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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Govt lawyer seeks to block senior MACC officers from testifying

By Debra Chong - The Malaysian Insider
SHAH ALAM, Oct 1 – The Attorney General (AG) appears to be closing doors today in an attempt to bring a quick end to the high-profile inquest into the death of a DAP political aide, which started three months ago.

Teoh Beng Hock, the political secretary to state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, was mysteriously found dead on a 5th-floor landing outside the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Selangor office at Plaza Masalam here on July 16, after being questioned overnight into claims his boss abused state money.

His family and employer claim foul play was involved.

A private lawyer hired to act on behalf of the AG raised more than eyebrows today when he tried to limit the witnesses which lawyers representing Teoh’s family and the state government want to bring in.

Former deputy public prosecutor, Tan Hock Chuan, who is assisting the coroner’s court, had argued that there was no need to call senior graft busters, Hishamuddin Hashim and Hairul Ilham Hamzah, into the witness box, despite testimonies from the MACC rank-and-file that they had received their instructions from the two.

It was not the first time he tried to shut the door on further questioning of the MACC.
Tan first made the indication last Tuesday, when he told magistrate Azmil Muntapha Abas, who is acting as coroner, that he would not be calling any more MACC men into the witness box.
The last MACC officer who testified was senior assistant enforcer, Raymond Nion John Timban, said to be the last man to see Teoh alive.

In his statement given before the inquest took a two-week break for Aidilfitri, Raymond said he saw Teoh sleeping on a sofa in the MACC office about 6am on July 16.
He added that an unknown Chinese man who was not part of the MACC had sat with Teoh earlier, about 1am the same day.

MayGobind Singh Deo and Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, lawyers for the Teoh family and Selangor respectively, were outraged at what they claimed was a gross injustice preventing them from finding out what had really happened to Teoh.

Malik stressed that both Hishamuddin and Haidul Ilham were the most senior MACC officers involved throughout the investigation and would be the best men to shed light on several puzzles, especially as their junior officers had clearly said they got orders from the duo.
The argument went back and forth, with voices increasingly raised.

The magistrate finally said he would decide on the matter when the inquest resumes tomorrow morning with government DNA expert, Dr Seah Lay Hong, recalled to the witness box.
Tan had earlier told the court that the mystery of the unknown male DNA found on Teoh’s coat and belt had been solved.

Umno still faces an angry Indian electorate

By Baradan Kuppusamy
PORT DICKSON, Oct 1 — There is one reason why the majority of the 2,800 Indian voters in Bagan Pinang, who voted PAS in Election 2008, are likely to again vote for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the Oct 11 by-election.


The reason is total neglect of the community, not just between March 2008 and now but over several decades.


In fact the worst neglect happened during the 24-year tenure of Tan Sri Isa Mohamad Samad, the Barisan Nasional (BN)/Umno candidate in the by-election.


“It is such an irony that the man who is to be largely blamed for the neglect of the Indian community in Bagan Pinang has returned to become the candidate,” said Vasantha Kumar, a former Hindraf leader who is urging the Indian voters to back PR.


“BN/MIC/Umno have all neglected them,” he said. “Now they are facing the same voters again and making the same unfulfilled promises.”


His former compatriot P. Uthayakumar, who is head of the yet unregistered Human Rights Party, is urging the Indian voters to boycott the by-election and refrain from voting to register their anger against their neglect.


The MIC and the newly formed Makkal Sakthi Party are also promising Umno that they can win over the Indians.


A cursory survey of the Indian votes, which form about 20 per cent of the total of about 13,000, shows they are marginalised and sidelined from mainstream development.


They are ripe for PR’s “change now” propaganda because they have suffered for many years watching development pass them by.


Issues close to their hearts — Tamil schools, temples, a Hindu lifestyle and upward mobility — have all been severely neglected in the past 30 years.



The seven Tamil schools in the constituency are in a dilapidated state with leaking roofs, creaking floors and crumbling walls.


The toilets are damaged, the pipes broken and the electrical wiring exposed, posing a danger to the students faced with an education that takes them nowhere.


One can see the same neglect in the temples, in the burial ground and in the sole crematorium which is so dilapidated that villagers are shy to show it to visitors.


Many of the youths have left the constituency and now work as unskilled labour in factories in Nilai, Seremban and in Johor, returning once a week with provisions for their aged parents and other siblings.


Many also do menial work in KLIA while others work in orchards and fish farms.
“I have tried my hand at many things — fish breeding, rearing cows and goats, lorry transport… you name it I have tried it,” said Ganesan, 37, who operates a tea stall by the roadside.
“We are on our own… no loans, no skills training, no recognition, nothing,” he said. “They have no eyes for us… they don’t see us.”


“Why should I vote for them?” he asked, referring to Umno.
How about the MIC? Ganesan snorts: “They take care of themselves… every branch chairman here has made it. It is tough to become a branch chairman… I tried but failed. I would have made it if I had succeeded.”


It is not that Ganesan and others like him in Bagan Pinang love PAS or they hate Umno. “It is more like we are frustrated… we want to be cared for, we want to be looked after, we want our children to have a future,” he said.
“I will vote PAS again because I am angry,” said Ragu, a patron at the stall. “We want to show our unhappiness. PAS is not great, it cannot change our lives but like us they are also poor, they are also struggling like us.”


“Like us they (PAS) are also under attack,” he said
A local Tamil school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Isa was down to earth and respected but Indians who voted PAS in 2008 will stay with PAS.
“The older Indian voters would support Isa out of respect but don’t expect any kindness from the younger generation,” he said. “The youths are one angry lot… they are struggling to make ends meet. They will stay with PAS.”
Malays here have always liked Isa and it is home ground for him, said the teacher, adding that the former mentri besar has generated positive momentum and is leading the race.
He said the Indian votes are crucial for Isa to win by a big majority but he can still win just on the Malay and army votes.

Tsu Koon agrees to debate Guan Eng, provided ...

By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 – Former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon has finally agreed take on his successor Lim Guan Eng in a nationwide televised debate, saying that he would do so in order to satisfy the latter’s “itch for a fight”.

Dr Koh’s consent, however, does not come without certain pre-conditions, which he insists Lim has to fulfil by Oct 7, failing which the debate would not take place.

In a statement, Dr Koh demanded that Lim publicly disclose the full text of all minutes related to discussions on the Kampung Buah Pala issue in all state executive council meetings during the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) and current Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administrations.

“He must also release certified copies of the land titles and other relevant documents concerned. He cannot just publish a selective, partial and biased chronological summary of exco minutes during my time only as released before,” he said.

Dr Koh added adding that his demand for public disclosure of the information was to deter Lim from twisting and turning facts.

The next condition for the debate was that Lim had to answer three questions – did the PR leaders, especially those in the DAP, promise Kampung Buah Pala residents before and during the 12th General Election that if they were elected into power, the residents could own and stay on the land as it would not be allowed to be developed; before the Kampung Buah Pala land was alienated to the Penang State Civil Service Cooperative, did it belong to the state government or the residents; and why did he Lim allow the transfer of the Kampung Buah Pala land titles to come into effect on March 27, 2008, almost three weeks after he was voted into power and despite being approached by villagers on March 12?

“Only if he(Lim) is prepared to be fully transparent by making public all relevant documents, and to be honest by answering the three simple questions, will the proposed debate be meaningful for me to participate in,” said Dr Koh.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said that he had originally been reluctant to engage in any verbal battle with Lim for he had more important matters to attend to in his current federal portfolio.

“However, as Lim has repeated many times his half-truths to blame me and the BN administration on the Kampung Buah Pala case and other issue, I decided to accept his challenge to clear the air and my own name.

“Since Lim is itching for a fight, I might as well satisfy him,” he said.
He said however that Lim should focus on governing Penang instead of spending his energy provoking, attacking and picking quarrels with others.

More than 300 killed in path of deadly storm Ketsana

Kugan's death: Cop charged

Nine months after the death of A Kugan in police custody, one policeman V Navindran was charged today at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court with causing hurt to the 23-year-old detainee.

He claimed trial to two counts of causing hurt in trying to extract a confession. He is charged under Section 331 of the Penal Code.

Sessions judge Aslam Zainuddin fixed bail at RM10,000 for both charges. Aslam fixed Nov 5th for mention.

Navindran, wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt and blue denim jeans, arrived in court about 9.25am.

Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail in a press statement yesterday said Navindran will be charged under Section 331 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extort confession from the deceased and alternatively Section 330 for voluntarily causing hurt to extort a confession from the deceased.

No murder charge

According to Abdul Gani, out of 92 witnesses questioned by the police, four identified Navindran as the one who had caused injuries to the deceased on two different occasions.

"On both occasions, the suspect was said to have beaten the deceased with a rubber hose and four days later Kugan met his death," he said.

Abdul Gani also took pains to explain why Navindran could not be charged for murder but a lesser charge of causing hurt.

"There is no evidence that the deceased suffered an instant death. Instead, the deceased died four days after the alleged beating. Therefore, there was a wide gap in between and a charge of murder could not be preferred against the suspect.

"The finding of the medical report did not show that the deceased died due to the injuries suffered by him. But it was the result of acute myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart," he said.

Kugan died on Jan 20 at the USJ Taipan police station, five days after he was arrested.

Umno drops contentious rule, no quotas only

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — In a major climbdown, Umno's political bureau has agreed to drop a contentious party election rule on eligibility for top posts when delegates vote on Oct 13 to abolish nomination quotas.

The rule that allows only members of the powerful Umno supreme council who have served for at least three terms to contest top posts has drawn the ire of a majority of the party's 191 divisions.

"The political bureau has agreed to drop the eligibility rule when it met yesterday," an Umno division leader told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

He had earlier attended a Johor Umno meeting at the Petaling Jaya Hilton where state liaison chief Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman had briefed them on the decision.

The Johor mentri besar had agreed to express the opinions of the state which is the birthplace, bastion and biggest Umno contingent.

The Bukit Mertajam Umno division has openly rejected the rule. All Umno division chiefs are expected to be briefed further at a three-day retreat which started last night in Janda Baik, Pahang.

The Johor liaison committee and division chiefs met in Putrajaya on Sept 23 to discuss amendments to party election rules.

It has also asked for a special assembly, beyond next month's 2009 assembly, to discuss the disputed rules such as limiting the fight for posts to supreme council members, designating the supreme council to conduct party elections and the number of branch and wings' delegates eligible to vote.

The fiery debate by Johor Umno, which echoed those in other states, saw protests from division chiefs Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar (Kota Tinggi), Datuk Shahrir Samad (Johor Baru) and Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (Pulai). The first two have been Umno supreme council members and ministers.

Party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak had proposed scrapping the nomination quotas and opening the vote to branch delegates at the 2008 assembly held last March when he took over from former president Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who stepped down a year after his Barisan Nasional ruling coalition's disastrous electoral performance.

A technical committee led by vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein proposed the rule changes that are now being presented to all divisions ahead of the party assembly between Oct 13 and 16.

It is learnt the main grouse was limiting the contest for top posts to just supreme council members instead of widening it to all members, as previously done in the nationalist Malay party.

Most of the 26 Johor Umno division leaders were also against agreeing to have the party supreme council conduct the elections without putting the election rules in black and white.

It is learnt that the new rule requires amending the party charter. Next to Johor, Sabah has the most divisions at 25.

The quota system was put in place when Umno reconstituted in 1988 after it was declared illegal to ensure popular challenge to the party leadership.

Umno plays safe with Mr Popular

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — The upcoming Bagan Pinang by-election is the best chance for Barisan Nasional (BN) to end the opposition's winning streak, but the ruling coalition is starting off on a defensive note.

In an all too familiar scenario, Umno yet again enters the campaign defending its choice of candidate.

It picked former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri Isa Samad to contest the by-election.

Isa, 59, is popular with the grassroots but is tainted, having been suspended for three years from Umno for buying votes during the 2004 party elections.

By picking Isa, Umno is seen as riding roughshod over public sentiment.

The by-election was called after a former Umno assemblyman died last month. Polling will take place on Oct 11.

Umno was also on the defensive in the last by-election in Penang when it fielded a disbarred lawyer. It lost that round.

Its leaders are trying to paint the choice of Isa as that of the people of this coastal constituency in Negri Sembilan.

“The people of Bagan Pinang and Teluk Kemang, and not only Umno but people of all races, wanted him,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said.

Few would disagree that Isa has what it takes to win. He has a loyal base of support in the area.

An Umno divisional leader told The Straits Times that the party could not afford to lose after six consecutive losses in by-elections in the peninsula since last year's general election.

“The party is fragile now,” he said.

It is thus reluctant to take a risk even though the demographics of the seat heavily favour the BN.

Of the 13,600 voters, 4,600 are postal voters from a nearby army camp. Postal votes are a safe vote bank for the BN.

The remaining 9,000 voters are divided into 63 per cent Malays, 21 per cent Indians, 11 per cent Chinese, and the rest classified as others.

Umno won the seat in last year's general election with a majority of 2,333 votes.

Analyst Ong Kian Ming, who specialises in electoral politics, said 63 per cent of the Malay vote then went to the BN, excluding the postal votes.

As for the non-Malays, the BN picked up 42 per cent of the votes.

The high level of Malay support and large number of postal votes are factors that favour Umno.

But it is clear that Umno does not want to take any chances.

Its pledge to reform has suddenly started to ring hollow, say critics.

“Malaysians shook their heads in dismay at Isa's nomination,” said veteran opposition MP Lim Kit Siang.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who strongly opposed the choice of Isa, said he will not be campaigning for the BN.

“Well, he is the party nominee... My personal feelings do not count,” he said.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, an MP in Negri Sembilan, said the party has to be proactive in countering the inevitable backlash.

“He has paid the penalty. There must be some rehabilitation,” he said.

He also pointed out that the opposition cannot take the moral high ground because it, too, has tainted leaders.

Isa will be up against Negri Sembilan PAS commissioner Zulkefly Mohamad Omar, 44.

A Parti Keadilan Rakyat divisional leader, Shahruddin Abdul Hamid, 52, plans to contest as an independent. — The Straits Times

Same Old UMNO, Same Old Ethics

When UMNO chose a disbarred lawyer to contest the recent by-election in Penang, I commented that the next time around expect the party to scrounge even lower in search of even slimier characters to represent the party. I ventured that it would be difficult to find someone more unworthy than a disbarred lawyer, but trust those UMNO folks, they would find someone. I did not expect to be proven right, and so soon.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

M. Bakri Musa

Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat! (Sacrifice your child if need be, but never your tradition!) Growing up in Negri Sembilan, that wisdom of my culture was continually drummed into me. To those outside the clan, that adage may seem extreme, an ugly manifestation of unyielding and irrational conservatism.

With my children now grown up, I recognize the verity of that village wisdom. Yes, it was hammered into me on the importance of our cultural tradition of fealty towards elders (our parents in particular), but there was also the equally important reciprocal tradition for the elders (who are presumably wiser) to be more patient and forgiving of their young.

It is this fidelity to adat that made my parents not put a guilt trip upon me when I chose a path that was not what they had expected. Cognizant of this adat too is what made me not stand in the way of my children when they too decided to venture on a journey beyond what is familiar to me.

My old Negri saying could be more accurately re-stated as: Jaga adat, jaga anak! (Save our tradition, and save our children!) Such an intricate system of social norms however, would easily be shattered if any of its component parts were to be compromised or exploited.

Consider the esteemed cultural trait of respect and loyalty to leaders and kings, and the associated severe penalty for derhaka (treachery). In tandem with that however, there is the reciprocal tradition encapsulated in the saying: Raja adil raja di sembah; Raja zalim raja di sanggah (Venerate the just king; defy the tyrant).

Yes, my culture demands that I revere and be loyal to my leaders and elders, but they must also be fully aware of the traditional countervailing restraints not to abuse that reverence I have of them.

Consider the nomination of Isa Samad to be UMNO’s standard bearer in the upcoming Bagan Pinang by-election. He was a Mentri Besar for 22 years and a Federal minister for a few years after that. He is the typical ‘local boy done good.’ His fellow villagers in Port Dickson have every right to be proud of him. To them, no honor however exalted would be adequate for him; they would wish upon him even more.

Thus it should not surprise us or Isa Samad that they would want him, and no one else, to have the singular honor to represent them in the state legislature. The surprise is that many are surprised by this expected and proper gesture of generosity on the part of Isa’s people towards him.

