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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.
I Hear My King Calling
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
I Hear My King Calling

Karma Pedey, Professor, Norbuling Rigter College, in Kuensel (April 25, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gelay Jamtsho)

I Hear My King Calling

The Bhutanese national character and the personality that sets us apart; the national consciousness and identity that so distinctly has become our own today, is the result of the unbending resolution and sharp vision of our kings.

Each era gave birth to a Dragon King as an antidote to the ills and adversities of the time. Each Druk Gyalpo has served a purpose higher than self; each answered the daunting calls of the nation.

When our Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck took over the helm, he embodied the continuity of the great Wangchuck legacy. With his all-embracing love and compassion, His Majesty personified our hopes and dreams.

Today, as the icy hands of Covid-19 grips the world, our king once again struck a deep chord in both the young and the old, as he rushed out to answer the country’s toughest call. Even as many mighty countries lie staggering and broken, we once again stand tall, unafraid and confident, daring to face this Covid-19 storm together.

The National Resilience Fund has provided shelter, created employment, relieved the burden of loan payment and touched the lives of each Bhutanese deeply, lifting their morale and optimism. If the country’s economy doesn’t serve the purpose of its people in times of their need, why have a strong economy, our king reasoned with compassion.

The battle is not over yet. We have heard the emotionally charged words of His Majesty, reassuring us yet cautioning us to remain alert to the possible pitfalls and dangers that can simply come from a careless person’s mistake which can undo everything we have achieved so far. This bids us to gather our heads and hearts to make a personal pledge to take full responsibility to align our efforts and behavior to our king’s efforts to beat Covid-19.


A Story About Masks and National Unity
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
A Story About Masks and National Unity

Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 24, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: observingeye)

A Story About Masks and National Unity

Singapore has gone through four stages of the crisis; imported cases, community transmissions, a second wave of imported infections, and control measures to control the spread of the virus. During the first stage, due to the sudden emergence of cases and the Chinese New Year holiday, many Singaporean people donated a large number of masks to China and their frontline health workers, who were in greater need at that time. As a result, local supply became tight. The Singaporean government had to decide whether to violate international trade rules and restrict the export of masks while taking control all mask production. The government did not take this option. As an open economy, Singapore adhered to international law and trade rules.

National unity helps Singapore overcome difficulties and disasters. Throughout the first three stages, citizens came together to support the government by not stockpiling food and other basic necessities while ensuring medical masks remained available to frontline medical staff who were more in need.

Now Singapore faces a more dangerous fourth stage. Now all citizens have a mask. In addition to the four masks issued to each family, the government has produced a washable and reusable mask for each Singaporean. Meanwhile, medical masks are reserved for frontline medical staff. On online platforms and in retail stores, there is sufficient supply of masks.

When the circuit breaking measures were enforced, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong finally told people that they must wear masks. Implementing this could only be achieved through the joint efforts of government ministers, civil servants, enterprises and citizens. The fierce battle against the virus is still raging, and Singapore will face challenges ahead. Regardless, 2020 is destined to become an important moment in the history of Singapore. Everyone living on this small island is writing Singapore’s story together.


Our Global Heroes – Health Workers and Seafarers
Monday, April 27, 2020
Our Global Heroes – Health Workers and Seafarers

Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (April 24, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nurses Uniforms and Ladies Workwear)

Our Global Heroes – Health Workers and Seafarers

Our overseas workers are modern-day heroes because of the sacrifices they make while working abroad. Their remittances have sustained the Philippine economy. Two sectors – health workers and seafarers – are not only heroes of the country but also of the world, particularly when the coronavirus pandemic has the global community reeling.

Our overseas health workers – estimated at 254,000 – are at the frontline of the fight to save lives of the victims of the pandemic – the US, the UK and the EU in particular. In the UK, 20 Filipino nurses have to date, perished after contracting the disease while on duty.

Our seafarers man the ships that move the global supply chains that feed the world, fuel vehicles, supply the raw materials for manufacturing and deliver the finished products to consumers. They are crucial to the country’s economic recovery with their remittances.

Ninety percent of global trade is carried on ships. Filipino seafarers – some one million of our citizens – account for 25 percent of global seafarers. They rotate in and out of the country in the course of a year, with some 400,000 out across the seas at any one time. They sent home close to US$7 billion in 2019, representing approximately 23 percent of total estimated remittances to the Philippines.

