Archive for the ‘International Issues’ Category

Climate talks: Inaction borders on criminal

Monday, December 23rd, 2019
Activists protesting against climate change as the COP25 climate summit is held in Madrid, Spain, on Dec 9. Few serious commitments have emerged to meet the pledges made in Paris in 2015. REUTERS PIC

The recent climate talks in Madrid ended with a disgraceful whimper.

Outside of Europe, few serious commitments have emerged to meet the pledges made in Paris in 2015 — an exasperating outcome that reveals a lack of honest conviction to address an issue threatening the very survival of some countries in the foreseeable future, and every one of us in the not-much-longer term.

It is simply inexcusable that global fossil fuel emissions have risen four per cent since Paris, even as the decibel level of scientific sirens has risen sharply, imploring us to adopt “transformative change” in an “emergency response”.

Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in many of the biggest emitter countries like the US, China and Japan, which is planning to export coal generators and build more coal-fired power plants — the only Group of Seven nation still doing so.

Incredibly, as this dawning, existential crisis becomes more visible on the horizon, we have tip-toed around the problem and the powerful economic interests behind it.

Could there be a better illustration than this, noted by a couple of COP25 observers?: “The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement ran 16 pages, but didn’t mention the words ‘fossil fuels’, ‘coal’, ‘oil’, or ‘gas’ once.

“It’s as if no one at Alcoholics Anonymous ever mentioned ‘whiskey, beer or wine’.

“Unlike the World Health Organisation, which bans tobacco lobbyists from taking part in negotiations about tobacco cessation efforts, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has no protections against industry corruption.”

Compounding the consequences of our negligence, in November seven eminent scientists, writing in the journal Nature, reported their conclusion that more than half the “tipping points” identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change decades ago have been activated, raising the spectre of abrupt and irreversible climate changes.

These include the thaw of Arctic permafrost and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, both massive reservoirs that now threaten to release billions of additional tonnes of carbon.

Inevitably, the greatest burdens of climate change will fall disproportionately on poor countries, i.e. those least responsible for the problem.

The Bahamas, for example, responsible for just 0.02 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, suffered 72 deaths and RM13.6 billion in losses as entire towns were blown away by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, which stalled and parked over the country last August.

Notonly are less fortunate countries typically the hardest-hit victims of extreme weather, they’re also the most vulnerable to creeping threats like rising sea levels and crippling droughts.

Like citizens of other island nations, Bahamians justifiably contend that North Americans, the Japanese, Saudi Arabians, Australians and others who built their economies by burning fossil fuels are morally obligated to help less developed, more vulnerable countries.

And yet in Madrid, only a relatively paltry sum was negotiated for climate-related losses.

Wealthier countries broadly agreed to study the issue, with the US most visibly anxious to exclude itself from chipping in, to indemnify itself from liability.

It and other wealthy countries reportedly prefer to provide disaster loss and damage money as charity on their own terms, unbound by any international rules.

Meanwhile, negotiators at Madrid’s marathon talks ended up postponing to 2020 a key decision on how to regulate global carbon markets, an area of concern that dominated COP25.

The Paris agreement allows countries to set rules for trading in carbon credits.

Ideally, wealthier countries would help developing countries pay for projects such as land restoration or conversion to cleaner fuels while adopting more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals at home.

But in the absence of proper rules, richer countries could simply buy a way to maintain their own emissions’ levels.

Malaysia must step up and fully meet its obligations, in the context of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, a 28-year-old principle in climate talks that our delegation in Madrid, led by Deputy Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis of the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, strongly endorsed, and rightly so.

Malaysia has been a strong advocate of this principle, first introduced during the negotiations at the Earth Summit in 1992.

As a moderate nation, we are in a powerful position to help broker more action but credibility demands we begin with “clean hands”.

In 2015, leaders pledged to limit global warming to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius, while trying to remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But, to quote the World Resources Institute: “The can-do spirit that birthed the Paris agreement feels like a distant memory today.”

The disconnect between the lack of progress on the Paris pledges, between the overwhelming scientific consensus and what’s being done, borders on criminal.

In October, more than 300 scientists from 20 nations called for peaceful, non-violent protests and direct action, “even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law”.

And if that is what it takes to produce a change in course, it has my full endorsement too.


