then he said he would retire from politics and take up a teaching career if Pakatan Rakyat failed to capture Putrajaya in the general election.

Well, many of us, being the confused lot that we are, actually believe him, or at least believe in the many things that he has been saying, anyway.

Then, following the decision of the Kajang state assemblyman to vacate the seat, Anwar confused us further by saying he would not be contesting the seat. But he finally announced, after much charade, that he would be contesting after all.

Now, he says that even if he wins the seat, he does not aim to be the Mentri Besar of Selangor. Well, the whole world seems to think otherwise.

He has already confused us enough with his answers on why he is forcing a by-election in Kajang. Until now, no one, including his diehard supporters, can give us a convincing explanation.

Seriously, all of us should really ask him what it is he really wants. This man has to be the master of surprises. No one can beat him at that.

No one can remember him having a liking for football. Horses and jet ski, yes. Suddenly he has donned the colours of the Selangor football team.

If Penang plays against Selangor, we are not sure if he will be wearing anything, given that he is an MP from Penang, which is also a Pakatan-controlled state. That’s pretty confusing.

Well, for sure, he has really given us a few good lessons in politics!

Khalid Ibrahim

This is one sorry Ibrahim. His hair has become more dishevelled lately. He murmurs to himself most of the time and he is doing this even more.

Who can blame him? He has to be careful who he talks to now with his party boss wanting to take over his job. His fellow ADUNs – who all claim they are in politics for the sake of the people – must be having a tough time deciding who they should stand behind now to further their political ambitions.

They have to decide which horse they should back – this mumbling corporate figure or the real political animal, Anwar Ibrahim, who has the magic of getting people to believe what he wants them to believe.

If it’s me, it’s me. If he says it isn’t him, all will nod in agreement, as if under a spell, and repeat that it isn’t him. It’s just a lookalike of me, a body double, a Siamese twin.

Poor Khalid. The only one he can trust is himself. He can only talk to himself.

We all hope he will just hang in there because he is actually a likeable bloke. What you see is what you get from this Ibrahim.

Zaid Ibrahim

Now, this one is tricky. We are just as confused because he has either joined or formed almost every political party in town. And we, being the terribly naïve Malaysians, thought that this sort of thing only happens to Sabahan politicians.

No one is quite sure why he is declaring his candidacy for the Kajang by-election. It can’t be his love for the satay there, for sure. We are not even sure if he knows his way around Kajang or if he even has friends there.

But this Ibrahim can be assured that he will get his 15 minutes of fame every night on prime time TV. Our advice is he should not attempt to sound too philosophical or intellectual during his campaign rounds in Kajang.

That’s because we are already confused. We are not sure if he is seeking the support of Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat supporters. We are not too sure there are enough fence sitters like him. But we are sure he will confuse us during the entire campaign period.

Ibrahim Ali

We can assume that he will be there. He and his gang of merry men never let us down when it comes to providing the comic relief. But he has been saying that he is actually the one who has been delivering the Malay votes for Umno and that without him, Umno would have been in serious trouble.

But the best line from him recently is that there are many troublemakers impersonating Perkasa members! Fuyoh!

Now, that’s interesting! And we, being the confused Malaysians, thought that Malaysian politicians have confused us sufficiently and endlessly but this is the ultimate confusion! Imitation Perkasa members, wow.

Haris Ibrahim

He has been unusually quiet since being initially denied entry into Australia last September. The outspoken activist and lawyer shows up everywhere. He is a permanent fixture in all protests and demonstra­tions. A specialist in this sort of things, we may say. We are not sure if he will add some colour and excitement in Kajang. But he’s definitely another Ibrahim that we can welcome to the Kajang polls, to confuse many of us further.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh

He may not be a household name in Malaysia but he would probably get a recognition from the Malaysia Book of Records for being involved in the most number of non-­government organisations. This Ibrahim is involved in every NGO – from Bersih to Gabungan Mansuh ISA to Pemantau to Independent Monitoring Election Commission.

