“A Political Reading of Najib’s Visit to China”, by Tang Siew Mun


Commentary 2016/69, 1 November 2016

Yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Razak kicked off his week-long official visit to China. The visit, which comes hot on the heels of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “gift” of separation from the US last month,” will be closely scrutinised for signs of a “China turn.”


“Malaysia’s 2017 Budget: A Budget for the 14th General Elections?”, a Commentary by Cassey Lee


Commentary 2016/68, 26 October 2016

On the surface, the recently unveiled 2017 Budget is unremarkable. The total allocation has increased by 3.4% – smaller if adjusted for inflation (2.3% in 2016).  The deficit as a percentage of GDP is projected to decline by a mere 0.1%. As for economic growth, the expected rate is 4%-5% in 2017 – not much different from the 4%-4.5% expected for this year. These figures suggest business as usual, status quo and stability.  However, a detailed reading of the 2017 Budget reveals something else.


“The Religiously Halal is not the Officially Halal…”, a Commentary by Hew Wai Weng


Commentary 2016/67, 24 October 2016

Recently, ‘hotdog’, together with root beer, bacon and other terms made news headlines in Malaysia. It was reported that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has recommended that the pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s rename its ‘pretzel dog’ to ‘pretzel sausage’ if they wished to be granted a halal certification for their product.


“The Death of a King”, a Commentary by Terence Chong


Commentary 2016/66, 14 October 2016 

It is difficult to understate the momentousness of King Bhumibol’s passing. Although his death had long been anticipated in light of his absence from public life, the finality of the situation will mark a watershed for many Thais. Since his ascent to the throne in 1946, King Bhumibol has seen over a dozen coups, approximately the same number of constitutions, and numerous governments. To say that the king has been a figure of stability in the face of decades of political unpredictability is putting it lightly. For many Thais the king was a symbol of all that was pure and good about the country. The monarchy was an institution that existed above the squalor of petty politics and politicking, a moral beacon to turn to when politicians of different stripes descended into indulgences of different types.


“Duterte’s Policy Process”, a Commentary by Malcolm Cook


Commentary 2016/65, 30 September 2016

The predominantly profane language President Duterte uses to announce presidential changes to Philippine foreign and security policy continues to capture headlines. The substance of these changes – distancing the Philippines from the United States and adopting approaches to the South China disputes favoured by China – and the sharp reversal from the foreign and security policy stance of the preceding Aquino administration they represent are causing concern for those that supported the Aquino stance.


“Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering Malaysian Style”, a Commentary by Lee Hock Guan


Commentary 2016/64, 26 September 2016

The Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) is a constitutional body entrusted with the task of delineating federal and state constituencies, preparing and revising electoral rolls, and overseeing all federal and state elections. Originally, the EC’s role in the institutionalization of democratic norms through creating and conducting fair and clean elections was ensured by its autonomy and impartiality being guaranteed by the Constitution.


“Questions on China’s Friendship Treaty Proposal”, a Commentary by Tang Siew Mun


Commentary 2016/63, 16 September 2016

The 19th ASEAN-China Summit held on 7 September 2016 was dedicated to commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-China dialogue relations, which culminated in the release of a Joint Statement. The 1,205 word document reaffirmed the basic principles of the bilateral relations and reflected on the achievements of the past year, including the establishment of a hotline among senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to handle maritime emergencies in the South China Sea and the adoption of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea. The two sides also agreed to designate 2017 as the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation.


“From Regent to Royalty: Bupati’s Appointment as King of Gowa Causes Conflict and Debate in South Sulawesi”, a Commentary by Andrew M. Carruthers


Commentary 2016/62, 15 September 2016

On 8 September, Adnan Purichta Ichsan — the Bupati or “Regent” of Gowa Regency, South Sulawesi — was conferred the title Sombaya Ri Gowa (“He who is revered in Gowa”), effectively declaring him king of the traditional royal polity. His appointment has been widely criticized throughout South Sulawesi as an offensive and unprecedented farce, given that Adnan has no relation to Gowa’s line of hereditary kings. Indeed, the conferral of the title to a “commoner” has infuriated many, especially the followers of Andi Maddusila Andi Idjo, leader of Gowa’s royal family and widely considered to be the rightful Raja of Gowa. From a different angle of vision, however, Adnan is no “commoner.” He is a member of South Sulawesi’s powerful Yasin Limpo family, a political dynasty led by his uncle — the province’s second-term governor, Syahrul Yasin Limpo. Adnan’s appointment is a new episode of an on-going feud between Gowa’s royal family and the Yasin Limpo clan – after Andi was twice defeated by Ichsan Yasin Limpo in elections for district head, and another time by Ichsan’s son, Adnan.


“US Sanctions on Myanmar – An Economic Equation”, a Commentary by Moe Thuzar


Commentary 2016/61, 15 September 2016

The big news for many Burma/Myanmar watchers today is the lifting of remaining US economic sanctions on Myanmar. The US  limited its economic and trade relations with Myanmar since 1989. Recent years have seen the easing of some of these restrictions to boost the US’s trade and investment profile in Myanmar.


“ASEAN Kicks-in the Next Phase of Regional Connectivity”, a Commentary by Sanchita Basu Das


Commentary 2016/60, 15 September 2016

At the 28th ASEAN Summit held recently in Vientiane, the region’s economic integration process advanced into its next phase. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 was adopted to continue the aims expressed in MPAC 2010. This new plan concentrates on five strategic areas: