Living With Fear and Unclear Status


Rohingya's Refugee Met Gil da Silva(An Article  on Myanmar Refugees and Indonesian Workers in Malaysia) KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, by Julio Gil da Silva Guterres – According to the Human Right Declaration, Article 19 clearly states that; everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The article clearly states that every human being has the right to access to information through any means available such as Radio, Television, Newspaper and Internet. Malaysia is also a signatory of the declaration.

Saharuddin Adnan in interview with Gil da SilvaAccording to Saharuddin Adnan, Industrial Relations Officer at the Electronic Industry Employees Union (Kesatuan Sekerja Elektronik Wilayah Selatan, commonly known by its Malay acronym, KSIEWBSM) says over 80 % of the migrant workers in malaysia their right have been violated as the factories creates a very chaotic policies over the workers.

Based on the current report of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) shows that Malaysia has reached 2.1 million   of registered migrant worker which indicates that Malaysia became one of the largest importer of labour in Asia. Despite this number many people believes that around 1 million of them are still unregistered.

The report shows that the migrant workers currently come from more than 12 countries in Asia, with the majority coming from Indonesia. Other major source countries include Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines.

KSIEWBSM is focusing their monitoring and advocacy on the Indonesian workers that is working in an American electronic factory called Western Digital (WD) which is employing over 12.000 Indonesian female workers.

A winner of the ‘Best Employer in Asia 2009’ award, Western Digital, is a Manufacturer of electronic components including semiconductors and hard disk drives.

Indonesian Female Workers Saharuddin’s statement brought me a challenge of how I can meet up with Indonesian workers for a chat and this is how it all began.

Most of the Indonesian workers living in four different places in Kuala Lumpur such as Sungei Way, Cheras, Bukit Kemuning and Puchong. They are occupying around 440 Hostels which is arranged  by the Western Digital Company.

I was asked by Saharuddin to be in KL Sentral Monorail at 16.00PM on the following day, as he is willing to bring me to Sungei Way, Selangor,  one of the biggest community of the Indonesian female worker in Kuala Lumpur. We were then take another LRT (Light Rail Transit) from KL Sentral to Kelana Jaya (both Monorail and LRT are the cheapest public transport in Kuala Lumpur).

We arrived at Sungei Way at around 19.15 PM, time where the workers are heading back their Hostels at Selangor hill after 12 hours working.

That evening seemed tense, especially when I entered the hostel with a black bag and a camera in my hand, some workers who were walking towards their hostel looked quite scared and worried.

I was then introduced to a beautiful faced girl, Saritia, a twenty -three -years- old , as she has the longest stay among others. She was brought to Malaysia in 2007 by an Indonesian local company  called PT. Mutiara Karya Mitra Medan (commonly known by its Indonesian acronym, MKM) to work as a  line operator at the electronics giant company Western Digital.

According to a Local Executive in Western Digital, confirmed that PT. Mutiara Karya Mitra Medan is one of the official agents of overseas recruitment for the Western Digital in Indonesia.

Furthermore, saritia with her indonesian language says, “yang menjadi sisi negatif bagi saya disini adalah kurangnya kebebasan di asrama” “The negative side for me here is the lack of freedom in the dorm”.

Saritia with a sad look on her face said that they are not allowed to owned electronic devices in their hostels such as laptop, Television, DVD player or even cupboard.

We are only equipped with a plastic drawer in our dorm, no TV or Laptops” she says with her weak voice. “That is what I feel for now, my salary has just promoted to 588 MR because I have no more debt left with MKM”.

Saharuddin added that Malaysia is a signatory to the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and a signatory to the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, adopted by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in January 2007. Yet, oppression, violence against migrant workers are always ignored.

Article 8 of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, states that governments shall “promote fair and appropriate employment protection, payment of wages, and adequate access to decent working and living conditions for migrant workers.”

“After completed my secundary school at SMU PGRI 13 Medan, I was  then shortly recruited by MKM as the promised was to earn good money here, but during my first three years, I was only  earned 450MR per month (equivalent to US$150), as the rest of the money went to the MKM for my loan” She explained.

Workers Plastic DrowerThe workers recruited when  they were still 18 years of age or still sitting at high school.