He has served notice that he will be in Kajang in his capacity as chief of the Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel). Are there any hats he is not wearing? Hasn’t he been confused himself before?
We won’t be surprised if he will soon head a Gabungan Cinta Satay Kajang or Stick It Up for Kajang Voters movements.

Rahim Thamby Chik

Well, not quite Ibrahim but close enough. This veteran politician can’t stand the sight of Anwar Ibrahim. Or for that matter anything about Anwar Ibrahim. He is his sworn enemy. Well, Enemy Forever. Not BFF, for sure.

We are not sure whether he will turn up in Kajang with Ummi Hafilda, another sworn enemy of Anwar. She seems to have gone into political oblivion since her marriage to a Pakistani doctor. It seems to be like an extended honeymoon, perhaps to make up for lost time. But we hope to hear from her soon. Looks like she has discovered that there’s more to life than her obsession – Anwar Ibrahim. It’s never too late. All these players hate one another but they can’t stay away from one another either. Isn’t that confusing?

Ibrahim Ahmad Badawi

Brahim LSG Skychef Sdn Bhd, formerly known as MAS Catering, belongs to Datuk Ibrahim Haji Ahmad Badawi, the younger brother of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. This company has been in the news lately.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to travel on business class on MAS will find the airline’s satay simply irresistible. Having lost the nasi lemak fight, we hope MAS will now redeem its image and go to Kajang for a satay war soon.

No one would have thought that there is such a thing as a “very naked” nasi lemak! Chef Wan Ismail took a picture of the very bare nasi lemak that was served in economy class on the route to Bangkok.

To the horror of this melodramatic chef, he claimed there were no nuts! Chef Wan may seem lembut (soft) at times but no one messes around with his food.

He was terribly pissed off. He whipped out his smart phone and took pictures of the nasi lemak missing the nuts. Err, sorry, I meant groundnuts.

And for Chef Wan, that’s a helluva of a telanjang (naked)! The essential ikan bilis or fried anchovies were not there either.

Well, following a full investigation, just short of a Royal Commission, it was finally revealed that the nuts had to be removed because they had gone stale. Blame the supplier who had gone on Chinese New Year break. Well, someone has to be the scapegoat in the great Malaysian tradition.

Poor Ibrahim, we never thought this would become an issue. This whole thing may seem a little nutty but the moral of the lesson here is, please don’t take economy class passengers for granted. We are not any ikan bilis, okay? We can strip anyone, Datuk or no Datuk, naked.

Well, things are going to get more interesting because the nomination and campaigning for Kajang have not even started yet!

And we still say the Election Commission should extend the campaigning period.

Contributed  by Wong Chun Wai
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
 
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

Quandary over who will be MB

Political drama: (clockwise from right) Khalid is refusing to resign even as Anwar campaigns in Kajang to be the next Mentri Besar; Rafizi has been unable to justify the Kajang Move while Azmin is in Mecca to perform the umrah.

Selangorians are getting mixed signals. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is acting like he is the next Mentri Besar of Selangor while MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is behaving like he is here to stay.

TAN Sri Khalid Ibrahim has looked rather well groomed of late. The Selangor Mentri Besar has been keeping his hair neatly combed and was even seen sporting an Elvis-like pompadour on a few occasions.

Khalid can be rather moody when he is over-worked or if things are not going well, and reporters covering him have learnt to use his hair as a “mood meter”.

If his naturally wavy hair is nicely groomed, it means he is in a good mood and everything is under control. But if his hair is all over the place, it is best to keep the questions short and sweet and not try to be funny with him.

But hair and “mood meter” aside, Khalid has been in an upbeat mood.

He has granted press interviews to one publication after another, talking about a variety of issues from the state water situation to the upcoming Kajang by-election.

