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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Anti-ISA activists at PM open house


Andrew Ong | Oct 1, 08 6:28pm
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came face to face with at least 40 activists calling for the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the release of all detainees under the law. A visibly amused Abdullah shook hands and greeted the activists at the Hari Raya open house in PWTC hosted by him and his cabinet ministers.

Abdullah was smiling throughout as he shook hands and exchanged small talk with the activists, as his jittery bodyguards looked on.

pm open house 011008 small rpk"He asked how I was and remembered we met in August," said blogger and lawyer Haris Ibrahim.

"I replied by saying ‘Please, please, please, please, please abolish the ISA."

Haris led a group of about 20 bloggers who wore T-shirts bearing ‘No to ISA' and ‘Free RPK' in reference to the two-year ISA detention of Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

These activists were soon followed by another bigger group from Hindraf - numbering some 200 and wearing bright orange T-shirts - who had wanted to deliver the same message to the premier.

However this second group's effort was hindered by police who insisted that only a small number of them can be allowed to meet the prime minister up close. Subsequently about 20 of them met up with the premier.

Forgiveness

Led by K Shanti, the wife of Hindraf leader in exile P Waythamoorthy, the group handed Abdullah a teddy bear bouquet and a large Hari Raya card.

"I asked him when my husband could come back safely and he replied ‘so you are the chairperson's wife'. He said that he would look into," said Shanti.

pm open house 011008 small hindrafHindraf's Hari Raya card however was badly torn after police tried to confiscate it at the entrance to PWTC. After a minor scuffle, the Hindraf activists managed to hang on to it.

"In the spirit of forgiveness during Aidilfitri celebrations, we wanted to express that the Indian Malaysians forgive him for sending Hindraf leaders to Kamunting," added Shanti, when asked about the content of the card.

Both groups stressed that their activists did not eat any of the food offered during the event, which the government host annually, because their sole intention was to send a message to Abdullah.

Photo captions

pm open house 01100 01 entrance

Hindraf activist wait for about 30 minutes in line to enter PWTC banquet hall

pm open house 011008 02 hari raya card

K Shanti explains Hindraf's Hari Raya card to the police

pm open house 011008 03 police snatch card

Police trying to confiscate the card

pm open house 011008 04 crumpled card

Hindraf coordinator S Jayathas complains over crumpled card

pm open house 011008 05 teddy bear

Hindraf leader in exile P Waythamoorthy's daughter W Vwaishhnnavi holds teddy bear gift for prime minister

pm open house 011008 06 rpk supporter

Several supporters of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin

pm open house 011008 07 anti isa

T-shirt condemning use of ISA on Raja Petra

pm open house 011008 08 buffet

Visitors to the open house at the buffet spread

pm open house 011008 09 wondering in banquet hall

Hindraf activists walk orderly in single file through a banquet hall while looking for the prime minister

pm open house 011008 10 stopped by police

The activists were stopped some 6 metres away from the prime minister

pm open house 011008 11 smiling abdullah

Abdullah smiles as he greets the activists. Looking on is his wife Jeanne Abdullah and his deputy Najib Abdul Razak

pm open house 011008 12 band of bloggers

Bloggers pose after accomplishing their mission

As Close to Heaven As You Can Get On Earth

By Petra Gimbad in Project Malaysia

How we sanction racism again and again. Little attention is paid to how in some way, all of us have walked as a willing lamb to the slaughter.

If you see an Indian and a snake, kill the Indian, a laughing man told me.

I have a friend who spits on the ground everytime she sees a girl in a tudung, a friend narrated with pride. Dark skin to signify an Indian; a tudung as a cue to spit. It was a grown man who told the ‘joke’ of the Indian and the snake. The protagonist of the latter was a young woman, fresh out of high school.

These little jokes and stories are now part of our Malaysian landscape.

More often than not, we repeat the stories that divide us, forgetting our neighbours whom we break bread with and call on at 3am to drive us to hospital. Too few of those stories are told. The stories which divide have seeped into our psyche so effectively, we are no longer conscious of this division we carry or how we propagate it.

Both young and old are affected, and still it is written: the children shall inherit the earth.

A few years ago, an academic presented that children learn how to be sexist and racist as early as kindergarten age. Without meaning to, it is too easy to teach a child to bully another of a different ethnicity and to reduce a culture into a mere stereotype. These racist attitudes infect our children more effectively than we think. Our children learn within the home and the environments they are placed outside of it. The assumption that children are innocent of prejudices no longer holds. Therefore, the view that our world is filled with diverse human beings who are equal, must be taught.

Having grown up in Kuala Lumpur with Chinese relatives, I was comfortable interacting with fair faces. Then, we spoke English. Spending time with my East Malaysian cousins was an experience different from everything I knew. Faces of different shades surrounded me. Sharing Orang Asal blood to varying degrees, this did not include the histories of other cultures which flowed in our veins. We spoke Malay. Everyone in our state spoke Malay, including the Chinese women who ran the shops.

Upon return to Kuala Lumpur years later, I realised that convenience was not the sole reason many friends chose to converse in English and Chinese. This language of Malay become the innocent target of their frustration after university quotas created in them a sense of rejection. Having grown up in a Chinese community with very few Indians and even fewer Malays, it was easy to turn the community they did not know into a straw doll target.

A fellow East Malaysian spoke of her experience: “People of different races in East Malaysia mingle more and there are fewer stigmas in speaking the Malay language. There is intermarriage. Almost everyone I grew up with is mixed. How on earth are you to hate someone based on race, when you have Chinese relatives, Muslim cousins and a crazy Orang Asal (indigenous) uncle who’s a bomoh (witchdoctor)?”

Recently, I explained the role of the kacip Fatimah herb to a fascinated Chinese friend. Previously, the only time we spoke of the Malay community was during our teenage years, criticising they stole her opportunities and left her nothing.

“If you had these same study and work opportunities you speak of, even if they were based on your Chinese blood, would you take advantage of them?” I asked.

“Yes.” She realised what her answer meant and laughed nervously.

It was left unspoken: how then, are you any different?

Later, a different friend accused Malays of corruption.

“Have you bribed?”

“Yes.” he admitted.

Again, the unsaid was left unspoken.

These experiences shatter you. Once, I spent time with a Muslim girl who was pregnant with the child of a non-Muslim boy. She wanted to keep the baby; he wanted no part of it. It is difficult to cope with an unplanned pregnancy. The courage needed for the task of raising a child, comes not from one person alone. But when you see how a boy is terrified of taking responsibility also because he fears marriage and the conversion that comes with it, it breaks your heart. It breaks your heart that the important task of preparing a loving home for the baby is shunted aside for the paramount fear of telling your parents that you got a Malay girl pregnant. In such circumstances, all semblance of religious superiority is forgotten. Would any faith approve of his abandoning the mother of his child and his baby? Would his parents even care?

She aborted the baby. Its impact lives with her still.

When I sat with my East Malaysian cousins for the first time, they asked: “Betulkah orang hitam pergi neraka?” (Is it true that the dark skinned go to hell?) One of my tiniest cousins, arguably the darkest skinned of them all, was crying because he believed his soul was damned.

“Apa pendapat awak?” I asked. (What is your opinion?)

Everyone nodded vigorously, including the darkest ones. Most of them were dark.

“Jadi orang India pergi neraka dan orang Cina syurga?” (So the Indians go to hell and the Chinese to heaven?)

Yes, they nodded.

“Jadi kalau kulit hitam awak pergi neraka dan kalau putih pergi syurga?” (So if you’re dark you go to hell and if you’re fair you go to heaven?)

They confidently nodded.

“Tengok kulit sendiri.” (Look at your own skin.)

They stared at their hitam manis skin in horror.

So, I asked them, who goes to hell and who goes to heaven? Most of them had no answer. A few faces crumpled, trying not to cry. Gently, I told them that heaven is for those who live in their hearts. Our salvation lies within and through our actions, not the colour of our skin.

Gloria Steinem said, “Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”

Are willing to give up our racist jokes and divisive comments? Can we see how it affects our children and the lives of other children? Are we courageous enough to admit to our own inherent racism, and how we have created the country where we now reside? Our response defines our future and of those to come.

All things are connected, say the wise, and whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.


Petra GimbadPetra Gimbad studied English to teach secondary school; she now studies law and writes. She has worked with children, adolescents, disabled performers, refugees, traumatised women and is interested in constitutional issues.

Sinophobia smolders in Malaysia

By Hui Yew-Foong (Opinion Asia)

SINGAPORE - As an ethnic minority in most of Southeast Asia, the Chinese have, from time to time, been subject to outbursts of anti-Chinese sentiments. The latest tirade came from Ahmad Ismail, a division chief of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in Penang, Malaysia earlier this month. The UMNO is the leading component party of the ruling coalition, Barisan National (BN).

According to a local Chinese newspaper, the Sinchew Daily, Ahmad had said that the "Chinese were merely squatting in Malaysia", and thereby "do not deserve equal rights". Despite repeated calls for an apology from Ahmad, the UMNO grassroots leader remained defiant, and later in a press conference warned Chinese Malaysians not to mimic American Jews, who not only
sought to control the country's economy, but also its politics.

Such arguments, that Chinese, being of foreign origin, do not deserve the same citizenship rights as indigenous peoples, or the comparison of Chinese with Jews, are not new to the region. Perhaps the earliest allusion to such a comparison came from King Vajiravudh of Thailand, who dubbed the Chinese as "Jews of the Orient" in an essay written in 1914. Writing under a pseudonym, the Thai king had questioned the political loyalty of the Chinese, given their penchant for economic gain.

The same comparison was rehearsed in Indonesia in the 1950s, through what was coined the "Chinese problem". The prevailing rhetoric then was that the Chinese were fickle and opportunistic, as evident in their having at different times cooperated with the Dutch, collaborated with the Japanese, or bore allegiance to their native China. The argument was that such a people whose political loyalty was questionable should not be accorded the same economic privileges as indigenous businessmen.

The result of such a current of thought was the infamous Presidential Decree No 10 of 1959, which banned retail trade by non-citizens in rural areas. In large part, this decree targeted ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, many of whom had not yet gotten Indonesian citizenship. The renowned Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, spoke out against the decree in his book Hoakiau di Indonesia (recently translated into English as The Chinese in Indonesia), for which he was subsequently jailed.

At one point, Pram, as he was popularly called, went so far as to argue that everyone, including so-called indigenous Indonesians, were of immigrant origin in the long history of human settlement. I suppose this would have been his rebuttal to Ahmad's "Chinese were squatters" line had he still been alive.

But despite Pram's arguments, Indonesia became increasingly anti-Chinese under the Suharto regime, which spanned the 32-year period of 1966-1998. Branding Chinese as non-pribumi (non-indigenous), the state systematically and actively sought to erase the foreignness of this minority by banning Chinese language education and all public manifestations of Chinese culture.

Chinese Indonesians were also encouraged to adopt Indonesian-sounding names to accentuate the localization process. At the same time, this ethnic minority was largely confined to the economic realm and denied roles in government or the state infrastructure. In the Indonesian context, what were also disturbing are the spates of anti-Chinese violence that have marked the nation's history. One of the most notorious episodes in recent history was the riots of May 1998, during which Chinese women were sexually assaulted, and in some cases, killed.

Interestingly, since the 1998 episode and the resignation of Suharto, there have not been anti-Chinese riots of national significance in Indonesia. Recently, there have been anti-Chinese riots in West Kalimantan, but these may be attributed to the vicissitudes of regional politics. The prevailing political rhetoric seems to have shifted to some form of multiculturalism in Indonesia, such that discriminatory policies are repealed and politicians are habitually endorsing Chinese cultural events with their presence.

Although Malaysia has also experienced its share of ethnic violence, in the form of the May 13 Sino-Malay race riots in 1969, Chinese Malaysians have not had to endure ethnic discrimination on the same scale and intensity as Chinese Indonesians. Ethnic discrimination in the Malaysian context is indirect, inflicted through affirmative action policies that privilege the Malay-Muslim majority, often at the expense of not just the Chinese, but Indians as well.

