More than 120,000 Tamil civilians held in state-run detention camps in Sri Lanka are to be allowed to leave the facilities and return home, the government has said.
Restrictions on the Tamils, who have remained in the camps since the government's victory over separatist Tamil Tiger fighters earlier in the year, will be lifted on Tuesday, officials said.
"There will be no restrictions on displaced people from December 1," N Thirugnanasampanther, a government civil servant in Vavuniya, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
"They have to inform the army post they are leaving and can come and go as they wish."
The Tamils have been held in the heavily-guarded camps in Vavuniya district, 260km north of Colombo, since the government defeated the Tamil Tigers in May, ending the island's long-running civil war.
About 128,000 men, women and children displaced by the conflict are thought to be in the camps.
An initial group of around 40,000 Tamil detainees were released from the camp in late October.
But despite Tuesday's opening of the camps, many detainees are expected to face a difficult task returning to their home villages in areas still littered with mines and other dangerous leftovers from the war.
Thirugnanasampanther said efforts to resettle the detainees were continuing as quickly as possible, with authorities stepping up mine clearing work in the former combat zone.
International pressure has been growing on the Sri Lankan government to free the Tamil detainees from the camps.
Human rights have condemned the detention as an illegal form of collective punishment for Tamils following the government's victory in the war.
The government however has said it needs to screen the detainees to weed out former fighters who may be hiding among them.
'Security concerns remain'
Gordon Weiss, UN spokesman for Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera: "It represents a big step from six weeks ago when there was a quarter of a million people in the camps and no movement at all.
"Security concerns still remain and people are not leaving the area particularly ... for a number of reasons - their homes have been destroyed or the areas have mines. So many are confined to the Buna area.
"It is a relatively short period after a 30-year war so the government is not about to lower its security posture."
Rights groups and the United Nations have also criticised conditions in the camps, saying many detainees have been forced to live in poor, overcrowded and insanitary conditions that are breeding grounds for disease.
The Sri Lankan government has promised to close the camps by the end of January.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Letter to Prime Minister and Minister of Housing and Local Government dated on 1/12/2009
Re: Indian mini market denied licence. (Tip of iceberg of Indians denied licences).
We refer to the above matter where Mr.G.Subramaniam, a longstanding and dying breed of Indian mini market owner at Jalan Besar, Lanchang, Pahang was denied his right to continue with his 26 year old mini market business, by being denied his license. (The Star 25/11/09 at page N4). Even the Indian MIC ADUN for Sabai meeting the President of the Temerloh Municipal Council did not work (NST 28/11/09 at page N22). The President refuses to take the instructions of this ADUN boss because the boss is an Indian. This is a fact and reality even at the lowest levels of government administration in Malaysia. Even though Mr.G Subramaniam had his license for 25 years because he is a businessman of old. Almost all the current generation Indians have been denied not only mini market but the various licenses to do business.
Over the years we have received thousands of complaints from the Malaysian Indians who have been denied licenses to do even petty trading vis a vis denied business opportunities. In the 2010 Budget RM 8.8 Billion has been allocated for the small and Medium Scale( SME) Entrepreneurs to benefit 46,000 SMEs,’ and RM 200 Million for Tekun small business loans (NST and Star Headlines 23/10/09).
But let alone these loans even the basic license to do business has been denied. To the contrary thousands of illegal immigrants especially Indonesians and Rohingya, Muslim Myanmars and Bangladeshis are allowed to trade and do business freely for example at the Pasar Borong Selayang, Kerinchi food stalls, in numerous fruit and food stalls in pasar malams etc nationwide.
Article 8 of the Federal Constitution provides for equality before the law and the Malaysian Indians in particular should not be excluded from the National mainstream development of Malaysia. We note that there are almost zero Indians owned outlets, for example Petronas , Shell, Esso Stations, KFC, Mc Donalds, A & W outlets, low rentals Highway Rest area food tidbit and fruit stalls and the various Municipal Council Mara, UDA etc food court and other shop lots nationwide.
The mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan reports the creation of 67,533 new (Malay/Muslim) entrepreneurs, 10,618 micro, small and medium sized (Malay/Muslim) industries, upgraded, 24,449 micro businesses (UM 26/6/08 at page 20)
But almost all of the deserving Indians have been excluded. Why exclude the Indians in especially these areas of the national mainstream development of Malaysia?
