Posts Tagged ‘Indians’

Little Going On in Pakistan to Encourage Expat Pakistani Talent to Come Home — China lures foreign scientists and high tech professionals

June 11, 2018

THERE is little doubt the main driver of growth and shared prosperity in the 21st century is the knowledge economy. The evidence of this has already been demonstrated by Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. China is embarking upon the same path. Most of these countries have invested heavily in their higher educational institutions and research establishments, sent hordes of young men and women for advanced studies particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

By Ishrat Husain

These young scientists have studied at top universities, worked in cutting-edge laboratories, collaborated with experts in their field and published in prestigious journals. Korea sent missions to the US and Europe in the 1980s to attract Korean scientists back home and join the academia and research organisations with hefty packages of pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits. Recently, China established the Thousand Talents programme which targets Chinese citizens who have studied at US elite universities and elsewhere. Upon their return, they get lucrative signing bonuses, guaranteed research funding, ample technical staff and the opportunity to train younger students in their fields of expertise. Subsidies are given for housing, meals and relocation, and they are guaranteed jobs for spouses and regular trips to their home provinces.

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It is no wonder that Alibaba and Tencent have become the world’s largest pool of scientific talent. China’s expenditure on R&D has jumped from $9 billion in 1991 to $409bn — closer to the US expenditure of $485bn. It now allocates 2.4pc of GDP on R&D. According to the National Science Board, China is on track to surpass the US by the end of this year. In 2016, annual scientific publications from China outnumbered those from the US for the first time. China has also lured foreign scientists who have won prestigious prizes or made internationally recognised scientific contributions. They train and collaborate with their local counterparts in knowledge creation and sharing.

There are few incentives for highly educated youth to return home and apply their expertise here.

Against this background, what is the situation in Pakistan? There has been a serious diminution in the reservoir of our highly educated talent. In 1989/90, as many as 7,010 Pakistani students were enrolled in US universities and those from India were 26,240 ie a ratio of 1:4. By 2014-15 the disparity is simply astounding — 132,888 Indians vs only 5,354 Pakistanis, a ratio of 1:25. Most of the Indians were enrolled for advanced degrees in STEM subjects in leading universities. Faculty members and research scientists of Indian origin run into the thousands while we have only a handful of Pakistanis. In an earlier search for recruiting faculty for IBA, I found there were 250 faculty members of Indian origin teaching in the top 10 business schools in the US while we were represented by only four young women.

The Higher Education Commission started sending young Pakistanis to foreign universities for their doctorates. Due to funding limitations and the difficulties faced by our poorly prepared applicants in clearing GRE examinations, they ended up mostly in European and Chinese universities. Nothing wrong with that, but the absence of coursework and comprehensive exams do not provide the same rigour and competence as the US universities which continue to be among the world’s best.

Upon their return, these students get sucked into the bureaucratic culture at Pakistani universities but the serious-minded among them still carry out their work diligently and get published in international journals. This is reflected in a large increase in the number of publications contributed by Pakistani scholars in the last decade or so. My salute to them that they do it despite facing a lot of resistance by the teacher politicians who fear they would be left behind. However, the rigid system of promotion and tenure offers no incentive for them to apply their knowledge and expertise to address some of the problems faced by the country in boosting its competitiveness. The system recognises only teaching and academic research — not application of research.

The second way to attract talent from abroad is to follow the example of China and Korea and give them flexibility in terms of time, remuneration, perks, ample resources and a conducive working environment. Our uniform basic pay scales where every university teacher is boxed in is a major hindrance in attracting expatriate talent. These scales promote mediocrity rather than creativity and innovative impulses. Even those bold enough to come back are faced with a hostile environment, in which intrigues by incumbents occupying entrenched positions in universities make their lives miserable to the extent they either fall in line or are driven back. The antiquated recruitment and promotion rules based on length of service, seniority and number rather than quality of publications, do not allow any deviations for exceptional performance and output, international recognition, etc. These rules act as a powerful deterrent to those aspiring to come back.

My experience as a member of various search committees for selecting vice chancellors shows how narrow-minded, myopic, parochial and inward-looking we have become. Let alone those working abroad, candidates from other provinces, however capable or competent, are shunned on account of political preferences. If we are able to select individuals on merit for top leadership positions, the effect would permeate through the organisation.