Nevertheless, disgruntlement with the excesses of this form of discrimination led to a large swing of votes to the opposition parties during the March general election this year, where the ruling BN coalition was denied its usual two-thirds majority in parliament. It seems that the opposition alliance, also known as the Pakatan Rakyat, had struck a cord with voters through its multicultural agenda.

Even the UMNO leadership has come to recognize that blatant promotion of Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, is not consonant with the sensibilities of a multiracial electorate in the current political climate. Someone no less than the Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has publicly apologized for Ahmad's remarks.

At the same time, other BN component parties, especially those which are Chinese-based, have been vociferous in their censure of Ahmad. One of these, Gerakan, has even threatened to leave the ruling coalition. Eventually, the UMNO leadership decided to suspend Ahmad for three years.

What is telling here is that statements, such as those made by Ahmad, that might have been glossed over not too long ago, are now considered definitely offensive. It seems that after the March election, Malaysia, like Indonesia, has begun to embrace a political culture that assumes genuine multiracialism as one of its key tenets.

Yet one has to be circumspect and not overly quick or optimistic in any prognosis of a greater multiracialism. Change that is too drastic may lead to a backlash. Whether Ahmad's remarks are the dying embers of a receding sensibility or the first ripples of new waves of racial tension remain to be seen.

Hui Yew-Foong is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore.

THE DUE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

By Raja Aziz Addruse and Logan Sabapathy in Project Malaysia

It is now beyond question that the Judiciary is in serious need of reform.

At a dinner earlier this year, held shortly after the Royal Commission of Enquiry into the V K Lingam video clip had made known its conclusions and recommendations, the Prime Minister reflected that the “level of trust and respect for the judiciary…(was) simply not as strong as it was before”. His basis was concerns “related to capacity and efficiency, stemming from long case backlogs, delays and the outdated manner of court administration” and less tangible concerns “such as perceived corruption and perceived decline in quality.”

Appreciating that the nation needed an efficient and trusted judiciary, the Prime Minister committed the Government to a process of reform.

Though we are yet to see any real progress taken in that direction, the acknowledgment that matters are not as they should be is an important first step. For too long, pleas by the Bar and civil society for the Government to take stock of the worrying state of the Judiciary had either fallen on deaf ears or been rejected for allegedly lacking credibility.

The stage is thus set. Given the requisite political will and a continued spirit of conciliation and healing, such as infused the tacit concession by Government that wrong had in fact been done in 1988, significant reforms could be achieved to great effect.

A query however arises as to what it is that we aim to achieve. Though there is universal acceptance of the need for reform, there seems to be no consensus about the ultimate objective of any such endeavour. Though a ‘more competent’ or ‘seemingly less corrupt’ or ‘more efficient’ judiciary are all satisfactory aims in themselves, we must keep in mind that as aspirations they are ambiguous. The exercise requires the kind of strict benchmarking that would allow us to establish a Judiciary that inspires confidence both nationally and internationally. We should also not be distracted from the fact that the difficulties we face go beyond the Judiciary into the wider system of the administration of justice.

It would thus appear that for any meaningful progress in this regard, we must first determine the objective of reform, having regard to the standards that we wish to achieve. As we see it, any undertaking would only be of value to the nation if its ultimate aim were to be the establishing of a framework that would once again allow for the Rule of Law. By this we mean a system in which everyone is made safe from arbitrary governance by subjecting all persons to the law.

Though some might argue that the Rule of Law is in place, pointing to the existence of laws and institutions that constitute the wider system of the administration of justice, an honest and objective assessment would make it patently clear that this is no longer the case. Serious doubts have been cast over the competence and integrity of the key institutions. No less significant is the very low level of public confidence in the system as a whole, such confidence being a necessary prerequisite to its effectiveness. We are in the midst of a serious crisis of confidence such that decisions of the courts and the authorities, be they the police or the Attorney General, are doubted virtually as a matter of course. It is regrettable that the current state of affairs in this country is such that many now believe that governance is arbitrary.

In view of this, an intention to address those factors that have led to the belief that governance is arbitrary for there being no effective Rule of Law must be central to any campaign for reform. This in turn brings into relief the need to build a consensus as to the level of influence the Executive should be permitted to have, if at all. The Government’s apparent reluctance to dilute its involvement in the appointment of judges despite having very publicly endorsed the need for an independent judicial appointments commission points to a continued desire on the part of those who form the Government that the Executive should be allowed to shape due process. Mirroring attitudes of the Executive arms of governments in other jurisdictions, our Executive’s desire for influence must not be dismissed as being idiosyncratic to merely those who make up the incumbent Government.

It also becomes apparent that the reform initiative must be approached on at least two equally important levels; the legal framework and human resource.

The former is crucial in ensuring that the fundamentals of the system are strong. This can be seen in the impact that the controversial amendment of Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution in 1988 has had. The amendment did immeasurable damage. Not only did it affect the psyche of judges, already battered by the attack on the Judiciary, it set the foundation for a reshaped perspective on the role the Judiciary was to play in promoting the Rule of Law. In its 2007 decision in PP v Kok Wah Kuan1, the Federal Court in effect held that the doctrine of separation of powers was not relevant to constitutional law in this country. In a previous decision handed down in 2002, Pihak Berkuasa Negeri Sabah v Sugumar Balakrishnan2, the Court had for all purposes and intents concluded that it was Parliament that was supreme and not the Constitution. These decisions, and others of a similar nature, have in many ways lent to the arbitrariness we have seen these past two decades. The call by Zaid Ibrahim, the former Minister in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform, for a reinstatement of the original Article 121(1), echoing the position the Bar has taken since the amendment, is therefore a welcome one.

