Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Serdamba had to settle for silver, as his shoulder injury caused his corner to stop the fight early in the 2nd round of his gold medal bout against his Chinese opponent.
Badar-Uugan's gold-medal fight was something to watch, definitely an exciting match with the high-scoring boxer who had beat his previous 2 opponents 15-2, 15-2. Backed by a huge Mongolian contingent screaming their heads off, he easily dispatched his opponent 16-5 for the gold.
With 2 golds and 2 silvers, the 2008 Olympics is Mongolia's most successful participation so far. This puts us at number 16 in the top 26 for Medals Per Capita, with a medal per 749,020. Read more on this here.
All four athletes were awarded the Honorary Sportsperson title, and the "Hero of Labour" medals were also given to Badar-Uugan, Tuvshinbayar and Gundegmaa. Sounds awfully communist, this whole "Hero of Labour" award (a literal translation), which it really is as it was created during the communist era. Check out the Hero of Socialist Labour article on Wikipedia for basic info on these medals. However, our medal designs are different. They look-a-like-a-this.
Sumo exhibition-matches will also be held in Ulaanbaatar in the coming week. Once this post-Olympics celebrations and Sumo exhibition matches are over, maybe, just maybe, we will get back to sorting out the political mess. Meanwhile, we all enjoy our athletes' success.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This year has been anything but boring for the Land of the Blue Sky. I suppose the only word that can summarize the year so far is "interesting", in both its meanings.
The fuel prices have, again, gone up this week, putting the price of petrol at just about "world-class" level, as Singaporeans may call it. In fact, petrol now costs more in Mongolia than in Singapore, one of SEA's most expensive cities.
J.Batzandan, head of the Civil Movement Party, finally posted bail, and has been released to seek medical attention as his health deteriorated at Gants Hudag detention centre. His colleague and deputy O.Magnai is still under detention.
Leaders of the silent sit-in demonstration, G.Arslan and A.Saruul were released two days ago. G.Arslan has notified the authorities of his intention to continue his silent demonstration until the detainees of the July 1 riots are released.
In a strange turn of events, the police are going to stage a demonstration to protest the arrest of their 5 colleagues over the 5 shooting deaths during the riots.
According to olloo.mn, the new Parliament may be sworn in tomorrow. News reports on the political situation are now mostly news speculations, with most of the headlines ending with a question mark "Will the Parliament take oath today?" or "Will a referendum be called?". Speaking of the latter, some public figures are now suggesting a referendum to resolve the electoral disputes and the issue of a possible re-election. This suggestion has received little attention from the boys in the grey palace.
Olympics and Politics now battle for the news headlines. At this rate, the confused public may vote the judoku Tuvshinbayar into office, should a re-election be held. As the proverb/curse (said to be an ancient Chinese curse, but this claim is not authenticated) goes "May you live in interesting times". My personal favourite is "May the road rise up and fall on you" and given the road conditions in Ulaanbaatar, it just might.. literally.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The DP executive committee convened yesterday to discuss the current political stalemate. While the President announced the Parliamentary session for Monday afternoon, the DP electees chose not to attend, citing the President's disregard of the earlier agreement that a Parliamentary session will only be called upon agreement by both MPRP and DP. Perhaps the President had put a bit more faith on their night of gold-medal celebrations and the inebriated pleasantries that ensued.
The DP has in principle agreed to attend the Parliamentary session and have their MP electees sworn in, once the GEC presents the President with the complete and final list of 76 electees. There have been little to no updates from the GEC on the names of remaining 10 MPs from the disputed constituencies, with the media attention focused on the increasing gas prices and the Olympics.
Same goes for the detainees and the silent sit-in protestors: no news reports and no apparent progress.
All in all, little progress and much confusion, as the leading parties, in particular the DP MP electees, seem divided internally, giving conflicting information to the press.
