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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?

THE FOREST FIRES IN Indonesia have merely highlighted the massive environmental destruction that is continuing to decimate the natural heritage of the Asia-Pacific region at an ever increasing pace. Virtually every week we are confronted with media reports about illegal logging, coral reef destruction and overfishing, among other problems. Yet very little information is provided by the media about how individuals can make a positive contribution to stopping this nonsense. I would like, therefore, to make the following suggestions:

There are quite a few local and regional "environmental" organizations in the Asia Pacific. I suggest the launching of a special annual publication that would list such organizations in each country, as well as the contact details for the local responsible authority such as the Ministry of Environment. Let's have some facts and figures about what really has happened during the last 50 years. Inform people about how much forest area has disappeared, which reefs are endangered, together with lists of threatened species.

Also, let's have some information about nature reserves and special projects which have been set up to try to preserve the environment. I'm sure that there will be corporate sponsors who would gladly finance the production of such a publication through advertising. There are enough concerned individuals out there who do want to do something, but the relevant information has to be made available in a consolidated and highlighted manner.

The UNICEF "Change for Good" program which has been adopted by several airlines seems by all accounts to have been very successful. How about a similar (small foreign change collection) program for the World Wide Fund for Nature or Greenpeace? According to my information, the operating budget of the World Wide Fund for 1996 was about $74 million (a pathetically small amount by any standard), of which some 40% came from individual donations -- compared to 29% from government contributions and only 4% from corporate donations. In other words, the contribution of each individual does matter.

Mirko Whitfield
Hong Kong


I DISAGREE WITH TWO points brought up in "Gloom Across the Horizon" [THE NATIONS, Oct. 3]. First, you ask why Malaysia took so long to send men to help put out the fires in Indonesia. We are a country without good experience in putting out forest fires. But we made the effort to send our firefighters to Indonesia. What about those countries which do have experience, knowledge and expertise? So far only a few countries have extended a helping hand to Malaysia and Indonesia. So, before we start commenting on one country, take a look around and see how we compare.

You mention the survey done by The Star daily of Kuala Lumpur and also comments from individuals and non-governmental organizations on the action taken by the Malaysian government. We can classify these people as the "No Action, Talk Only" group. To their complaints that the government hasn't taken sufficient action to fight the haze problem, I would ask: "Did you guys take any action to help cope with the problem?" A simple example of inaction: while the government encourages car pooling, how many people (especially those complaining) have taken the initiative to do this? And when government tries to require it through regulation, they make noise again. As the economists say: human needs are hard to fulfill. As citizens we have the responsibility to help our government fight any problem that we face.

"Ginny"
Kuala Lumpur


I HAVE FOLLOWED THE Internet discussions about the haze. There are many constructive comments and suggestions about personalities and politicians. Of course our beloved chief minister of Sarawak has not been spared. However, I am interested to know about the state minister in the post that should have had most to do with the haze, which was so critical that the federal government declared an emergency in Sarawak. This minister has yet to produce his much-needed plan and strategies over our worst-ever environmental problem.

The whole population of Sarawak would like to hear how it was that our Minister of Housing and Environment James Wong Kim Min (who is also in charge of local government) stayed outside the country while his people were exposed to all sorts of possible health problems. Nowadays we cannot afford to have leaders who blow their trumpets during the good times and chicken out during the critical times.

At least our chief minister explained on his return from overseas the reason for his departure, though of course he had gone to the U.S. [to get help] and meantime the Japanese experts turned up. How that happened we do not know.

"Awang Maju"
Limbang, Sarawak
Malaysia


Kerala's Poster Boy

CONCERNING THE GENTLEMAN WITH the "Rappai"-cious appetite you wrote about in "A Poster Boy With an Appetite" [PEOPLE, Sept. 26], I would humbly suggest he do one of the following:

1. Book the next flight to Tokyo and apply to become the first professional sumo wrestler from India.

2. Call the headquarters of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation and prepare for superstardom as its next great attraction.

3. Inform The Guinness Book of Records so that he can be recognized as Asia's (and possibly the world's) heaviest living human and No. 1 trencherman. This will surely lead to a career of being paid plenty to tour the globe and display his talent and tonnage.

Success in any of these areas would assure him of enough money to feed himself and any future wife and children that he says he now avoids.

Howard Hendricks
Nagoya, Japan


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