In the same vein, it is now beyond question that a more transparent and accountable process of appointments and promotions of judges is essential. The events that led to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong establishing a Royal Commission of Enquiry, the proceedings of the Commission and its conclusions and recommendations have cast light on just how undermined the Judiciary is. An independent mechanism is no longer just one of several options; by virtue of circumstance it has become a necessity. We have been shown the extent to which the Executive considered it entitled to interfere with and influence the process of appointments and, in this regard, the secondary role that it had assigned to the Conference of Rulers and the Heads of the Judiciary.

Additionally, developments in the law now require a greater number of judges skilled not only in the law but also in those aspects that lend to greater efficiency and industry. These needs are no longer met satisfactorily by a method tailored around informal recommendations behind closed doors, such as is currently in place. Together, these factors underscore a need for a mechanism that in our view would best be embodied in an independent commission similar to that in the United Kingdom. Though concerns have been expressed about the composition of such a commission and whether its members might lead to inappropriate appointments, transparency and accountability will greatly reduce the risk. Additionally, allowing the Conference of Rulers and the Heads of the Judiciary to play the roles the Constitution intended of them would introduce a useful counterbalance.

Any discussion concerning measures in aid of strengthening the judicial process would not be comprehensive if it did not also consider other features of the system as it is presently. The effect of appointments of Judicial Commissioners as probationary judges on the independence of the Judiciary has been queried and justifiably so. By the nature of things, Judicial Commissioners serve on the assumption that they will be elevated to the bench only if they are confirmed. The process of confirmation is a subjective one, left very much to the discretion of the Chief Judge. Given the matters set out above, this is not a healthy practice for being open to abuse. It would as such be appropriate to consider whether it would be best to appoint persons to the bench directly. It is equally pressing that consideration be given to whether it would be best to create a framework that would allow the subordinate courts independence from the Attorney General’s Chambers for the same reason.

Looking beyond the Judiciary, it will be useful to consider whether the Attorney General’s Chambers should be streamlined to allow it to fulfill its primary task as legal advisor to the Government more efficiently. This could be done by hiving off some its current tasks to specialist bodies created for that purpose including the instituting and prosecuting of criminal cases. An independent body similar to the Crown Prosecution Services in the United Kingdom headed by a Director of Public Prosecutions could undertake that task satisfactorily. In addition to reducing a burdensome workload that lends itself to inefficiency and questionable judgment, this could also assist in allaying concerns as to selective prosecution through a transparent reporting process.

In the same way, an independent Law Reform Commission could be established for self-evident purpose. Such an independent commission could speed up the process of reviewing laws to ensure that legal developments here are abreast with developments in the world. The Bar Council submitted a proposal to this effect some years ago for this very reason. While the Government then thought that the Attorney General’s Chambers could undertake this very important responsibility, perhaps it is timely to reconsider the proposal.

Moving on to the human resource level, it is apparent that over the years, the Judiciary and the other institutions in the system have come to be viewed as being akin to departments and agencies in the Government. They have as such been staffed in very much the same way as these departments and agencies have. This has nurtured a lack of appreciation as to the invaluable role these institutions play in society with the consequence of the wider system having been greatly weakened.

Recognising that these institutions have a direct and causal relationship with the Rule of Law, it is vital that we approach the question of who it is that should be appointed as a judge or the Attorney General or as a senior federal counsel or otherwise with the utmost respect to what it is that is sought to be achieved by that appointment: the nurturing and promotion of the system of justice. Appointments in this area must therefore be given the gravity they deserve. The impression these individuals leave on society, through precedents they set or policy decisions they make, is virtually indelible. Correcting their mistakes will take significant time and much effort, if that is possible at all. This draws attention to a need to continuously guarantee that only those who are up to the task in the fullest sense, our best and brightest, should be appointed.

We have not set out to provide a comprehensive survey of needed reforms. The matters set out above are intended to invite a discussion on what needs to be done with full regard to the seriousness, and as such urgency, of the matters under consideration. Whatever the shape of that process, it is imperative that we keep in mind that its driving aim can only be the restoration of the Rule of Law.


1 [2007] 6 CLJ 341
2 [2002] 4 CLJ 105


Raja Aziz AddruseRaja Aziz Addruse is a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. He was President of the Bar three times and a former President of the National Human Rights Society. He is widely recognised for his outstanding efforts to promote and protect the Rule of Law. His contribution to the law, in particular to the areas of constitutional law and human rights, is unparalleled. He has appeared in numerous landmark cases.

Logan SabapathyLogan Sabapathy is an Advocate & Solicitor.

On the Sri Maha Kaliamman shrine

We have seen and felt the anguish of those who were forced to defend their temples and even suraus in past years, usually due to a parcel of land being subjected to development. I have seen my friend Uthayakumar beaten and arrested defending century-old temples and shrines - and now he has been detained without trial under the ISA for a year.

So when the rakyat gave us an opportunity to govern Selangor on 8 March, this means we have to try to do things differently, and attempt to rectify the mistakes of the past as far as possible. In fact, I touched on this issue in my speeches during the election campaign earlier this year.

The Pakatan Rakyat Selangor state government policy is clear:- That no place of worship (whether surau, tokong, kuil, church etc.) built prior to 8 March 2008 is to be demolished, unless and until a suitable site has been identified for relocation.

So, imagine our horror when we found out a Hindu shrine was demolished recently.

Read more at: http://elizabethwong.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/on-the-sri-maha-kaliamman-shrine/

Teresa Kok and the supremacist minority

Commentary by Wan Hamidi Hamid

OCT 2 - Teresa Kok must be wondering why some Malays are adamant in portraying her as the Chinese chauvinist, villain of peace and enemy of Islam. With her impeccable record as the most hardworking wakil rakyat and the Member of Parliament with the highest majority votes in the country, she must be at a loss to fathom the attempts to assassinate her character.

From the blatant lies that she had opposed the azan (the Islamic call to prayer), to her wearing a skirt inside a mosque, the Seputeh MP has to live through the nightmare of racial politics almost on a daily basis.

Despite repeated denials of the azan issue – for which she was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act for seven days – Kok is still being chastised by some quarters linked to Umno, including the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia.

