Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of t...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of t...: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay JUST like any paradise beach that lures tired bodies and souls ...

Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay

Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay

JUST like any paradise beach that lures tired bodies and souls to soak in its waters and bask in its sands, there is a narrative that is conveniently hidden behind the poster-perfect scenery of Boracay.

And it is one that is written in the narrative of blood and money.

In February 22, 2013, a 26-year-old Ati youth leader named Dexter Condez was brutally murdered, shot six times by an unknown assailant as he was walking with two female companions after attending a meeting. Condez was the spokesman of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (BATO). As such, he was at the forefront of the Ati struggle to assert their ancestral rights over their land. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), as supported by anthropological studies, has established that the entire Boracay Island is the ancestral domain of the Atis in that they were its earliest settlers. In fact, the island’s name is in their language.

But like the fate of many indigenous peoples, the Atis were displaced and forced to retreat into the forested areas of the island when tourism investors began to descend on Boracay in the 1970s. But before that, local peoples from the Panay mainland began occupying parts of the island and later were able to secure land titles over what used to be legally considered as common property, and historically should have been considered as Ati ancestral lands.

A competing narrative is used by these local migrants to negate the ancestral domain claims of the Atis. They argue that the latter are also from the Panay mainland and only go to the island to forage during certain seasons. However, this is a weak argument since it only affirms the characteristic nature of Atis as nomadic tribes, and it even strengthens their claims not only on Boracay but even on those other areas mentioned. After all, the festival that has become a symbolic representation of the culture of Panay is named after the Atis, and historical accounts validate the claim that they were the very first people encountered by the Spanish colonizers there.

But the Atis were not even fighting for the entire island anymore, more so the entire Panay mainland, but only for a piece of land, some 2.1 hectares, which was awarded to them by the Philippine government in 2011 and for which a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) was issued. However, this was contested by local migrants who claimed that they hold land titles over the area covered by the CADT issued by the government.

Until today, the murder of Condez has yet to be finally resolved even as a suspect, a security guard working for a major hotel in the island, was arrested in 2014. Still to be clearly established is the motive behind the murder. Friends of Condez, including the nuns who were helping the Atis, said that he had no personal enemies, and that the only issue in which he was involved was the land dispute over the CADT.

As of today, the Atis remaining in the island, now estimated to be around just 20 families, have yet to occupy the land awarded to them. They are now confined in an enclosed complex called the Ati Village, which is in fact a former dumpsite. Fenced-in, isolated from the entire island, but still linked to it as a tourist attraction, the original settlers were symbolically dumped there. While some can consider the fact that the Atis are now living in more convenient houses, and no longer foraging, hunting and gathering like they used to, as evidence of development, others see this as a pathetic image of how the original settlers of the island have been reduced to, becoming an enclosed and controlled spectacle, disoriented and uprooted from their culture.

Now, their ancestral lands from where the Atis have been alienated, with its white sand beaches and pristine waters, and which developed in leaps and bounds to become a prime tourist attraction, have literally turned into a dumpsite for uncontrolled and unregulated development. A rough estimate reveals that more than half of the island’s establishments are not connected to the island’s sewerage system, even as they do not have their own to show. A significant number of these establishments are unregulated, and operate under the radar, if not with the tacit consent of the local government which has continued to issue building permits even in the absence of environmental clearances from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, during an onsite inspection visit, was reported to have been shocked at the scale and magnitude of environmental violations in the island.

The lure of tourism profits is just too much to resist, that even beaches and forests were encroached into by developers, even as human waste was dumped into the waters of Boracay, undermining the very resources that the island was capitalizing on. Ecological Marxists call this the second fundamental contradiction of capitalism, where the pursuit of profit leads capitalists to destroy the very physical base of their production.

In the process, it is not only Condez who suffered physical death. The blood that was spilled in the sands of Boracay on that fateful evening of February 22, 2013 is but a physical reminder of the many other deaths that attended this so-called development. The death of culture and the silencing of indigenous rights is revealed when the original settlers are now confined, contrary to their very nature, in a village that used to be a dumpsite. Their ancestral land is now home to an alien culture that fed on cash but has produced garbage.

But there is another side to this tragic story unfolding in what otherwise would have been paradise. In cleaning up the mess, the underbelly of the Boracay economy, the small-time establishments run by locals, and the migrant labor force that dominate even the bigger hotels and resorts, may suffer the same fate as that of the Atis that were displaced by the very economy within which they now exist and benefit from. (Next: The fate of the local economy and small-scale tourism industry, and the local migrant labor force)



Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder ...: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment   - Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservat...

Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment -Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservative region of Aceh

Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment  -Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservative region of Aceh

 A man being caned in public last year after he was convicted of gay sex. Photograph: Heri Juanda/AP

The conservative Indonesian province of Aceh, which already carries out public caning of gay people, adulterers and gamblers, is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, a top Islamic law official has said.

Syukri M Yusuf, the head of Aceh’s shariah law and human rights office, said the provincial government had asked his office to research beheading as a method of execution under Islamic law and to consult public opinion.

“Beheading is more in line with Islamic law and will cause a deterrent effect. A strict punishment is made to save human beings,” Yusuf told reporters. “We will begin to draft the law when our academic research is completed.”

The public flogging of two gay men and what it says about Indonesia's future

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practise shariah law, a concession made by the central government in 2005 to end a decades-long war for independence.

Its implementation has become increasingly harsh and also applies to non-Muslims. Last year, the province for the first time caned two men as punishment for gay sex after vigilantes broke into their home and handed them over to religious police.

Yusuf said if sharia law was consistently applied, then crime, particularly murder, would decrease significantly or disappear.

He said punishment for murderers had in practice been “relatively mild” and they could re-offend after release from prison. He pointed to Saudi Arabia as an example to follow in carrying out severe punishment for murder.

Indonesia has the death penalty for crimes such as murder and drug trafficking, which it carries out by firing squad. Its last executions were in July 2016, when three Nigerians and one Indonesian convicted of drug offences were shot on the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Associated Press in Banda Aceh

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President Fo...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President Fo...: Chinese President Xi Jinping is now officially the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong who died more than 40 years ago afte...

Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President For Life – Analysis

Chinese President Xi Jinping is now officially the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong who died more than 40 years ago after the National People’s Congress voted overwhelmingly in favour of a constitutional amendment which gives Xi the right to remain in office indefinitely. Not that there was any doubt about it but when it finally happened it seemed to be marking another red line in China’s evolution as the pre-eminent global power of our times.

It was only last month that China’s ruling Communist Party had moved a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office. This is one of the most significant developments in global politics today given China’s growing heft in the global order.

Xi began his second term as head of the party and military last October at the end of a once-every-five-years party congress. His real source of authority emanates from him being the CPC’s General Secretary — a post that has no term limit — as well as being the head of the powerful Central Military Commission. His political doctrine, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, is now part of the amended constitution. This takes China back to the good old days of Mao when he was the supreme leader, deciding on the fate of millions based on his whims and fancies. Xi’s elevation also marks a significant change in Chinese  political thought. Recognising the dangers of one man rule, Deng Xiaoping got the limit of two five-year presidential terms written into China’s constitution in 1982 after Mao’s death. That seems to have been put aside for now.

 There have been some isolated critical voices in China, mostly on social media who have compared their changing political system to that of North Korea or underlined the dangers of a Mao-type cult of personality, but mostly there has been support for the move in the name of protecting the country’s long-term stability. Some have argued that as Xi’s anti graft movement and his key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are still in their infancy, and whether such a move was necessary.

But let there be no doubt that this is all about Xi’s ambition. In a marathon address to the 19th party congress last October, Xi had unveiled his vision of China’s future of achieving ‘moderate’ prosperity in the next four years, and emerging as an advanced socialist nation by 2050.

Underlining that China would pursue its own path of developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and inviting “peoples of all countries to join China’s effort to build a common destiny for mankind and enduring peace and stability,” he was building a case for the “Beijing Consensus” as an alternative to the so-called Washington Consensus.

Like the rest of the world, India will also be affected by this change in manifold ways. New Delhi has no option but to deal pragmatically with whoever is ruling China, given the enormous stakes in Sino-Indian relations. Yet at a time when Sino-Indian bilateral ties are passing through one of their worst times, a centralising figure in China’s governing system will only complicate matters.

