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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EU Commission: Sri Lanka fails to meet Rights thresholds for GSP+

"National legislation of Sri Lanka incorporating international human rights conventions, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is not being effectively implemented. In the light of these findings, the Commission will now consider whether a temporary withdrawal of some or all of Sri Lanka's GSP+ benefits is called for and make a suitable proposal to EU Member States in the Council. If such a proposal is made and subsequently adopted by the Council, it would enter into force six months after the date of adoption," the European Commission said in the notice summarizing the Commission's findings on the Sri Lanka's GSP+ status released today.

Despite EU findings that Sri Lanka failed to meet several key human rights thresholds, TamilNet warns the Tamil community to be cautious in expecting a termination of GSP+ status to Sri Lanka. The EU's collective approach to confront Sri Lanka's human rights ills will only be clear after the Commission "considers whether to call for a temporary withdrawal of some or all of GSP+ benefits" and if the EU "adopts" the proposal of the Commission.

Text of the Notice issued by the EU Commission follows:

Sri Lanka has benefited from the European Union's Generalised System of Preferences special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (“GSP+”) since 2005. GSP+ provides additional tariff preferences – in the form of additional reductions or even elimination of import duties beyond those already provided in its standard GSP - for vulnerable developing countries which ratify and effectively implement certain core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.

The granting and maintenance of GSP+ benefits is conditional on the beneficiary countries fulfilling conditions for eligibility set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008 (the GSP Regulation). The regulation makes provision for the temporary withdrawal of some or all GSP+ benefits if national legislation no longer incorporates the relevant international conventions or if legislation is not effectively implemented. Where the Commission receives information that may justify such temporary withdrawal, the GSP Regulation provides for the Commission to undertake an investigation to clarify the situation and propose appropriate action.

In light of available information, the Commission determined that there were sufficient grounds to open an investigation into the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions by Sri Lanka on 14 October 2008. Sri Lanka continues to benefit from GSP+ preferences pending the conclusion of the investigation and was therefore included in the list of GSP+ beneficiary countries for 2009-11 subject to the outcome. The Commission completed its investigation and approved a report on its findings on 19 October 2009.

The Commission received and carefully examined submissions made by interested parties in response to a public notice, available reports, statements and information of the United Nations as well as other publicly available reports and information from relevant sources, including nongovernmental organisations. The Commission also requested an independent expert assessment of the effective implementation of the three conventions at issue. Finally, the Commission took into account the information provided by Sri Lanka in the framework of the parallel political dialogue.

The Commission's findings are that the national legislation of Sri Lanka incorporating international human rights conventions, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is not being effectively implemented.

In the light of these findings, the Commission will now consider whether a temporary withdrawal of some or all of Sri Lanka's GSP+ benefits is called for and make a suitable proposal to EU Member States in the Council. If such a proposal is made and subsequently adopted by the Council, it would enter into force six months after the date of adoption.

Fraud pushes Karzai to poll runoff ( Al Jazeera)

Karzai is due to give his response to the commission's election fraud report on Tuesday [AFP]

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, is under pressure to accept a runoff vote after a UN-backed election watchdog recommended that nearly a third of ballots apparently cast in his favour be scrapped, diplomatic sources have told Al Jazeera.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) published the findings of its long-awaited investigation into voting fraud in Afganistan's elections on Monday.

The report, published on the ECC's website, called for ballots cast at 210 polling stations during the country's August 20 polls to be discarded.

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said sources had told him that as a result Karzai's share of the vote had been cut to below the crucial 50 per cent margin needed to avoid a runoff with Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival.

in video

Our correspondent said late night meetings had been held at the presidential palace in Kabul in the wake of the ECC report to discuss the president's response.

"I understand that key ambassadors are now meeting with the UN to discuss what is the next step, what is the way forward," he said.

Karzai, who had earlier proclaimed victory in the poll, is expected to give his reaction to the ECC's findings early on Tuesday.

The head of the ECC has said the results are binding, but it remains to be seen whether the Afghan-led Independent Election Commission (IEC) will accept the findings and order another poll.

'Step forward'

Fazel Sancharaki, Abdullah's campaign spokesman, welcomed the ECC's findings, saying: "This is a step forward."

But Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Karzai's campaign, dismissed claims that the ECC report meant a runoff would be necessary.

The ECC report has called for thousands of Karzai votes to be scrapped [AFP]
"I do not know how any diplomatic source can come out with a result out of what has been said today," he told Al Jazeera.

"We will keep our reaction reserved for when the final, certified results of the elections are announced [by the IEC] and that will be legally binding for us."

The IEC, the Afghan electoral body which organised the vote, is still to announce the official results, but the ECC's findings are seen as key to the outcome.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she expected an announcement from Karzai on Tuesday would lead to a quick solution to the election deadlock.

"I am going to let him do that but I am encouraged at the direction that the situation is moving," Clinton told reporters.

"I am very hopeful that we will see a resolution in line with the constitutional order in the next several days."

Commission concerns

Karzai's camp has already criticised the ECC and some fear that the Karzai-influenced election commission may refuse to call a runoff, further delaying formation of a government.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said that he was not aware of any dispute between the ECC and the IEC.

Soon after the ECC's findings were released, Britain hailed the report, saying the IEC should quickly "implement those orders" to invalidate thousands of ballots.

The US has said it is "incredibly important" for the world to see a legitimate Afghan government as soon as possible.

"It is now up to the Afghans to demonstrate they believe in that legitimacy as well," Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said.

PJ Crowley, the US assistant secretary of state, told Al Jazeera: "We believe that the Afghan government should accept the results when they are released and should proceed with the process wherever those results lead.

"If Karzai and his main competitor, Abdullah Abdullah, can reach an agreement on a unity government, what we want to see ultimately is a legitimate government and a more effective government in Afghanistan that is willing and able to deliver services in support of its people.

The US has said resolving the deadlock is key to future troops deployments [GALLO/GETTY]
US election monitoring group Democracy International, which had some 60 observers in Afghanistan monitoring the ballot, also heralded the ECC's findings and called for a runoff vote as soon as possible.

"Democracy International ... believes the ECC audit decisions should result in a runoff election, according to Afghanistan's electoral law," the group said in a statement.

Glen Cowan, co-founder of democracy international, told Al Jazeera that election papers for a runoff were already in Kabul and a vote could be organised as early as November 5.

Preliminary results last month had showed Karzai winning the election with more than 54 per cent of the vote to Abdullah's 28 per cent, but allegations of massive fraud prompted the ECC investigation.

Many Afghans have expressed frustration with the almost two-month delay to the announcement of the country's election results.

'Credible and legitimate'

Hundreds of Karzai supporters protested in the south over the weekend, calling for the IEC to release the results quickly and saying they will reject a second round.

They gathered in the main street of the southeastern city of Spin Boldak on Sunday, shouting: "We want the result!" and "Karzai is our leader!"

The election deadlock has also complicated a major US review of its policy in Afghanistan, where it is fighting the Taliban.

The US is considering a request by General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and Nato ground commander, to commit an extra 40,000 troops in order to step up its operations there.

But Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff to the US president, has suggested that the US may not commit more troops to Afghanistan until a "credible and legitimate" government is in place.

Speaking on CBS talk show Face The Nation on Sunday, Emanuel said the overriding question was not "how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner".

Bahasa for science and mathematics starts in 2011

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — Year One pupils in primary schools will start learning mathematics and science in Bahasa Malaysia from 2011, a year ahead of schedule, following the failure of the government's English policy.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is Education Minister, told Parliament today that Primary Year Four, First Formers and Fourth Formers would revert to Bahasa Malaysia in 2012.