As per our adat however, it is not for the people to deny Isa Samad this honor; that would leave a bitter taste in their collective mouth as well as an affront to their cultural sensitivities. Rather it is for Isa Samad to have the wisdom and magnanimity to decline that honor. If he were to do that at the first round, again as per custom, they would again beg him to reconsider, and again Isa Samad should decline.

The social norms demand that these back and forth offers and declines would go on for at least three rounds, all to demonstrate (or at least make a show of) the “genuineness” of the gesture. Anything less and it would risk being interpreted as perfunctory, and less than genuine.

It is through such displays of finesse and subtleties that our culture and traditions have stood the test of time and smoothed our social order. Alas today our traditional values and generosities have been abused not by outsiders but by our own people. It is our own leaders and kin who betray us and our values, as so crudely and ruthlessly demonstrated by Isa Samad.

Nonetheless true to our tradition of “Raja zalim raja di sembah; Raja zalim raja di sanggah,” we should not hesitate, and do so in no uncertain terms, to sanggah (defy) these leaders.

UMNO’s Wet-Finger-In-the-Air Leaders

When UMNO chose a disbarred lawyer to contest the recent by-election in Penang, I commented that the next time around expect the party to scrounge even lower in search of even slimier characters to represent the party. I ventured that it would be difficult to find someone more unworthy than a disbarred lawyer, but trust those UMNO folks, they would find someone. I did not expect to be proven right, and so soon.

In Isa Samad UMNO has someone who had been expelled from the party for “money politics,” the euphemism for corruption. Knowing UMNO’s shady ethics, to be expelled for that must take some doing.

In justifying his party’s pick, UMNO’s Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin declared, “We have decided that this is what the people want.” He was jubilant when making that declaration. Surrounded as he was by senior leaders of the Barisan and fellow ministers, and judging by their beaming smiles and other body language, they too shared his enthusiasm for the candidate.

Just in case we might miss the point, Muhyiddin went on to reassure everyone that the choice was made “after much thought and scrutiny.” Meaning, it was deliberate.

Even ignoring Isa Samad’s blatant bribing of UMNO delegates and then bragging about it (the reason for his expulsion), the more fundamental issue is this. The man has nothing more to offer the state after serving as Mentri Besar for over 24 years. If he had any talent or innovative ideas, that should have been obvious during all those years.

At this stage of their careers, leaders like Isa Samad should be seeking out and mentoring the next generation of leaders, not desperately hogging the stage, and their followers’ fast dwindling reservoir of respect and gratitude.

Only last week Muhyiddin was at pains to point out that he was intent on seeking fresh talent, especially after the Bagan Pinang branch folks brazenly declared that Isa was their only choice. In succumbing to local pressure, Muhyiddin’s leadership is nothing more than wet-finger-in-the-air variety. That is fine in leading a herd of kerbau (water buffaloes) but not a nation aspiring for Vision 2020.

There is nothing wrong with a leader sticking his wet finger in the air to check the prevailing wind if that would lead him to trim his sails and steer his ship of state better, while keeping his eye on the compass. Indeed that is the hallmark of a skilled skipper. However, if you keep changing course and be oblivious of the compass, you will never reach your destination.

The earlier rhetoric about UMNO having “to change or be changed” is now proven to be nothing more than just “cock talk,” to put it in the local vernacular. Muhyiddin is also Deputy Prime Minister, a heart beat away from the nation’s top job. This preview of his leadership does not reassure me.

In picking Isa, Muhyiddin obviously had to compromise his principles and abandon his commitment to reforming the party. He should be reminded of the old Xeno mathematical paradox: You will never reach your destination if you are satisfied at reaching only the halfway mark at every try.

Once you start compromising your principle at the first obstacle, then it gets easier the next time. Soon you would have no scruples compromising all your principles. By that time you would not only be willing to dispense with your adat but you also would be willing to part with your first-born, just to get your way.

Your corruption then would have been complete, with nothing worthy left to defend or honor. Then it would be: Mati adat dan mati anak (Death to your culture, and death to your children).

In the beginning he was DPM!

by Hussein Hamid

What was Anwar’s biggest contribution to what we are today? I sat and ponder over this question the whole day today. I wanted to write about it and yet I cannot because there were so many thoughts that came and went inside me. All I could do today was about two half page – notes on times go by – Cakap cakap about AP and then I revisited the “Bentong car park” issue because one of our friends sent me something new about that car park. It is now 11.42pm and I have been thinking since 7.15am this morning….fifteen minutes ago it hit me! I believe that what Anwar did to me and to many of us can be conceptualised in two words:

“POLITICAL AWAKENING”

Before Anwar was dismissed by Mahatir I was a Bumiputra intent on pursuing my “rights” as a Bumiputra. The right to have a share in the perceived richness brought into the consciousness of the Malays as a result of the New Economic Policies. All that was in my mind was where the next ringgit was going to be found. Tenders, project proposals, pink slips, AP’s, IPO, licenses, Privatisation opportunities…life was a whirl of meetings and discussions in five star hotels and lunches in restaurants whose name you find hard to pronounce – Troika was one of those that I can still remember – in Jalan Raja Chulan. The evenings were again another whirl of coffee houses and meetings until the early mornings.

Then 2nd September 1998 he was dismissed as DPM. The next day he was expelled from UMNO. September 20th he was arrested and September 29th he was brought to court to be charged. Five cases for sodomy and five for corruption. My first conscious understanding that this was really happening was seeing him with a black eye. Common sense tells me that no policeman would dare lay a hand on someone who was the DPM just a few months ago….surely Anwar must have injured himself….but looking at him I could see that he was accepting of the fact that he was no longer DPM and I felt that he was coming to terms within himself as to where he would have to go from there. There was a grim acceptance in his face that the battle for his life and his future had begun.

As the days unfold and I relive Anwar’s arrest in his house with Balaclava clad personals, his black eye, how he was being treated during the trial and how UMNO and Mahathir was trying to demonised him…my dislike for Mahathir became a dislike for UMNO. Slowly this crystallized into my questioning what was happening within UMNO. It was not enough that Mahathir have dismissed him as DPM – that he relentlessly pursued Anwar in such a manner made me, and I am sure most of us, start to question the sanity of that man who was then our Prime Minister.

So my friends if you ask me what was Anwar’s biggest contribution to our consciousness until now – it will be our political awakening of what is right and what is wrong with our government, with our Prime Minister and with UMNO.….and after much thought we know that Mahathir and UMNO is wrong for our nation! So do not question Anwar’s on his commitment to our cause – we are with him in HIS cause to bring decency and dignity back to how things are done in Malaysia. He showed us the way, he stands in front – but we are together now and we will persevere.

The mystery of postal votes

by Deborah Loh
deborahloh@thenutgraph.com


Voters queueing up to vote in the Kuala Terengganu by-election (file pic)

POSTAL votes in electoral contests have traditionally been accompanied by allegations of fraud and intimidation of uniformed personnel. Will they again become a contentious issue in the Bagan Pinang by-election on 11 Oct? Postal votes make up 33.7% or 4,604 of the state seat's 13,664 votes.

In Bagan Pinang, which PAS and Barisan Nasional will be contesting, PAS has already begun to exploit postal voting controversies as an explanation should it lose. In a sense, it is under less pressure to win Bagan Pinang which is an Umno stronghold, although the opposition reduced the BN's majority between the 2004 and 2008 general elections from 4,411 to 2,333.

Fact is, postal votes have been won by the opposition here. PAS candidate in the 2008 general election Ramli Ismail obtained 1,189 or 25% of postal votes. Interestingly, the opposition's share of postal votes in the Teluk Kemang parliamentary seat, where Bagan Pinang is, also grew between the Nov 1999 general election and the June 2000 parliamentary by-election. In the general polls, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate obtained 730 postal votes against BN's 1,874. In the by-election, PKR won 1,743 to marginally outstrip BN's share of postal votes at 1,625.

It's hard to conclusively verify allegations of postal voting fraud without proof or eye-witness testimony. That said, the Election Commission (EC) could win back public trust by looking at whether the huge number of postal voters among military and police personnel are justified in the first place.

An anomaly

Categorising uniformed personnel as postal voters is an anomaly, notes political observer and former academic Dr Mavis Puthucheary. In the strict sense of the term, postal voters are those residing overseas or who are unable to be present at polling stations on election day. Their votes are delivered through the mail service instead.


