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Monday, April 27, 2009

Sri Lanka rejects Tamil Tigers cease-fire

(CNN) -- Sri Lankan officials rejected a proposed cease-fire from the Tamil Tiger rebels Sunday, warning instead that government troops intended to continue a new offensive until the group surrenders, a senior government official said.

Tamil demonstrators

Tamil demonstrators call for a cease-fire in Sri Lanka during a rally Saturday in Paris, France.

"The government is firm that (the rebels) lay down their arms and surrender. We do not recognize this so-called offer," said Lakshman Hulugalle, director of Sri Lanka's Media Center for National Security.

The proposed cease-fire came six days after the Sri Lankan army launched a new offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in the country's northern area. Government troops made significant advances into rebel-held territory on Friday and Saturday, according to Sri Lankan Army sources.

A government-imposed deadline for the Tigers to surrender passed last Tuesday. Tens of thousands of displaced civilians currently remain wedged in a dwindling swath of territory controlled by the Tigers along the country's northeastern coast.

Government troops say they have rescued 39,000 civilians trapped in the area, but a U.N. refugee agency said Friday that a wave of "fresh displacement" has now exceeded 100,000 individuals.

"In the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and in response to the calls made by the U.N., EU, the governments of the USA, India and others, the (LTTE) has announced an unilateral cease-fire. All of LTTE's offensive military operations will cease with immediate effect," the rebel leaders said in a written statement issued earlier Sunday.

"We welcome the attempts by the U.N. and its agencies to assist the civilian population and are ready to engage and cooperate with them to address the humanitarian needs of the population. ... We are in full agreement that the humanitarian crisis can only be overcome by declaration of an immediate cease-fire."

The Tiger leadership asked the international community to "pressure the Sri Lankan government to reciprocate" on the cease-fire offer.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in Sri Lanka's northeast since 1983. As many as 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began, and the group has been declared a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including the United States and the European Union.

Bar Council chairman takes criticism in his stride

Ragunath believes the real power to bring about positive change is held by the people. Picture by Choo Choy May

By Debra Chong- The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 – When Ragunath Kesavan was recently elected as president of the Malaysian Bar Council, his seven-year-old son asked him, “Dad, does that mean all the lawyers have to listen to you?”

Caught off guard, 47-year-old Ragunath laughed and said “No.”

“Then what’s the point, Dad?” the son piped back.

When Ragunath recounted the incident to The Malaysian Insider, there was no doubt he was amused by his son’s blunt perception.

But his son had asked a very valid question, if one that is somewhat painful to the father’s ego: what is the point of being chief if there is no material benefit in doing so?

Especially for Ragunath, who has just marked his first month in his office with a plethora of complaints and criticism from the public. Some have even stooped to calling him derogatory names.

Fortunately for civil society, the new president is driven by principles.

“My position is this: We have benefited from society, that’s why we should give back to society,” he said.

He noted that many legal cases that interested the public were those taken on by lawyers in their youth, which helped enlarge their personal profile later on, besides keeping the Bar going.

As a lawyer with 18 years under his belt, he felt it was only right that he returned the faith placed in the Bar Council and continue its commitment to the pursuit of justice to profit the public.

On his critics, Ragunath had this to say: “Everyone gets criticised. But I believe if you speak responsibly, you should not be concerned about being criticised.”

Invariably, he has been compared to his predecessor, unfairly considering he has only sat in the chief’s chair for one month.

During her two terms as president, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had consistently advocated adherence for the rule of law at great personal risk, which earned her an honour as one of the eight “women of substance” from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month.

Ragunath appeared unruffled by the comparison. As her deputy then, he knew, perhaps better than anyone else, the difficulty she faced in living up to her presidency, which had been filled by other prominent lawyers, from former United Nations Special Rapporteur Param Cumareswamy to Raja Aziz Addruse.

He articulated his admiration for her in no uncertain terms.

“Ambiga has done a great job in engaging the government,” he said, pointing to the present open-door privilege he enjoys now with the current de facto Minister of Law, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, which began during the previous prime minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi’s administration.

“I’ve been an office bearer for many years now. The greatest thing about it is that it’s not about one person but that there are 12,500 people supporting you

“My personal view: if you do the right thing, if you do it with the sincerest views, guided by the right principles and have the support of your council and its members, then you’re fine.

“I’m not concerned about profile. I look at myself as a foot soldier. At the end of the day, I’m answerable to the members,” he said.

In the meantime, he has been building on Ambiga’s legacy to enhance the close ties with the authorities. The rapport has enabled the Bar Council to gain access to Bill drafts and give their views on the matter before they are passed into law by Parliament.

Ragunath listed the Bar Council’s proposals to amend the Employment Act and laws on trade unions, land titles (to improve reduction in forgery) among several topics of talks that were well-received by the government.

He notes it was a far cry from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s rule, when there was a “complete shut-out of the Bar Council”.

There is a whole laundry list of public service work Ragunath wants to lobby for, including pushing for lawyers’ welfare in the face of the government’s opening of the legal sector and amendments on Marriage Laws.

Top of that list however is creating a National Legal Aid Foundation, to provide better access to justice, particularly for the poor and the law-illiterate.

“With the Legal Aid Foundation, I believe we can have a first class judiciary,” he said, adding, “The greater the awareness people have of the law and their rights, the less abuse there is.”

The only bodies providing free legal aid at the moment are the Bar Council’s own pro bono Legal Aid Scheme and the Biro Bantuan Guaman, where lawyers volunteer to represent the poor who would otherwise have no access to legal advice.

Ragunath also hopes to encourage greater participation from the public in understanding the law and its effects on society.

He believes that the people hold the real power in bringing about positive change and he wants to develop their awareness.

With this goal in mind, he is planning more talks, such as the public forum held last Saturday at its headquarters here on the Perak crisis, which featured lawyers Tommy Thomas and Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and a Perak-born economist from social pressure group Aliran, which gave the public a chance to hear all sides of the arguments.

Ragunath hopes to include more representatives from civil society, especially from Muslim groups, to counter the impression that the Bar Council is anti-Islam and to focus on the escalating inter-religious disputes, particularly those involving Muslim conversion issues.

“There’s a lot of fear, which has caused them to put up walls and in order to take down those walls, we need to start talking to each other,” he explained.


Ragunath on:

– The current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak: “Good sound bites from him but we’re concerned: would he be able to carry through what he has promised?

In a sense, Najib is not playing it safe. He could do what Pak Lah did but he didn’t. As I said, the sound bites are good, but there is going to be resistance because we have been conditioned for many years that if one community gives something, another community will lose something. Najib’s problem would be to break down these entrenched values and beliefs and deal with the real problem.”

– Religious conversion disputes: “For once, the government has come out with a firm policy. The fact they’ve come out is a huge factor. Previously, there was no cogent effort. They left it to the courts to decide, which had the effect of a blurring of the role between the syariah and civil.

But this requires clarification on where to draw the line. We hope that after this, they will immediately work to do it.

Lim Kit Siang : May 7 Perak Assembly Meeting - Call it off!


The usurper Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr. Zambry Abd Kadir should call off the May 7 Perak State Assembly meeting as it is improperly convened against the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s public stand that the Perak State Assembly cannot meet until the court has ruled that the Barisan Nasional is the legal government in Perak.This was the position of Najib, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister, Perak UMNO Chairman and who personally orchestrated the undemocratic, unethical, illegal and unconstitutional power grab in Perak.

This is the Sunday Star report of March 1, 2009, headlined “Perak assembly cannot meet until court decides, says DPM” on Najib’s response to the convening of a State Assembly meeting by the Perak Speaker, V. Sivakumar which eventually became the historic “Tree Perak State Assembly”:

Sunday March 1, 2009

Perak assembly cannot meet until court decides, says DPM

KUANTAN: The Perak State Assembly Speaker cannot call an emergency sitting of the
assembly as the court has yet to decide on the status of the government, said Deputy Prime
Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. “By right, the sitting should not be called as we are still awaiting the decision of the court. “We want to establish the fact that Barisan is the legal government to rule the state in accordance with the constitution,” he said after opening the national higher learning carnival at Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) here yesterday.
On Friday, Speaker V. Sivakumar said the assembly would convene the sitting on Tuesday to
vote on two motions, including one seeking to dissolve the State Assembly.

Asked if the move was aimed at toppling the Barisan Nasional government, Najib said the
court’s decision would put the matter to rest. As up to now the Court has not made any decision that the Barisan Nasional is the legal government in Perak state, the May 7 State Assembly should not be convened and should be called off until there is such a judicial decision.