It is evident that something big is looming on the water front. Khalid has been dropping hints of a solution over the long-standing water restructuring saga in Selangor.Earlier last week, he made headlines when he said that if the water restructuring exercise were successful, there could be free water not only in Selangor but also for those residing in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

And all this was happening even as PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was busy positioning himself to be the next Mentri Besar via the Kajang by-election.

Khalid’s demeanour and action over the last couple of weeks are not that of a man who is preparing to bow out. All the signs are that Khalid is here to stay and earlier last week, he confirmed that he is not resigning as Mentri Besar while side-stepping questions of whether Anwar will take over.

Khalid’s upbeat mood seems to be premised on two factors. The first factor is the unequivocal support he is getting from PAS in Selangor and the young Turks in the party’s Youth wing who have been critical of the Kajang Move.

Selangor PAS is standing by him and in the event that he is pushed out by his own party, PAS will nominate someone from their own party as the Mentri Besar.

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang put it a little more diplomatically: PAS will help Anwar win in Kajang, but the Mentri Besar post will be discussed after the by-election.

A PAS politician in Selangor indicated that PAS will welcome Khalid into the party if PKR decides to sack him. That is how far PAS in Selangor is prepared to go for Khalid.

The second reason for Khalid’s buoyant mood is believed to have come about after his weekly audience with the Sultan of Selangor two Wednesdays ago. He got the assurance that the Palace will not interfere in the political situation. The Palace will adhere strictly to its constitutional role and will follow the letter of the law.

A huge load was lifted from his shoulders and he left the royal audience walking on air.

Neutrality on the part of the Palace is crucial to Khalid because he is aware that Anwar and his backers have been trying to establish communications with the Palace.

There was talk that they had attempted to get through to the Palace via a Selangor princess.

For instance, Pakatan Rakyat supporters were shocked when Anwar said that former Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib would be able to advise him on the state’s rural development. They could not understand why Pakatan wanted to be linked with Umno’s “Gold Coast sensation” whom they used to mock as “me no speaking English”.

Mat Taib, as he is known, was briefly married to the Sultan’s younger sister Tengku Zahariah and some claimed that Anwar’s advisors were hoping to capitalise on that.

Unfortunately, Mat Taib has been persona non grata to the Palace ever since the day he eloped with the Princess known as Ku Yah and with whom he has a son who is now grown up with movie star looks to boot.

About a week ago, the PKR newsletter Suara Keadilan splashed a picture of Anwar alongside an uncle of the Sultan on its front page. Inside was another photograph of Anwar seated at the same dining table as Tengku Sulaiman Jalil Shah. The pair were guests at the wedding reception of the son of a Terengganu-based PAS politician.

The Palace wasted no time in clearing the air. On Wednesday, the Sultan’s private secretary Datuk Mohamad Munir Bani issued a statement on behalf of Tuanku advising political parties and politicians not to associate the Selangor Palace with their campaign in the Kajang by-election.

The statement also advised members of the Selangor royalty against being involved or allowing their name to be used by political parties in the by-election.

It is understood that the Sultan’s uncle had never met Anwar until the wedding event. Sources said he was seated at the VIP table when Anwar appeared at his side and joined him. Suddenly, three photographers appeared and started taking pictures of them.

It is learnt that Anwar’s group had also approached a family friend of the Sultan but he told them that as a member of the Royal Selangor Council, he couldn’t be associated with any political party.

The clumsy and amateurish attempts to get through to the Palace do not speak well of whoever is advising Anwar.

It is no secret that the Palace is comfortable with Khalid but, basically, the Palace wants to keep a clear distance from the big time politics taking place out there.

Several days ago, Rafizi Ramli, the man credited with the Kajang Move, said that a party survey showed that only 17% of Kajang voters were critical of the reason for the by-election compared to 25% who approved of it.

He dismissed the critical group as mainly Barisan Nasional supporters.

“This means that only a small number of Kajang voters are against the by-election,” Rafizi Ramli said at a press conference earlier last week.

