Trump is the biggest threat


Not much help: Despite his use of
tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US firms, the very
industries Trump has tried to help have become the weakest links in the
otherwise solid economy.

WASHINGTON: At rallies and whistle-stop campaign tours, President Donald Trump proclaims a renaissance in US factories rebuilding the nation with “American steel”, “American heart” and “American hands”.

But in reality, despite his relentless use of punitive tariffs to help skew the playing field in favour of US companies, the very industries he has tried to help have become the weakest links in the otherwise solid economy.

With just over a year to go before he faces re-election, Trump takes credit for the most vigorous economy in the industrialised world, with the expansion entering its 11th year and historically low unemployment.

But while services and office jobs dominate the US economy, Trump continues to promote the factory and mining jobs that were the lifeblood of the economy in the last century.

“American steel mills are roaring back to life,” he declared last month in Florida – the same day US Steel announced it would idle plants in Michigan and Indiana until “market conditions improve”.

And to West Virginians he said, “The coal industry is back.”

But in fact each of the sectors Trump has championed – coal mining, steel, aluminium and auto manufacturing – have been buffeted by a combination of market forces and changing technologies – factors beyond his control – or damaged by the very things he did to protect them, economists and analysts say.

Last month, a national survey of manufacturing activity hit its lowest level in nearly three years – narrowly avoiding slipping into contraction – while regional surveys have also seen record declines.

In March, the number of workers in US manufacturing shrank for the first time in nearly two years and it is now growing more slowly than the rest of the American workforce.

Trump has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions in imports, renegotiated trade agreements and dangled the threat of worse over China and Europe and Mexico – all while publicly browbeating companies that close US factories or move production offshore.

But weak foreign demand, a strong US dollar and a decades-long evolution away from domestic manufacturing have progressively shrunk America’s industrial sector, said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics.

Trump’s world trade war has not helped either.

“The policies that have been implemented in terms of protectionism have hurt the very sectors they were meant to protect. There’s no escaping that,” Daco said. – AFP/The Star

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China can effectively sanction US companies who sell weapons to Taiwan: experts

The US is deploying a double standard by calling China’s proposed sanctions on US companies for arms sales to Taiwan a “foolish action,” Chinese mainland analysts said on Sunday, pointing out that the sanctions could not only cut base material supply to these companies including rare earths but also block their non-military products from entering Chinese markets.

 

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China takes moral high ground in face of US power play


The Sino-US trade dispute is not only a game between representatives of the two countries at the negotiating table, but also a contest between the two sides in the field of international public opinion. In this dispute, which may evolve into a protracted confrontation, China has no choice but to take international justice and law as the criterion. While striving to safeguard its own core interests, China is also committed to international morality.

Over the past year and more, the tactics used by China and the US in the trade war have drawn a sharp contrast, highlighting the new trend of the strategic game between emerging powers and already existing powers in the new era.

China is actively opening to the outside world to reduce trade restrictions, while the US frequently imposes tariffs on other countries. China never threatens other countries, but seeks common interests through negotiations. The US frequently resorts to a maximum pressure approach. China respects the international system and acts in accordance with the principles of justice. The US does not obey rules, and uses what is appropriate and discards what is not. China respects each other’s concerns about economic interests, while the US only considers its own interests. China has resolutely defended and safeguarded the basic principles of the WTO and put forward a reform plan. The US threatened to withdraw from the WTO to act according to its will. 

Welcome to America Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Uncle Sam, which prides itself on international justice, has arrogantly put “America First” above international justice and law. Closing the door for selfish gain, Washington is slipping from the moral high ground. China adheres to principles, is calm and rational, pursues fairness and justice, opens the door to common prosperity and cooperation, and presents itself as a responsible major country. 

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world.” The use of unilateralism to force opponents to surrender has caused the biggest blow to the international free trade system since the end of the Cold War.

At this time, it has become the common responsibility of the international community to work together to consolidate and improve the existing international economic and trade system so that it is fairer and more reasonable and not hijacked by the US.

