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Reveille

One man speaks out, one lady is silent

/ 05:09 AM November 20, 2017

As I mentioned last week, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has 10 members from around the region. The last to be admitted was Cambodia in 1999. Asean also has 10 dialogue partners from outside the region with whom they coordinate on various issues such as the economy, trade and security, among others. The dialogue partners are Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States. In addition, Asean has also established a Comprehensive Partnership with the United Nations. From 2015-2018, the Asean Country Coordinator with Canada is the Philippines. This basically means that for matters affecting Asean with Canada, the Philippines is the lead country in any discussion.

Among the world leaders who had bilateral meetings with President Duterte on the sidelines of the Asean summit, it was only Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada who raised concerns over human rights abuses in the war on drugs.

The Independent, a British online newspaper, reported on the meeting saying that Trudeau raised the issue of human rights and extrajudicial killings during a conversation with Mr. Duterte. Trudeau said that “the President was receptive to my comments and it was throughout, a very cordial and positive exchange.” Trudeau added that Canada has a reputation for being frank in discussing issues like the rule of law and human rights with partners everywhere.

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As was the case during his first visit to the Philippines during the Apec Summit in 2015, Trudeau was hands-down, the star among the visiting dignitaries. He quickly broke with protocol to reach out to people, particularly the youth, even visiting a
Jollibee outlet to mix with the average Filipino.

Some people were uncomfortable about his talks with the President, saying that Trudeau should have talked about taking back Canada’s basura (garbage) instead of bringing up the
subject of human rights abuses in the country. No one gets
killed by unclaimed basura but a lot of people suffer and die in a drug war that normally targets mostly the poor and marginalized in our society.

The President, in taking out the Philippine National Police from the war on illegal drugs and giving primary responsibility to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, must have recognized and listened to the voices of many of our people who continue to support the campaign against illegal drugs but were concerned about the violence and the killings, particularly of young people.

A few interesting notes on the Canadian PM.

Justin Trudeau was born on Christmas Day in 1971, the eldest son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and wife Margaret Sinclair. His father was a bachelor when he became Canada’s leader and had a reputation as some kind of playboy. An intellectual, Pierre Trudeau loved fast cars, wore casual clothes, and dated beautiful women, among them Barbara Streisand. He was often compared to US President John F. Kennedy.

His mother, Margaret Trudeau, was an activist vocal in her support for women’s rights and had a mind of her own, often disregarding protocol. At one time, she said, “if you rely completely on protocol, you can become a robot.” Perhaps, Justin Trudeau inherited some of his mother’s ideas and attitude.

His parents separated when Justin Trudeau was five years old. He said of his parents’ marriage: “They loved each other incredibly, passionately, completely. But there was 30 years
between them and my mom was never an equal partner in my father’s life, his duty, his country.”

In October 2015, Trudeau as head of the Liberal Party, won a strong majority in parliament to become Canada’s 23rd prime minister and its second-youngest. His first action as head of government was to lower taxes for the middle class and raise the same for the top one percent. He also serves as the minister of youth.

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Incidentally, the latest Canada census puts the number of Filipino Canadians at around 850,000, the third-largest Asian group after Indians and Chinese. They are found mostly in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. The highest elected Filipino in Canadian politics was Rey Pagtakhan, formerly of Cavite, who was a member of parliament and later served as a Cabinet minister.

While Asean was celebrating 50 years of existence, one of its member nations, Myanmar, was carrying out what has been called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Thousands of Rohingya, an ethnic group majority of whom are Muslims in a mostly Buddhist country, were forced to flee their villages in the face of a military campaign that so far has resulted in more than half a million Rohingya refugees crossing into Bangladesh, seeking safety from army brutality.

In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for her prodemocracy leadership in Myanmar where she was under house arrest for almost 15 years. She was hailed as “the world’s most renowned and courageous prisoner of conscience.” When she finally received the Nobel Prize in 2012, she saw it as recognition that the oppressed and isolated in Burma were also part of the world. She said “the Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.”

In 2015, her party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory and Suu Kyi was made state counselor, a newly created position for her, equivalent to prime minister.

Today as the Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to be terrorized and brutally killed by Myanmar security forces, the voice of Suu Kyi is silent and “the door in her heart” is apparently closed to the Rohingya. All she could say in an address from Naypyidaw, capital of Myanmar, was that there were reports of villages being burned, but needed more time to look into the allegations. Failing to criticize the military, she called for greater understanding of the problem.

In Manila, in keeping with Asean’s principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of one another, there was no mention of the Rohingya crisis in the closing statement of the Summit.

In 1999, when she was fighting against Myanmar’s military junta, Suu Kyi called this policy as “just an excuse for not helping.” In this day and age, she said “you cannot avoid interference in the matters of other countries.”

When she arrived in Manila last week, her pre-Summit statement was silent about the crisis while the world was waiting for her to speak up.

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