Of the remaining group, 21% wanted to know more before deciding, 26% could not care less while 10% pleaded ignorance. Those who wished to know more and those who did not care added up to 47% and they are the undecided voters. It is an unusually big number of undecided voters for a highly-urbanised seat but it also means that candidates have a good chance to canvass for support.

Everyone tells Anwar he will win but he is not taking anything for granted. He has kept a punishing schedule in Kajang. He tried his hand at Chinese calligraphy at a Chinese new village dinner, he went to a church where he received a standing ovation and he attended a futsal game to touch base with the youth. By polling day, he would have covered every housing estate at least twice over.

The Penang born and bred Anwar wants to present himself as somebody who cares for Selangor.

In fact, he had kicked off his campaign by attending a Selangor Football Association event wearing the yellow and red jersey of the state. A witty commentator labelled him “pemain import baru (latest imported player)” for Selangor.

The internal dynamics in PKR has almost eclipsed the by-election as well as the other candidates in the race, namely Barisan’s Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun and independent Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

Chew Mei Fun is MCA 2014 Kajang By-election candidate – YouTube

The tight and loyal circle around Khalid claimed that their boss has the numbers to survive. Rafizi, on his part, has said that the Mentri Besar issue will not be put to the vote in the State Legislative Assembly.

“Khalid knows that no one can really do anything if he refuses to resign,” said a political insider.
Rafizi has been talking about an Umno plot to topple Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak but the real plot is within PKR to topple Khalid.

The Anwar for MB camp had been bending over backwards for Khalid because they needed him to go without making a scene. They even gave in to his demand to be made the director of election over the party’s deputy president Azmin Ali.

By-elections are normally led by the deputy president of a party and Azmin, who is also the Selangor chief, is a seasoned organiser with a good grasp of the Selangor ground. But he was pressured to back off for Khalid. Azmin has since left for Mecca to perform the umrah.

It is evident by now that Khalid is not interested in any move by Anwar’s advisors to have him sign a post-dated letter of resignation. That was the original plan for a smooth transition.

Khalid was supposed to resign effective March 23 and Anwar, fresh from victory, would be nominated and sworn in as the new Mentri Besar. In hindsight, it was wishful thinking on their part and yet more proof of the lack of experience among Anwar’s advisors.

Anwar is now trapped in a situation where the man he is trying to dislodge refuses to go and is in charge of his election campaign.

There is no denying it – the Kajang Move has become a hot mess.

Some are expecting the Pakatan Rakyat convention on March 8 to involve some kind of call for Anwar to lead in Selangor. It will be tricky but who would object if it is presented as the road to Putrajaya?

The Anwar side sees Anwar, with his charisma and oratory skills, as the catalyst for the Putrajaya dream.

But the Khalid side says that the best advertisement for the Putrajaya dream is the Selangor model under Khalid’s leadership.

In the meantime, they have to tackle the road to Kajang.

Contributed by Joceline Tan
> Joceline Tan can be reached at joceline@thestar.com.my

Chinese President Xi’s carton an online hit


Xi Infographic
 

For the original cartoon, check Where has President Xi’s time gone? 

Cartoon of hard-working Xi moves Chinese netizens

An online cartoon entitled “Where Has Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Time Gone?” has hit the headlines, depicting the leader’s hard work via cute animation.

It portrays Xi in a gray jacket and blue trousers with maps and charts featuring his busy schedules, including both domestic and foreign travels, the meetings he has presided over and his hobbies.

The cartoon, released by Beijing-based qianlong.com on Wednesday, has been much discussed in online forums, with “President Xi works too hard” and “the cartoon figure is so cute” typifying the comments.

Yang Mingxing, who is responsible for the cartoon, told Beijing News that her team was inspired to make the cartoon by comments Xi made at the Winter Olympic Games.

During his visit to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Games, the president said in an interview with Russian media that he devoted most of his time to work while quoting a song named “Where Has Time Gone?” that was performed at this year’s Spring Festival gala.