We have no other choice at that time, they came to our school when we were still very young, we feel very attracted by the promise given by the agent” Sari confessed

Based on their confession, it is very hard for them to leave the factory at this time as many of them are still bound by the MKM debt to be paid.

Saritia then introduce her co-worker, Diana, a fresh-faced youth in her early twenties. She was fearful and speechless in the beginning, before she was convinced that her picture would not be included in the story.

Diana comes from the same city as Saritia and was recruited by the same agent. Like her colleague, Diana finally dared to express her feelings.

Abang, yang sangat menyedihkan tuh adalah tidak adanya hari libur bagi kami”, the saddes thing  for us is that there is no holiday. said the girl that was born on December 25th, 1989.

I’ve been here for three years, but have not even returned to Indonesia. I do not even go to church on Christmas Day, the day I was supposed to celebrate the birth of Christ and also my birthday” Diana said, before she finally left  me and Saharuddin.

One of the biggest issues that was recently raised by Malaysiakini and known as the national issue in the country is the work permit for the migrant workers.

In response to Malaysiakini’s news report, Western Digital’s vice-president of human resources in Asia Michael Meston acknowledges that the company is facing a “permit backlog”.

Currently Western Digital is working closely with Malaysian immigration to expedite the permit backlog,” Meston said in a letter that sent to Malaysiakini last May.

Again, a Local Executive confirmed that in early June this year, Western Digital has provided 140 work permit to the Indonesian worker who has worked for about two years. There are only 500 of them still in the process of getting work permit and WD is now working very hard with the immigration to issue them ASAP” he stressed.

On my last interview at that women’s hostels, Anabagur, a twenty – eighth – years – old, who was also brought by MKM on November 5th, 2009 claimed that they have been demanding for the work permit for almost 2 years before they were issued in early June.

We were only move from our hostels and the factory during that period of time, and advised to wear our tags  all the time” She said. “We were only given a work permit with a duration of 3 months, however, is fair enough rather than nothing at all”.

Bar Council, a legal aid organization in Malaysia which often helps restore the conditions of migrant workers, also said that their organization received numerous complaint in daily basis  from migrant workers and most of them are coming from Cambodia and Indonesia.

Angie Tong Mood Mei, Legal Aid Consultant from Bar Council, who is currently giving a legal assistance to the non-governmental organizations Tenaganita, said: work permit is always a complex issue among migrant workers in Malaysia, given that their passport confiscated by their employer.

Most of the complaint issues are about unpaid wages, long working hour and sexual abused” She added.

Angie Tong also states that Bar Council through it is counterpart Tenaganita used to give them counseling and  always using legal option to rescue the workers from some specific circumstances such as physical abused or sexual harassment.

Tenaganita is a Malaysian NGO that protects and promotes the rights of women, migrants and refugees.

Living as a migrant worker or as a refugee in Malaysia is full of fear, sometimes they have to deal with the security authorities and the Volunteer Corps (Relawan Rakyat Malaysia, commonly known by its Malay acronym, RELA).

RELA has the authority and power to stop any person who they believe to be a terrorist, undocumented migrant, or other undesirable person and arrest them without a warrant, and enter and search premises without a warrant. RELA is greatly feared by migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia.

In a separate interview with a couple from Pakistan who is believed to have sold their two houses claiming that husband has twice been arrested by RELA since he lacks of work permit.

Faiza who is known as a wife to the Mansoor Ahmad confirmed that they are now living in a complicated situation as they find themselves confused to survive in Malaysia.

Currently Faiza and her husband resides in Sunway, Mentari Court, Kuala Lumpur with their nine – years – old  Son, who until now has never been to any school due to their limitations. “We are Ahmadiyya Islam, the most isolated group in Pakistan”.

“We currently do not have any resident permit, since our arrival on December 4, 2010, We have to find way to stay here, because we can not go back to Pakistan as we do not have anything left” says Faiza with full of tears. “We were badly tortured in Pakistan, my husband was burned alive, but he survived after we rushed him to hospital”.

It is very hard for a foreigner to get a residence permit or applying for the malaysian citizenship.

According to the Malaysian Consitution, Article III, states that; Those applying to become naturalised citizens must have “an adequate knowledge of the Malay language” and have resided in the country for ten of the past twelve years, including the twelve months immediately preceding the application.

