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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Amnesty International Malaysia launches human rights report

Di antara Chin Peng, komunisme dan perkauman — Zaid Ibrahim

MEI 29 — Meninjau tindakan pihak polis terhadap orang ramai beberapa bulan kebelakangan ini, saya tidak terkejut kalau ada kedengaran rintihan bahawa Malaysia telah menjadi sebuah negara polis (police state). Antara ciri-ciri sebuah “police state” ialah apabila polis menjadi satu kuasa pengawalan yang ditakuti. Polis mula menyekat kegiatan serta kebebasan orang ramai bersuara, yang merupakan amalan biasa di sesebuah negara bebas dan demokratik. Kita dapat lihat bahawa pasukan polis lebih ditakuti dan bukan dihormati. Bloggers seperti saya juga turut berada dalam pemerhatian mereka. Undang-undang yang digunakan mereka telah menyekat kebebasan rakyat.

Di dalam sebuah “police state”, polis boleh mengambil tindakan atas apa sahaja yang ditafsir atau dianggap berbahaya kapada kerajaan. Ini membolehkan mereka menyekat apa sahaja kegiatan orang awam yang dianggap menjejaskan kententeraman awam. Hari ini rakyat ditangkap kerana memakai baju warna hitam, menjual CD, tidak mahu makan, berkumpul secara aman dan sebagainya.

Rakyat ingin tahu mengapa Menteri yang bertanggungjawab terus-terusan membiarkan polis bertindak sedemikian? Besar kemungkinan Menteri juga sudah tidak mampu atau mempunyai kuasa untuk mempengaruhi pihak polis. Mungkinkah Ketua Polis Negara lebih berkuasa dari Menteri?

Saya masih lagi ingat tentang soal penubuhan IPCMC yang dicadangkan oleh Pak Lah dahulu. IPCMC merupakan satu cadagan baik pada tahun 2004 supaya sebuah suruhanjaya ditubuhkan bagi menyiasat penyalahgunaan kuasa, kepincangan etika dan amalan rasuah yang sering berlaku dalam pasukan polis negara. Cadangan ini merupakan saranan Tun Dzaiddin dan Tun Haniff serta ahli-ahli lain Suruhanjaya DiRaja pada masa itu. Menurut laporan mereka terdapat banyak kepincangan dan kelemahan polis yang ketara. Walaupun Pak Lah berniat baik untuk menubuhkan IPCMC dan merealisasikan saranan Dzaiddin ini, pihak polis telah menolaknya secara terbuka. Saya tidak fikir dalam sebuah negara demokrasi lain seperti Australia atau India, pihak polis mereka berani menentang secara terbuka akan dasar yang diusulkan oleh seorang Perdana Menteri. Namun di Malaysia, begitulah berkuasanya seorang Ketua Polis Negara.

Saya juga teringat tentang kuasa polis dalam isu dadah. Parlimen telah lama menggubal rang undang-undang khas untuk penubuhan Agensi Dadah Kebangsaan. Menurut undang-undang ini, segala isu mengenai dadah, sama ada kawalan siasatan dan rehabilitasi adalah tanggungjawab dan di bawah kuasa agensi ini. Ini sebenarnya telah diamalkan di Negara Filipina dan Amerika Syarikat. Peruntukan berjuta-juta ringgit telah disediakan untuk menggerakkan agensi dengan kakitangan yang cukup. Namun sehingga hari ini, polis masih juga bertanggungjawab dan berkuasa dalam hal “prevention enforcement” dan siasatan kes dadah. Mereka akan membuat keputusan mengenai segala aspek kes dadah dan bukannya Agensi Dadah Kebangsaan. Kononnya agensi yang baru ditubuhkan itu tidak mempunyai pengalaman menjalankan tugas-tugas tersebut. Begitulah berkuasanya Polis DiRaja Malaysia sehinggakan Parlimen atau Perdana Menteri tidak boleh menukar apa sahaja yang mereka tidak restui.

Parlimen sebenarnya memberi kuasa yang luas kepada polis di bawah the Police Act 1967. Maklumlah kita sebuah negara yang masih di bawah pengisytiharan darurat. Kita juga mempunyai sejarah hitam seperti peperangan dengan komunis dan peristiwa 13 Mei. Kuasa luas yang diberikan itu perlu dilaksanakan secara sederhana dan penuh bijaksana mengikut keadaan politik dan keperluan semasa.

Contohnya, walaupun undang-undang memerlukan rakyat memohon permit polis apabila mengadakan perhimpunan lebih dari empat orang, tetapi wajarkah kita mengikut peraturan ini jika perhimpunan mereka itu tidak membahayakan masyarakat? Jika mereka mahu pakai baju hitam dalam perhimpunan itu juga saya rasa tidak berbahaya dan tidak perlu ditangkap. Tetapi begitulah hakikatnya Malaysia pada hari ini. Wakil-wakil rakyat dan penyokong-penyokong mereka ditangkap semata mata berhimpun secara aman dan memasang lilin. Mereka juga ditangkap kerana mereka mahu berlapar selama tiga hari. Ini semua berlaku kerana dalam sebuah “police state”, sesetengah kumpulan orang awam dianggap musuh kapada pihak polis. Apabila musuh berkumpul maka tindakan menangkap mereka akan dilakukan. Namun jika yang berhimpun itu bukan musuh dan tidak mempunyai permit, ia dibenarkan tanpa tangkapan. Malang sekali nasib Malaysia.