In the circumstances, any public posturings by Zambry that the Barisan Nasional will not participate in the“fight for chairs” to claim the seats of the Mentri Besar and the State exco members in the State Assembly is not only premature but presumptuous.

Five days ago on 21st April, Zambry filed an urgent application to the Federal Court for a declaration that he is the lawful Mentri Besar and he now expects such a declaration to be made by the Federal Court on Tuesday 28th April 2009.

For two-and-a-half months from Feb. 6 to April 21, Zambry did not move the Federal Court for such a declaration. What made Zamry think that the Federal Court could be at his beck and call, that he could successfully move the Federal Court to secure such a declaration in a matter of a week, when for two-and-a-half months from Feb. 6 to April 21, 2009 he did not make such an application to the Federal Court?

Does Zambry think he belongs to a special category of persons who is privileged to short-circuit the whole process of the administration of justice so as to move the Federal Court, the highest court of the land, to rush to judgment in his favour with inadequate notice to all the relevant parties concerned?Malaysians will be very shocked if Zambry succeeds in getting such a declaration from the Federal Court on Tuesday with such short notice.

1 Malaysia: A cruel joke?

by Tunku Aziz | The Malaysian Insider

APRIL 27 – It never ceases to amaze me how simple and trusting we Malaysians are.

We have heard all these promises before. Pak Lah, the Mr Clean and Mr Nice Guy of Malaysian politics proclaimed his great mission of fighting corruption after 22 years of unprincipled and largely unaccountable governance under Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

We lapped it all up, initially at any rate, and believed every word the spin doctors spewed out about Abdullah Badawi.

It was not too difficult a job for Abdullah Badawi, or anyone else for that matter, after Mahathir, to look ethically spotless, clean and pure as the driven snow.

Badawi, with his religious credentials, gave every appearance of being the reformer that this country had been praying for. Alas, his leadership proved a total let-down for Malaysia.

What began as a journey full of hope and promise turned very quickly into a national nightmare. Abdullah, who skippered the good ship MALAYSIA, was in truth an incompetent and inept rating playing at being Admiral of the Fleet.

We discovered soon enough that he could not tell north from south and a sexton from a pair of compasses. We had to put up with his erratic command, watching with increasing anxiety as he set the ship adrift aimlessly, with no prospect of ever making landfall.

Now let me move away from naval to boxing metaphors, and I hope I am not mixing them in the process.

Abdullah had come to lead us laden with his own strange stock-in-trade. It was a mix, in no particular order, of Islam Hadhari that he himself could not explain to save his life, the memorably inane “Work with me and not for me” catchphrase, and the almost absurdly messianic anti-corruption clarion call that he had used to fool the entire nation.

I am embarrassed to admit, on reflection, that he had me fooled from Day One.

Abdullah was persuaded by close family members and advisers that he was doing a brilliant job, and this was what he wanted to hear.

He believed that he had what was needed to punch above his weight. He did not realise until too late that the Islam Hadhari as he had postulated it was no match for the reality of Umno politics with its long-established culture of money politics (for which, read grand corruption), in-fighting and back-stabbing.

Soon enough, he found himself out-pointed at every turn by his own seconds, Najib and Muhyiddin, whose protestations of eternal love and loyalty made with a straight face before the disastrous March 2008 elections seemed the height of black humour.

They pushed all the responsibility for the electoral failure to him, and with indecent haste, distanced themselves from him. They turned collective responsibility on its head. This was their interpretation.

And now, they are now leading Malaysia.

I am recalling the Abdullah years as a way of reminding ourselves not to be tempted into swallowing the “right noises” that Najib is making, hook, line and sinker.

He is apparently good at developing popular policies on the trot, and all his reform promises seem to flow so effortlessly and glibly off his silvery tongue and that worries many people who are looking more for substance rather than form.

His 1 Malaysia is a case in point. How does Najib propose to give practical effect to his excellent concept given the reality of Malaysia’s race-biased policies of racial discrimination?

Does he not see a contradiction? Is he clear in his own mind what he is talking about? For now, it remains a slogan and, without a clear vision of what 1 Malaysia is intended to be, it could well turn out to be nothing more than a grand illusion.

Does he really believe that he has what it takes to reconcile Umno’s pathological obsession with bumiputra rights on the one hand with the principles of inalienable equality for ALL Malaysians on the other?

1 Malaysia without complete equality of opportunity is nothing if not a cruel and dishonest practical joke.

So, until Najib sets out his plan for 1 Malaysia that accords with the conditions for a truly “Malaysian Malaysia” (with apologies to Lee Kuan Yew), I suggest, in a manner of speaking, we do not put the champagne on ice as it could be premature.

PKR sacks 16 members

PETALING JAYA, 27 April 2009: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has fired 16 members for offenses against the party committed during the Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai by-elections.

"They ran as candidates against party candidates, supported candidates that ran against party candidates, criticised the party through the media, or declared themselves to have left the party in rallies or to the media," said PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali in a press statement today.

The dismissals were effective as of 26 April.

The 16 included Moganakumar Subramaniam (Merbok) and Jayagopal Andaikalam (Pokok Sena), both formerly from PKR Kedah, who ran as independent candidates in the Bukit Selambau by-election.

Also on the list was Kalaivanar Balasundram, the former PKR Jerai chief who quit the party and applied to dissolve the entire Jerai division on 30 March. Kalaivanar had called PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a "pharaoh and dictator".

Twelve of the fired members were from PKR Kedah. The four from PKR Sarawak included former Julau PKR chief Dr Ambrose Labang Jamba, who quit with some of his committee members on 5 April.

Dr Syed said the party's supreme council decided unanimously on the dismissals in its 26 April meeting.

Draft law, Bar Council urges A-G

Image ©The Sun

PETALING JAYA (April 26, 2009) : The Bar Council has welcomes the decision by the cabinet last week on the conversion of children.

"The Bar Council welcomes the decision, which is consistent with the position we took when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the prime minister, said its Constitutional Law Committee chairman Edmund Bon.
"And when there was a debate on recommendations for the Law Reform Bill, that was our suggestion -- that the child continues in the religion of the marriage."

Bon told theSun such conversions should only be made by the children themselves when they were of a sufficient age to do so.

"I think that it is right, and that it is consistent with past practices where there should be no compulsion to change the religion of a child because one parent converts to Islam," he said.

"Of course, if the child is of a mature age and is not subject to any duress or influence and is of sufficient maturity, international law provides that the child should have a say in the adoption of his or her own religion.

"Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by Malaysia, the child should have a say in his or her religion of choice."

Bon called on the Attorney-General’s Chambers "to work to draft a law putting the cabinet decision into action’.

"The attorney-general must draft the law to implement this policy, and clarify the constitution. The A-G must clarify and clear any doubts in the constitution as the Malay language version says that as long as one parent converts the child, it is sufficient. However, the English version says that the consent of both parents is needed. There is an ambiguity

"Prior to this, the A-G took the view that only one parent was needed. But now, as the Cabinet has come up with this decision, the A-G must be consistent with this decision."

Memperkasa Parti & Organisasi

Dalam sidang pimpinan bulanan di Ibu Pejabat hari ini, saya menekankan semula halatuju perjuagan parti: menggilap semula idealisme perjuangan, muhasabah dengan maksud memperbaiki kelemahan dan menjana kekuatan parti dengan memperkemas jentera serta meningkatkan khidmat kapada rakyat.

Untuk maksud tersebut, saya mengemukakan usul mengikut urutan keutamaan yang wajar dilaksanakan segera oleh pimpinan parti.

Pertamanya agar Presiden, Dr Wan Azizah bertanggungjawab memantau liputan media dan segera mengulas isu berbangkit. Kehadiran beliau dirasakan harus lebih menyerlah lagi.

Kedua: Timbalan Presiden, Dr. Syed Husin Ali menumpukan sepenuhnya dalam isu dasar perjuangan yang menunjangi parti - politik, ekonomi, pendidikan dan budaya. Selain isu dasar umum tersebut, perihal yang diprihatinkan masyarakat Melayu dan Bumiputra perlu ditangani.

Ketiga: Naib Presiden, YB Azmin Ali yang melepaskan tugas selaku Pengarah Pilihanraya akan mengetuai pasukan petugas (task force) yang terdiri di kalangan semua Naib Presiden, YB Dr. Lee Boon Chye, YB Sivarasa, Sdr Mustafa Kamil Ayub, serta Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan; bersama Ketua AMK Sdr Shamsul Iskandar dan juga Ketua Wanita, YB Zuraidah Kamaruddin untuk memperkasa kepimpinan parti di peringkat negeri dan bahagian. Tugas pasukan adalah memastikan kelayakan dan keberkesanan serta disiplin pimpinan negeri, bahagian, Ahli-ahli Parlimen dan Ahli-ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri.

