For a country that could once have been said to have the world at its feet, it is hard to believe how far Malaysia has fallen.
If the MH370 debacle wasn’t enough to erase your faith in Malaysian governance standards, the world now confronts official insanity such as that described here. Then again, if attacking gays isn’t sufficiently destructive to the national reputation there is also the awesome lack of cultural awareness on show here.
Characteristic of traditional Malaysian/Indonesian rivally, when it comes to gay rights Indonesia is also doing all it can to beat Malaysia in the race to maximum intolerance.
Both nations are capable of much better than that, or is it an admission that they are not?
In an effort to reinvigorate my rather dismal posting rate I am trialling a weekly short summary of sources from a particular country.
I’ll start with Indonesia, where there is always something happening, and try to keep moving around the region.
So what are the three most recent stories about Indonesia on the online portal of Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC?
Well, there is the story here on Aceh’s decision to require female Muslim flight attendants to wear a hijab on incoming AND outgoing flights. Garuda Air has already tactfully described it as a “suggestion”, and I expect a lot more flexible interpretations of the demand in practice.
There is also the story here of Indonesia’s decision to open up its university sector (just a bit) to foreign universities. There is a lot of potential there, but also some even bigger problems. Indonesian government demands for a high degree of control over staffing and course content will start to chafe veey quickly, and that’s before the first big (and inevitable) clash over academic values.
Then there is the story here about the omnipresent threat of violence confronting Indonesia’s LGTBI community. I suspect there will be a day in my lifetime when Indonesia looks back on this period with shame, but for now that day seems far into the future.
Yes, that time of year again when vast plumes of airborne particulates from forest fires in Sumatra and elsewhere in the region cause choking pollution across much of Southeast Asia.
A very readable background piece offering an understanding of the issue is here.
There was some hope that this year would be different. In 2016 the World Resources Institute wrote here that…
For the last several years, forest fires driven by agricultural expansion have spiked every summer in Indonesia, creating smog and public health crises, including more than 100,000 deaths, throughout Southeast Asia. While fires are once again flaring, they’re not nearly as bad as usual—there are currently about a quarter as many burning across Indonesia this year compared to this time [September 2016] in 2015.
The article goes on to give a comprehensive explanation why.
Sadly however that trend seems not to have lasted a year.
Just a couple of days ago the East Asia Forum here Armida S Alisjahbana, Padjadjaran University and Jonah Busch wrote that “forest fires sweeping across Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent months prompted six Indonesian provinces to declare a state of emergency”.
That may imply the problem suddenly emerged, but as the Jakarta Post report here from January this year indicates, the annual emergency has effectively become chronic and now lasts for much of the year.
The reader can come to their own conclusion on the Indonesian Government’s recent claims to success in fighting fires (reported here), but given a recent Reuters report here that Indonesia lost a million hectares of tree cover in 2016 alone and the disastrous public health impacts from the smog that you can read about here, here and here, I desperately hope the Indonesian Government is right.
Tis the season…to be talking.
Of course few bodies talk more and arguably achieve less than ASEAN, with the added distraction this time around with the presence of US President Trump at the meetings now taking place in Manila.
What will they discuss? What are the likely outcomes? A good summary for those interested is available here.
The summary? There will almost certainly be a lot of talk. And action? Well, if acting involves muliple statements, then yes, expect action.
And life and increasingly death for the Rohingya will continue, and the other urgent problems in the regon will be there unaddressed for the next meeting and further talks.
An insighful analysis is available from New Mandala here with some disturbing implications for supporters of democracy in the region.
I hadn’t previously encountered the work of Dan Slater, but this is seriously good and I’ll clearly need to read more of his writings.
Pepinsky’s piece in a similar vein here is of also of the high standard you would expect.
Dipa Nusantara (DN) Aidit in 1955
Not quite sure it is quite the “news” that Reuters says it is, but some grim footage from the 1960’s genocide in Indonesia is available here.*
I recognise that this hasn’t been a happy week in the content of the blogposts here.
I am reluctant to seek out “good” news just because what is important is depressing and confronting, but I will look to diversify the topics covered in forthcoming posts.
* I am still learning with Twitter. Apologies if there is a better link or way to do this.
Sorry folks, I could not even make it to the end of the story here. I should warn you first that the story is horrifying and once you read it you can’t ever forget.
Nor, if you read it, can you say that you didn’t know what was happening in Myanmar.
But what to do? Sometimes the world is just too much for me.