The only progress so far is Badar-Uugan's climb up to the semi-finals in Bantamweight boxing. He will be facing a Moldovan boxer on 22 August for the silver medal. He secured his bronze medal yesterday against a fighter from Botswana, whose name, Khumiso Okgopoleng, must seem just as unpronouncable to everyone else as Mongolians names are. And a random fact: a person from Botswana is called a Motswana, and Batswana in plural. How cool is that. And their language is Setswana! And I lived with a Motswana for a year in uni and never did learn that, opting instead to converse in the universal language of alcohol.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I didn't particularly want to cover the olympics since the Olympics receive extensive coverage everywhere without the need for bloggers to add commentary. But seeing as this is our first Olympic Gold Medal, it has to be mentioned. N.Tuvshinbayar beat Kazakhstan's Askhat Zhitkeyev in men's -100kg judo yesterday to bring home Mongolia's first Olympic Gold. after Gundegmaa won a Silver medal in air pistol shooting.
The judoku's win was a cause of major countrywide celebration last night as people spilled out onto the streets and to Sukhbaatar Square, the scene of "Black Tuesday" riots a month and a half ago. What is also significant perhaps is that the win and the celebration brought together the "warring" factions together for the moment as the PM, the President and the DP head along with various other politicians gathered on Sukhbaatar Square, having put aside their differences, ecstatically competing for the microphone to say a few words of praise and express their joy. Some news reports speculate that this could perhaps herald the end of the political stalemate, to which I have little to add. According to eyewitness accounts, most of our top politicians seemed somewhat inebriated, so it's possible that today they don't remember a whole lot and are back to their squabbling, aided by hangover irritability. All that aside, it is a temporary relief and a cause for celebration in our politically dark times.
N.Tuvshinbayar has become a national hero overnight, with various state awards, corporate sponsorships and gifts promised to him from the very next day of his spectacular Olympic win.
We have our two Olympic medals now, as we had expected / predicted pre-games, bringing Mongolia to the top 3 position in this Olympics for Medals Per Capita, behind Armenia and Australia respectively. Look here for more information on this.
Gogo.mn has a video up of the gold-winning match here. And here is a video of the ensuing celebrations in the streets of Ulaanbaatar.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Many would argue that the situation is far from it. Natural Resources = Economic Exploitation by foreign multinationals, political backwardness and corruption, human rights violations, forced removal of indigenous people from their lands and so on. Given the relevancy of this argument to Mongolia, I did some research. One of the interesting examples of a success story I have come across is Botswana. Since its independence in 1966, Botswana has had a multiparty system headed by a president, independent judiciary, strict anti-corruption measures and has been one of the more successful African economies to pull itself out of the poverty line to a middle-income nation with GDP per capita of $16,450 in 2007. It has had one of the fastest growth rates in the world for a time thanks to its diamond mining and tourism.
Of course, the country is not without its problems. After Swaziland, it has the second highest HIV infection rate in the world, with the average life expectancy at birth reduced to 34 years by 2005, which is simply insane. The economic growth rate has slowed down due to the HIV epidemic as well as, my guess, a lack of diversification in the economy, to which the government has started paying attention. There are also articles which point out the increasing wealth gap between the rich and poor.
A country from whom our politicians could learn a pointer or two, far as their ability to funnel the proceeds of diamond mining to economic development. There are certain surface similarities between Mongolian and Botswana, we're both landlocked, rich in natural resources and somewhat economically dependent on our neighbours, Botswana on S.Africa and Mongolia on Russia & China. We both have multi-party systems.
There's a lot of buzz in Mongolia about Singapore's rapid economic growth, but what they must realize is: 1. Singapore is a key shipping port city 2. It is small, has no natural resources and relies heavily on their service industry and foreign talents. 3. It is also a SEAsian airport hub, which means tourists on their way to other SouthEast Asian countries tend to spend a day or two in Singapore, boosting their income from tourism significantly. Mongolia? Unless you are travelling from Moscow to Beijing and transitting in Mongolia, most people stopping by Mongolia intended to visit Mongolia. 4. It is more or less a one-party system with the government keeping strict control over everything, which they would have to given their reliance on service efficiency and political stability.