It appears that the US is decoupling with China, in fact, the US is decoupling with the world. As the largest developing country and the world’s No. 2 economy, China has the responsibility and wisdom to play a bigger role in promoting globalization.

The conflict between China and the US tests the level of political governance, the potential of economic development, the unity of the people and the global influence of the two sides. The future depends more on who can be a positive force for world peace and development.

China’s economic and trade links with the rest of the world have never been so extensive and deep as they are today. The further development of globalization and the progress of the world political and economic governance system need China’s contribution.

China is an emerging power. The rise of any big country in history will not be smooth. A great power that can truly stand firm on the world stage may start out lonely, but in the end, it becomes more and more cohesive. The trade war has put China through the test that a rising power must endure. It has strengthened our confidence to firmly occupy the international moral high ground.

China’s past success lies in its ability to accurately grasp the convergence between China’s “potential” and the world’s “potential.” China’s sustainable development in the future depends on how we take advantage of the trend of world development to develop ourselves, and use our own reform and opening-up to promote world development.



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CDAC harmony is an idea Western critics can’t understand – Cultural superiority is stupid and disastrous, Chinese President Xi Jinping warns as US tensions persist


The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) begins Wednesday in Beijing with over 2,000 government officials and representatives from 47 Asian countries and other participating regions in attendance.c

The event is yet another diplomatic effort by China following the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition.

The CDAC marks the first time Asian countries have gathered for cross-cultural exchange, adding to the event’s historical groundbreaking significance.

The necessity of the CDAC is highlighted by Western reaction. Some Westerners, trapped in geopolitical thought, view the event as a competition between China and the West.

This way of thinking leads to estrangement and conflict between civilizations, turning dialogue into an increasingly global concern.

At this juncture, whomever stands up and to promote dialogue and exchange among civilizations will create future benefits for the following centuries. It’s not an accident the CDAC was born in Asia and initiated by China.

Asia is a vast continent with diverse civilizations and religions. If different entities can achieve inclusiveness, mutual learning, and become closer with one another, it will be a success over the experiment of unilateralism.

With uneven development and as the former victims of the Cold War, Asian countries are concerned with equality and independence, the foundation required for civilizations to achieve peaceful coexistence.

China is the most powerful country in Asia, opposing hegemonism and confrontation while advocating harmonious coexistence and cross-cultural learning. CDAC is part of China’s endeavor to realize what that entails, and only time will prove the significance of China’s exploration.

As the birthplace of modernization and globalization, the West occupies a natural position in the international political arena. Many Westerners are obsessed with Western style centralism. However, in recent years, they have seen the rapid development of non-Western countries, and Asian countries in particular, which has made them sensitive and narrow-minded.

Western vigilance, mistrust, and hostility toward foreign civilizations only agitate their differences and contradictions, and can ignite bloody conflicts.

Globalization is at an inflection point. At a time when China is trying to bridge the gaps between different civilizations, the US is in search of border wall funding. While China expands and opens up in more areas, the US closes its door to technological, educational, and social and science exchanges.

A rift between Western civilizations and non-Western civilizations is unbearable to today’s world. Whether Western civilization can be more inclusive will determine the course of globalization. Any far-sighted, rational-thinking person will be excited with the progress achieved during the CDAC.

Adapting to modern times is the Asian continent’s mission and China is willing to work with Asian countries to achieve a harmonious coexistence.

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Cultural superiority is stupid and disastrous, Chinese President Xi Jinping warns as US tensions persist

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that one civilisation forcing itself on another would be “stupid” and “disastrous” as he called on nations to respect each other on Wednesday, with Beijing embroiled in rising confrontation with the United States on trade as well as military and cultural matters.

In a speech at the start of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations – designed for Beijing to show its soft power – Xi did not mention any nation by name, but said nobody should regard their race as superior.

The speech came two weeks after US State Department director of policy planning Kiron Skinner described strategic competition with China as “a fight with a really different civilisation and a different ideology”. Skinner said it was the first time the US had faced a “great power competitor that is not Caucasian”.

Chinese officials have rejected Skinner’s remarks, and in his speech Xi appeared to expand on the theme, saying cultures were distinctive but no better or worse than each other.

