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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

LETTERS & COMMENTS


Mahathir and Anwar

YOUR APPARENT HOPE FOR a contest for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) between Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his deputy Anwar Ibrahim will be dashed ["Power Play," Cover, Oct. 20]. You cannot draw similarities between Anwar and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or Musa Hitam or Ghafar Baba. Razaleigh, Musa and Ghafar are Dr. Mahathir's contemporaries. They have their own ambitions. Anwar is likely to keep his word not to contest against his mentor. Anwar needs Mahathir at the No. 1 spot as long as possible.

Each is fully aware of a bloody battle down the line to the grassroots level if Anwar decides to take on Dr. Mahathir. Such a contest would be justification for leaders at branch and divisional levels to indulge in money politics and otherwise corrupt politics. This is the culture that both Dr. Mahathir and Anwar want to wipe out within UMNO.

The withdrawal of Daim [Zainuddin] and the loss of Sanusi [Junid] is not an indication that Dr. Mahathir is losing his grip on the party. Daim's man won in Merbok. Abu Bakar, who upstaged Sanusi, is a very loyal supporter and admirer of Dr. Mahathir. Daim has an independent mind. He did not find it worth his while to engage in a political contest. He is a businessman and family man. To date he has offered his professional services to UMNO. He can still serve his friend Dr. Mahathir in his capacities as economic adviser to the government and UMNO treasurer without holding the post of divisional head.

Abu Bakar won because his style is more appealing to the Malays. He talks less and makes fewer mistakes. The Langkawi episode [Sanusi's loss in that division] is a blessing in disguise for Dr. Mahathir. UMNO delegates are expected to renew and strengthen their pledge of support for the president at the coming party general assembly. So much for him losing his grip!

Anwar's past makes him a suitable party man. He relates well with party folk. He is their champion. Squatters, refugees and factory workers air their grievances to him. He listens well and speaks with assurance. He develops good grassroots support. In doing so, he makes the job of his boss easier; he reciprocates by giving the party back to his boss. They surely have mutual respect and mutual trust.

Abdul Rahman Othman
Muar, Johore
Malaysia


Safety in APEC

WITH THE NEXT APEC meeting in Osaka not far away ["Which Way?" EDITORIALS, Oct. 27], we should consider the reasons for economic development and the steps we need to take to ensure that development meets social policy objectives. Freer trade within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum requires all of us in the region to take more than a one-dimensional 18th-century economist's view.

For that reason it is good to see that the APEC Eminent Persons' Group is starting to explore one of the many facets - product safety - which will need to underpin APEC (or ASEAN) to see that free trade is also fair trade. Mutual recognition of quality certification between countries is one such facet.

The quality process for products is inextricably linked to the labor standards which production staff enjoy. High labor standards should be regarded as an input to economic development, not an output from it. A step by step approach, however, means that core labor standards should come first.

The issues of product and labor standards, and the need for environmental standards and resources which are planned now to match industrial growth in the region are extremely important. On them rest not only the safety and health of workers, but also of the communities of our respective countries. Economic growth only makes sense if it serves social objectives.

The challenge for us all is to develop agreements for the regional community which address not just capital, goods and services, but also labor standards and social conditions, structural adjustment, education, cultural exchange, human rights and responsible environmental management.

The challenge for the Osaka meeting is to develop mechanisms to meet these objectives.

G.A.Taylor
Program Coordinator
Occupational Health & Safety
Curtin University of Technology
Perth
Western Australia


A Focus for the U.N.

I STRONGLY FEEL THAT the United Nations is losing ground in gaining the respect of some member nations, most especially the Third World countries ["Taking Stock," EDITORIALS, Oct. 13]. It is important to keep our focus on what the U.N. stands for - to support, defend and promote world peace and human rights. We cannot speak of human rights without considering the importance of human dignity and how it affects the lives of every person on earth. I would like to focus on the subject of human dignity.

We have seen in Beijing a colorful spectacle involving varied personalities that led to a free-for-all, a showdown to show "who is the strongest of them all." Was the Conference on Women really necessary or was the U.N. forced to hold it due to "influential" forces around it? It is true that women need to be heard, and much were they heard in Beijing. The event only tarnished the good name of the U.N. in relation to its mission in protecting the dignity of all women.

Whose voice was heard in Beijing? Was it the voice of the majority? Or the voice of the strong U.N. member nations? Did the final draft of the Platform for Action speak on behalf of the mother, the cleaning woman, the laundry woman, the street cleaner and thousands of other women of simple bearing who seek to be heard in order to defend the dignity and self-respect befitting women of their status?

What is the U.N. trying to achieve in sponsoring conferences like the one in Beijing? I understand that another conference is scheduled next year, on the Habitat. Preparatory work is being outlined in "genderizing" the various lifestyles of peoples. If the U.N. is a strong supporter of human dignity and world peace, then let it be shown in defending the rights and freedom of every human being without using or adhering to the enemies of human dignity: licentiousness, degradation of traditional values and self-interest.

The U.N. has so much to offer the world in terms of order and harmony among nations. Yet if the strong member nations exert their power over the weaker ones, then we have missed the purpose of why the U.N. was established - as a true representative of the world's nations and interests in promoting peace and human dignity.

Ana Maria Capistrano
Makati
Metro Manila


Okinawa Pain

THAT THE JAPANESE IN Okinawa are angry over the rape of a 12-year-old girl is understandable and everyone is sympathetic about it ["Okinawa in an Uproar," EYEWITNESS, Nov. 3]. One question, however, does come to mind given that [in World War II] Japanese soldiers must have raped countless innocent girls who could also have been aged 12. Are the feelings of those victims any different?

The American soldiers must pay for their crime. What about the comfort women who were raped daily in captivity? How are the Japanese going to settle their criminal debts? Surely some of the rapists are alive today. The pain is the same.

S.H. Ooi
Singapore

Send e-mail to editors@asiaweek.com, Attn: Letters Department. All letters intended for publication must include the writer's name and address. Please include a telephone number if possible. Identities will be withheld when necessary. Letters are edited as clarity, space and accuracy of expression require, but our publishing a letter does not invariably mean we agree with everything or even anything in it.


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