“This will enable the ministry to make the necessary preparations in considering the needs of the teachers and students to ensure that they are prepared,” he said when replying to Hulu Terangganu MP Mohd Nor Othman during Question Time in Parliament.

Muhyiddin (picture) explained that the ministry has spent RM5 billion to provide teaching equipment and training for teachers to ensure a smooth transition.

“The government is concerned about the implications of the policy change to this cohort of pupils so a soft landing approach will be implemented.

“This approach aims to ensure students' academic achievement is not affected,” he said.

The government will therefore enforce the use of both English and Bahasa Malaysia in classes and exams until the last batch of students under the teaching of science and mathematics in English policy in 2015.

Besides elevating the use of Bahasa Malaysia in schools, the ministry also aims to increase the number of periods for English lessons.

Bahasa for science and mathematics starts in 2011

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — Year One pupils in primary schools will start learning mathematics and science in Bahasa Malaysia from 2011, a year ahead of schedule, following the failure of the government's English policy.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is Education Minister, told Parliament today that Primary Year Four, First Formers and Fourth Formers would revert to Bahasa Malaysia in 2012.

“This will enable the ministry to make the necessary preparations in considering the needs of the teachers and students to ensure that they are prepared,” he said when replying to Hulu Terangganu MP Mohd Nor Othman during Question Time in Parliament.

Muhyiddin (picture) explained that the ministry has spent RM5 billion to provide teaching equipment and training for teachers to ensure a smooth transition.

“The government is concerned about the implications of the policy change to this cohort of pupils so a soft landing approach will be implemented.

“This approach aims to ensure students' academic achievement is not affected,” he said.

The government will therefore enforce the use of both English and Bahasa Malaysia in classes and exams until the last batch of students under the teaching of science and mathematics in English policy in 2015.

Besides elevating the use of Bahasa Malaysia in schools, the ministry also aims to increase the number of periods for English lessons.

Discard the Malaysian Indian at your own peril!!!

By Wong Mun Chee

The Malaysian Indian, though they stand as a minority, have enormous substance of morality and humanity intact within them. They don’t sell their soul like the Chinese and Malay MPs that took place in Perak for monetary gains against the Pakatan group. I make this point because lately there seems to be a lot of criticisms against the Malaysian Indians for the stand they have taken amongst fellow Malaysians.

You may say anything about an Indian, but loyalty is the credence that they have held steadfast within this multicultural society whether the Malaysian Indian is a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or even an atheist.

To date until GE12, the Malaysian Indians have been silenced for their obeisance for the rule of law and what is good for the society as a whole. After GE12, and bearing the latest Bagan Pinang results, they are branded and labeled as scapegoats. They are never the unsung champions for the upheaval that had taken Malaysian society by storm during the GE12.

The Malaysian Indians are a susceptible society to the policies and law of the land that all Malaysians take for granted even if it is discriminative. However, they have proven through HINDRAF that they are not that susceptible anymore although everyone still tries to take them for a ride and belittle them.

Yes, it is a minority community. But conscience and awareness have awakened them that the other societies cannot continue to take advantage of them just because they have been too accommodating all these years to maintain tranquility.

Naturally, you have MIC and the all those who claim to represent Malaysian Indians for the ruling government. Yet they all lost in the GE12. For those Pakatan representatives for the Indians, the crack is beginning to show. This shows that the Malaysian Indians, after the awakening by HINDRAF, have a mind of their own that is dictated on equal terms with other Malaysians and cannot be bullied any longer.

For the Malaysian Indians, there is a moral dimension more than the others. How can everyone sit and watch in silence when the Malaysian Indians are persecuted, shot at sight, and branded with the highest stateless figures, crime figures and suicidal figures when they are just a minority. Nowhere in the world have the Indians deteriorated through such discriminative policies except in Malaysia.

It is a systematically engineered policy to create an underclassed society without any opportunity to participate in the development of the country on par with the others. As a minority, their leaders under the ruling administration had suppressed them and obtained their silence with false hopes. With the change after GE12, the Malaysian Indians hoped that things would get better but nonetheless they were again treated in a similar fashion as seen in Kg Buah Pala - a minority with nothing much to offer.

Naturally the faults of the system, whether it is BN/PR, harnesses this because the rest of the majority will sit down and pass judgement on this community whenever it is not favourable to their parties even when the Malaysian Indians are only seeking for fairness.

Being a Malaysian and as a fundamental point of orientation, I have to grasp firmly that the truth is, for most Malaysians, they continue to look down on the Malaysian Indian whenever possible.

The Malaysian Indians, originally indentured labourers, were also pioneers in the fields of finance, legal, education, medical, real estate and the civil administration during the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's. For a minority, they have done their fair bit for the development of the nation and yet we Malaysians still look down on them as an underclassed society. What has happened in the past is not going to change, but we as Malaysians must understand their position today and support them to reach parity with us.

My morality would suffer if I cannot or fail to recognize their predicament and I should not blame them if they have to fight their cause in whichever way possible to uplift their society.

PAS admits Makkal Sakthi helped BN’s big win

By Adib Zalkapli - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali today admitted that new Indian party Makkal Sakthi's alliance with the Barisan Nasional had resulted in the party losing the support of the non-Malays in Bagan Pinang.

In its first by-election defeat in the peninsula since Election 2008, PAS’s Zulkefly Omar lost the Negri Sembilan state seat by 5,435 votes. Last year, Umno only won Bagan Pinang by 2,333 votes.

The Islamist party also lost all 19 polling streams. It won five in Election 2008, four of which are dominated by non-Malays.

“In a way Makkal Sakthi affected our share of non-Malay votes and the announcement that the party was endorsing BN,” said Mustafa in an interview.

The Makkal Sakthi Party led by former Hindraf leader RS Thanenthiran was launched during the Bagan Pinang campaign and officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his attempt to look for new Indian ally, after MIC lost the support of the community.

“We cannot just dismiss them, they have decreased the support to Pakatan Rakyat (PR), not just PAS,” said Mustafa when presenting his findings from the campaign.

He is also aware of claims that many members of the Makkal Sakthi Party are from the PAS supporters’ club.

When asked whether the party will hasten the move to formalise the role of non-Muslim supporters in PAS, Mustafa said the matter has to be carefully assessed.

“PAS’s core supporters is still the Malays, the discussion whether we should have full membership for supporters has to consider this factor, whether it will affect this core group,” said Mustafa adding that the plan to form the non-Muslim wing in PAS is in the pipeline.

Mustafa however dismissed the suggestion that various controversies involving the Selangor PAS chief Datuk Hasan Ali had affected the party’s campaign in Indian areas.

Hasan, who is also a Selangor executive councillor, had tried to ban the sale of beer in convenience stores in Malay majority areas, empowered mosque officials to act as moral police and also criticised the state legislative special committee, Selcat’s investigations against senior civil servants.

“In Permatang Pasir, Selangor issues were also brought up but it didn’t affect our campaign,” said Mustafa pointing out DAP’s strong presence during Bagan Pinang.

He admitted that the party did not expect to be badly defeated at the recent Bagan Pinang by-election but was quick to add it cannot be used as indicator for both Barisan Nasional (BN) and PR.

“I didn’t expect that big majority, I thought we could maintain or reduce the majority,” said Mustafa, who used to head the party’s election department.

But the PAS veteran strategist warned that the by-election where Umno fielded local strongman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad cannot be used as a benchmark.

“Similarly, Pakatan Rakyat cannot be complacent by making excuses that we can afford to lose this one,” said Mustafa.

Not good enough

By Hakim Joe

The new CPF by the Pakatan alliance might be the onset to something new (and concrete) where a set of joint policies are embraced as the ideology behind the Opposition’s validation as a legitimate alternative to BN.

