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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.

Protesting Is A Right Not A Crime
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Protesting Is A Right Not A Crime

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan, journalist, in The UB Post (July 15, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @ajplus on Twitter)

Protesting Is A Right Not A Crime

The Constitution of Mongolia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulate that everyone has the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and to the freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. Yet, the government and law enforcement authorities are severely violating this fundamental right, a new study finds.

Amnesty International Mongolia has conducted a new study titled “Law Enforcement During Covid-19”. The first chapter focuses on the right to protest and assess how Mongolia handled public demonstrations. In the wake of the pandemic, the government, State Emergency Commission and Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s Office passed a number of decisions and resolutions “limiting” the right to protest. Nevertheless, the public has held peaceful demonstrations, marches, online petitions, vigils, unintentional mass demonstration, people-less protests, flash mobs, sit-ins, and civil disobedience to express their objection, disapproval and dissent toward the decisions and measures enforced by the authorities.

As for the resolutions passed by the Ulaanbaatar mayor to limit the right to gatherings, Amnesty International has concluded that it is within the right of the mayor to make such a decision within the city territory. These resolutions also provided for the imposition of penalties and the arrest of anyone who organizes or participates in a demonstration or assembly during the pandemic.

Mongolia must review its laws and regulations to ensure all citizens can exercise their rights, especially during the pandemic. The current legal system has limited the freedom of expression and right to protest, causing distress and harm to all sides. The more detailed the law and due process, the better and quicker issues can be resolved.


Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?
Monday, August 9, 2021
Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?

Jaya Suprana, pianist, composer and founder of Sanggar Pembelajaran Kemanusiaan (Humanity Learning Center), in Kompas (August 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: isawasi)

Are People Still Intolerant and Racist?

In 2001, after then president Abdurrahman Wahid lifted the ban on celebrating the Chinese New Year, the message was that racism was no longer an issue in Indonesia. Personally, I am friendly with fellow citizens of different ethnicities and religions without ever having encountered any racism or intolerance. When reporters from The New York Times and CNN interviewed me about allegations that in Indonesia today there is still discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, I firmly emphasized that Indonesian people are neither racist nor intolerant as some in the foreign press have said.

When the coronavirus epidemic was rampant, however, the question of racism and intolerance resurfaced. I started to have doubts about my own personal belief that the Indonesian people are tolerant and not racist. It was beyond my knowledge that minority races and religious minorities were still being treated unfairly and in an uncivilized manner. My personal perspective being limited and shallow, I did not know anything about the reality of life in my beloved homeland.

My vision is myopic so I could not see the reality beyond the reach of my sight. So I humbly ask for guidance about the facts on the ground and the parties who dare to violate the law that strictly prohibits racist and intolerant attitudes and behavior. What evidence is there of racist and intolerant behavior in Indonesia?


The President Explains Why Kashmir Matters
Monday, August 9, 2021
The President Explains Why Kashmir Matters

Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in Dawn (August 5, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @PresOfPakistan on Twitter)

The President Explains Why Kashmir Matters

The two years since India unilaterally and illegally stripped Kashmir of its special status have been a somber reminder that our Kashmiri brothers and sisters remain under a brutal military occupation. Despite seven decades of denial of their right to self-determination, the Kashmiris continue their steadfast demand for the right to choose their future. No amount of brutal oppression and atrocities have dented their resolve.

Pakistan and its people are united in their hearts and in their minds with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. We have always stood for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute according to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir and in keeping with the principles of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

The government continues to take steps to highlight the Kashmir cause and Indian human rights violations on the world stage. For the first time in decades, the Kashmir issue has been discussed at the UNSC. Several leaders across the world and international journalists have called out India for its human rights violations.

To divert attention from the humanitarian catastrophe, India has embarked on a campaign to malign Pakistan internationally through a concerted propaganda campaign while actually sponsoring terrorism against my country, as revealed by Pakistan’s dossier on Indian-sponsored terrorism and disinformation.

The struggle in Kashmir is indigenous and has always enjoyed popular support against the Indian military occupation. Pakistan will continue to awaken the world conscience to the plight of the Kashmiris, and I remind the nations of the world that they owe it to the people of Kashmir and to the principles of humanity to let Kashmiris decide their future. Kashmir stays as an unfulfilled promise on the world conscience. The day is not far when the people of Kashmir will be free from the yolk of Indian occupation, Insha’Allah.


