Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Andrew Marshall:

Risks to watch in Asia: Country guides

For Reuters analysis of risks to watch in Asian countries, kept updated in real time and with graphics and video, click on the links below.

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JapanMalaysiaMongoliaNew Zealand

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Acronym soup swamps Malaysia reform drive

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has embarked on a series of radical economic reforms. In reality it feels as if he has unleashed a barrage of incomprehensible acronyms on the unsuspecting public of this Southeast Asian nation.

The charge for economic reform is being led by the snappily named PEMANDU. As well as being the Malay word for “driver” it stands for the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit.

Ordinary Indonesians mourn loss of Finance Minister Indrawati

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By Sunanda CreaghSri Mulyani Indrawati

The decision by Indonesia’s reformist Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to move to the World Bank must have thrilled those politicians who lobbied hard to dethrone her and derail her anti-corruption drive. But if letters to the editor in the local media are any guide, Indonesia’s ‘wong cilik’ or the little people, as the man on the street is called here — are in mourning.
“It was a black Wednesday in the history of our nation,” read one reader’s letter to the Jakarta Post.
“One of the most honest and qualified people and someone who is known as the hope, finally succumbed to political pressure by the political elite that prefer to remain.”
Many letter-writers have begged her to return in 2014 to run for president, while others have expressed fears that, without her, Indonesia will return to the bad old days of cronyism.
“We didn’t want to see you driven out. Take pity on the people of Indonesia!” one reader, Daslam Al Maliki, wrote on the Indonesian-language news website Tempo Interaktif.
Indrawati, as well as being a widely respected economist, is a notoriously tough cookie who stood up to powerful businessmen and politicians who wanted the rules bent in their favour.
In retaliation, she was made the target of an inquiry into the 2008 decision to bail out the ailing Bank Century.

Chief among her detractors was Golkar, the party of former President Suharto, now headed by business magnate and politician Aburizal Bakrie.
Her departure has also been met with a deafening silence from the country’s business elite. Few among Indonesia’s tycoons seem sad to see the back of a politician who made it her mission to end collusion between powerful businessmen and crooked officials and lawmakers.
Several have paid lip service to her abilities as an economist but no-one — except the distressed letter-writers — appears to be pleading for her to stay.
The yawning gap between the reponses of the public on the one hand and the political and business elite on the other underlines how out of touch those in power are with their constituents.
Last year’s elections were fought over the issue of reform, the fight against corruption, as means to deliver better economic growth and more jobs in a country of high unemployment and underemployment.
A recent poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute found that those parties that pushed hardest to investigate Indrawati and the Bank Century bailout decision have actually lost support.
Political analysts and economists are now wondering if her departure is a sign that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to institutional reform is flagging.
“What is wrong with Indonesia? While the top brains are needed to run this country, even the President approves this brain drain,” one reader, ‘Walt’, wrote in the Jakarta Post.
Not all letter-writers are Indrawati fans; several are suspicious she is leaving the country to avoid further questioning over the Bank Century case, an allegation Indrawati has dismissed.
But to many Indonesians, her bruising political battles have turned her into a national heroine while her new job on the international stage will bring prestige to Indonesia
Indrawati herself appears relieved and happy she is moving on to a job that will, hopefully, involve a little less mud-slinging.
“Don’t cry for me, Indonesia. I go for the good of all,” read one headline in the Jakarta Post, a wry reference to Argentinian leader Evita Peron.

Indonesia goes for digital people power

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By Sunanda Creagh

 Some Jakartans protest the traditional way to save the anti-corruption agency

Just over a decade ago, Indonesians took to the streets to protest. Now they can make themselves heard without even leaving home.

A Facebook group supporting two senior officials from the anti-corruption agency, who many people think have been framed, has attracted almost half a million members in just four days.

Southeast Asia’s Islamists try the domino theory

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Photo: Jihad book collection in Jakarta Sept.21, 2009. REUTERS/Supr

A half-century ago, Washington worried about Southeast Asian nations falling like dominoes to an international communist movement backed by Maoist China, and became bogged down in the Vietnam War.

Noordin Top, believed to be the mastermind behind most of the suicide bombings in Indonesia — including the July 17 attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels — pronounced himself to be al Qaeda’s franchise in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia’s election: faster, better … boring?

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By Sara Webb

It takes India weeks to complete an election and it never passes without flashes of violence.

But the much younger democracy of Indonesia voted calmly for their president on Wednesday and got the voting over in five hours with a good indication of the result — a second term for the reformist ex-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — out just a couple of hours later.

from FaithWorld:

Islamic tone, interfaith touch in Obama’s speech to Muslim world

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obama-speech-baghdadIt started with "assalaamu alaykum" and ended with "may God's peace be upon you." Inbetween, President Barack Obama dotted his speech to the Muslim world with Islamic terms and references meant to resonate with his audience. The real substance in the speech were his policy statements and his call for a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with Muslims, as outlined in our trunk news story. But the new tone was also important and it struck a chord with many Muslims who heard the speech, as our Middle East Special Correspondent Alistair Lyon found. Not all, of course -- you can find positive and negative reactions here. (Photo: Iraqi in Baghdad watches Obama's speech, 4 June 2009/Mohammed Ameen)

Among Obama's Islamic touches were four references to the Koran (which he always called the Holy Koran), his approving mention of the scientific, mathematical and philosophical achievements of the medieval Islamic world and his citing of multi-faith life in Andalusia. These are standard elements that many Islam experts -- Muslims and non-Muslims -- mention in speeches at learned conferences, but it's not often that you hear an American president talking about them.

Indonesia: To hell and back

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By Dean Yates

(The author lived in Indonesia from 1992-1995 and 2000-2005, with various assignments in between)

It was not that long ago that Indonesia was lurching from crisis to crisis, even drawing some (misplaced) predictions it could go the way of the former Yugoslavia and break apart. These days it rarely makes the front page. It has a steady president in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, probably the freest press in Southeast Asia and political violence appears to be a thing of the past. The last major bomb attack blamed on Islamic militants was in 2005.

from FaithWorld:

Policy adrift over Rohingya, Myanmar’s Muslim boat people

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The Rohingyas, a Muslim minority fleeing oppression and hardship in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, have been called one of the most persecuted people on earth. But they have seldom hit the headlines -- until recently, that is. More than 500 Rohingyas are feared to have drowned since early December after being towed out to sea by the Thai military and abandoned in rickety boats. The army has admitted cutting them loose, but said they had food and water and denied sabotaging the engines of the boats. (Photo: Rohingyas in immigration area in soutwestern Thailand, 31 Jan 2009/Sukree Sukplang)

The Rohingyas are becoming a headache for Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia where they have washed up. Indonesian authorities this week rescued 198 Rohingya boat people off the coast of Aceh, after three weeks at sea. Buddhist Thailand and mostly Muslim Indonesia call them economic migrants looking for work at a time when countries in the region, like everywhere else, are in an economic downturn. But human rights groups such as Amnesty International are calling on governments in the region to provide assistance to the Rohingyas and let the UNHCR  have access to them.

from FaithWorld:

Lots of advice for Obama on dealing with Muslims and Islam

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President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia.  Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)

Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:

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