Finally, there is little understanding of pay differentials between specialists and generalists within the public sector. Specialists who have gone through a rigorous and long training process and acquired expertise in their respective fields deserve to be paid many times more than generalists. As chairman, Pay and Pension Commission, I was appalled to see highly qualified scientists completely demoralised and demotivated upon comparing themselves against general cadre officers in terms of career progression, equivalence of grades and salary structure. There is a feeling that a transplant surgeon despite having trained and worked abroad should not be given a salary higher than the chief secretary.

It is time to modify our worldview and adopt a more forward-looking stance in order to compete with 200 other nations in the global marketplace. We have to therefore enable and facilitate our talented young men and women to employ their best efforts to contribute to our people’s welfare. If our courts get bogged down in determining our specialists’ individual salaries, who is going to dispose of 1.8 million pending cases?

The writer is author of Governing the Ungovernable and CPEC and Pakistani Economy.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2018


Only one Singaporean is fit to be president — So who decides in a democracy? — Or who cares if it is a democracy?

September 14, 2017

Or so the government concludes

IT IS very important, Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, explained last year, that all Singaporeans feel they have a genuine chance of becoming president. To that end, his government tinkered with the eligibility criteria for candidates. Yet Singaporeans primed for a festival of inclusiveness at this year’s election must be confused. On September 11th a committee of senior officials declared that only one candidate was eligible to stand, and that the woman in question, Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was thus deemed to have been elected unopposed. She will be sworn in on September 14th.

Singapore’s democracy can sometimes seem a little regimented: the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since before independence in 1965. So when the government decided to amend the constitution in 1991 to allow direct elections for president, ostensibly to deepen popular engagement with politics, observers were suspicious—and rightly so. The criteria for eligibility were set so narrowly that only two of the subsequent five elections have involved more than one candidate. Even so, at the previous election, in 2011, the PAP’s preferred candidate came within a whisker of losing.

The government says this close shave had no influence on its decision to narrow the eligibility criteria yet more before this year’s election. The intention, Mr Lee explained, was to make sure that none of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Malays and Indians—was excluded from the job for too long. In November the government duly changed the constitution to reserve presidential elections for members of a particular ethnic group if no one from that group has held the job for the previous five terms. On this basis, the presidential election this year was limited to Malays, who make up 13% of the population but have not held the office of president since 1970. Coincidentally, the new rules prevented the candidate who fell just 7,383 votes short last time, Tan Cheng Bock, from running again, as he is one of the 74% of Singaporeans who are Chinese (9% of the population is Indian).

Cynics point out that the government’s concern with diversity goes only so far. All holders of the much more powerful post of prime minister have been Chinese—two out of three of them from the Lee family. Singapore normally prides itself on being a meritocracy, in contrast to neighbouring Malaysia, where Malays and other indigenous groups are accorded special privileges. And while candidates for president this year had to be Malay, not just any Malay could apply. They also needed either to have served in an extremely senior government job or to have run a profitable company with S$500m ($371m) in shareholder equity. The figure used to be S$100m but a decision to raise the bar was announced last year. Undaunted, two other Malays beside Ms Halimah applied to run, but were judged not to have met the criteria.

Popular and competent, Ms Halimah seemed very likely to win even with some competition. Disqualifying her challengers robs her of the modicum of legitimacy the election could have given her. Voters excited to mark ballots for Singapore’s first female president are particularly disappointed. Then again, Singapore’s repeated tightening of the rules suggests a lack of faith that voters, given a wider choice, would make the right decision.

Protests Held Across India After Attacks Against Muslims

June 28, 2017

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI — Protests were held in cities across India on Wednesday against a wave of attacks on Muslims by mobs that accuse them of killing cows or eating beef.

The protests follow the stabbing to death last week of a 16-year-old boy accused of possessing beef on a train. Several people have been arrested. On Tuesday, a man was beaten and his house set on fire by a mob that accused him of slaughtering a cow in eastern Jharkhand state.

Waving “Not in My Name” banners and “Stop Cow Terrorism” placards, actors, writers and young mothers cradling babies braved monsoon rains in Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities, while in Delhi a cast of intellectuals and activists were joined by relatives of recent lynching victims.

“I feel afraid. I don’t even know if I will be able to reach home safely,” Bashruddin Khandawali, a 24-year-old cousin of Junaid Khan, who was killed last week on the train, told Reuters next to a huge “Lynch Map of India” banner.