The crime and gangsterism problem among the Indians can be drastically brought down if only if the Indians are also given the very same business opportunities like the Malay Muslims.
Shooting dead suspected Indian criminals is not the answer. Giving them these business opportunities as given to the Malay Muslims is the answer and certainly the way forward. We are saddened that even after 52 years of independence and Malaysia having developed so well to the point of having the world’s tallest twin towers, and a black Obama being elected the President of the world’s most powerful country, we are still plagued by racism and religious extremism at every level of society.
We hereby urge your good self to direct the Lanchang Municipal Council to issue the yearly renewed Mini Market license to the aforementioned Mr. G. Subramaniam backdated from 2005 to 2009 and continuing indefinitely thereafter.
We urge your good self to issue a directive to especially all the City, Municipal and Local Councils and all other government business regulating authorities to stop their direct and indirect discriminatory practices against in particular the deserving Malaysian Indians but to grant them the necessary licenses and permits and facilitate their businesses accordingly.
Kindly revert to us accordingly.
Secretary General (pro-tem)
Through these columns I intend to present a picture of the marginalization of the Indian poor in Malaysia and also try and put forth a coherent explanation of how it happened. I am going to do this in several parts. I am doing this to break the myth that what has happened to the Indian poor in the country is inevitable. That it all happened because they lack values, they lack religion, they watch too much Astro, they are basicaly violent and such other myths as our current day theoreticians both within the community as outside the community will have us believe.
Here is the first part.
First some basic information that will help us understand the story that will be presented a little better.
Basic data of Malaysia
Population by ethnic group Malaysia, 2010
As can be seen from this data Indians form 7.4% of the total population of Malaysia in a census projection from the Department of Statistics, Government of Malaysia. The Indians are a minority group, a distinct minority group.
During the period since the Independence of the per capita Gross Domestic Product ( GDP), an indicator of the economic progress and status of a country – just like your salary, rose from about RM 2500 per year in 1960 to RM15,000 in 2008. Quite a performance. The economy changed from being primarily a commodity producing & agricultural economy (like production of rubber and palm oil) to a manufacturing orientated economy. See table below:
% of GDP
The Indians were largely involved in the rubber plantations as tappers in a relatively modern form of agricultural production at the inception of the nation. Though it is not food, that was produced, it was a cash crop and it was grown – so we call it agriculture. Since then there has been a tremendous shift in the structure of the economy. The plantation economy slowly gave way to an industrial economy. Factories started to replace the rubber estates as the main feature of the economy.
While this was happening Malaysian politics also went through significant change. The 4 key phases in the development of the politics are the period 1957 – 1969, 1969 – 1981. 1981 -2004, 2004 - 2008. Each of these phases is characterized by key historical phenomena that both chronicles what has happened in Malysian politics as well as explain how it all happened.
While these were occurring, the Indian population, a minority to start with, coupled with the fact that they were in the lowest rung of Malaysian society experienced significant outward push from the mainstream of all these developments –economic, political and social.
The Indians have not benefited in equal measures as the other communities in spite of the rapid economic development that the country experienced in this period. In these columns I will try to set out the various forms of the push out or marginalization that the Indian poor faced in these various phases and why this has happened. Essentailly we all know what has happened - but we know them as sporadic and separate events. What I will attempt to do is to connect all these events, join the dots so to speak, and draw a big picture for you all to see - hopefully making the truth clearer.
But first let me start with what marginalization means:
In sociology, marginalisation is the social process of becoming or being made marginal - to be sent to the fringes, out of the mainstream; or to confine to a lower social standing. make seem unimportant “the marginalization of the underclass” is a clear example. In its most extreme form, marginalization can exterminate groups.
Many communities experience marginalization. As a result of marginalization, communities have lost their land, were forced into destitute areas, lost their traditional sources of income, and were excluded from the labour market. Additionally, communities have lost their culture and values and lost their rights in society .
Today the Malaysian Indian community is marginalized from Malaysian society as a result of the development of practices, policies and programs that only meet the needs of the power elite but not the needs of the marginalized Indian poor. This marginalization is also significantly connected to the power elite maintaining and enforcing ways by which we think and talk about things. The way we have been conditioned by the information trickling to us, or by way people talk around us, we may even have difficulty acknowledging that marginalization has occurred to the Indian community in Malaysia.
This is my task, to make it very clear, what has happened and why it has happened.
