« Ma’ruf Amin: Jokowi’s Islamic defender or deadweight? » by Greg Fealy, 28/08/2018, New Mandala
The image was incongruous: President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who wants his presidency defined by Indonesia’s rapid economic development and modernisation, stood awkwardly before the media on 10 August with his newly announced vice-presidential candidate, Ma’ruf Amin, a 75-year-old conservative Islamic scholar clad in traditional sarung and sandals. Answering criticism of his choice, Jokowi praised his running mate as “an untarnished figure, a wise ulama (Islamic scholar) who is respected across the Islamic community”. He proclaimed that with Ma’ruf on his ticket religion and nationalism would complement each other.
Indeed, Ma’ruf Amin is the most powerful ulama in the nation. Since 2015, he has occupied two pre-eminent positions: rais aam (president) of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the nation’s largest Muslim organisation; and chairman of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), the paramount state-endorsed body for issuing rulings on Islamic issues. Prior to this, he was an influential member of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Presidential Advisory Council (Wantimpres).
The story of how Ma’ruf came to be Jokowi’s presidential partner tells us much about the dynamics of contemporary Indonesian politics. As many commentators have observed, the president’s search for greater Islamic credibility was the primary reason for Ma’ruf’s elevation. But to explain why Ma’ruf rather than one of the many other prominent Islamic leaders was chosen requires a closer look at his career and sources of legitimacy. Conservatism has been an important, but by no means the only, element in his rise.
Podcast : Panel on Nicholas Farrelly’s « Thailand’s triple threat: culture, politics, and security », 30/06/2017, New Mandala
New Mandala co-founder Nicholas Farrelly joined an expert panel comprising Tyrell Haberkorn (ANU), Sunai Phasuk (Human Rights Watch), and John Blaxland (ANU) to discuss his paper, Thailand’s triple threat: culture, politics, and security, to be published by the Lowy Institute for International Affairs. The event was hosted by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and was moderated by the Lowy Institute’s Matthew Busch.
The Lowy Institute have made audio available via SoundCloud, which can be played below.
Mounting threats to Thailand’s order by Nicholas Farrelly, 11/07/2017, Nikkei Asian Review
A new king, old generals and southern conflict play on country’s anxieties.
These are nervous times for Thailand. After the death in October of King Bhumibol Adyulyadej, and with his son King Maha Vajiralongkorn on the Chakri throne, anxiety about the country’s long-term direction is building among those who wonder whether the current crop of military rulers has any real appetite for surrendering control.
Since seizing power in May 2014, the generals have sought to stamp out dissent from groups aggrieved at the abandonment of democratic principles. The strongman Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his team worry that forces allied to deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra still wait in the shadows for their chance to re-take power.
For Prayuth, in his preferred role as guardian of the realm, this prospect encourages a blunt approach to opposing views. The defense of the new king — a man with a reputation for erratic behavior — has been steadfast. The country’s strict lese-majeste law is used to tackle critics and threaten those who question the orthodoxy of royalist-military dominance.
Prayuth’s alternative to free-flowing debate is a narrow vision of Thai values, ordained from on high and proliferated through a propaganda apparatus well-honed in the grim arts of manipulating public opinion. While much of the military’s attention focuses on what happens in Bangkok, there is no hiding from the darkest shadow hanging over the kingdom.
In the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat a long-running conflict between local Malay-Muslims and the central government has seen over 6,500 deaths. In this war of attrition, the insurgency shows no signs of losing momentum: It has been regularly attacking symbols of Thai state authority since 2004. Attacks outside the Muslim rebellion’s usual zones of operation are a significant new development.
« Why Singapore is struggling to reinvent itself » by William Pesek, 11/07/2017, Nikkei Asian Review
Roots of today`s problems were visible in the city-state over 20 years ago.
There is a hot new industry in Singapore: Kremlinology.
Paul Krugman once compared the city-state to the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the Nobel laureate had a point. He was not referring to communism or to mass killings, of course — but the art of observing, deducing and obsessing over a secretive organization is again consuming the nation of 5.5 million people. The subject of the latest intrigue is a bizarre spat within the family at the core of Singapore’s astounding success and the row is fueling an unprecedented scandal that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says could dent the nation’s squeaky-clean image.
As far as Singapore’s budding Kremlinologists can tell, the tiff concerns the estate of Lee Kuan Yew, who died in 2015. Some of Lee’s children accuse their brother, the current prime minister, of preserving a family home that Singapore’s founding father wanted demolished. They took to social media to air the dirty laundry of a family that long maintained a facade of having none. Many are asking what is really going on and what the first family brawling means for the trajectory of Singapore’s top-down political and economic system.
The echoes of Krugman’s 1994 critique are impossible to miss. His over-the-top comparison was this: Lee Kuan Yew’s model of appropriating domestic savings, championing state-linked companies and steering the workforce into moderate-paying jobs « would have done Stalin proud, » but would ultimately prove unsustainable. The fallout from that unsustainability is now the biggest challenge facing the younger Lee. Efforts to recalibrate the engines of growth away from demographics to greater productivity and innovation are not doing Singaporeans proud.