Traditional Services vs Digital Platforms: An Inevitable Battle
Monday, August 9, 2021
Traditional Services vs Digital Platforms: An Inevitable Battle

Kim Charm, editor, social policies, in Chosun Biz (June 19, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: KM Solutions)

Traditional Services vs Digital Platforms: An Inevitable Battle

Flagging down a taxi on the street is becoming an outdated practice. Now, most people use their smartphones to access an increasing array of services, including a ride, a trip and cleaning.

Digital platforms are also encroaching into the traditional professional services. The most well-known is the LawTalk, a legal tech company that charges subscription fees to connect attorneys to clients. There are about 4,000 attorneys on the service, which some joke is the fourth largest law firm by revenue size.

Worried about the impact on legal fees, the Korean Bar Association (KBA) updated its internal regulations to punish attorneys offering services on platforms and plans to bring a lawsuit. Not many think that the KBA can win in this battle, however. In two earlier legal attempts, the platform company won by arguing that they are not providing a legal service, but a marketing service. Many expect that the current efforts by the KBA will merely delay an inevitable victory for the platforms.

There are many similar battles between the traditional professional services and the emerging digital platform companies. The Korean Medical Association is fighting to extend review requirements to beauty and medical platforms. The Korea Association of Certified Public Tax Accountants has taken legal action against a digital accounting and tax service.

With the proliferation IT technology, the battle between the digital and the conventional order is expected to spread to even more industries. Digitalization transformation can be inclusive, distributing the benefits more evenly among players, while customers benefit from convenience. Service providers are growing fast and are gaining in the compensation and respect they receive.


Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access
Friday, August 6, 2021
Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access

Nattavud Pimpa, Associate Professor in International Business at the College of Management and the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue of Mahidol University, in Pratchatai (June 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce)

Businesses Should Take Action To Promote The Right To Vaccine Access

To mitigate the health and economic risks associated with unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines, the public and private sectors must coordinate their efforts and resources to address access as a fundamental human right for everyone.

Actors in the private sector, such as multinational corporations (MNCs), SMEs, and local and international startups, should be proactive on working closely with national governments and international bodies on how to support and promote access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for the public.

This issue is complicated by the current high demand for Covid-19 vaccines worldwide as well as the politics of vaccines. Governments lead the way in policy development and the governance of vaccines. Governments also have an obligation to ensure that companies respect human rights and promote them.

Unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines is an obvious human rights issue. It is grounded in broader structural inequalities, putting some populations at greater risk than others. These include legal and illegal migrant workers, low-skilled workers, people with disabilities, and workers on short-term contracts in various sectors. Companies need to design and execute effective and inclusive human rights due diligence strategies that promote access to vaccines for all.

Companies that promote the right to good health via the promotion of access to vaccines could need to re-design their human rights due diligence strategies, bolster their internal capacity to adopt innovation, and engage employees, suppliers, and clients in all steps. Doing so will enhance companies’ resilience, reduce financial risk, and promote management capacity.

In short, the actions that a business takes during this crisis will aid in the recovery of economic prosperity while building a more inclusive and equitable future for their workers, suppliers, and for society in the long run.


Breaking Away From “Digital Defeat” With a New Agency
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Breaking Away From “Digital Defeat” With a New Agency

Murai Jun, dean of the Institute of Geoeconomic Studies and senior fellow at the Asia Pacific Initiative, in The Japan Times (August 3, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Kizuna/The Government of Japan)

Breaking Away From “Digital Defeat” With a New Agency

The government’s Covid-19 response, which led to the public’s worries and dissatisfaction, has been described as a “digital defeat” for two reasons. First, while the internet and mobile technology were widely available in Japan, administrative services using such technology did not function well in tackling the virus. Second, it became apparent that the public could not use, had difficulty using or chose not to use the digital apps and services that were actually provided by the government.

But why did such problems emerge? When the pandemic arrived, countries across the world took various actions to cope with the spread of the virus. It became clear to everyone that there are gaps between governments that actively utilized the digital environment — citizen identification systems and services, infection data, testing services, data on hospital beds, vaccination processes and predictions for the effect of lockdowns — to tackle the virus and those that did not.

Members of the public do understand the power of digital services. And they also became aware of the fact that Japan, unlike other countries, failed to use these services to deal with this significant contingency. That is what made many view the situation as a digital defeat.

The new digital agency has a goal to not leave anyone out. That means realizing a 100 percent digital service coverage for all regions and people.

To lead the global governance regarding the internet, it is necessary to have sufficient discussions on a daily basis to establish trusting relationships with allies and other countries which share the same goals. It is essential for the agency to secure people who can engage in such activities, as well as implementing other policies such as making its officials communicate in English, inviting advisors experienced in international negotiations and holding exchange programs with international organizations.