The marginalization experienced by the Indians in Malaysia is multifaceted. Specifically they can be categorized into:
1) Economic marginalization
To be denied opportunities for participating productively in the economic development of the nation. To have been pushed out of the mainstream of economic development.
2) Political marginalization
To be denied equal opportunity to participate in the decision making processes relating to allocation of the national resource or the social and economic development of the community. Political clout taken away by virtue of the political processes of the country. In the process losing political rights as a citizen and as a minority community.
3) Social marginalization
To be cast aside socially as the dreg with the social stereotypes as labourers, drunks, untrustworthy individuals, black and smelly fellows, dependent and always complaining to name a few of the stereotypes usually associated with being Indian poor in Malaysia. The result of all this is the blocking of the Indian poor from developing pride as worthy individuals, and as a community of poor being denied the opportunities for practicing and developing the salient culture of the Indians.
I will discuss each of these aspects of marginalization in the subsequent parts. I will also discuss the sociological basis of all of this. I will try to break the stereotyped explanations offered for the state of the Indian community and show how through the progress of the development of Malaysian society, this outcome has occcurred. It has nothing to do with the Indianness in all of us – as current discourse will have us believe. It has only to do with the political economy of the country.
We have let the Indians in Malaysia suffer for too long. We ought to have a programme of affirmative action in place. We ought to have a sound programme for alleviation of poverty for the Indians and radically improve their conditions through political action, education and cultural preservation. We ought to extract the enabling aspects of culture though and perhaps reconstruct the our understanding of the relationship between culture and human progress.
A REPUBLIC OF VIRTUE
by Azly Rahman
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Exactly like 10 years ago Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today failed to escape trial for sodomy.
High Court judge Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah here tossed out the PKR adviser's bid to strike out the sodomy charge against him and fixed the trial to be from January 25 to February 25 next year.
The judge said that the High Court has “inherent powers” to set aside the charge against Anwar but ruled that the latter must prove his claims of bad intent and political conspiracy on the part of the Attorney-General's office.
Zabidin added that it was up to the prosecution to decide how they wanted to prove penetration occurred.
The 62-year-old grandfather stands accused of sodomy for the second time in his life; this time, it is with a former male aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 24.
Anwar's defence lawyers had earlier argued that the charge was a baseless political conspiracy because several government and private doctors had in their reports not found any signs of forced penetration on Mohd Saiful.
But the public prosecutor, led by Solicitor General II Datuk Yusof Zainal Abiden, had last week claimed they had extra medical evidence to show Mohd Saiful had been sexually involved with his ex-boss.
Yusof drew the court's attention to a government-run Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) report which noted finding “a mixture of male DNA from two individuals” through a swabbing of Mohd Saiful's anus.
The senior lawyer from the Attorney General's Chambers added that it had more such forensic and oral evidence to support the sodomy charge.
Anwar was arrested and subsequently charged with committing sex against the order of nature on August 7 last year, just before he bounced back into Parliament after taking back his old Permatang Pauh
seat in a by-election.
The former deputy prime minister had spent six years behind bars for the crime a decade ago before the conviction was reversed.
Despite having assembled some of the finest legal eagles in the city, such as Raja Aziz Addruse, 73, to challenge this second charge against him, Anwar failed to stop the case before it goes to trial.
If the ambitious Anwar is found guilty and convicted this time, he may spend up to 20 years behind bars, which would really snuff out his bid to take over Putrajaya with political allies DAP and PAS.
Anwar will appeal against the High Court's rebuff at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya tomorrow, his lawyer, Sankara Nair, told reporters later.
“We're quite in a quagmire,” Nair said, looking disturbed.
“How can we craft our defence unless we have all our data?” he added, noting that the High Court judge had chosen to brush aside the defence team's request to stay the trial until the Federal Court had disposed
of Anwar's related appeal to get extra evidence he claims is key to proving he is innocent.
Sankara said that a normal appeal takes about two months to be heard.
He was also upset that Zabidin had ticked off Karpal's call to push the trial to a later date.
Sankara said Anwar's chosen lead counsel, Raja Aziz Addruse, is currently abroad and was only due to return in February.
Sankara added that the defence may also try to rope in the Federal Court to stay the start of trial if their appeal for more proof is not heard before Jan 25.
Anwar himself was highly disgusted by Zabidin's ruling.