Polis sepatutnya tidak memihak kepada sesiapa dan tidak ada musuh dari kalangan rakyat. Polis perlu bertindak secara professional dan adil dalam menjaga keamanan negara. Bukan menjaga Barisan Nasional sahaja.

Polis tidak perlu terlalu mendengar pandangan orang-orang politik. Menurut Rais Yatim dan Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, ada pula musuh baru sekarang ini. Kumpulan yang mahu hidupkan komunisme. Agaknya Pak Menteri membuat kesimpulan begitu kerana ada segelintir orang Cina yang mahukan Chin Peng dibenarkan pulang ke negara ini. Ramai orang bersimpati dengan hasrat Chin Peng mahu kembali dan mati ditanah Malaya. Ini tidak bererti mereka ini mahu hidupkan Komunisme. Jauh bezanya antara mahu menghidupkan Komunisme dengan rasa kemanusiaan yang membenarkan Chin Peng pulang.

Lagipun ramai peguam , di antaranya dari International Bar Association berpendapat Chin Peng ada hak untuk pulang ke tempat lahirnya. Cuma mahkamah kita tidak bersetuju dengan hujah tersebut kerana Chin Peng tidak mempunyai sijil kelahiran. Saya tidak pasti jika Malaya pada waktu itu memberi kemudahan pendaftaran kelahiran anak, terutama sekali di Baling, Kedah.

Berbalik semula kepada isu kononnya terdapat minat orang ramai kepada Komunisme seperti yang disebut oleh Pak Menteri. Orang-orang Cina di Negara China pun telah menjadi kapitalis besar dan selesa. Mereka ini berniaga dalam “free market capitalism”. Ini adalah sama dengan rakyat Malaysia berketurunan Cina. Mereka juga selesa dengan system kapitalis di Malaysia. Tidak masuk akal jika mereka mahu bertukar kepada sistem Komunis. Jadi apakah tujuan ahli-ahli fikir Umno dalam memperbesarkan soal Komunisme hari ini?

Janganlah kita melaga-lagakan rakyat dengan mencipta musuh baru. Tidak cukupkah kita Berjaya memecah-belah rakyat selama ini kerana politik?Jika ada yang bersetuju dengan cadangan supaya Chin Peng pulang ke Malaysia kerana dia hendak menghabiskan sisa-sisa hidupnya di Malaysia, itu tidak bererti bahawa dia adalah Komunis atau mahu menghidupkan ideology Komunis. Dia seorang rakyat Malaya. Usia Chin Peng pun sudah tua. Mustahil dia boleh membuat kekacauan lagi. Pengaruh Komunisme telah lupus. Lagipun pihak polis cekap seperti yang ada sekarang sudah tentu berupaya mengawal keselamatan negara.

Saya terfikir, jika Chin Peng itu seorang Melayu, apakah pendirian dan emosi kita akan sama? Utusan Malaysia berkempen secara agresif agar Chin Peng tidak dibenarkan pulang. Sehubungan itu gambar-gambar veteran tentera keselamatan yang cedera dan kehilangan kaki dipamerkan. Memang benar, Chin Peng dan komunis berperang dengan kerajaan Malaya pada masa itu. Memang Chin Peng dan komunis kejam. Termasuklah Rashid Maidin dan Shamsiah Fakih. Dalam peperangan itu, kedua-dua pihak telah terpaksa melakukan kekejaman. Jepun juga pernah berlaku kejam kepada kita semasa zaman pemerintahannya. Lebih kejam daripada Chin Peng. Namun kita tetap memberi pelukan yang sangat rapat kepada Jepun. Kita juga memberi kontrak besar kapada syarikat milik Jepun kerana Jepun memberi pinjaman wang kepada kita. Kita tidak boleh mengubah apa yang berlaku dalam peperangan melawan British. Yang melawan British ada komunis, ada yang berhaluan kiri (leftist) dan ada juga nasionalis. Ada bermacam-macam kumpulan. Namun mereka semua menetang British dan menuntut kemerdekaan.

Kadangkala sejarah pahit lama hanya akan diterima apabila kita membuang rasa dendam dan digantikan dengan sifat kemanusiaan. Bila kita menyimpan dendam terhadap musuh, ia tidak akan membawa apa-apa keuntungan. Lihatlah di Afrika Selatan. Kerajaan kulit putih dan polis risik kerajaan apartheid telah membunuh dan berlaku kejam terhadapan ratusan ribu rakyat kulit hitam Afrika Selatan. Ramai yang telah hilang dan telah mati dalam penjara. Namun Nelson Mandela tidak mahu berdendam. Sebaliknya beliau menubuhkan badan Reconciliation and Truth. Beliau mahu kedua-dua pihak hitam dan putih bersama-sama mencari kebenaran tentang apa yang berlaku dalam zaman apartheid.

