Asian Insider March 20: Morrison vs Erdogan

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

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In today’s Asian Insider: Fresh revelations on the Boeing 737 Max 8, Australia is miffed with Erdogan and Japan’s abuse shame.

MAX 8 REVELATION

New clues are emerging in the mystery of how some Boeing 737 Max 8 pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while others lost control of their planes and crashed. On Oct. 28, as the crew of Indonesia’s Lion Air fought to control their diving 737 Max 8, they got help from an unexpected source: an off-duty pilot who happened to be riding in the cockpit.

That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane, according to two people familiar with Indonesia's investigation. However, the next day, under the command of a different crew facing what investigators said was an identical malfunction, the jetliner crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 aboard.

The so-called dead-head pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta told the crew to cut power to the motor driving the nose down, according to the people familiar with the investigation. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn't contained in Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee's Nov 28 report on the crash and hasn't previously been reported.

Full story: Pilot who hitched a ride had saved Lion Air's 737 Max jet the day before its doomed flight

SHUFFLE AT TEMASEK

Temasek Holdings is the government investment company owned by Singapore’s finance ministry that is the leading shareholder in a swathe of blue chip firms including Singapore Airlines, DBS Group, Keppel Corp. and Standard Chartered Bank. One way for companies around the world to up their valuations is to leak news that either of the two Singapore sovereign wealth funds -- the other is GIC Corp. -- is showing interest in them.

In recent years, Temasek, which started as a Singapore-focused fund has taken on a more global portfolio and diversified workforce, tapping longer-term opportunities outside Asia. Hence, changes in top management at Temasek attract more than ordinary attention worldwide. Now, Temasek has announced that Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara will be appointed chief executive of Temasek International, its wholly-owned management and investment arm, from April 1. 

Mr Pillay, 55, is currently deputy chief executive and will succeed Mr Lee Theng Kiat, 65. For his part, Mr Lee takes over from Ms Ho Ching as chairman of Temasek International on April 1 as well. Ms Ho, 65, and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will remain as executive director and CEO of Temasek Holdings, the parent company.

Full story: Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara to be appointed Temasek International CEO on April 1

ERDOGAN RILES AUSTRALIA

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison today condemned "reckless" and "highly offensive" comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, warning he would consider "all options" in reviewing ties. Mr Erdogan, while campaigning for local elections, presented the attack as part of an assault on Turkey and Islam and warned that anti-Muslim Australians would suffer the same fate as soldiers at Gallipoli, a blood-drenched World War I battle in which more than 8,000 Australians died fighting Turkish forces. He described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile”, adding that travel advice for Turkey was under review.

Meanwhile, Canberra announced on Wednesday that it would cut its annual intake of immigrants by nearly 15 per cent, and barred some new arrivals from living in its largest cities for three years, moves that could lift Mr Morrison’s approval ratings ahead of elections.

Go deeper: Australia cuts annual immigrant cap by 15 per cent, puts key cities off-limits to some

CURBING THE ‘OUTRAGE’ MACHINE

Brenton Tarrant, the man behind the Christchurch massacre, was partly the product of social media's outrage machine, which continues to thrive, together with the communities that it empowers, says Associate Editor Vikram Khanna. The mass murder that he perpetrated is another reminder that this menace needs to be reined in. If social media companies are unable or unwilling to do this, governments must do it for them, he argues.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group and Al-Qaeda have used Facebook and YouTube for recruitment, coordination and even to live-stream executions. When planning to launch a rocket from Batam to attack Singapore's Marina Bay in 2016, Indonesian terror group KGR@Katibah GR learnt how to assemble firearms and explosives through Facebook. Myanmar's notorious hate preacher, the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who called himself "The Burmese Bin Laden", used social media to fan hatred against the Rohingya minority.

The obvious question that arises, says Khanna,  is why social media companies cannot, or do not, delete such incendiary material, when many cyber-security experts suggest they have the capacity to do so.

Commentary: Social media's 'outrage machine' abets terrorism

JAPAN’S ABUSE SHAME

Shaken by rising cases of abuse and corporal punishment, the Japanese government has approved a revision to a child abuse prevention law that will ban parents and guardians from physically punishing children. According to the latest figures from the National Police Agency (NPA), suspected abuse cases involving minors aged below 18 years old reported by the police to child welfare officials stood at a record-high of 80,104 in 2018, an increase of 22 per cent from a year earlier and nearly three times the level in 2013.

The revision Bill and related legislation will be deliberated during the ongoing parliamentary session, with the government aiming for it to be enacted in April next year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Cabinet meeting before endorsing the Bill that it is the responsibility of all adults to protect the lives of children and that the government will powerfully and swiftly work to take steps to prevent child abuse.

Full story: Japan seeks to ban corporal punishment to curb rising trend of child abuse

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

- Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, the American at the centre of Singapore’s HIV database leak, pleaded not guilty to three charges related to stolen identification documents from Singapore in a Kentucky federal court, reports US Correspondent Charissa Yong. His not-guilty plea means the case will now proceed to trial on May 7, which could last three days, according to United States government prosecutor Dmitriy Slavin.

- Malaysia has received interest from local and foreign firms to buy national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday. The government was still studying options for the financially troubled flagship carrier and will  consider whether to change the airline's management, downsize or expand it. MAS has been trying to transform its operations and return to profitability as it recovers from two disasters in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

- Indonesia is set to propose 28 projects worth US$91 billion to Chinese investors as part of its participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the government would offer those projects, which include seaports and industrial estates, power plants, smelters and tourism estates, during the first steering committee meeting in Bali on Wednesday and Thursday.

- China has phased out 280,000 tonnes of ozone-depleting substance (ODS) production as part of its obligations to the 1988 Montreal Protocol aimed at protecting the ozone layer, Reuters reported, citing the official Xinhua news agency. China banned some products like CFC-11, which is used in air-conditioners, when it joined the Montreal Protocol in 1991. It continues to set quotas on the production, import and use of other chemicals like carbon tetrachloride, once widely used in fire extinguishers and refrigerators.

- Conglomerates controlled by tycoons, family dynasties or state players are a familiar feature of Asia's corporate landscape but their days may be numbered, according to a new survey by Ernst & Young. It found that 85 per cent of South-east Asian corporations intend to sell part of their businesses by 2021 so their core enterprises can be more competitive. The firms are increasingly focusing on the core businesses to cope with technological disruptions rather than paying off debts.

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Meanwhile, seize the day!

Ravi Velloor