Keempat: Setiausaha Agung, Dato’ Sallehuddin Hashim akan mengurus operasi Ibu Pejabat, perjalanan dan jentera parti, jawatankuasa pengurusan dan kempen keanggotaaan.

Lain-lain perubahan adalah:

Pengarah Pilihanraya: YB Saifuddin Nasution

Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Latihan (kepimpinan parti)- YB Fauziah Saleh

Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Keanggotaan Baru - YB Johari Abdul

Pengarah Strategik - YB Tian Chua

Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Perhubungan Antarabangsa: Sdr Mustafa Kamil Ayob
Timbalan Pengerusi : Dr Tan Kee Kwong

Ketua Penerangan: Latheefa Koya
Ketua Komunikasi : Johnson Chong
Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Disiplin: Dato Yeop Adlan Che Rose

Timbalan Setiausaha Agung : Sdr Abdul Halim Yusof, Sdr Paul Gadang, YB Raveentharan, Sharifah Shahidah

Pimpinan biro kanan selaku Anggota (Jemputan) Biro Politik: Dr Muhammad Nur Manuty, Dr Tan Yee Kew, YB Manikavasagam dan Sdr Baru Bian.

Beberapa anggota lain diputuskan bagi membantu jawatankuasa berkaitan. Ini termasuklah penyertaan YB Wee Chee Keong, YB Gobalakrishnan dan lain-lain.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

1,000 points, so what?

In his Sunday column yesterday, Chun Wai said "more good news" are a-coming to Malaysia.

Beh kuih gian (Penang Hokkien for belum puas), he blogged close to midnight last night, asking if KLCI is going to hit 1,000 points this week, if not today.

You may already know that, at the tail-end of the Abdullah Administration which ended April 3, KLCI hit rock bottom at 836.51 points on March 12.

The index rebounded to 992.68 points on Friday, April 24, advancing a total of 154.88 points, or 18.5%. It's close to a seven-month high on the bourse.

Trading volume leapfrogged to 2.08 billion shares, the highest since since October 2007, hitting a turnover of an estimated RM1.67 billion.

Is this sustainable?

I normally practise this rule of thumb: When people rush into the market, I'll get out.

I read yesterday of the caution given by OSK Investment Bank head of research Chris Eng:

"At this juncture, the market is ripe for a correction.

Too fast, too much, we think the market is ripe for a correction."

Eng's caveat is that the technical correction -- which he mentioned twice in a short breath -- will not create a new low, though.

If you notice the market movements, GLC counters showed robust trading activities. Window dressing is a standard procedure with the emperor puts on his new clothes.

Government in need of loans

Meanwhile, the government is coming to the citizens for loans, sweeping some RM10.33 billion from the market in a whirlwind fortnight.

April 14, Bank Negara started the ball rolling by launching a sukuk (Islamic bond), named National Savings Bonds, with a total amount of RM5 billion. Subscription is capped at RM50,000.00 per person. All taken up.

GLC Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), followed suit with two tranches of new units of trust funds it manages.

Last Tuesday, a new batch of Amanah Saham Malaysia (ASM) was launched with a race-based allocation of 20,000.00 units per person. Total amount is RM2 billion into 3.33 billion units, split into 50:30:15:5 quota for Bumiputras, Chinese, Indians and Other Races, respectively.

The allocation for Chinese subscription had all been snapped up within two days, whereas the Bumiputras and Indians took up only about 10.71% and 4% of the assigned quota, respectively..

Today, the PNB will launch 2 million new units of Amanah Saham Wawasan 2020 (ASW2020) valued at RM3.33 billion. It's split on a 51:49 ratio for Bumiputras and non-Bumiputras.

This is how Najib's Administration will bankroll part of the economy in the next few years, not withstanding the RM7 billion stimulus budget and the RM60 billion mini budget unveiled last November and March, respectively, that are in dire need of quick-fix liquidity.

Value creation?

Senior banker friends told me that one of the reasons why the Chinese quota of the funds were snapped up quick was because their fixed deposits were only returning a mere 2% returns, whereas Bank Negara's sukuk guaranteed a 5% yield, and PNB -- going by track records - offers much more significant dividends, consistently.

On the yields from fixed deposits, P. Gunasegaram observed the following in his Saturday column:

Currently, at around 2% a year, that does not even equate to the inflation rate, which was 5.4% last year, although it is expected to come down to around 2% this year.

That means, after adjusting for inflation, depositors won’t get anything from keeping their money with banks.

Net net, the Chinese citizens are just practising common sense by sweeping from their FD accounts to place their money in higher-yielding instruments like these. It's a rational effort to squeeze more juice from a stagnated amount of savings kept in the country.

With the savings accounts swapped and quantum of savings stagnated, retail investors will possibly stay on the sideline while fund managers take to the lonesome trading floor.

Value creation? Hmmm... where are the inflows of foreign fund managers in their tuxedos?

Conversion case: Mother gets custody of children

My 500th day under ISA - Malaysiakini

Today April 26, 2009, marks my 500th day under Umno’s captivity without being charged, tried or found guilty in a court of law. I suppose this is ‘justice’ for me, an Indian ethnic minority and human rights lawyer of 18 years.
MCPX

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s continued unilateral decree is that I be made to serve a jail sentence of two years and indefinitely thereafter under his regime. There are prisoners here at Kemta Kamunting, Taiping, serving their eighth year of their ISA sentences.

p uthayakumar sedition trial 030209 01But I have no regrets. I know in my heart that every day of my imprisonment will liberate and open up a thousand new minds against Umno’s atrocities and injustices in their marginalisation, discrimination, suppression, oppression and the exclusion of Indians from the mainstream of national development in Malaysia.

Today, I have grown 500 days older. Today, I have lost 500 days of my precious freedom. Today, it is 500 days since I shaved my beard or combed my hair to protest my ISA detention. Today, it is 500 days since I have been made to wear the very same two pairs of dark blue baggy pants and white restaurant waiter-like prison uniform.

My left foot

On Jan 31, 2009, I had accidently injured the last toe of my left foot, which had gotten worse because of my long standing diabetic condition. From day one of my injury, I had repeatedly asked to be treated at the Gleneagles private hospital as I no longer have confidence in the independence of government-service doctors, which I believe had been compromised by the Home Ministry and its Special Branch police officers.

Under protest, I agreed to be treated at a government hospital on Feb 3, 2009. As I had anticipated, the doctor refused to admit me despite my swollen leg and blackening left foot condition. The doctor told me there were no hospital beds and neither did she want to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon or a consultant physician, as well as a cardiologist to treat my silent heart attack during my ISA detention.

No cast was put on my leg. No medication was prescribed. This doctor told me that my leg would heal on its own. My suspicion was confirmed when the doctor, who had written my medical notes in a police file, gave it back to the police officers accompanying me.

brickfields uthayakumar hindraf 280209 marching to stationBy the second week, my leg got even worse and despite repeated pleas, the prison authorities refused to take me even to a government hospital, which I agreed to go under protest. I had lodged four police reports but again zero action was taken. Even my statement was not recorded.

The worst case scenario ran across my mind. I may lose my left foot. For the first time, I realised that as a lawyer, I could not even save myself. There was nothing I could do, I was a prisoner.

But even then, I had thought to myself that should the worst happen, I would put on a prosthesis (artificial leg) and keep walking. I feel that at the end of the day, it was the prayers held at scores of Hindu temples nationwide by supporters of Makkal Sakthi that had actually saved my leg and ensure my well-being in prison.

Surviving on bread and biscuits

On March 22, 2009, I found pieces of beef in the chicken sambal served to me. Mohamad, a Pakistani national, and Abdul Sarjon, a Sri Lankan national, and fellow detainees who worked at the prison kitchen confirmed that chicken and beef were cooked in the same pot after which the chicken was scooped out and served.

uthayakumar interview 051207 pausedI immediately lodged a police report. But again nothing happened as usual. But had it been the other way round - the victimisation a Malay Muslim - a different set of rules would be applied by Umno.

But I suppose this is all part and parcel of PM Najib’s One Malaysia policy. One Malaysia, two systems. Since that day, I have refused to consume cooked food from the prison kitchen in protest against the violation of my religious rights in contravention of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. As a Hindu, I do not consume beef. I am now surviving basically on bread and biscuits.

Throughout these 500 days, there was never a single day that I ever regretted starting and spearheading this struggle. I believed in justice, including for the minority ethnic Indians, in Malaysia.