For the three-term MP, who is known among her close friends as a devout Catholic and a staunch believer in multiracialism, the detention without trial-ISA was not enough for her detractors. After her release, some extremist elements threw a Molotov cocktail into her parents' house.

To make matters worse, a whole lot of text messages were sent around justifying the violent act. The saddest part of the story is that some Malays actually believe that Kok is guilty of insulting Islam – which she is not.

The problem is those who believe the lies probably read one particular newspaper that is prone to promote racial supremacy. There are other Malay language newspapers with higher circulation than the one espousing racist tendencies, yet they are not keen on resorting to false news. They seem to know the danger of playing up baseless racial accusations.

So what gives? Despite the many possible answers, it is likely that Umno, particularly in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which suffered one of its worst election defeats, is venting anger in the only way some of its leaders know – racism.

Already many Barisan Nasional component parties are unhappy with recent racial episodes.

Now that the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has left BN and Gerakan is mulling a similar move, the situation is critical for Umno-led BN. The fact that Umno is more concerned with its leadership transition, thus ignoring its partners, is likely to be a push factor for component members in the federal ruling coalition.

The tussle for the top leadership in Umno is expected to bring out the nastiest and dirtiest of tactics, especially when the party divisional meetings – the real backbone of Umno – begin next week.

As reflected during the branch meetings of the last three months, Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, was the keyword among the grassroots leaders and members. Although top leaders have defined it as the struggle for the betterment of the Malays, others took it literally to mean the superiority of the Malays over other Malaysians.

This is especially true in the case of Teresa Kok when attempts to demonise her, despite being based on slander, continue to spread among the racist political element of the usually moderate and fair-minded Malays.

To this racist minority, Umno hegemony is their game, never mind that the basis of BN is racial harmony. They couldn't care less about muhibbah so long as their supremacist definition of the Malay is accepted by all.

Their only problem is that they are in the minority. Even Kok acknowledges it. She knows many more Malays accept her, not only as an MP or a Selangor state executive councillor, but also as a fellow Malaysian.

But spending a stint under the ISA and suffering the trauma of her parents' home being fire-bombed is not an easy experience to live with. She is hoping that more Malaysians, especially the Malays, speak up against racism and those who perpetuate the dangerous trend.

Even in high places she has good Malay friends. Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim quit the government in protest against Kok's arrest under the ISA and has even written an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi to abolish the cruel law.

Kok has always been a popular figure with the Malay grassroots in the Klang valley.

Immediately after she was released from the ISA, she attended a number of breaking-of-fast ceremonies, including at the Cheras Baru mosque, the one which she was accused of going into wearing a skirt.

The truth of the matter is the event was organised outside the mosque and Kok was wearing a long skirt covering her knees, similar to skirts she wears in Parliament, the Selangor state assembly and her state government office. She did not even enter the mosque.

But racists with agendas do not let facts get in the way of a good distortion in their favour. It's never too late, however, for some of these people to reflect on the good month of Syawal to ask for forgiveness from those who have been wrongly accused.

Maaf zahir batin.

Semua manusia adik-beradik

KUALA LUMPUR (Hrkh) - Semua manusia seluruh dunia adalah "adik-beradik sebenarnya" tidak kira bangsa sama ada Arab, Melayu, Cina, India, Amerika atau Orang Asli kerana semua mereka adalah adalah anak cucu Adam a.s dan Hawa, kata Mursyidul Am PAS, Datuk Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat dalam perutusannya sempena Eidulfitri.

"Tidak ada lebihnya bangsa Arab berketurunan Nabi Muhammad s.a.w dengan kaum Orang Asli kecuali hanya dengan taqwa kepada Allah, sujud kepada Allah Tuhan yang Maha Meliputi sekelian alam.

"Sumber hidup keseluruhan ini adalah anugerah Allah s.w.t. Ia tidak dapat dijual dan tidak dapat dibeli," kata Menteri Besar Kelantan itu.

Begitu juga, kata beliau, dengan pelbagai bulan di dalam taqwim di mana dalam bulan mana dan ketika mana sekalipun, hidup manusia sarat dengan perhambaan kepada Allah s.w.t.

"Sebenarnya, baik dalam bulan mana dan ketika mana sekalipun, hidup kita ini sarat dengan pelbagai aktiviti perhambaan. Kita mengabdikan diri kepada Allah dalam segenap keadaan.

"Menyambut Hari Raya pun adalah merupakan ajaran agama. Makan minum, berpakaian cantik, suka-ria di hari raya sama ada Eidulfitri atau Eiduladha; semuanya itu adalah ajaran agama.

"Teriak tangis di waktu dinihari, sedu-sedan sebelum subuh meminta diampunkan segala dosa, diselamatkan dari godaan nafsu dan sabar menghadapi segala karenah manusia baik mukmin, fasik, kufur dan lebih-lebih lagilah yang munafik; pun adalah ajaran agama," kata Tuan Guru.

Begitu juga, katanya, dengan kesedaran terhadap lafaz berbunyi: "Ya Allah mujurnya ada ajaran-Mu dan puasnya hatiku mendengar nasihat Nabi-Mu yakni Muhammad s.a.w.

"Semuanya ini berupa pengabdian," katanya lagi.

Beliau mengucapkan kesyukurannya kepada Allah yang telah mendatangkan lagi Ramadhan "untuk kita menghirup udara kerahmatan, keampunan dan maghfirah yang sangat mulia".

Lebih penting dari itu, katanya, adalah kesedaran untuk mengambil kesempatan keatas janji-janji gandaan pahala yang ditawarkan oleh-Nya.

"Dengan segala kesedaran dan isi kandungan kesyukuran seperti yang kita sebutkan ini, izinkan saya mengucapkan Selamat Hari Raya. Maaf jua seadanya," kata Tuan Guru.

More Friday candle-light vigils in Penang

Penang MT readers, let's try to support. I will be bringing along the t-shirts if you want to buy and wear them there: admin-kasee

Light a candle every week. These are the venues:

- Aliran

ISA detainees' supporters demand their release at ministers' function

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 - Politics crept into the festive Hari Raya open house of Umno ministers yesterday when protesters made a noisy entrance to demand the release of Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi was surrounded by tight security as he greeted - with a smile and listening ear - the several hundred Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) protesters and a few dozen supporters of detained blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin who turned up.