Angelon Celiz, a former Filipinos citizens beginning to come to Malaysia as a migrant worker and worked as a baby sister in a house at Kota Raya, Kuala Lumpur. Having waited 15 years, she finally obtain Malaysian citizenship.

“My husband is a Malaysian, maybe that’s what makes me easier to get Malaysian citizenship” she said.

Currently, Celiz settle the rest of her life by selling snacks and acecoris in public places such as churches or shcools that can reliably get some income.

“I’ve a quiet good life, have two kids and husband, but also pity for the young migrant workers who have been working here for several years, yet, they do not have any work permit,” said Celiz by ending our conversation.

Aegile Fernandes, A senior activist and a founder of Tenaganita, when met at her office at 38 Jalan Gasing, 46.000 Petaling Jaya,  said that government is currently applying an amnesty period over the migrant worker in Malaysia.

There are three alternatives offered to the unregistered migrant workers in the country, first one is asking to return home, secondly, registering within three weeks or deported back to country of origin” quoted Fernandes.

Currently Malaysia has no Foreign Workers Act or other similar law that unifies regulation of migrant worker issues in one law. AS the result migrant workers affairs are regulated through a series of immigration laws and regulations, supplemented by policies from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which issues work permits, and labor laws overseen by the Ministry of Human Resources (MHR).

According to the Malaysian Immigration Act 1959/63 or so call Act 155 clearly states that ‘Every immigration officer shall have the authority and powers of a police officer to enforce any of the provisions of this Act relating to arrest, detention or removal’.

Malaysian Government does not have a comprehensive legal and policy framework to regulate the recruitment, admission, placement, treatment, and repatriation of migrant workers.

Despite the large presence of migrant workers in the country, Malaysia also have to deal with more than 94,000 refugees who came from certain countries that experienced political and military conflicts.

Migrant Workers and Refugee have become inseparable issues that often debated by media and the public in Malaysia.

Lia Syed, Executive Director of Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI) in a 60-minute interview with SEAPA (Southeast Asia Press Alliance) Fellow says that besides the issue of migrant worker, Malaysia should admit that one of the biggest problems to be solved is refugees because it relates to the dignity and human values.

Based to our current research, there are 94.000 registered refugees in the country and 90 % of them are from Myanmar, the other 10 % are from Sri Lanka, Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians, Somalis and Lebanese” says Lia.

MSRI is a non governmental organisation established with its objective to promote an understanding and appreciation of Muslim and other communities in various parts of the world in pursuance of humanitarian rights and to conscientise the public and mobilize support for people struggling for self determination and suffer from war or other forms of dispossession.

According to Lia, MSRI has a center of refugees at Ampang Point, Kuala Lumpur that accommodates 800 people for the minority refugees except Myanmar. “People from Myanmar are very well organized specially Chins Community, they help one another in their community” She explained.
In every corner in Kuala lumpur we will surely meet with refugees from Myanmar, specially Rohingya’s as they are the largest community in Malaysia.

Mohd Salim Bin Mohd Hussein, a Rohingya’s regufee, who came to Malaysia with his uncle when he was only 7 years old, says he was never went to any school during his entire life.

“I am 31 years old now, I never go to any school, I just learned english myself and I am currently working as a gardener at Qatar Embassy since 2005” he confidently says.

Even after spending 24 years in Malaysia, Mohd Hussein still holds UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) card as the only identity to settle his life in Kuala Lumpur.

Another bad luck happened to Mohd Bin Nabi Hussain, who entered Malaysia  from Thai border since 2007, but until now he does not received any single identity including UNHCR Card.

In our conversation, Nabi Hussain, visible to be give up. “Every time I go searching for work employer used to ask for my identity or Passport”.

Nabi Hussain was given a travel permit from the Rohingya Community couple months ago, but he thought the letter could not fairly represent his full identity.

Living as refugees, by getting UNHCR card is already more than secure, because Malaysia views unregistered refugees as illegal immigrants since the country has yet to sign the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, ratified by more than 140 nations.

Lia, who already handling the affairs of refugees for over 30 years adds, legally, refugee does not exist in Malaysia. “It is very difficult, they are not legal here if they work, they work illegally, UNHCR here just because government allows them to be here”.

With my poor malay, I ventured myself to meet myanmar’s immigrant.