“If someone thinks their own race and civilisation is superior and insists on remoulding or replacing other civilisations, it would be a stupid idea and disastrous act,” Xi said.

“We should hold up equality and respect, abandon pride and prejudice, deepen our knowledge about the differences between our own and other civilisations, and promote harmonious dialogue and coexistence between civilisations.”

He went on to say: “If countries retreat back to secluded islands, human civilisation will die out because of a lack of exchanges.”

Xi stressed that people should step beyond the limits of their own culture to discover the advantages of others, and argued it was the best way to inspire innovation.

“All civilisations must progress with time and keep up with the latest achievement,” he said.

The president suggested that the Belt and Road Initiative, his transcontinental infrastructure strategy, was also a means to promote cooperation between nations.

“The Belt and Road … and other initiatives have expanded the channels for civilisation exchanges,” he said.

Beijing last month held the Belt and Road Forum to showcase its trade and infrastructure projects in countries in Asia to Africa.

The speech reiterated the idea, which  Xi has aired previously, of a community of shared destiny, arguing that Asian countries should open and connect their polices, infrastructures, trade, investment and people.

Asia must maintain peace as the precondition of economic growth, which is the pillar of civilisation, he argued.

Can China do soft power? Poorly organised yet tightly controlled forum raises questions

“All countries should conduct exchanges beyond borders of state, time and civilisations, and work together to protect the peaceful time we have, which is more precious than gold,” Xi said.

 

“Children and women are suffering from poverty, hunger and diseases in Asia. This has to be changed,” he said, calling on Asian nations to “work together to promote an open, inclusive, balanced and mutually beneficial globalised economy, eradicating poverty”.

Xi proposed deeper cultural exchanges, saying that China would cooperate with more Asian nations to translate their literature and would promote inward and outward tourism.

“This can facilitate the appreciation and understanding of different cultures,” he said.

Opinion: US-China trade war is really a clash of civilisations

Stating that China received 140 million overseas tourists last year while 160 million Chinese made visits abroad, Xi said tourism could promote economic growth and friendship in Asia.

China would increase exchanges involving young people and think tanks, he added.

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“There’s no way the US can crush Huawei”


 

Ren Zhengfei: ‘The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced’ –

 

Huawei has been under considerable pressure from the U.S., which has been convincing allies in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand to not use the company’s 5G equipment due to security concerns.

Huawei founder speaks amid pressure: ‘The U.S. can’t crush us’

“There’s no way the U.S. can crush us,” Zhengfei told the broadcaster. “The world needs us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”

 [Tap to expand] 

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei describes the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, as politically motivated

The UK is set to make a decision on whether it will use Huawei’s equipment in March or April, but the country’s National Cyber Security Centre has reportedly found ways to “limit the risks” of its technology.


Ren said regardless of ban in the UK, Huawei will continue to invest in the country, and promised the company will increase its focus there if the U.S. doesn’t work out.  

“We still trust in the UK, and we hope that the UK will trust us even more,” he added. “We will invest even more in the UK. Because if the U.S. doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the U.S. to the UK on an even bigger scale.”

 

On the arrest of his daughter, Ren objected to the actions of U.S., calling them “politically motivated.”

 

“The U.S. likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods,” he said.

 

“We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”

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Huawei tests Europe’s independence

What Europe needs is not only the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, but also the courage to make its own independent choices. Europe’s cooperation with  Huawei on construction of a 4G network is already an established fact, but it seems now that beneficial collaboration has become one of the biggest risks.

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MBPP, contractor, engineers and DOSH named as responsible in fatal Penang landslide


https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/02/14/landslide-report-blames-contractor-mbpp-and-dosh/?jwsource=cl

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman, who is the committee chairman, said the MBPP as the owner of the project had failed in its overall responsibility to supervise the project despite having appointed Jurutera Perunding GEA as representative of the superintendent officer. NSTP/MIKAIL ONG

MBPP among four named as responsible in fatal Penang landslide

GEORGE TOWN: Four parties have been identified as being responsible for the fatal landslide at the construction site of the paired road at Jalan Bukit Kukus last October incident, including the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

A special investigation committee set up by the Penang government following the fatal landslide at the construction site also named the other three parties, namely the contractor Yuta Maju Sdn Bhd, the consultant, Jurutera Perunding GEA (M) Sdn Bhd and the independent checking engineer G&P Professional Sdn Bhd.