"We have been trying to see him all this while, so we took the opportunity today. We came with an open heart," said Hindraf national ideological coordinator W. Sambulingam.

Five Hindraf leaders have been detained under the ISA for leading thousands of Indians onto the streets last November to demand more rights for the community.

The noisy protest was not the only political presence to make itself felt at the traditional annual Hari Raya party, which sees thousands of Malaysians turning up to meet their leaders.

With a week left to Abdullah's pledge to announce his retirement plans, it was a hot topic of discussion at the open house.

Gerakan, a Chinese party, took the opportunity yesterday to call for the matter to be discussed with the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, instead of just among the Umno leaders.

Abdullah indicated last week that he would announce by Oct 9 whether he intended to contest the Umno presidency. Many believe he is unlikely to, and will therefore also retire as Prime Minister.

Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon yesterday said the leadership of Umno was also that of the country. "I believe when things are clearer, the BN supreme council will meet and be briefed about the transition," he said.

In response, Abdullah said he would call a BN meeting "as soon as possible after Hari Raya".

"We have nothing to hide. We will have a session, people will speak and we will listen to what they say," he told reporters.

Asked if he was sad that this could be his last Hari Raya as Premier, he smiled and replied: "I am in a good mood. I am celebrating Hari Raya. Do I look different?"

Yesterday, a steady stream of Malaysians queued for hours outside the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur to shake the hands of Cabinet ministers and wish them Selamat Hari Raya.

The Hindraf supporters, who turned up dressed in bright orange T-shirts with anti-ISA button badges, were initially stopped by the police, but staged a noisy protest until they were allowed to join the queue.

Marching single file past the Cabinet line-up, they shook the hands of the ministers, some adding to their Hari Raya greeting a demand for the release of all ISA detainees.

There are more than 60 detainees, including the five Hindraf leaders and those arrested for suspected Islamic militancy.

"The Malaysian Indians want to tell the Prime Minister to release all ISA detainees," said K. Shanti, the wife of Hindraf leader P. Waythamoorthy, who has fled to London.

She said Abdullah told her that he would look into the issue at another time.

The protest was slammed by National Unity, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Shafie Apdal, who said it was not the right occasion to protest. - The Straits Times

Zahid Hamidi to run for Umno No. 2

Zahid is going for broke. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 - Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is going for broke. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department is going to offer himself as a candidate for the Umno deputy president’s position over the next few days, setting the stage for a face-off with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the former Umno Youth chief has decided to contest for the number two position after speaking to supreme council members and gauging the sentiment of divisional officials.

Muhyiddin, the party’s vice-president, will be the favourite to snare the bulk of nominations when the divisional meetings are held in October and November, but Zahid will not be very far behind.

The de facto minister in charge of religious affairs has a strong network of support among the party rank-and-file, nurtured from the time he was an office bearer in the youth wing in the mid-1990s.

This contest for the number two position in the party is likely to come down to the wire at the March general assembly.

The Insider has learnt that Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not going to publicly endorse anyone who offers to contest the deputy president’s position.

His rationale: If the person he does not endorse wins, it could complicate his working relationship in the party and government with his deputy.

But party officials expect Najib’s camp to send signals to the ground that he would be pleased to work with Zahid if the latter was elected deputy president.

This is not surprising given that the Perak-born politician was his political secretary and lingering trust issues that some Najib supporters have with Muhyiddin.

Though these supporters acknowledge that Muhyiddin played a pivotal role in creating the groundswell that finally led to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi accepting that he could not stay in office till 2010, they are worried that he seemed willing to do a deal with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and others to challenge Najib, if it came down to that.

Still, Najib is a realist. If it appears that Muhyiddin has the numbers and support of the divisions, he will be willing to forgive and forget.

Zahid’s decision to contest the number two position in Umno is just the latest step in the rehabilitation of a politician who became collateral damage after the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998.

A close associate of Anwar, he disagreed with the action taken by then prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and paid the price by being held under the Internal Security Act for supporting the reformasi movement.

He quit as Umno Youth chief and stayed on the sidelines of party politics for several years. He returned to the mainstage after being invited by Abdullah when the latter was the DPM.

He has served as a deputy minister in the information and tourism ministries.

“Prime Minister for all Malaysians” - Abdullah’s greatest failure

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s greatest failure is his inability to honour his most important pledge to be Prime Minister for all Malaysians.

This is why his Hari Raya message that “This country belongs to all of us, everyone of us” and that “No citizen is recognized as being of a higher status than another in this motherland” fell like a damp squib.

If Abdullah had expressed such sentiments in his first 100 days as Prime Minister, it would have taken the country by storm like his sonorous statements made in his first months in office, such as “Work with me, not for me” and his pledge to be Prime Minister for all Malaysians.

Now, all these high-sounding statements fall flat, devoid of any inspirational quality, because Abdullah had failed to deliver a single one of the many grand promises for which he was given the unprecedented victory of over 91 per cent of parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election.

Abdullah’s Hari Raya message has only confirmed that the Prime Minister is suffering from a terminal form of denial syndrome when he said that the Barisan Nasional (BN) will not fail Malaysians and “whatever the circumstances”, the government is committed to discharging the trust and responsibility given it by the people.

How can Abdullah be unaware that it is precisely because the BN government had failed Malaysians after the unprecedented mandate in the 2004 general election that the BN received such a thrashing in the March 8 general election – the first “political tsunami”?

How can Abdullah be unaware that it is precisely because the BN government had continued to fail Malaysians that six months later, it received a second thrashing in the second politicial tsunami during the Permatang Pauh by-election on August 26?

Furthermore, how can Abdullah be unaware that it is precisely because of the BN government’s failures resulting in widening and deepening of multiple crisis of confidence on all fronts which emboldened the “coup d’etat” in the Umno Supreme Council emergency meeting on Sept. 26, leaving him with seven days to decide whether to fight or bow down to pressures to end his premiership in six months’ time and withdraw from contest for the Umno Presidency?