China has always managed to have a consistent strategic approach towards India — to contain Indian within the confines of South Asia by assisting Pakistan to balance India. It has refused to recognise New Delhi’s global aspirations and not budged an inch on key issues pertaining to Indian interests. But the growing power disparity between India and China as well as lack of any effective leverage vis-à-vis China has also meant that India has not been in any position to challenge China.

The Modi government started off promisingly by resetting the terms of engagement with China. Its principled position on the BRI has been effective in shaping the global discourse and its effective handling of last year’s Doklam crisis enhanced its stature. But there is a danger now of slipping back into the old mode of China policy where a mistaken belief that only if India can brush aside the hard issues, a semblance of normalcy will return to Sino-Indian ties.

It is a myth and especially now when Xi who remains unambiguous about his desire to make China a global superpower and has all the time and resources at his command to do so. It is highly unlikely that New Delhi can attain a win-win outcome from Beijing.

Xi’s growing authority will mean that he will double down on his efforts to militarise the Indian Ocean and expand Chinese influence in South Asia. His pet project BRI will also see a renewed focus and Indian opposition will rankle at his ambitious outreach. He will also wait to teach New Delhi a lesson for what many in China feel was a diplomatic drubbing for Beijing in Doklam. And this will happen when India goes into election mode and political bickering will attain new heights.

The Indian political class is yet to learn to speak in one voice in national security matters. How easy it is to divide the Indian polity was clear when even at the height of the Doklam crisis, the leaders of India’s main Opposition party decided to get a briefing from the Chinese Ambassador than its own government! So as Xi’s power rises to its zenith, there are many reasons to worry, but mostly it is India’s own ability to get its own house in order which should concern us the most.

This article originally appeared in DNA.

Observer Research Foundation  By Harsh V. Pant


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Party Cartelisation Indonesian-style

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Party Cartelisation Indonesian-style:   Democracy and political opposition are supposed to go hand in hand. But opposition did not emerge as automatically as expected afte...

Party Cartelisation Indonesian-style


Democracy and political opposition are supposed to go hand in hand. But opposition did not emerge as automatically as expected after Indonesia democratised in 1998. Instead, Indonesian presidents shared power widely among political parties. The result has been an Indonesian style of party cartelisation that differs significantly from canonical cases of party cartelisation in Europe. Yet it exhibits the same troubling outcome for democratic accountability: the stunted development of a clearly identifiable opposition.

Party cartelisation occurs when political parties are willing to share executive power with all other parties regardless of political affiliation. All significant political parties are brought into a ‘party cartel’ — a ruling coalition of political parties that share power despite some having campaigned directly against each other.

Presidential power sharing is a strategic political game. Of particular importance are the rules governing selection of the chief executive — in Indonesia’s case, always a president. If a president is elected by the Parliament, as in Indonesia from 1999–2004, then the president is an agent of the Parliament. The president can be expected to share power, roughly proportionally, with the parties in the Parliament that selected the president.

Since the advent of direct presidential elections in 2004, Indonesian democratic competition has unsurprisingly assumed more of a government-versus-opposition cast. A president elected by the people should theoretically be an agent of the people and therefore face less imperative to share power with those who not only played no role in electing the president but in many cases directly opposed the new president’s candidacy.

There is an implicit assumption that a president will share power with whichever parties helped put the president in power. This can be described as a power-sharing arrangement where presidents only share power with parties that were supportive during the election campaign. Call this arrangement ‘victory’. In this situation, the opposition is easily identifiable as whoever lost the election.

But what if ‘victory’ is not the power-sharing game presidents play? A president might offer to share power with any and all parties that promise to support the new presidency, even if those parties earlier opposed the presidential candidate. Call this other power-sharing arrangement ‘reciprocity’. If a president prefers or is pressured into a ‘reciprocity’ arrangement, identifiable party opposition may vanish — as it did in Indonesia from 1999–2004 — even in a perfectly functional and democratic electoral system.