No doubt that this has never happened before and promises much for the people. However, it must be stated that this is merely a set of guiding principles with no legal standing at all. It might augur much but there are no avenues for redress if some rogue members decide not to adhere to it or be selective when following these guidelines. Neither are there any remedies if the leaders choose to go on a different tack later.

Why did Pakatan Rakyat go to such lengths to produce such a document in the first place? If indeed the three parties are joining together, and Pakatan Rakyat as a political faction is to be registered, why then the requirement for it? A party constitution can, and will be more effective, right?

I for one do not agree to the release of such a document unless it is the precursor to something more permanent. It can be agreed that the voters might not be as politically suave as the politicians themselves but this is not true for all voters, and the release of such a document can only but backfire on Pakatan. Even without such a document, it is already difficult enough to attempt containing people like Hasan Ali, Mat Isa and Hadi Awang. With this document in place, all Hell’s gonna break loose. How bad will the setback be if even a minority of the members from any of the three parties, decide to leave because they do not agree to the CPF?

Will this single document be able to unite the three parties? The pertinent question should be “to what purpose will this release be”? A set of common policies is not enforceable. Look at what Zaid stressed. It merely touches on the doctrine of separation of powers, checks-and-balances, public accountability, transparency and to weed out the abuse of power and exercises in absolute power. Well said, but isn’t that what we expect of Pakatan anyway? Additionally, isn’t that what all political parties (and the federal constitution) promises?

As for the CPF being a manifesto for Pakatan, how about legally forming Pakatan Rakyat first before releasing it, not as a framework but to be included into the constitution? Wouldn’t that be more significant to the real cause? Isn’t that what it is all about (instead of this rigmarole)?

Oh yes, Pakatan has to begin somewhere and this might be the start of something good. However, can’t Pakatan make it better by first forming a legal entity and then getting the respective member coalition parties to form a (combined) committee to look into the setting up of a valid constitution?

To be able to attract the people of Malaysia, Pakatan Rakyat needs something more concrete than this, something that can be enforced. A Common Policy Framework is just not good enough.

No more short-changing ourselves

Khalid is a seasoned giant-killer steeled for tough challenges. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — For corporate czar turned mentri besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, the past 18 months have seemed like 18 years.

From Day One, Selangor's 14th — and first from the opposition — mentri besar has been beset by shocks and scandals — from protests against a pig farm project approved by his predecessor to a Malay mob publicly stomping on a severed cow's head in August to protest against the presence of a Hindu temple in their neighbourhood.

Many of his colleagues in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition have also suffered body blows — from being detained under the Internal Security Act to having their sexual trysts filmed. Recently, an aide to one opposition figure died suddenly after being interrogated by a federal government agency.

But then Khalid, 62, is a seasoned giant-killer steeled for tough challenges, on and off the political scene. In September 1981, the then-CEO of the government's investment vehicle Permodalan Nasional pulled off an infamous dawn raid on the London Stock Exchange by taking over Britain's Guthrie Corporation within two hours.

An economist by training, Khalid has since tried to show Selangor folk that they “own the state economy”. He has, among other things, given each family some free water monthly, set up an education trust fund for all born last year in the state as well as harnessed the state's riverine resources by treating river water for sale and building along riverbanks.

While he despairs of the state's 6,000 or so civil servants who prefer, as he puts it, “coordinating things to being proactive”, the married father of four sees hope in his four grown-up children. His three daughters are, respectively, a computer engineer, a cat surgeon and an animator while his investment banker son represents Bank Negara in New York.

On a recent trip to Singapore to meet investors and investment advisers from DBS and Nomura as well as support the Selangor football team in a match against Singapore — Singapore won 3-0 — he told The Straits Times how being mentri besar has changed his life:

What's it like to be Malaysia's most embattled opposition mentri besar?

I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to have as much political support as political resistance. I'm resigned to the fact that politics does not give you a level-playing field. I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to have to go through rough patches to achieve the ultimate objective. If I accept all that, I will not be frustrated by sudden noises or the cow's head problem.

It's not just noise, surely, not when your Pakatan partner PAS starts wooing Umno again.

The vision of socialistic thinking versus the vision of the Holy Book may be different. We have to adapt to move forward, rather than discuss how to change all these thinking processes. In this, I'm not going to have a common means to an end.

But even the ends are not common, surely. PAS wants an Islamic state, the rest of Pakatan doesn't.

Helping the helpless is the same to those who have democratic as well as religious thinking. That's what we call the ends. The Pakatan parties are now stumbling onto various platforms where we feel we don't understand each other, even though we may be in the same team. But you cannot just throw away the ball in your hands and you cannot tackle your team-mate. It's better to tackle the other party for us to win.

But how can you win when PAS in Selangor is wooing Umno?

I'm not sure if that is true or not.

Selangor PAS leaders such as Datuk Hasan Ali have reportedly done so.

First, Umno may not want him and he may not want Umno too. If they had gone merry-making, as they are said to have done, they would have been partners years ago. I do not think that the intelligent people in PAS would have gone and joined. Only those who are desperate, maybe 10 per cent of PAS, may want join (with Umno).

You say it's been painful for Umno after March 8, 2008. But hasn't it been very painful for you too?

Oh, yes! But government servants will have to understand that, before, you had to kowtow to one BN government in order to be assured of reasonable promotion and so on. But today, you have two sets of governments (one federal and one state) and adapting to that is painful.

Many see you as a bitter, ex-Umno man with a big chip on your shoulder. What say you?

During my student days, maybe I was not yet mature, I would say the government was quite stupid in doing all the things they were doing. But then I joined an institution that helps the Bumiputeras at large, and Umno invited me to give them advice. I readily gave it because I thought it would add value to the society I'm helping. So of course Umno felt that I'm part of them. But I'm part of Malay society, not part of them.

How can you help your Malay brethren most effectively?

Through education and skill-building. There is no other option. You have to earn your keep. That means it will take years. Education is not a rushed job; you've got to build the capacity (of the Malays) to understand. What's happened in the last 30 to 40 years is that we've tried to short-change ourselves. We want good Malays but we don't train them well. In the end, they get through some education (programme, but) without basic capabilities — and fail.

What else should they have?

They must be very patient. You can't become an entrepreneur and a millionaire overnight. Until we can say “Yes, this is the way our society should go”, we'll have to go through change.

How long will this take?

At least another generation. — Straits Times

Umno’s reformers step forward

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — The party congress last week of Umno, the fulcrum of the coalition federal government, was notable not for its trademark race rhetoric but a high-minded call for inclusiveness.

Party leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak explained thus: “I want the party to work in tandem with the demands of the times. Umno can no longer be seen as a party leaning towards a certain group.”

Doubly significant was that Khairy Jamaluddin, leader of the powerful youth wing, had in his speech a day earlier seemed to stake out a new middle ground for Umno. To accomplish this, he advocated that the party shed its provincialism — “siege mentality”, in his words — and project itself as a leader and a champion of all Malaysians.

That was bold and counter-culture: Umno Youth has always been dyed-in-the-wool Malay, a buck the senior leadership had to often restrain so as not to upset Umno's partners in the Barisan Nasional alliance.

Some Malaysians will see in this double call to “Malaysianise” Umno's aspirations a welcome sign of real ideological change. Many will say they remain to be convinced. That's the nature of Malaysian wayang kulit politics, where nuances and inferences often convey more meaning than declarations on formal occasions.

But Malaysia's neighbours, who have been alarmed at the lurch towards incendiary racist baiting in political, religious and civil liberties disputes, have one wish: that a national prosperity consensus be built to do justice to Malaysia's potential so that the country can contribute its weight to the Asean region's often disrupted growth.