Tujuannya ialah untuk mengajar rakyat supaya bermaaf-maafan dan menghentikan prejudis serta persengketaan antara kaum. Amnesty atau pelepasan dari tindakan undang-undang diberi kapada pihak pihak yang terlibat. Ini supaya mereka tidak lagi berdendam dan menghentikan kekejaman antara satu sama lain. Lima belas tahun dahulu di Rwanda, orang Tutsi dan Hutus berperang saudara. Kedua-duanya rakyat Rwanda. Sejumlah 800,000 rakyat mereka dari kedua-kedua kaum terbunuh dan dalam tempoh lapan bulan iaitu waktu kegilaan memuncak. Presiden baru telah memanggil semua kaum dan mengadakan dialog serta perbincangan tentang apa yang telah berlaku. Mereka menceritakan apa yang menyebabkan mereka benci dan membunuh satu sama lain. Mengapakah puak Tutsi tidak membenarkan Hutus memasuki perkhidmatan kerajaan? Mengapa Hutus tidak banyak mempunyai urusan perniagaan dan sebagainya? Mengapa hanya pasukan tentera Hutus yang layak menduduki jawatan tinggi. Dialog in berjalan tahun demi tahun dan telah menjadi satu penawar yang kuat dan membolehkan negara kecil Rwanda kembali aman. Hari ini Rwanda mengamalkan sistem demokrasi yang baik dan ekonominya kukuh kerana mereka sudah tidak lagi bermusuh. Itulah kelebihan bangsa dan Negara yang tahu serta mempraktikkan nilai kemaanusian. Mereka sanggup bermaafan antara satu sama lain dan bukannya sengaja mencari musuh. Buang yang keruh, ambil yang jernih.

Amatlah sukar bagi Umno untuk berbuat demikian. Mahu minta maaf kepada hakim-hakim yang dipecat pun mereka enggan. Masakan mereka sanggup melupakan Chin Peng? Saya harap sekalipun kerajaan tidak mahu Chin Peng kembali, janganlah sampai menuduh mereka yang bersimpati dengan hasrat Chin Peng mahu mati di Malaya sebagai musuh kerajaan. Biarlah rakyat bersuara dan menunjukkan pendirian mereka sendiri. Jangan terlalu mudah mengkategorikan rakyat dan menganggap golongan Cina sendiri sebagai musuh. Ini semua adalah timbul dari perbezaan pendapat kerana perspektif sejarah yang rumit dan tidak banyak diketahui umum. — myzaidibrahim.com

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim adalah mantan Menteri di Pejabat Perdana Menteri Malaysia dan juga Ahli Parlimen Kota Bharu.

Invoke judges' code of ethics: Investigate these judges

Justice is becoming a rare commodity in our courts when judges of questionable ability sit in judgment. This situation raises serious concerns regarding the appointment of judges and their elevation to the bench.

In the recent cases involving the Perak crisis, we wonder whether the Federal Court judges and the Court of Appeal judges who heard these cases were right in ignoring Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution. We are appalled with their judgment which went against the grain of justice.

On what basis did the Federal Court judges rule that the Speaker of the Perak State Assembly had no power to suspend certain BN Assembly members? In any case, it was the Rights and Privileges Committee that had suspended them – not Sivakumar. That fact fell on deaf years.

But the moot point is can these judges ignore and discard the provisions of the Federal Constitution in deciding their cases? Aren't decisions based on sound reasoning rooted in precedents and written law?

In a well-argued article, the former Court of Appeal judge N H Chan has clearly established that the Judges' Code of Ethics had been breached by these judges who had not paid any attention to the Federal Constitution.

N H Chan has pointed out that Article 72(1) specifically states, “ The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.” How come this provision did not mean anything to them?

The words of this provision are written in unambiguous terms that it is not too difficult to understand what they mean and imply. It is crystal clear that the courts have no business in getting involved in this matter.

And yet, the supreme law of the country, which should be the corner-stone of our judicial system, and justice have been totally side-stepped and circumvented to the utter disgrace of the judiciary.

In the case of the single junior Appeal Court judge, there was no basis for him to grant a stay in spite of the declaratory order of the High Court which was the outcome of a 'well considered judgment' as stated by N H Chan. The stay was deemed as absurd according to authoritative legal circles and the grounds for the stay have not been stated or supported by any sensible logic.

In all these cases there have been no written judgment. This is a ridiculous situation that is not fair to the aggrieved parties, to members of the public and to academia.

Judges simply cannot pronounce judgments that are not backed by sound arguments, reasoned logic, precedents and written law. Litigants have a right to know how a particular judge arrived at a decision so that the aggrieved party has that fundamental right to challenge that decision. That is the only way to seek justice.

N H Chan has suggested the use of the Judges' Code of Ethics 1994.

According to him, “The words of section 3(1)(d) (of the Code) are so clear and easy to understand that we do not need any court of law to explain it to us ordinary folk. We know what the words mean. By not administering and applying the law, which in this case is the supreme law of the land as it stands, the errant judges have brought discredit to the judiciary – grounds for their removal from office.”

ALIRAN supports the view that these judges should at least be investigated as to whether this Code has been violated.

Their continued presence on the Bench is alarming. What is at stake is justice itself when these judges sit in judgment. It would be a travesty of justice if they are allowed to occupy the hallowed positions on the Bench if they have broken the Code or have not discharged their duties properly.

When justice is not rendered based on precedents and the Constitution, it becomes a costly and futile attempt turning to the courts for justice.

P Ramakrishnan
ALIRAN President
28 May 2009
article courtesy of Aliran

Kit Siang: Probe the puppet masters

Andrew Ong | May 29, 09 2:11pm | Malaysiakini

Veteran opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang has urged the government to form a commission of inquiry to probe the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.