Party cartelisation in Indonesia rests upon presidential willingness to share executive power with any and all other political parties (‘reciprocity’). Direct presidential elections will only disrupt or dismantle the cartelised party system if presidents build coalitions comprised of supportive parties from the election campaign as well as non-party allies whose election promises roughly align with the president’s (‘victory’).

There are two critical wrinkles in this analysis to consider, however.

The first is that presidents not only make strategic choices about whom to share power with but also about how much power each partner will receive. Presidents can reward existing supporters by handing them a disproportionately large share of cabinet seats while punishing previous opponents by giving them a disproportionately small share.

This means that it matters not only whether presidents share power with parties that opposed them during the election (‘reciprocity’) but also whether presidents hand out a disproportionate number of cabinet seats to certain coalition partners. The more willing Indonesian presidents are to sideline their former opponents, the more they shift from a ‘reciprocity’- to a ‘victory’-style power-sharing arrangement and the better the prospects become for identifiable opposition to emerge and strengthen in Indonesia.

The second caveat is that presidential coalitions do not necessarily reflect the president’s strategic preferences. Although presidents can choose to enter a ‘victory’ arrangement by decree, a ‘reciprocity’ arrangement requires both the president and a given political party to come to an agreement before the latter is brought into the party cartel. Whether a president seeking to share executive influence with political parties regardless of political affiliation can actually find willing coalition partners thus depends on hard political bargaining. Even when a coalitional outcome seems to reflect a desire to drop an unsupportive political party, the president may have just failed to ‘seal the deal’ with active negotiating partners in an ongoing attempt to enter a ‘reciprocity’ arrangement.

Has the shift to direct presidential elections emboldened Indonesia’s presidents since 2004 to pursue ‘victory’ coalitions? Or are the directly elected presidents still trying to form broad and politically disparate political coalitions (‘reciprocity’) and simply failing to strike bargains?

Both former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and current President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo made vigorous efforts to forge alliances across the full range of Indonesian parties. The spectre of full party cartelisation of Indonesia’s 1999–2004 period lingers, more than a decade after direct presidential elections were introduced and the party cartel was first disrupted.

Indonesia’s experience with democratic power sharing suggests that presidents may sometimes see broad coalitions as a source instead of a drain on their power and resources. Oversized coalitions are typically thought of as being more expensive to maintain. But this may not be how presidents see things at all, at least under certain conditions. Oversized coalitions may be a way for presidents to spread the same amount of resources across more claimants, thus ensuring that no single partner can become too strong as a rival.

Party cartelisation has abated in Indonesia, but not vanished. And it could still easily come back in its most extreme form. Even if it does not, the public willingness of all parties to consider such power-sharing alliances means that Indonesia’s voters can never be confident that a vote for one party is a vote against any other.

Dan Slater is Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Australia-Indonesia border tensions resurface

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Australia-Indonesia border tensions resurface: Australia-Indonesia border tensions resurface Canberra's settlement with Timor Leste on the Greater Sunrise gas field is making w...

Australia-Indonesia border tensions resurface

Australia-Indonesia border tensions resurface

Canberra's settlement with Timor Leste on the Greater Sunrise gas field is making waves for other maritime boundary disputes

Indonesia’s long-held resentment over Australia’s sprawling maritime claims along their ill-defined border have spilled into the diplomatic arena following a recent settlement of a parallel dispute in neighboring Timor Leste, also known as East Timor.

Jakarta contends that the Timor agreement, which affects the jurisdiction of energy reserves worth billions of dollars in the Greater Sunrise gas fields, will nullify a 1997 treaty demarcating the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Indonesia and Australia.

Bottom of Form

Foreign ministry director-general of legal affairs and international treaties Damos Agusman said the Perth Treaty, which Indonesia has never ratified, “cannot enter into force as it stands now as it, inter alia, covers area that now belongs to TL [Timor Leste], and is the object of the conciliation.”

Precise details of the Timor Leste deal have not yet been released, but it is thought to have redrawn the border with Australia midway between the countries instead of relying on a Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) that had left the best of the Greater Sunrise’s gas fields mostly in Australian hands. It is believed to hold at least US$31.5 billion of energy reserves.