In these 500 days, I have refused to meet any of the Special Branch officers who came to meet detainees once in every two to three months to “plead for my release”. I have done no wrong and I am not prepared to beg for my freedom. I had earlier also refused to meet Umno’s home minister, knowing fully well that my release from prison is in his hands, for the very same reason.

My biggest satisfaction and what keeps me going in prison is the true and sincere spirit of the struggle through Hindraf’s Makkal Sakthi.

brickfields uthayakumar hindraf 280209It moved me to see thousands of Hindraf supporters who had braved FRU’s tear gas and water cannons, who were roughed up and beaten by the police, arrested, handcuffed, thrown into jail, prosecuted in court and bravely standing up in the dock to face possible jail sentences, losing their jobs, and with their wife and children suffering.

All these sacrifices, just for a public cause to put to an end to Umno’s racism, religious extremism and exclusion of the Indians from the mainstream of national development. To all of you, I salute you and I am proud of you. Makkal Sakthi Valga.

I miss my freedom

I am suffering from this imprisonment daily. I miss my freedom. I miss my family, my wife and children.

But I am prepared for the worst, even if it means another 500 days or more of imprisonment. I will do this just for the cause of Hindraf. Umno can imprison me but they cannot imprison the forces of Hindraf’s Makkal Sakthi.

Makkal Sakthi was the tipping point in the March 8, 2008 general elections. It was the triggering factor which resulted in Umno/BN losing two-thirds majority in Parliament as well as political power in four west-coast states.

Makkal Sakthi once again showed its prowess at the Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections. I never, even in my wildest dream, thought I would see Makkal Sakthi forces to this extent in my lifetime.

gantang by election 040409 hindraf candle light vigil kamunting isa detainees09I am no Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, but Umno has to understand and accept that it was the genuine grievances of the people - the pent-up pain and suffering, misery and heartache - that brought about the unprecedented 100,000-strong Hindraf rally on Nov 25, 2007.

Please be patient. Umno will not change, but we will change Umno in the 2012/2013 general elections. We will put an end to Umno’s bully tactics and its rule by fear. We have waited 52 long years.

Please be patient. In another three or four years, there would hopefully be a new beginning, a new political structure and a Malaysia with equality and equal opportunities, including for the Indians. A Malaysia where the Indians would be a part of the mainstream in national development.

Every day and every moment of my imprisonment, my thoughts and prayers are with Makkal Sakthi. I have plans for our further struggle. Please pray for my freedom, and for Umno’s end of its rule so that justice will finally prevail.

Umno may have punished me with this 500 days of imprisonment but you, the Makkal Sakthi, will in turn punished Umno/BN where it hurts them most - the ballot box.

God bless.

P Uthayakumar
Kamunting Detention Camp, Perak

Acquire Spiritual Knowledge to develop Wholesome Family

Founder Member and Past President of Saiva Siddhanta Mandram Malaysia Sanga Ratna Thondar Thilagam N Thiruvasagam had invited myself to Basic Hinduism Certification Graduation Ceremony held at Passage Thru India , Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur last night.

About 45 participants whom most professionals and working members had completed the ten months course conducted by Mr Thiruvasagam . I’m glad to see increasing interest among professionals seeking the truth of world’s oldest religion. I had opportunity to listen to the students’ testimony and I was reflecting on some of the issues facing Hindus in Malaysia. I am pleased to see that the thirst for religious knowledge among youths and next generations is on the right direction.

The function has given confidence and motivation that Hinduism is growing on a solid foundation, due to the silent dedicated and committed lecturer like Mr Thiru. I’m glad to hear that Mr Thiru has dedicated his life to serve the Hindu community by conducting such classes throughout country for past 25 years and about 15,000 people of walk of life have attended his classes since 1981.

Mr Thiru also had been assisting me in guiding and solving numerous problems faced by Hindus and Temples especially in Selangor which houses most numbers of temples in Malaysia. His competent knowledge and braveness coming forward should be admired all of you and those outside there whom keeping the learned knowledge within themselves.

To all those graduates today, your mission starts immediately to serve Hinduism, the Indian community as well as Humanity in whole. If people like you could come forward and serve the community, I am sure the Malaysian will be united and be powerful community as with the strong foundation in religion, that lead to develop a wholesome family with all the good qualities in life.

My service are always open to all Malaysian, Iets join hands together , so that we can stand united and fight for our rights. It’s the duty and responsibility of every Hindu to protect , preserve and promote our Hindu Dharma to our new generations so that they will hand over to the next.

Therefore, I wish to thank all who are present here , especially the organiser , Mr Thiru for inviting me to grace this occasion. May Lord Bless every one of you and our society as a whole, for good health, happiness, unity and plenty of wealth.

Om Namasivaya. Valga Makkal Sakthi. Nandri.

Working for Malaysia’s future

Nurul Izzah Anwar

By Nurul Izzah Anwar and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

APRIL 26 – There has been a lot of negative attention on the Parti Keadilan Rakyat lately. We have come under scrutiny over the recent events in Perak, Kedah and now Penang. As young leaders who have faith in the party’s vision and future, we believe that it’s important to reflect on what we have achieved and examine the challenges ahead.

Keadilan is a young party, the result of a 2003 merger between Parti Keadilan Nasional, founded in 1999 and Parti Rakyat Malaysia, founded in 1955. It came about in part due to the Reformasi movement that emerged following the dismissal and incarceration of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. The movement, as laid out in the Permatang Pauh Declaration, was built on the idea of upholding the dignity of man and the need for the continuous betterment of society.

Both of us became involved in the party when the Reformasi broke out, though under different circumstances.

Izzah, who was a 17-year old university student then, was forced into the public eye as she was Anwar’s eldest daughter. Nazmi, who was a year younger and still in school, was reflecting on how the forces that were unleashed could somehow offer something new to Malaysian politics that had atrophied under Dr. Mahathir. As Izzah travelled the country giving ceramahs not only to defend her father’s innocence but also increasingly to articulate the meaning and significance of the Reformasi movement to ordinary Malaysians, Nazmi attempted to explore the possibility and meaning of a new politics for the younger generation as a writer in the alternative media.

We became acquainted in 2001, as part of a group of young Malaysian professionals finding ways as to how we could contribute to change in our country. In spite of the party’s small presence then, we were all excited and idealistic to be part of the cause to lay the foundations of a truly progressive Malaysian political party.

Three years later, the party was dealt a blow when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hijacked our message of reform and won an overwhelming victory in polls conducted under dubious circumstances. The party was left with a solitary Parliamentary seat. Soon however, Anwar was released and engaged in a conversation with those inside and outside the party. He charted a more multiracial agenda, against the advice of many. Some were clearly discomfited by this development, and left the party. They either could not accept the shift or felt that no matter how idealistically attractive this paradigm movement was, it spelt political disaster.

But like many young members of the party, we felt that this was the right path to take, the logical extension of Reformasi. Nazmi, in particular decided to take the next step by working for Anwar after completing his studies. We were joined by experienced professionals such as Ibrahim Yaacob and Din Merican, along with talented young Malaysians such as Harvard graduate and blogger Nathaniel Tan as well as UTM student leader and Silicon Valley engineer Sim Tze Tzin.

As the 12th General Elections loomed, both of us along with Sim and Ibrahim were considered as possible candidates for seats. We were reluctant at first, but as many others refused to run under Keadilan’s banner-feeling that the party would surely be defeated- we decided to do it. Izzah was 27, and Nazmi, 26, making us among the youngest candidates in the elections.

It occurred to us from very early on that the young Opposition candidates should work together. Together with our colleagues like Tony Pua and Hannah Yeoh from DAP, we campaigned hard in each other’s constituency, drawing inspiration from the courage and conviction of ordinary Malaysians who wanted change. It was truly people’s power – Makkal Sakti – that defied the odds and trumped cynicism. We were fortunate to win our respective seats and be a part of the now legendary story of the 8th of March.

Keadilan as a result increased its Parliamentary presence from one to 31 seats. Not only that, four states along the West Coast fell to a coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS that eventually became the Pakatan Rakyat. What was more impressive and significant was that a multiracial band of MPs and state assemblypersons won on Keadilan’s ticket, making Keadilan the most successful experiment in multiracial politics in Malaysia to-date.

But the reality of victory also dawned upon us as the euphoria of the 8th of March faded away. We had to meet the manifold expectations of our constituents who voted us in. We had to ensure that the voices of the people were heard in the legislatures and corridors of power.