Returning seafarers need suitable accommodations where quarantine and testing will be administered. The plight of the seafarers deserves the support of all, they are the backbone of the global maritime industry: in their own way, they are the frontliners for all of us, providing the medicines and other products we consume.

Healthcare and logistics remain vital as the world emerges from the devastation that the virus has wrought on human lives and their livelihood. So it is crucial that the deployment of these workers be as friction-free as possible.


Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?
Monday, April 27, 2020
Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?

黄瑞泰, teacher at The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), in Oriental Daily News (April 25, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Olga Ozik/Pixabay)

Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?

There are more than six million migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia. They live among us and often work in jobs that Malaysian citizens refuse to do. As such, they are an important source of labor for the overall economic development of the nation. Yet, throughout Malaysia’s Covid-19 crisis, foreign workers including refugees have become the targets of criticism.

Everyone who lives in this country is indeed part of our society. We must not get all tangled up in the issue of nationality as we live through this serious global pandemic. Everyone has their own story with regard to nationality, identity or why they came to Malaysia. Yet what we must focus on right now is whether they can maintain the basic requirements for their dignity and survival.

Malaysia's unique political system has caused society to recognize the concept of "citizen" in the narrow sense of nationality. But anyone who lives in a society is a citizen. In this Covid-19 epidemic, we can all become infected and spreaders of the virus. In this crisis, we are all equal.

The stigmatization of and discrimination against migrant workers and refugees create psychological pressures that we cannot understand. If we continue to ignore, condemn, abuse and show prejudice against them, particularly at this critical time, it will not only fail to solve the problems caused by the public-health crisis but could also lead to a more serious situation that we cannot handle.

If we want to maintain the stability of Malaysian society, everyone should take care of and help each other. Throughout this crisis, no one can be alone. Only with mutual understanding and solidarity can we maintain a stable and secure life.


The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic
Friday, April 24, 2020
The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Muhammad Rajab, Director of Islamic Studies, Tazkia International Islamic Boarding School, Malang, East Java, in Media Indonesia (April 22, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Gunawan Kartapranata)

The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Conducting the requirements of Ramadan this year will without doubt have to come within a different environment. The opportunity to take part in practices such as the evening tarawih prayers will be disturbed, if not cancelled. In previous years, it has always been a problem for mosques to accommodate all the people who want to take part in these prayers but this time around mosques will be less than full, and perhaps even empty.

Nevertheless, the spirit to fulfill religious practice this month should not be allowed to weaken. Tarawih can be performed with your family at home. Indeed, if this is done to avoid damage to the public, the benefits are doubled. We need to understand that the spirit of Islam in blocking all forms of damage is extremely high. This provides the opportunity to make Ramadan this year more meaningful, weighty and perfect if it is combined with a strong “social jihad”.


Defunding the WHO: Trump’s Reckless Decision
Friday, April 24, 2020
Defunding the WHO: Trump’s Reckless Decision

Ali Riaz, Distinguished Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Illinois State University, in The Daily Star (April 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Andrea Hanks/The White House)

Defunding the WHO: Trump’s Reckless Decision

President Donald Trump's decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic is not only reckless and irresponsible, but will also exacerbate the threat to global public health.

Domestic considerations, precisely his focus on his support base, as the driver of his policies—domestic and foreign, have brought disastrous consequences for the United States in the past years. That he and his supporters seem to have very little regard for data, science and diplomacy is on display here, once again. The decision is consistent with Trump's previous actions and his contempt for multilateral institutions. The so-called "America First" policy, which has essentially become the "America Alone" policy, is behind the decision and will further isolate the US from its allies.

In past years, the global standing and influence of the US has eroded, thanks to the changing global political landscape, the rise of China and Russia, the failure of leadership of the Trump administration on global issues, the distance with allies through unilateral foreign policy, and withdrawals from various multilateral arrangements. The failure to contain Covid-19 has revealed a serious weakness not just in public health infrastructure but also in the entire US political system. By contrast, China has been engaged in an aggressive diplomacy since the epidemic began, taking active measures to rewrite the narrative, absolving its responsibilities in the spread of the virus, and remaking its image as a "friend in need".