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman, who is the committee chairman, said the MBPP as the owner of the project had failed in its overall responsibility to supervise the project despite having appointed Jurutera Perunding GEA as representative of the superintendent officer.

“By appointing Jurutera Perunding GEA, it does not mean that the council is free from responsibilities to ensure the success of the project from all aspects.

“As such, any actions to be taken against the council will depend on the outcome of investigations by the police, the Department of Occupational Safety and Heath (DOSH) and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) into the incident,” he said when making public findings of the investigation committee.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin said as for Yuta Maju, it had failed to ensure satisfactory mitigation works at the project site, and that the temporary slope constructed at the project site was not endorsed or designed by accredited consultants, which was a violation of the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) guidelines.

“It also failed to ensure site safety by removing the empty containers at the project site, where nine bodies were recovered,” he added.

As for Jurutera Perunding GEA, Ahmad Zakiyuddin said the party had failed to ensure that the contractor abide by the guidelines set out by the BEM, while G&P Professional had failed to abide by the job scope given by the council.

“Following our findings, we have recommended that the contractor, consultant and independent checking engineer be blacklisted from any tender consideration for projects in the future.

“That said, they will still have to continue their works for the paired road project, until the project completion, slated for May next year,” he added.

The landslide at the Bukit Kukus paired roads project site on Oct 19 last year killed nine site workers and left four others injured.

The search and rescue (SAR) operation was called off after five days. The project’s stop-work orders, separately issued by DOSH, CIDB and the council, were lifted up recently.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin said the special investigation committee also identified 10 main factors which had contributed the to fatal landslide, particularly not fully adopting best practices in construction work.

Other factors included:

* heavy rain on the morning of the incident at 55mm

* the contractor was unable to enter the project site to carry out mitigation works as stop-work order was issued by DOSH two days prior to the incident following a worksite accident

* unsafe construction processes

* failure to recognise the significance of an earlier incident (falling beams at another part of the project site two days prior to the landslide);

* lack of supervision

* failure to identify risk due to the change of process

* lack of comprehensive inspection and testing

* failure in risk communication

* poor management of sub-contractors.

Asked on why the services of the contractor, consultant and independent checking engineer were not immediately terminated following the incident, Ahmad Zakiyuddin said from what he understood, the stop-work orders issued on the three were only for one part of the project and not the entire project.

“Also, there was no record of safety issues prior to the landslide,” he said.

He called on efforts to protect the remaining part of the project as a resu

lt of a negative perception.

“Any delay will put the project at greater risks.”

To another question if the special investigation committee’s findings would be made public, he there had been no plans to do so as the report served as a guideline for the state. – By Audrey Dermawan, NST >

‘MBPP hired resident engineer for Bukit Kukus project’

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) appointed a resident engineer and an independent checking engineer even before the start of the Bukit Kukus paired road project, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

“If you see the action taken by MBPP, they understand their technical insufficiency in terms of a geotechnical engineer. That’s why in the contract, they required the main contractor to appoint a resident engineer, who was paid by MBPP to monitor the project on MBPP’s behalf.

“The independent checking engineers were also paid by MBPP. So, it was a measure taken by MBPP even before the start of the project, knowing that this is a big project.

“They did not have the capacity to monitor the project as they have only two or three engineers who have to be looking at other matters besides this project.

“So, they took action to appoint a resident engineer as well as independent checking enginners to act on behalf of MBPP,” he told reporters at the Penang Development Corp­oration Chinese New Year celebration at the PDC office in Bayan Lepas yesterday.

Chow also said the state would wait for the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) report first.

“We will leave it to DOSH’s findings. Let DOSH come out with the report and we will take the necessary action after that,” he said.