Nazmi and many other state assemblypersons in the five states had the added responsibility of actually governing, trying to make a 50-year establishment embrace reform and progress.

We immediately saw the limits of operating within the confinements of a governmental system that had become dominated by the executive branch. The people of Kuala Lumpur as a Federal Territory remain dependant to the autonomous and powerful KL City Hall. With no say on budget allocations and choice of Mayor, improvements in housing allocation, delivery and services remain marginal at best. They, unlike their counterparts elsewhere do not have the right to vote for a State Assembly. That is why the movement towards holding local council elections – that can and will start in Pakatan Rakyat states – must persist.

Being wakil rakyats meant that we could no longer confine ourselves to criticising from the sidelines, but actually delivering on our promises to the voters. This involved meeting our constituents that brought their problems to us continuously at all hours. This touched and exposed us to the challenges they, the ordinary men and women of Malaysia have to face each and every day and how we have to do everything within our power to help them better their lives.

We also began to realise that change is unavoidable, especially in our own parties. All political parties evolve, and this process is more often that not tumultuous. In the US for example, the Republicans were the party that freed the slaves under Abraham Lincoln. Now, the Democrats, who opposed Lincoln’s reforms in the 19th century nominated Barack Obama as their Presidential candidate in 2008, who as we know is the country’s first African-American Commander-in-Chief. Nothing is constant in politics, least of all political parties.

In Malaysia, Umno, which was once a party of teachers and village officials, is now a party of racial demagogues and crony-capitalists.

On the other hand, DAP and PAS that used to represent a narrow range of constituencies have become more open and inclusive than ever before. The example of Bukit Gantang and the many mixed constituencies that returned a Pakatan representative last year is testament to this.

The growing momentum for change is bearing down not only on Umno and the Barisan Nasional but also on Pakatan Rakyat. The former responding to this challenge by dithering and relying on the most dishonest sort of triangulation. The latter is, though the path has not always been smooth, is heeding the call.

Keadilan grew from a small coalition of people that came together during Reformasi to a Malaysian political party that is based on hope, progress and a new brand of politics.

Just over a year ago before the elections, when we campaigned across the country, many were surprised that Keadilan still existed.

When we walked up the rusty elevators in Kampung Kerinchi and Desa Mentari, we had to convince ordinary Malaysians that we could offer a genuine alternative to the government.

When we called up our contacts and acquaintances to help out, we became used to both polite and direct rejections. The path we took was certainly not the path of least resistance, but it was the choice of our conviction.

Today, Malaysians from all walks of life, including Malay doctors, Indian college students and Chinese businessmen come together in good faith in our divisions.

We have committed Christians and pious Muslims in our committees. All are eager to hoist the party flag that the people hardly recognised before.

We have unsung heroes like Muslim activist Mohamed Ali Ghazali, small businessmen S. Meng Yee and Vinod Sharma, all working behind the scenes, doing their bit for the party without any thought or expectation of reward. Our victory has made it easier now to get people come and join Keadilan, but we still have to make sure that they understand the struggle and sacrifices that the road ahead demands.

We spoke about renewable energy, economic co-operation, climate change, refugees, urban planning and public transport in Parliament and the State Assembly, but all of this was swept under the radar of the controlled mainstream media.

Our young Pakatan colleagues, including Yusmadi Yusoff in Parliament as well as Amirudin Shari and Gan Pei Nei in the Selangor State Assembly have all made an impact in their speeches that impressed everyone in the legislature. In our constituencies we have set up free health clinics, voluntary tuition centres and crime fighting campaigns by empowering the community. Yet, the mainstream media prefers to focus on sensationalised stories rather than substantive news.

Obviously, any growing organisation will have its ups and downs. Just as we should be credited for our successes, it is just as important that we must be accountable for our shortfalls.

We cannot deflect our own undoing. Some are clearly our own weaknesses, but others reflect the lack of human capital and institutional structure that is a problem across the Malaysian political spectrum. As we continue to build Keadilan and Pakatan Rakyat as a party of the future, be prepared for more ups and downs.

But we are a democratic and open organisation, and we always prefer to resolve our difficulties in the open rather than under the cloak-and-dagger of spin.

The important thing is that in spite of all the difficulties we have faced, we continue to attract the best and brightest Malaysians to push for an inclusive political party, a party that upholds our main objective of establishing a just society and a democratic, progressive and united country.

We have, stated above done a lot for the people, but we do not for one second expect them to be satisfied with just this. We do not ask for support or gratitude in return, but simply that Malaysians continue the spirit of the 8th of March and pressure the Federal Government to increase our civil liberties and political freedoms.

Malaysia’s leaders need to always listen and learn from the people, and this is something that we, the young leaders of Keadilan and Pakatan pledge to do.

The service and dedication that we have rendered to the people will continue as long as we hold office and beyond. We consider this to be the true meaning of ‘putting the people first’. We will do this even in our own house.

Keadilan is in the process of revamping our constitution to ensure that the party is able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We want to empower to our grassroots. Our Youth and Women’s wings too, are engaged in massive training exercises from Perlis to Sabah to build the party’s human capital for the long-term. We have sought to improve our election machinery to complement the experience of our partners in Pakatan Rakyat.

We are also open to the idea of more far-reaching reforms to devolve power to the ordinary members of the party, including having party primaries for national leadership positions or even for to select Parliamentary, State Assembly and Local Council candidates.

We can institutionalise debate as part of the campaigning for party positions. We can go further in ensuring that one of the objectives of our Women’s wing is to make the idea of having at least 30 per cent of our leaders and election candidates as women a reality.

We understand that some Malaysians might get tired with all the drama that has transpired thus far. Some might be losing patience with us. But the choice is clear between the potential of Keadilan and Pakatan Rakyat driven by the young compared to the BN’s tired false power-sharing model where the shadow of the past looms large.

Keadilan will continue to fight for change. The first battle is to fight to change ourselves for the better.

NURUL IZZAH ANWAR, 28, is Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai as well as Keadilan Lembah Pantai Division’s Pro-Tem Head. She graduated from Universiti Tenaga Nasional in electronic and electrical engineering before furthering her studies at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, US in International Relations. She maintains a web presence at www.nurulizzah.com.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD, 27, is Political Secretary to the Selangor Menteri Besar and State Assemblyman for Seri Setia. He is also a Keadilan Youth committee member. A graduate of King’s College, University of London in law, Nik Nazmi blogs at www.niknazmi.com.

APs may be abolished, says Mukhriz

JOHOR BARU, April 26 – The government is looking at doing away with the system of Approved Permits for the import of vehicles, Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Mukhriz said here today.

The latest rethink on the controversial permits may have been prompted by a request from the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Car Dealers and Credit Companies Association to open up the AP scheme to everyone, or set aside 30% for Bumiputras and sell the rest by open auction.

Mukhriz stressed that the main consideration of the review would be that “any levy or tax should benefit the Government, and cost savings, if any, should go to the people.”

While the ministry was giving high priority to finding a solution to the long-standing issue, abolition of APs was not the only option on the table as there were many other ways to solve the problems, Mukhriz told reporters after launching the Bumiputra Entrepreneurs Symposium held in conjunction with the Unit Trust Week here on Sunday.

Mukhriz gave his assurance that the ministry would come up with a solution that would be amenable to all parties.

“The AP issue is high on the ministry’s agenda of deliberations to come up with a new mechanism ... give us a bit more time before the minister makes a final decision.

“With the Cabinet approval, he will make the announcement,” he. – Bernama

Zambry races against time

May 13 had been touted as the deadline for the Perak assembly to convene, failing which it would stand dissolved as the assembly's last sitting was in November last year.

The Edge

It's 11 days and counting to May 7 when the embattled Perak state legislative assembly is scheduled to convene. It's a race against time for Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir to resolve ongoing legal battles standing in his way to assuming legitimacy of his administration within the assembly.

With the clock ticking louder than ever, Zambry last Monday applied to refer three questions to the Federal Court on Articles 16(2) and 16(6) of the Perak Constitution which relate to the dissolution of the assembly and the appointment of the menteri besar.

Zambry's questions are whether Perak Ruler Sultan Azlan Shah had the right to withhold consent to the assembly's dissolution as requested by then Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin when the latter ceased to command majority support in the assembly and whether Nizar and his exco members should tender their resignations upon the Sultan's refusal to dissolve the assembly.

The Federal Court is scheduled to hear Zambry's application as well as Nizar's objection on Tuesday. Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf

The Federal Court is scheduled to hear Zambry's application as well as Nizar's objection on Tuesday. Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf

The third question posed sought a ruling on whether the Sultan had the right to appoint Zambry as menteri besar after due inquiry that Nizar had lost majority confidence of the House although a vote of no-confidence had yet to be taken in the assembly.