Wong

The Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 defines postal voters as registered voters who are absent on polling day, EC officials on duty, and police and public service officials on duty or at work abroad. Malaysians overseas are eligible to vote in general elections so long as they are registered with Malaysian high commissions there.

Since the law specifies postal voters as those on duty, Puthucheary questions why whole army camps should vote by post. "Confine postal votes only to those who are on duty on polling day. Other military and police voters should be categorised as normal voters," she tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

Also controversial is the fact that the spouses and family members of uniformed personnel living in the camps are also categorised as postal voters if they are eligible to vote. They should be considered as normal votes, Puthucheary adds.

She also suggests that polling facilities can be provided in camps on polling day for off-duty personnel to vote at the same time as other normal voters.

Political scientist and election observer Wong Chin Huat believes that opportunities for vote manipulation can be reduced only if postal voting is allowed for uniformed personnel by way of application. This, he says, should be based on whether they are on duty on polling day.

EC chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof tells The Nut Graph the commission is reviewing aspects of the postal voting system but declines to elaborate on what they are.

Intimidation and lack of secrecy


Soldiers from the Malaysian army (public domain / Wiki Commons)

Postal voting takes place a few days before the actual polling date and is conducted within the army barracks or police headquarters. It's commonly alleged that uniformed personnel cast their ballots under scrutiny by their commanding officers.

"It can be argued that secrecy of votes is compromised as it is conducted in a closed area," says Wong.

The EC has, however, beginning with the 2008 polls attempted to make postal voting more transparent by allowing the agents or representatives of election candidates to be present when postal ballots are cast. They can also witness the issuance of postal ballots and the counting process, says Abdul Aziz.

"If at any time the candidates' agents are unhappy with the way things are going, they can raise their complaints to the EC," he says in a phone interview.

As to the presence of police and military superiors during voting, Abdul Aziz says it does not matter if that is so because voting booths to ensure privacy are provided in the camps. He denies claims that subordinates can be intimidated since they mark their ballot papers in secret.

While Wong lauds the EC for allowing candidates' agents to witness the postal voting process, he says transparency is not complete because the reality of time constraints will not allow observers to monitor postal voting till the end.

"Candidates are unlikely to spend on resources to monitor postal voting unless postal votes make up a huge chunk of the total votes in their seat," says Wong, who observed the counting of votes for Petaling Jaya Utara Member of Parliament Tony Pua in the 2008 polls.

Paper trails

Double-issuance of ballot papers to postal voters has been another complaint. Given that election law stipulates that only one ballot can be issued per voter, what happens to the other ballot? The uncertainty has given rise to accusations of proxy voting.

In the Setiawangsa seat in 2008, it was highlighted that at least six postal voters were issued with two ballot papers each. In Sibu, postal balloting had to be postponed because the names of some postal voters appeared twice on the electoral roll.


Abdul Aziz
The media trail on both these incidents has died, a change in the EC's leadership has taken place, and no satisfactory answer has been given.


Another issue is the "Form 2" or "Identity Declaration Form" which is issued to postal voters together with ballot papers. The form requires the voter to fill in name, identity card number and ballot paper number. Election observers allege that this will allow uniformed personnel who vote for the opposition to be identified.

Abdul Aziz, however, says that Form 2 is not returned to the EC together with the marked ballot. "The form is to ensure that the right person according to the electoral roll is given a ballot paper. It is for us to cross-check the identity declared in the form with the electoral roll. The form is separated from the ballot paper when it is issued."

While the procedure sounds reasonable, it is then a question of whether candidates have enough resources on hand to despatch agents to monitor each and every postal balloting centre to ensure protocol is followed. If that is not possible, Wong notes, the EC should strive further to ensure the fullest participation of observers for even greater transparency.

Unexplainable

Puthucheary, who has studied and written about Malaysia's electoral system also notes that the names of retired police and military personnel have sometimes been left on the electoral roll of postal voters.


Voters at the Bukit Gantang by-election (file pic)

Election watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) also believes that postal votes contribute to the problem of unreturned ballot papers. Keeping a ballot paper is an offence under election law. But in 2008, in the Lumut parliamentary constituency and Pangkor state constituency where there is a naval base, nearly 5,000 ballot papers from both seats combined were unreturned.

Whether it is a case of inefficient management or something more deliberate, Wong says the point is that there are insufficient guarantees that postal voting can be conducted free from manipulation.

As such, Wong and Puthucheary feel the solution lies in redefining uniformed personnel as ordinary voters. This would limit the number of postal voters so that their political significance is reduced.

But that may be some time off, if it ever happens. For a start, PAS was able to get Abdul Aziz to listen to some of its proposals at a recent meeting with the EC on 28 Sept.

PAS Bagan Pinang by-election director and party vice-president Salahuddin Ayub says the party put forth suggestions to stop the use of Form 2, to hold postal voting as close to normal polling time and for the ballots to be counted immediately. PAS also suggested that postal ballots be kept at another location other than military or police barracks and for candidates' agents to be allowed to guard the ballots.

Salahuddin tells The Nut Graph: "The EC chairperson listened to our suggestions but said that they would require amending the law. He said these ideas won't be feasible for the Bagan Pinang by-election but when we asked for a timeframe, he said he would consider the proposals for the next general election."

Kerajaan Hina Tentera!

Dari TVantara

Cara persaraan Panglima Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) Jeneral Tan Sri Abd Aziz Zainal yang memecah tradisi tanpa sebarang penghormatan yang sesuai dengan kedudukkannya menimbulkan pelbagai tanggapan rakyat terhadap cara kerajaan Barisan Nasional(BN) melayan ketua institusi keselamatan negara.

Jeneral Tan Sri Abd Aziz Zainal boleh disifatkan sebagai “undur senyap senyap” , iaitu bersara tanpa apa-apa penghormatan tentera seperti perbarisan kehormat, jamuan makan malam, lawatan ataupun menemui rakan-rakan dari Negara lain, terutamanya negara-negara ASEAN. Semua itu lazim bagi seseorang Panglima ATM yang akan bersara malah ia dianggap satu “tradisi ketenteraan”.

Suara Keadilan mendapatkan penjelasan beberapa pegawai ATM, yang masih bertugas dan juga yang sudah bersara, mengenai perkembangan “pelik’ ini . Rata rata ramai yang bersetuju bahawa apa jua alasan, adalah tidak wajar kerajaan melayani Jeneral Abdul Aziz demikian dan seolah-olah memaksa beliau bersara secara mengejut.

Penghinaan ke atas ATM itu tentu dirasai oleh warga tentera khususnya setelah Najib bingkas melanjutkan tempoh perkhidmatan Ketua Polis Negara Musa Hassan untuk kali kedua, bagi tempoh setahun lagi.

Menurut Datuk Kapten(B) Abu Zahar Hashim apa yang berlaku ke atas Jeneral Abd Aziz adalah di luar tradisi yang diamalkan selama ini.

“Tindakan ini semacam pihak kerajaan memperlekehkan institusi ketenteraan, ini sesuatu yang sangat tidak wajar, beliau sepatutnya diberi penghormatan sepertimana Jeneral-jeneral ATM lain yang telah bersara,” katanya.

Menurutnya lagi, paling tidak,Jeneral Abd Aziz wajar diberi peluang melawat kem kem tentera seluruh negara bagi mengucapkan selamat tinggal kepada pegawai dan anggota tentera dan bagi mereka pula mengucapkan selamat bersara kepada beliau. Di samping itu katanya persaraan Jeneral Abd Aziz mesti dimasyhurkan.

Amat memalukan kata Datuk Kapten (B) apabila pihak akhbar arus perdana yang dimiliki parti pemerintah tutut tidak memberi pengiftirahan dan sebaliknya hanya menyiarkan berita kecil mengenai persaraan Jeneral Abd Aziz.

Abu Zahar yang kini menyertai PAS menempelak BN yang menurutnya hanya “menggunakan” ATM bagi “memenangkan” mereka dalam pilihan raya tetapi bertindak tidak wajar terhadap pemerintah tertinggi ATM.

Jeneral Abd Aziz sepatutnya bersara pada Ogos 2007 pada umur 56 tahun tetapi selepas dilantik Panglima Angkatan Tentera pada Februari 2007, beliau ditawarkan untuk berkhidmat selama setahun berkuatkuasa dari tarikh perlantikannya sebagai Panglima Angkatan Tentera.

