Thursday, February 27, 2014

Japan’s Leader Unimaginably irresponsible

As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women,” then-Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi stated in his official apology letter in 2001 to all women who were forced to become sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

The letter is still on the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s official website.  “We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future,” wrote one of Japan’s most popular leaders. Former prime ministers Ryutaro Hashimoto, Keizo Obuchi and Yoshiro Mori, all from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), reportedly also signed the letter.

In August 1993, chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, also from the LDP, issued a statement on comfort women. “Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse[...]”

The two official apologies only support the argument that it is very difficult to understand why the current Japanese government pretends to be completely oblivious to Japan’s World War II history. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said last week that the Cabinet would re-examine the official apology. China and South Korea have criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for backpedaling from past Japanese apologies and acknowledgements of wartime atrocities.

The Abe administration has eroded Japan’s credibility in the eyes of the international community by questioning the policy of its predecessors on the issues of sex slaves in Asia, including Indonesia, during World War II.

It is totally understandable that Abe’s government needs a powerful impetus to unite the nation amid his efforts to help the world’s third largest economy reassert itself on the global stage and address tension with its giant neighbor China and, to a certain extent, South Korea and North Korea.

Abe, however, has humiliated his own nation by repeatedly opening an old wound. In the Google age it is all too easy to find the truth about Japan’s dark past.

”I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations,” said Koizumi in 2001. Abe should learn from Koizumi.
The Jakarta Post Editorial


How well did you know Schapelle Corby during the time you were in Kerobokan?
“I knew her very well.”
Were you in for the same offence?
“Well, not exactly the same stuff but it included Indonesian marijuana, and let me tell you it’s shit, but it attracted a sentence up to 15 years. I was set up!”
But isn’t everyone ‘set up’?
“Well, I was!”
Was Corby?
“Sort of, she didn’t know about that lot. It was her brother, Mick (pictured with Schapelle after her release) and he’s a brain-dead f...wit yobbo. When I spoke to him, all he wanted to talk about was the shit quality of the Indo stuff. But Schapelle’s sister, Mercedes runs the whole show and let me tell you, she is a low bitch of a thing. Her husband, Wayan caught her playing up with a half Indian bloke and they split, but he still tries to help Schapelle. He’s a decent guy.”
So why did her brother let her take the rap?
“He had no choice, if he had put his hand up too, it would have meant they both got twenty years.”
How long did you get?
“A fair stretch, but I had to buy my way out. I hadn’t even been sentenced because they were waiting to see if I was able scrape up enough cash to get out. When I finally did, the sentence amounted to exactly the same time as I had spent on remand in Kerobokan and in the Dog Box at Denpasar.”
How much did it cost you?
“All up, $135,000 and even then my solicitor wanted another $25,000 at the last minute. They had drained me of every dollar I could borrow. I told him I couldn’t raise one more cent, so he let it go at that. I only saw him once or twice, he was a greasy looking Indo guy in a Rolls Royce with gold jewellery dripping all over him. I don’t know for sure but I suspect he gets roughly 40% and the rest is shared around between judges and officials. But I don’t know the exact split.”
So why didn’t Corby buy her way out?
“She was determined to use every cent she could get her hands on to go for an appeal. But the AFP made that impossible. They just kept tripping her up making sure she had no money from any tell-alls, even tho it was completely outside any Australian jurisdiction.
 Although Mercedes got a fair bit for doing different things.”
Are you saying the AFP were involved in keeping her in there?
“What do YOU think? They are in it up to their necks, have been for years and they are scared shit about any interviews, so are the Indonesians. The Australian Consulate knows all about it too. What do you reckon that overkill raid on Channel seven was all about? Don't tell me thirty AFP goons are THAT keen to contribute to Australia’s internal revenue. They are shitting themselves. And the Indos will never allow her to do an interview anyway.”
Tell me about Corby, did she do it tough in there?
“Yeah, pretty tough. Like me, she only had the basics.
Was she affected mentally?
“No, well, not to the extent they were claiming. She did hard time but always appeared on top of it to me. Her boyfriend helped her a lot.”
Was her boyfriend allowed to stay with her?
“Not really, they could get off together under a sheet during the day, but if the guards caught anyone having a quickie they’d stop them.”
There was talk of a baby.
“That’s media bullshit. She had put on a bit of weight at one time there, that’s all.”
I hear Kerokoban is awash with drugs.
“Oh yeah, mainly Indo marijuana and opium, not much ice or any of that stuff.”
How is that allowed to happen?
“Look, you need to understand that Kerobokan is a proper company, a corporation. Indonesian Police have no jurisdiction there, they need a Court Order just to get inside and by the time they get one, everyone, including the guards and inmates, have been tipped off. The jail makes its own money and gives you nothing. Everything from soap to food has to be brought in with the guards copping a 50% mark up.”
Isn’t there a kitchen?
“Yeah, but the kitchen food is inedible, chooks gizzards and rice, it’s rotten. They make it like that so you have to bring in your own food. That’s where the guards make their money. There is one inmate there with a TV, a double bed and everything he wants. He’s the main drug supply guy and the guards really look after him.”
Why haven’t you sold your story?
“I can’t say too much about that. But I’ll tell you what happened with the TV channels: Nine and Ten didn’t want to know about any interviews, in the end Seven dropped it because the ratings had just come in and anything about Corby had bombed, it just wasn’t a goer anyway! The Indos would never have allowed it, otherwise she'd have been straight back inside.”
So, from the time you spent with Corby, do you believe she is guilty?
“Let me put it this way. She wasn’t an active player in the Corbys’ game, she was a party girl and was used by Mercedes and the family. Her dickhead brother thought he was a kingpin dealer but he got careless and she was the one that took the rap for the both of them.”
Was Schapelle using drugs inside?
“No, Schapelle never took any drugs in the time I was there, but she was on some medication for a while.”
So will the truth eventually be known?
“Doubt it, can’t see any benefit in putting her family in the shit. I reckon the whole thing will just die.”
[The interviewee insisted on anonymity. Certain details have been altered that do not affect the substance of the informant's opinion in order to protect the person’s identity. My opinion has been given in previous articles and I don’t intend to expand further on it.]
‘Pickering Post’