Najib has been consistent in asking Malays to take the lead in bringing his inclusive “1 Malaysia” idea to fruition. Since he became Prime Minister, he has dismantled some pro-Malay entitlements he regarded as counter-progressive and offensive to other Malaysians, such as in business and education. What is important to determine in the next several years is whether Umno, beyond the core leadership, will accept the wisdom of his approach.

The same goes for Khairy. His transformation (or maybe this has been his game plan) seems real, for he is smart and he has time on his side (he's 33), but Umno Youth is a cauldron of race righteousness. If these two reformist leaders push too hard and too fast to remake Umno, they risk losing so much support among the party faithful, their positions would be untenable. Then all will be lost, until the next wave of brave reformers emerges.

Reformers often fail not because their vision is flawed, but that it is ahead of its time. In Malaysia, having the people pull together and believe in one another has been long overdue. Only Umno can make it happen. — Straits Times

MCMC: “We’re just doing our job”

By Ding Jo-Ann

Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi

IT has been more than a month since the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) investigated Malaysiakini for putting up two video reports — one about the 28 Aug 2009 cow-head protest and the other depicting the home minister's defence of the protesters in a press conference.

No charges have been brought against the online news portal despite the intensity of the investigations over several days in September. In the midst of the investigations, the MCMC had to fob off accusations that they were not abusing their power to clamp down on the new media.

To Malaysiakini's credit, they have refused to remove the two video reports despite the investigations, which have since stopped. Still, the probe into Malaysiakini over the two videos is not the first time the MCMC has taken action against websites and internet users. In August 2008, the MCMC instructed internet service providers (ISPs) to block popular website Malaysia Today due to "insensitive" comments that were posted.

In February 2009, the first conviction under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 took place in relation to insulting comments directed at the Sultan of Perak following the coup in Perak. The offender pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 233 of the Act, which makes it an offence to post a comment which is offensive in character with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person. This is the same section that Malaysiakini was being investigated under.

Home Minister Hishammuddin
Hussein (Courtesy of theSun)
Annoy? Yes, offenders can potentially be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for up to one year or both for intending to annoy others through their online publication. Notwithstanding the fact that no charges have been brought against Malaysiakini, nor are any likely to be made, The Nut Graph spoke to Mohamed Sharil Mohamed Tarmizi, chief operating officer and acting chairperson of the MCMC, on 30 Sept 2009 about the commission's role and powers.

TNG: What does the MCMC do?

Mohamed Sharil: We're charged with the development of the communications and multimedia sector in Malaysia. We cover telecoms, broadcasting, internet, broadband, cellular services, radio frequency management, numbering and electronic addressing, as well as postal and courier services.

Our task is to create the right environment for businesses and online people such as yourselves to grow. In a way, we're like gardeners tending to a garden of sorts; but at times, like a gardener, if there are weeds, you have to remove them. We do what we do in accordance with the law of the land.

Does the MCMC function independently? Is it supposed to be an independent commission?

We are as independent as the law prescribes. It's very easy to fall into a false pretense of what independence means. We are based on the functions of the law. [The law sets out the functions of the commission and the minister, and there's a check and balance.]

Who initiates investigations?

We're not very big. Typically, we act on public complaints. Somebody calls up, they say they've seen or heard something, they want to lodge a report. So we take in the report and then we investigate.

Section 211 and 233 [of the CMA] states that providing content which is offensive with the intent to annoy is an offence. The word "annoy" in Sections 211 and 233 — it seems so broad. What is your take on it?

I think this is something that the courts should decide. I can appreciate that there can be a situation where what is annoying to one person may not be annoying to another. [For the MCMC], if someone who is offended or annoyed makes a report, then we have to investigate.

We go and interview people, gather evidence and submit it to the Attorney-General [who decides whether or not to prosecute]. Sometimes we get told there's no case, so that's the end of the investigation. If they say proceed, then we have leave to prosecute.

Without going into any specific cases, if something offensive is done and it is filmed and published online, is that "just reporting"? Or can the online media also fall foul of the Act?

I cannot speak about the Malaysiakini case, so what I'm going to say is largely hypothetical.

What does "just reporting" mean? If something done is so heinous and it's reported, it may be possible that the act of reporting may well be a crime in itself. If someone videoed something heinous and it is uploaded in the interest of reporting the news, where do you draw the line? Is that news? What about the victim? Isn't the victim entitled to be protected?

It is difficult. That's why we don't try to be judge and jury — the courts and the law are there [to decide].

Is there a difference between video footage shown on television, photographs in the newspapers and video reports on the internet?

There's a huge difference. In the case of television, there's the editor, sub-editor, news editor, the journalists check and verify their facts, then only the report goes out. If any video has not been verified, they put a disclaimer. CNN does that — they qualify so you know what to expect.

(Pic by miamiamia /
I'm not talking about the Malaysiakini case. The problem with the internet, generally, is someone will take a video of something and then just upload it. Nobody can establish or defend the authenticity of the video, the image or the audio. It's out there and it hurts and causes grief to someone. Are people just allowed to walk away, especially if it's done by irresponsible people?

What about the Federal Constitution and the guarantee of freedom of speech?

What's the issue about freedom of speech?

The Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. There are exceptions where the government can legislate to restrict this freedom; for example, if it's against national security...

Can you shout fire in a theatre? You can't. It's an offence.

Freedom of speech in the Federal Constitution is subject to whatever law that has been passed.

But the restrictions on this freedom are only in relation to certain exceptions — national security, public order, public morality, friendly relations with other countries...

And the law. Whatever Parliament has enacted.

According to the constitution, Parliament can only enact restrictions in accordance with specific exceptions.

I'm not an expert on constitutional law, so I don't know. I have to go by the legislation. I would like to believe that Parliament would not have legislated anything contrary to the Federal Constitution. Again, let the courts decide.

There were reports that the MCMC asked the service providers to block Malaysia Today [last year]. Is that correct?

That is on a [specific] investigation, so I can't really say. What I said to the press at the time was we believe that we were well within our powers under Sections 211 and 233 to take action because there were comments made which were offensive.

So the MCMC has the power to ask the service providers to block websites?

To take preventive action. Could be anything, it's not just blocking. We could ask the site owner to take it down. And in many cases, actually, site owners do take it down.

Since existing laws apply on the internet, should the MCMC be focusing on offensive comments and things like that?

Well, Parliament passed the law. I have to do my job. If there's a section here that says there's an offence, does that mean I don't take action? If someone does something which is in contravention [of] this law, the [Communications and] Multimedia Act makes it mandatory to take action. I have no choice in this matter.

There are things that people have done, like scams, spam, fraud — they're also part of what we need to do.

[The MCMC] was never intended to [police the internet]. Never. That's why the whole act is based on the principle of industry and user self-regulation. Our job is not to go catch people, we don't catch people. We go and investigate and then once we've investigated, we submit the papers to the Attorney-General.

What about censorship of the internet?

The Act (under Section 3[3]) says nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit the censorship of the internet. Read that very carefully. What does that mean? In the same Act, Sections 211 and 233 (on the offence of providing offensive content) exist. Basically, the Act says if I take any action under 211 and 233, it shall not be construed as censoring.

Or it could mean that if you take any action under 211 and 233, you cannot [do anything that amounts] to censorship?

No, no. I don't think so. [The Act says], "Nothing in this act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the internet." So, if you read Section 211, you would think 211 means you can censor. Actually, you're not [censoring]. Sections 211 and 233 mean you're taking regulatory enforcement action. Otherwise why have 211 and 233?

(Pic by Winterling / Dreamstime)
Does having Section 3(3) mean anything you do on the internet is untouchable? Cannot be also, kan?