“The inquiry must investigate by going beyond the Port Klang Authority (PKA) and probe the Treasury and the previous transport ministers,” Lim said.

The two transport ministers singled out by Lim was Ling Liong Sik (1986 - 2003) and Chan Kong Choy (2003 - 2008).

“The PKA chairperson is only a puppet. The masters were Ling and Chan,” said Lim.

Lim was speaking to reporters after leading a seven-member delegation to the PKA headquarters in Port Klang to study the three-inch thick appendix to the PKFZ audit report for four hours. The appendix was released today.

Lim also lashed out at current Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat for defining a narrow terms-of-reference for the audit by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and not granting firm investigative powers.

He said that this falls short of Ong’s promise of a complete disclosure over the scandal.

By doing so, Lim said Ong had done a “great disservice” to the country by “tying the hands and feet of PwC” and thus producing a reported that was “highly unsatisfactory and cannot be accepted”.

Lim said that a thorough probe by means of a commission of inquiry was necessary to probe Lim, Chan and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister when the project kicked in the early 2000s.

MACC probe not enough

In another development, Klang MP Charles Santiago has also urged the government to form a commission of inquiry on the scandal, because the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency has proven to be inefficient.

Santiago said numerous reports on PKFZ have already been submitted to the then Anti-Corruption Agency but no action appears to have been taken.

“The (then) Anti-Corruption Agency has took files from PKFZ. They know about the wrongdoings involving the project, but nothing has come out of it,” he told Malaysiakini.

Santiago said that similarly, Bursa Malaysia and the Parliament Public Accounts Committee (under Johor Baru MP Shahrir Samad then) looked into the matter as well, but no action was taken.

“There seems to be a lack of oversight by the relevant regulators. These institutions have failed and nothing short of a commission of inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

He added that these bodies were aware of the PKFZ scandal even before the audit report and their inaction begs the question of whether there was collusion, political interference of intimidation.

Santiago was commenting on the decision by Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat to hand the audit report of the controversial project over to the MACC for further action.

“This is the biggest financial fiasco in Malaysian history. It is disappointing that the transport minister is gloating that by reporting to the MACC, the problem will be resolved,” added Santiago.

Report handed to MACC

Earlier today, Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairperson Lee Hwa Beng handed a copy of the audit report to the MACC office in Putrajaya at about 8am.

He later spent about 10 minutes in a meeting with MACC deputy commission Abu Kassim Mohammad.

Speaking to reporters later, he said that both PKA and auditors PwC have pledged full cooperation with MACC.

He said that PKA would only take action internally after MACC has completed its probe.

Among others, the audit reports serious mismanagement of the project which has ballooned from a cost of RM1.9 billion to RM7.5 billion till date.

Should there be no remedies, the audit report projected that PKFZ would cost taxpayers RM12 billion by 2051.

Calls for war crimes inquiry over 20,000 civilian deaths in Sri Lanka

TimesOnline, May 29 2009
Sri Lanka faced new calls for a war crimes inquiry today after an investigation by The Times revealed that more than 20,000 civilians were killed – mostly by the army – in the latter stages of the war against the Tamil Tigers.


The army dismissed that figure as an exaggeration and repeated the Government’s assertion that not a single civilian was killed by government forces in the final assault on the northeastern conflict zone.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, declined to say how many civilian deaths had been confirmed, but insisted that they had all been caused by the Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“This is an exaggerated story. Whoever has put up this report has been paid by the LTTE,” he told The Times.

“There can’t be any civilians killed by government forces in that area. How can the UN know about this? It had no people on the ground.” The UN, however, described its figures as “well-informed estimates”, adding that it did not have “precise, verifiable numbers” because of a lack of access to the conflict zone and the camps holding refugees from the area.

“The UN has publicly and repeatedly said that the number of people killed in recent months has been unacceptably high and it has shared its estimates with the Government as well as others concerned,” said Elisabeth Byrs, of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“The point is the UN has not been shy about the scale of human suffering and civilian casualties,” she said. “It has been ringing the alarm bells for a long time.”

Sri Lanka officially declared victory in its 26-year civil war with the Tigers early last week after killing almost all of their leadership, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, their founder, in a tiny patch of coconut grove on the northeastern coast.

Backed by China, Russia and other allies, Sri Lanka also easily defeated a proposal for a war crimes inquiry at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The new civilian death toll figure has prompted new calls for an inquiry, which could still be ordered by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, or by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Managala Samaraweera, a former Foreign Minister who left the Government to become an opposition politician in 2005, told The Times that an inquiry was the only way for Sri Lanka to repair the damage to its international reputation. “As Sri Lankans, we’re extremely concerned about what happened during the last stages of the conflict,” he said. “The Government must immediately initiate an independent inquiry. Only by doing so will Sri Lanka be able to clear up its good name.”

Human rights groups, aid workers and numerous civilian witnesses have accused the Tigers and government forces of repeatedly firing on non-combatants in violation of international humanitarian law. The Tigers have also been accused of using civilians as human shields and recruiting children forcibly, while the army has been accused of deliberately shelling hospitals in the conflict zone.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told The Times: “There’s no doubt there’s a need for a war crimes inquiry. The whole operation has been done in secret and the scale of deaths is so large that it has to be investigated. This is not going to go away.”

The UN and the Red Cross also complained today that the Sri Lankan Government was still refusing to provide aid workers with full access to the former conflict zone despite a direct appeal by the UN Secretary General.


