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Monday, December 21, 2009

Iran opposition calls for mourning

Opposition leaders urged supporters to attend Montazeri's funeral in the city of Qom [Reuters]

Iran's opposition leaders have called for a day of mourning following the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a senior cleric who was a fierce critic of the current government.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, two of the defeated candidates in June's disputed presidential poll, urged their supporters to attend the funeral on Monday, according to a statement on Mousavi's Kaleme.org website.

The 87-year-old Montazeri was an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution but fell out with the present leadership.

He lived in the city of Qom, which lies south of Tehran, and was referred to as the spiritual leader of the opposition after the country's recent disputed election.

"Following a call by some grand ayatollahs to mourn the death ... we announce tomorrow, Monday, December 21, a day of public mourning," Mousavi and Karroubi said in a joint statement.

"We invite all saddened religious people mourning the death of this pride of the Shia world to take part in the funeral of this legend of endeavour, jurisprudence and spirituality."

Burial ceremony

Montazeri will be buried in the shrine of Masoumeh, a revered Shia figure, in Qom, his office said.

"He didn't fear expressing his views, critical of the current supreme leader or the policies of the government"

Baqer Moin,
Iranian journalist and author

Foreign media are banned from covering the ceremony.

"Thousands of people from Isfahan, Najafabad, Shiraz and other cities have left for Qom to take part in his funeral," Parlemannews.ir, the website of the parliament's reformist faction, reported.

Videos posted on the internet purported to show hundreds of Montazeri's supporters taking to the streets of Najafabad, his birth town, to mourn his death.

Shops in the town were closed and cloaked in black cloth pinned with pictures of the late cleric.

Baqer Moin, an Iranian journalist and author, told Al Jazeera that Montazeri's absence would be "greatly felt across the country", among people on both sides of the political divide.

"He was the most heavyweight among them [the reformists]. He had great popularity because he was a humble man, he was a simple man ... and above all he was very courageous," Moin said.

"He didn't fear expressing his views, critical of the current supreme leader or the policies of the government."

Clerical critic

In August, Montazeri described the clerical establishment as a "dictatorship", saying that the authorities' handling of street unrest after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "could lead to the fall of the regime".

Montazeri criticised authorities of their handling of the disputed election aftermath

"I hope the responsible authorities give up the deviant path they are pursuing and restore the trampled rights of the people," he wrote.

"I hope authorities ... have the courage to announce that this ruling system is neither a republic nor Islamic and that nobody has the right to express opinion or criticism," he said.

State news agency IRNA called Montazeri the "clerical figure of rioters" in its early reports of his death and dropped his clerical title of Grand Ayatollah.

Ghanbar Naderi, a journalist for the Iran Daily newspaper, told Al Jazeera: "This is huge blow to the reformist camp, because he is unreplaceable and nobody is happy to hear about his sad demise.

"He used to say that religion should be separated from politics, because in this way, we can keep the integrity of religion intact."

But Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera in August that Montazeri said "the same thing for around 25 years".

"After his inner circle was discovered to be linked to Mujahidin terrorists based in Iraq, he was isolated by the reformists," he said.

"He is not a major player and has always been very critical," Marandi said.

'Accomplished theologian'

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, offered condolences to his family, despite Montazeri criticising him and questioning his credentials for being the country's highest religious authority.

"He was an accomplished theologian and a prominent teacher who spent a large part of his life for Imam's [Khomeini's] cause," he said in a statement carried by state television's website.

Montazeri had at one time been expected to succeed Khomeini, but he fell from favour in the 1980s.

The cleric had long been critical of the concentration of power in the hands of the supreme leader and called for changes to the constitution, which he helped draw up after the 1979 Islamic revolution, to limit his authority.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Kedah PAS now uses Hindu Sangam mandores to legitimise demolishment of Hindu cemetery

Media Statement (21/12/2009)

Kedah PAS now uses Hindu Sangam mandores to legitimise demolishment of Hindu cemetery

This morning 21/12/2009 Mr. Manigan Varathan (Raj) informed us that yesterday 70 remaining hindus have refused to relocate their ancestors remains from the Ladang Pekaka, Kuala Ketil cemetary to another graveyard.

The PAS “for all muslims” only managed to take advantage and “bribe” 15 hidus last weekend through their PKR Indian Exco Mandore who took away the remains of their ancestors @ RM 3, 000.00 per poor and working class Indian who were allured into the same.

Instead this PAS Menteri Besar is to meet the Hindu Sangam mandores called Mogan Shanmugam and others at 2.00 p.m today (21/12/2009) who without consent of all the affected parties is expected to perform some prayers before PASs’ final onslaught in demolishing this hindu cemetery. For this mandor’s “good” job, PAS Kedah is expected to reward this Hindu Sangam with some peanuts and chicken feet “funds”.

This is exactly the same game the UMNO regime has been playing for the past 52 years in oppressing and marginalising the Indians and now ably continued by PAS “for all muslims” and their allies PKR and DAP. How than are they any different from the 52 year old UMNO regime?

