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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 AND COMMENT

"To report accurately and fairly the affairs of Asia
in all spheres of human activity,
To see the world from an Asian perspective,
to be Asia's voice in the world"
Mission Statement, 1975


Want to reach Asiaweek?

SHOULD CENTRAL BANKERS DEFEND their currency from speculative attacks by investment bankers? ["Battle Over Asia's Money," COVER STORY, July 18]. If a house is built on sand, then any measure to defend it is palliative. A country's economy should be defended by strong economic fundamentals not by the ephemeral infusion of cash to defend its currency. If investment bankers speculate on the currency, they must have seen some fundamental reason for doing so. Mostly this is not speculation but reading the tea leaves of an economy.

Should central bankers waste energy, time, effort and people's money to defend a currency or should they use these resources to defend the economy instead? If there is a slogan here, it might be: Defend the economy, not the currency. I really doubt that a single economic entity, even a central bank, can force currency markets to move a certain way. You can build a dam, but it will break. You can regulate but not deprive. You can persuade but not stop.

Thads Bentulan
Hong Kong


Muslim Dress: A Double Standard?

"ISLAM CALLING" [THE NATIONS, July 18] calls me, of Islamic faith, to write because the actions by Selangor's Islamic Affairs Department in Malaysia are a double standard, as M. G. G. Pillai concluded [FROM THE WEB, July 18]. Periodic talk in Malaysia of a new Islamic dress code -- banning tight-fitting jeans or low-cut dresses -- baffles many Muslims, as they have been taught the basic Islamic requirements since childhood and don't understand the need to add or modify.

Why target only women? If the Islamic Affairs Department and the muftis are serious in implementing Islamic regulations on clothing in contests, surround and drag off some Muslim men during any game of football, badminton, rugby or sepak takraw. These men, I am sure, contravene Islamic regulations by exposing their knees in public. The mufti could suggest that during games, they wear trousers or sarongs.

What about those who go horse riding? Even though they wear trousers, the trousers at times are tight, thus revealing certain parts of the anatomy which could be interpreted as unIslamic. Why not target them? Could it be that too many powerful people like horse riding? So just go to the beauty contests, where the Islamic Affairs officials can enjoy what is paraded on stage and move only after the results are announced -- which is when, conveniently, these young ethnic Malay women were bundled into a jeep.

The state prosecutor seems to act tough on issues like this, but in other more serious cases in the recent past, his senior peers have been dropping cases since the likely defendants were not [beauty contestants] Fahyu, Noni or Sharina Shaari.

Mohammed Ibrahim
[Address supplied]


THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT'S MOVE to implement Islamic tradition even for non-Muslims might lead to a misconception about the religion ["A compulsory course on Islamic civilization," July 18]. Instead of inviting non-Muslims and opening the door of awareness toward the culture, officials may unconsciously scare them. If Muslim officials want to enjoin genuine Islamic activities, let the trend begin with themselves, coupled with gracious and beautiful preaching (information dissemination) through the mass media.

Racma L. Arumpac
Mindanao, Philippines


A Deadly Pastime

"A HARD NUT TO Crack" [SOCIETY, July 11] on betel-chewing and oral cancer gives a very good impression of the harmful effects of the habit. In Sri Lanka, about 45% of all cancers are oral cancers and most victims have a history of chewing betel nut, sometimes along with smoking and consuming alcohol. In addition to oral cancer, "sub-mucous fibrosis," a pre-cancerous lesion in the mouth, is very common. Though it has not yet been proved, most medical people with experience in this area believe that a causative agent could be aricalin, an alkaloid present in both areca nut and betel leaf, which has an ability to alter the synthesis of collagen fibers and the maturation of fibroblasts.

Dr. Kumara Kaluarachchi
University of Hong Kong


The War on Child Prostitution

IT IS INDICATED IN "An Important Award for Asiaweek" [TO OUR READERS, June 13] that the Sri Lankan government commenced procedures to establish a Child Protection Authority in response to your COVER STORY of Feb. 7 on child prostitution. It is further stated that the Sri Lankan authorities were "shocked and embarrassed" by the events uncovered by Asiaweek. May I draw your attention to the following, which were initiated by the government before the COVER STORY:

1. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga appointed a special presidential committee to make recommendations on "Prevention of Child Abuse" in December 1996. The committee included pediatricians, lawyers, representatives of non-governmental organizations, senior police officers, psychiatrists.

2. This committee, in its initial proposals in January 1997, recommended the establishment of a National Child Protection Authority to address the problem.

3. Pending the establishment of the Child Protection Authority via an act of Parliament, several other measures have been implemented by the government:

• The establishment of a "Help Line" at tel. 441888 and a corresponding postal facility at P.O. Box 1595, to which complaints of child abuse may be made and will be promptly investigated by police.

• The designation of a special section to handle such cases in the Attorney General's Department.

• A start on forming committees grouping pediatricians, probation and child care officers and police at district level to monitor action taken on child abuse cases.

• The initiation of UNICEF-sponsored discussions with members of the judiciary and other relevant professionals engaged in the field, to prevent child abuse.

Dr. Tara de Mel
Adviser to the President
on Social Infrastructure
Colombo


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