At meeting with Maria Chin, Ambiga, NGO leaders, Obama says US backs their ‘work’

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Civil society activists sit down to a meeting with US President Barack Obama (right) at his hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 21, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Civil society activists sit down to a meeting with US President Barack Obama (centre) at his hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 21, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — US President Barack Obama today expressed support for the efforts by civil society groups here, when he met leaders from several Malaysian organisations at the US embassy today.

In the rare meeting that included Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, Negaraku patron Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, C4 director Cynthia Gabriel, and Nisha Ayub from the Justice for Sisters group, among others, Obama described Malaysia as a country with diverse faiths and cultures that will benefit from allowing a multitude of voices to be heard.

“Many of you civil society groups are concerned about any constrictions on civil liberties and civil rights, and also in expanding the boundaries of civil society so that people here in Malaysia and around the region are able to have their voices heard.

“We very much appreciate the work that they do. One of the reasons I want to meet with them is to send a clear message that the US stands behind the important work that they are doing on a day-to-day basis,” he said in opening statements at the meeting.

Obama stated that the US firmly believed that having a strong civil society was necessary to achieve more accountable governance, and that it was his country’s policy to meet leaders of such groups during his trips abroad.

He also described Malaysia as make remarkable advances in the areas of freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly, among others. Read more

100,000 SPM failures if English compulsory, says deputy minister

Source: The Malaysian Insider

The Education Ministry shelved its plans to make English a compulsory subject from this year’s SPM examinations due to the high number of failures expected, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported yesterday.

Its deputy minister P. Kamalanathan told the regional broadcaster his officers had tested out the potential scenario with implementing the policy this year and found out that 25% of the students would fail English.

“If English was a compulsory subject this year, 2015, we would have had about 25% of the students failing SPM.

“We have about 400,000 students sitting for the examination. A 25% failure rate would give us about 100,000 of students not being able to get their certificates. That’s a concern,” Kamalanathan was quoted as saying by CNA. Read more

Standard anti rasuah TPPA tinggi, jadikan negara bertanggungjawab, kata Obama

Sumber: The Malaysian Insider

Presiden Amerika Syarikat (AS) Barack Obama menyampaikan ucapan beliau menekankan kepentingan TPPA di Asean Business and Investment Summit di Kuala Lumpur hari ini. – Gambar The Malaysian Insider oleh Najjua Zulkefli, 21 November, 2015.

Presiden Amerika Syarikat (AS) Barack Obama mengatakan hari ini Perjanjian Perkongsian Trans-Pasifik (TPPA) mempunyai standard anti rasuah paling kuat berbanding perjanjian perdagangan lain.

Berucap pada Persidangan Perniagaan dan Pelaburan Asean 2015 di Kuala Lumpur Obama berkata, ini akan menyebabkan negara terlibat menjadi lebih bertanggungjawab.

“Ia mensyaratkan negara terlibat mempunyai undang-undang anti rasuah termasuk memberi rasuah kepada penjawat awam.

“Ia mensyaratkan negara terlibat menguatkuasakan undang-undang ini,” katanya.

Obama turut menggambarkan perjanjian itu sebagai mempunyai standard paling tinggi berbanding perjanjian perdagangan lain.

“Bukan sahaja ia akan mewujudkan peluang pekerjaan, ia juga akan mewujudkan undang-undang perdagangan lebih kuat bagi Asia Pasifik,” katanya. Read more

Asean Missing Social Agenda — Charles Santiago

Source: The Malay Mail Online

BY CHARLES SANTIAGO

An opinion piece - file pic

An opinion piece – file pic

NOVEMBER 21 — It’s the 27th time that Asean heads of states and world leaders, such as yourselves, will be meeting to discuss the initiative for Asean integration, which deals with the gaps in economic development in the region, besides meetings with other dialogue partners such as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

The formation of the Asean Economic Community in the next six weeks, similar to that of the European Union, which is characterised by a single market and the free intra-regional flow of goods, services and investment will be the main focus of the meetings and has captured the imagination of global and regional economic observers.

Asean has been mouthing that it works in the interest of the people. But the economic integration, fashioned to look as if it prioritises the welfare of the people, only focuses on Business Asean and not Social Asean.

Business Asean, which includes the free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, European Union-Asean trade deal or the recently concluded Transpacific Partnership Agreement, promote multinationals, Asean big businesses and lobbyists.

The social dimension to the integration efforts by the ten member countries — Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines — is therefore sorely missing. Read more

LGBT rights, same-sex marriage should be respected by state, says Obama

Source: The Malaysian Insider

US president answering questions from youths at the Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur last night. He says marriage as a civil institution by the state should be available to everybody, not just some. – Reuters pic, November 21, 2015.

US president Barack Obama explained same-sex marriage law to young leaders from Southeast Asia at a town hall session in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, saying that government policy on civil marriage should be equal for all persons.

People of different sexual orientation deserved respect and dignity “like everyone else,” he said when answering a question from a bisexual youth from Thailand, named Dara, who asked if anyone should be sent to jail for their sexual orientation.

“The simple answer to that is no,” Obama said to applause from a crowd of about 500 youths representing 10 Asean countries under the US Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).

Obama said that while people had their own religious and cultural traditions, no one should force anyone to behave in a certain way.

“Part of the point we made in this debate was, if a church or mosque or temple does not want to recognise those marriages, they shouldn’t be forced to have to marry somebody contrary to their religious beliefs.

“But marriage as a civil institution by the state should be available to everybody, not just some. Read more