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DECEMBER 1 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 47 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Newsmakers

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! It pays to read the news and the ads in Philippine newspapers. Some top-ranking officers in the Philippine armed forces are apparently more worked up than usual over the promotion of one of their colleagues, Col. Jake Malajacan, aide to Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, who recently got his first star as a brigadier general. But a few anonymous officers took the unusual step of taking out a Nov. 21 full-page newspaper ad in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, criticizing President Joseph Estrada. It might not have been the writing on the wall, but will Estrada get the message? Manila's more astute between-the-lines readers realized the upper echelons of the military were issuing a not-so-veiled public warning of the military's dissatisfaction with Estrada. They were right. The next day people in Manila read that a group of retired generals and other military officers had earlier urged the armed forces, in a two-page manifesto, to "assist" the beleaguered Estrada in performing the "heroic act" of resigning. And just how beleaguered is the President? It's gotten to the level of family and friends. Businessman Lucio Tan, once the ultimate Malacanañg insider, reportedly voted against supporting Estrada during a survey of members of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, according to Manila's BusinessWorld. And family members of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos say they are ready to distance themselves from Estrada in an attempt to remain above the fray. Could it possibly get worse? Manila's Star daily, citing "unimpeachable sources close to the Pimentel family," says First Lady Luisa Pimentel "Loi" Ejercito reactivated her application for a "green card" which would allow her to immigrate to the U.S. Fleeing to the U.S. worked for the Marcos entourage in 1986. Will Loi take along her husband, though?

FANNING FLAMES FOR FREEDOM The way Indian film star Rajkumar, 72, tells it, no conditions were attached to his release from 108 days of jungle captivity at the hands of the notorious bandit and ivory smuggler Koose Muniswamy Veerappan. All it involved was a little help from his friends, including a female doctor, who told him to play sick. Those with a skeptical turn of mind wonder. While a government negotiator said flatly, "no money changed hands," other sources suggested that at a minimum, Veerappan must have exacted a promise not to be prosecuted. And Indian military intelligence sources suggest that $7 million was slipped to the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who once used the region as a springboard for the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. Veerappan, a South India folk hero of sorts, has long been alleged to have ties to the Tigers, who value his underground contacts. Whatever the case, Rajkumar's fans were ecstatic to see him free. Rioting had followed his abduction in July. Addressing them from the roof of his home, he acknowledged that "my fans are like my gods." It remains unclear who it was that finally delivered him from the hands of evil.

YOU CAN'T FIRE ME! I QUIT
Like hundreds of Floridians in America's presidential election, Alberto Fujimori made his presidential choice from overseas. But in this case, Fujimori, 62, exercised his option to resign as Peru's president to the congress in Lima while in Japan. Fujimori arrived in Tokyo from the APEC meeting in Brunei on Nov. 17, for what looks to be a pretty long stay — even though he denied he is seeking political asylum. Japanese have long had a fascination with Fujimori, the only person of Japanese descent to become president of another country (though Peruvians refer to him as El Chino). But he has worn out his popularity in Peru, where he is accused of rigging his re-election and an aide has been implicated in corruption. The final act for Fujimori came with the election of an opposition Congress. Shortly after he faxed them his resignation, the legislators voted to oust him on charges of "moral incapacity" by a 62-nine vote, with nine abstentions. The congressional leader, Valentin Paniagua, will take over as interim president.

PASSAGE
RELEASED Ishii Hisako, 40, former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, after 22 months in Wakayama prison in southwest Japan, on Nov. 18. She is among the first Aum members to complete their sentence. On her release, Ishii expressed sorrow for Aum's victims and promised not to rejoin the group. The mother of three was sentenced to 44 months in prison for helping Aum members evade arrest and other crimes. The group was responsible for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 which left 12 dead and thousands injured.

CLEARED Eusoff Chin, 65, former chief justice of Malaysia, of alleged misconduct, on Nov. 17, by prosecutors in Kuala Lumpur. An apparent vacation photograph of Eusoff and a lawyer who had been arguing a case in front of a panel led by the chief justice raised allegations of impropriety. Chin retired recently.

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Bandwidth: Boom With new undersea cables criss-crossing the region, ain't seen nothing yet in Asia

China: A turf war among major telecom players is looming in the world's second-largest mobile market

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TAIWAN: Political intrigue is behind a sex scandal that's adding to the pressure on President Chen

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ARTS & SCIENCE

Medicine: Fed up with medical blunders, Japanese patients fight for greater accountability from doctors and hospitals

Ceramics: Tradition takes a back seat as China's cutting edge potters strut their stuff in Hong Kong


Editorial: A growing digital divide is threatening the region's prosperity. Bridging it requires some basic investments

Letters & Comment: Not just the elite oppose Estrada

Looking Back: The prisoner of Sentosa

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