Tempoh berkhidmatan itu sepatutnya berakhir pada hujung Januari 2008.

Namun beliau ditawarkan setahun lagi yang sepatutnya berakahir pada Januari 2009, lebih kurang enam bulan dari umur persaraan wajib, iaitu 58 tahun. Selepas menamatkan perkhidmatan sambungan kali kedua pada Januari 2009, beliau telah ditawarkan sekali lagi sehinggalah 1 September 2009.

Sekarang beliau bercuti peralihan selama 5 bulan sehingga 31 Januari 2010. Secara keseluruhan, Jen. Aziz Zainal berkhidmat sebagai Panglima Angkatan Tentera selama 2 tahun 6 bulan.

Agak menghairankan Kementerian Pertahanan boleh mengumumkan penyerahan tugas Jen. Abd Aziz kepada Panglima Angkatan Tentera yang baru sebelum Majlis Angkatan Tentera bersidang.

Berdasarkan kepada kelaziman, Majlis Angkatan Tentera akan bersidang tentang pelantikan Panglima Angkatan Tentera yang baru dan memerlukan perkenan Yang Di Pertuan Agong sebelum sebarang pengumuman secara rasmi dibuat, dan selalunya ia mengambil masa yang lama.

Menteri Pertahanan, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi dalam satu kenyataan mengumumkan Panglima Tentera Udara Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin sebagai Panglima Angkatan Tentera yang baru.

Jeneral Abd Aziz dinaikkan ke pangkat tertinggi ATM ketika Datuk Seri ( kini Tun ) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi menjadi Perdana Menteri.

Sebelum “pengunduran senyap’ beliau, perhidmatan adik beliau , Datuk Kamarulzaman Zainal sebagai pengarah kumpulan berita ehwal semasa Media Prima Berhad-TV3 ditamatkan awal iaitu sebelum had tempoh kontrak.”Persaraan” awal Kamarulzaman dikuat kuasakan sebaik sahaja Datuk Seri Najib razak menjadi Perdana Menteri.Sebelum bertugas di Media Prima Kamarulzaman ialah setiausaha akhbar Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Freedom Film Fest ‘09!

by Nathaniel Tan

A quick plug for FFF - a great hit every year! :)

2-4 OCTOBER 2009, The Annexe, Central Market KL
9-11 OCTOBER 2009, Han Chiang College, Penang
23-25 OCTOBER, Sek. Men. Chung Hua No.1, Kuching
30 OCTOBER-1 NOVEMBER, Tropical Inn, Johor Bharu

LAUNCH CEREMONY & OPENING FILM (Friday, 8 pm)

The 6th FreedomFilmFest2009 will be launched with the screening of AT STAKE, a brave and eye-opening documentary tackling taboo issues faced by Indonesian women. This anthology covers issues of female genital mutilation, unmarried women’s experiences at the gynecologist, prostitution, and the sexuality of a migrant worker.

*Producer NIA DINATA, who is the director of the movie “Berbagi Suami” and also a renowned Indonesian feminist will be present in KL for Q&A after the screening.

PREMIERE OF FFF2009 WINNING FILMS! (Saturday, 7pm)

Al-Fatehah Memali by Rahmat Haron
This film portrays the journey of singer-songwriters, Black and Meor, trying to comprehend a massacre that happened in 1985 in Kg. Memali, Kedah. Their journey brings them to the village where they meet survivors and witnesses of the tragedy to uncover a forgotten story of injustice for most of Malaysia, but one forever etched in the hearts of those in Memali.

Kayuh by Soh Sook Hwa
This film is a first-hand account of a 100-strong contingent of cyclists in the JERIT cycling campaign who rode from Alor Setar and Johor Baharu to Kuala Lumpur for 16 days in order to address 6 major concerns of marginalized groups in Malaysia.

No Silver Lining: The Perak Crisis by The S-ploited.
What happens when “frogs” jump over to the other side? In Perak, when 3 elected representatives of the Pakatan Rakyat ‘hopped” over to become BN friendly, it started a political wrestling match for power between the two opposing political alliance.

Indonesia Quake Death Toll May Be Thousands - Health Minister


People stand near a collapsed shopping mall after an earthquake hit Padang, on Indonesia's Sumatra island September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Muhammad Fitrah/Singgalang Newspaper
By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Thousands may have died in an earthquake that struck the city of Padang on Indonesia's Sumatra island, the health minister said on Thursday, with officials saying many victims remain buried under toppled buildings.

The 7.6 magnitude quake hit Padang on Wednesday afternoon, knocking over hundreds of buildings, but with communications cut it took officials some time to determine the extent of the destruction and loss of life.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari told reporters at the airport that the number of victims "could be more (than hundreds or thousands). I think it's more than thousands, if we look at how widespread the damage is ... but we don't really know yet."

The national disaster agency earlier put the toll at between 100 and 200 in the city of 900,000. About 500 houses had collapsed, officials in the area said.

Australian businesswoman Jane Liddon told Australian radio from Padang said the city centre was devastated.

"The big buildings are down. The concrete buildings are all down, the hospitals, the main markets, down and burned. A lot of people died in there. A lot of places are burning.

"Most of the damage is in the town centre in the big buildings. The little houses, the people's houses, there are a few damaged, but nothing dramatic."

DEBRIS, SMASHED HOUSES

TV footage showed piles of debris, collapsed houses and multi-storey buildings after the earthquake, which caused widespread panic. The main hospital had collapsed, roads were cut off by landslides and Metro Television said the roof of Padang airport had caved in.

The disaster is the latest in a spate of natural and man-made calamities to hit Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 226 million people.

Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie said on Wednesday damage could be similar to that caused by a 2006 quake in the central Java city of Yogyakarta that killed 5,000 people and damaged 150,000 homes.

"Hundreds of houses have been damaged along the road. There are some fires, bridges are cut and there is extreme panic here," said a Reuters witness in the city. Broken water pipes had triggered flooding, he said before his mobile phone was cut off.

Officials said power had been severed in the city.

The quake was felt around the region. High-rise buildings in Singapore, 440 km (275 miles) to the northeast, evacuated staff. Office buildings also shook in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Sumatra is home to some of the country's largest oil fields as well as its oldest liquefied natural gas terminal, although there were no immediate reports of damage.

Padang, capital of Indonesia's West Sumatra province, sits on one of the world's most active fault lines along the "Ring of Fire" where the Indo-Australia plate grinds against the Eurasia plate to create regular tremors and sometimes quakes.

Geologists have long warned Padang may one day be destroyed by a huge earthquake because of its location.

A 9.15 magnitude quake, its epicentre 600 km northwest of Padang, caused the 2004 tsunami that killed 230,000 people around in Indonesia and other countries across the Indian Ocean.

The depth of Wednesday's earthquake was 85 km (53 miles), the United States Geological Survey said. It revised down the magnitude of the quake from 7.9 to 7.6.

Australia's international Aid Minister Bob McMullan offered emergency assistance.

© REUTERS 2009

NEW REPORT REVEALS TRIBAL PEOPLES AT GREATEST RISK FROM SWINE FLU

SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

- REPORT COMES AS BODY BAGS SENT TO NATIVE CANADIANS

The Matsigenka tribe has already been struck
by swine flu. ©J Mazower/Survival
A report launched today by human rights group Survival International shows that tribal peoples across the world are at greatest risk from swine flu, as many have poor immunity and suffer chronic underlying illnesses.

The report, Swine flu and tribal peoples, shows that indigenous peoples in Australia and Canada have been hard hit by the swine flu pandemic, as the majority live in poverty, suffering overcrowding and poor sanitation, and have high rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and alcoholism.

The report comes just days after supplies of body bags were delivered to First Nations communities in Manitoba, Canada, along with hand sanitizers and face masks.

First Nations communities in the province have seen infection rates of 130 per 100,000 compared with just 24 per 100,000 among the general population. However, although many households do not have access to clean water, the Canadian government delayed sending hand sanitizers to reserve communities, where alcoholism is rife, for fear that people would attempt to ingest the alcohol in them.

Grand Chief David Harper told CBC, ‘I make a plea to the people of Canada to work with us to ensure the lowest fatalities from this monster virus. Don't send us body bags. Help us organize; send us medicine.’