Masjid Bin Fazal Ahmed, a Rohingya regufee who is currently residing in Ampang Hilir area also tells his story with full of compassion.

Masjid with his Malay says, he arrived in Malaysia in 2000 and was only able to get UNHCR card after three years.

“Saya telah dimasukkan ke Malay, melalui Bangladesh dan Thai sebagai kedua-dua negara ini adalah sempadan negara saya”.  “I was entered to Malaysia, through Bangladesh and Thailand as this two countries are bordering with my home country”.

Masjid has been blessed with an eighth – months old daughter named SAJITA. He hopes that someone would give him a hand by raising her beloved daughter.

“My job is just cutting grass, sometime I only make 450MR in a month, where it can not meet my families need, specially some extra milk for SAJITA” Says Masjid in his Malay. “I do not want to go back to Myanmar”.

Masjid and his family staying in a rental house in Jalan Karanchi 2, Ampang Hilir, Kuala Lumpur. He doesn’t have any resident permit even though he has living in Malaysia for almost 12 years.

One last hope that came out from Masjid’s mouth is he wish his daughter to get a Malaysian citizenship because she was born in Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

Elodie Voisin, through her two year experiences at Tenaganita  in refugee desk says, refugee issues in the country is totally ignored by Malaysian government.

Tenaganita may not able to provide them assistance, however we give them respect” Elodie said.

Moreover, Elodia in her challenging voice says, the government never recognize Tenaganita’s work, yet it is just an excuse for the government to keep silent on the lives of the refugees. “We always strive to provide legal assistance to both the migrant worker or refugee, as we realized that all men have equal rights”.

The same preoccupation coming from Lia, she says Government is discriminating the people through the law.

I call them a suspended life, the kids can not go to school, every right for life have been limited. All of the refugee here they hope for the resettlement, what be really need is for the government to recognize that all these refugees are special group”. Lia appealed.

Lia states, Malaysian government should do a resettlement over the refugee child as Malaysia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and has ratified five of the eight core ILO Conventions and also a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

CRC Act, Article 4 (Protection of rights) clearly states that: Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children. This involves assessing their social services, legal, health and educational systems, as well as levels of funding for these services. Governments are then obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the Convention in these areas are being met.

Sometimes an article or study is not able to change a reality, but at least a silence voice should be voiced.

Behind the atmosphere of confusion, fear and ignorance of the future of Burmese children that being abandoned from the  right to education and happiness, nowadays, a hope has coming back from one of the Burmese political prisoners who had just arrived January 2011 to build a dream of the bright future through basic education.

Myatkoko, a political prisoners from Rangon, Burma. After being released from his eight years in prison, he finally decided to come to Malaysia to lead an elementary school that was founded by Burma Refugee Organization (BRO).

Burma Refugee Organization School or so call BRO School, currently accommodating burmese children ranging from age 4  – 16 years old.

Myatkoko who currently serves as principal at the school, said BRO School consists of six standards. Each standard there are about 14 to 20 pupils.

Myatkoko came with his wife Su Nyein Nandar koko, who also became a volunteer teacher at the school which accommodates more than 70 burmese.

BRO School is currently gain a lot of attention from the community including UN agency, UNHCR. “95 % of the School’s facilities are donated by UNHCR” Myatkoko said.

Proof of this statement can be found in one branch of BRO School located in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur. There, we can find more than 20 computers donated by the UNHCR, including school supplies and clothing.

Bro school also provides a separate hostels for boys and girls, mainly for those who are entrusted by their parents to stay at School’s dorm.

Ali, a 12 -years -old boy, who is sitting at Standard III, also share his  happiness by saying, “I love BRO School, I want to be a football  player, my favorite player is Wayne Rooney”.

Aziza, a cute 11-years-old, who was born in Malaysia was deeply happy to meet her fellow students every day.

“I am very happy and I want to be a nurse” she expressed in her little english.

Two decades have passed, decades where voice of their father and mother never  being ignored, whether we should close our ears and eyes to the cries of their children. Children, who do not understand about the refugees and the difference? This should be a question for all. It is your liberty to answer and should be an answer of FREEDOM. (End)* This article was written under Southeast Asia Press Alliance – SEAPA Fellowship Project 2011.