The federal lawmaker pointed out that the High Court judge had earlier noted an accused person's fundamental rights to fully defend himself under Malaysian law, but appeared to be pedalling backwards when he fixed trial to start despite knowing of the pending appeal.
“The judge should at least respect his own decision and allow our appeal at the Federal Court,” Anwar told reporters outside the courtroom later, surrounded by his wife and supporters.
“This is the first case in the history of modern times that you prefer a charge of sexual abuse ignoring medical evidence with a conclusive finding of no trace of penetration,” the Permatang Pauh MP pounded.
Anwar continued hitting out against Zabidin, noting the judge had showed a tendency to “protect the prosecution” and repeated his allegation that the present team of lawyers from the Attorney General's Chambers, especially the Solicitor General II who is heading the charge, was involved in cooking up sodomy evidence in Sodomy I involving Anwar's Indonesian adopted brother Sukma Darmawan.
Anwar foresees a “very tough battle” ahead but stressed that he is prepared to fight the sodomy charge to the bitter end “because we have compelling arguments and facts”.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — A group calling itself Jemaah Prihatin Rakyat Kelantan is planning a protest against Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (left) this morning outside the Kelantan state secretariat in Kota Baru.
A text message calling all Umno members to join in the protest at 10am today, began circulating yesterday.
But a Kelantan Umno Youth official told The Malaysian Insider the protest was an initiative by the NGO and not the party.
The group also planned to hand over a memorandum to the Kelantan mentri besar for allegedly praying for the destruction of Umno and the party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the federal government refused to pay oil royalty to the state government. It also wants Nik Aziz who became the mentri besar in 1990 to step down immediately.
The PAS spiritual adviser when delivering the Eid sermon last Friday had prayed for the Najib’s administration to honour state’s right to five percent of the petroleum extracted off its shore.
Nik Aziz also said that he would pray for the demise of Najib and Umno if the Federal government refuses to pay the oil royalty.
Since last weekend, Nik Aziz has been under criticism from Umno and religious scholars linked to the party for the controversial prayer.
The prayer has become the latest instrument used by the state opposition to undermine Nik Aziz’s leadership.
Today, the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia front-paged a report calling for Nik Aziz’s resignation for allegedly causing uneasiness among the Muslim community.
Nik Aziz has been bogged down by accusations of cronyism and corruption since early this month over the controversial appointment of his son-in-law Ariffahmi Abdul Rahmad as the CEO of Kelantan Mentri Besar Corporation (PMBK) and for receiving sponsorship to perform the pilgrimage in Mecca from a businessman.
He has cancelled the religious trip and ordered his son-in-law to leave the state investment arm following pressure from party leaders and the public.
The various issues surrounding the Kelantan administration had started a debate on succession plan by state PAS leaders.
REPORT ON PROPOSALS FOR FAMILY LAW REFORM TROUBLING
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism is very concerned about the comments by Senior Federal Counsel Mohamad Naser Disa, as reported in the Sun newspaper of 25.11.2009, relating to proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 dealing with the situation where one spouse in a non Muslim marriage converts to Islam.
If the comments accurately reflect the proposed amendments, it shows that the gross injustices currently being committed against non Muslim spouses (mostly wives) by their husbands who convert to Islam, by the Syariah Courts and Syariah authorities, and by the civil courts will continue.
The comments also show clearly the skewered method of approaching these amendments taken by the Federal Government and the Attorney General’s Chambers: the people who are suffering are the non Muslim family members of the convert, especially mothers who are unable to see their children or to expose their children to their own faith. Yet, from the reported comments of the Senior Federal Counsel, the Federal Government seems to mainly be concerned that a man who converts to Islam is being “cruelly treated” because he cannot break his previous marriage contract and get a divorce.
Conversion cannot be used to evade one’s previous obligations
Whilst a person’s right to profess a religion of his choice is inviolate, no one should be permitted to use the fact of his conversion to evade his obligations to his family. The State, however, cannot use this excuse to restrict the fundamental liberty of a person to profess and practise any religion. Importantly, Islam and Islamic law cannot be imposed on a non Muslim who is guaranteed the right to profess and practice his or her own faith in peace and harmony under our Federal Constitution.
The MCCBCHST is gravely concerned that the proposals will indirectly result in Islamic law being forced on non Muslim spouses, especially wives. One example is the reported proposal to limit maintenance payments to his former wife by the husband who is now Muslim to only 3 months. This is the position in Islamic law. But, the non Muslim wife contracted her marriage under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 which provides that a husband must pay maintenance to his former wife until she remarries or dies.
