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Monday, November 3, 2008

Family members of detained HINDRAF human rights lawyers arrested Your Excellency


Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud
Supreme Head of State (Yang di-Pertuan Agong)
Office of the Head of State
Istana Negara
50500 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
23 October 2008

Re: Family members of detained HINDRAF human rights lawyers arrested
Your Excellency,

Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that family members of detained Hindu Rights
Action Force (HINDRAF) lawyers were amongst 11 persons who were arrested on 23 October
2008, including the 6-year old daughter of HINDRAF Chairperson P. Waythamoorthy, as they
attempted to submit a letter to the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya.
On 23 October 2008, at approximately 3.15 pm, P. Vwaishhnnavi, daughter of P. Waythamoorthy
and niece of HINDRAF leader P. Uthayakumar, approached the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya
together with her mother K. Shanti, S. Jayathas, P. Taramaraju, P. Waytha Nayagi, Poobalan,
R. Kannan, Mary Shanti, Bala, Rajasekaran and Ravi Sundaram. They were there to accompany
P. Vwaishhnnavi as she submitted a Deepavali card to the Prime Minister in which she called for
the release of all those falsely imprisoned under the Internal Security Act (ISA), including five
human rights defenders from HINDRAF and also invited the Prime Minister to her home for an
open house to celebrate the festival. The 11 detained persons are currently being held at the
Putrajaya district police headquarters. Police Chief Abd Razak Abd Majid declined to comment on
the arrests but reports indicate that the child, the two women and eight men are being held under
either the Societies Act, for participating in an unlawful society, or the Police Act, for illegal
assembly.
On 15 October 2008 the Home Ministry officially declared the HINDRAF organisation illegal, as a
result of investigations by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) which reportedly found that 'the
organisation’s activities contravened the Societies Act 1966 and if left unchecked, the organisation
could pose a threat to public order, peace, security and morality in Malaysia'.
Messrs P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar and
R. Kengatharan were arrested on 13 December 2007 and charged under the Internal Security Act
(ISA) of Malaysia on the grounds of threatening national security by organising a peaceful
demonstration. All five human rights defenders had taken up and worked on, on a pro bono basis,
many cases of death in police custody and police violence. They had filed many cases against the
Malaysian Government and authorities. Chairperson P. Waythamoorthy remains in self-exile in the
United Kingdom.
Front Line believes that the above-mentioned persons have been arrested and detained solely on
1
account of their legitimate human rights activities calling for the release of Messrs P. Uthayakumar,
M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar and R. Kengatharan. In addition Front Line
believes that the five members of HINDRAF were targeted as a result of their work defending the
rights of the ethnic minority Indians in Malaysia. Front Line is concerned for the physical and
psychological integrity of all of the aforementioned human rights defenders.
Front Line urges the Malaysian authorities to:
1. Immediately release the above-mentioned persons who were arrested on 23 October 2008,
as well as Messrs P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar
and R. Kengatharan as it is believed that they are being detained solely on account of their
legitimate human rights activities;
2. Immediately repeal the decision to ban HINDRAF;
3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and
integrity of the aforementioned human rights defenders and their family members;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry
out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all
restrictions including judicial harassment.
Front Line respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally
Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN
General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights
defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of
reprisals. We would particularly draw attention to Article 5 “For the purpose of promoting and
protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in
association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble
peacefully”; and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the
protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others,
against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or
any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred
to in the present declaration.”
Yours sincerely,
Mary Lawlor
Director

MEDIA STATEMENT 03.11.2008


DPM NAJIB’S OPEN HOUSE PLEDGE ANOTHER EYEWASH

DPM SHOULD INSTEAD ANNOUNCE A SPECIAL ALLOCATION AND CONCRETE PLAN TO UPLIFT THE INDIAN SOCIO ECONOMIC STATUS

We refer to DPM Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak’s Statement that a “the Indian community's plight was also being seriously looked into by a special cabinet committee, which he chairs, to ensure that it had participation in the national economy and equity”.

HINDRAF wishes to reiterate that the Indian community had heard enough promises for the last 51 years that would last them the next 3 generations of the Government’s promises that it cared for the plight of the Indian community and that they “would look into it”.

The statement of the DPM is yet another eyewash during the festive Deepavali period to pacify and mislead the Malaysian Indian community as usual.