Armand MacKenzie of the Innu Nation of eastern Canada, said today, ‘In Canada, I hope that the words "highest attainable standards of health" mean more than sending body bags to Indigenous First Nations communities. We need a real pandemic plan in partnership with Indigenous First Nations. Not body bags!’

The report also raises concern for isolated tribes who have no immunity to outside diseases and for whom even the common cold can prove fatal. Members of the Matsigenka tribe in the Peruvian Amazon have already been struck by swine flu, leading to fears for the health of neighbouring uncontacted tribes. Any contact with outsiders carrying the virus could devastate entire communities.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said today, ‘That tribal peoples are worst affected by swine flu comes as no surprise. Years of colonialism and forced assimilation policies have left them in destitution with chronic health problems. This report makes for sober reading but it should also serve as a wake up call to those governments that have ignored the health needs of their most vulnerable populations for too long.’

Download the report (pdf)

'The birth of Deiveega Anuraaga'

JAG questions 'judicial stealth' in Kartika case

navarathiri hindu celebration

Zulkifly calon PAS PRK Bagan Pinang

Kugan's death: One cop to be charged tomorrow

Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail said a police officer will be charged tomorrow for the death of 23-year-old detainee Kugan Ananthan.

"Navindran Vivekanandan will be charged under section 331 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extort confession from the deceased and alternatively section 330 for voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession from the deceased," he said in a press statement released late this evening.

a kugan murdered assaulted indian youth"I have instructed that he be charged at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court," he added.

Malaysiakini reported two days ago that at least one policeman was expected to be hauled to court on Tuesday over Kugan's death.

However, reporters who were waiting as early as 8am outside the court found out later that the case was put off.

According to Abdul Gani, out of 92 witnesses questioned by the police, four identified Navindran as the one who had caused injuries to the deceased on two different occasions.

"On both occasions, the suspect was said to have beaten the deceased with a rubber hose and four days later Kugan met his death," he said.

The attorney-general added that Kugan had assisted the police in their investigation into the theft of luxury cars by taking them to four locations on four different days.

Why suspect not charged for alleged murder

Abdul Gani also took pains to explain why Navindran could not be charged for murder but a lesser charge of causing hurt.

gani patail"There is no evidence that the deceased suffered an instant death. Instead, the deceased died four days after the alleged beating. Therefore, there was a wide gap in between and a charge of murder could not be preferred against the suspect.

"The finding of the medical report did not show that the deceased died due to the injuries suffered by him. But it was the result of acute myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart," he said.

Kugan died on Jan 20 at the USJ Taipan police station, five days after he was arrested.

His family has accused the police of foul play.

Two post-mortem examinations were conducted. The second of revealed that Kugan had been beaten, burnt and starved prior to his death.

Concerned groups have long complained about the lack of action in the case, which exploded into a national issue after a video recording revealed severe lacerations on Kugan's body.

AG explains the delay

In his three-page statement, the country's top legal officer also elaborated at length why it took him eight months to initiate action.

He said that two committees were formed to probe Kugan's death - one set up by health director-general Dr Ismail Merican and the other by the Malaysian Medical Council.

a kugan assaulted indian youth autopsy report pc 030309 01The first committee comprised of both local and foreign doctors had conducted an in-depth study of the two conflicting post-mortem reports and submitted its final report on March 26.

However, the second committee has yet to complete its investigation following a number of postponements.

Abdul Gani also said that arising from the first committee's report, the police obtained a search warrant and seized specimens and documents from the pathologist who did the second post-mortem.

"These specimens were sent to the Chemistry Department and Institute for Medical Research for analysis and the results of the analysis have been obtained," he added.

Pressured by family's appeal to king

However, the attorney-general said the case was complicated by Kugan's mother N Indra, who had applied to the court for the return of the specimens.

"Prior to this, I had already decided to charge the police personnel responsible for the injuries sustained by the deceased.

"However, it is important for me to point out that because of these two pending hearings - one before the second committee and another before the High Court - I have taken the liberty to postpone the preferment of the charge as I was the view that all these matters should be resolved first and the family members be assured of a full and fair investigation," he added.

petition to investigate kugan's death to istana 260909 kugan mother cryAbdul Gani revealed that he decided to proceed with the charge after Kugan's family members and a number of parliamentarians went to Istana Negara last Saturday seeking to submit a memorandum to the king complaining about the delay.

"As the second committee has postponed its hearing to Oct 9, and will in turn prolong this matter, I decided not to delay this any further," he said.

Abdul Gani added that should the second committee come up with different findings, he will consider whether to "prefer heavier charges or otherwise."

IT’s JUSTICE SUICIDAL

I respect the decision made by Sujatha’s Inquest Coroner though he agreed the decision arrived without medical evidence. I too sadden to late K Sujatha as neither she is around nor anyone she trusted upon able to stand against luxurious material world.

One of main accused seem to be hitting out myself for seeking justice . The Malaymail report claims “While I am happy on one side, I am also saddened for Sujatha and her family for the name and reputation of this innocent girl has been dragged into the political gutter by an unscrupulous politician for his own political gain purely because she was not there to defend herself”.

For those with short memory , let me remind them that I had made myself available assisting those seeking justice and truth hiding behind mysterious death including Sujatha’s and custodial death such as Francis Udayappan even before been elected as Member of Parliament.

Even as an MP, I was the first to lend a hand to late Kugan’s family and still supporting them while others ran away afraid their political career will end instantly or changes to swindle government allocation or contracts may diminish forever.

The delay in calling upon Sujatha’s inquest already a signal that works in progress to hide or destroy evidence. While, I’m in opinion that by dragging an Ex-Minister and MIC President Son itself a Victory. The justice may have taken a temporary set back by those crooks behind the scene.

The inquest failed to haul and interrogate first Investigation officer then Sentul OCPD whom believed to closely associated with MIC leaders. Photo’s of his association already submitted to police but what’s the use, as usual it may end up at one of their dust bin or shedder . My lawyer yet to get any respond from him, despite High court order? Why?

Secondly, the Coroner do acknowledge that main accused did presence at Sujatha’s final ritual prayer. But, he failed to note my point that why the main accused conduct ceremony that usually done by a Husband of a married woman. It’s acceptable for Boss of a company to stand as guarantor for a car loan or present condominium on basis I like you like, but final ritual ceremony. That’s including taking away and dispose Sujatha’s Ash in India.

The Inquest barred my lawyers from participating as they afraid all their faces may torn apart by question bombarded when even my doubts it’s remains unclear despite verdict delivered.

The verdict too undermine Medical professionals as it acknowledge red tapes at Government KL General Hospital may complicate Sujatha’s treatment. Those whom really wish to save her could easily transport her to KL General Hospital where a Minister son surely can by pass all the red tape claimed by testifying government medical doctor whom bloodly related to the accused. Beside, Tawakal Hospital just across the government hospital while Sentosa Medical Centre too located within the vicinity. I will let those much well verse to argue on this point out.

Finally, the Coroner claim no physical injuries found on Sujatha’s body. Well, when paraquat from 1litre bottle can migrate to cough syrup bottle why cann’t she been forced to drink it by extortion….over to you, Sir.

PAS should be told that the Islamic State is a fallacy and does not exist

Image

To his list, I would add “Islamic state”, because, contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

'There's nothing Islamic about a state'

Mehdi Hasan

New Statesman, 2 April 2009

Mehdi Hasan explains why there could never be a true Islamic state

Like my fellow Muslims, I strenuously object to the lazy conjugation of the words Islamic and terrorism, for the rather obvious reason that there is nothing Islamic about the murder of innocent civilians. Unlike so many of them, however, I also take issue with the term “Islamic state”, and for the very same reason: there is nothing Islamic about a state. The two concepts have nothing in common.

Let’s take the word Islamic. The casual and careless application of this adjective to religious and cultural phenomena alike has blurred the all-important distinction between Islam, the divinely revealed, perfect and infallible faith, and Muslims, the rather flawed, imperfect and very human practitioners of that faith.

As the historian Marshall Hodgson pointed out: “One can speak of ‘Islamic literature’, of ‘Islamic architecture’, of ‘Islamic philosophy’, even of ‘Islamic despotism’, but in such a sequence one is speaking less and less of something that expresses Islam as a faith.”