Politicians Purposely Stir Up Anti-Business Sentiment
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Politicians Purposely Stir Up Anti-Business Sentiment

Jeon Jae-ho, industry editor, in Chosun Biz (May 28, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Steve Boland)

Politicians Purposely Stir Up Anti-Business Sentiment

One of the first tasks undertaken by the new chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) was to research and gain insight on the growing anti-chaebol sentiment. This phenomenon is neither uniquely Korean nor new, but it is imperative to understand public opinion as this trend could lead to more regulation of corporations.

According to two Korea University professors, there are two main reasons contributing to “anti-chaebolism”. First is the close relationship between the chaebols and the government dating back to the late 1940s under president Syngman Rhee, which was deepened under the military dictatorship of president Park Chung-hee. The chaebols were given incomparable preferential treatment to support their fast growth. For many, this was unfair and diminished the legitimacy of the success these business groups.

The second reason is the fabrication and manipulation of the anti-chaebol sentiment by the politicians. Both presidents Park and Chun Doo-hwan built up and tapped into the anti-chaebol sentiments. Under President Kim Dae-jung, certain chaebols were blamed for causing the financial crisis and were punished. Even today, the tradition of the incoming government penalizing the chaebols which were closely associated with the outgoing party continues. Politicians intentionally use the anti-chaebol sentiment to bolster their legitimacy.

From the corporations’ point of view, it is clearly in their interest to regain public trust. People expect the chaebols to play their part by giving back to society, providing good employment opportunities, and fulfilling their corporate social responsibility. There is much speculation about what the new KCCI chairman might do to turn the anti-chaebol tide.


Posture Changes in China’s People’s Liberation Army Affect the Border Dispute
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Posture Changes in China’s People’s Liberation Army Affect the Border Dispute

Suyash Desai, research associate with the China Studies Programme at Takshashila Institution, in The Times of India (August 2, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Sarthak Bikram Panta)

Posture Changes in China’s People’s Liberation Army Affect the Border Dispute

Under the Chinese Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken military reforms intended to make it a world-class force by 2049. Xi has not defined what a world-class force means. But an informed guess is that it would mean being on a par with the US, UK, French, Russian and Indian armed forces.

Although China’s primary strategic direction is reunification with Taiwan and to prepare for the US contingency during reunification, India and other Indo-Pacific countries are also affected by the PLA’s force modernization. India needs to be cautious of at least four changes:

First, China has built dual-use infrastructure in Tibet to prepare for possible offensive and defensive operations on the border. The PLA is much more capable of forcefully changing the status quo on the border with India. With force modernization and improved connectivity, its ability to convert these standoffs into a protracted conflict has increased.

Second, the PLA is shifting from “near seas defense” to “near seas defense and far seas protection” – meaning protect its interests in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean.

Third, China created the PLA Strategic Support Force to increase synergies between its space, cyber and electromagnetic spectrums. This force is responsible for China’s information warfare and electronic countermeasures, cyberattack and defense, and psychological warfare missions.

Finally, China elevated its Second Artillery Corps to the PLA Rocket Force in 2015. This force’s missile systems and rapidly developing space and counter-space capabilities have become critical components of China’s emerging power projection capabilities.

China’s investment in military tech, big data, drone swarms, and other disruptive offensive technologies, its military linkages with Pakistan and the ongoing building of border villages should concern India. These developments have strategic and tactical implications for India’s border dispute with China.


Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign

Pravit Rojanaphruk, senior staff writer, in Khaosod (July 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Government Public Relations Department)

Despite Failed Handling of Covid-19, the Prime Minister is Unlikely to Resign

It is clear for all to see that the government of Gen Prayuth Chan-o-Cha has failed its people with its incompetent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The death rate keeps soaring to new highs. As hospital beds, particularly in Bangkok reached capacity, news and images of coronavirus patients waiting to be cared for or put in ad-hoc wards is heart wrenching. Tens of thousands are set to become unemployed. Thailand would be lucky if the economy does not contract this year.

The inoculation process, originally targeted at 500,000 jabs per day, has fallen far short of that. The government failed to secure mRNA vaccines and have had to do with less effective shots that will hardly ensure herd immunity and offer little protection against the Delta variant.

The call for Prayuth to resign is getting louder by day. In a clear signal that he will not resign, Prayuth said that he will forgo his salary for three months to help fund the government’s battle against the coronavirus, a gesture that elicited more anger than sympathy. It will not bring back the dead because they were not vaccinated in time or help those who lost their jobs. It is just theatrics prolonging Prayuth’s stay in power for at least three months.

