When Gilad Shalit was dragged away in a cross-border raid in June 2006, it’s doubtful he or his captors would have imagined five years’ of negotiations lay ahead.
Nor in their most fevered imaginings would they have expected 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of them with multiple life sentences for murder, would be the price of his release.
In early October, Aceh will hold its second gubanatorial elections since the 2005 peace agreement that ended almost three decades of separatist war. After five years of relative peace and stability, the main political tensions appear to be between competing factions of the former Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Other, more troubling tensions are, however, just below the surface.
There is little to divide the main factions competing in the elections. The incumbent governor, Irwandi Yusuf, has overseen the development of a universal health care system, expanded education, overseen underlying economic growth and banned logging in Aceh’s spectacular rainforest.
His main electoral opponent, GAM’s former ‘Foreign Minister’, Dr Zaini Abdullah, also supports such programs. Apart from personalities, the division between them might be characterised as one of the latter being more conservative and the former more progressive.
The announcement by East Timor’s prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, that his country will begin military to military links with Indonesia has caused widespread surprise, given the deeply troubled history between the small, recently independent state and its large and previously belligerent neighbour. There are a number of benefits to this new arrangement, which will also see police to police links established. But there are also many unresolved issues.
Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975 led to the deaths of more than a quarter of its population, almost 200,000 people, with its final farewell being the destruction of most of the country and the murder of around 1,500 more civilians. According to Prime Minister Gusmao, it is now time to forgive and forget.
It’s been almost eight months since the first Arab dictator, ousted President Ben Ali of Tunisia, fled the country under unprecedented popular uprisings signaling a snow-ball effect that has swept across North Africa and the Middle East like a political tsunami.
Since then, events in Egypt led to similar outcomes with the spectacular demise of President Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent initiation of his trial in Cairo. Indeed, these are tense times to be in power in the Arab world as the fear and prestige of office all but disappeared amid popular demands for political reform and genuine accountability.
Events in Libya have in the last couple of days developed to the point where the rule of maverick self-appointed doyen of Arab and African leaders, Colonel Gaddafi, has all but collapsed relinquishing the capital Tripoli to the rebels and the political leadership of the transitional council.
Debt crisis is indeed a burning current issue in the whole world. A true glimpse of this reality is provided by the ongoing violent protests against a series of fiscal austerity reforms in Greece. The worsening debt crisis of Greece is expected to trigger a contagion of sovereign debt crises in several other European countries.
It is interesting to note that the nature and the economic aftermath of the current debt crisis of Greece and 1998 debt crisis of Pakistan have remarkable similarities ─ For example, the debt-gross domestic product ratio of Pakistan as well as Greece exceeded 100% during their respective debt crises, national external debt has been acting as a drag on the national economies of Pakistan, and Greece, and now both Greece and Pakistan desperately need fiscal consolidation as well as economic growth for resolving their respective external debt crisis.
This is an extract from my keynote address at the Iftaar Dinner Function’ hosted by Deakin University and the Australian Intercultural Society at Deakin Prime, 12 August 2011
Current debates in many western countries seem to suggest that the current tension surrounding Muslims is essentially linked to the perceived incompatibility of Islam and Islamic values with values associated with liberal secular democratic states.
How do we interpret the recent crackdown in China?
Unlike most commentators who foresee a coming dark age of Chinese authoritarianism, Edward Steinfeld argues, “It would be wrong to read the current crackdown as a sign of stasis or regression.” He offers convincing evidence such as the pluralization of actors and institutions and the coexistence of “profound change and harsh repression” in China, backed by a comparative perspective.
But while I agree with his assessment, I think that his evidence, which is primarily focused on economic and social changes, is incomplete. He doesn’t delve deeply enough into the “profound change” that has also taken place in Chinese politics.
In a short couple of months, Aceh will again go to the polls to elect a governor and vice-governor, bupatis and local representatives. The election will mark a consolidation of the democratic process in Aceh, introduced as a result of the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement.
Even though the campaign period for the elections has not yet formally started, there is great interest in who will run, what they stand for and what their chances of success might be. It is healthy that people take an active interest in the political life of their community, as the political process determines how the people of the community are to live, within the constraints imposed by their circumstances.
That the political environment in Aceh has remained more or less peaceful since 2005 represents a victory for the idea of democratic, representative government. The electoral process itself represents a victory for accountability, which is the opposite of the imposed rule that Aceh once experienced.