Every Deepavali open houses and MIC annual general assemblies the Indians are made to believe and given the assurances that their “plight are being looked into” and “help is just around the corner”. We have been hearing this for the past 51 years now and no Malaysian Indian would believe this apart from the MIC cronies who live and thrive on the “biscuits” thrown at them by UMNO. The DPM must have thought the Indians could be fooled as usual and perhaps he would have received a “thunderous applause” for his “goodie announcements” which no doubt must have come from all the planted MIC cronies.

The DPM who is also the Finance Minister should stop the “empty talk” and instead make a concrete announcement of an allocation of funds to uplift the socio economic condition of Indians in the country.

We want to know how serious the Government is in solving the woes of the Indian community in dollars and cents. Enough of setting up Special Cabinet committees and all the years of empty promises. The Malaysian Indians have woken up and can no longer be cheated with mere bare promises. The Government of the day has to be serious and solemn, come up with a concrete plan of how to address the issue instead of giving piecemeal solutions and empty promises.

P.Waytha Moorthy

CHAIRMAN

HINDRAF

Abdullah’s inaction pushes Malaysia back to Mahathirism

COMMENTARY

NOV 3 — Putting aside for the moment the question of whether the return of Mahathirism is a good or bad thing for Malaysia, let us agree that one man’s failure has provided the ripe conditions for its return.

If today Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s influence in government and among Umno members is growing, and his ideas on tackling the economic slowdown to fighting malaise in the Barisan Nasional are gaining traction in the community, it is because Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi did not provide the strong, decisive leadership which Malaysians want and crave for.

Abdullah and his supporters may complain that the advent of Mahathirism is a return to the days of power being centralised in the hands of the few; with institutions being trampled upon and the rule of law being subjugated but there is little evidence that the Abdullah years were watershed years in governance and transparency.

On Thursday, it was exactly five years that the baton of leadership changed hands between Dr Mahathir and Abdullah. Those were days of promises; pronouncements; new beginnings. Nothing exemplified this more than the motion of thanks to Dr Mahathir which Abdullah proposed in Parliament on Nov 3, 2003.

Scroll through the motion of thanks today and two things become apparent: why Malaysians were so taken up with what Abdullah had to offer and his inability to add flesh to the grand sounding rhetoric of that day.

Here are a few examples:

? “We must seek and identify new sources of economic growth. We must develop new approaches to enhance our competitiveness and strengthen our resilience to face global challenges. The distribution of economic opportunities must be equitable to benefit the broadest range of people.”

Fact: Five years on, the government is still talking about finding new sources of growth. The reality is that Malaysia is still far too dependent on oil and commodities for its revenue. Our manufacturing sector is built on a brittle foundation — the uninterrupted flow of cheap foreign labour.

And yes, we are still a long way off from becoming a modern agriculture powerhouse.

? “We must respect the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. This is important to maintain the checks and balances needed to prevent abuses of power.”

Fact: What separation of powers? The concept of separation of power truly works only when judicial review of administrative processes is allowed.

Abdullah’s promise of ushering a judicial renaissance is pretty much work in progress.

? “It is incumbent upon us as elected representatives to display exemplary political leadership, which can only be effective if we are respected. We must cultivate an image that is clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion.”

Fact: March 8. On that day, many Malaysians gave their verdict on Barisan Nasional candidates, whom they viewed as arrogant, power crazy, avaricious and corrupt.

Despite all the talk, the consensus was that many elected representatives ran roughshod over Abdullah during his first term as the prime minister, predicting correctly that unlike Dr Mahathir, he would not use the powers of incumbency to bring them into line.

When lined up side by side, the Mahathir years seems like a time of progress; of a country taking shape; of economic growth; of a vision; of punching above the weight in international relations.

In contrast, the Abdullah years seems like a time of intangibles; more democratic space; more willingness to tolerate differing opinions and more respect for Parliament.

But precious little for the little man to appreciate and cling on to as evidence of a better standard of living.

Given this backdrop, it is not difficult to understand why many Umno members and a good number of Malaysians are not as troubled about the return of Mahathirism as members of the chattering class and Abdullah’s supporters.

They yearn for a strong hand, especially in these uncertain economic times. They want to know where Malaysia is headed.

Abdullah’s motion of thanks on Nov 3, 2003 also gives a clutch of hints on why not everyone is in mourning over Dr Mahathir’s return to the main theatre of politics in Malaysia.

This is what Abdullah said five years ago: “The development of our infrastructure and human resources grew at its fastest pace during his premiership. More importantly, he placed our country on the world map and has made Malaysia an example of political stability, economic prosperity, racial unity and religious tolerance. We are now widely acknowledged as a progressive Islamic country.