Zambry, in his application, says he should be declared the validly appointed Perak menteri besar if the Federal Court answers the three questions in the affirmative.

The Federal Court is scheduled to hear Zambry's application as well as Nizar's objection on Tuesday.

If the Federal Court decides to hear Zambry's questions, it would only have up to five working days — after factoring in the May 1 public holiday and the weekend — to provide an answer before Nizar and Zambry meet again at the Perak state assembly. But if it declines, the matter would have to be decided before the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Nizar's counsel Hanipa Maidin, when contacted, said one of the key objections to Zambry's application was that the questions referred to the apex court did not reflect the actual suit at hand.

"The way they (Zambry's side) framed the questions appear to challenge the (prerogative) powers of the Sultan," Hanipa said, maintaining that Nizar had no intention of challenging the Sultan. Yet others would argue this was a matter that could not possibly be excluded from the process.

Hanipa, a PAS lawyer, also said the High Court should be allowed to continue hearing the matter and by due process, its decision could subsequently be brought to the appellate courts — the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

Constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas, at a Bar Council forum on Saturday, questioned the speed at which the Perak-related suits were "leap-frogged" to the Federal Court.

Thomas, who had acted for Sivakumar, said there was a theory that the hurry to dispose of the cases was due to Article 36 of the Perak Constitution which states that the ruler must summon the assembly's sitting every six months.

May 13 had been touted as the deadline for the Perak assembly to convene, failing which it would stand dissolved as the assembly's last sitting was in November last year.

"There is no such doctrine (of automatic dissolution). It must be an overt act of the sovereign signing the proclamation of dissolution. This was a great myth," Thomas said.

Zambry's counsel could not be contacted for their comments.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has fixed May 5 and 6 to hear substantive matters in the suit brought by Nizar on Feb 13 challenging the validity of Zambry as menteri besar.

Nizar's lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah has written to Chief Justice Tan Sri Zaki Azmi requesting for a rare nine-member quorum at the Federal Court to hear the matter.

Given that the issues involve complex constitutional interpretations and are of great public importance, the Federal Court may hear the matter as expeditiously as it had in the previous two related cases.

On April 9, the Federal Court ruled that the three representatives who had resigned from their respective parties — Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) and Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang) — were still assemblymen as the speaker was not the rightful entity to determine a seat's vacancy.

The same five-member bench, led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sherrif, on April 16 lifted Perak Speaker V Sivakumar's suspension of Zambry and the six executive councillors (exco) after it declared Sivakumar had acted beyond his powers as speaker in ordering the suspensions.

Both Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and Barisan Nasional (BN) are expected to exhaust its legal options before turning to Plans B, C and D outside the courtroom.

In the event that the Federal Court ruled in favour of Zambry, he would have the weight of the authoritative judgment behind him as he walks into the state assembly to claim his seat as Perak's chief executive.

But if Sivakumar and the 27 PR representatives remain adamant that the reach of the judiciary cannot extend into the legislature, questions abound as to what weight the Federal Court's decision would carry in the upcoming sitting and what moves PR would subsequently make.

On the other hand, a Federal Court decision against Zambry would lend the legitimacy Nizar has been seeking since his removal from office.

In any case, it remains to be seen if any decision by the courts would put an end to Perak's political impasse that was sparked off at the end of January by the controversial and highly consequential defections of the three MPs.

Sun Tzu and the art of war

Image

In 1998, when we first started using the Internet to fight Barisan Nasional, there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers against 8 million registered voters. Today, ten years on, there are almost 16 million Internet subscribers against 12 million registered voters.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

The Internet has been abuzz the last couple of days about the ‘accidental’ police report an NGO made against Malaysiakini. Those who had made the police report did not know the difference between Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Today.

The following day, they ‘corrected’ the mistake and two more ‘Malay’ NGOs made a police report against Malaysia Today. While I am honoured that the news reports talk about Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Today in the same breath, I have to correct this misperception and declare that Malaysia Today should not be compared to Malaysiakini or The Malaysian Insider.

Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider are proper or legitimate online newspapers or portals run by professional media personnel, most who have many years experience in the media industry. Malaysia Today, however, is not in that same league. We are not a proper or legitimate online newspaper. Neither are we run by professional media personnel. Malaysia Today is a ‘weapon’ that is meant to bring about political change in Malaysia.

We learned how useful the Internet can be back in 1998 when the Reformasi Movement first exploded onto the Malaysian political scene. More than 100 Reformasi websites mushroomed overnight to give Barisan Nasional a run for its money. Of course, then, most of these websites were aligned to Anwar Ibrahim and/or PAS. There were some that were aligned to DAP as well.

In 1998, however, there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers. But that was enough to sufficiently damage Barisan Nasional in the 1999 general election that was held about a year after the debut of Reformasi. No doubt the Internet was not the major contributor to the opposition victory in November 1999. But it did contribute enough, though in a small way, as to how Barisan Alternatif performed.

Then the opposition became complacent. Their 1999 ‘victory’ lulled them and put them to sleep. Not long after that DAP pulled out from Barisan Alternatif and that aggravated the problem. In the March 2004 general election, the voters demonstrated their disgust for the opposition coalition.

I have already talked about this matter so many times in the past so there is no need to go over all the issues and statistics again. The bottom line is: the opposition practically got wiped out.

Soon after that, Anwar Ibrahim was released from incarceration. There was jubilation all around. My wife, Marina, and I stood on the steps of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, quite amused at the chanting and cheering going on. My phone rang but I could not hear properly because of the noise. I handed the phone to Marina, who has better hearing than me. “It’s the BBC from London,” she told me as she handed me back the phone.

“Hold on,” I shouted into the phone. “It’s so noisy here. Let me move to a quieter place.”

Marina and I quickly walked to the side of the Palace of Justice where it was quieter and I spoke to the chap from the BBC.

“We heard Anwar has just been released. Can we get your statement?”

“Sure, but why me?” I asked.

“Well, you are the Director of the Free Anwar Campaign and you run the freeanwar dot com website. I suppose you are now out of a job since Anwar has just been released. What do you plan to do now?”

“I suppose you could put it that way,” I laughed. “I must be the only Director who got retrenched from his job because he is successful.”

The BBC chap laughed and asked, “So what do you intend to do now, now that you have been retrenched?”

“I am going to now focus fulltime on the new website I just started three weeks ago.”

“Oh, what is it called?”

Malaysia Today. It’s at malaysia dash today dot net.”

“You said you started this website three weeks ago? Does this mean you anticipated that Anwar would be released?”

“Yes, I did. In fact, that was one of the first articles I wrote on Malaysia Today. I said that Anwar would be released with a two-one verdict and that the lady judge would be the sole dissenting voice.”

“How did you know? Do you own a crystal ball?”

“It’s my business to know. That is what I do. I find out what people don’t know or try to hide and publish the story, while crossing my fingers in the hope that I am right.”

“So what do you hope to achieve with your new website?”

“Let me put it this way. It took us six years to free Anwar from jail. But only Anwar is free. Malaysians are not yet free. And Malaysians will never be free until they can be allowed freedom of expression and freedom of choice. It may take us 60 more years to free Malaysians, I don’t know. I may even never see that happen in my lifetime. But that is the mission and vision of Malaysia Today, to free Malaysians by allowing them freedom of expression. Freeing Anwar was phase one. Phase two is to free Malaysians.”

“Thank you Raja Petra. And I wish you luck in your new endeavour. Can we call you again if we need anything further?”

“Sure, no problem. Bye.”

That was my ‘interview’ with the BBC on the steps of the Palace of Justice on the morning of 2 September 2004. Malaysia Today was then only 20 days old. But Malaysia Today was created with a vision and a mission. It is not, as the government said, a hobby of bored and unemployed housewives. Malaysia Today was created to gain back the territory that we lost in the March 2004 general election when Barisan Nasional performed its best ever in the history of Malaysian elections.

“What do you think we are going to see?” Marina asked me. “This is going to involved a hell of a lot of work. And you are going to suffer all sorts of hassle from the police. Is it going to be worth it?”

“Hun (we call each other Hun, which is short for honey, not hantu),” I told Marina. “Come the next election, in 2008 or 2009, Malaysia Today is going to be the weapon we use to hit Barisan Nasional where it hurts most. We are going to engage Barisan Nasional in the cyber-world and use hit and run guerrilla tactics. They will be running around in circles trying to duck our hit and run attacks but they will not be able to do anything about it. By then the Internet will be the most powerful ‘terrorist’ weapon in the elections. And we will be there, ready to take on Barisan Nasional in 2008 or 2009.”