Why is it that the Muslim convert is allowed to avoid his obligations under his previous contract of marriage merely because of his conversion? We are very concerned that rogue husbands will abuse the system, and convert to Islam as an easy excuse to get out of his marital obligations.
Children and the cabinet decision
There must be a clear statement, both in the relevant Syariah legislation and in other legislation, providing that
A child under the age of 18 cannot be converted to Islam without the permission of both parents
In any event, that child should have the right to choose his or her own religion upon reaching the age of majority
This was promised by the Cabinet in its decision on 22nd April 2009 based on reports in the newspapers at that time. Sadly, the current proposals do not reflect that promise.
Syariah interference with non Muslims must stop
Another glaring omission in the briefing by the Senior Federal Counsel is the lack of any proposal for the inclusion of a clear prohibition on the Syariah courts and Syariah authorities from making orders, decisions and taking any action whatsoever in respect of children born to parents who were originally non Muslim.
We strongly object to any attempts to make laws applicable to persons professing other faiths “Syariah compliant”. In our respectful view, Syariah law should only apply to persons professing Islam, and should not jeopardize or affect in any way the rights, privileges and liabilities of persons who do not profess Islam.
The MCCBCHST has previously come up with comprehensive proposals for law reforms, which we have submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers. We have previously published the general principles which should guide those proposals in our Note of Protest dated June 2007 entitled “Unity Threatened by Continuing Infringements of Religious Freedom”. We have constantly reiterated in our meetings with the authorities and other stakeholders that the predominant principles governing any proposal for law reform must be as follows:-
Parliament in respect of the Federal Territories and State Legislative Assemblies should pass state laws limiting the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts and prohibiting Syariah Courts from interfering in matters involving the rights of persons professing faiths other than Islam and giving persons who do not profess Islam an explicit right to seek redress in the civil High Courts if Syariah courts interfere in a non Muslim’s rights.
Any marriage that is solemnised under the civil law and all matters pertaining to it (e.g. marriage, inheritance, custody, religious status of minors, etc) should be under the jurisdiction of the civil courts, and should be subject to the civil law.
The civil courts must be the final arbiter as long as one party involved in a legal entanglement is not a person professing the religion of Islam.
A child cannot be converted to Islam except if both parents agree. Even then, that child must have the right to choose his or her own religion when reaching the age of majority.
Any person who has reached the age of majority has the absolute right to choose the religion of his choice. The law must ensure that any such conversion to another religion does not prejudice that person’s family. Any law on conversion must permit reversion to one’s original faith with equal facility.
With respect, the MCCBCHST proposals in the main will be fair to both the spouse converting to Islam and the spouse who does not. We have not made outlandish proposals nor have we asked for more than what non Muslim spouses should be entitled to under a law that is fair and just. We therefore urge the Federal Government, and all State governments, to immediately implement the MCCBCHST proposals in the respective laws.
As always, the MCCBHST is ready and willing to assist the relevant authorities in reaching a just solution to this problem.
Rev. Dr Thomas Philips,
By Deborah Loh
Chin Peng arriving at a hotel in Haadyai for a press conference
MORE puzzling than the Malaysian government's current myopic reaction against the idea of Chin Peng's return is the sketchy outline of events soon after the Haadyai Peace Accords. The peace treaty was signed on 2 Dec 1989 to end hostilities between Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
If Chin Peng's version of events is to be believed, it would appear that he was played out, and quite soon after the ink had dried on the peace agreement.
The government's defiance of the signed agreement today is unsurprising given the political climate. But did Malaysian officials, in the early years after the peace accords were signed, intentionally cause delays in order to frustrate Chin Peng's attempts to return?
Chin Peng now believes he was "tricked" and "played" by the Malaysian government, as he tells Malaysian journalists from the Chinese-language media and The Nut Graph at a press session in Haadyai on 27 Nov 2009. The press conference was called in conjunction with the 20th anniversary commemoration of the peace accord. Chin Peng now lives in Bangkok.
When asked why he thought the government signed the peace accords at all if it had no intention of letting him return, Chin Peng, who is no stranger to betrayal, offers a pragmatic view.