“The Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu has imbued us with self-confidence, dignity and national pride. He is a hero to his nation and to his people — a hero who elevated his country in the eyes of the world.”

Critique on Judgment of the Court of Appeal Chin Peng v Government of Malaysia

by M.R. Pearce

Chin Peng1. I have been an observer, on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, at proceedings in the above matter in Jaya Putra, Malaysia. I have been asked by the lawyers for the plaintiff, Chin Peng, to prepare a critique of the most recent judgment in the case, that of the Court of Appeal dated 20 June 2008. (Click here to read the Judgment of the Court of Appeal)

2. In summary I consider that the Court of Appeal erred in the following respects:

• It failed to appreciate that, since the proceeding was commenced by originating summons, rather than writ, and since no order for discovery had been made, there was no obligation on Chin Peng to give discovery.Read more

Irene Fernandez: The Best or Worst of Malaysia?

by Suzette Standring
November 2008
Huffington Post

It is a textbook case of laws being used to crush critics of governmental operations. Malaysia may be 9,296 miles from the United States, but the theme of authorities seeking to silence protest is a universal one. Thus when such a bell tolls, it can toll for thee.

The criminal appeal of Irene Fernandez, age 62, begins (Oct. 28-30) at the Criminal High Court in Kuala Lumpur. It is the longest running legal attempt in Malaysian history to punish a bearer of bad news. In August 1995, Fernandez made public her report, Abuses, Torture and Dehumanised Treatment of Migrant Workers at Detention Centres. It was based on interviews with 300 detainees, each of whom Fernandez spoke with in her role as director and co-founder of Tenaganita, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kuala Lumpur that has worked to protect the rights of foreign workers since 1991.

She gave voice to bloodied and abused immigrants held in centers pending deportation. Unspeakable filth, dehydration and rape of children were part of her documented report. In 2003 she was convicted of “maliciously publishing false news,” under Section 8A(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) - even though the Malaysian government did admit to 46 detention-center related deaths.

Released on bail pending her appeal, Fernandez continued her work on behalf of women, children, migrant workers and the poor in Malaysia. The PPPA gave absolute discretion and broad powers to the Minister of Home Affairs to ban or restrict “undesirable publications.” Later it was found to breach the fundamental right to freedom of expression by the UN Human Rights Committee and other constitutional courts around the world.

Now 13 years and 300 court appearances later, the legal wrangling may end. High Court Judge Yang Arif Hakim Dato’ Haji Mohamad Apandi Bin Haji Ali wants to resolve Fernandez’s case this year. Perhaps Judge Apandi’s call for resolution may signal a positive turning point. In a country struggling to fight against corruption, perhaps Judge Apandi’s court will see justice finally served. The facts in Fernandez’ favor are too overwhelming for revisionist history.

Fernandez was born in 1946 in Malaysia, growing up in migrant worker conditions. Her father was a rubber plantation worker. Her first-hand knowledge of the hardships and easy victimization of such laborers was the underpinning of her passion to serve the powerless. Long before her 1996 arrest sparked her current ordeal, Fernandez had been promoting the poor since 1970. She organized the first textile workers union and developed programs to create trade unions in free trade zones. Her consumer education programs taught children about basic needs, safety and environmental protection. Her work with grassroots organizations led directly to laws against domestic violence, sexual harassment and improvements to rape laws. (http://www.rightlivelihood.org/irene-fernandez.html)

Yet in March 1996 Fernandez was charged for “maliciously publishing false news.” Her trial dragged on for seven years. In a surprise fast-tracking of procedure, Fernandez’ lawyers were given only two days to make final submissions based on seven years of trial and 50 witnesses before final judgment by Judge Juliana Mohamed. Interestingly, the prosecution was ready with an 82-page submission.

In 2003, Magistrate Juliana Mohamed ruled Fernandez’ report - the torture, denial of medical treatment, forced stripping, lack of proper food, unsanitary toilets and police corruption in detention centers toward migrant workers held for deportation from Malaysia - to be false. Prosecutor Stanley Augustin pushed for the harshest sentence as a deterrent to any who might throw Malaysia’s good name into disrepute amid world attention. “The court must take into account the interest of the nation. Freedom of speech is not freedom to say anything you like. It must be confined and cannot hurt the public or national interest,” said Augustin.

At the sentencing, Fernandez said, “I want my children and the children of all the people I work with as head of Tenaganita to enjoy and live in a society that is peaceful, where we do not fear state violence.” Facing a maximum sentence of three years, Fernandez was sentenced to one year of imprisonment, but was released pending appeal. And over 13 years, Fernandez’ legal process has taken absurd twists and turns, all from court mismanagement.