Even if Prayuth resigns, and not many are betting on that, there seems to be no visible competent alternative. No general elections can take place without a major risk of significantly exacerbating the pandemic. This means Thailand will likely have to suffer more infections, loss of lives and face absolute economic ruin before any significant political change can occur. The hope is that we do not become utterly destitute and the country fall into ruin before positive change can be achieved because that would be a total tragedy.


A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?

Mohammad Yahya Qanie, founder of the United Nations Association of Afghanistan, in TOLOnews (July 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Graeme Wood)

A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?

Afghanistan’s tumultuous peace process came to a halt after American President Joe Biden’s announcement of a withdrawal plan for US troops. This served as a good excuse for the Taliban to boycott any peace talks, assuming that they will have power after the US withdraws.

The escalation of attacks by the Taliban significantly heightened fears of a total collapse of the governance of the state, possibly leading to the loss of control of Kabul. The region fears something bigger: the Taliban’s ambition to be “regional heroes” for Islamic extremists.

In China, as soon as the authorities caught a whiff of Islamic extremism, they went into full force against them. Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power. But Tehran seeks to deepen its relations with the group as a precautionary measure. The reformation of an umbrella organization for many extremist groups has frightened Pakistan, which has called on the Afghan Taliban for support. If Pakistan wants to play a positive role in the Afghan peace process, it must stop supporting the Taliban.

The Afghan government and political leaders must work towards an Afghan-owned peace process. The Taliban must realize that Afghanistan has paid a tremendous price for its past isolation during their regime, and it cannot afford to do so in the 21st century. If the Taliban want to be accepted, they must articulate peace policies. Delaying the peace negotiations to test the waters is not a smart idea. All the regional states maintain ties to various militias and other armed groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, as a Plan B. The longer the talks remain stalled, the greater the danger of regional countries defaulting to this Plan B, potentially turning Afghanistan into a battlefield of proxy wars that history has never seen before.


The Resurgence of Nationalism
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
The Resurgence of Nationalism

Endo Ken, Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy of Hokkaido University, in The Mainichi (July 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: State Council, The People’s Republic of China)

The Resurgence of Nationalism

In China, tourism of famous sites of the Communist revolution is booming, a way of tracing a proud century of the Communist Party on the occasion of its centennial. This phenomenon might appear to involve poor people poisoned by the one-party dictatorship that sometimes treats human rights and democracy as if they were nothing. But in an emerging country that has overcome its "history of humiliation" and is on the verge of becoming the strongest country in the world, many people seem to become naturally patriotic.

Many people reflexively want to defend their country. Love and pride in one's country is not limited to China, but can be found anywhere and anytime. In this age of globalization, whether it is Tokyo or Shanghai, one tends to see oneself as a replaceable part of a larger system that transcends national borders. Nationalism is the perfect mental stabilizer, anchoring one's ever-changing life in a unique history that continues unbroken.

It must work only when there is a sense of unity as a nation. When a catastrophe occurs in a distant part of a country, the feeling of being a fellow countryman surely intervenes. Nationalism has its benefits. However, when patriotism is imposed "from above" from a position of power, and when people are forced to "ethnically" identify with a certain group, the negative effects can be serious.

Japan is not immune to this kind of nationalism. We should not stop watching China's problems and criticizing them. But if we get so caught up in it and succumb to anti-Chinese peer pressure, then Japan will become a mirror image of China. Nationalism is like a well that never runs dry. The off-putting celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party in China are calling Japan to check itself.


A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

Jan Carlo Punongbayan, PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines, in Rappler (July 27, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Communications Operations Office)

A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

As poor as President Rodrigo Duterte's Covid-19 response has been, so was his last state-of-the-nation address (SONA). A sensible president would have started the speech with the pandemic, the most important issue facing the country. But two hours in, Duterte had still not discussed it. He covered benefits and pensions for soldiers and police, the fight against drugs, and his battle with oligarchs and communists. Same, same.

He did not pay much attention to our economic crisis. He did not mention that the economy is collapsing and that we are again the “sick man of Asia”. He did not mention that nearly 4 million are unemployed. He did not mention that inflation is still above 4 percent. He did not mention that millions are hungry. Instead, he boasted about statistics from before the pandemic such as the drop in the unemployment rate, the increase in government revenue, and improved credit ratings. In the minds of Duterte and his economic managers, our timeline is divided into pre- and post-pandemic. They know their record is dismal. They have nothing to be proud of.

Is it obvious that Duterte does not care about the suffering of Filipinos? The address was empty, with no focus – as if the pandemic and economic crisis have passed.