"The scenario then forced the government to sign the agreement with us. If they had been unwilling, they would have felt alienated by the people. We were also faced with the same situation," the former CPM secretary-general, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, tells reporters.
A young Chin Peng (Courtesy of Farish Noor)The decades in between the first failed peace attempt in Baling, 1955, and the Haadyai accords in 1989 was a time of flux for world communism. These global events affected CPM's own direction, Chin Peng recalls in his memoirs Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, published in 2003.
In the later 1980s before Haadyai, Thailand also initiated peace negotiations with the CPM, which was hiding in its southern jungles. Chin Peng recalls that the Thai overtures were coordinated with similar advances for peace from Malaysia. He mentions then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad authorising Malaysian Special Branch contact with CPM representatives for exploratory talks.
Eventually, there were five rounds of private negotiations between CPM and Malaysia, with the Thais as mediators. Chin Peng notes that significantly, during the negotiations, CPM's role was recognised in the independence struggle leading to Merdeka.
After the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng says he applied in late 1990 to return to Malaysia, but the application was rejected in December 1991.
Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai has a different version. He recently told The Star that during the resettlement process in the three years after the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng never stated his intention to return to Malaysia.
Yet, the Home Ministry has also accused Chin Peng of failing to attend a resettlement interview that was fixed for 31 Oct 1992.
Chin Peng now says he "suspects", although he does not dare to accuse the Malaysian government outright, of intentionally reneging on the agreement. "I don't dare to assume that it was intentional ... [Whether] it happened in 1992 or much earlier, I can't remember exactly. I think I was being tricked to go for an interview. They asked me to go to this place, and then the government side didn't turn up. Then they asked me to go to another place ... from one place to another. As far as I can remember, I was being played by them," he tells reporters in Haadyai.
At 85 and of poor health, Chin Peng admits to having a patchy memory. He cannot recall dates of the supposed interview with Special Branch. He speaks slowly with long pauses, as if trying to jog his memory.
But he says he kept to the deadline to inform the Malaysian authorities of his intention to return. Under Article 5 of the administrative agreement of the peace accords, CPM members seeking resettlement in Malaysia had one year from the date of the signing of the agreement to notify the Malaysian authorities.
Chin Peng personally wrote to then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 14 June 2004 to state that he had met the notification deadline. "It is a matter of record that in 1990 I applied under the guarantees of the Peace Accords to resettle in Malaysia. I had sought direction from the Haadyai-based Special Branch officer handling resettlement matters, and was specifically advised to wait in Haadyai for a call to be interviewed. This call never materialised. Subsequently, I received a letter stating my application had been rejected on grounds that I had failed to present myself to an interview."
The letter to Abdullah never received a response. It is among the correspondence by Chin Peng, his lawyers and the government tendered in court during the hearing for his 2005 application to be permitted to enter and live in Malaysia.
His memoirsChin Peng was to be stood up a second time. In his memoirs, he tells of an offer by a Special Branch officer in Yala in 1999 to "apply for a sightseeing tour". Chin Peng agreed to the offer and expressed wishes to pay homage at the graves of his grandfather, parents and siblings at a Chinese cemetery located near Sitiawan, where he was born in 1924.
He continues in his book: "For some reason or other, things have not worked out yet. It has been a frustrating wait."
Chin Peng and his lawyers followed up on the offer with a series of letters, even disclosing travel arrangements, in 2003 and 2004. Two letters were by Chin Peng directly to Abdullah in his capacity both as premier and as then home affairs minister. Other letters were by his lawyers to former Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar and then Home Affairs Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who is today the Election Commission chairperson.
On 25 Oct 2004, Abdul Aziz wrote to Chin Peng's lawyers a letter, without explanation, that their client's request to enter Malaysia was rejected. Chin Peng then began turning to the courts. He lost his final bid in the Federal Court on 30 April 2009.
In the light of these letters, the remarks by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop in June 2009 should be evaluated for accuracy. Abu Seman claims that Chin Peng never resubmitted an application after failing to attend the 31 Oct 1992 interview, and thus violated conditions of the peace deal.
The paper trail of letters culminating in the rejection letter of 25 Oct 2004 suggests otherwise.
Another remark that warrants scrutiny is Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad's statement that it was the CPM, and not Chin Peng himself, which had disarmed, according to conditions under the peace accords.