Critics accuse right-wing Hindu groups, some linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, of fomenting or not doing enough to stop violence against Muslims and lower-caste Hindus who eat beef or work in the meat and leather industries.

Modi denies the accusation and has publicly criticised so-called cow vigilantes.

Many Hindus worship the cow as sacred to their religion.

Almost all of the 63 attacks since 2010 involving cow-related violence were recorded after Modi and his Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014, IndiaSpend, a data journalism website, said in a report.

Twenty-eight Indians – 24 of them Muslims – have been killed and 124 injured since 2010 in cow-related violence, IndiaSpend said.

Modi’s information minister, Venkaiah Naidu, called the killing of Khan “atrocious” and said local authorities must take action.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a leading commentator, this week described the lynchings as “a protracted riot in slow motion”.

“What makes this violence chilling … is that it is acquiring an atmosphere of a religious communion about it,” he wrote in the Indian Express.

Anjali Arondekar, a professor visiting from California, said she had attended the Mumbai protest because “nobody seems to care any more that a young Muslim man is being killed.”

India’s history is pockmarked by Hindu-Muslim communal clashes, although the vast majority of people live peacefully together.

Community leaders called on Modi to do more to protect the 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people who are Muslim.

“I fear that if this goes on, there will be a counter-reaction that would be dangerous for peace and tranquillity,” said Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis–e-Mushawarat.

(Additional reporting by Nita Bhalla in NEW DELHI, Jatindra Dash in BHUBANESHWAR and Subrata Nagchoudhury in KOLKATA; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


Thousands Gather in India to Protest Attacks on Muslims

June 28, 2017

NEW DELHI — Thousands of Indians gathered in several cities Wednesday to protest recent violent attacks across the country targeting minority Muslims.

Carrying placards saying “Not in my name,” the protesters decried the silence of the Hindu nationalist government in response to public lynchings and attacks on at least a dozen Muslim men and boys since it took power in 2014.

In New Delhi, thousands of people, including the elderly and parents with young children, sang songs and lit candles.

In Mumbai, hundreds, including some Bollywood actors, gathered under umbrellas in pouring rain.

Protests were also reported in several other cities.

Last Friday, about 20 men attacked four Muslims on a train in the outskirts of New Delhi, fatally stabbing a teenager and seriously injuring two others.

The Muslim men said an argument over seats quickly turned into a brutal attack, with the mob accusing them of being “beef-eaters.” Many members of the Hindu majority consider cows sacred. The slaughter of cows and eating of beef is illegal or restricted across much of India.

Much of the recent violence has been focused on cows. Several fringe Hindu groups, apparently emboldened by the stunning political rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, have attacked Muslim cattle traders and dairy farmers.

Muslims constitute about 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, while Hindus comprise 80 percent.

Rights groups say government officials, including the prime minister, have been slow to strongly condemn the attacks and that police action against perpetrators has been inadequate.

Five of the killings, almost all of them in broad daylight and in busy public areas, have taken place in the last three months.

On April 1, Pehlu Khan, a Muslim cattle trader, was lynched by a mob in the western state of Rajasthan as he transported cattle he had bought at an animal fair back to his home state of Haryana. Khan and his family were small dairy farmers.

In May, two Muslim men were beaten to death over allegations of cattle theft in India’s northeast.

Over the last two years, vigilante groups, who call themselves cow protectors, have become active in small towns and cities across India. Even lower-caste Hindus who carry out undesirable tasks such as skinning dead cattle have faced mob violence.


PM Modi under pressure

The attacks have put Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a difficult position. His right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power in states across the north, draws much of its support from Hindu nationalism.

His government has thus come under frequent criticism for emboldening extreme Hindu nationalists. In addition to the spate of cow vigilante violence, for instance, churches were vandalized and Christians attacked across the country in 2015.

In the face of growing condemnation, Modi lashed out at the “fake cow vigilantes” in August last year. “I would like to tell these people that if you have any problem, if you have to attack, attack me,” he said.

But his critics saw his comments as too little too late. “All this is just histrionics. Why has be not chosen to speak in parliament?” asked Mayawati, the head of the regional Bahujan Samaj Party. “This hooliganism could have been nipped in the bud a long time back. Why did he choose to be silent?”

Why can’t Indians gain possession of the homes they own?

April 6, 2017

Corruption, tax dodging and land disputes are big problems hampering India’s property market.