Statements from five key prosecution witnesses and all of the 21 defense witnesses have gone missing. A computer virus wiped out hearing notes.

Over 1,700 pages of trial records were missing. A massive re-typing of notes was undertaken, and content was still awaiting transcription as of August 2008. Currently 3,648 pages are divided into eight volumes. Judge Apandi has ordered the appeal to move forward despite any illegible or incomplete notes. The Criminal High Court should dismiss this case due to an inaccurate trial transcript and reconstituted court records. But when a case is high profile, politics can come into play, and not just in Malaysia. (Sometime look into the case of People of California v. Caryl Chessman, a criminal who was a controversial critic of the justice system. His execution for kidnapping was based on a law that was later repealed and an incomplete trial transcript.)

But Fernandez is no criminal. She is the teller of uncomfortable truths, with a long activist history in protesting abuses and enacting reforms. In 2005, she earned the Right Livelihood Award, often called the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for “… for her outstanding and courageous work to stop violence against women and abuses of migrant and poor workers.” Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honors and supports those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.” Fernandez is one of 133 Laureates from 57 countries.

Now that is a recognition of which Malaysia should be proud. Conversely, the country should publicly decry those who practice or support abuse and corruption through the manipulation of its laws. What is shameful are the efforts to hide the existence of deplorable conditions. What throws a country into disrepute is its resistance to righting wrongs. Irene Fernandez embodies the best of Malaysia - grace, strength, courage and endurance - even as the worst elements of Malaysian power have long sought to silence her. Few would have the determination to gut through the uncertainty of facing prison and all the horrors it might hold, but Fernandez has endured a 13-year legal ordeal. As an advocate of non-violence and legal means, Fernandez draws attention to the plight of the undesirables with her personal struggles.

The findings of her report cannot be false. Nor is truth ever malicious. Fernandez has been a role model of right living, despite the sword of Damocles that has dangled over her head for the past 13 years. That’s a long time to live under restricted freedoms, a confiscated passport and being barred as an election candidate. Whether justice is dispensed depends on the morality of those in charge and their own degree of courage. But I hope for the best. I take my cue from Fernandez’ reported serenity and from the faith that fueled Martin Luther King when he once wrote, “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Hindraf teddy bear more dangerous than Osama bin Laden?

This is a video clip of my parliamentary exchange with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz on the Hindraf ban and the detention of the five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act on Wednesday (29.10.08) during the first-day Ministerial winding-up in the debate on the 2009 Budget.



Over 100 brave rain to attend PJ vigil

Photos by Rakyat@Work

Eye-witness report by Rakyat@Work:

The night when colours fade:

“Where are all the Indians?”
“Where are all the Malays?”
“Where are all the Chinese?”

Haris: Are we all blind or what? Who cares about skin colours? It doesn’t matter any more! We are Bangsa SATU! We are Bangsa Rakyat!

Yes! I feel a surge of adrenaline overflowing within me, a sudden sense of brother- and sisterhood with my fellow Malaysians. It’s a celebration of Life. I feel good, I really do. So do the rest.

Towards the end of the event, someone discovers a wallet that had been dropped. Marina immediately hands it over to a guy and asks that it be returned ASAP. Someone else whips out his handphone and asks if there are any contact details in the wallet. It is sorted out in no time. That’s the kind of spirit when we say Bangsa Rakyat Bangsa Satu.

2100: The crowd continues to mingle and as always, Marina and Zorro are the main attractions. Everyone just wants a piece of “justice” and “power” from Marina. Where’s Haris? Somehow I miss him too. Well, my partner and I ended our night at a fast-food outlet and we had a drink with other newfound family friends. We sure quenched our thirst and our spirit for the night.

Remember 7 Nov 2008. Free RPK!!!!!

2045: Someone’s already speaking. Unusually early I thought, but the number of people could have hastened the momentum of the event. Where’s my camcorder? Where’s my camera? Should I use… can’t get around to it with the umbrella… Dripping wet now and … just forget about the umbrella. And suddenly I remember, my little Olympus claims to be “waterproof”… good chance to test it out now. Fortunately, it lives up to its claim.

After squeezing past through bodies and umbrella, there he was! The man himself! Haris, a mountain of a man; imagine, he must be a six-footer. And now standing on top of a make-shift box as temporary podium, he certainly stands TALL, a person who speaks with conviction and passion, a sense of assurance that sounds like music to me. That’s right.