Some say that the online media changed the landscape of the last general election and precipitated a shift away from the Barisan Nasional. Do you think the MCMC can be used or is being used to prevent such a shift, as in the last election?

To be honest, I don't understand the question. Sincerely, I don't understand the question. Because how can we be used?

Why do we tell people to take things down or don't do this or don't do that? Because we think an offence has been committed. We tell people if an offence has been committed, or if it's offensive, please take it down. We are entrusted with enforcing the law even if all we can do is say, "Please take it down because someone has reported that this is offensive."

Do you think the online media has a role to play?

I think the online media has a great role to play. It has a great and positive role to play. I sincerely believe in the power or strength of the new media, it's a wonderful thing. But like anything, there's always those who will abuse it and those who will misuse it. What we've been trying to promote for some time now is positive use of the online media.

Some of the comments I see online are very immature. Not all, some. Some cannot string a sentence without an expletive in between.

Shouldn't people still be allowed to discuss?

Discussion is fine but if all that's being said is a bunch of four-letter words, where's the discussion?

People say ignorance breeds distrust. Maybe Malaysians have not had the chance to discourse and dialogue with each other, and now we're just starting.

I am a big believer in discourse and dialogue, but do it civilly. Do it with civility.

[Many people are asking], how can a press conference (Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein's on 19 Oct 2009) be offensive? Is it possible for a minister to be annoying?

I can't speak about anything that's specific to the [Malaysiakini] case. All I can say is that it's not all what it seems; we have the evidence. Of course, it's up to the Attorney-General to decide whether the evidence we have is sufficient or not.

Religion and secularism

The Star
IKIM view
By Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad
Senior Fellow / Director, Centre for Syariah, Law and Political Science

RELIGION is a belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods.

The Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus defines it as the belief in a superhuman controlling power, especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship. It may also refer to anything to which one is totally devoted and which rules one’s life. In the first definition, religion basically refers to those like Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism as well as the animistic beliefs of pagans.

In the second, it may include beliefs in certain philosophies, value systems, thought, ideology or -ism with no supernatural power like atheism, scientism, fascism, secularism, human-rightism, even extreme passion, say, in football or mountaineering! As these may be regarded as false or pseudo-religions, this writing will focus on religion in the first meaning.

“Religionism”, next, must not be understood in the extreme sense of excessive religious zeal. It is here applied as a generic term merely to refer to how one may associate oneself to any particular religion, or one’s desire to govern one’s life according to the teachings of that religion.

What, then, is “secular” and its relation with “secularisation” and “secularism”? “Secular” concerns the civil affairs of this world, matters that only relate to this world, not the heavenly, spiritual or sacred. It is not concerned with religion or religious belief and is not bound by any religious rule.

“Secularisation” refers to the process of making something secular. A Dutch theologian, Cornelis van Peursen, defines it as the liberation of man “first from religious and then from metaphysical control over his reason and his language.”

It is by means of reason and language that one develops and reflects one’s views of things. The combination of these perceptions constitutes one’s worldview.

One is secularising oneself if one takes away the role or influence of religion and metaphysics from one’s thought and words, and consequently actions.

According to Harvey Cox, a Harvard theologian, secularisation is “the loosing of the world from religious and quasi-religious understanding of itself…” It is man turning his attention away from life beyond this world, and giving attention to only this worldly life and this lifetime.

Cox adds that the secularisation process is a “liberating development”, whereby the end product is relativism, i.e. everything changes according to time and location, including man or society’s value system and standards.

Cox writes further that the integral components of secularisation are three: (i) the disenchantment of nature, (ii) the desacralisation of politics, and (iii) the deconsecration of values. Syed Muhammad Naguib al-Attas explains them as follows:

The first means the freeing of nature from its religious implications. It involves the dispelling of godly, animistic spirits and magic from the natural world.

This separates the world from God, and distinguishes man from it. As a result, man may no longer view nature as a divine entity.

This idea will allow and “empower” him to act freely upon nature as he wishes, to exploit it according to his needs and plans.

The second means the abolition of sacral legitimation of political power and authority. There is no such concept, for example, as “the vicegerent of God” on earth or any form of supernatural representation of one’s worldly power.

There is no such thing as ruling or controlling people on behalf of any religious institution. This notion is the prerequisite of political and social change, again as man deems them fit and necessary.

The third means rendering transient and relative every value system which includes religion, and world views having ultimate and definitive significance for one’s life.

In this way, man’s future is open to change and evolution. It means man is free to create the change and immerse himself in the so-called “evolutionary” process, moving from the state of “infantility” to “maturity”.

This attitude requires man to be aware of the relativity of his own views and beliefs. Today he may believe in something, and tomorrow he may change it.

In other words, as Attas puts it, “he must live with the realisation that the rules and ethical codes of conduct which guide his own life will change with the times.”

Last but not least, “secularism” is the view that human values and standards should not be influenced or controlled by religion. It concerns only worldly human affairs without any element of spiritual or sacred intervention.

“Secularist” thus refers to a person who favours secularism.

The above explains why, upon studying the various principles of human rights, I said that human-rightism is based on secularism. There are ideas and notions in the doctrine of human rights that collide head-on with some fundamental teachings of certain religions, or against the established norms of ethics and morality.

When a conflict occurs, the tendency is always for human-rightism to prevail. This is not right, as a more appropriate approach is to reconcile the two.

It is true that certain religions do suppress certain things that may come under the purview of basic human rights. It became worse when religion was manipulated as a tool to legitimise or justify certain political powers of certain people, as reflected in the coinage of the “church-state relationship” in human history.

History shows that when the two forces came together, many requirements and restrictions were imposed on the masses. At certain eras in Europe, intellectual freedom was tightly controlled by religious institutions for centuries.

Those who questioned the rationality of certain religious principles, let alone if they were proved wrong and contradictory to sound logical conclusions, were cruelly persecuted and branded as blasphemers and criminals.

But not all religions are suppressive of human rights, whether political or civil. Islam, for instance, from its very inception preserves and promotes them, both for Muslims and non-Muslims.

This is evident from a treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims almost 1,400 years ago known as the Medina Charter, in which basic human rights were recognised and honoured by the government of the day.

So any statement to the effect that religion does not support human rights may be true of certain religions, but not necessarily the case with certain others. Do not assume that what has been experienced by Christianity, for example, is applicable and transferable to Islam.

If transgressions of human rights are found in the tradition of Islam, do not blame the religion, but chastise the perpetrators who may not understand their religion.

Anything against the welfare and good interest of man, Muslim or otherwise, is never a part of Islam.

I am a strong believer in the notion that the most appropriate understanding of human-rightism is within the framework of religion. This means that in any contradiction between the two, the preference must be given to the latter.

If one talks about ethics and morality, one cannot but admit that their values are ultimately derived from religious teachings. There are no real good or evil values outside religion. Good values are evident in all religions, and most, if not all, run parallel with each other.

It is in this sense of ethical parallelism that secularism becomes the common enemy of all religions, as the former promotes the relativity theory of values. It is in this regard that one is obviously wrong to argue that religion is compatible with secularism, especially in the case of Islam.

Ketelusan Dalam Tadbir Urus Masih Menjadi Isu Utama.

Laporan Audit Negara tahun 2008 yang baru diperoleh oleh ahli parlimen menunjukkan kerajaan mungkin terpaksa menanggung beban sebahagian dari kerugian projek mega yang bernilai ribuan juta dana awam. Jabatan Audit Negara menganggarkan jumlah kerugian projek rel keretapi berkembar dari Rawang ke Ipoh berjumlah sekitar RM 1.14 billion.