To his list, I would add “Islamic state”, because, contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity. Its supporters tend to mumble vaguely about this or that verse from the Quran, or make vacuous references to the life example of the Prophet Muhammad. But the Quran prescribes no particular model of government, nor does it detail a specific political programme that Muslims must adopt. In fact, the concept of the state appears nowhere in the Quran.

And why would it? In his new book, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia, the Sudanese-born academic Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im points out: “You will not find any reference to an Islamic state or to state enforcement of sharia before the mid-20th century – it’s a post-colonial discourse based on a European-style state.”

Many Muslims fall back on a romanticised view of the very first community of believers in 7th-century Medina, ruled by the Prophet himself, and cite it admiringly as their precedent for an Islamic state, but this approach is flawed. First, any historical precedent that revolves around the presence of a divinely guided prophet-as-political-leader seems wholly irrelevant, in an era in which we have no divinely guided prophet to lead us.

Second, the Medina “state” should be seen as a purely political and pragmatic, rather than Islamic or religious, construct. The celebrated pact that the Prophet signed with the various tribes of Medina involved the non-Muslims of the city – chief among them the Jews, who were granted formal equality with the Muslims – recognising only his political and temporal, rather than his religious or spiritual, authority. As the historian Bernard Lewis puts it: “Muhammad became a statesman in order to accomplish his mission as a prophet, not vice versa.”

Third, Medina lacked fixed borders, a standing army, a police force, permanent civil servants, government ministries, foreign ambassadors and a public treasury. To pretend that it can serve as a practical model for the large, complex, post-industrial societies of the 21st century is fanciful.

Today it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify a Muslim-majority nation that could plausibly be identified as a modern, viable and legitimate “Islamic state”. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran both loudly proclaim themselves to be such, but to each other they are heresies; they are also dictatorial regimes with terrible human-rights records. How about the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, blighted by military rule for much of its history? Or Sudan, accused of committing crimes against humanity among its own Muslim population in Darfur?

Not surprisingly, Professor An-Na’im concludes that “the Islamic state is a historical misconception, a logical fallacy and a practical impossibility”.

Mehdi Hasan is the New Statesman’s Senior Editor (politics) and the news and current affairs editor at Channel 4

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

The Falsity of the Concept of the Islamic State

by Abdassamad Clarke

There is no word in the Qur'an or in the hadith literature for 'state'. The Arabic word that is commonly used - 'dawlah' - does not occur in the Qur'an. [The word doulah does occur in the Qur'an. The best exegesis of both dawlah and doulah is in Sultaniyya by Shaykh Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi.]

Nevertheless, later Muslims used the term, the Ottomans among others. The Ottomans were known as the Osmanli Dawlah and not the Ottoman Empire even though a word for Empire exists both in Arabic and Osmanlica. However, the Ottomans chose the term dawlah specifically in order not to use the term Empire.

The term 'state' begins to take its present day signification in the seventeenth century in Europe, some dating it from the Treaty of Westphalia. Its most essential feature in the modern world is that of a governing entity that legislates, i.e. creates laws, and most usually in our contemporary situation through some form of process of representative democracy.

For the Ottomans, dawlah encompassed the khalifah and his appointees whose job it is to bring the shari'ah into being, but not to create legislation.

The concept of the Islamic state first came about in the modern world by means of the Islamic modernists, so let us first examine the issue of Islamic modernism or modernist Islam. It has various roots, but in essence it stems from a misunderstanding of Western dominance over the lands of Islam, which itself issues from a complete misreading of western history and the nature of Western society. The modernists assume that it was the features of Western society that were unusual to it and different from Islamic modes that gave Westerners dominance over the lands of Islam, and that therefore it is sufficient merely to imitate the West in those unusual features for there to be a resurgence of political power in the lands of Islam.

This is why, we object seriously to the use of the term 'Islamic State', just as we object, if possibly even more strenuously, to terms such as 'Islamic economics' and 'Islamic banks'. All of these concepts are based on the idea that we can Islamicise things which are fundamentally alien to Islam, and Allah knows best.

The above is an extract. The full article can be read here: http://www.bogvaerker.dk/state.html

Islam as politics in Malaysia

Issues of political Islam - somewhere between "Western sexy" on the one hand, and jihadi terror on the other - are expected to weigh on Malaysia's national discourse.

By Simon Roughneen, Asia Times Online

Two years after canceling her last scheduled concert in the country, United States pop star Beyonce announced this month that she would perform in the Malaysian capital in late October. Her 2007 gig was canceled after the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) - a party that forms part of the opposition coalition - threatened protests. "We are against Western sexy performances. We don't think our people need that," said PAS spokesman Sabki Yusof at the time.

Beyonce's about-turn comes despite a raft of piety-tinged controversies in recent weeks, including the sharia law sentencing of a 32-year-old woman and an Indonesian national to six lashes for drinking alcohol in public. The government did an about-turn of its own, rescinding a ban on Muslims - who make up around 60% of the population - from attending a Black Eyed Peas concert in the capital Kuala Lumpur on September 26. That gig was part of a global series of events to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of Irish beer giant Guinness.

While political Islam has recently gained traction and plenty of profile in Malaysia, there is no indication the trend could acquire the violent edge that marks counterparts in the Philippines, southern Thailand and parts of Indonesia. Some have noted that until recently, Southeast Asia's most wanted Islamist terrorist, Noordin Mohammed Top, was a Malaysian national. Noordin was killed in a shootout with Indonesia's counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, this month.

Issues of political Islam - somewhere between "Western sexy" on the one hand, and jihadi terror on the other - are expected to weigh on Malaysia's national discourse. The opposition PAS and ruling United National Malays Organization (UMNO) - the biggest party in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and long-time dominant force in national politics - are now competing in a sort of a sharia-promoting race-to-the bottom while trying to maintain alliances with their wary political allies, including moderate Muslim Malays, Christian Chinese, Hindu Malay-Indians and other secularists.

Malaysia's last elections, held in March 2008, made history by ending the BN's two-thirds parliamentary majority, which the coalition had maintained throughout Malaysia's post-independence history and ensured its dominance over the legislative process. The opposition, comprising the Chinese secular Democratic Action Party (DAP), PAS and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan party, won 82 seats in the 222-member parliament as well as control of five of Malaysia's 13 states, including Penang, which the BN coalition lost control of for the first time.

Anwar made a play to lure a group of BN parliamentarians representing the states of Sabah and Sarawak to cross over to the opposition and topple the UMNO-led government on September 16, 2008, the date marking the anniversary of when the neglected eastern states joined with peninsular Malaya to form Malaysia, in 1963. (Singapore seceded and became an independent country in 1965.)

That came and went without success, and since new Prime Minister Najib Razak took office in April this year, he has tried to claw back some of the lost electoral ground by making changes to the New Economic Policy (NEP), an affirmative action program implemented in 1970 to help Malays attain equal economic footing with more prosperous minority groups, but which many Malaysians feel has long been submerged in cronyism and graft.

Racial profiling

Earlier this month Lim Guan Eng, chief minister of Penang and DAP secretary general told the Financial Times, "There is a chance [of the opposition winning a parliamentary majority], but it is not going to be easy. It is probably harder under Najib than under Abdullah [Badawi]." UMNO has been making efforts to woo Indian and Chinese voters, with rumors circulating that it will try to bypass its traditional ethnic-based partners in BN and set up its own Indian and Chinese wings.

In a similar, if contradictory vein, many believe that UMNO is upping the sectarian ante by taking a page from PAS's political playbook and demonstrating more forcefully its shariah credentials, as seen in the lashes handed down for two beer guzzling Muslims. That strategy plays on a divide inside PAS between hardliners who want sharia prioritized and realist types who see the need to reach out to moderate Muslims - as well as Chinese and Indians - if PAS and the opposition coalition are to have any hope of ultimately displacing the BN at the next elections.

Still, the opposition coalition, known as Pakatan Rakyat (PKR), has been on something of a roll. Former UMNO minister Zaid Ibrahim recently switched sides and past Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA - the main Malay-Chinese member of the BN) leader Chua Jui Meng also defected. The PKR has taken seven out of eight by-elections held across the country, at both national and regional parliament levels, since the 2008 elections. Most recently, the PAS candidate took Permatang Pasir from the BN, a local constituency in Penang, and attracted significant Malay-Chinese support.