He makes several calls, reminding us of our first venture into the real world of the “living”; we are not to be in bondage. And all it takes is that one small step to stand up for your rights and for the truth. (Yes, it’s scary at first, but this is exactly what this vigil is all about, to help everyone to come together and get rid of this fear that has been tormenting the rakyat for God-knows-how-long. The rakyat’s presence at these vigils are only a means to larger objectives: to free RPK, to free all the other ISA detainees, and finally to get rid of the ISA.)

Sorry, that’s my own perspective; Haris may be using different words. It’s also about Justice. Justice for all rakyat to be respected as Bangsa Satu or Bangsa Rakyat.

Ah, beside him stands Zorro, smiling, I suppose he must have felt relieved tonight as it is his well deserved day off, now that Haris is here. Cheers, mate.

Next speaker or motivator is a woman who volunteers to set the mood for the evening with shouts of “Free RPK!” and “No to ISA!” or something to that effect.

I’m soaked by now, pretty uncomfortable. Need to move around.

Next speaker: our Adun, Lau Weng San, who continues to reassure the rakyat that this PJ venue is safe. He urges us to bring along more friends for the next vigil. (If there should be any negative or evil elements amongst the crowd, they are also welcome, perhaps to learn that abolishing the ISA will be beneficial to their loved ones too. Again, these are my thoughts; sorry, can’t help it)

A young man takes the stand and mentions that, after attending several vigils now, the number of people attending the vigil is still relatively small. He wishes to see larger crowds and more new faces for the coming event. (Yes folks, do make a stand now. Just do it! Come and be counted.)

Then the floor is opened to anyone who wants to share about the event. A gentleman from overseas says he is happy to join us, and says what we are doing is for the right cause; it is the right thing to do. He isn’t sure when he will return again to Malaysia, but he hopes that we need not have to conduct these vigils the next time. ( He obviously meant “Away with ISA for good.” )

“We want to see more of the young generation here. Is there anyone here?”

Indeed a young fellow, probably in his 20s stands up and takes the mic, “I’m happy to be here, thank you.” Well? That’s all, Haris says he just wanted to see, right?

Okay, move over pal, here comes Mr “Singalaysian”, Stephen, a Singaporean who married a lovely Malaysian woman, Lita. He is another fine example to the rest of the rakyat. He was at the Seremban vigil last Friday and despite his busy travelling back and forth from Singapore, Seremban, and now to PJ, he makes a point to come simply because of the great respect he has for RPK and his support for abolishing the ISA. He doesn’t need a mic cos he’s STRONG…voice and person. Kudos, Stephen!

Right, the rain’s getting into my eyes again… gotta move out once more…

Now, it’s karoke time with a difference. No mike, just “unplugged”, we all sing a beautiful number tonight; it’s called “That’s what friends are for”. So appropriate: through bad times, through good times, in fact through all times, we are friends for life….

It’s another wonderful evening. The rain’s about to stop. Before we end, Haris again reminds us all to remember the date 7 Nov. That’s right, it’s this Friday. So folks, please make a date with RPK, and come. (Get details from Malaysia Today, okay?)

2005: Arrive a little late due to the rain (excuses). But that’s the reason why partners are all important. Sometimes, you just need that little extra push to get lazy bones moving. So here we are. Both of us have the same question: With the rain still pouring, will there be anyone turning up? Yes, the crowds are already there. In fact, more than we anticipate.

Somali rape victim, 13, stoned to death

The Following Incident can be happen in Malaysia when the government fail to uphold their Justice properly and want the country too much into Islam rules.

MOGADISHU, Nov 2 - A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human rights group said.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct 27 in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13. Some of the Somali journalists who first reported the killing later told Amnesty International that they had reported she was 23 based upon her physical appearance.

Calls to Somali government officials and the local administration in Kismayo rang unanswered Saturday.

“This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo,” David Copeman, Amnesty International’s Somalia campaigner, said in a statement Friday.

Somalia is among the world’s most violent and impoverished countries. The nation of some 8 million people has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 then turned on each other.

A quarter of Somali children die before age 5; nearly every public institution has collapsed. Fighting is a daily occurrence, with violent deaths reported nearly every day.

Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida have been battling the government and its Ethiopian allies since their combined forces pushed the Islamists from the capital in December 2006. Within weeks of being driven out, the Islamists launched an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians.

In recent months, the militants appear to be gaining strength. The group has taken over the port of Kismayo, Somalia’s third-largest city, and dismantled pro-government roadblocks. They also effectively closed the Mogadishu airport by threatening to attack any plane using it. - AP