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    Asian Insider 21 November: Indonesia’s Ahok returns, Rajapaksa cleared of corruption, Malaysia frees Al-Qaeda linked terrorist

    Published On: 21 November 2019

    Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


    21 November 2019

    In today’s bulletin: A popular former governor of Jakarta could well be back in the limelight; the new Sri Lankan President gets his passport back and will travel to India; US-China rivalry riles; Malaysia releases 9/11-linked militant; new safe food coming from Singapore and more.



    Indonesian President Joko Widodo might be looking at bringing back the country’s former reform-minded governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as ‘Ahok’, to public life. Our Indonesia Correspondent Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja reports that Ahok is being considered for the role of president commissioner of state oil and gas company Pertamina, one of the country’s most strategic state-owned enterprises, that has often been plagued by inefficiency and corruption. But Ahok still has to make his decision known.

    Read more: 

    Jakarta’s new MRT system setting standards in the city

    Indonesia’s Minister ‘Doer and Fixer’ Luhut Pandjaitan gets new responsibilities

    Jakarta aims to revive economy with new measures to boost exports



    Sri Lanka’s Constitution bars court proceedings against a serving president and with that the country’s newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa saw corruption charges against him dropped. He had been indicted by a country High Court last year on charges of siphoning 33 million rupees (S$251,000) from state funds to build a memorial for his parents. Mr Rajapaksa had pleaded not guilty. And now with his passport back, he will be making a visit to India later this month.

    Find out more: 

    Sri Lanka’s foreign policy under close watch in India 

    Sri Lanka’s new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa picks brother as Prime Minister

    Sri Lanka president-elect Rajapaksa a war hero to some, a polarising figure to others



    The continuing rift between the two global superpowers continues to dominate conversations. At a forum in Beijing, Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said managing the strategic rivalry between the two would be key to tackling the next financial downturn. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said the two countries are “in the foothills of a Cold War”. Meanwhile, China expressed hope that Beijing should be able to sign the ‘Phase One’ trade deal soon.

    Don’t miss:  

    Henry Kissinger and other former top US officials raise alert over escalating US-China tensions

    China says it will strive to reach ‘phase one’ trade deal with US



    Former Army Captain and convicted Malaysian terrorist Yazid Sufaat has been released. He has been accused of attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction for Al-Qaeda and acquiring four tonnes of ammonium nitrate in 2000, for a bombing operation in Singapore. Malaysia has said he will be under police surveillance for two years.

    Read more: 

    Malaysia a transit hub for terrorists due to visa-free travel, police say

    Malaysian police complete probe into 12 detained for alleged link to Sri Lankan militant group

    Malaysia arrests 16 suspected ISIS militants, some planning attacks on politicians, non-Muslims



    New food and new dishes will soon be on the table as a new research institute takes shape in Singapore, to allow the Republic to grow its own food. While this institute will look into using alternative proteins to replace meats, word’s spreading and a local start-up plans to develop laboratory-grown lobster and crab meat.

    Don’t miss: 

    Singapore sets 30% goal for home-grown food by 2030

    Asia needs to invest $1.1 trillion more to feed its people: Study

    Climate change threatens global food security: IPCC report



    KIM DECLINES BUSAN INVITATION: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not be travelling to South Korea’s Busan next week to meet his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in and Asean leaders as the timing is not right, Pyongyang has said.

    KL ARRESTS CHINA SCAMSTERS: Malaysia has arrested over 1,000 people from China operating from a single building who were targeting victims in China and luring them to take up fraudulent investments, by promising quick profits.

    AUSTRALIA’S FIRE SPREADS SOUTH: Devastating fires along the country’s east coast have claimed six lives and destroyed more than 500 homes since mid-October, with climate change and unseasonably hot, dry conditions fuelling the unprecedented blazes. Now the fire danger has moved into states further south, with Victoria declaring a “Code Red” – its highest possible fire risk – in the state’s north-west for the first time in a decade.


    These insights are produced by The Straits Times, the official media partner for the Asia House Global Trade Dialogue, which took place in Singapore on 7 November 2019.

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