Explaining in Parliament why Chin Peng was still listed as an enemy of the country, Abdul Latiff was quoted by Bernama: "This is because during the signing of the peace accord with the CPM in 1989, he did not sign the agreement to lay down arms. Only the CPM agreed to do so and not Chin Peng."
Considering that Chin Peng's signature and party position as secretary-general are recorded at the end of the peace accords documents, one wonders what Abdul Latiff means.
A copy of the 1989 administrative agreement to end hostilities signed by Chin Peng on behalf of CPM,
together with then Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor's signature
Terrorist to some and freedom fighter to others, Chin Peng seems to care little of how history will remember him. He remains convicted of the CPM's struggle, which, from his perspective, was to free Malaya from colonialists, whether Japanese or British. It wasn't an "emergency", it was a war, he declares in his book. As for the armed struggle after independence in 1957, CPM considered that to be a "false" independence by the British.
"It would be arrogant of me to say how I hope history will judge me. It should be left to the people of Malaysia to decide on what I have done with my life," he tells reporters in Haadyai.
"In politics, we all have our own stand. Those who hate me will certainly not want me to return. But whether they like me or not, I think there is no reason for them to oppose my wanting to pay respects to my ancestors in Sitiawan."
He says he would choose the same path of armed struggles against the colonialists if time were turned back. But he adds: "If we had thought that there would be another way at the time, we would have chosen it."
He remains steadfast in the belief that communist principles can form an egalitarian society with the freedom of self-determination. "I have never wavered in my communist belief. Any movement that can bring change to the world will have to face obstacles. This is nothing strange," Chin Peng tells the press.
Hu Jintao (kremlin.ru; source: Wiki commons) On the visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Malaysia, he says, "It is a good thing for China and Malaysia to establish friendly relations."
Determined to return
Chin Peng says he has no regrets except for one: that he was "fooled" into thinking he could resettle in Malaysia. He returns to the topic of going back to Sitiawan repeatedly throughout the press conference, chuckling resignedly at times and even managing to smile.
"I have reluctantly accepted [that I will not be allowed into Malaysia]. It is my fate. But I will still push the government to accept me. I am getting older and older and I want to set foot on my hometown. And if they want to arrest me, let them arrest me, banish me.
"I will try to go back to the land of my birth. I will try every way. Smuggle in also can. I don't know if I will succeed, but I want to try."
Perhaps, just as strong as Chin Peng's desire to return home, is his desire to know that he has dealt with honest men. Mahathir, under whose administration the peace deal was signed, now sides with the political status quo not to let Chin Peng return. Former IGP Tun Haniff Omar now considers Chin Peng to have no legal standing in his 2005 suit against the government for defamation, citing the CPM's illegal status. Yet, it was Haniff who signed on behalf of Malaysia in the 1989 agreement to end hostilities.In his 14 June 2004 letter to Prime Minister Abdullah, Chin Peng wrote: "I also wish to be reassured, before it is too late, that my signing of the Peace Accords on [2 Dec1989] was not a futile exercise. I still wish to believe that solemn undertakings expressed by Malaysia in international agreements are readily recognised as pledges of honour to be respected and that the injustice done to my 1990 application was a misdeed limited in its culpability."
PENANG, Malaysia, Nov 30 (IPS) - For a long time, activists had believed that rainforests in the vast northwest Borneo state of Sarawak were being logged unsustainably, rapidly making way for tree (acacia) plantations, oil palm plantations, dams and secondary growth. But few listened.
Their position was confirmed when the country’s auditor-general presented to Parliament last month its 2008 annual report criticising forestry management in Malaysia's largest state as "unsatisfactory". Earlier this month Sarawak state authorities denied the auditor-general’s findings.
The report produced a host of findings to back up its conclusion: depleted permanent forest reserves had not been replaced while some proposed forest reserves had not yet been gazetted. There was also no compulsory requirement for all logging license holders to obtain approved environment impact assessment reports before proceeding. Annual cut rates had been exceeded, if all forests were taken into account.
It noted that poor enforcement and monitoring had led to illegal logging and contributed to environmental degradation, especially river pollution, erosion, landslides, mud deposits and floods.
Sarawak's Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hassan (the First Minister is long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud) expressed unhappiness with the report. He said it did not reflect the overall situation as the auditors made random conclusions about the long-term management of the state's forests.
"By taking the feedback of the Sarawak Forestry Department, I believe a more balanced and accurate perspective (on the state's forest management) will be registered," he was reported as saying by national news agency Bernama.