About 80% of Greater Sunrise will remain in Australian territory if the border is simply moved an equal distance between the countries, as the field is outside the JPDA.

For Timor Leste to benefit, the JPDA would also need to be shifted east, taking it into Indonesian waters. Timor Leste and Indonesia have an equidistance agreement on their own territories in the eastern region.

Indonesia has responded as one would expect: it now wants to negotiate an equidistance agreement with Australia that would move their border further to the south and thus give Indonesia an 80% share of Sunrise. The coveted field is already closer to Indonesian territory than to Australia.

The existing border, based on a complicated series of 1972 compromises, is both east and west of the expected new Timor Leste-Australia boundary.

Like the original Timor agreement, it resulted from the inability of the new countries to agree on a demarcation; a series of fruitless negotiations was set aside in the 1980s and the de facto border became the edges of a JPDA, where royalties from oil and gas explorations would be shared.

Operating from a position of strength while Indonesia was rebuilding from the tumultuous Sukarno era, Australia took advantage of now-discredited international laws on marine boundaries that allowed signatories to use continental shelves as a basis for delineation.

Indonesia’s borders were pushed well north of the midway point, creating inevitable acrimony.

In 1997, Canberra sought a similar treaty on maritime resources above the seabed, but was unsuccessful because a proposed zone extending 370 kilometers from Australian shores would have created overlapping. As is customary in such cases, a border was declared midway between the two countries.

With separate agreements for the upper and lower seabed, Australia has continental possessions that are a short distance from Indonesia, yet cannot prevent Indonesian fishermen from sailing past these islands into the midway point of the maritime border much further to the south.

The islands of Ashmore and Cartier are only 170 kilometers below the island of Roti, which Indonesia claims through its West Timor territory; yet they are 320 kilometers from Australia, which has claimed the islands since 1933. Moving the border to a midway point would make them part of Indonesia.

Uninhabited and mostly visited by Indonesian fishermen, their loss would not be felt much in Canberra. But there are bigger concerns over the fate of Christmas Island and the Cocos island group, both closer to Indonesia than to Australia, which play a vital role in Canberra’s forward defense strategies.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop quickly moved to dampen calls for the negotiation of a permanent border, but nationalist feelings are running so high in Indonesia that Jakarta’s hands may be tied. There is particular anger over the disputed status of Ashmore and Cartier, which some Indonesian academics say was controlled by the Dutch, Indonesia’s colonial masters.

Indonesia would technically have the upper hand if the issue went to arbitration, as the equidistance rule is now standard practice under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

However, Australia withdrew from the UNCLOS tribunal and maritime jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to halt Timor Leste’s claims in the 1990s.

The re-negotiation of Timor’s agreement was overseen by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, an inter-governmental organization that oversees the UNCLOS and the International Court of Justice. The PCA will hear disputes in special tribunals if either party rejects these covenants.

Canberra kept Timor Leste at bay for decades and could do the same to Jakarta. But this may be only the start of Australia’s problems, as there is a fourth country that wants a share of the oil and gas riches in the Timor Sea.

Papua New Guinea is now keen to overturn laws dating back to the 1870s that handed many of its maritime resources to the state government of Queensland in the era before the British colony became part of an Australian federation.

A new treaty was negotiated in 1978, but many inshore islands remained Australian territory in exchange for a deal granting Papua New Guinea extended fishing rights. One of these islands, Kussa, is just 200 meters from Papua New Guinea’s shores at low tide, which has apparently become too close for comfort


Monday, March 12, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Featured Title Release “A Clear Vision” “Seeing th...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Featured Title Release “A Clear Vision” “Seeing th...: Featured Title Release “A Clear Vision” “Seeing the Invisible: Mehmet T. Madakbas” Author: Maureen Carolan ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-...

Featured Title Release “A Clear Vision” “Seeing the Invisible: Mehmet T. Madakbas”

Featured Title Release “A Clear Vision”
“Seeing the Invisible: Mehmet T. Madakbas”

Author: Maureen Carolan

ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-35-2


342pp including 24pp photo section

Biography / Memoir


RRP $34.95

Sid Harta Publishers Melbourne Australia

In 1961, Mehmet Madakbas, then an enthusiastic young science scholar, left Turkey for Sweden after successfully receiving a scholarship to study physics at Uppsala University.