*********

From
May 29, 2009

The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers

More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes of the Sri Lankan civil war, most as a result of government shelling, an investigation by The Times has revealed.

The number of casualties is three times the official figure.

The Sri Lankan authorities have insisted that their forces stopped using heavy weapons on April 27 and observed the no-fire zone where 100,000 Tamil men, women and children were sheltering. They have blamed all civilian casualties on Tamil Tiger rebels concealed among the civilians.

Aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony tell a different story. With the world’s media and aid organisations kept well away from the fighting, the army launched a fierce barrage that began at the end of April and lasted about three weeks. The offensive ended Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war with the Tamil Tigers, but innocent civilians paid the price.

Confidential United Nations documents acquired by The Times record nearly 7,000 civilian deaths in the no-fire zone up to the end of April. UN sources said that the toll then surged, with an average of 1,000 civilians killed each day until May 19, the day after Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers, was killed. That figure concurs with the estimate made to The Times by Father Amalraj, a Roman Catholic priest who fled the no-fire zone on May 16 and is now interned with 200,000 other survivors in Manik Farm refugee camp. It would take the final toll above 20,000. “Higher,” a UN source told The Times. “Keep going.”

Some of the victims can be seen in the photograph above, which shows the destruction of the flimsy refugee camp. In the bottom right-hand corner, sand mounds show makeshift burial grounds. Other pictures show a more orderly military cemetery, believed to be for hundreds of rebel fighters. One photograph shows rebel gun emplacements next to the refugee camp.

Independent defence experts who analysed dozens of aerial photographs taken by The Times said that the arrangement of the army and rebel firing positions and the narrowness of the no-fire zone made it unlikely that Tiger mortar fire or artillery caused a significant number of deaths. “It looks more likely that the firing position has been located by the Sri Lankan Army and it has then been targeted with air-burst and ground-impact mortars,” said Charles Heyman, editor of the magazine Armed Forces of the UK.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN Human Rights Council after winning the backing of countries including China, Egypt, India and Cuba.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London said: “We reject all these allegations. Civilians have not been killed by government shelling at all. If civilians have been killed, then that is because of the actions of the LTTE [rebels] who were shooting and killing people when they tried to escape.”

Air of gloom as Church orders villagers to vacate land

st-francis-xavier-villagers-007

“Please help us”: Some of the villagers who are not sure what to do next - Photo by Anil Netto

Villagers in a dozen households next to the St Francis Xavier’s Church face uncertainty after receiving three letters over the last year from lawyers acting on behalf of the Catholic Church in Penang.

The residents had been ordered to vacate their premises by 31 May 2009 (which happens to be Pentecost Sunday, marking the coming of the Holy Spirit). In the latest letter of 19 May 2009, they have been granted a one-year extension until 31 May 2010 on “humanitarian grounds”, provided they agree in writing to compensation of RM10,000. If not, they have to vacate their homes by this Sunday.

The lawyer’s letter states the church can afford to provide only RM10,000 as it is a “non-profit religious institution”. Lay Catholics, however, are not in a position to judge whether the church can afford to pay more as its diocesan accounts are not made public to them as a matter of course.

Allow me to introduce you to some of the villagers the church wants to evict (see photo above, from left):

Augustin Martin, 82, raised at the nearby orphanage in the early 1930s. He was a church organist during World War II and worked as a driver for the Kee Huat company in his younger days. Occupant of house no. 52-E.

Arokiasamy Dass, 84, born here in 1925, former JKR tractor driver. His father arrived here around 1920 just before getting married. Occupant of house no. 52-H.

Olga Fernandez, 71, arrived here before the war. Her family originally settled in the area in the late 1920s. Occupant of house no. 52-G.

Bellimin Rajah, 70, worked as a Cold Storage clerk. He remembers crouching in his house when George Town was being bombed by the Japanese during World War II: “A big stone dropped on my sister’s back,” he recalls. Occupant of house no. 52-C.

Manimathu, 74, widow of the late Mr Selva. She has lived here since 1949. Occupant of house no. 52-F.

Jayamary is Bellimin’s wife. She arrived here in 1967, after getting married.

Anthony Muthu, 79, a former ludlow (headline layout) operator for the now defunct Straits Echo. He has lived here since 1937. Occupant of house no. 52-Q. His father, Sinnasamy Appasamy, arrived here after his marriage.

Theresa Savari, 60, is Anthony’s wife. She arrived here after their marriage.

Among those not in the photo above:

Santhanam Sinasamy, 82. Occupant of house no. 52-P.

Lourdesamy s/o Ponnudurai, 60. Occupant of house no. 52-I.

One of the villagers remembers a Japanese officer looking for a base in the area for his troops during World War II. “When he came over and saw us and the other children, he decided not to disturb or evict us. Instead, they used the Chinese school behind, next door. Imagine, even the Japanese occupying forces didn’t ask us to leave.”

“(French priest) Fr Louis Riboud really sayang Augustin (the organist) and he told our families we could live on the land,” recalls another villager.

The parish originally catered to Tamil Catholics in George Town, many of them poor and from the working class.

Now, the lawyers’ letter states that the church wants the villagers to vacate their land so that it can be used for “charitable and social purposes”. The Bishop maintains there are no plans to sell the land.

But it is not clear why the church wants the villagers to move out of this prime land now and what exactly it intends to do with the land.