Sehingga bulan Disember 2008 sebanyak RM 5.77 billion telah dibelanjakan untuk projek tersebut, bermaksud 32.9%(RM 1.43billion) lebih tinggi dari nilai sebenar, iaitu sekitar RM 4.34 billion.

Malahan Laporan tersebut mengakui bahawa kelemahan pengurusan yang mengakibatkan kerugian yang sebegini besar. Saya percaya perkataan yang tertera dalam Laporan Audit sedikit “diplomatik.” Sesungguhnya ada bukti jelas seumpama penangguhan dan memesan secara lebih bahan untuk projek tersebut sudah cukup buat kita menyiasat jika wujudnya sebarang penyelewengan

Ternyata perkara asas seperti tadbir urus dan ketelusan tidak boleh dipandang remeh. Ketika mendung kelembapan ekonomi masih terasa, wajarlah pengurusan ekonomi mengambil langkah segera memperbetulkan dasar sumbang sebegini. Janganlah asyik mencipta gambaran ekonomi selesa walhal rakyat akan terkesan dari pemborosan serta ketirisan akibat kegelojohan penguasa.


Ah, it's Liow's turn now - Rocky's Bru

BH 19/10: SPRM akan kaji laporan polis oleh dua Ahli Parlimen berhubung dakwaan rasuah membabitkan isteri seorang Menteri Kabinet: Abu Kassim

Not even a week as Deputy President of the MCA, and Liow Tiong Lai already has a police report lodged against him for allegedly accepting a car from a contractor for his wife's use. Either we have become a society high on alert for any corrupt practice by our politicians (which is good) or corrupt politicians have become very adept at using the system to cast doubt on other politicians they consider a threat (which is not so good).

In any case, Liow has nothing to worry about if he's done no wrong. And we are assured that if Liow is a dirty politician the MACC has already opened a file on him.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Liow, who is also HealthMinister, have lodged a police report in Putrajaya and have requested that the MACC to inot only nvestigate the allegation but the people who made the allegation against Liow. Which, I think, is a fair request, especially if the allegation turns out to be fabrication.

30,000 Tamils march in London over Sri Lanka's internment camps

More than 30,000 British Tamils marched to draw attention to the Sri Lankan government's continued incarceration of over 280,000 Tamils in military supervised camps despite earlier pledges to release within 180 days from the end of war in May. Protesters, young and old, carried banners and chanted slogans expressing that 150 days have passed with no concrete steps taken to resettle the Tamils held in the “concentration camps" in Vavuniyaa.

The protest march, which coincided with the Hindu Deepavali (festival of lights) celebrations, started at 1:30 p.m. from Temple – Embankment Station, through central London, before the rally congregated at Hyde Park.

Ed Davey, MP
Ed Davey, MP
Barry Gardener, MP
Barry Gardener, MP
MPs Lee Scott, Keith Prince
MPs Lee Scott, Keith Prince
Keith Vaz, MP
Keith Vaz, MP
Joan Ryan, MP
Joan Ryan, MP
This protest comes at a time when the international community is indecisive of its future actions towards the Sri Lankan Government which has committed the worst human rights violations, and alleged war-crimes, spokesperson for the march organizers said.

A Tamil protester said, “This is just a start, we have started the countdown … Tamils around the world will join in the campaign to unlock the concentration camps."

With hundreds of red and yellow Tamil Eelam flags, Union Jacks and United Nations Flags hoisted, the marchers harrowed large banners and pictures portraying the desperate situation faced by the Tamil internees in Sri Lanka.

Large bill-boards carried clips of the disturbing footage aired on Channel 4 News showing the shooting of gagged Tamil men by Sri Lankan forces.

Many carried placards and Banner messages of protest against the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, whilst others hoisted flags of the United Nations, appealing to the UN to uphold international peace, security and human rights.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t still have hope in the international laws that protect the fundamental rights of all citizens – we just want these rights to be upheld for Tamils in Sri Lanka," said a protester carrying a placard charging the UN Secretary General of being complicit in Genocide of Tamils.

A street performance of the “Concentration camps” and armed military imposing aggression on the Tamil Civilians grabbed the attention of many tourists and passers-by on central London streets, an attendee to the protest said.

The rally was joined by leading London parliamentarians, Columbian, Kurdish, Palestinian solidarity, members of Sikh communities in Britain, as well members of civil liberties and social justice organizations, according to the participants.

Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, acknowledged that the camps are “detention camps” and not internally Displaced Camps. He further stated “we must end the trade concessions… if they [Colombo] refuse to listen, if they do not set the people free from camps… they could face individual target sanctions against them." Davey strongly proposed a travel ban on Sri Lankan Diplomats visiting Europe.

Andrew Pelling, MP for Central Croydon, questioned “How can a 5-year-old child, who stands at the barbed wire, be a threat to the Sri Lankan government? It’s clear Sri Lanka is willing to brand anyone, even a 5-year-old child, as a terrorist.”

"Words are not enough when people are losing lives everyday… you need action and you need hope... Every individual who is in the camps should be returned to their home in peace and dignity,” Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North said when he addressed the protesters.

Andrew Charalambous, Conservative PPC for Edmonton, one of the many Prospective parliamentary candidates who are working closely with the expatriate Tamils in the UK said, “Expulsion from Commonwealth… we shouldn’t even be considering them to be part of GSP Plus in EU… [Sri Lanka] must be given a deadline to open the concentration camps… If not… we should work with the United Nations, to get a resolution and impose economic sanctions.”

Andrew Higginbottom, Latin-American Solidarity, told the protesters “Sri Lanka sent their general to Europe to say that this video is a fabrication and a fraud. If it is a fabrication then you will open the doors of the detention camps, allow the UN investigators in there.”

“I appeal to the Chairman of Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Asda to stop buying goods from this country until they unlock the camps," said Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, in her speech said “We call upon the United Nations to live up to its mandate to protect those whose human rights are being trampled under foot and speak up and do all that it can on behalf of the Tamil people held in these camps.”

Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, “it cannot be right to keep a tenth of your population behind barbed wire at the same time as asking international community for aid to keep them there, and it’s only the aid from the international community that is keeping them there.”

“No government can stand aside while people are in imprisoned in the camps and enduring this intolerable suffering so we’re calling upon all governments of the world to move against Sri Lanka and demand the freedom the Tamil people in the camps,” said John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington.

Sarah Colborne - Palestinian Solidarity,James Allie and Daniel Bessong - Councillors for Brent, Cllr Keith Prince - Leader of Redbridge, Cllr Julian Bell - Leader of the Ealing Labour Party and researcher for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T), also addressed the rally.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, finished with a note of hope from his own country’s historical struggle. “I am a Scotsman, a small country oppressed for many, many, many years by the English. It took us 300 years, but eventually it was our king who took over the Crown of England… ‘to serve justice’, that is the message of hope… Pray to god, it doesn’t take 300 years till we see justice in Sri Lanka.”

Tamil Youth Organization (TYO), British Tamil Forum (BTF) and other Tamil representatives also addressed the rally with the event concluding at 6pm.

Watch a video clip in the link below:-

Petraeus, Kerry visit Pakistan as military battles on militants

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East and Central Asia visited Pakistan on Monday as the Pakistani army battled Taliban militants in the country's northwest, U.S. Embassy officials said.

Gen. David Petraeus meets Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday in Islamabad.

Gen. David Petraeus meets Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday in Islamabad.

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, held meetings as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also arrived on a separate visit.

Details about their visits were not immediately available.

Petraeus' and Kerry's arrivals came on the heels of Pakistani troops launching a massive ground offensive backed by air power over the weekend in South Waziristan, a refuge and power base for insurgents operating in Pakistan and along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

The Pakistani military is trying to "decapitate" the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in the region, an expert said.