  • 6 April 2017
    BBC News
  • From the sectionBusiness

U.S. to Temporarily Suspend Fast-Track Processing of H-1B Visas

March 7, 2017

Move not related to revised travel restrictions announced Monday


March 6, 2017 6:54 p.m. ET

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it plans to temporarily suspend fast-track processing for the skilled-worker visa program, a move that could slow down the process of hiring foreign workers for U.S. companies.

Starting April 3 and running for up to six months, the agency will no longer allow H-1B applicants to pay an additional fee of $1,225 to get a response within 15 days — a program known as premium processing. Regular processing, where the fee varies based on the type of employment being sought, can last between three and six months.

Paying for premium processing doesn’t affect the outcome of the annual lottery, which applicants must win to receive a visa. In 2015, 233,000 applications were filed in less than a week for the visas, which are capped at 85,000. In past years, applicants who won the lottery and had included the additional fee in their application would be processed at a faster rate, while those who lost the lottery wouldn’t have their checks cashed.

U.S. companies can sponsor 65,000 foreigners with at least a bachelor’s degree from any university, and an additional 20,000 visas go to individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. Universities and nonprofits, which aren’t subject to a cap, also use H-1Bs to hire many workers each year.

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India sentences 35 crew of US anti-piracy ship

January 11, 2016


India’s coast guard intercepted the Seaman Guard Ohio anti-piracy ship off the coast of Tuticorin in 2013. AFP Photo

CHENNAI (INDIA) (AFP) – An Indian court Monday sentenced 35 sailors, including several from Britain, Estonia and Ukraine, for illegally entering Indian waters carrying weapons aboard a US-operated anti-piracy boat in 2013.A judge in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu ordered all 35 crew present in the court to serve five years in jail, the prosecutor in the case, S Chandrasekar told AFP.

“The convicted crew members can approach the Madras High Court within 30 days for appealing against the verdict,” Chandrasekar said.

India’s coast guard intercepted the ship off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu in October 2013 and arrested and charged the crew for failing to have the proper paperwork to carry weapons in Indian waters.

Almost all of the crew, comprising six Britons, three Ukrainians, 14 Estonians and 12 Indians, were given bail in 2014 on the grounds they remained in the state capital Chennai.

The captain, a Ukrainian, and another officer from Britain were refused bail and remained in prison.

US maritime security firm AdvanFort, which owns the Seaman Guard Ohio vessel, denies the charges against its crew, saying all firearms on board were legally purchased and properly documented.

The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia to Europe and many cargo ships have armed guards and vessels to deter pirates.

The British High Commission in Delhi told AFP it would continue to provide consular assistance to all six of its nationals but “we cannot interfere in another country’s judicial process”.

An Indian court quashed charges laid against the Seaman Guard Ohio crew in July 2014, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling the following year and ordered their trial.

Judge N Rajasekar on Monday found the crew guilty of illegally carrying weapons and entering Indian waters without a visa.

In addition to the jail sentence, the judge fined each crew member 3000 rupees ($45).


In Nepal: “Stop the blockade. Education is our right,” Student protests — Conference About Asylum Seekers in Scheduled in Jakarta

November 27, 2015

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Tens of thousands of students held hands, waved banners and chanted slogans in Nepal’s capital Friday to protest against a border blockade that has caused severe shortages of fuel and an increase in food prices in the Himalayan country. The students lined the Ring Road which circles Kathmandu to demand an immediate lifting of the blockade. “Stop the blockade. Education is our right,” chanted the students. Some held banners as they held hands in a human chain organized by various groups representing schools in Kathmandu. For weeks, members of the Madhesi ethnic community protesting Nepal’s new constitution have blocked the main southern border point with India, preventing fuel and other essential items from entering the country.

Indonesia expressed concerns Friday over Australia’s action of pushing asylum seekers back out to sea in another vessel. Sixteen migrants from India, Nepal and Bangladesh and their Indonesian skipper were found stranded in Indonesia’s part of Timor Island on Thursday night after they run out of fuel. “We are concerned when some countries like Australia, rather than informing us or working with us, take unilateral action and push back boats,” said Foreign Office chief of multilateral affairs Hasan Kleib. The migrants, all males include 13 Indians, two Nepalese and one Bangladeshi, reportedly said Australian navy destroyed the boat that carried them to the Australian territory of Christmas Island.


Australia Turns Away Migrants

By Ainur Rohmah


A group of 16 asylum seekers has come ashore in eastern Indonesia after their boat was reportedly pushed back by Australian authorities off Christmas Island.