The US decision to defund the WHO shows the absence of empathy and a disregard for the people of the world. The global pandemic and economic crisis will require global cooperation among countries. The myopic policy of the Trump administration sends the message that the US is abdicating its claim to global leadership.


Home Education in a Crisis – Emulate Discipline of Tea Planters
Friday, April 24, 2020
Home Education in a Crisis – Emulate Discipline of Tea Planters

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Home Education in a Crisis – Emulate Discipline of Tea Planters

The COVID-19 pandemic poses many questions regarding school education. One is why should students return to school at all if technology was used effectively in providing knowledge during this break?

Students have enjoyed using devices to download tutorials sent to them by teachers. One of the advantages is that the students can pick the time of learning. But experts warn that still parents must have some control over their children in the use of learning devices due internet use.

Parents must still make children have a set time to get up and go to sleep. They must also ensure children have regular meal times. Experts also recommend regular breaks and time for children to engage in physical activities.

We can take a cue from the planting community in tea estates. Most planters are alone and away from families; hence there is a tendency for them to go “wild”. Most trainee managers are advised to dress for meals even when they are alone in their bungalow. This is because a person with authority when alone can develop unhealthy or unbecoming habits. Dressing up is a reminder to these planters that discipline is important. Students locked down at homes during this pandemic must follow this habit of planters in maintaining discipline.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the educational authorities accelerate the development of the online learning process. This crisis will push educational authorities to demand more from technology experts and the latter will in return have to sweat to upgrade their devices. Home education using technology opened the eyes of teachers to new dimensions in education. But it also underscored the fact that the life lessons learned inside the boundaries of the school can never be offered by home education, even if the best of technology is used.


Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It
Friday, April 24, 2020
Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 22, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore)

Recognizing How Lethal the Virus Is Will Help Control It

The spread of Covid-19 within guest workers dormitories has become the main battlefield for the authorities. Yet the most dangerous place remains within the community owing to the risk of undetected cases that remain hidden.

There are inevitably people in the community who have been infected with the virus but have not been diagnosed. They may not even know that they have contracted the disease as they are asymptomatic or just have mild flu-like symptoms. These cases are all potential sources of infection and could pass the virus to family members, friends or even strangers. The speed at which the virus spreads from person to person is exceptionally fast and persons without symptoms can also be contagious. For this reason, it is important to wear a mask.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently warned about this danger. The problem is that many people do not understand the power and horror of this virus. They cannot appreciate the need for control measures and blame the authorities for the inconvenience of having to abide by restrictions on their movements and activities. Some have even expressed their dissatisfaction by ignoring these measures and using racial slurs such as the term “Chinese virus”.

The reason why China was able to control the epidemic in Wuhan within a few months is that, after determining the risks, they immediately adopted extremely strict measures to seal the city and Hubei province. This gradually cut off transmission of the virus. We must break the chain of community infection in Singapore. There seems to be no other effective or feasible alternative than the current regulations that have been imposed. For the small number of people who do not heed the advice and insist on breaking the rules, there is no choice but to hold them accountable under the law.


Science Must be the Only Guiding Principle in Relaxing Lockdown
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Science Must be the Only Guiding Principle in Relaxing Lockdown

Kaiser Kabir, CEO of Renata Limited, in Dhaka Tribune (April 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Asian Development Bank)

Science Must be the Only Guiding Principle in Relaxing Lockdown

Most people are aware of the exponential curve that tracks epidemics. It is only through mass testing of random populations that we can get an idea where the disease situation of a country lies on the curve.

Apart from random testing, testing of people showing symptoms of the disease can lead to accurate decisions about isolation or release back into the community. However, these two approaches require many more tests than the government is doing at the moment. There is a general distrust of rapid antibody test kits because of their unreliability.

Moreover, there are only a handful of laboratories carrying out the more sophisticated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. It is vital that testing is ramped up to from a mere 2,000 a day to, say, 100,000 a day. In this regard, the private sector can have a hugely supportive role.

We are all aware that a prolonged lockdown is unsustainable. However, financial distress cannot be the impetus to relaxing a lockdown. Prematurely opening up the economy would invariably lead to mass transmission of the disease forcing us back into lockdown. After all, the sick, dying and dead do not make good workers.