Julio da Silva Guterres, B.A. is a  SEAPA Fellow and an Alumni of US Department of State for International Visitor Leadership Program – IVLP. +670 7250761 or gil.silva@cjitl.org

Introducing the 2013 Dart Asia Pacific Fellows


Please join us in congratulating the newly selected 2013 Asia Pacific Fellows who will come together May 12-19 in Bangkok, Thailand for a week of seminars, conversations, and briefings by leading experts in the trauma and journalism fields and peer-to-peer discussions on the challenges of covering tragedy and violence.

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Introducing the 2013 Dart Asia Pacific Fellows, who will take part in a weeklong programme i ...

Introducing the 2013 Dart Asia Pacific Fellows, who will take part in a weeklong programme in Bangkok, Thailand.

Reporting responsibly and credibly on violence and traumatic events — on street crime, family violence, natural disasters and accidents, civil unrest, war and genocide — are among the greatest challenges facing journalists globally. The 2013 Dart Asia Pacific Fellowship addresses these challenges and aims to deepen journalists’ and editors’ knowledge of emotional trauma to improve coverage of violent events.

In Bangkok, Thailand, the Fellowship programme consists of a week of seminars and conversations, beginning May 12. The Fellowship includes briefings by leading experts in the trauma and journalism fields and peer-to-peer discussions on the challenges of covering tragedy and violence.

Meena Ahmed is a print journalist at The News International, a widely circulated English daily newspaper in Pakistan. Ahmed is certified from the Asian College of Journalism – ACJ, Chennai – in India. Her work includes an in-depth content analysis on local FM radio channels and a case-study on cartoon journalism – the first of its kind in Pakistan. Ahmed has also been involved in a United Nations Volunteers program on flood response in Pakistan.

 

 

 

Carol Aloysius is a senior writer for Associated Newspapers of Sri Lanka (ANCL) – Sunday Observer. Aloysius has been a journalist for 40 years, mainly covering development issues with a special focus on health, women, children and the environment. She won the Zonta Media Award and two awards for excellence in medical journalism from the Sri Lanka Medical Council. Aloysius holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Professional Fellowship in Journalism from the University of Michigan, as well as a degree in journalism from Kalmar University in Sweden.

 

 

Malik Arshad Aziz is the news editor for the Daily Aaj Peshawar. A journalist for 22 years, Aziz began his career as a columnist before assuming the post of sub editor at the Daily Mashriq Peshawar in 1991. He joined the Daily Aaj Peshawar in 1995. Aziz regularly contributes on a wide range of issues, including politics, economics, tribal affairs, militancy and terrorism. He serves as president of the Khyber Union of Journalists, vice president of South Asia Free Media Association, and is a qualified first aid, security and trauma trainer for journalists. He received Masters degrees in international relations and political science from the University of Peshawar.

Anita Bindu has worked as a reporter, editor and presenter for Nepal Television since 2006. Prior, Bindu worked as a program producer at Radio Nepal for seven years. She has worked on a number of stories, documentaries and radio programs focused on social issues, including road accidents and public safety. Bindu holds a Masters degree in mass communication and journalism.

 

 

Som Bunthorn is Editor of Searching for the Truth Magazine at the Documentation Center of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, where he oversees the editing and layout of the Khmer version of the monthly magazine. Between 2008 and 2012, Bunthorn was a staff writer for Searching for the Truth Magazine, where he conducted interviews with both victims and perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge regime, analyzed original documents from the period and reported on the ongoing legal process at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Bunthorn holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

 

Safiullah Gul Mahsud is Bureau Chief at Peshawar bureau at Dunya TV, Pakistan and is also a correspondent of DPA. Since 1995, Mahsud has worked with various newspapers and TV channels including Frontier Post News, The Sun International, Statesman, Dawn in print, Pravda portal and Geo English. During that time he held positions from senior copy-editor, shift and edition in-charge, and reporter. Mahsud has also contributed stories from the tribal areas of Pakistan which later became international headlines i.e. South and North Waziristan. Mahsud reports from one of the most dangerous regions in Pakistan for journalists

 

