Saturday, 28 April 2018

Israel drops gauntlet on Malaysia’s help to Hamas

Targeted assassination of researcher in Kuala Lumpur likely part of Israeli campaign to kill overseas Palestinian scientists and engineers


Thousands of mourners gathered in Gaza on Friday for the funeral of Fadi al-Batsh, a respected Palestinian researcher and engineering lecturer who was assassinated by gun-wielding assailants in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on April 21 while heading to a mosque for dawn prayers.

Al-Batsh studied electrical engineering in Gaza and earned a PhD on the subject from the University of Malaya. The slain academic was a member of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, led the funeral prayers and alleged that Israel was involved in the killing.

Malaysian police have issued facial composite sketches of two men suspected of firing at least 14 shots at al-Batsh from a high-powered motorcycle. Authorities have said that the suspects, who remain at large and are still believed to be in Malaysia, were light-skinned and of European or Middle Eastern descent.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, claimed the perpetrators were Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency. He added that al-Batsh was a “liability for a country that is an enemy of Palestine”, a thinly veiled reference to Israel.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Malaysia’s election a de facto vote on China

Premier Najib Razak has built robust relations with Beijing, ties opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad vows to scrutinize and unwind if elected


When Malaysians head to the polls on May 9, their choice will also determine the nation’s future relations with China.

Mahathir Mohamad, the four-party opposition alliance’s nonagenarian prime ministerial candidate and a previous premier, is campaigning in part on resetting Malaysia’s ties to China, a relationship he says has become too one-sided under incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In a recent media interview, Mahathir vowed if elected to put Chinese investments under greater scrutiny, saying that Chinese companies would be welcome to set up operations in Malaysia provided they hire locals while bringing in capital and technology.

The former premier said in the interview that Malaysians currently “gain nothing” from China’s investments in the country. Though Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan alliance pledged in its election manifesto to encourage continued investment from China and other Asian countries, it has also vowed to review all foreign-funded mega-projects.

That includes the China-backed US$13 billion East Coast Rail Line, the US$7.3 billion Melaka Gateway port project, as well as other billions pledged by Beijing toward urban infrastructure, land reclamation and industrial parks.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Monday, 23 April 2018

How Islamic does Brunei want to be?

Sultan's announced move towards full sharia law has been delayed, with some speculating nation fears the strict code could deter Chinese investors


When Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah first indicated in 2014 his oil-rich sultanate planned to implement sharia law, the announcement stirred waves of controversy, with Hollywood stars and rights activists calling for a boycott of the luxury Beverly Hills hotel owned by his sovereign wealth fund.

Four years on, however, the Muslim majority Southeast Asian state has yet to fully implement the harshest elements of the Islamic criminal code, including amputation or even execution for theft, apostasy, adultery and the deemed offense of sodomy.

While Hassanal, who rules as absolute monarch, prime minister and head of state religion, continues to call for the full implementation of sharia law, there has been little public explanation for the delay.

That’s led to certain speculation the sultanate is sensitive to outside perceptions, particularly as the nation courts more foreign investment – including from China – to help diversify its long dependence on energy revenues amid fast depleting supplies.

While nearby Malaysia and Indonesia also enforce laws that exclusively govern the conduct of Muslims, Brunei would be the first East Asian country to adopt strict sharia law at the national level.

Read the full story at 
Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Trump’s trade war pushes Singapore to China

Premier Lee Hsien Loong, a staunch American ally, sides with Beijing as US-led trade tensions threaten the city-state's fortunes



Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent five-day trip to China signaled strongly rebounding ties with Beijing and the trade-reliant city-state’s unease with America’s moves to instigate a potentially destabilizing trade war.

In an address to the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), a talk shop held last week in China’s southern island province of Hainan, Lee spoke candidly on the prospect of souring Sino-US ties, in terms of both trade and global security.

While Lee said that a US-China trade war was “still far from inevitable”, the premier underscored the need “to be prepared psychologically” for such a turn. Strained ties between the rival powers, he noted, “would make it very difficult for all the countries in Asia who are trying very hard to become friends with both, or stay friends with both.”

Lee, a key US strategic ally and staunch advocate of free trade multilateralism, praised China’s leadership’s cautious response to the threat and attempts to defuse the standoff prompted by the Trump administration’s threats to impose tariffs on as much as US$150 billion in Chinese goods.

Beijing has responded with its own proposed retaliatory duties on US goods, targeting mostly agricultural shipments. After meeting with top Chinese officials, Lee told Singapore media that China’s leaders were “trying their best to think through how this can be resolved, trying to protect their position because it’s not possible for any country to be in this situation and not have any response whatsoever.”

Read the full story at 
Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.