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KL Summit Manifested What Matters

Monday, December 23rd, 2019
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking at the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Saturday. The fact that the summit has drawn considerable attention shows it has the potential to trigger real changes in the Islamic world. PIC BY EIZAIRI SHAMSUDIN
By Omer Faruk Yil Diz - December 23, 2019 @ 12:10am

WHENEVER a catastrophe befalls Muslims anywhere in the world, many would react with stereotypical behaviour claiming that this would never happen if all Muslim nations are united.

However, many endeavours by Muslims that glamorously draw a “unity” image have culminated in fiasco.

Such failures teach us that no success will emerge from huge gatherings unless there is a sincere intention to produce something tangible.

The Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit) 2019 constitutes a lesson learnt from past failures of Muslims in holding big gatherings and joint protests, and making bold declarations.

Quantitatively, what we witnessed was not like a huge Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathering, as Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had already stated that the summit makes no such claim.

However, in Islamic public opinion, this summit was regarded as more promising than many of the previous OIC gatherings.

What has rendered the summit promising is the sincere intention to do something.

During the 74th United Nations General Assembly, the trilateral meeting between the leaders of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, and the joint projects proposed afterwards probably saw the sowing of the seeds of this gathering in Malaysia.

The fact that the summit drew considerable attention — along with criticism from some Muslims — even before it began was indeed a sign that it has the potential to trigger real changes in the Islamic world.

That is why some powers among the Muslims, which seem to be contented with the status quo of the ummah, refused to take part in this gathering.

As is known, the summit was to have been pioneered by Malay-sia, Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar and Indonesia.

Yet, changes of mind by Pakistan and Indonesia happened, which led to an unexpectedly high-level participation by Iran.

Eventually, the leaders of four participant nations made a substantial difference, addressing the key and less-mentioned issues of the Muslim world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised once more that the five permanent Security Council members of the United Nations no longer determine the fate of Muslims, saying that “the world is bigger than five”.

Apart from suggesting a new and more peaceful world order, he also underlined the inadequacy of the Islamic world to remedy the plight of the Palestinians, as well as offering any solution to sectarian divisions among the Muslims.

It was indeed an implicit message to the Muslim world suggesting some serious changes in approach.

Making no compromise on his realism, Dr Mahathir explicitly talked about the facts of the Muslim world, referring to the mistakes, shortcomings and inefficiencies of followers.

He also gave a reminder of the golden age of Muslims when they were regarded as the best model in science, technology and art, and stated that Muslims have no other way but to work hard, study science and produce if they want to rebuild the “Great Islamic Civilisation”.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani talked about the defects of Muslims just like Dr Mahathir as he blamed some “Islamic” regimes that exploit religion, disregard human rights and cause fragmentation.

He demonstrated once more that Qatar will not follow the attempts by the Gulf nations to isolate Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put forward similar points along with a significant proposal to initiate a Muslim cryptocurrency as a game-changer in the face of the US dollar’s monopoly.

All in all, what we observe from the speeches and the outcomes of the KL Summit is that quality matters in order to make changes for the Islamic world, as suggested by Dr Mahathir repeatedly.

This has been a small but meaningful start by a few nations.

No sectarian differences were highlighted and no key issues that needed to be talked about were bypassed.

The main focus was how to overcome the underdevelopment in the Muslim world and revive the Islamic civilisation by any means.

Such a spirit produced very good initiatives from the participants. The agreement between Turkey and Malaysia to establish a communication centre that aims to combat global Islamophobia is one of them.

A proposed formation of a centre of excellence in scientific and technological research is also another tangible solution, while the agreements between Turkey and Malaysia in the fields of science and defence are among the constructive outcomes of this summit.

If one should summarise what the KL Summit means for the Muslim world, it would have been through reference to the unforgettable remarks of Dr Mahathir on the joint TV channel project by Turkey-Malaysia-Pakistan: “This special TV channel is a move to do things instead of just making a declaration and forgetting about it.”

This is what the summit was all about. Rather than declaring some assertive statements, condemnations and proposals — soon to be forgotten — these few nations decided to do something, big or small.

By Omer Faruk Yil Diz

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KL Summit is to find ways to work together, says Dr M

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 is not to replace any other Muslim platform, undermine any Muslim nation or to create different categories or classes, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said although some had misunderstood the intentions behind the summit – intentionally or otherwise – the negative opinions were misplaced and unjustified.

“The idea was to come together – assess our strengths and weaknesses, as well as our assets. Then, we will use the strengths of one another to overcome the weaknesses we have.