On the other hand, Singapore has effective anti-corruption measures, including high salaries for civil servants and ministers. Now that is something Mongolia could learn from. A cynic might argue that the government can never pay the ministers enough, seeing the exorbitant amount of money some make through various means.
For more on Botswana, read here and here. It would be interesting to hear from someone who has actually been to Botswana and seen firsthand the situation there.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
According to news reports, the organizer of the silent sit-in demonstration at Sukhbaatar Square, G.Arslan has been detained for 14 days after his appearance in court this morning. The protesters are mostly members of the Citizens for Justice (or Honest Citizens' Movement) and Mongolian National Green movements, and number at 30-35 (source:Gogo.mn).
The demonstrators demand that the government release the 200+ detainees. They are also protesting the lack of transparency in the investigation of these 200+ people, the exact numbers of whom are yet to be released. The demonstrators had issued a request to meet with the President. The President's office, instead, replied with a statement branding the demonstration as "hindering with the due government process of finding responsible parties to the post-election riots and therefore illegal".
Despite the setback of having their leader detained, the demonstrators have stated their intention to continue their sit-in until all detainees are released.
Monday, August 4, 2008
The leader of the "Citizens for Justice" (Honest Citizens' movement, literally translated) movement Mr G.Arslan, who along with members was holding his silent and peaceful demonstration at the Sukhbaatar Square, has been subpoenaed by the Sukhbaatar district court. Rumours abound that he may be arrested and charged with public disruption of peace. The movement's request to hold a peaceful demonstration at Sukhbaatar Square was denied by the district administration amidst fears of another "stone revolution".
The battle for the new Parliament continues, as the DP and GEC chairman B.Battulga now engage in verbal warfare. The DP demand the resignation of B.Battulga, head of the GEC, for his part in the election confusion and for failing to ensure a fair and organized election. Meanwhile, the 3 local election committees have yet to deliver the final results for the disputed constituencies. B.Battulga retorts that neither the DP nor the MPRP have the right to pressure the GEC into changing the election results. The DP claim the election results presented to the President on 10 and 14 of July (different results each time) were in breach of the Election Law. Exactly what law they refer to, I tried to find out. Unfortunately, the GEC's website displays only a large "under maintenance" notice. So much for e-government.
This week, various foreign dignitaries are visiting Mongolia taking advantage of the summer season ahead of our unvisitable winter, including the president of Croatia Stjepan Mesic and a Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. The Emir had reportedly lent the Government USD 12 million (!!) for the construction of a new Parliament House, but little progress has been made from the Mongolian side. Their reason: There isn't enough space in Ulaanbaatar to build a new Parliament House. To a foreigner, it may sound like a ridiculous reason, considering Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with plenty of undeveloped land. My guess is the Parliamentarians want their office to be in central UB, where there really is no space for a new Parliament house.
Anyhoo, my main question is why? Why do we need to borrow money to build a Parliament house when the current Parliament house is just fine for their weekly "debates", which aren't even taking place nowadays due to the stalemate? How about USD 12 million on homeless shelters and housing projects? Some kinda road maintenance before they disappear for good leaving us to test our athleticism dodging SUV's thundering down pedestrian walkways? Maybe my asking these questions proves that I have little understanding of the intricacies of politics and priorities they demand. I shiver at the thought of another Parliament building with a gigantic Chinggis statue in front. Speaking of Chinggis, here's a daily randomness on Chinggis Khan: Korea's leading fund manager adopts the Tao of Chinggis Khan in his expansion / growth model.
S u u d e r . c o m - Mongolian Photo Blog » Улаанбаатaрын үдэш
Some amazing night photos of Ulaanbaatar on Suuder.com. Hey, UB doesn't look so post-Soviet and rundown at night with a long-exposure shot.