Sainthood Must Wait

Aung San Suu Kyi has lost her halo — that circle of unearthly radiance around a person’s head that is the trademark of sainthood — say pundits and analysts.

What they mean is that she is no longer the apostle of democracy that she used to be. In religious art, icons and halos go together. No longer so in her case. In the eyes of people who are disappointed with her recent assertions and political behavior, she’s been decanonized.

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Shock and Rue

Ten years ago last week, the US military under President George W. Bush wreaked “Shock and Awe,” the merciless bombardment of Baghdad that launched the invasion of Iraq by an American-led “coalition of the willing.”

Indonesia had harsh words for the United States that time. Most outspoken was then Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, who said, “An arbitrary preemptive war has been waged against a sovereign state — arbitrary because it is without sufficient justification in international law.”

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A Woman’s Job?

Hillary Clinton, the 67th US secretary of state, is a tough act to follow. Her successor, John Forbes Kerry, must have learned that soon enough, if he didn’t already know it before he became number 68.

He doesn’t have Hillary’s star power. He has admirers but he’ll never be worshipped by women all over the world who see in Hillary the promise of what they themselves could be.

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A Solution for Sabah

A pundit who should know better asks in his column: If Malaysia owns Sabah, why does it pay rent to the Sulu sultanate? That’s because Malaysia recognizes the proprietary rights of the sultanate to Sabah. If a person has a private property in another country, that person has a right to some economic benefit from its use. But Malaysia reserves for itself the right of sovereignty — the right to govern Sabah.

To those who say that the sultanate of Sulu doesn’t exist, the government of Malaysia is too intelligent to pay rent to an imaginary sultanate. The Philippine foreign secretary isn’t so stupid as to apologize for a misplaced letter to a figment of the imagination. The sultanate is poor and might have made a tragic mistake in breaking Malaysian law by sending its people to settle in Sabah. But it exists.

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Iran’s Iron Will

Once again, we see light at the end of the tunnel.

The negotiators of Iran and those of the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the P-5) — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States, plus Germany — have just completed a round of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The talks have been on Iran’s nuclear program, widely suspected to be aimed at producing a nuclear weapon. The suspicion first arose from Iran’s failure to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. On that basis, excruciating sanctions have been imposed on Iran.

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The Sulu-Sabah Saga

Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan of Sulu, in the southern Philippines, is in Manila ailing and undergoing dialysis. Meanwhile hundreds of his followers are lying low in the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia. Having arrived there by swift boats, they intend to stay there for keeps, unless the sultan recalls them.

Sabah once clearly belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu. To the sultan and his followers, that has not changed. The government of Malaysia isn’t amused. In defense of its sovereignty over Sabah it would deport the “intruders” from Sulu, using armed force if needed.

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The Stuff of Heroism

In his State of the Union address last week, US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Filipino-American nurse Menchu de Luna Sanchez for her heroism. While typhoon Sandy was pummeling New York City last November, she planned and supervised the transfer of 20 newborn babies from NYU’s Langone Medical Center, which the storm had plunged into darkness, to safer intensive care units in the city.

She had the babies wrapped in warming pads, then led doctors and nurses, cradling the babies in their arms, down a stairway with only their hand phones lighting the way. Other personnel pumped oxygen and bore vital hospital equipment.

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Kim’s Dream

“ I have a dream,” proclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. in August 1963. And when that dream came true the United States became the better country for it. A country that caters to the civil rights of its citizens regardless of race.

“I have a dream,” says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. And if that dream comes true the United States will cease to exist as we know it today. Its greatest city, New York, arguably the financial capital of the world, will go up in radioactive smoke.

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The War on Poverty

Jesus Christ — Nabi Isa to Muslims — is quoted in the Bible (Al Kitab) as saying: “The poor you will always have with you…” That out-of-context quote has been used to justify the neglect of the poor, and to argue that the fight against poverty is a lost cause. Thus a holy book has been badly used by those who take a dim view of humankind.

But the fight against poverty is by no means a lost cause. Not if progress in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals means anything.

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Marty in Myanmar

Earlier this month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa went to Myanmar to see for himself the situation on the ground in troubled Rakhine State. As expected, he saw a huge landscape of humanitarian needs — shelter that was more for protection than as makeshift tents, food, medicine and other basics.

As a result of deadly communal conflicts that broke out in May last year, some 8,500 Rakhine now live in 31 refugee camps, while more than 110,000 Rohingya are crammed into 35. They have lost loved ones and their homes. They are surviving on humanitarian aid.

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