A police spokesperson in East Nusa Tenggara province said Friday that the stranded migrant boat was discovered overnight off of southern Timor island, and those on board were evacuated by local fishermen.

“We have secured 17 people, 16 of whom were foreign migrants and one Indonesian,” quoted Jules Abraham Abas as saying. “Currently they are still being interrogated.”

The 13 Indians, two Nepalese and one Bangladeshi had reportedly earlier departed from Ratu Port, West Java, in a tuna-fishing vessel en route to Australia with hopes of finding employment.

The vessel was reportedly intercepted off Christmas Island — a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean — by Australian security forces, who replaced their boat.

Sky News reported that the whereabouts of the vessel had remained unknown since it was pushed back last Friday, until its discovery in Kupang, almost 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) east of Christmas Island.

A fisherman, Daniel Lani, said the boat was found bobbing in the sea, having used up its fuel.

Asylum seekers who were caught in Indonesian waters while sailing to Australia in May 2013

“They [the migrants] were screaming for help, and we helped them to land,” he said, as quoted by national news agency Antara.

Muhammad Anwar, a migrant from Bangladesh, said he had traveled for more than 10 days before arriving at Christmas Island.

“We sailed to Christmas Island in Australia. When I got there, we were detained for four days, and the ships that we took from Jakarta were destroyed,” he told Antara.

He said that security officials there told him that Australia did not accept the arrival of illegal migrants from any country.

Australia’s hardline policy denies resettlement to all asylum seekers arriving by sea, even when they are found to be genuine refugees.

Indonesia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs has called Australia’s returning to the vessel a “unilateral action that is not in line with the spirit of cooperation between the two countries.”

“So we need to discuss this issue together,” A.M. Fachir said Friday at a conference on asylum seekers in Jakarta.

“The unilateral action will never solve the problem,” quoted him as saying.

Arrmanatha Nasir, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told Fairfax Media that “Indonesia’s stance remains that boat push-backs are endangering.”

He added that they would try to address that matter with an Australian official on the sidelines of the conference.

Indonesia has invited 13 countries that serve as origins and destinations of asylum seekers to the conference – including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Iran.

According to Fachir, recommendations from the discussions on irregular migration will be brought before a Bali Process ministerial conference in early 2016.

“The results of the Bali Process will be taken to the UN conference in Geneva at the end of next year,” he added.


Malaysia: Government of Race Based Parties Spells Trouble Ahead

October 1, 2015

By Shannon Teoh
Malaysia Correspondent
Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR • The “red shirt” rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur not so much intensified already fractious race relations in Malaysia as brought to light the insecurities felt by the many Malaysians who identify  themselves ethnically, whether they be the majority Malays or minority Chinese and Indians.

Indeed, it was these insecurities that allowed the embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak – embroiled in a financial scandal concerning huge sums of money that flowed into his personal bank accounts – to play the race card, by consorting with the red shirt rally organisers, to gain a lifeline out of his troubles.

The tens of thousands of Malays at Sept 16’s United Citizens’ Gathering – mostly wearing Malay Dignity Gathering red T-shirts instead – had gathered in Kuala Lumpur to galvanise Malays against a supposed plot by the Chinese to usurp Malay political power.

Malaysians gathering for the “red shirt” rally in downtown Kuala Lumpur on Sept 16 to galvanise Malays against a supposed plot by the Chinese to usurp Malay political power. PHOTO: REUTERS

The narrative of the red shirt rally organisers goes that the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) – a largely Chinese outfit – was using a rally last month in the capital, organised by electoral reforms group Bersih, to force the resignation of Datuk Seri Najib.

The proof, they say, was in the majority Chinese turnout at the Bersih rally, never mind that any realistic replacement of the Premier before a general election would have to be made by Umno, the largest party in Parliament. It is part of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition that also includes Chinese-based party Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Indian-based Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

In speeches by rally leaders, the banners displayed and racial slurs uttered by participants, such as “Chinese pigs”, the red shirts’ message was that Malay supremacy should not be challenged.

“There are those that ridicule Islam as Malaysia’s religion. We don’t want Malays to be under people’s feet but we want Malays to remain as masters of this land,” said Mr Jamaludin Yusuf, president of welfare group Pekida, which is better known for its links to often violent individuals acting in the interest of Malay rights.