Completing his first academic degree in record time, this intrepid young man, who dared to believe in his science, went on to become a successful scientist, inventor and entrepreneur.

In this book of recollections, Mehmet shares his experience as a specialist in the study of imaging and light science. He recounts his endeavours in linking scientific and academic exploration, through to the industry application and the eventual commercialisation of his discoveries and inventions.

Mehmet reflects on pivotal moments in his career by covering a broad range of applications relating to science and business and by analysing the utility and cultural capital that his products created. Mehmet also explores crisis periods and about avoiding collapse or financial ruin through careful and considered business decisions.

This book is a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience for both scientific enthusiasts and business entrepreneurs generally. By being open and transparent throughout his journey Mehmet’s story offers guidance and even a degree of mentorship for readers.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sri Lanka Communal Violence: Major Challenge for R...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sri Lanka Communal Violence: Major Challenge for R...: Anti-Muslim violence in the country is older than anti-Tamil violence of the past decades. It had begun in the second decade of the last...

Sri Lanka Communal Violence: Major Challenge for Ruling Combine – Analysis

Anti-Muslim violence in the country is older than anti-Tamil violence of the past decades. It had begun in the second decade of the last century.

Acting with alacrity, the Sri Lankan Government has imposed a fortnight-long emergency, to check the spread of anti-Muslim racial violence involving unidentified majority Sinhala-Buddhist mobs, in two separate incidents in different towns. While the police is investigating the possibility of a grand conspiracy, if any, the government seems to have foreseen the possibility of the violence spreading to other parts of the country, including capital Colombo, with a large Muslim population.

The violence erupted in the eastern Ampara town with a considerable Muslim population after rumours spread that local eatery owners belonging to the community were mixing birth-control pill to food items, targeting the Sinhala population. Even as the government effectively quelled the violence, another episode that led to the death of Sinhala man in the upcountry Kandy town, the holy seat of Buddha’s ‘Tooth Relic’, ended in large-scale violence, even after overnight curfew was imposed on Monday.

Sensing trouble, the Cabinet, meeting with President Maithiripala Sirisena in the chair and in the presence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, lost no time in deciding on a fortnight of emergency, giving powers to the armed forces to step in and also for all security forces to arrest alleged troublemakers without legal hassles. This is the major incident of the kind after PM Wickremesinghe took over Law and Order under his care a week ago, as a part of an administrative shake-up in the wake of the ruling coalition’s poor showing in the much-delayed nation-wide local government (LG) polls of 19 February.

Unaddressed, unresolved

Anti-Muslim violence in the country is older than the better-known anti-Tamil violence of the past decades. It had begun in the second decade of the last century, but then there was some lull around Independence and afterwards, at least when compared to the targeted political, constitutional and physical attacks on the numerically strong and education-wise better-qualified Sri Lankan Tamil (SLT) brethren, leading to LTTE terrorism, war and violence.

In comparison, Muslims are not as much geographically concentrated as the SLT or even the Upcountry Tamil community of relatively recent Indian origin, otherwise known as the ‘estate labour’ class. Widely spread out across the country, they have had their politico-electoral voice independent of the Tamils when the late M.H.M. Aashraff founded the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) in 1981. Post-Ashraff, who died in a helicopter crash in 2000, the party split as much as the community is widespread, at times on a geographical pattern, otherwise through loyalty-identification and the like.

Yet, on matters of community-good, the Muslim parties have invariably been working separately but collectively as if by instinct, often egged on by community leaders. Like the Upcountry Tamils, they have often been part of most governments, independent of the majority Sinhala party/parties in power. The logic in both cases is that in an uneven demographic pattern where they do not have either the numbers or a geographical area near-exclusively to call their own, cohabitation with the majority community was the best way out to sub-serve their larger livelihood aspirations.