Asked if MBPP had to bear necessary compensation for families of the victims of the landslide last October, Chow said MBPP had not received any claim so far.

Chow was asked to respond to the Con­sumers Association of Penang’s (CAP) call for stern action to be taken against the wrongdoers responsible for the tragedy.

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris in a statement yesterday said: “While we welcome the investigation committee’s findings as to who is responsible for the tragedy, we are concerned that apart from recommending the blacklisting of the contractor, consultant and independent checking engineer from any tender consideration for future projects, it appears that no further stern action has been recommended.

“In particular, we want to know what action will be taken against MBPP,” he said.

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zaki­yuddin Abdul Rahman, who headed the investigation panel, was reported yesterday as saying that MBPP and other parties involved in the construction of the Jalan Bukit Kukus paired road project had not adhered to construction and engineering best practices.

Meanwhile, MBPP acknowledged responsibility for the Bukit Kukus landslide tragedy as it is the council’s project.

MBPP mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang said the council was not pushing away any responsibility or negative comments on the council and project, and that it would be taken seriously. – By Cavina Lim and Intan Amalina Mohd Ali, The Star

Penang landslide report blames contractor, MBPP and DOSH

The special investigative panel report on the Bukit Kukus landslide had not been made public, but excerpts of the findings were made available by the state.

However, it has raised more questions than answers as the state blamed the contractor, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

In an immediate response, DOSH Penang director Jaafar Leman denied the department was to be blamed for the landslide.

“We were not even invited to be part of the investigative panel to give our views. How could we be blamed?” he asked.

According to the statement by Deputy Chief Minister 1 Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman who headed the investigative panel, the stop-work order on Oct 17 prevented contractors from entering the site to do maintenance works.

As a result, the temporary toe drain overflowed and water was retained on the reclaimed land contributing to the collapse of the slopes.

“How could a stop order which was issued on Oct 17 contribute to the landslide which occurred on Oct 19?” asked Jaafar.

He said the slopes would have been risky from the beginning as the contractor did not do any mitigation works to strengthen them and it does not make sense to blame DOSH.

The stop-work order was issued on Oct 17 after 14 beams fell in a ravine.

Earlier, during a press conference, Ahmad Zakiyuddin said MBPP and other parties involved in the construction of the Jalan Bukit Kukus paired roads project, had not adhered to construction and engineering best practices.

“The landslide was caused by many factors, which included a temporary construction of a platform to place machinery which was not constructed properly. The temporary platform was created to allow heavy vehicles lift beams for the paired road project.

“MBPP, as owners of the project, had failed to ensure all the hired parties carried out their job.

“MBPP had failed to hire a professional engineer for temporary works to design and supervise the site,” he said yesterday.

Ahmad Zakiyuddin said another factor was the downpour in the morning of the day of the landslide.- The Star

Related News

Kudos to Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin for holding the four parties accountable for the Bukit Kukus landslide tragedy. The inquiry still begs a lot of questions, e.g. why was the contract given to Yuta Maju from Terengganu? Could the accident have been prevented if a proper EIA was done? It is not just a “bureaucratic hurdle” but supposed to identify risks and advise mitigation. If the authorities wish to go on with the project, it is not too late to commissi
See more

“This is no simple incident as nine deaths resulted from it. Very stern action must be taken against the MBPP, and that includes strong disciplinary action against the mayor and officers responsible.

“Otherwise, it will be business-as-usual in the MBPP as the officers will be allowed to go scot-free with impunity.

Fake Awards Scam for Penang Island City Council, Seberang Perai Municipal Council !

Dubious honours: (Above) Former Penang Island City Council mayor Patahiyah  Ismail with the trophy and certificate for Best Municipal Manager awards in 2013 while her Seberang Prai counterpart Maimunah (pictured here with the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his aide Wong Hon Wai) received the same latter award in 2014

The price we pay to axe East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


KUALA LUMPUR: Loss of jobs, harm to diplomatic ties with China, damage to the economy plus a RM20bil compensation are awaiting Malaysia if the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is cancelled.

The billion ringgit 688km long track linking Selangor, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan is already 20% completed, says MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong on the trail of potential damage if the project set for completion in 2024 is axed now.

The Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament who issued an open letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet Ministers on the matter, said he earnestly hoped the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing the project.

The ECRL project whose construction contract was awarded to China Communications, Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and financed by China is a hot topic in the past few days, and its fate is expected to be made known officia­lly this week.

Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will be “impoverished” if the government proceeds with the ECRL project.

While not confirming that the project has been scrapped, Dr Mahathir said paying compensation is cheaper than bearing the cost of the project.

Below is Dr Wee’s letter in full:

An open letter to YAB Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers

The cancellation of the ECRL project and the bickering between two Cabinet ministers over the issue has become the talk of the town. I foresee this issue to be a hot topic in the Cabinet meeting this Wednesday (Jan 30).

Whether the cancellation of ECRL was discussed in previous Cabinet meetings or not, I earnestly hope the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing this project.

Take a moment to consider factors such as the friendship between the people of both countries, jobs and economy, diplomatic ties and the reputation of Malaysia.

On the bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, I can safely say that putting a stop to the ECRL project will harm the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China.

If we put ourselves in China’s shoes, we will surely respond negatively as well if our overseas investment is treated as such.

A nightmare looms should China take any retaliatory action, such as reduce or even halt the import of commodities (palm oil in particular) from us.

If that happens, Felda, Sime Darby and other big corporations will be the first to feel the heat.

The livelihood of some 650,000 smallholders and their families will be directly affected.

From the economic perspective, the ECRL project is likely to boost the GDP growth of three east coast states by 1.5%.

It will also spur the development of the east coast, enhance connectivity between the east and west coast, and close the economic divide between the two coasts.

Through bridging the rural-urban divide, the overall development of Malaysia will be more balanced and comprehensive.

The rail link is 20% completed, with several tens of billions paid to the contractor.

On top of that, Malaysia will be penalised for cancelling the RM30bil loan from the EXIM Bank of China.

We will have to repay the loan and compensation within a short period of time.

From my experience in administering engineering projects, any breach of contract will result in a hefty penalty. The compensation for cancelling ECRL could reach RM20bil.

Financial losses aside, scrapping the ECRL will also bring a negative impact to Malaysia’s reputation in the international arena and erode Malaysia’s trustworthiness.

Judging from my past experience dealing with China and its officials, as well as the friendly gestures displayed by China so far, I can conclude that China is willing to achieve a win-win solution instead of situation where both sides lose out.

The Malaysian government can consider restructuring the project timeline or reducing the project scale, which are alternatives that work in Malaysia’s favour while maintaining the amicable ties between Malaysia and China.

The government should also keep the small and medium enterprises in mind.

Business owners in 150 related industries, including tens of thousands of contractors who have taken a loan to purchase equipment, will suffer greatly should ECRL be cancelled.

China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, with bilateral trade figures reaching US$100bil. Business linkages and people-to-people exchanges have also flourished over the years.

Products such as palm oil, bird’s nest, Musang King, white coffee, etc, are exported to China, while people from both countries visit each other for vacations and academic exchanges, benefitting Malaysians of all races.

All these have contributed to the income of various communities and brought in foreign exchange earnings for the country.

It takes years to build a bilateral relationship, and only seconds to destroy it.

The Malaysian government should appreciate our friendship with China and try its best to achieve mutual benefits and common prosperity with China.

Prioritise the economy and the livelihood of the people, and put an end to the political game to discredit your opponents.

For the sake of the people in the east coast as well as the whole of Malaysia, the government should not cancel the ECRL project.- The Star

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Truth be told: It’s not wrong to tell the truth


Two things could make the controversial Sedition Act fairer: It’s OK if you tell the truth, and it’s OK if you want to stop injustice.

A COUPLE of weeks ago, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad talked about the Sedition Act. He calmly explained to all Malaysians that it isn’t meant to avoid criticisms about wrongdoing, it isn’t meant to shackle whistleblowers, and it’s completely not sedition if you tell the truth.