According to the cartoon, since Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November 2012, he has made 12 research trips throughout China, covering 11 provincial-level regions.

The cartoon also shows that Xi has spent 39 days on five trips overseas, covering 14 countries on five continents, since he took the helm as Chinese president in March 2013.

In 2013, Xi attended meetings on a monthly basis, with the number of such commitments peaking at six. The most important meetings have been the annual gatherings of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body.

Xi chaired the group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on 12 occasions, covering topics including anti-corruption drives, deepening reform and “cultural soft power.”

During his tiny amount of spare time, Xi is a big reader and loves sports, turning his hand to swimming, climbing, ball games and martial arts, according to the cartoon.

In order to create a vivid image of the president, Yang’s team gathered a number of his pictures to “grasp his expressions and features.”

The clothes were based on his daily wear, and the cartoon figure stands with his feet pointing to different sides, an illustrators’ technique designed to make the image more cute and friendly.

A netizen with the screen name “Xiaodipanwuxianda” suggested on Twitter-like Weibo.com that the comic maker should make a series of such animations.

“Guduqiudan” wrote, “President Xi works really hard and I should be introspective about where my own time has gone.”

Zhu Lijia, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that such cartoon imagery breaks the conventional mystery surrounding leaders of China and creates closer ties with the Chinese people.

It is a sign for Chinese society to be more open and confident, Zhu added.

In October last year, Xi appeared in cartoon form for the first time in a five-minute animation that compared China’s government system with that of the United States and Britain.

The video, produced by a studio called “On the road to revival,” featured stories about Xi, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The animation surprised Internet users with its frankness on leaders with both Chinese and English versions, and has been viewed over two million times online. – Xinhua

Drawn together: Xi Jinping cartoon puts people over politics

Animated cartoon – The makings of a Chinese leader

Watch Video:  How to Make Leaders (How Leaders are made) – Viral Chinese

► 5:29► 5:29 www.youtube.com/watch?v=M734o_17H_A

The five-minute animation introduced the tough promotion process through which Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power from the grassroots. It is the first time a Chinese leader has appeared in cartoon images. The animation, with both Chinese and English versions, was produced by a studio called “On the road to revival,” about which no more details are available. [Read more]

【视频:【喜大普奔】领导人是怎样炼成的】 (分享自 @优酷网http://t.cn/zRtxajI

● Weibo posts

Public eats up Xi’s trip to steamed buns shop
President Xi Jinping’s surprise visit to a fast food eatery on last December 28 in Beijing has drawn unprecedented attention, which shored up his everyman image that had rarely been seen among top-level Chinese officials in the past.

Blurred photos of Xi queuing at a restaurant, holding his own plates and dining at a table were posted online by Net users first in the afternoon. The photos were forwarded by Xinhuashidian, an official Weibo account run by the Xinhua News Agency.

Given no official media accompanied the president during his surprise visit to the eatery, all the photos and videos were taken by diners with their cellphones.

‘Fan club to learn from Xi’ welcomed by the public
A Sina Weibo account called Xuexifensituan, which means “Fan club to learn from Xi,” became quite popular online for its real-time reports of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s inspection tour of Gansu Province in 2013.

The account published the details of Xi’s Gansu tour starting on February 3, 2013 and set itself apart by publishing close-up photos of the leader, some of which are exclusive. The man behind the account identified himself as an ordinary netizen when responding to the public’s queries about his true identity, according to a report from the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post on February 5, 2013.

Having first been registered on November 21, 2012, this account had over 480,000 followers as of 4 pm, February 6, 2013.          Editor’s Note

Previously, a video titled The makings of a Chinese leader went viral online in October last year via popular video website Youku, in which China’s top leadership was presented in animation.

          Latest News 

Xi’s cartoon depiction breaks taboo
A cartoon depiction of President Xi Jinping in an infographic, the first such image of him carried by a State-run media outlet, has triggered much discussion of the new attitude toward publicizing China’s top leadership.