Weighing in with his own race-loaded comments was Mr Najib who, at an event two days after the red shirt rally, said: “The Malays have rights too… and we can rise up when our leaders are insulted, condemned and embarrassed.”

Governed by race-based parties that have been plying ethnocentric policies for decades, Malaysia simply cannot avoid the question of race, which must necessarily be read with the subtext “Ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance or sovereignty)”.

Many Malays see themselves as the original community and “owners” of Malaysia, and only grudgingly admit indigenous tribes as co-claimants. But there is a clear economic gap between them and the Chinese who arrived under British rule beginning in the 19th century, a situation that has improved but persists until now, despite growing Malay political power.

Indeed, the argument for greater Malay political control was based on the idea that it was only through such an instrument that the economic imbalance could be corrected, leading to an increasing number of pro-Malay policies and agencies in government that are justified as part of the inalienable rights of Malays, making political discussion of these policies practically taboo.

At the centre of the racial discourse here is the politically sensitive issue of “rights”. The defence of Malay rights has gone on for nearly half a century, and yet “Malay rights” is still an amorphous idea, just like the ethnic-based rights of other groups.

To be fair, many Malaysians do not identify themselves along the various pillars of “rights” that some feel are inalienable to their race. But for those who do, they bristle when questioned, let alone challenged, on them.

For the Malays who identify themselves strongly as such, economic and religious privileges are sacred, despite none of these being enshrined constitutionally, as often claimed, most recently by key red shirt figure and Umno divisional chief Jamal Yunus, who said “my racism follows the Constitution”.

But the Federal Constitution does not mention “Malay rights”, and instead merely safeguards the special position of the Malays and indigenous peoples – the much-used term “Bumiputera (Princes of the Land)” to describe them is also not mentioned in the Constitution – while also taking into account the “legitimate interests” of other communities. This special treatment includes quotas for public sector jobs, scholarships, tertiary enrolment (introduced in a 1971 amendment) and business licences.

Many pro-Malay privileges were introduced only after the racial riots of May 13, 1969, an episode which still haunts the country today. Tun Abdul Razak Hussein – Mr Najib’s father – implemented the National Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971 to correct economic imbalances by redistributing national wealth via pro-Bumiputera regulations such as setting aside 30 per cent equity for public-listed firms as well as private ones operating in “strategic” sectors.

But even though it was to have ended in 1990, these policies – which in practice often leave out non-Malay Bumiputeras – have not only continued but expanded to other areas of life, such as discounts and quotas for housing, preferential treatment for lucrative government procurement deals and, according to the US State Department, other “opaque” preferences and practices within the administration.

The government has argued that these affirmative actions must continue because Bumiputeras are still not adequately empowered as the targeted 30 per cent equity in business has not been achieved. So pervasive is this protectionism that pro-Malay elements now refer to them as “rights” even when there are no laws or binding agreements outlining them as such.

Just as irrepressible is the growth of privileges associated to Islam, including state funding for the religion and even the restriction of other religious practices, leading many to argue that the “legitimate interests” of other communities have been invaded.

But other communities also hold fast to “rights”, not least that of vernacular education, a hot-button topic for the Chinese. MCA leaders, unable to restrain their Umno colleagues in the ruling coalition from endorsing the red shirt rally, took to lodging police reports against participants who called for the abolishment of Chinese schools.

Advocates insist on a universal right to “mother tongue” education in Mandarin despite most of the community not being able to claim the dialect as part of their ancestry, having adopted it only in recent decades. But as eminent law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi pointed out, there is no constitutional protection for vernacular education.

When caught out on the lack of constitutional basis, “rights” defenders tend to then cite an unwritten “social contract” between Malaysia’s founding fathers. But this is a difficult and often divisive concept, with each corner seemingly in possession of a different draft of the contract.

The good news, perhaps, is that contracts can be renegotiated for mutual benefit. The bad news is that nobody seems ready to do so.

A survey by independent polling company Merdeka Centre in 2012 found that just over a third of Malaysians believed that there was “sincere and friendly ethnic unity”, down from 54 per cent five years prior to it. Respondents also admitted to trusting other races less than before.

According to Merdeka Centre, such mistrust is most likely due to the intensified discourse in the media on race and religious politics as well as the impact of incidents that have taken place since 2008 which included arson attacks on places of worship, public debate over school textbooks and controversial statements by public personalities.

But perhaps the issue might be forced, once pockets start to hurt.