The old buildings of St Joseph’s orphanage next door have already been demolished and the site presently is walled up and has been lying idle for years. The Lighthouse drop-in centre next door has no immediate expansion plans.

“Whatever happened to the parable of the Good Samaritan?” asks Anthony Muthu, one of the villagers. “Is it only meant to be preached during Sunday sermons? Why is no one putting it into practice and helping us? Where do we go, at this age, looking for low-cost housing with RM10,000 in compensation? Which bank will give us housing loans at our age?”

The church hierarchy points out that some of the residents have not paid their rents for a few years.

But the residents say they have spent a few thousand ringgit of their own money for roof repairs and collapsed walls. They thought that the church would overlook their rent over the last couple of years as the villagers had taken care of the repairs at their own expense.

“In any case, if the church felt that we had defaulted on rent, shouldn’t it first issue lawyer’s letters demanding payment like landlords usually do instead of keeping quiet and then all of a sudden, asking us to vacate the premises?” asked Anthony. “By their silence, we felt that church leaders understood our predicament and our need to carry out repairs.”

What hurts the villagers most is that all dealings are now through the church’s lawyers, without any avenue for face-to-face consultation with church leaders. The villagers are at a disadvantage as they cannot afford lawyers. “What happened to all the Catholic lawyers?” wonders one of them.

“They claim we are outsiders,” observes another. “But we have lived here much longer than those who accuse us of being outsiders. It is the bishop and his priests who are the newcomers here.”

I guess it’s a lot easier to evict faceless, nameless people, strangers whom we do not know. But imagine if these people were our own family members, our parents or grandparents….

Andrew Aeria, a Catholic, has a suggestion: “If the church really needs land for social, cultural and religious use, it could use the spacious premises at No. 1 Bell Road for this purpose.” Andrew suspects that the church hierarchy has a long-term plan to dispose of the land for commercial gain, though the Bishop says accusations that the Church plans to sell the land are “nonsense”.

Meanwhile, the despairing residents say they are praying that the Holy Spirit will guide and touch those who are trying to help them.

This is a report from the latest Herald, from the Penang Bishop’s perspective:

No plans to sell church land, Bishop Selva

PENANG: Bishop Antony Selvanayagam has refuted claims that the diocese is planning to sell a portion of its land to the Cititel Hotel for development.

“That is absolute nonsense,” said Bishop Selva.

“The land on the grounds of the St Francis Xavier Church off Jalan Penang has been earmarked for religious, charitable and cultural purposes.”

St Joseph’s Home, the Lighthouse, the learning centre and a century-old village are situated within the property.

The Church wants the villagers to vacate their rented houses for redevelopment according to religious, charitable and cultural purposes.

These villagers have not been paying their rent for the past 34 months.

Bishop Selva said that ample notice had been given to the residents to relocate.

The residents were initially asked to vacate the premises by Nov 30 last year. They were later given an extension until May 31 this year.

It is understood the residents are being offered ex-gratia payment of RM10,000 each, with rental arrears deducted from the amount.

Bishop Selva explained that “so far two persons have accepted the payment and have left while another 12 remain.”

Another issue, which cropped up during this standoff has been the contention that the village is situated in the Unesco heritage zone. But Bishop Selva clarified that the village is situated outside the heritage zone but within the buffer zone.

“This means that we cannot demolish the houses but we can redesign the interior to suit the different needs of the organisation or group which will be using the houses.”

Umno gets tough with tainted office bearers

By Deborah Loh
thenutgraph.com

Najib with black speech bubble saying "HURRR!"
Umno to toughen stance against corruption

KUALA LUMPUR, 29 May 2009: Umno office bearers who are charged in court will be suspended from their party positions until proven innocent, the party's supreme council (MT) agreed in principle today.

Toughening its stance against corruption and negative public perception about the party, the MT decided that it would adopt this principle on such cases from now on. This is a departure from the present practice of office bearers who have been charged with corrupt practices retaining their posts until proven guilty.

Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the matter had been discussed by the party's disciplinary board appeals panel.

"Anyone charged in court will have to be suspended from his [or her] position. He [or she] will only get [the] position back if he [or she] succeeds in being cleared by the court," Najib said at a press conference after an Umno MT meeting today.

Najib also announced that former senior police officers and retired Anti-Corruption Agency officers would be among those recruited into the disciplinary board's tribunal and investigating committee.

The purpose is to inject more professional expertise in stemming the practice of money politics in the party.

Amending party constitution

Najib also said Umno would hold its annual general meeting (AGM) for 2009 from 14 to 16 Oct. The main agenda would be amendments to the party constitution, likely with regards to the party's election process.

A special assembly will be held just before the AGM to debate the constitutional amendments before they are adopted at the AGM.

Najib said the draft of the amendments was almost ready and would be circulated among the Umno state liaison committees for feedback.

Manik Urai by-election

The supreme council today also appointed Kelantan Umno liaison chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamad as the party's Manik Urai by-election director.

Muhyiddin being interviewed
(Stock pic)

Deputy Prime Minister and Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is to supervise the overall by-election campaign but leave the operations on the ground to Mustapa.

Najib said the MT would wait for Kelantan Umno to submit a list of possible candidates before deciding who to field. "There is still time," he said. Nomination for the by-election is on 6 July and polling is on 14 July.

On the re-admission of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Umno, Najib said the supreme council today formally approved his application, and that of his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, and their son Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir.