“If you say something factual, you cannot be punished for it,” said Dr Mahathir, “But, on the other hand, if we shut the mouths of everyone, to the point that people cannot even speak up against acts of crime, then there will be injustice in the country.” (“Be clear on what insult means”, Nation, The Star, Jan 11; online at tinyurl.com/star-insult.)

Basically, it sounded like he could have been talking about anything – except the Sedition Act. Now, the Sedition Act is not unfamiliar to Pakatan Harapan. In its own manifesto, PH said that it would revoke the Sedition Act if it came to power, giving the reason that it is a law “inherited from the British colonial era without amendment to improve weaknesses”. And then after PH formed the government, it seemed to kind of casually forget this.

I have written about the Sedition Act before (“Lost in translation?”, Contradictheory, Star2, March 29, 2015; online at tinyurl.com/star-sedition). If you’re not reading this column online, here’s a summary of what I said then: I pointed out the problem that you can be guilty of sedition even if all you are doing is repeating what somebody else has said. And to top it off, it doesn’t matter if what you said was true, nor does it matter if you said it with the best of intentions. It’s like saying somebody’s dress is figure-hugging, and hearing them answer, “Are you saying I’m fat?”

It’s all there in the Act. The Act talks about whether “things” have a “seditious tendency”. These include actions, speech, words and publications, for example, and whether they influence people to feel hatred, contempt or disaffection for the Rulers or the government. Whether the “things” are true or not doesn’t matter.

The Act also says, “The intention of the person charged at the time … shall be deemed to be irrelevant”.

Why is it interpreted like that? It’s hard to say, but I think it does make it easier for the authorities to manage anti-government sentiments.

For example, it’s possible to be selective with the truth to manipulate a situation. So, technically, what somebody said might be fact, but might also be misleading.

Secondly, intent is something that can be very difficult to establish. You have to get into the mind of the accused and tease out what he or she intended by what he or she said or wrote.

For example, if all you wrote on a Facebook page is that somebody should be investigated for doing a Very Bad Thing, then you have sown the seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience. You might argue, I didn’t know it wasn’t true, I just wanted to see justice being done. What, people got upset by what I wrote? I didn’t know that would happen.

This is precisely the sort of annoying thing I have to face on social media almost every day. Somebody re-posts or retweets a rumour en masse to others with two button clicks and when you ask them why didn’t they just check it first, they shrug and say, “I just wanted people to know – just in case”.

(That’s really what we should have a law against: Indiscriminate and irresponsible retweets. The penalty would be to copy pages of Wikipedia by hand for the local library.)

But the thing is, it should be hard to put somebody in jail.

The system of justice we have now focuses on the presumption of innocence. In other words, people have to gather evidence and prove to the court that you are guilty. And people should be entitled to the best possible defence, and saying I am normally a good person who does good things should be taken into account.

Intent matters. The difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. Intent is the bedrock of whether we are kind to others because we want everyone to thrive, or because we want to later take advantage of them.

If we want to be able to prosecute people for saying hateful things that disturb society, you must show intent. Either make clear the context or show a pattern of previous behaviour. It’s the difference between an Internet troll and Karpal Singh.

The Sedition Act, in a way, does try to at least cover situations where you are trying to right a perceived wrong in society. But in a case like when artist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque) drew cartoons making fun of alleged crimes in the previous government, it is clear there is still much leeway for interpretation there.

The facts do matter. In this world where politicians more than anyone seem to believe they can skate by on allegations, people who say horrible things should be forced to stand by their words and prove them. It’s an opportunity for the truth to shine instead of hiding out.

There are many who blame the PH government for being hypocritical for not keeping its election promise and maintaining the Sedition Act. I don’t disagree.

But the fact is that Dr Mahathir touched on the two things that perhaps could potentially make the Act fairer. He said it is OK if we told the truth. And it is OK if we want to stop injustice.

And I can’t think of why any Malaysian wouldn’t want to do both.

The facts do matter. In this world where politicians more than anyone seem to believe they can skate by on allegations, people who say horrible things should be forced to stand by their words and prove them.

star2@thestar.com.my Dzof Azmi

Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions. Write to Dzof at star2@thestar.com.my.

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