Abdullah’s Hari Raya message is pathetic reading.

He said “it was saddening when racial issues which can tear apart the fabric of unity that has been woven together all this while were raised of late”.

What is even more saddening is his refusal to admit that those who raised “racial issues which can tear apart the fabric of unity that has woven together all this while” had all come from inside Umno power centres, as witnessed the “penumpang” furore created by Umno Bukit Bendera chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Ismail who is lionized by Umno, and even appointed as Umno Bukit Bendera division, despite three-year suspension by Umno Supreme Council.

Is Abdullah capable of redeeming even a single one of his many grand and high-sounding Prime Ministerial pledges before he fades away from the Putrajaya corridors of power – which is likely to be sooner than later?

300 gather at Kamunting to convey Raya greetings

If you visited Kamunting today, do share your citizen journalist eye-witness accounts in the comments below:

Blog reader Rakyat@Work comments:

Way to go folks. Keep it up. Thank you all you great people. God bless all of you. Tell RPK that many more ‘reserve’ supporters (those like me who cannot make it for the trip) are still around. Don’t worry, we will continue to support and uphold him and family in prayer as well. Have fun. Cheers. Wish I was there.

1142: The crowd is singing ‘Negaraku‘ now before dispersing. They have lots of lots of flowers and cards outside the camp, but these are unlikely to reach the detainees.

Another contact at the scene reports that the crowd earlier had sung two numbers, ‘We are Malaysians‘ (sung to the tune of ‘We are the world‘) and a ‘Selamat Hari Raya‘ song. “Everyone is so cheerful and glad to be here,” says my contact, adding that Marina was touched by the show of support. The turnout today is estimated to be in the region of 200 to 300.

1133: Some 200 people are now gathered outside the Kamunting Detention Camp, many of them clad in black T-shirts. Among them are Raja Petra’s wife Marina Lee and blogger Amiruddin, the Wartawan Rasmi Laman Reformasi. Amirudin says people in the crowd have been leaving cards and flowers for the detainees.

0955: A couple of other cars with Raya well-wishers from KL are reaching the Taiping Utara toll booth now and they will probably have breakfast in Taiping. A few other cars are expected to arrive from Ipoh as well. They are all expected to meet up in Kamunting at around 11.00am.

0950: Two vans full of people along with a convoy of about seven to eight cars from Penang have left for Kamunting to convey their Raya wishes to the ISA detainees. My contact in the convoy says others are expected to drive directly to Kamunting from Penang, Ipoh, KL and elsewhere.

This morning, some concerned Malaysians are heading to the Kamunting Detention Centre to convey their Raya greetings to Raja Petra and the other ISA detainees there.

Challenging the PM (click the article to read)

Eidul Fitri in Prison

By Farish A. Noor

This week marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan and the celebration of Eid’ul Fitri the world over. For more than a billion Muslims all over the planet the month of Ramadhan has been a time of personal reflection, contemplation and deliberation over their deeds and achievements over the year; a time of restraint and introspection; a time of reckoning. One only hopes that the leaders of the Muslim world have also taken this time off to do some serious soul-searching as well, and in particular to reflect on their deeds and misdeeds in the course of running the respective countries they have been elected to govern. (That is assuming that they were elected in the first place, for the quaint peculiarity of the Muslim world today is that quite a number of Muslim leaders have never been elected, and many of them regard the position of high office as if it was a God-given right to them and their families.)

During this month of Ramadhan quite a number of peculiar events have taken place all over the Muslim world. In Malaysia, the fasting month began with a right-wing leader of the conservative UMNO party making some rather repugnant remarks about the Malaysian Chinese community, referring to them as foreigners who can go back to China if they dont like things as they are in the country. Odd that such a remark could mark the start of the month of Ramadhan, when Muslims are meant to be controlling their emotions rather than letting them run riot in public. Odder still that a leader of the UMNO party can even make such a historically inaccurate and unqualified remark, oblivious to the simple fact that not only have the Chinese in Malaysia - and the rest of Southeast Asia - been in the region for more than five hundred years, it was also thanks to the missionary efforts of Chinese Muslim scholars that Islam came to some parts of the region like Java for instance.

The month of Ramadhan also witnessed a string of rather uncharitable actions being performed in the glare of the public eye: Teresa Kok, a member of Parliament and one of the leaders of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) of Malaysia, was arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on the grounds that she had made some inflammatory remarks concerning the volume of the azan, or call to prayer, emanating from the mosques in her constituency. The member of Parliament was then detained under the ISA on the grounds that her own remarks were ‘provocative’, despite the fact that much of the hoo-haa that led to her arrest came from the pro-UMNO vernacular Malay media. During the course of her detention Teresa Kok maintained that she had never made any of the remarks or statements she was accused of, and that she was the victim of an orchestrated media campaign aimed at defaming her character instead.

Indicative of the lack of direction that prevails in the corridors of power in Malaysia today, the political leadership at the top of the Badawi administration was not even consistent in its stand on Teresa’s case and the MP has been released from detention without trial.

But the sordid spectacle of a media campaign used to whip up public anger and hatred against an individual is indicative of the culture of pogroms and black-listing that dates back to the Emergency era when laws such as the ISA were first created, designed to help bolster a (then) colonial British government on the brink of collapse. Since the 1950s hundreds of Malaysians have been the victims of the ISA and other colonial-era laws such as the Sedition Act, all in the name of national security and the stability of the country.

Malaysia’s use of such colonial laws is neither new nor unique: Similar laws were once used in countries like India, Pakistan and South Africa, and if the issue at hand is detention without trial then one can only conclude that this has been the norm is many Muslim societies dating well back into the pre-colonial era.

But it is during the time of Ramadhan that our thoughts go to those who are unfortunate enough to become the prey of such laws. Muslim history is replete with cases of such arbitrary modes of (in)justice at work, where countless Muslim scholars and intellectuals fell prey to the whim and fancy of despotic rulers and tyrants who ruled with an iron fist, and always in the name of God, needless to say.