“Simply put, if one of us has an expertise in a particular area, we offer it to another or all the other participating countries and establish a realistic collaboration,” he said in his speech at the closing ceremony of the summit here yesterday.

Some 450 delegates comprising leaders, intellectuals, politicians and non-governmental groups from 56 countries attended the four-day summit amid criticism from the Organisation of Islamic Conference for undermining the Saudi-based global body representing Muslim nations and organisations.

Dr Mahathir also praised Iran and Qatar for being independent and capable of standing on their own feet despite being subjected to sanctions and embargoes.

“It was pointed out that if Muslim countries are independent and capable of standing on their own feet, we will not be subjected to such treatments.

“It is important for me to point out that Iran, in particular, despite the years of sanctions, has been able to continue to progress and develop and it proudly stands as a nation with the fourth highest number of engineers in the world.

“Qatar, too, has been subjected to embargo and like Iran, it has managed to rise above it and progressed impressively. However, such sanctions and embargoes are not going to be exclusively for Iran and Qatar.

“With the world witnessing nations making unilateral decisions to impose such punitive measures, Malaysia and other countries must always bear in mind that it can be imposed on any of us.

“That is the more reason for us to be self-reliant and to work towards that with other Muslims nations, to ensure that if and when such measures are imposed upon us, we are capable of facing it.”

He said while this might not allay some of the suspicions and opposition raised, he reiterated that the summit was mainly focused on its objectives of finding solutions and programmes to assist the ummah from their current plight.

“That is what we hope to do. We want to save ourselves and the Muslim ummah and we will persevere in this effort.

“We hope from this point onwards, our other Muslim brethren will see for themselves that what we intend to do is to unite the ummah on strategic and advanced technologies, “ he said.


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Get Brexit done, and improve ties

Friday, December 20th, 2019
At previous British general elections I have suggested that Malaysians living in the UK should vote (in accordance with UK law though some argue, in contravention of Malaysian law) Conservative, on the basis that the bilateral relationship seems to fare better when they form the government.

After World War II it was Conservatives then in opposition who supported Malayans in overturning the Malayan Union.

This highly centralised entity that ignored Malayan history and institutions was eventually replaced by the Federation of Malaya, created in an Agreement signed by the Malay Rulers and the British Crown at King’s House (now Seri Negara and in a deplorable condition).

This federation recognised the importance of the states and married constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy: the foundation of our post-Merdeka stability.

Conservative Edward Heath, Prime Minister from 1970-1974, visited Malaysia at least twice, and during his tenure the Five Powers Defence Arrangements were signed – still in operation and often cited as a shining example of military diplomacy.

On a visit to Malaysia in 1985, Conservative Margaret Thatcher said to our Prime Minister: “We agree on the advantages of the free enterprise system and the liberalisation of world trade, and… you too are devotees of privatisation and reducing the role of the State.”

This was after the worst days of the Buy British Last policy and still early in Dr Mahathir’s first term. Much was yet to emerge in terms of that “‘privatisation” and wielding of state power.

Still, in 1993, Dr Mahathir welcomed Conservative John Major to Seri Perdana, noting that “two-way trade between Malaysia and Britain registered a 10% increase in 1992 despite prolonged economic recession globally, ” and attributing our economic growth to pragmatic economic policies, hard work, free trade and largely unrestricted access to world markets.

Neither of the two Labour Prime Ministers who followed – Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – visited Malaysia. It took the next Conservative, David Cameron, to do so, where political, economic and social ties were strongly reiterated: something I witnessed through my involvement in the Malaysian British Society.

Theresa May did not make it to Malaysia during her three-year premiership, and for many in the diplomatic community the greatest regret was that Malaysian domestic politics derailed a much-anticipated plan for Malaysia to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2020. The last time Malaysia hosted was in 1989, when Queen Elizabeth II stayed in Carcosa (also in a deplorable condition today).

Following the general election last week, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay made a pertinent reference to our own general election last year, saying: “The UK will continue to support Malaysia in its reform agenda through the sharing of British expertise and experience.”

His predecessor Vicki Treadell did much in this area, promoting knowledge exchange between key institutions, supporting civil society and stressing people-to-people links beyond official ones.

Ever since the Brexit referendum, British officials have always maintained that things will stay the same or get even better. I have long hesitated in my reaction: for surely it also depends on who forms the government.

A UK that becomes more insular and xenophobic – in terms of welcoming foreign students and workers (I was both), or becoming unattractive for investment due to economic policy decisions – would surely not be good for Malaysia.

The big win by Boris Johnson last week – in a seismic election result that turned some solid Labour seats blue for the first time ever – therefore provides, in theory, an emphatic clarity that Brexit will finally be pursued on widely known terms.

“In theory” because Johnson is also accused of being ambitious to the point of saying whatever is required to attain power. Furthermore, he has certainly written some things that people have found offensive.

By Tunku Zain Al-Abidin.

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What shared prosperity as Petronas grabs 95 per cent?

Thursday, December 12th, 2019
On Jan 1, 2020, Malaysia should have been ushered into the ranks of developed nations, according to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020.

Vision 2020, conceived 28 years ago, was the brainchild of the twice-over prime minister.

He visualised a Malaysia that would stand as a united nation and a confident society, infused with strong moral and ethical values, characterised by democracy, liberalism, tolerance, care, economic equity, progress and prosperity, in full possession of a competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient economy.

In a nutshell, it was a vision of a better Malaysia, with peace and harmony among the different races and an inclusive and fully developed economy.

There were nine broad challenges towards reaching this goal.

However, the goal post has since been moved and Mahathir is now talking about 2025 and beyond as a timeline for achieving his vision.

Many might blame the massive corruption and excesses under the Najib Razak administration, while others might say the foundation of today’s ills was laid during Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister.

To be fair, Najib’s economic transformation programme and policies such as the 1Malaysia concept were good, but they eventually succumbed to ethical and moral lapses.

So where are we now with Vision 2020? Its goal of an ethnically integrated Malaysia has been shattered by incidents like the Malay Dignity Congress and dominant Malay groups and academics are now claiming that the nation belongs to one particular race. The rest are categorised as “pendatang” or, in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, “dan lain-lain”.

The Muafakat Nasional partnership between Umno and PAS is another challenge to Mahathir’s Vision 2020.

The alliance of the two Malay-Muslim parties continues with its identity politics, prioritising one race to promote its interests without regard for other communities.

As for the creation of a psychologically liberated, secure and developed society, we are nowhere near that.

The Malays themselves are under duress and far from being liberated. People are jailed by the religious authorities for not attending Friday prayers, women are chastised over what they do or do not wear, members of the LGBT community are treated like garbage, and art and other forms of creativity must not offend Islamic sensitivities – whatever that means.

Mahathir’s latest excuse for the failure to achieve developed nation status is the income gap between races as well as the rich and poor.

If there is an economic imbalance, the majority race cannot complain that it is disadvantaged. One report in 2018 mentioned that the government is the largest shareholder of 71 publicly listed GLCs. It also owns shares in another 286.

Seven of Malaysia’s GLCs control 42pc of market capitalisation in the entire Bursa Index, not including unlisted GLCs.

Because these companies are located in critical and lucrative sectors, each administration has sought to establish control by instituting the patronage system.

People appointed to head GLCs have been linked to the leadership – family, close friends, important associates, reliable party members or loyal former civil servants.

With the New Economic Policy long in place, giving Bumiputeras a clear advantage and government control of 42pc of Bursa Index capitalisation, this begs the question of why the Malays are still at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Why are most Malays still struggling to make ends meet despite all of the affirmative action?

While it is uncertain whether Mahathir will continue with his Vision 2020, he has launched a new initiative called the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030).

SPV 2030 is an effort to make Malaysia a sustainably developed country with fair distribution of economy and equitable growth at all levels of income, regions and supply chains by 2030.

It looks like a rehash of Vision 2020, but is shared prosperity achievable?

For example, East Malaysian states have come a long way since 1991 and are now demanding an increase in oil royalty and tax shares, as well as more autonomy.

There can be no shared prosperity when Petronas takes the lion’s share of oil money and leaves 5pc for major oil producers Sabah and Sarawak.

SPV 2030 may turn out to be just another feel-good marketing policy which will not solve the growing discontent over share of the economic pie under Pakatan Harapan.

For East Malaysians, shared prosperity means giving back what is rightfully theirs under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

A difficult path lies ahead – “fair” will mean different things to different people from different states. Some say SPV 2030 is like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

Money is scarce – how do you share “fairly”? The devil is in both the details and the successful implementation of good policies.

By: johan Ariffin.