Mahathir left Umno on 19 May 2008 to express his disappointment with BN's losses in the general election and over the leadership of then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He rejoined the party on 4 April 2009.

Solidarity gathering to express concern over the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis

Contributed by Aston Philip Paiva, with photos by Seira Sacha Abu Bakar

ImageBatu Caves, Sunday, 24 May 2009: Under the shade of the great Batu Caves, more than a thousand people gathered carrying placards, posters and banners. The gathering was organised to protest the actions of the Sri Lankan government against the ethnic Tamils and to remember the Tamils who have suffered, and even perished, in the 26 year-long period of violence.

Masses of people began gathering at 10.a.m. and there was a continuous flow of people for the next hour. While the majority of the crowd comprised Tamils, it was heartening to note that there were nonetheless those of other ethnic origins who attended the event to voice their grievances against the hostility perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Government. Also in attendance were various local NGOs and human rights activists.

A stage was erected with a small altar as people stood peacefully while the sun began rising above the ancient caves. At 10.15 a.m., politicians from both MIC and Pakatan Rakyat took to the stage and, with great solemnity, lit oil lamps on the altar honouring the Tamils who have lost their lives fighting for an independent Tamil state. People raised their banners and placards in series and a small sea of men and women were now visible. Individuals and groups from all social classes were present, standing together and exercising their constitutional right to express their concerns and to call for peace, solidarity and justice. Notably, there was almost no police presence.

Image

Many held up posters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and their deceased leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran; considered an insurgent group and not terrorists, the people cheered when these names were mentioned.

A string of speeches by Tamil activists and politicians then followed, calling for a boycott of Sri Lankan goods and for Sri Lankan government officials to be brought to trial for war crimes. A memorandum detailing these views had also been put together and was to be handed over to the Sri Lankan embassy.

Droves of people also gathered around the erected tents to sign their names to endorse the memorandum, thus expressing their disapproval of the recent atrocities in Sri Lanka and calling for greater support between both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat leaders in raising awareness among the public of the issues faced by the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

At around 11 a.m., a number of European tourists were seen wandering through the Batu Caves compound and making enquiries as to what the event was all about.

Image

A number of politicians attended the event, including M. Kulasegaran (MP, Ipoh Barat), Charles Santiago (MP, Klang), Sivarasa Rasiah (MP, Subang), John Fernandez (MP, Seremban) and Datuk M. Saravanan (MIC).

Bar Council Human Rights Committee members Siti Zabedah Kasim, Allison Ong, Seira Sacha, Aston Paiva, Yohendra Nadarajan and Rachel Suppiah were present to monitor the event. Also present was Sumitha Shaanthinni from the Bar Council secretariat.

Dana Awam Dibelanjakan Secara Culas, Pakej Ransangan Ekonomi Lesap Entah Ke Mana.

— PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE —

May 29th, 2009

The administration’s lackadaisical approach to governance and accountability is deeply disturbing. At a time when Malaysian’s are forced to cut costs and worry if their hard earned money will cover the next month’s bills, our government continues to pour billions in taxpayer money down the drain.

The government’s neither-here-nor-there approach to the PKFZ scandal is a clear sign of UMNOs unwillingness to sacrifice its own delinquent members for the sake of the national good. The handling of the PKFZ affair amplifies the hypocrisy which was manifest in the investigations into money politics within UMNO and the selective persecution of foes of the new Najib administration.

The government has bragged that billions have been disbursed from the two fiscal stimulus packages. Yet there is virtually no information available to the public about the process of awarding tenders. We are left to assume that it is business as usual and have little confidence that the economy will benefit from the misappropriation of these funds that are being channeled to the same coterie of crony companies.

Inefficiency and largesse remain the prevailing traits of our bloated bureaucracy. Government monopolies preclude any significant change in the economic landscape of the nation and promises of liberalisation ring hollow when it comes to the lack of political will to implement change.

To date there is no plan in sight to resuscitate the economy and transform it as the Prime Minister has promised. We hear from him incoherent statements predicting a recovery by the end of the year while at the same time admitting that our economy is beholden to that of the US and Europe, which by their own account will remain weak into 2010.

Bank Negara has this week confirmed what most Malaysians have known already for eight months, save the Minister of Finance. The country is headed for recession. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and in the coming months we know that more factories will be shuttered and more will be laid off – by some estimates up to a half-million people. 2009 growth figures have been slashed to -5%, the worst economic scenario Malaysia has faced since the Financial Crisis.

These challenges require visionary leadership and the courage to act decisively against corruption and cronyism. Sadly both qualities are lacking in the current administration.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

— KENYATAAN MEDIA UNTUK EDARAN SEGERA —

29 Mei 2009

Sikap Kerajaan Malaysia yang mengabaikan prinsip tadbir urus dan pertanggungjawaban amatlah membimbangkan. Pada ketika rakyat Malaysia terpaksa berjimat cermat dan resah samada pendapatan mereka mampu menanggung sara hidup, kerajaan kita pula terus menerus mencurahkan ribuan juta dana awam secara culas.