Malay-Chinese are the largest population group in Penang, and while support for PAS is likely just as much a vote against UMNO, PAS has previously acquired non-Malay, non-Muslim support in its own stronghold state Kelantan. Lena Leong is a politically-unaffiliated Penang-based partner at Zaid Ibrahim's law firm. She told Asia Times Online that, despite mutual wariness and apparent incompatibility, "PAS and DAP can hold together until the next election."

While the PKR faces a long and likely twisting road to the next elections, which must be held by 2013 but could be called earlier, UMNO and BN is struggling to make sense of a Malaysia where the new politics involves opinion-forming and issue-driving over the Internet, by using alternative news sites and blogs, and bypassing the often-deferential pro-UMNO print newspapers.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad wrote on his blog three weeks ago that the BN was heading for "the rubbish heap of history" unless it upped its game. Sim Tze Tzin is a Keadilan member of the Penang state legislature and an advisor to opposition leader Anwar. He told Asia Times Online that "BN and UMNO has not changed, even if its leadership has. Najib's reforms are cosmetic and there is a lack of real substance."

Najib is currently promoting his "One Malaysia" unifying theme - which PKR claims is derivative of its own commitment to transcending ethnic and religious differences. At the same time, Najib maintains that UMNO is a genuinely Islamic party. Such contradictions, analysts note, echo the opposites-attract composition of the PKR's political alliance. Whether these contradictions can be maintained until the next polls, either within BN or across the entire country, remains to be seen.

Malaysia is changing and it's not clear to many that UMNO is keeping pace with shifting voter perceptions and behaviors.

Audience treated to Dr M’s dry sense of humour

Written by Surin Murugiah, The Edge

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had participants and journalists at the Forbes Global CEO Conference 2009 in stitches when he told a delegate that Malaysia does not have forest fires because the country has plenty of rainfall.

The delegate had asked how was it that Malaysia was able to cultivate and earn money from trees such as rubber and palm oil, as well as timber products while some of its neighbouring countries constantly fought forest fires.

“The secret is there is rain. We depend on rain. Sorry, we can’t export that,” said Dr Mahathir. The reply was among many that drew laughter during the final session at the conference A Meeting of Minds when Forbes chairman and CEO, and Forbes magazine editor-in-chief Steve Forbes spoke with the former premier.

To another question that the Iskandar Region in Johor seemed to rely very much on Singaporean investments, he said it was a good project but would be better if Singapore allowed Malaysia to build a second bridge to the republic.

“Don’t make problems about having a bridge. While the causeway might have nostalgic values, a second bridge would reduce traffic congestion and improve travel,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also took several jibes at the US in particular and the West on issues like the monetary policy and foreign relations during the session.

“We talk about globalisation, but when one country decides on a policy and imposes that on others, there are bound to be problems.

“It should consult others and work out a solution together. You had the G8, now you have G20. Who do they represent?” he said when asked to comment on the effect US monetary policy had on other countries.

When Forbes asked Dr Mahathir as to why he had resisted the advice given by the International Monetary Fund during the 1997-98 financial crisis, he said: “Fortunately, I am not a financier nor an economist, therefore my views are unorthodox.

I found their prescription would make matters worse, so we came up with a different method by understanding what was actually happening.”

In terms of the Asean region, Dr Mahathir said while the member states were progressing, they were not all equally developed, adding that the countries should be allowed to protect some of the industries within them. The protection should be removed when the industries were more independent and able to stamp their mark abroad.

Asked if Asean was moving towards a common currency like the euro, he said it should be gradual and start as a common trading currency between the members and not to be used as a currency like the euro.

On trade with China, he said the relationship had been established over many centuries. “They are only 2,000 miles away but we have had no problems. Portugal is 8,000 miles away and yet they invaded (Melaka). It is the attitude,” he said.

To a question on how the US dealt with Asia-Pacific nations and China, he said: “One of the problems with the US is that it claims to be a super power but yet it doesn’t understand the world.”

Dr Mahathir said among the reasons for Malaysia’s exponential growth was that as a young, independent nation it broke with world practice and invited foreign participation to invest and provide expertise where it lacked. “But not to interfere in domestic politics,” he quickly added.

When asked how he wanted historians to remember him, he said: “I started as an unpopular PM with the Chinese, I left unpopular with my own race because I spoke out the truth. But I guess they don’t hate me that much now. There were no racial conflicts when I was PM and I am happy with that.”

Dr Mahathir said among individuals he admired were the Prophet Muhammad and Nelson Mandela. When Forbes asked if he admired any business personalities, Dr Mahathir said he found it hard to answer. “I think we need to send you the Forbes magazine,” said Forbes, to loud laughter from an appreciative crowd.

Chin Peng: Next stop, the International Court of Justice?

SEPT 30 – Malaysia stands to be embarrassed internationally if former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng takes his grievance to the International Court of Justice: it will show up the government as having reneged on several important legally-binding obligations to the CPM.

A plain reading of the two agreements and a communiqué between the Government of Malaysia and the CPM signed on December 2, 1989 in Haadyai, Thailand, states clearly the rights and obligations of both sides.

But an examination of events since that historic day – called by one commentator the finest hour in Malaysian history – shows that while the CPM kept to its side of the bargain, the Malaysian government was somewhat cavalier in keeping its obligations under the “Agreement Between The Government of Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya To Terminate Hostilities’’ and the “Administrative Agreement Between The Government of Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya Pursuant To The Agreement To Terminate Hostilities.’’

These were among several important documents tendered in court by Chin Peng’s lawyers in their breach of contract case against the Malaysian government today.

The High Court sidestepped the substantive issue of whether the Malaysian government had reneged on the terms of the historic agreements that led to the CPM laying down arms.

The court instead viewed the case as a defamation action by Chin Peng and the CPM against the then Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin for comments made in 2005. It ruled that the offending comments were not defamatory.

But this is not likely to be the last word on the matter. Chin Peng has a few options, including appealing the High Court’s decision or taking his case to the ICJ.

Chin Peng, 85, has been trying to obtain permission to return to Malaysia but the authorities have refused to accede to his request, pointing to CPM’s past atrocities and the body count of servicemen at the hands of communists.

Yet, the agreements clearly spell out that:

a) CPM had

i) to cease all armed activities, disband all its armed units, destroy its arms, ammunitions, explosives and booby traps in Malaysia and Thailand.

ii) close down Radio Suara Demokrasi Malaya.

iii) ensure that members who settled down in Malaysia shall be loyal to King and Country, and shall abide by the Federal Constitution.

iv) ensure that all press statements shall be in the spirit of the agreement and shall not contain any slanderous terms such as “mass surrender’’ and “capitulation.’’

b) The Malaysian Government:

i) shall allow members of the CPM who are of Malaysian origin and who wish to settle down in Malaysia, to do so.

ii) may allow members of the CPM who are not of Malaysian origin and who wish to settle down in Malaysia to do so.

iii) should allow Malaysian citizens who have settled down in Malaysia to participate in political activities, including the formation of political parties and the registration of any political party.

iv) shall allow Malaysian citizens to register as voters and provide reasonable help to those who have settled down in Malaysia.

v) shall provide those settling down in Malaysia who have no homes with accommodation for a period of not exceeding three years from the date of their return.

vi) shall assist those wishing to settle down in Malaysia in order to help them to start their peaceful life afresh.

The Agreement Between The Government of Malaysia and The Communist Party of Malaya to Terminate Hostilities was signed by Datuk Wan Sidek Wan Abdul Rahman, the then secretary-general of Home Affairs; General Tan Sri Hashim ali, Chief of Defence Forces and Tan Sri Haniff Omar, the Inspector-General of Police. Chin Peng, Abdullah CD and Rashid Maidin inked the agreement on behalf of the CPM.

The Administrative Arrangement Between The Government Of Malaysia and The Communist Party Of Malaya Pursuant To The Agreement To Terminate Hostilities was signed by Tan Sri Rahim Noor, the then deputy IGP, and Datuk Zulkifli Abdul Rahman, director of Special Branch. Chin Peng and Rashid Maidin were the signatories for the CPM.

Rahim Noor is willing to given evidence on behalf of Chin Peng and the CPM. It is unclear if he will be given this opportunity in a Malaysian courtroom.

But his testimony or witness statement will just add to the overwhelming body of evidence before the ICJ should Chin Peng decide to take that route.