Raka Hera Gamini is Executive Producer of Programs for the Television Service of Papua New Guinea (Kundu 2, TV). A broadcaster with more than 30 years of experience, Gamini has worked with the National Broadcasting Corporation as a senior producer, broadcast officer, news translator, presenter and executive producer. She has also worked closely with the Media Development Initiative to produce a series of gender campaigns on domestic violence, a TVC spot and most recently, a documentary called ‘Why Me?’- one of the first films on gender based violence to be produced by a Papua New Guinea woman. She has an Advanced Diploma of Screen and TV from Swinburn University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

 

Julio da Silva Guterres is Executive Director of Lalenok Ba Ema Hotu – LABEH. The former Director of Centru Jornalista Investigativu Timor Leste – CJITL, he worked as a radio and investigative reporter for 10 years and received “a laureate of Timor Leste Investigative Award” in 2005. In the last few years, da Silva has been awarded the Salzburg Fellowship, SEAPA Journalism Fellowship, and an Edward R. Murrow Fellowship. He was the 2011 States Alumni for the International Visitor Leadership Program to the United States. Gutteres is also a former national project assistant to UNDP’s Media project. He finished his International Relations Degree from University of Peace – UNPAZ in Timor Leste.

Arun Karki has been a video journalist at Nepal Television News for the last eight years. Karki has produced many video and multimedia reports on natural calamities and their impact on the public, and uses blogs and social media to reach the masses. Karki holds a masters degree in ICT.

 

 

Fathimath Leeza works as Senior Producer and head of the entertainment unit at the Maldivian Broadcasting Corporation’s  channel Television Maldives (TM). She joined TM in 2000 as a producer and director, where she worked on a variety of programs before joining the Children’s Unit, which she led. Leeza was awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Information, Arts and Culture and left for Malaysia in 2008 to earn her degree. In 2010, Leeza won the Industry Award for Excellence in Multimedia from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Curtin University in Australia.

 

Marlon Alexander Luistro is a freelance journalist based in Batangas in the Philippines, and serves as editorial director of the Filipino Connection Newspaper. He also works as a news stringer for GMA Network Inc. and has  covered disaster and tragedy including murders, vehicular accidents, fires, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic activities. His report on pollution caused by the overcrowding of fish cages in Taal Lake was chosen as finalist for the 2008 Developing Asia Journalism Awards in Tokyo, Japan. Luistro is a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication.

 

Nasingom Mai joined the National Broadcasting Corporation Kundu 2 TV, the Papua New Guinean national television service four years ago. He currently works as a cameraman, editor and graphic artist and works primarily on social issues that affect local communities.

Julfikar Ali Manik is Head of Investigating Reporting Cell for The Daily Star in Bangladesh. He previously worked as a television journalist, as well as a reporter with several Bengali-language dailies beginning in 1990. Manik has freelanced for The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, PBS, Channel Four and Outlook India, among others. He has published two books based on reports investigating disappearances and killings during the Liberation War of Bangladesh and the farcical military trials after the killing of the military ruler in 1981. He has won several awards for his investigative reporting, including the UNESCO Bangladesh Journalism Award in 2009.

 

 

Julius Mariveles has been working in print and broadcast media for the past 17 years, and until recently worked as production supervisor and news chief of Bacolod City-based AM radio station, dyEZ Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod. Mariveles has since returned to writing and photography, and contributes to interaksyon.com, the online news portal of TV5 in the Philippines, among other news outlets. He has covered the insurgency, agrarian reform conflicts, poverty, politics and crime. Mariveles is currently a member of the Visayas pool of safety of NUJP.

 

 

Stella Paul is a multimedia journalist covering environment and development issues such as climate change, livelihood, human trafficking, poverty and sustainable development. Currently based in Hyderabad, India, Paul reports for several leading global media outlets including the Reuters/Alertnet, the UN, Global Press Institute and Inter Press Services. She has won several awards for her journalism, including the 2013 National Media Award (India), 2012 UN Media Award for best gender sensitive reporting and the 2012 UN Convention to Combat Desertification Fellowship. Aside from journalism, Paul also trains women living in conflict areas in web 2.0

Usha Perera currently works as a reporter for The Nation. She began her career in journalism 20 years ago, and has also worked for The Sunday Times and The Business Standard. Perera covers news and current events, and seeks to draw attention to issues that are faced by women and marginalized people such as gender based violence and crime.