Pendirian sambil lewa umno di dalam menangani skandal Zon Bebas Pelabuhan Klang memperlihatkan sikap sebenar mereka yang sanggup menggadaikan kepentingan negara terutama apabila kecurangan itu membabitkan ahli parti tersebut. Kaedah kes itu ditangani mendedahkan sikap hipokrit mereka yang bertanggungjawab menyiasat skandal tersebut dan juga kes politik wang yang berlaku dalam umno. Kita melihat wujudnya pendakwaan terpilih terhadap mereka yang dianggap sebagai musuh pentadbiran Dato’ Sri Najib Razak.

Kerajaan mendabik dada kononnya sudah ribuan juta diagihkan dari kantung dua Pakej Ransangan Ekonomi tersebut. Namun tidak ada maklumat yang disediakan buat tatapan serta penelitian umum berhubung proses pemberian tender kerajaan. Ini membuatkan rakyat beranggapan pakej tersebut tidak memberi kesan kepada mereka dan menimbulkan rasa sangsi kepada kita bagaimana ekonomi akan pulih sekiranya dana yang ada hanya untuk kepentingan syarikat milik kroni pemerintah.

Ketidakcekapan dan pembaziran merupakan ciri utama birokrasi kewangan kita. Monopoli pastinya menghambat sebarang hasrat untuk memulihkan kedudukan ekonomi Malaysia dan program liberalisasi akan hanya terbantut kerana tidak ada iltizam untuk melaksanakan perubahan.

Sehingga kini tidak ada sebarang perancangan jelas untuk melaksanakan perubahan serta memulihkan ekonomi negara sepertimana yang dijanjikan. Kenyataan oleh Perdana Menteri bahawa negara kita akan pulih menjelang akhir tahun menimbulkan persoalan dan tanda tanya. Ini adalah kerana Perdana Menteri pada ketika yang lain, menyatakan bahawa ekonomi negara kita bergantung kepada Amerika Syarikat dan Eropah; yang mengakui ekonomi mereka hanya akan pulih menjelang tahun 2010.

Minggu ini Bank Negara mengesahkan apa yang perkatakan oleh rakyat Malaysia-kecuali menteri kewangan- selama lapan bulan ini. Negara ini diambang kemelesetan. Kadar pengangguran akan mendadak naik dan kilang akan lebih banyak ditutup. Berkemungkinan setengah juta orang akan kehilangan kerja. Pertumbuhan untuk tahun 2009 diunjurkan kepada negatif 5%(-5%), kedudukan eknomi terburuk sejak krisis kewangan terbaru.

Cabaran yang mendatang memerlukan pemimpin yang mampu menangani krisis ini dengan berani dan bertindak menentang rasuah dan kronisme. Sayangnya kualiti tersebut tidak ada pada pentadbiran yang baru ini.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

Umno Members Charged In Court To Be Suspended From Posts

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 (Bernama) -- Umno members who have been charged in court will be suspended from their posts until the disposal of their case, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The prime minister said the decision was made at the Umno Supreme Council meeting Friday.

"We agreed in principle to the recommendation by the Umno management committee that party members who have been charged in court will be suspended from their posts.

"If they succeeded in the court process, they will be reinstated to their posts," Najib told a news conference after chairing the Umno Supreme Council meeting here Friday.

Among Umno members currently facing charges are Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Umno Youth chief Datuk Mohamad Norza Zakaria, Pandan Umno chief Abdul Ghani Ismail and former Labuan Umno chief Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman, who was recently dropped from the post following the court charges against him. Norza was charged with giving bribes to two individuals in January, Abdul Ghani Ismail with nine charges of accepting bribes while Suhaili was charged with making false statements.

They have pleaded not guilty to their respective charges.

Meanwhile, Najib said the supreme council also agreed to increase the membership of the Umno Disciplinary Board including those for the investigation, tribunal and appeals panels.

The new members are former parliamentary secretary to the Youth and Sports Ministry Datuk Ismail Said, lawyer Datuk Zuraidah Atan, former Anti-Corruption Agency senior assistant superintendent Wahab Wahid, retired policeman with the rank of inspector, Nordin Saidin, and retired policeman with the rank of superintendent, Mohd Zain Ismail.

Najib said today's supreme council meeting also endorsed and officially accepted the applications by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and their son Datuk Mokhzani to rejoin Umno.

Mahathir left Umno on May 19 last year and rejoined the party on April 4, a day after Najib was sworn in as the prime minister.

“Najib’s Corner” kononnya - more like the corner of a lockup filled with peaceful activists instead of real criminals

by Nathaniel Tan

MK:

Soon after becoming prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak had dropped by a popular Indian eatery in Brickfields for teh tarik and thosai.

Accompanied by a large entourage, including Federal Territories Deputy Minister M Saravanan, and a bevy of police vehicles, the premier brought traffic to a standstill when he decided to have a quick bite at the restaurant.

In order to commemorate the memorable event, the owner of Restaurant Kottumalai has decided to name a portion of the premises as ‘Najib’s Corner’.

I think the most appropriate “Najib’s corner” is in some police lockup, given how many arrests there have been since he took power. It’d be ok if those arrests were all of real, hardcore criminals and not candleholders and those fasting.

Najib’s rule seems to be characterised instead by diverting police resources to clampdown hard on birthday parties, hunger strikes, and fashion statements - what a brilliant way to ‘combat crime’ and ‘keep our streets safe.’

So, while I’m happy for the restaurant owner and his business, I think we can see clearly now that the Public Relations adventure that begun with these walkabouts and 1Malaysia, are ending in 1 Malaysia walking into crime, injustice and darkness.