Political milestones spark shifting narratives and social change

Elections in Indonesia and Malaysia shine light on past political conflicts as UN’s ASEAN Summit looks back at past Khmer Rouge atrocities.

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November 19, 2022
Political milestones spark shifting narratives and social change

Hello Globe Readers,

Our stories this week delve into the shifting tides of political change across Southeast Asia and the interlaced ties between politics, policy, and people. Whether it’s a Malaysian politician eyeing a final comeback in the upcoming elections, or the potential of a new law that promises respite for Singapore’s overworked and vulnerable migrant workers, political change is a repeated backdrop to the region’s individual and broader narratives. 

The ASEAN Summit drew to a close on 13 November and Cambodia prepared to hand over the gavel of the chairmanship to Indonesia. UN Secretary-General António Guterres joined the high-profile delegation gathering in Phnom Penh and visited the capital’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where he spoke with Khmer Rouge survivors. Globe’s Anton L. Delgado was on the ground to cover Guterres’s visit as he urged for new foundations for future generations so “that the memory of what happened here is never lost.”

As Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship comes to an end, Malaysians are looking towards potential new beginnings as the country gears up for its 19 November general election. And for 97-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, it is an opportunity for a powerful comebackGlobe contributor Jarni Blakkarly held an exclusive interview with the political leader, sharing his thoughts on inter-party conflict, lasting legacies, and his ambitions for a third premiership.

Conflict, legacy, and the fickle narratives that shape political discourse are also themes that run through ‘The House on Calle Sombra.’ Journalist Marga Ortigas’s debut novel follows one family’s intergenerational journey through Manila society, set against the background of the country’s duplicitous landscape. Globe’s Stew Post spoke with the author about the themes of social hierarchy, filial duty, and constructed truths which ran through both her work and the country’s recent 2022 presidential elections. 

Indonesia is preparing for its own general election in February next year, but experts say its civic space is failing under Joko Widodo, and that human rights topics are used as a political tool for candidates to launch their agendas or attack their opponents. Globe’sNisya Kunto was on the ground at the 19th Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, the event’s first in-person iteration since the pandemic. She spoke to notable writers, academics, journalists, and thinkers on issues of human rights, and dissent, as they unpacked how these issues are woven into the country’s political climate. 

The start of 2023 also promises change for Singapore’s migrant domestic workers. A new law will stipulate at least one mandatory rest day per month, which cannot be taken from the employee’s salary. As Globe contributor Toh Ee Ming spoke to the Lion City’s migrant domestic workers, she found hope and optimism mixed with uncertainty and questions over how the law will be enforced. 

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoy the features. 

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