But there will probably still be a pandemic in 2022, or even longer. So if we want the country to get better, let us all vote right in May next year . 

As depressing as Duterte's last SONA was, the mood rebounded with news of the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal won by Hidilyn Diaz at Tokyo. I cried, to be honest. Faith in humanity was restored. Hidilyn carried not only the barbell, but also the people in a way that Duterte failed to do.


In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

Feliece Yeban, professor of human rights education at Philippine Normal University, in Rappler (July 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nigel Goodman)

In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

The World Bank (WB) report on the dismal state of Philippine education triggered Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones to demand a public apology from the WB for shaming the country. In the absence of national performance metrics data that say otherwise, it is more prudent to take the World Bank report on Philippine education as an opportunity to examine what we need to improve and use lessons and insights from it to frame our expectations of the next president come 2022. We badly need an education president!

The world is talking about the emergence of Society 5.0, or the Imagination Society, where digital transformation and innovation in science and technology combine with the creativity and values of people to solve societal problems, promote wellbeing, and achieve economic development. This emerging society and economy require a pool of human capital with different skill sets that are future-proof, disruption-ready, and innovation-oriented.

The election season is about to start. Candidates must be able to offer concrete education programs that will transition the country’s education system to something that will focus on developing the country’s human capital for Philippine Society 5.0.

The emergency remote learning that the country implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse into the education revolution that is already underway in many parts of the world. We need school leaders who are imaginative and creative, with enough understanding of the new mindset required to transition our system to be future-ready, data-driven, and innovation-oriented. We cannot afford to have school leaders who will do more of the same things.

But first things first, in 2022, we should choose an education president. Everything else will flow from there. We cannot afford to miss the ongoing education revolution.


What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World

Vijay Keshav Gokhale, foreign secretary of India from 2018 to 2020 and Indian ambassador to China from 2016 to 2017, in The Indian Express (July 19, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: CompleteCommunicationsSwe/Pixabay)

What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World

Two high priests of the Chinese foreign policy community, Yan Xuetong and Wang Jisi, have written recent pieces in Foreign Affairs. Their task is to interpret for the outside world what China’s leader Xi Jinping means when he says that “the Chinese people have stood up and the era of suffering bullying has gone, never to return.”

Wang and Yan start by acknowledging that recent changes in US policy mean that relations are unlikely to grow any less tense or competitive. Wang holds America responsible for this adversarial environment. China, according to both, is not to blame in any way, and is simply responding to American provocation.

Both scholars wish to persuade readers (and nations) that unbridled competition can only end one way – badly for America. America is plagued by political dysfunction, socio-economic inequality, ethnic and racial divisions, and economic stagnation. Wang says that Washington must accept that “CPC enjoys immense popularity among the Chinese people; its grip on power is unshakeable.”

Their main message to the Americans is to give up on pressuring China to change its political system as this will be futile, and to return to accommodating the Chinese Communist Party as a legitimate global player. The Chinese message to the rest is to bend to China’s inevitable hegemony.

From India’s perspective, three points might deserve attention. First, the statement that there is a paradigm shift in post-Covid Chinese foreign policy. Second, Yan’s forthright statement that Beijing views America’s so-called “issue-based coalitions” (he presumably includes the Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US) as the most serious external threat to its political security and the biggest obstacle to national rejuvenation. Finally, that China is still offering accommodation if Washington just respects Beijing’s internal order and acknowledges China’s regional dominance.


Looking Back Under The New Normal
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Looking Back Under The New Normal

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Department of Prime Minister and NEC)

Looking Back Under The New Normal

The government has survived the odds to last two years in power. The first challenge that the regime of Prime Minister James Marape met was Covid-19. Just like a child is not terrified by the broomstick in mum’s hand but by the look on her face, it was the enormous fear that made everything seem bleak. But the government moved swiftly before the outbreak was declared a pandemic. The measures it took were criticized but the end story is what we see today – matters could have been far worse.

The PM faced other extraordinary challenges – court battles to remove the government and the economic crisis due to Covid-19. The major risk was the economy – that the entire system could break down. Law and order was another concern. There is no “thank you” in politics. What counts is the whole-of-government approach the ruling coalition adopted as its key strategy. What Marape did was try and put Papua New Guinea (PNG) back on track. Marape became the first PM to give money directly to the people – for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.

The contest is now between those who want to change PNG and those who want to continue with the old normal. Covid-19 is here to stay. People who say all the right things to impress the country, observers, and friendly nations and organizations belong to the old normal. The people are more aware of what goes on today. They want better times and to do away with the old normal.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.