Corporate captains tend to steer clear of controversy but Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, boss of budget airline AirAsia, cautioned an economic forum last week that Malaysia’s positive business climate would unravel if the racial divide widens.

In response, International Trade and Investment Minister Mustapa Mohamed, who is also an Umno state chief, acknowledged that the corporate world was concerned over whether race relations can be “resolved once and for all” and called for stakeholders to “go back to the drawing board”.

There is no clearer drawing board than the Constitution. Pressing the reset button won’t be a simple task, but the alternative – negotiating increasingly bitter racial grudges – is becoming a negative, rather than simply a zero sum, game.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline ”Red shirt’ rally brings out Malaysians’ insecurities’.

Why China’s South China Sea Diplomacy Will Frustrate Claimants

November 22, 2014

International frustration over outcomes in the South China Sea is a fine outcome for China.

By Robert Farley

What happens the next time people die for an island in the South China Sea? And what happens if some of those people hail from a great power?

Last weekend, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, in conjunction with the Army War College, conducted a negotiation simulation on crisis resolution in the South China Sea. The simulation began shortly after an incident between Chinese and Filipino ships resulted in the deaths of five Indians and 95 Filipinos.

The South China Sea simulation is the third simulation developed by the Army War College. The first two, on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and the Cyprus conflict, have become regular features at foreign policy schools around the country. The AWC regularly conducts these exercises in collaboration with several different schools across the country, as well as with students at the AWC.

Patterson engages in these simulations because they give our students the opportunity to develop negotiation, communication, and organizational skills, which will help them in whatever careers they pursue.  But the course of this simulation also illuminated some of the problems associated with continuing disagreements in the SCS. This simulation consisted of seven teams (China, the Philippines, India, Japan, the United States, Vietnam, and Indonesia). Each team had an advisor, usually a government diplomatic professional (including advisors from India and Canada). I advised the Chinese team, which began the game with one serious disadvantage: everyone hated us, and we had just killed a hundred people.

As China, we believed our job was to prevent any kind of multilateral agreement with regard to SCS management that involved one of the other great powers. Our assumption was that China held all of the long-term advantages. The United States is a declining power on its way out, Japan remains in a hopeless long-term strategic position, and India lacks real, enduring interests in the area. Consequently, we focused on managing relations with the regional states, even granting the possibility of multilateral arrangements.  We assumed that, absent outside interference, China could “revise” any agreement it wanted with its neighbors, using the weight of its military and economic power to push issues slowly in its favor.

Indeed, our team took “What have you done today to ensure that everything fails?” as our motto.

As China, we had no interest in facilitating any agreement that would include extra-regional powers. We decided to treat Japan as a potential junior partner (with the emphasis on junior), treat the United States as an intervening hostile power, and pretend that India didn’t exist.  We made some effort to “pick off” one of the regional states, but in the end we faced a united, if unenthusiastic, front.

And nothing happened, because no agreement over sovereignty and conduct in the South China Sea matters without the adherence of the PRC. Did we win? Not really, but nobody else won, either. The simulation ended, as expected, with six angry, frustrated delegations. From China’s perspective, that was just fine.

What lessons? Operating under the assumption that its long-range position will improve, tactics don’t matter overmuch to China. This is not to say that China should deliberately court danger in the SCS. Anything that could draw India and Japan together, or that could pull the United States back in, could delay Chinese control by decades, not to mention endangering China’s position in other areas. But when Beijing feels that it owns the future, it has a lot of freedom in the short and medium team.



Yongxing Island (Woody Island)


A photograph taken in February of the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, a reef occupied by China but also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. According to the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, this photo appears to show large-scale reclamation being carried out in stages by China. — Photo: Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs



An example of what Vietnam calls  China’s “lawlessness” at sea: A Chinese ship rams and collides with a Vietnamese vessel in contested waters of the South China Sea. Photo: AFP photograb

In May 2014, China moved its largest ocean going oil rig to the waters near Vietnam. The oil drilling rig remained in place for more than a month despite Vietnamese diplomatic moves to protest.

China considers much of the South China Sea its territory based on its nine-dash line map. The map covers an area that extends hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island and takes in the Paracels, which are claimed by Vietnam, and the Spratly Islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines. China is creating artificial islands in the Spratly area.

China claims to own all the South China Sea inside the “nine dash line” as seen here.

China claims ownership of about 90% of the South China Sea. Most of China’s neighbors believe otherwise.