Science must be the only guiding principle in relaxing a lockdown, and hence there is no alternative to mass testing. The government cannot do it all. We in the private sector are ready to offer a helping hand. We appeal to the government to accept our support.


The Plight of Non-Bailable Detainees During the Coronavirus Crisis
Thursday, April 23, 2020
The Plight of Non-Bailable Detainees During the Coronavirus Crisis

Raymund Narag, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Justice and Public Safety, Southern Illinois University, in Rappler (April 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com)

The Plight of Non-Bailable Detainees During the Coronavirus Crisis

As the threat of Covid-19 knocks at the doors of jail and prison facilities, there are discussions on whether to release low-risk bailable and non-violent detainees and prisoners. The Supreme Court will address this issue soon.

One key segment of the detainee population that is seldom discussed is the "non-bailable" offenders, who account for at least 50 percent of detainees in jails and police detention centers. Persons charged with capital offenses may post bail if the evidence of guilt is not strong.

Given that all court hearings are suspended to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, courts cannot conduct hearings to determine the strength of evidence. Non-bailable detainees have no other recourse but to wait until the crisis is over. This is a very precarious state, compounded by jail congestion and the lack of medical resources.

A majority of the non-bailable detainees face drug-related charges and are non-violent first-time offenders. Some may have the capacity to post bail but cannot do so because judges have not ruled on whether the evidence of their guilt is strong or not. Given the threat of infections, being charged with a non-bailable offense, while still presumed innocent, can be a death sentence.

Our courts may adopt the following procedure:

  1. Counsel for the accused will submit a petition for bail, which can be done online to meet social distancing requirements.
  2. The judge will evaluate the case based on an assessment of the public-safety risk.

If deemed a low public-safety risk, the accused can be released on bail, subject to conditions placed by the judge. When the crisis is over, failure to attend court hearings, commission of new offenses, and violation of release conditions may be grounds for re-arrest.


It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims

Tavleen Singh, journalist, in her column in The Indian Express (April 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims

On Twitter daily, there are tweets so filled with hatred and venom against Muslims that it is as if the twits who post them truly believe that there would be no pandemic in India if it were not for our Muslim citizens.

Now, it has never been more important for the religious and political leaders of the Muslim community to come forward and stop Muslims from inviting hatred by attacking doctors and nurses. On April 15 in Moradabad, healthcare workers were assaulted when they were checking on people suspected of having the coronavirus. That was sickening.

If there is one good thing that this virus has done, it is that it has put an end to the problems created by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It has to stay that way. Never before has India more needed to come together to fight a common enemy. If the Muslims have lost trust in Narendra Modi’s government, and they have, it is time for the prime minister to go out of his way to win back this trust. The battles that lie ahead will not be won if we are distracted by violence, hatred and communal tensions.

All over the world today, prime ministers and presidents face the ultimate test of their leadership. Narendra Modi is no exception. His problems are bigger because he is forced to rely on a bureaucracy devoid of both compassion and competence.


Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected

Lean Hooi Hooi, Professor at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Oriental Daily News (April 19, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: esfera / Shutterstock.com)

Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected

From the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan to the time when China was actively battling the epidemic, people from all sectors of Malaysian society contributed money and support by providing healthcare equipment and materials for China. Malaysian private enterprises delivered these items through various channels, while citizens came together to cheer on the Chinese people.

In mid-March, when the number of confirmed cases in Malaysia also started to rise, the government had no choice but to launch their own measures to control the epidemic. Now, Malaysia is facing its own shortage of medical supplies. China has responded by sending necessities including test kits, ventilators and protective personal equipment, while Chinese enterprises have made donations through the embassy. China also sent a team of medical experts to share their experiences with local counterparts.

This crisis has helped demonstrate the deep friendship between Malaysia and China. President Xi Jinping said that "the friendship between nations lies in the mutual love between the people and the mutual love of the people lies in mutual communication." Establishing common ground is the fundamental purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There are three levels of people-to-people exchange: mutual understanding, trust and friendship to build a community of common destiny. The BRI enhances not only mutual understanding and friendship but also economic cooperation.

