PENANG STATE — In the tourist draw of George Town in Penang in northern Malaysia, the Burmese Buddhist temple has become the locus of social and economic support for migrants from Myanmar. “l was a contractor at home, but left Burma [Myanmar] 19 years ago, arriving in Malaysia after crossing from Thailand,” said Aung Tin, a foreman on the construction site of a new pagoda, as Buddhist temples are called in Myanmar. At the construction site, all 14 staff supervised by Aung Tin – who would only talk to IRIN using a pseudonym – are Burmese migrants. “I left as soon as I could after the 1990 elections,” said Aung Tin. “The economic situation in the country was bad for years before then, and I had not been able to generate enough work. When I saw that the army was going to keep things the same, it became clear that I could not make a living,”
GEORGE TOWN — Two years after canceling her last scheduled concert in the country, US pop star Beyoncé announced earlier this month that she would perform in the Malaysian capital in late October. Her 2007 gig was cancelled after PAS – an Islamist party that forms part of the opposition coalition – threatened protests. “We are against Western sexy performances. We don’t think our people need that,” said PAS spokesman Sabki Yusof. Beyoncé’s about-turn comes despite a raft of piety-tinged controversies in recent weeks, including the shariah law sentencing of a 32 year old woman and an Indonesian national to six lashes for drinking in public. The government did a u-turn of its own, rescinding a ban on Muslims – who make up around 60% of the population – from attending a Black Eyed Peas concert in Kuala Lumpur on September 26. That gig was part of a series of events held around the world to mark the 250 year anniversary of the founding of Irish beer giant Guinness.
MITROVICA — To booming loudspeakers blasting out Orthodox hymns, Serbian student leader Sergej Zaporozac told the cheering crowd that “we are here since ancient times, [and] Kosovo is holy land for Serbs,” in reference to Kosovo’ quasi-mythical status in Serb nationalist circles The newly-independent state is site of numerous Orthodox monasteries and, on the road linking Pristina and Mitrovica, the tomb of Prince Lazar, martyred in 1289. Demonstrators waved Spanish and Russian flags in acknowledgement of those countries’ opposition to the newly declared Republic of Kosovo, while speakers castigated Western powers for recognizing Pristina’s government, as Belgrade followed up the recall of its ambassador in Washington with the withdrawal of its representative in Canberra, to protest Australia’s backing of the Kosovo state.
PRISTINA – The United States yesterday coupled its formal recognition of newly independent Kosovo with an appeal for the European Union and the World Bank to help turn the impoverished territory into a prosperous Muslim-majority state. With unemployment at nearly 50 percent, an average monthly salary of about $220 and growing corruption, Europe’s youngest country has raised security concerns throughout the continent. Still, it was clear after an all-night party celebrating Kosovo’s declaration of independence on Sunday that most of the population — more than 90 percent Muslim — is looking west to America rather than east to Mecca. After a night of fireworks, heavy drinking and dancing in the streets to Tupac Shakur’s rap hit “California Love,” residents of the Kosovar capital, Pristina, resumed their celebration yesterday, waving U.S. and Kosovar flags at the news that their new nation had been formally recognized by the United States.
PRISTINA — Dick Roche, Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs, told The Sunday Business Post that ‘‘this would not be a precedent for other ethnic groups. There are specifics to each case’’. At a news conference last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rubbished claims that Kosovo had special status, and EU member states such as Spain and Cyprus, with separatist movements of their own, have expressed their concerns about the Kosovo example. But the fact that Kosovo’s independence will be internationally-supervised, not to mention controversial, did little to curtail the jubilation around Pristina over the weekend. The new state will apparently be called Kosova, closer to the Albanian language version, and last minute efforts are being made to get the trappings of sovereignty ready, even if real sovereignty will be curtailed. ‘‘We want to get all the symbols and names correct, to show we are a separate country and heritage,” said Berat Jashari, a student at the University of Pristina.