Leader cartoon screened
A video depicting China’s top leadership in an animated cartoon has been played during the five-day visit of a Chinese delegation sent to Laos to promote the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) since December 18, cpc.people.com.cn reported on December 20, 2013.           Drawing the People Together

          Comments

Chinese media:
Zhengzhou Evening Post
Cartoons are a good way to present officials as everyday people. Politics are a serious subject, but politicians are regular people. China’s grassroots officials should learn from the President and try to better connect with the people.

The Beijing News
Cartoons of China’s top leaderships not only bring them closer to the common people, but also help the public better understand their political views.

Chengdu Business Daily
Cartoons of top leaders are a modern and effective way to connect with the public. They help people learn about their leader’s schedules and activities through humor. The Party and the government are seeking new ways to connect with the public, such as through Weibo and WeChat, and this will increase in the future.

Weibo voices:
@小地盘无限大: The cartoon is very cute. Hope to see more.

@一零六点一: I like President Xi very much. He doesn’t use a lot of official jargon during his speeches and is easy to understand.

- Web editor: guwei@globaltimes.com.cn

Interesting times in East Asia


South-East Asia is in a strategically unenviable spot – too small to shape North-East Asia, and too near to it to avoid the havoc of conflict there.
Trouble Water_South Korea_East China

Troubled waters: South Korea conducting a drill to guard a maritime science research station set up on the South Korea-controlled underwater reef of Ieodo. Conflicts can result from miscalculation, misperception or misinterpretation of an adversary’s actions or intentions. -EPA

IF outright aggression between nations often results in conflict, conflicts need not result directly from aggression alone.

Conflicts also arise from doubts, uncertainty and lingering suspicions. They can result from miscalculation, misperception or misinterpretation of an adversary’s actions or intentions.

Several of these “triggers” are on full display in North-East Asia today. Contributory factors include historical grievances between Japan and its immediate neighbours China and the Koreas, China’s growth and assertiveness, Japan’s brashness, Korea’s sensitivities and US ties to Japanese security interests.

That these countries are major players does not insure against open conflict between them. These major powers have the means to initiate and sustain full-scale war.

Nor is the location of potential conflict in North-East Asia a comfort to South-East Asia. Whether individually or together, Asean countries are not strong enough to deter or resolve such conflict, yet are not sufficiently far away to avoid its fallout.

Several of the disputes stem from Japan’s 2012 nationalisation of the Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai islands also claimed by China and Taiwan in the East China Sea. As with other provocations, this occurred against the backdrop of Japanese atrocities against Chinese and Korean populations during the Second World War.

Then last November, China declared an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed islands and waters. After the United States declared the first ADIZ in 1950, Britain, Canada, India, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan followed. 

A country’s ADIZ requires foreign civilian vessels to identify themselves before entering. Essentially controversial and provocative, it is unilateral, unregulated and unauthorised multilaterally.

Beijing presumably thought that all countries had equal rights to declare such a zone. It may not have anticipated the protests it received, particularly from countries that had done the same thing before.

In December, Chinese and US warships narrowly avoided a collision. Despite both countries downplaying the incident subsequently, different versions of the event resulted.

Spats had erupted between China and Vietnam, and the Philippines, over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s presence in disputed territories in the South China Sea. Then in mid-2013, a China-Vietnam summit cooled tensions, leaving the Philippines somewhat in the cold.

But as if to sow doubts about Beijing’s own diplomatic competence, PLA(N) ships were reported in disputed waters off Sarawak late last year and early this year. This surprised Malaysian diplomatic and policy circles, since China had previously avoided upsetting Malaysia.

Countries in the region puzzle over why China is putting on such provocations, beyond testing the reactions of the other claimant countries. However, such tests can be made by other countries as well.

Late last month, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that China was preparing to declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea. The area includes disputed islands and waters claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The report suggested the new ADIZ would initially cover the Paracel Islands and eventual­ly include virtually the whole sea. Beijing immediately retorted, warning Japan against spreading baseless rumours.