"There shouldn't be any false perception that the military is going all out after all brands of militants," said Reva Bhalla, director of analysis at the global intelligence company Stratfor. "The focus is the [Pakistani Taliban] and the Uzbeks that are aligned with them."

In a note the Pakistani army said was distributed to the Mehsud tribe, the dominant tribe throughout the battle zone in South Waziristan, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the purpose of the operation was not to target the tribe members but to free them "from terrorists who have destroyed the peace of the area

But the insurgent leaders may well have slipped away, Bhalla said, noting that it has been clear for some time this offensive was in the works.

"The classic insurgent strategy is to decline combat, melt away and recuperate," she said.

Local warlords loyal neither to the Taliban nor the Pakistani government seem to be turning a blind eye to the militants' efforts to evade the army, she said. That may make them impossible to capture or kill.

"As the militants are escaping northward, the terrain gets really rough there. It's a challenge to find where they are hiding," Bhalla said. "It's not that easy to pursue them."

Both sides have been releasing daily claims about the number of fighters killed on the other side. For example, the Pakistani military said it had killed 18 "terrorists" in South Waziristan.

It's not possible to verify either the army's or the Taliban's assertions.

But Bhalla said the numbers are not a good measure of success in any case.

"In the Swat offensive, every day the Pakistani military was saying we killed X number of militants, and every militant was suddenly a 'high-level militant,' " she said, referring to a Pakistani military operation against the Taliban earlier this year.

"That's not the right measure of success -- you want to go after their operational unit and their leadership," Bhalla said.

The best way to judge whether an offensive has achieved its aims is to see if the army gains control of territory that has never been under its command, Bhalla said.

"Will the military be able to hold the territory that they cleared?" she asked. "There has always been an understanding with the tribal leaders that they have a degree of autonomy. Will the military be able to win over enough of the local population that they can have a base and project power?"

The local population is not taking sides until it is clear who will win, she said. "The locals are on the fence because they can't be sure the military will be successful -- so they are going to hedge their bets."

The military can help win over a population that has been partly alienated by a Taliban "reign of terror" by "rehabilitating the areas and ensuring that refugees are taken care of -- people who are homeless and struggling to get their daily rations," Bhalla said.

The highly anticipated offensive follows a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and has prompted the exodus of tens of thousands of civilians, a U.N. refugee agency said.

Though the offensive is not the first, it is the most important, Pakistani military spokesman Major Gen. Athar Abbas said, "because we have concluded that this area has become the center of gravity of the problem."

"We are very confident that we have sufficient number of forces, and we have adequate weaponry, arms and ammunition required for this operation," he said.

One military official said over the weekend that Pakistani troops had seized control of Kotkai, the home village of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and Taliban commander Qari Hussein. Hussein masterminded some of Pakistan's deadliest suicide attacks.

Strikes by jet fighters and helicopter gunships targeted militant hideouts in Kotkai and the villages of Badar, Barwand and Khisur -- all strongholds of the Taliban and their late leader, Baitullah Mehsud, another official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

For months, the military have targeted militant hideouts in South Waziristan and other hot spots in Pakistan's tribal areas. Earlier this year, troops launched a large operation targeting militants in the Swat Valley in Pakistan's North-West Frontier province.

Despite such efforts, insurgents have continued to strike with relative impunity in Pakistan, targeting government, police and security locations.

The recent wave of deadly attacks has raised concerns about the ability of Pakistan's security forces to maintain control. The violence also has heightened internal and international pressure on the government to take swift and effective action.

Pakistani officials said about 10,000 to 15,000 militants linked to the Taliban or to al Qaeda operate in South Waziristan, a harsh terrain familiar to militants but difficult for others to navigate. About 28,000 Pakistani soldiers have moved into the epicenter of Taliban activity in the region to counter their activities, officials said.

Tiong Lai: It's a political assasination

Dr M: Worse people than Ibrahim Ali in Umno...

Tian Chua: Shafie Apdal salah guna kuasa Projek BELB

Tuduh PR ganggu sidang Dun, Nizar selar kenyataan Najib



“If Malays are truly racist as alleged we would not have compromised on the cultures of other ethnic groups being practiced here……..We would also not have allowed vernacular schools to be established, …..The true meaning of racism would be like apartheid as previously practiced by South Africa..” said Najib in his UMNO general assembly speech last week.

So, is UMNO racist or not?

To answer this let us take Najib’s suggestion and compare with what existed in the Apartheid regime of South Africa

Here are some key features of South Africa’s Apartheid (Apartness) system:

1) A central feature of the Apartheid rule was the categorization of all the South African people into Blacks, Whites, Indians and Coloureds – their Bangsa. Everything else was built on this categorization.

2) Using this racial categorization it decided where each category of people lived, who they married, who they had sex with, where they worked and how they moved about.

3) They had the apartheid laws - The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, Immorality Act of 1950, The Population Registration Act of 1950 and so on. And they had laws of repression, such as Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, The Public Safety Act of 1953 and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1953, The Riotous Assembly Act, The Terrorism Act to name a few of the notorious ones.

4) The Group Areas Act of 1950 partitioned the country into areas allocated to different racial groups. Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 created separate government structures for blacks.

5) They segregated education, medical care, and other public services on the basis of this racial categorisation .

6) They all had to carry Identity cards which indicated their “Bangsa” so to speak.

7) To oversee the apartheid implementation, the bureaucracy expanded, and, by 1977, there were more than half a million white state employees.

8) Blacks were not allowed to run businesses or professional practices in those areas designated as "white South Africa" without a permit.

9) Each of the 4 categories of South Africans had their own education system.

Now let us look at comparative situations in the Malaysian rgime:

1) A central feature of our system is also our categorization into Bumiputras, Chinese, Indians and Others from birth to death.Everywhere we go we have to declare Bangsa, Ugama – at birth, at school registration, in all the applications we make, at marriage, at death and in many many more situations.

2) We all have to carry Identity Cards around

3) Large areas of most cities and towns are segregated not by law, but by practice and without the need for such segregation laws. Clear example is in Penang. The Island is mainly populated by Chinese, and the Malays mostly prefer to live on the Mainland. In Shah Alam it is mainly Malays. In Seremban it is mainly Chinese in locations like Seremban Garden, and Malays in Ampangan or Paroi areas. In Kuching you have South and North Kuching for the Chinese and the Malays. In practice but not in law.

4) In several housing areas State Consent is required if one wants to sell the property especially if it is in a predominantly Malay area. It is quicker to get consent for inter Bumiputra sale than it is for a sale across the Bumiputra /Non-Bumiputra divide. Again in practice but not in law.

5) Malaysia has repressive laws like the Internal Security Act to put away who UMNO considers trouble makers without having to go through the court processes, the Official Secrets Act to blot out all skewed decisions made by the UMNO controlled Administration from public view, The Printing Presses and Publications Act to control the print media from publishing too much anti UMNO true news, The Seditions Act to shut people up from speaking up against the unjust UMNO policies - to name a few of the repressive laws that helps maintain the current regime.

6) The bureaucracy is entirely made up of largely Bumiputras – eight hundred thousands of them, all implementing UMNO Policy. The Police force is almost entirely Malay, the armed forces are almost entirely Malay. Again in practice but not in law.

7) Most Government businesses are off limits to non- Bumiputras. There is a complete system of screening vendors that limits vendors to almost entirely Bumiputras.

8) Business licences are largely awarded to Bumiputras or must have mandatory minimum Bumiputra participation – Bank Licences, Educational Institutions Licences, Permits in the Transportation businesses and so many more.

