24 August 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday August 19, 2009
Following Jakarta in tackling AIDS

The openness and inclusiveness of the Indonesian local organising committee have been impressive.

IT was a subtle but significant moment for those of us who have worked in this field for a very long time. When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, fifth most populous and largest Muslim country in the world, addressed his “brothers and sisters living with HIV”, all of us sitting in the audience couldn’t help our prickly eyes.

In the dramatic setting of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana park in Bali, President Yudhoyono was opening the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP). No head of government has deigned to open the conference since the 5th in Kuala Lumpur in 1999. But the Bali conference was exceptional in so many ways.

Before the opening, the First Lady of Indonesia, Ibu Ani Bambang Yudhoyono, hosted a lunch for several AIDS Ambassadors from abroad in her capacity as National AIDS Ambassador. This means that she is committed to upholding the AIDS cause in the country, talking about it and ensuring that the best prevention, treatment, care and support programmes are employed in Indonesia.

At the official opening, she read out a declaration by all the AIDS Ambassadors and Champions present at 9th ICAAP, committing themselves to being advocates for AIDS, particularly in fighting stigma and discrimination against those most at risk of infection and those living with HIV.

The President’s speech itself set the tone for the entire conference where the fight to contain the spread of AIDS in Asia and the Pacific had to be based on human rights principles, protecting the rights and dignity of those most at risk of becoming infected .

As at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001 where many countries, including ours, fought to have a listing of the most vulnerable populations excluded from the resulting document, Indonesia has no problem talking about injecting drug users, sex workers, migrant workers or even men who have sex with men.

Indeed, in my two years working with the Indonesian Local Organising Committee, their sheer openness and inclusiveness impressed me. Indonesia, again unlike us, has a National AIDS Commission (NAC), an autonomous body that reports directly to the President, headed by a powerful and very HIV-savvy woman Nafsiah Mboi.

The NAC is a multi-sectoral body, comprising not only doctors and academics but also the private sector, NGOs and representatives of key affected groups including people with HIV. In fact, the NAC has even provided office space for the local networks of these community groups in the same building.

These communities, including youths, were present in all areas of the organising of the conference. They worked on many of the committees, in the secretariat office and as volunteers. And the entire conference was enriched by it.

Indonesia’s AIDS epidemic is younger than ours but has also expanded at a much faster rate. In Jakarta, HIV rates among injecting drug users is exceptionally high and in the far-flung province of Papua, sexual transmission has taken a great toll. Yet, with the help of donors, Indonesia has responded to the challenges with greater speed and much less angst than we have.

Every province now has an AIDS Commission replicating the National one and does their own programmes to deal with HIV issues that may be different from other areas. In this way, there is no one-size-fits-all programme handed down from a central authority. Needle exchange and methadone programmes in Bali for instance have greatly reduced the incidence of HIV among drug users there.

At the ICAAP, we talked about successful programmes, new challenges and were also reminded of the gaps. At the last plenary, just as Ibu Nafsiah of the NAC was speaking, we were interrupted by a demonstration calling for drugs for Hepatitis C, a common co-infection for many drug users with HIV. It was a peaceful and polite demonstration and Ibu Nafsiah immediately responded that she would look at the Hepatitis C issues in Indonesia and find ways to redress them.

Rarely do we ever see a government official take note and act so quickly as she did.

If Indonesia does well, we in Malaysia benefit too since our people have much interaction with one another. If we do well, Indonesia gains too.

Unfortunately while we are committed to fighting AIDS, we also fight shy of a very crucial part of that battle, the protection of the rights of those vulnerable to and living with HIV. Unlike Indonesia, we don’t have government policies specifically addressing human rights issues. Indeed the words rarely get mentioned in government circles.

Health is a human’s right. If we protect the right to health of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups of people in our society, we will advance the health of the entire nation. When will we understand that?

07 August 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday August 5, 2009
Before acting, take a deep breath

FORGIVE me if I’m repetitive but sometimes repetition is the only way to get some things into people’s heads.

Yoga may be banned in the view of some in this country but there’s one practice in yoga that can be helpful to everybody. And that is breathing.

There are many instances when before we do anything, it’s really helpful to take a few deep breaths because it helps to clear our minds and allows that moment of hesitation before we do something unwise in haste.

There are lots of people who could really have done with three deep breaths this past week. Breathing helps to engage the brain, and the brain is always needed when making decisions.

Thus it was that non-breathing on the part of those in power led to the ugly scenes of thousands of Malaysian citizens being water-cannoned, teargassed and arrested at the weekend.

There are those who complained about the inconvenience of such demos because mostly it prevented them from driving into town to go shopping. Perhaps the complaints are wrongly directed at the demonstrators.

Rather it should be directed at the police who put up road barriers and blocks a full day before the planned demos and caused traffic jams long before a single protestor put a foot down on a street.

Would it not have been better to simply issue warnings that since a demo is expected, people intending to go into the city should just take public transport?

Oh, but the demo is illegal! Being illegal doesn’t exactly stop it from happening, not when people don’t believe it should be illegal.

So if you know something is going to happen anyway, all you can do is ensure that it happens in an orderly manner with the least inconvenience as possible.

Which goes back to the breathing. If those in power had only taken the time to breathe deeply, their brains might have given them a smarter and unexpected plan.

And the plan would be to actually allow the demos to take place but within certain limits.

So one demo could have taken place at Dataran Merdeka, and only there, within specific and reasonable time limits.

The other rival one could have been allowed to take place in another venue also for a specific time limit.

No one from one group should be allowed anywhere near the other. (The Prime Minister later offered stadiums for these demos, a bit belatedly).

This has tremendous benefits because it allows people to vent what they want, and at the same time pulling the carpet from under them completely.

It also allows better crowd control and avoids unnecessary actions like water-cannoning and tear-gassing. And you don’t get stupidities like children being handcuffed and lawyers not being allowed to talk to those arrested.

There may be those who believe that we should stick strictly to the law. But as someone once said, the law can be an ass.

Just because a law is there doesn’t preclude using one’s brains to think of wiser ways to handle a situation. And sticking strictly to the rules isn’t necessarily the wisest thing to do.

Ultimately it is about showing wisdom, a virtue that, unfortunately, our leaders have consistently failed to show.

The law is also supposed to be neutral. Despite the neutral-sounding noises before the two planned demos, one demo did not materialise, which had two effects.

One, it made the actual demonstrators look bad because there is nothing to compare them with.

Two, it allowed for some overwhelming smugness on the part of the lone pro-ISA supporter, claiming to represent 100,000 others, who apparently could hand over his memo at leisure and unmolested. (It turned out his claim that he had delivered the memo was untrue.)

He did still feel the need to hide his T-shirt, which says plenty about his ideas about openness.

What did the tear gas achieve? It lost at least 20,000 votes for the government, even more if you count those not participating but concerned anyway. It lost the votes of those who inadvertently got caught in the mess.

But here’s the thing. While the middle of the city was all eye-stinging chaos, the rest of the city functioned as normal.

People went out lunching and shopping as they would any Saturday, all the while keeping tabs of what was happening on their mobiles.

The city did not shut down; nobody felt any fear of the consequences of such demos. At the same time, they were not oblivious to what the demo was all about.

Which is a sign of the maturity of our people. While the doomsayers are trying to paint demos as the end of all civilisation, the public proved they are indeed civilised, more so than politicians anytime.