ASEAN Focus 1/2018 Opinion Piece: EU Palm Oil Ban

Below is the full text of an opinion piece/commentary I recently wrote for Vol. 1 2018 of ASEAN Focus, a publication of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. You can view the entire publication here.

EU’s Anti-Palm Oil Measures Do Not Help the Environment

Southeast Asia is the world’s top palm oil producing region with 89% share of the world’s supply. The sector accounts for 5% to 7% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Indonesia and Malaysia which contribute 53% and 32% of the global supply respectively. 17% of Indonesia’s and 13% of Malaysia’s of palm oil exports are shipped to the European Union (EU), which is the world’s biggest palm oil importer, taking 21% of the global palm oil imports. According to the law of supply and demand, the two regions should be locked in a harmonious relationship of mutual dependency.

However, recent developments at the European Parliament have pitted the two regions against each other. Early this year, the European Parliament passed two resolutions to phase out palm oil from the EU biofuels programme by 2020, and impose a single certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) scheme for all palm oil entering the EU after 2020. These resolutions are now set to go through the European Council and European Commission for approval. Indonesia and Malaysia are trying desperately to prevent this from happening by lobbying individual EU countries and sending joint diplomatic missions to the EU. Malaysia has also threatened to raise this matter at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

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Keynote at the Australian Network Leader’s Summit, 13 Jan 2018

My time studying in Sydney, Australia was an important formative period for me, and I enjoy mentoring and advising other young people who are on the same path. This year, I was once again invited to share my experiences with a group of young Malaysian leaders from the Malaysian Students’ Council of Australia (MASCA) at the Australian Network Leader’s Summit 2018, held in KDU University College, Utropolis Glenmarie Campus.


As a Keynote Speaker, I was tasked to speak on the topic of “What Happens After Graduation”. I tried to provide the attendees with insights on two important aspects of this question: how to choose between continuing postgraduate studies or entering the workforce, and how to use the skills obtained through involvement in activities like MASCA in the “real world”. The session ended with a lively discussion session moderated by Ms Suwarna Ramanathan.

The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia – Now available in paperback!

My book (originally only available in hardcover) has been selected to be made available in paperback under the Routledge Paperbacks Direct programme! The paperback version carries a substantially lower and more accessible pricetag, and a further discount is available when you use the code FLR40. Orders can be placed at the Routledge website. Thanks to everyone who have bought/asked their libraries to acquire the book – I really appreciate your support!

The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia_Author Flyer.1-page-001

Visit from University of Puget Sound, Washington State

On 11 January 2018, the Department of International and Strategic Studies received a visit from about 30 students and accompanying lecturers from the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, USA.  The group was visiting Malaysia as part of their 9-month field-trip around Asia.

As part of their field trip, the group was seeking to understand major social issues facing the societies where they visited, through engagement with local academics and also the community. For the Malaysian leg of the visit, topics of interest included Muslim feminism and the use of the headscarf in Malaysian and Malay society. As a Malaysian Muslim woman, I was invited to share with the group my personal views on both of these topics.


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Book Review by Dr Lee Poh Onn, ISEAS Singapore

Dr Lee Poh Onn, Senior Research Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore was an important contributor to my book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage”, for providing his own insights, linking me up with his contacts, and also giving his enthusiastic encouragement for the project. An expert himself about development and political economy in ASEAN, he has now written a very kind review of my book, where he reflects on the content through his own academic lens. This review has been published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Economies Vol. 34/3 (Dec 2017) Special Issue: “The Malaysian Economy Towards 2020 and Beyond”. it is available for free download at the Journal’s website here (direct download link here).  Thank you, Dr Lee!

UNESCO Forum of ASEAN National Bioethics Committees on Haze, 6-7 December 2017

I was recently invited to participate in a UNESCO Forum searching for transboundary haze solutions from a bioethical and sustainability science perspectives. This forum was a continuation from the National Bioethics Committee meetings held in respective countries beforehand (see here). The forum was held at Le Meridien Jakarta and had an impressive mix of participants, not only from academia, NGO and government sectors, but also many from community leaders and farmers directly involved and affected by practices on the ground.


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Public Lecture in conjunction with Study Visit from Universitas Abdurrab, Riau, 29 November 2017

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya received a delegation of 8 academic staff and 28 students from Universitas Abdurrab, a private university in Riau, Indonesia, on 29 December 2017. The delegation was headed by Dr. M. Saeri, Deputy Rector for Academic and Alumni Affairs. The students were from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, majoring in international relations, communications and government.


As part of the study visit, a Public Lecture on the theme of Trasboundary Haze Governance was organized. I gave a presentation based on my book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage” and Pak Alfajri, MIA, the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Abdurrab, who is also interested in this topic, gave his own views on the subject with a presentation on “Riau Government Policies to Realize the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution Goals (2015-2016)”. Students in attendance engaged in an interesting discussion with the speakers after the presentation, before concluding their visit with a campus tour.