This also came in clash with the larger idea of ‘Tamil Eelam’ that the LTTE professed since the mid-eighties, when they began seeing the Muslims as a self-serving isolationist group that wanted its side of the bread buttered all the time, and at the cost of the large cause of the Tamils, to whom they were linked through language. In 1990, thus, the LTTE forced tens of thousands of northern Muslims, most of them prosperous traders and land-owners, with only a few hundred rupees in their pockets. Most of them took refuge in the adjoining western province coastal town of Puttalam, and continue to stay there even a decade after the end of the ethnic war and the exit of the LTTE. In the east the same year, the LTTE killed Muslims in the famous Kathankudy mosque, when they were offering their all-important weekly Friday afternoon prayers, killing over 150 of them at one go.

So, when successive governments since the nineties began peace negotiations with the LTTE, the Muslims wanted a place of their own. Absence of contiguity even led many of them to consider the ‘Pondicherry model’ of territory for the community in Sri Lanka. A one-time French colony, Pondicherry, now Puducherry, remained a Union Territory when it acquired Independence and merged with the Union of India in 1962 retained its four separate enclaves, embedded across Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Because no real progress has since been made on resolving the Tamil ethnic issue, even post-war, the Muslim question remains unaddressed and unresolved.

BBS to the fore…

In more recent times, Muslims in the country began getting targeted in the post-war era, when the Tamils got silenced, at least in the interim. It had begun with rumours of a ‘grease devil’ attacking individuals, mostly Muslim women, in various parts of the country, through the second half of 2011, two years after the war’s ending. Then followed some episodes, where rumour-mongers spread the word that Muslims had imported/smuggled birth-control pill that could be fed through food, to contain the majority Sinhala population, if only over a period.

Even as those incidents/rumours, in which the army ended up taking the blame, large-scale and systematic attacks on the Muslim community, their businesses and places of worship commenced, with the little-known ‘Sinhala Buddhist nationalist’ outfit, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and its ever-abrasive head, Gnanasara Thero, standing on rooftops and claiming credit.

In some episodes, not very unfamiliar to Indians under similarly-placed circumstances, the BBS claimed that the property on which some of the mosques stood had belonged to Buddhists. Though no such claims are known to have been made this time round, according to some media reports, some mosques and Muslim homes have been torched in Kandy, leading to night curfew for two successive days — interspersed with the proclamation of emergency during the intervening day.

It is noticeable that the name of the BBS, or that of the Thero, has not found any mention in the current anti-Muslim violence. While it is becoming increasingly clear that the administration, especially the police and military intelligence, were caught napping, there is still no knowing the real motive, if any, behind the current series of episodes, of if it flowed from a common conspiracy of any sort — whether hatched nearer home or afar, or whatever.

It may be recalled that throughout the BBS induced violence during the closing years of the camp of war-victor President Mahinda Rajapaksa went around claiming that their fair name was being sought to be tarnished by linking his brother and then Defence Secretary, Gota Rajapaksa, only to woo the Muslim voters away from his leadership. As the 2015 presidential polls showed, the minute the results from the Tamil and Muslim majority provinces of the north and the east were published at the crack of dawn on 9 January, the day after polling, Rajapaksa conceded defeat — as the results would show full 12 hours later.

There is now no knowing if there is any political conspiracy of any kind, behind the current series of anti-Muslim violence. Though the Joint Opposition (JO) identified with Rajapaksa, whose renewed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) has swept the LG polls in February, promptly declared its decision not to move the no-trust motion against PM Wicremesighe and his government on Tuesday after the Kandy episodes broke out, some in the camp have charged the government with failure on the law and order front. There are also murmurs of protest from Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) for handing over the L&O portfolio to war-time army chief, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, whose later-day antipathy towards the Rajapaksas are very well known.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no knowing Wickremesinghe’s mind on the matter. However, President Sirisena, whose Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is a junior partner in the ‘national unity government’, is opposed to the idea. Local media reports have also spoken about top-rung police officers being opposed to such plans. According to these reports, Sirisena has endorsed such views, whatever be his political position or personal views in the matter.

Demographic discrepancy

Post-war troubles for the nation’s Muslims started when Census 2012 reportedly showed a higher population growth-rate for the community. Officially however, the SLT community came a distant second to the Sinhala majority, despite war-deaths, disappearances and known migrations, both legal and illegal, the latter alone running to tens of thousands.