Awang Tengah claimed the auditor-general's department did not have the forestry management expertise, and information by the state forestry department was not taken into account in the audit report. He said the auditor-general had written to him on Oct. 29 and had agreed to take into account feedback from the forestry department.
When contacted, a spokesperson at the auditor-general’s department in Putrajaya said the matter has been "resolved"—the department is accepting a commentary from Sarawak authorities but the auditor-general's report still stands.
Senior officials at the Sarawak Planning and Resource Management Ministry and the forestry department could not be reached over the phone for comment at press time.
Sarawak has 12.4 million hectares of forest within its 124,450 square kilometres of territory, of which 4.6 million ha are permanent reserves, 0.88 million ha are fully protected and 4.30 million are state government forests, with the remainder being used for settlements, towns and agriculture.
Earlier this year, the state government announced a target of six million hectares of permanent forest reserve and one million hectares as totally protected areas for national parks, wild life sanctuaries and natural forest reserves. This was described as "clear testimony of the State commitment at sustainable forest management."
The state also announced the establishment of Transboundary Conservation Areas with Indonesia and Brunei encompassing national parks and a wildlife sanctuary. Sarawak has also endorsed 33 forestry-related international treatises such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the ASEAN Agreement on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
But Raymond Abin, the coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Action Network— a coalition of environmental and indigenous rights groups in Sarawak—is not convinced.
Logging is big business in Sarawak: it is the world’s largest exporter of tropical hardwood. It does not help that timber concessions are granted to well-connected parties. Oil palm is another major source revenue.
"We don’t have to go far if you see what is happening to most of the rivers in Sarawak, they are all muddy. If you fly from one end to the other, you can see many areas where the forests are being logged," said Abin.
For all the Sarawak government’s efforts, the auditor-general’s report noted that 139,680 ha of permanent reserves were lost between 2003 and 2005, with another 18,322 ha depleted during the period 2006-2008. Between 1990 and 2008, close to a million hectares of permanent forest reserve had been lost, with only 4.6 million hectares remaining. The report noted the state government's announcement of its targeted six million ha of permanent reserve, but pointed out there was no indication when this target would become official.
Auditors found that "logging activity near rivers is one of the main factors for deterioration in turbidity, total suspended solids and dissolved oxygen levels" in the main rivers of Sarawak. "This not only pollutes water resources but requires huge costs to restore." Indeed, the Rejang River (Sibu, Sarikei and Kapit regions), Kemena River (Bintulu), Baram River (Miri), Limbang River (Limbang) and Trusan Lawas River (Limbang) have exceeded acceptable water pollution standards.
Abin added that the indigenous groups could see what is happening around. "You don't need to be an expert: the local people who have been living in the forest or depending on the water for their means of survival—their way of life/livelihood is being gradually destroyed by the logging."
Auditors noted large deposits at the mouth of the Seduan River and Igan River in Sibu "as large as a football field," which it said caused frequent floods in the Sibu area during heavy rains. According to flood records, Sibu recorded a flood level of 0.9 metres in 1997 rising to 1.5 m in 2007. In December 2008, Sibu experienced its worst floods since 1963. The Sibu division of Sarawak had lost over 350,000 ha in permanent forest reserves between 1990 and 2008, the auditors recorded.
They also cited press reports earlier this year that logging activities in Bakun exceeding 40,000 ha had led to severe pollution and deposits at the mouth of the Balui River.
The law requires an environmental impact assessment to be prepared for all licenses in logging areas exceeding 500 ha before logging can commence. But in a sample of 30 permits of areas exceeding 500 ha, the auditors were unable to verify that EIA reports had been prepared before work began. Neither could they find any EIA approvals relating to those permits.
Air surveillance revealed that logging in certain areas had been carried out on slopes exceeding the 45-degree slope threshold allowed and close to riverbanks.
The auditors warned that Sarawak’s rich biodiversity would be gradually destroyed as a result of logging activities. It called for full records on flora and fauna species so that restoration work could be properly undertaken for threatened species.
One of the problems is poor enforcement and insufficient forest rangers, which Awang Tengah said was an "old episode" as corrective and improvement action had been taken.
But Abin belied his claim, saying that fear of harassment deters people from lodging complaints. "They cannot deny that there are a lot of illegal logging activities going on. The problem lies with the authorities, the people who have the power, because of their lack of enforcement."