9) Participation in all government development schemes are entirely for Bumiputras – MARA, FELDA, FELCRA, RISDA, PERDA, KESEDAR, KEJORA to name a few. In practice but not in law.

10) Educational opportunities in Public Educational Institutions are grossly in favour of Bumiputras.

11) Cross religious relationships between Non muslim Malaysians and Muslim Malaysians is a complicated affair, especially if a problem develops along the way.

Allowing the practice of cultures of the Indians or the Chinese in Malaysia or allowing Chinese Medium and Tamil Medium schools in Malaysia, or of allowing the use of Chinese and Indian names does not in any way define the character of the regime in Malaysia. Allowing all this actually now becomes convenient argument for UMNO to take everything alse away, it seems. It is the structure of the economic, social and political system that defines the character of our system. And it is blatantly racist.

I do not say the Malay people are racists. I am saying that UMNO, the political party is. It is indeed a blue blooded racist party – the entire cause for the racism that is so rampant in Malaysia.

Racism is “the domination of one ethnic group over other ethnic groups on the basis of some claimed superiority”. In South Africa – White Supremacy, In Hitler’s Germany – the Superiority of the German race, In the British Empire – the Civilizing Burden of the White Man, in Malaysia, Ketuanan Melayu or Malay Supremacy.

Unless UMNO changes at the core, it will continue to be a racist party and no amount of deception is going to change that.

No matter what NAJIB says UMNO is a racist party.

Let the Imam do the talking


If I write about Islam there will be many who will question my credentials to talk about the subject. They will ask me to ‘go learn more’, or go speak to the people in UIA, and they will demand to know what my references are and which ulama I am quoting. Today, I am not going to write anything about Islam. Instead, I am just going to copy pages of a book by Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali with regards to Sultans, as translated by Dr Kamal El-Helbawy.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Ganesan is all heart ahead of Perak sitting

By Clara Chooi - The Malaysian Insider

IPOH, Oct 19 – Perak Speaker Datuk R. Ganesan (picture) has promised Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen that he would give them due respect during the contentious Oct 28 state assembly sitting.

“I will not be like them and try to stop proceedings from taking place. I will be democratic and allow them to have their say when they want to while the House is in session,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.

Ganesan said that although the 28 PR assemblymen had refused to submit their written questions to the House to be presented to the state administration, he would still allow them to cut in with supplementary questions.

“Like I said, I will not stop them. They can ask their questions,” he said.

He added that the PR lawmakers would also be given the opportunity to debate the Barisan Nasional’s budget, which will be tabled by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir.

“They will be given ample time to prepare their debates and have their voices heard,” he said.

It remains to be seen however, if the PR representatives have any intention at all to participate in the Oct 28 sitting.

Their presence for the sitting, they have said, is not to heed Ganesan’s call for the assembly but their own Speaker V. Sivakumar's.

Prior to this, PR assemblymen had also lambasted Ganesan for failing to include a copy of the state’s budget in his notice informing the assemblymen of the sitting, which was sent out on Oct 12.

They claimed such a practice was common convention, to give the assemblymen time to prepare their debate speeches.

The PR representatives also said that Ganesan had unfairly given them only one day to submit their written questions to the House, an act which they claimed meant that the latter was trying to discourage them from attending the assembly in the first place.

“This is not true at all. I was an assemblyman myself before and the normal practice is that the Mentri Besar tables the budget, which is subsequently distributed to the representatives of the House.

“Only then do they prepare their debates,” said Ganesan.

He added that the state assemblymen had almost six months to prepare their written questions.

“Come on, they are state assemblymen who have been serving their constituencies for so long. Don't tell me that they are unable to think of issues to post up to the government?” he said.

Ganesan, however, said that he was unsure if the other BN assemblymen had sent up their questions yet.

On the seating in the House, Ganesan said it would be as usual, with the government of the day seated at his right and the Opposition on the left.

“However, even if they (PR) insist on sitting on the right side, it does not make them the legitimate government. It is just a seating arrangement,” he said.

Meanwhile, State Secretary Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hashim said he would have a meeting with Ganesan before the end of this week to discuss preparations for the assembly.

“It will be just normal preparations, like what we usually do,” he assured The Malaysian Insider.

During the last assembly, security was extremely tight and those who were allowed into the hall were first screened at the door and checked for identification.

Plainclothes policemen were also allowed to be present inside the state assembly hall and had sprung to action when they were called upon to forcibly remove Sivakumar from the Speaker's chair.

The media were also made to apply for special passes, an unprecedented practice, and there was limited space for journalists who wanted to cover the sitting.

On the security situation outside of the State Secretariat, Perak police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Pahlawan Zulkifli Abdullah said that he would release a statement in the next two days.

Govt may bear part of RM1.14b rail double-tracking loss

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 – The government may have to bear part of the RM1.14 billion loss in the 179km rail double-tracking contract between Rawang and Ipoh as the project was poorly managed.

An audit of the project carried out from August 2008 to January 2009 discovered identified several weaknesses in its implementation such as the delay, and the procurement of extra equipments and coaches not keeping in steps with the infrastructural development causing the infrastructure to be not fully optimised.

“As the project was not properly managed, it did not meet the objective of its implementation,” according to the Auditor General’s Report 2008.

The report feels that the Transport Ministry should have taken firm action against the project manager, Syarikat Kinta Samudera-Opus Consortium (KS-Opus), for not allegedly not reporting its dismal performance to the Finance Ministry so that its services could be terminated.

“Based on the feedback by the Transport Ministry, KS-Opus work performance was not satisfactory. The company had failed to shoulder the responsibility as specified in the contract,” it said.

There was no proof that that the Transport Ministry had reprimanded the project manager and informed the Finance Ministry, nor was there proof that it had provided quarterly reports on the project manager’s performance as required by the Treasury Circular No. 8 year 2006.

The report said that the full amount of the losses could not be claimed from the original contractor, DRB-Hicom Berhad as its maximum liability was only 10 per cent of the contract or RM257.99 million.

DRB-Hicom could not complete the infrastructural package by Dec 10, 2003 as it merely completed 76.8 per cent of the project before its contract was terminated on Aug 5, 2005.

“The ministry should have slapped the Liquidated Ascertained Damages (LAD) amounting to RM80.88 million (RM164,727 per day) on DRB-Hicom for its failure to complete the project as scheduled,” it added.

DRB-Hicom’s failure had prompted the government to appoint another contractor to complete the remaining 22.4 per cent of the project by appointing UEM Construction Sdn Bhd (UEMC) as the main contractor through direct negotiation by awarding a cost-plus contract worth RM772.05 million in June 2005.

Until December 2008, RM5.77 billion had been spent to implement the project, RM1.43 billion (32.9 per cent) higher that the worth of the original contract at RM4.34 billion.

On the quality of work, the construction of rail stations were satisfactory except for the roof of a pedestrian bridge connecting two platforms at the Tanjung Malim station which was found to be too high for comfort when it rain.

The report said electric coaches were supposed to be used in the train services on the double track between KL Sentral and Ipoh in December 2008, and instead they were powered by diesel.

“A RM240 million allocation was sought under the Eight Malaysia Plan (8MP) to buy six electric train sets (ETS) but only RM20 million was approved.

“Only in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), RM249.6 million was approved for the purchase,” it said. On the 10 Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS) worth RM54.43 million, the report said only five stations in Serendah, Batang Kali, Rasa, Kuala Kubu Baru and Tanjung Malim were fixed with the AFCS while the remaining AFCS were stored in Kuala Kubu Baru, Behrang and Slim River.

“The weaknesses in planning and the failure in coordinating the AFCS procurement had actually caused an over purchase of five sets worth RM27.22 million. If the equipments remain unused, it is a wastage,” it said. – Bernama