Yes, in 1998, when we first started using the Internet to fight Barisan Nasional, there were only 280,000 Internet subscribers against 8 million registered voters. Today, ten years on, there are almost 16 million Internet subscribers against 12 million registered voters.

Over the last ten years, the number of registered voters increased only 50%. However, in that same period, the number of Internet subscribers increased 328.9% (according to the official statistics). Today, the Internet reaches 62.8% of the Malaysian population. Malaysia has more Internet subscribers than it has voters. (See the statistics below).

Yes, that was our plan back in 2004 when we launched Malaysia Today. No, Malaysia Today is not a newspaper. And it is not in the same league as Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider. Malaysia Today is a guerrilla outfit. We are cyber terrorists. Our job is to hit the government whenever and wherever we can. And if hit and run is what it takes, then hit and run is what it will have to be.

We almost succeeded in meeting our aspirations in March 2008. But, in our books, that is a job only half done. We have to finish the job. We have to complete what we started back in 1998. And the completion would be when Barisan Nasional has been brought down from its high horse and made to eat humble pie. We will consider to have met our objective when the government admits that it serves the people, and not the people who serve the government.

On a slight digression, when I was in Kamunting from September to November last year, Marina sent me loads of books to read and one of those books was The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It was a most interesting book and took me only a day to finish. I must say that book gave me new insight into guerrilla warfare.

The government calls the Barisan Rakyat Bloggers cyber terrorists. Actually, I had never thought of it that way. I suppose, under the circumstances, since we have been classified as cyber terrorists, then we have no choice but to act as one. And terrorists must master the art of hit and run.



***********************************************************

Internet World Statistics

Total world: 1,581,571,589
Asia Only: 650,361,843
Malaysia: 15,868,000 (62.8 % of the population) (user growth 2000-2008: 328.9 %)

Source: Internet World Stats
(http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm )

**************************************************************

The Art of War: Sūn Zǐ Bīng Fǎ

Chapter summary

1. Laying Plans explores the five key elements that define a successful outcome (the way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management). By thinking, assessing and comparing these points you can calculate a victory, deviation from them will ensure failure. Remember that war is a very grave matter of state.

2. Waging War explains how to understand the economy of war and how success requires making the winning play, which in turn, requires limiting the cost of competition and conflict.

3. Attack by Stratagem defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and the five ingredients that you need to succeed in any war.

4. Tactical Dispositions explains the importance of defending existing positions until you can advance them and how you must recognise opportunities, not try to create them.

5. Energy explains the use of creativity and timing in building your momentum.

6. Weak Points & Strong explains how your opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of your enemy in a given area.

7. Manoeuvring explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon you.

8. Variation in Tactics focuses on the need for flexibility in your responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.

9. The Army on the March describes the different situations in which you find yourselves as you move into new enemy territories and how to respond to them. Much of it focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.

10. Terrain looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers, and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offers certain advantages and disadvantages.

11. The Nine Situations describe nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus you need to successfully navigate each of them.

12. The Attack by Fire explains the use of weapons generally and the use of the environment as a weapon specifically. It examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack, and the appropriate responses to such attack.

13. The Use of Spies focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, specifically the five types of sources and how to manage them.

Sun Tzu

Whereabouts of year-old baby girl Prasana Diksa shapes up to be first major test of Najib’s “Performance Now” motto

When Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced “Performance Now” as one of the three mottos of his government’s overarching philosophy, he would have realized that it would be put to a test early in his premiership.

Najib should have been realistic enough to know that he would not enjoy the luxury of a political honeymoon of “The First 100 Days”, but it is unlikely that he expected it to come under a major test immediately after his first three weeks as Prime Minister and in the form of a year-old baby girl Prasana Diksa.

In Ipoh, kindergarten teacher M. Indira Ghandi’s vigil for the return of her daughter, Prasana Diksa, who is still being breastfed, is coming to 48 hours since the Ipoh High Court judgment on Friday granting her interim custody of her three children, Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinish 11 and Prasana Diksa; a restraining order against her husband K. Pathmanathan, who has assumed the name Mohd Redzuan Abdullah after conversion to Islam, until full custody hearing on May 12; ordered the husband to surrender Prasana to the mother and a mandamus to the police to assist Indira in the matter.

Prasana was forcibly taken away from Indira last month by her husband, who forcibly converted the three children to Islam without her knowledge or consent.

Yesterday, I had asked the Ipoh police officers how long more will Indira have to wait before the police could discover the baby’s whereabouts and return her to the mother.

I told them that it would reflect very poorly on the capabilities and performance of the Ipoh police if they could not find the baby girl and return her immediately to her mother, as if the baby has just disappeared!

After a five-year-long procrastination from the Everest mountaineer Moorthy case, the Cabinet has finally announced a commendable solution for controversial religious conversions resulting in family breakups and injustices – firstly, that children of divorced parents be brought up in the common religion at the time of marriage when one parent converts to another religion and secondly, that conversion must not be used as a ground to automatically dissolve a marriage or to get custody of children.

However, the Cabinet decision has no meaning for Indira Ghandi, who is still pining for her baby girl Prasana Diksa, who had been forcibly taken away from her for a month.

As a result, Prasana Diksa’s whereabouts has also shaped up to be first major test of Najib’s “Performance Now” motto.

The ministerial committee to deal with Prasana Diksa case headed by Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of KPI for Ministers and Unity, should visit Ipoh to do their utmost to resolve the issue by getting Prasana Diksa returned to her mother without any further delay.

Najib, who visited Indonesia recently, should take serious note of the observation by Indonesian Islamic scholar and former Foreign Minister, Dr. Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab in Malaysia a few days ago that issues of forced conversion of children to Islam are unknown in Indonesia, while in Malaysia, it has been allowed to be an increasingly polarizing factor in race and religious relations – a most unhealthy phenomenon which should not be continued if Najib is serious about another motto of his overarching philosophy, 1Malaysia!

The Subashini case

BUSINESSMAN T. Saravanan and clerk R. Subashini were married on July 26, 2001 and registered their union under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

On May 18, 2006, Saravanan converted to Islam and took the name Muhammad Shafi Saravanan Abdullah.

He converted their older son, Dharvin Joshua, and attempted to convert their youngest son, Sharvind.


A week later, he applied to the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court to dissolve his marriage and obtain custody of the children.

Upon hearing Shafi's pending application at the syariah court, Subashini filed a petition at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Aug 4 to dissolve their marriage and to obtain custody of the children and maintenance.
Subashini filed for an injunction to stop Shafi from dissolving their civil marriage at the syariah court and prevent Sharvind's conversion.

On Dec 27, 2007, the Federal Court, in a majority ruling, dismissed Subashini's appeal to restrain Shafi from going to the syariah court on grounds her divorce petition was filed prematurely. It was filed two months and 18 days after Shafi's conversion.

The apex court said Section 51 of the Law Reform stated where a spouse had converted to Islam, the other spouse could only file a divorce petition three months after the conversion.

The Federal Court ruling is the judicial pronouncement followed by lower courts at present. It observed that:

- a parent who has embraced Islam can convert underage children without consulting the other spouse.

- the civil court and syariah court has equal jurisdiction following amendment to Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Court on June 10, 1988. So, a High Court cannot restrain a syariah court order as that amounts to an interference.

- a non-Muslim spouse can go to the civil court to file a divorce and obtain other ancillary relief.- NST

Courts shouldn’t interfere in parliamentary matters

By Zedeck Siew
thenutgraph.com

KUALA LUMPUR, 25 April 2009: The judiciary should not function as a court of appeal for matters of Parliament, as this would violate core democratic doctrines, a constitutional lawyer said today.

Speaker V Sivakumar's legal battles in relation to the Perak political crisis is "best proof that parliamentary matters should not be heard by the courts", said Tommy Thomas at a Bar Council forum entitled Perak Crisis: Constitutional, Legal or Political?.

Styling the conduct of the Federal Court as "terribly unsatisfactory" from the plaintiff's perspective, Thomas argued that the Sivakumar's treatment by the court was "a reaffirmation of the doctrine that [the legislature and judiciary] must remain separate."

Thomas referenced the recent Federal Court rulings against Sivakumar regarding his suspension of Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and his executive council members, and the resignation of three now-independent state assemblypersons.


Tommy Thomas
"This is a total disregard for the separation of powers," Thomas said.

The lawyer also revealed that the Sivakumar had reasons for "substantive complaints", owing to the fact the plaintiff had been initially denial choice of counsel, and that the cases had been hurried.