Small and medium business speaks up in Vietnam

The Pakistan-China Corridor

A new project will give Pakistan the tools of globalization. 

Will it use them?

Historian Daniel Headrick made the crucial connection between means and ends in the projection of global influence. For instance, Headrick argued that the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, acted a tool of empire for the great powers of the nineteenth century. The building of a canal through the Sinai Peninsula not only  made trade and empire in Asia faster by avoiding the Cape of Good Hope, but more economical too. This was particularly the case for the world’s superpower, Great Britain. For Britain, the Suez was an important strategic consideration in its imperial outlook, making the transport of goods, officials and soldiers to Bombay and other key colonial hubs easier and affordable. At the same time, the canal aided the wider globalization process of the nineteenth century, which opened Asia up to the advent of Western adventure capitalists with exploitation and domination never far from the surface. The Suez Canal acted as a “tool of empire,” as Headrick put it, and in a small but important way, the world became that much more global—all to the benefit of those Western nations that could harness of the power of the sea.

Headrick’s argument turns on a profound if easily overlooked point: those with easy access to the sea-lanes of the world invariably have the tools for global power and trade. Even today, the laws of economic scale dictate that air and rail, while important in their own right, will always be poor cousins to the efficiency and capacity of container ships and waterborne trade.

Despite the fact that the free trade zone port of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan has been an unprofitable enterprise with operational control now in Chinese hands, its potential remains. If anything, the development of the deep ocean port and an associated international airport, as well as the creation of a transport corridor connecting Gwadar to China’s easternmost province of Xinjiang, is a game changer for the Central Asian region. In Beijing this February, President Mamnoon Hussain and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a series of agreements designed to breathe life to the corridor project. In the coming years, the once sleepy fishing enclave of Gwadar will become a staging ground for the geopolitical reorganization of the region.