Ironically, the number of Upcountry Tamil population, who were not known to have migrated elsewhere in such large numbers, saw their numbers fall drastically during the Census. This was a possible first, after those in the fifties and the sixties. That was also when the Upcountry Tamils were declared ‘stateless’ by the post-Independence Government of 1948, with parliamentary support from a majority section of the SLT polity of the time.

Questions were raised when the Rajapaksa regime released only bare details of the final population figures and held back the details. Though the current government was expected to come out with those figures, nothing of the kind has happened over the past three-plus years. Nor has the Muslim polity, ever sensitive to the sentiments of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority, and more so to the majoritarian elements within it, raised the issue, either in public or otherwise.

Overall, Sri Lanka’s Muslims are generally a peace-loving people, engaged mainly in trade nearer home, and like many of their brethren in rest of South Asia, their men are also gainfully employed in the petro-rich Gulf-Arab region since the seventies and eighties. In the aftermath of the post-9/11 West’s war on Afghanistan and Iraq, some sections of Sri Lanka’s Muslims, especially in the rural east, have taken to religious orthodoxy, with their women wearing face or full-body veils in public.

Under the Rajapaksa regime, when the post-war administration clamped down on illegal radio stations, surprisingly many of them belonged to local Muslim individuals or groups, spreading religious messages, within a limited area, including parts of the capital city of Colombo. Though it was assumed that many of the local dons, to put down who Secretary Rajapaksa brought in the army, were Muslims, nothing was really proved or disproved. Yet, there are unfounded apprehensions, often aired without substantiation, that sections of the Muslim youth were getting radicalised, what with sections of their traditional polity taking Saudi funding, in the purported cause of spreading Wahhabism.

Should the government now want to extend the emergency beyond a fortnight, it has to go to Parliament, which is already in session even otherwise. It has however clarified that the short spell is aimed only at putting the house in order and to stop from racial violence from spreading. For now, the security forces have begun arresting suspects and shut down much of the social media, if only to check the spread of rumours and possible call for violence.

Observer Research Foundation By N. Sathiya Moorthy

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Rubbish wasteland across Bali Beaches

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Rubbish wasteland across Bali Beaches: In this file photo taken on December 19, 2017 a tourist standing between plastic rubbish at Kuta beach near Denpasar, on Indonesia&#3...

Rubbish wasteland across Bali Beaches

In this file photo taken on December 19, 2017 a tourist standing between plastic rubbish at Kuta beach near Denpasar, on Indonesia's tourist island of Bali. Millions of tourists are drawn to Bali's palm-fringed scenery and rich marine life, but a British diver has released stark footage highlighting a growing problem in its famously crystal-clear waters: plastic rubbish. (AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka)

Millions of tourists are drawn to Bali's palm-fringed scenery and rich marine life, but a British diver has released stark footage highlighting a growing problem in its famously crystal-clear waters: plastic rubbish.

An underwater video shot by Rich Horner this week showing a sea overflowing with plastic and other garbage at Manta Point, a well-known diving site near Bali's main island, has already been viewed about a million times.

"The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc.... Oh, and some plastic," the diver wrote on his Facebook account.

Plastics of all kinds -- including bottles, cups and straws -- were floating around him, he said.

"Plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!"

Often dubbed a paradise on earth, the Indonesian holiday island has become an embarrassing poster child for the country's trash crisis.

The problem has grown so bad that officials in Bali last year declared a "garbage emergency" across a six-kilometre stretch of coast that included popular beaches Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak.

Manta Point is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Bali's main island.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, is the world's second biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and a colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by the Southeast Asian nation.

The waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans have been causing problems for years, clogging waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, and injuring or killing marine animals who ingest or become trapped by plastic packaging.

"Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems, including cancer," I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher at Bali's Udayana University, previously told AFP.

As part of its commitment under the UN Environment's Clean Seas campaign, Jakarta has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025, through recycling, curbing the use of plastic bags, cleanup campaigns and raising public awareness.

Still, the scale of the problem facing Indonesia is huge, due to its population of more than 260 million and poor waste processing infrastructure.

News Desk

Agence France-Presse