The Japanese report was either a truthful account or an attempt to test China’s response. That response has been clear enough.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, has been working hard producing its share of follies and fumbles.

In mid-December, Tokyo called a meeting with Asean countries to discuss defence concerns vis-à-vis China. That meeting flopped, as Asean leaders downplayed the defence aspect and preferred discussing economic relations with Japan.

Then after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December, Tokyo announced plans to nationalise another 280 islands. It coincided with the National Security Council’s launch to streamline the operations of security agencies and military forces under the office of the nationalist Abe.

That month, Abe criticised China’s ADIZ, calling it an attempt to change the regional status quo “by force”. Observers in the region were baffled by Tokyo’s definition of “force”.

Then the Japanese government revised textbooks to instruct schoolchildren that the islands in dispute with other countries were “an inherent part” of Japan. That again brought Beijing and Seoul together to condemn Tokyo.

At the same time, Japan planned military exercises with US and Indian forces, incorporating a US$2bil (RM6.65bil) loan to India. Days later, Tokyo planned more military exercises with US and Australian forces.

Such military responses with major countries outside East Asia do nothing to improve fraying relations within the region. But that disconnect apparently fails to concern policymakers in Tokyo.

Within Japan, Abe’s government is expanding its military forces over the Nansei Islands, covering Okinawa and the Senkakus. But reactionary nationalists had long seen the restrictions of Japan’s post-war “pacifist” Constitution as a hindrance.

Abe is now on a personal crusade to revise the Constitution to allow for a more assertive military. In his “historic mission”, Abe’s target is Article 9 which bans the use of military force to resolve disputes abroad.

The problem for Abe: a news survey last month showed 53.8% of the Japanese public opposing changes to the Constitution. How would a democratic Japan reject that majority view?

Abe seeks changes to permit Japanese force­s to make pre-emptive strikes, amounting to unilateral attacks on another country where self-defence may not be invoked.

After the US government advised US commercial airlines in November to abide by China’s ADIZ, Tokyo expressed bewilderment. Abe promptly concluded that the US had made no such decision.

Reports early this month said that Japan and the US had agreed to ignore China’s ADIZ in their military manoeuvres. But an ADIZ customarily applies to civilian, not military, vessels.

In other matters, however, there has been less agreement between Washington and Tokyo. A senior US military official warned against revising Japan’s Constitution. Since the overriding purpose was to build a trilateral alliance in North-East Asia comprising the US, Japan and South Korea to alienate China, a revised Japanese Constitution would instead alienate South Korea and disrupt the alliance.

In December, the US expressed “disappoint­ment” over Abe’s visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine. The following month, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy objected to the cruelty of Japan’s annual dolphin hunt, provoking protests.

Three US Congressmen have lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry to address the “comfort women” issue with Japan. It involved more than 200,000 Korean women and girls who had been sexually abused by Imperial Japanese forces.

When NHK broadcast chief Katsuto Momii trivialised the issue, suggesting Japan’s wartime actions were acceptable, he caused more controversy. Momii was Abe’s pick for the top media job.

Kerry is due in China and South Korea in a week to discuss North Korea. Japanese observers note that he will be bypassing Tokyo. However, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was in Washington on Friday to discuss with Kerry the Abe-Obama summit in Tokyo in April. Abe has found a compelling need to reaffirm bilateral ties with the US.

While the scheduled summit will bear on the “US pivot” to East Asia, other countries may also do a pivot or at least a pirouette. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has directed major state-owned companies to relocate their head offices to Russia’s far east to help develop the region.

Where political and economic concerns converge, strategic considerations are never far behind. Such concerns, never lacking in East Asia, are now set to multiply.

 Behind The Headlines by Bunn Nagara Asia News Network

  • Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
  • The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. 

Related post:
Southeast Asia’s Boom Is a Bubble-Driven Illusion?

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