With the development of the corridor, Central Asia, traditionally an economically closed region owing to its geography and lack of infrastructure, will have greater access to the sea and to the global trade network. For Afghanistan and Tajikistan, both of which have signed transit agreements with Pakistan, it will provide a more economical means of transporting goods, making their export products more competitive globally. For China, meanwhile, the corridor will provide it with direct access to the Indian Ocean, enabling China to project itself strategically into the mineral and oil rich regions of Western Asia and Africa (and beyond). And for Pakistan, the project provides the country not only a third deep-sea port but also a better connected gateway into China’s backyard, giving Pakistan the potential to make good on its free trade agreement with the dragon economy.

In purely realist terms, the project makes Pakistan a complicit satellite in China’s attempt to break the U.S. encirclement of Asia. Commentators link Gwadar to China’s numerous other port facilities and corridors developed in partnership with other nations. This “String of Pearls” looks much like a noose around Southeastern Asia as far as India and the United States are concerned. India in particular has looked on with continued unease at the Pakistan-China corridor and port in terms of its effect on the maritime balance of power in the Indian Ocean. Ideally, if regional relations were better, the corridor would be a circuit linking the three economic powerhouses of the region, China, Pakistan, and India (as well as Iran for that matter), integrating the economic systems of South Asia and Central Asia.

Nevertheless, the corridor will play a crucial role in advancing Pakistan’s economic power. Exporting, transiting, and transporting goods into and out of Central Asia and carrying them away on the current of the world’s sea lanes, the Pakistan-China corridor will be a vital factor in Pakistan’s economic future. The corridor is best thought of as a comprehensive infrastructure package encompassing a wide range of spinoffs, including gas and oil pipelines, railways, an expressway from Karachi to Lahore, fiber-optic cabling, metro bus and underground services for key Pakistani cities. One could even link China’s financial assistance in the development of nuclear power plants in Pakistan to the wider picture.

However, it is the same circular argument. The security situation must improve and reform, both economic and social, is required if the future economic prosperity of Pakistan is to be guaranteed. Whether Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have the technocratic and entrepreneurial acumen to develop a bold economic strategy out of the corridor is unclear. For Sharif, the PML-N, and many of Pakistan’s ruling elites for that matter, there is a tendency to think purely in terms of developing heavy industries, of state owned enterprises, and of “guns over butter” (case in point: Pakistan has nuclear weapons but has still to achieve a reliable source of power). This populist approach to the political economy is based on a desire to maintain a military-industrial complex capable of competing against India, the chief rival in the region.

In reality, agriculture, chemicals, textiles, and various other manufactured items are the stuff of Pakistan’s true productivity—items that are tradable on the global market and capable of boosting national income. Pakistan has always been well placed to export given its access to the Indian Ocean and proximity to key markets in the West and East, to say nothing of its international reach through the Pakistani diaspora and the fact that it has the third largest English-speaking population in the world. Despite government absenteeism—that reoccurring failure within the political sphere to respond to the Taliban and to the reactionaries that routinely thwart Pakistan’s potential—as well as rampant inflation and a serious lack of currency reserves, Pakistan’s private sector has proven resilient, capable of going in for global trade with the right encouragement. The cue is now for the Pakistani government and the business community to formulate a more global economic policy.

As it stands, the failure to fully capitalize on the free trade agreement between China and Pakistan demonstrates the need for a major policy effort to make the most of the corridor. For one, the Pakistani government needs to place greater emphasis on trade relations in its overall foreign policy as well as foster the exporting aspirations of small and midsize companies. Expansive economic policy, continued liberal reform, and, above all, an improved security situation are the formula needed to make full use of the tools of globalization which Pakistan will soon have at its disposal.

Christopher Ernest Barber is a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland, specializing in the history of  international arbitration and the development of globalization, commerce, and trade.