 

Hamdhoon Rashad currently works as a senior editor at Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Rashad began his career in journalism in 2003 when he joined Television Maldives as a journalist. Between 2006 and 2009, Rashad regularly contributed to a variety of news websites and magazines in Malaysia as a freelance writer. In early 2010, he worked as an intern for Scripps Howard Foundation in Washington D.C., covering major events in the US capital. Rashad holds a Bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and journalism from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia, where he was given the Industry Award of Excellence in Journalism.

 

Teav Sarakmonin is a staff writer at Searching for the Truth Magazine, where he writes feature stories about survivors of the Khmer Rouge – both victims and perpetrators. Sarakmonin’s articles are mostly about their life stories, their psychological trauma and their views about justice and reconciliation processes in Cambodia. He graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Management from the National University of Management (NUM) inCambodia.

 

 

The faculty for the 2013 Asia Pacific fellowship will include:

Rowenna Paraan, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
Irma Martam, Yayasan Pulih, Indonesia
Peter Drought, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director, Dart Centre
Cait McMahon, Managing Director, Dart Asia Pacific
Amantha Perera, Senior Fellow (returning fellow from 2011), correspondent for TIME, Sri Lanka
Aly Walsh, Executive Assistant, Dart Asia Pacific

ASEAN Without Timor Leste: State Without Sovereignty


By Julio Gil da Silva Guterres, B.A.

ImageWhen will Timor Leste become the member of the Southeast Asian organization? This writing is not only to answer that question but also to analyze ASEAN‘s visions in the past, present and future.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is a geopolitical and economic organization established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand. ASEAN was established through the Bangkok Declaration which was initiated by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Indonesia was represented by Adam Malik, Philippines by Narciso R. Ramos, Malaysia by Tun Abdul Razak, Singapore by S. Rajaratman, and Thailand by Thanat Khoman.

The Bangkok Declaration contained five important points; (1) To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the Southeast Asian region, (2) To promote regional peace and stability, (3) To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, technical, scientific and administrative spheres, (4) To maintain close cooperation within regional and international organizations, (5) To enhance cooperation in the fields of education, training, and researches in the region.

ASEAN now has 10 member countries with the joining of Brunei Darussalam (7 January 1984), Vietnam (28 July 1995), Laos (23 July 1997), Myanmar (23 July 1997), and Cambodia (16 December 1998). Regional and territorial-wise, Southeast Asia has still not accepted two countries for the ASEAN membership, they are Timor Leste (TL) and Papua New Guinea (PNG), which are both in the process of applying for membership. This writing will focus on Timor Leste’s application, especially on its readiness in terms of politics, economy, culture and security, the basic membership criteria to join the regional forum.

Timor Leste is situated between the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asian regions with a history of a long struggle for independence. This country submitted its formal application to the ASEAN Secretariat on 4 March 2011 under the Indonesian Chairman. Historically, Timor Leste had made several attempts to join ASEAN before March 2011, including by opening an ASEAN National Secretariat in Dili (Memorial Hall) in early February 2009, where the secretariat is used to prepare the necessary steps to become an ASEAN member.

It had also received moral supports from all ASEAN members, including Indonesia, which was conveyed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa. “We will continue to work hard to help realize Timor Leste’s vision to be a member of ASEAN. Indonesia welcomes the appointment of Dr. Roberto Soares as Timor Leste’s junior minister for ASEAN affairs within Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão’s Cabinet. This move proves Timor Leste’s seriousness to pave the way toward ASEAN membership,” as stated in one of a series of statements made by Minister Natalegawa on the sidelines of a press conference with his Timor Leste counterpart, Jose Luis Guterres in Jakarta on September 2012.

One of the most touching moral supports it received was the political statement of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during former RDTL President Dr. Jose Ramos Horta’s state visit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 30 March 2011. He said: “Cambodia’s support is regardless Timor-Leste is a small or big, poor or rich country, but to reflect the equal rights of the countries in the region. Timor-Leste will take its rightful place as the 11th member”. ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan in his statement after the 18th ASEAN summit at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta said: “I don’t see any rejection. It’s now just a matter of time and readiness from both parties.”