The Covid-19 virus presents a crisis and an opportunity to bring Malaysia and China closer. After the crisis, the people of the two countries will continue to work together to promote the movement of people, logistics and capital. This will ensure that the heavily damaged Malaysian economy can recover as quickly as possible.


Distance Learning: Is it Working?
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Distance Learning: Is it Working?

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar, columnist, in The UB Post (April 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Distance Learning: Is it Working?

This is the first time that online lessons are being offered due to pandemic prevention in Mongolia. Students have been complaining that e-learning is not effective and some of them have asked for a refund of their tuition.

A student at the Mongolian National University for Science and Technology said: “The courses provided by teachers are ineffective, and most of the materials are searchable on the internet. We lack information on how to register our lesson attendance, when to complete assignments and ways to ask questions from teachers about the things we don't know. Everything is unclear. Provincial students cannot attend classes and drop out. Many students work to earn their tuition fee. Ineffective online lessons are a waste for them.”

A student at the Mongolian National University of Education complained: “It was not possible to attend online classes because of the poor network. When my phone connects with the slow internet, it takes a long time to load. The government's decision neglects provincial students. How can provincial students make up for lost time if they miss classes? We need to be given that opportunity.”

No one was ready for this situation. However, it is a shame that students complain that they don’t want or can't adapt to online classes. Some students are demanding too much – government stipends, free public transportation, and free access to the internet. Students need to understand that they are adults and are responsible for their own welfare. Understanding that the crisis has impacted all of us, not just them, and working with others to find the best way to resume their learning will be a much more effective attitude for achieving their goal. Distance learning itself is not the problem; it is an opportunity that has benefited millions of learners around the globe.


In the Coronavirus Crisis, Media Censorship will Backfire
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
In the Coronavirus Crisis, Media Censorship will Backfire

Huma Yusuf, journalist, in Dawn (April 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

In the Coronavirus Crisis, Media Censorship will Backfire

As Covid-19 rips through the global population, governments are trying to suppress the news for various reasons — to keep public order and minimize panic, to burnish state credentials for crisis management, to score political points, or to seize control of the press and strengthen authoritarian control.

Newspaper publication across the Middle East has been suspended. Iraq withdrew Reuters’ licence for suggesting that the country was concealing the extent of the outbreak. Russian media outlets have been ordered to remove content critical of the state. In Pakistan, medical staff have been discouraged from speaking to journalists.

News suppression can be fatal. If it had not been for media censorship in China, news of the coronavirus would have surfaced earlier, saving lives and potentially avoiding the current pandemic. Governments have to strike a balance between allowing a free flow of information and regulating media content to ensure accuracy. This is tricky. And in countries like ours with authoritarian tendencies, the specter of fake news provides a convenient cover for rampant censorship.

In Pakistan, the crisis could lead to intensified media censorship. But such action would backfire. Lack of accurate information will breed complacency, impatience with lockdowns, and the inevitable spread of the virus. As the full economic impact of the pandemic becomes apparent, censorship will make obvious a discrepancy between the official narrative and what people are experiencing that will damage government credibility and produce resentment among the public.

Our government should support quality reporting by making information — and protective equipment — available to journalists. The media needs to get coverage of the pandemic right, keeping it timely, factual and in proper context. This will rebuild trust with the public, which has been lost in recent years.


Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?

Azyumardi Azra, Director, Graduate School, and rector (1998-2006), Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, in Kompas (April 16, 2020) 

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Denis Moskvinov / Shutterstock.com)

Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?

The struggle against the Covid-19 virus is going to be a long one, especially in Indonesia. The worst scenario is if attempts to enforce social distancing fail or regional lockdowns are not able to control an undisciplined population that continues to move from hot zones to other areas. If that happens, the number of coronavirus cases could climb to over two million.

What is clear is that there are already many victims. These include those who have died but also those who have been affected economically. In the Jakarta area, it is estimated that since a lockdown was introduced on April 4, as many as 5.28 million people have been affected in addition to the 7.05 million already unemployed.

Indonesia is lucky to have a long tradition of philanthropy. Yet very few officials have been willing to donate all or part of their wages to help those affected. There is no political empathy among senior officials or the political elite. Meanwhile, the parliament and government are going ahead with discussions of the highly controversial work-creation bill.