One needs only to look to the case of one of the most famous scholars of Muslim history, Ibn Khaldun. During his lifetime Ibn Khaldun was imprisoned time and again by a succession of despotic rulers who found his critical ideas and deconstructive reading of official history somewhat trying. On more than one occasion he was framed, defamed and scandalised by his rivals and enemies who sought to discredit the scholar and to erase his contribution to scholarship for good. Time and again the unfortunate Khaldun found himself languishing in gaols and dungeons, to be kept there indefinitely according to the whim of the ruler of the day.

Yet despite the hardships he endured, including having to spend many a month of Ramadhan in isolation in his cell and away from his family, Khaldun persevered in his critical scholarship against the odds. At a time when official history was nothing more than courtly hagiography written to benefit and inflate the egos of rulers and noblemen, his humanist reading of history placed the ordinary individual at the centre of the process of history; insisting on the rational agency - and by extension power and responsibility - of the individual as the master of his own destiny. For the courtiers who grovelled at the feet of their rulers, this form of popular history was destructive and threatening to the order of things.

Centuries later, the rulers and kings who imprisoned Khaldun are all but forgotten. Nobody remembers their names despite the grand monuments they built to their own egos. Ibn Khaldun, on the other hand, has been immortalised as the founder of modern political sociology, a discipline that remains crucial in the political education of millions the world over. His imprint can be read in the works of Franz Fanon and Antonio Gramsci, and the humanist, materialist approach he took to the writing of history changed the rules of that discipline forever. It is thanks to the efforts of scholars like Ibn Khaldun that history today is and remains a political and politicised discipline, and not just a collection of happy fables to placate the demands of demagogues and dictators.

Like Khaldun, there are thousands who languish today in the prisons of the Muslim world as political prisoners who are deemed a danger to the prevailing order of power. Though history and hindsight may offer little consolation for those who are languishing in prison, it is important to remember that the pen is mightier than the sword and that the labours of the just will always prevail over the injustice of tyrants. History will see to it that they will be remembered, long after the names of the tyrants and dictators who abused them have been forgotten.

Hindraf at PM's open house

Hindraf members at the Umno raya open house in Kuala Lumpur today. — Picture by Choo Choy May

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 - Some 300 Hindraf supporters attended the Cabinet open house today to ask Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi to release the Hindraf 5 and allow their chairman P.Waytha Moorthy to return to Malaysia safely.

Waytha is currently in exile in London. His wife, K. Shanti, gave Abdullah a gift basket containing a teddy bear and a Hari Raya card, which Hindraf claims has 300 signatories.

According to ideological coordinator W. Sambulingam, the card extended the group's "forgiveness" to the prime minister for arresting the five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act and asked "in the spirit of Hari Raya, that he release them."

"When I shook his hand, I asked him when he would release the detainees and when my husband would be allowed to return home," Shanti told reporters.

"He said he would let me know on another day," she added.

Shanti was accompanied by her six-year-old daughter and about 70 supporters who were allowed into the dining hall.

However, some 200-odd supporters were not allowed in. Shanti said that, as a protest, none of the Hindraf supporters ate at the open house.

"We are not here to eat your food, we are here to seek the release of our leaders," she said.

Sambulingam added that this was yet another attempt to avoid the group.

"We have his open invitation to the event, so we don't understand why the officials were trying to block us," he said.

Abdullah had earlier confirmed that the Hindraf supporters had first been stopped at the door but were then allowed in.

"I cannot have a special meeting with anyone. It is an open house," he said when asked if he had met them.

The Hindraf group and about a dozen members of an anti-ISA group, who came clad in black t-shirts with slogans such as "I'm with RPK" and "Say no to ISA", had gathered from 11am outside PWTC.

However, earlier plans by Hindraf to gather 10,000 people today failed to materialise.

-Malaysiainsider

S'gor gov't, temple committee to discuss rebuilding

SHAH ALAM, Oct 1 - The Selangor government will discuss plans to rebuild the recently-demolished Sri Maha Kaliaman Temple in Ampang on a suitable site with the temple committee.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said it was not the Pakatan Rakyat leadership's principle to demolish places of worship indiscriminately as the state government respected all religions and beliefs of the country's multi-racial society.

"When monitoring places of worship, local authorities have been reminded to take into account the sensitivities of society," he told reporters during the state government's open house at the Selangor State Secretariat Building Square here today.

Abdul Khalid was commenting on the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council's demolition of the temple on Sept 19, which drew criticism from the MIC and non-governmental organisations.

Following the incident, state Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy liaison chairman S. Manikavasagam threatened to quit the party if the state government did not take the necessary action.

The menteri besar said action would be taken against errant council staff involved in the temple demolition.

In another development, Abdul Khalid advised the people to be prepared for the future, in lieu of the current world economic woes, following the financial crisis which hit the United States.

- Bernama

Muhyiddin will wait for Pak Lah's signal

Abdullah Badawi feeding his grandson Jibreil Ali Jamaluddin some kuih raya at the Cabinet Raya open house at PWTC. - Pictures by Choo Choy May

By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 - Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continues to play his cards very closely to his chest by keeping mum on which position he is targeting in the March party elections.

Speaking to reporters at the Aidilfitri open house hosted by the Federal Cabinet at the Putra World Trade Centre here today, the International Trade Minister said he is waiting for party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi's "signal" before announcing his decision.

"I will wait to see what signal is given by Pak Lah," he said.

Speculation has been rife that Muhyiddin is aiming for the No. 2 post following his open call for Abdullah to voluntarily relinquish the presidency. However, he refused to allow himself to be pinned down for any particular post.

"I'm the chairman of the constitution committee. I don't work on assumptions," he announced, referring to the party's constitution.

Muhyiddin himself observed that, with the Umno general assembly now shifted to March 2009 and the original June 2010 transition plan scrapped, the transfer of power between Abdullah and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak would now happen sooner.

A section of the crowd at the Cabinet Raya open house.

By(malaysiainsider)