The ASEAN chairman announced in Jakarta the conclusion from the 18th ASEAN summit on 7-8 May 2011 that Timor Leste’s application needs to be further considered and requires more attention. Therefore, each head of state from the ASEAN countries would assign their respective foreign affairs ministers in their capacity as ASEAN Coordinator Council to discuss Timor Leste’s application and to issue a recommendation for the leaders of the ASEAN member countries. Timor Leste continues to strengthen it’s commitment to become a member of ASEAN through the political statements of its leaders who continued to assure that Timor Leste had met all criteria to become the 11th ASEAN member. Former RDTL president Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, during a visit in Cambodia in March 2011, said that the country would not be a burden for other ASEAN members. State Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Dr. Roberto Soares reiterated the statement at the national symposium held by think thank East Timor American Alumni–ETAA on 7 November 2012 at the Auditorium Yayasahan Hak, Farol, Dili.

“We will not be a burden to other ASEAN fellow members, we are ready and it is already one step ahead to join ASEAN,”he said.

The latest statement made by the country’s leaders came from Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao when he attended the 5th Bali Democracy Forum in Bali on 8 November 2012: “Timor-Leste is on the verge of joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which entails both challenges and opportunities. Once we are accepted as a fully-fledged member of ASEAN, we will become a closer part of this global economic transition and be able to engage more actively in the strategic agenda of regional development. Timor-Leste is committed to seizing the opportunities of the Asian Century which will see increased economic demand in the region. We will do this by developing our industries, our fisheries and our agriculture, by expanding our markets and by developing our tourism sector.”

Based on the political, economic, human resources, culture and security aspects, Timor Leste is (99.99%) ready to sign the ASEAN membership form as the 11th member. According to UNDP Human Development Report, “Timor-Leste’s Human Development Index value for 2010 is 0.502, placing it in the medium human development category. In 2005, Timor-Leste’s Human Development Index value was 0.428, and its level at independence in 2002 was 0.375.

This report showed that the human resources quality in Timor Leste has improved which placed it on the 120 rank above other ASEAN countries such as Laos (122), Cambodia (124) and Myanmar (132). Timor Leste has declared itself as a nation of free of illiteracy. Timor-Leste has no foreign debt and according to The Economist 2010 Pocketbook, it has the highest surplus in the world of over 280 per cent as percentage of GDP.

Timor-Leste’s Defense force (FFDTL) and police officers (PNTL) have served and are serving with the United Nations in the Balkans and Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, DR Congo and Afghanistan). Timor Leste has provided in cash support to victims of natural disasters in Indonesia, Myanmar, China, Madeira Islands (Portugal), Haiti, Brazil and Australia, totaling close to $5 million in the last three years, Starting from November 1st, 2012, Timor-Leste is now become part of the Brazilian board (constituency) at the executive council of the IMF, and become the first Asian country to be represented by Brazil, which already represents nations from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. 38 % of the 2012 elected MPs are women and several women hold key ministerial portfolios (G7+, CEDAW and Ministries).

From the aspects of security and stability, Timor Leste which previously saw cultural conflicts every two years have transformed into a reconciliation and peace-based country since its independence. The UN peace mission in Timor Leste has also ended since 31 October 2012. What’s more significant is that the UN mission in Timor Leste will end on 31 December 2012.

According to the author’s view, Singapore’s refusal to accept Timor Leste’s ASEAN membership is just a matter of postponing time and readiness in terms of politics, economy, culture and security so that ASEAN members can all achieve the goal to say ONE VISION, ONE, IDENTITY, ONE COMMUNITY.

The author would like to end this writing by saying that ASEAN’s slogan “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” for 2015 would be meaningless if Timor Leste, which is geographically part of Southeast Asia is still not a member of the ASEAN by 2015.  How can ASEAN name itself One Community when it still left out one of its community? How can it call itself ONE IDENTITY when the identity of Timor Leste is not included and ASEAN is unable to implement ONE VISION because Timor Leste has started cooperation on several areas with some ASEAN members, especially with Indonesia on economic cooperation framework called “the Regional Integrated Economic Approach”. So, ASEAN without Timor Leste is the same as a state without sovereignty.

The author is Director of CJITL (Center for Investigative Journalists of Timor Leste), the recipient of Southeast Asian Press Alliance SEAPA 2011 Fellowship Program and USA Edward Murrow Fellowship Program 2011.