He revealed that the Federal Court's rulings on Sivakumar violated the legal precedent set by five previous cases, such as Fan Yew Teng v Government of Malaysia (1976) and Lim Cho Hock v Speaker, Perak State Legislative Assembly (1979), which essentially ruled that proceedings in parliament or legislative assemblies could not be questioned in any court.

This is due to Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which says: "The validity of any proceedings in either House of Parliament or any committee thereof shall not be questioned in any Court." Equivalents to Article 72 exist in the state constitutions, including Perak.

"Lawyers are very angry when cases to which we can predict the outcome goes the other way," Thomas, who served as legal counsel for Sivakumar in the suit brought against him by assemblypersons Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), Capt (R) Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) and Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang), said.

"Now a dangerous precedent is being set," Thomas added, citing Puchong parliamentarian Gobind Singh Deo's decision to take the Dewan Rakyat speaker to court over his one-year suspension.

He called on the Bar Council to appoint constitutional scholars from other Commonwealth nations to study the Federal Court's judgements in relation to Sivakumar, and certify in their opinion whether the rulings were wrong or right.

The Bar Council forum, which was attended by 100 people, also featured lawyer Datuk Muhammad Shafee Md Abdullah and human rights group Aliran's exco member Dr Subramaniam Pillay.

Letter dating

Muhammad Shafee, in his presentation, argued that the Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government's treatment of Jamaluddin, Mohd Osman Jailu, and Hee's resignation letters was "very criminal".

"Dating the letters can be considered forgery," he said.

Muhammad Shafee added that embattled Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin was duty-bound to resign, according Article 16 (6) of the Perak state constitution.


Ambiga
However, an observer from the floor, former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan argued that the resignation letters, whether they were dated or not, were perfectly legal, as they were signed by consenting adults.

"As an adult, if you sign a blank document, you should know what you're doing," Ambiga said, adding that the courts ought to have upheld the letters.

Subramaniam zoomed in on the issue of elected representatives switching sides, and recommended that anti-hopping laws be introduced.

He also called for the repeal of Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, which disqualifies parliamentarians from sitting in Parliament for a period of five years, from the date of their resignations.

Subramaniam stressed that party-hopping was morally wrong, regardless of whether elected representatives crossed over to PR or Barisan Nasional (BN).

"Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and PR have some soul-searching to do," Subramaniam said, citing the opposition leader's plan to take over the federal government via cross-overs by 16 Sept 2008

Najib’s “liberalisation” could open Pandora’s Box

By Anil Netto

Pardon me for raining on Najib’s sweeping economic “liberalisation” parade.

For one thing, I don’t think the government fully understands the ramifications of its gung-ho approach to liberalisation in the services sector, especially the financial services sub-sector. Still beholden to the FDI-driven model of economic growth, the government is obviously hoping that its “liberalisation” will result in hordes of foreign investors stampeding into the local market. Sure, more big investors might come in - but at what price to the local economy and small-timers?

The Chinese Malaysian business sector might welcome the removal of bumi quotas. Fed up with paying high prices for “protected items” such as locally made cars, many ordinary Malaysians too might actually welcome “liberalisation” - and I can understand where they are coming from.

But have we considered all the implications? The Bar Council is already worried about the move to allow foreign legal services firms to enter Malaysia to advise on Islamic finance. This is just the beginning.

What happens when the big boys - the MNCs, with their huge resources - muscle into the local services sector? They will be prepared to make a few years of losses to kill off local competition in all sorts of areas - ranging from financial and banking services, tour agencies, and even the management of homes for senior citizens - which we haven’t even thought of.

Okay, they will create some jobs, but what about accessibility in critical areas such as health care and education. Will they cater only for the rich? What will happen to local businesses in the long-run as the MNCs flex their muscles and exert their power?

But the area which we should be most concerned about is financial services liberalisation. First, there has been a disconnect between this sector and the real economy, fuelled by the drive to seek ever-higher returns for surplus capital when the real economy itself has been stagnating due to overproduction (at a time when those who need such goods can’t afford them because of low wages). This has led to periodic bubbles in the services sector - booms and bust due to speculation. Some of the financial giants that could seize the opportunity to expand into Malaysia or acquire stakes in local banks and insurance companies could be the very ones that have received public bailout money in their home countries.

It was precisely financial deregulation and liberalisation in the developed economies that got the world into this mess in the first place.

At a time when many countries are now questioning this financial deregulation and liberalisation model and trying to make their domestic economies more resilient and independent, here we are opening the floodgates to something we don’t fully understand. This is precisely the route that MNCs want developing countries to take: they want to prise open developing countries’ markets through the WTO, Gats and now FTAs such as the EU-Asean FTA.

The Najib administration should not hand over our local market to these MNCs on a silver platter without realising the long-term implications for local businesses and the domestic economy.

Time to convert policy to law

The Star
By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY

The Cabinet has won all-round praise for its recent decisions relating to the conversion controversy among spouses and their children. The real test lies in giving legal effect to the decisions for a just and lasting solution.

THE swift decision by the Cabinet on Wednesday to end the long-standing dilemma faced by non-Muslims when one spouse converts to Islam, and proceeds to convert the children to the faith without the approval of the other spouse, has won applause from all sides.
Even the most stringent of government critics – anonymous commentators on political blogs – have praised the speed with which the decision was made and the strong display of political will by the less-then-a-month-old Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

However, they are waiting to see how the political decision will be translated into legal effect for a just and lasting solution to this long-standing dilemma.

“Kudos to Najib’s Cabinet ... the decision is the right one,” said a commentator in the Malaysian Insider political website, which normally attracts high volumes of anti-establishment comments.

On Wednesday, the two-week old Cabinet decided on two matters related to the conversion controversy that, in part, had angered non-Muslims voters into punishing the Government in the 2008 general election.

In the first decision, the Cabinet said children should follow the faith that their parents had agreed on at the time of their marriage.

Second, civil courts are the right place to dissolve a civil law marriage in the event a non-Muslim spouse converts to Islam.

The Cabinet has also instructed the Attorney-General to look at all relevant laws needing amendment in line with the decisions.

In addition, any amendment to the Islamic laws will be brought up to the Rulers who are all heads of Islam in their respective states.

These are landmark decisions that seek to finally resolve a host of dilemma faced by the non-converting spouse after the partner converts, and begins to convert the children as well, seize the matrimonial properties, start a war for custody of the children and seek to annul their civil law marriage in the Islamic court.

The Cabinet’s decision follows the latest case of a kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi, whose three children aged one, 11 and 12 were allegedly converted to Islam by her husband K. Patmanathan who, after embracing Islam, is known as Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah.

Indira Gandhi alleges her children were converted without her consent and is filing a suit in the Ipoh High Court for declarations and various relief.

The indeterminate situation of conversion gives rise to numerous complications. One of them is: while under Islamic law the civil law marriage is annulled, the marriage remains under civil law and is protected by all the provisions of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1967.

Over the years the failure of political leaders, parliament and the courts to find a just and lasting solution had given rise to a huge legal grey area.

“This is a landmark decision and if given legal effect, will resolve numerous legal and other complications associated with the conversion controversy,” said Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan.

“It is also significant the Govern­ment has shown political will to address the issue stagnating for many years,” he said, adding that the real challenge lay ahead – to give legal effect to the political decisions.

He also worried over the status of individuals and families – on both sides of the divide – already affected by the issue but have not obtained relief in the court.

He said any forthcoming legal changes must take into account the status of these affected individuals and families.

Lawyer and DAP leader S. Siva­nesan who is handling over 30 such cases of conversions, mostly involving Hindu spouses, praised the Cabinet for the “bold decisions.”

Sivanesan, Indira Gandhi’s counsel, said that with the decision the controversies behind conversion cases could be resolved without having to amend Article 121(A) of the Federal Constitution – which stated civil courts had no jurisdiction on matters involving Islam.

One thorny issue was to ensure the converted spouse fulfilled all the obligations under his or her civil marriage including welfare of children, maintenance, custody and divorce, he said.

Currently the converted spouse escapes the obligations, arguing the issues come under the jurisdiction of Islamic law.

The jurisdiction of the various state Islamic councils also needs to be clarified, lawyers and rights activists say.

Numerous suggestions to clarify, streamline and resolve the controversies have been suggested in many memorandums to the Government ever since the deathbed conversion of Everest climber M. Moorthy made the headlines in 2005.

The Cabinet’s display of political will is refreshing. The real challenge, however, is in giving legal effect to the decisions made to ensure a just and lasting solution is possible for all.