Our legal position is that even if one person refuse to relocate his grave (Raj) then a criminal offence is and will be committed under especially Section 297 of the Penal Code if this cemetary is demolished for any reason.

Your faithfully,

_______________________

P.Uthayakumar

Secretary General (pro-tem).

c.c:

YAB Dato Seri Haji Azizan

Bin Abdul Razak

Menteri Besar Kedah

Aras 3, Wisma Darul Aman,

05503 Alor Setar, Fax No: 04 - 7336192

Kedah Darul Aman Email: ustazizan@kedah.gov.my

Make all law breakers accountable

An employee checks US dollar bills inside a money changer in Manila, the Philippines. Money changers in Malaysia are not allowed to remit funds abroad. — Reuters pic

By S. Jayasankaran - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — It takes two to tango.

Over the month, it has emerged that Bank Negara Malaysia has come down on the country's ubiquitous money changers in a sweeping probe that has resulted in 41 of them losing their licences.

What was their wrongdoing? Apparently, they'd been sending money overseas on behalf of wealthy Malaysians who did not want the authorities to know that they were in the practice of doing so.

Most Malaysians know that money changers can remit funds — because of their overseas networks and the fact that they are discreet and trustworthy. Some of them are also serious players. It came to light recently that one of the largest players in the business has an annual turnover that exceeded RM3 billion.

Unfortunately for some of them, money changers are not allowed to remit funds abroad. That is the law, pure and simple. Transferring funds abroad can only be done through the proper channels, which means the conventional banking system — with all the requisite paperwork, which means, plainly, no anonymity.

And there are no restrictions on the amount remitted because capital controls were lifted almost five years ago.

What is required is compliance with the regulations, and some paperwork, as the central bank likes to know how much money leaves Malaysia shores. Indeed, Bank Negara has further liberalised Malaysia's exchange control regulations by, among other things, increasing the number of licensed remittance agents in the country.

Last week, opposition lawmaker Tian Chua revealed in Parliament that a mentri besar and two big businessmen had allegedly remitted millions abroad. Meanwhile, the wife of a senior minister allegedly received RM200,000 from a businessman through a money changer while she was on a trip to Dubai.

Chua revealed all their names, much to Parliament's consternation. The result was a deafening silence. Nobody has said anything on the matter. Neither has Bank Negara.

Many years ago, the then Inspector-General of Police attempted to defend the name of his force by asking why the public scrutinised only the police and not the ordinary man on the street who offered money to get off a transgression.

“Everyone looks at us,” he lamented. “Why not look at the giver in the same light?”

From that perspective, it is difficult to fathom the central bank's rationale in not cracking down on those who used the money changers to remit money abroad. What's sauce for the goose must surely be sauce for the gander.

It could be that they did not know that money changers cannot remit monies abroad. But, once again, the law is quite clear.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's promise of a more transparent, accountable government will come to naught if the public perceives that there are two sets of laws in Malaysia — one for ordinary folks and another for the rich and powerful.

And that would be a tragedy for an administration that appears to be doing all the right things. — Business Times Singapore

Cops will extradite RPK if he is in London

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani- The Malaysian Insider KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan says the government will seek an extradition order for Raja Petra Kamarudin if the fugitive blogger is found to be living in London.

Utusan Malaysia reported the IGP as saying that the police would seek more information from their British counterparts on the matter.

The daily had reported that Raja Petra (picture) is currently taking refuge at Trinity Court apartment in Gloucester, Bayswater in London but did reveal how it got the information.

''We are going to investigate the reports by Mingguan Malaysia and ask for help from Interpol and the British government.

''If he (Raja Petra) is there, we will ask the help of the British government to get an extradition order because he must attend his court hearing,'' Musa told Utusan.

The controversial blogger disappeared when he failed to turn up in court for his sedition trial on April 23 because of what he says on his blog was his "self-imposed exile" from Selangor.

However, the police have not been able to track Raja Petra since and the blogger has been said to be in neighbouring countries including Melbourne, Australia.

Raja Petra has been a thorn in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration, especially after the recent allegations made by P. Balasubramaniam.

In an interview on his Malaysia-Today.net news portal, the missing private investigator claimed that Najib’s architect brother was allegedly involved in the private investigator’s disappearance and a claimed payoff for his silence in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.

Raja Petra has used his blog to make unrelenting attacks against Najib and his wife, accusing them of involvement in the murder of Altantuya, the Mongolian lover of the PM’s associate Abdul Razak Baginda.

He is accused of publishing the article “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell” on his website.

Raja Petra was detained under the Internal Security Act last year but a court subsequently freed him.

The influential blogger also claimed he would not get a fair trial.

Decision on SIS book ban on Jan 25

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 — The High Court will decide on Jan 25 the status of the banned book “Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism” published by Sisters in Islam (SIS).

The book was banned on Nov 5 last year on the grounds that it was prejudicial to public order.

However, SIS claimed the ban on the book was outside the ambit of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and contravened several articles in the Federal Constitution.

Judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof heard final submissions this morning. He will deliver his decision on Jan 25.

The book is a collection of essays by activists and international intellectuals. It was edited by sociologist Prof Norani Othman of the Malaysian and International Studies Institute, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Taking a stand — P. Ramakrishnan

Two years ago, I remember telling the folks who turned up at our Aliran celebratory dinner that we should deny the Barisan Nasional its customary two-thirds’ majority in Parliament. That majority was denied them in the last election. If only I had known that they would take my suggestion so seriously, I would have said, “Change the government”. We would have put a stop to the rot.

By P. Ramakrishnan (President, Aliran)

Our theme this year is “The struggle must continue — change will come”. Indeed the struggle must continue. There should be no let up. Struggle we must — if we want change. There is no option if we desire change.

But there are people who want change without the struggle. They fear that there may be upheavals when we fight for change. They want the good things to happen without stirring up the pond. “Don’t muddy the waters, don’t ruffle the feathers. Let things be as they are. Change will come”. That’s what they say.

But we cannot take any more chances. We cannot tolerate another 50 years of this rotten deal that we have been subjected to. During the last 30 years, the nation was almost bankrupted by reckless extravagance; the squandering of our wealth has continued unabated in spite of the Auditor-General’s report exposing unbelievable corruption and abuse of public money year in and year out; our fundamental rights are in danger of being whittled away very soon. Justice is no longer the last bastion for a remedy.

That’s why, the struggle must continue — change will come. But change will never come without a struggle. Let’s remember that.

Frederick Douglas, one of the greatest black activists of the 19th century who presented a strong case for constant agitation against all forms of oppression, said it simply and logically: “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

It is a fact that the whole history in the progress of human liberty shows that whatever has been achieved is the result of struggle. Nothing comes free. It is as simple as that! And there are many issues that demand that the struggle must continue. Only then will change come.

There are too many restrictions that are unfair; there are many selective prosecutions that are blatant; there are many actions against dissidents that defy the rule of law. This is why the struggle must continue. Change will come.

If you cannot march for freedom, if you can’t light a candle for justice, if you can’t wear black attire to protest the death of democracy, if you can’t fast for a cause, if you can’t do yoga for your well-being, then the struggle must continue — change will come.

As long as our courts don’t deliver justice based on the merits of the case but continue to make a mockery of the judicial system as had happened in numerous cases, the struggle must continue. Change will come.

We wonder how the Court of Appeal could deny a person the counsel of his choice as had happened to Sivakumar, the Speaker of the Perak State Assembly. It is such an elementary thing; it is a simple question of natural justice. How could the learned judge ignore this simple principle?

How could the Federal Court dismiss the appeal of the residents of Kampung Buah Pala on technical grounds when there are substantive triable issues that should have been addressed and determined?

How could the Federal Court ignore the constitutional provision regarding the separation of powers guaranteed in the Federal Constitution in the Perak crisis? And yet the High Court upholds this provision as a matter of fundamental principle in Gobind Singh’s case!

Two contradictory judgments by learned judges that defy logic and bewilder simple folks like us! There have been occasions — and they still exist — when you can predict the judgments when the panel of judges is announced!

Likewise, when the royal commission that was set up to investigate the judge-fixing scandal involving V.K. Lingam found indisputable evidence against Lingam and recommended that action be taken against him and others implicated in this sordid affair, the police and the Attorney-General surprisingly found no evidence to prosecute them! Those shockingly implicated were top people in the judicial hierarchy. All these tainted characters were cleared in spite of what the commission had established after a thorough investigation.

This is why the struggle for truth and justice must continue if we want change to come. As long as information is denied and surreptitiously hidden from the public domain so that corrupt practices will never be known or exposed, the struggle must continue.

As long as the ISA is used and abused and Malaysians are locked away without being charged in a court of law, denying them the opportunity to defend themselves, the struggle must continue.

As long as foul means are resorted to in toppling a legally elected government as had happened in Perak, thus undermining the rule of law, frustrating the will of the people, demeaning democracy and ignoring the fourth principle of the Rukunegara which upholds “good behaviour and morality”, the struggle must continue.

As long as unscrupulous politicians exploit race and religion to agitate and inflame passions and emotions for their private gain and keep us divided as a people and as a nation through various discriminatory practices, the struggle must continue.

As long as the Election Commission does not conduct free and fair elections, providing equal opportunity in radio and TV time and insisting that news coverage should be without bias, the struggle must continue.

As long as selective prosecution takes place, putting the opposition at grave risk and danger as is the case on numerous occasions involving BN opponents, the struggle must continue.

As long as those elected by the people — be they BN or Pakatan representatives — as long as they do not live up to their public pledges and betray the trust of the people and do not pay homage to truth and justice, the struggle must continue.

The struggle must continue for change to come — and it will — but only if we persist.

For that change to take place successfully, it would take all of us and the rest of those who are the silent majority to make a stand. All those well-meaning Malaysians from the whole spectrum of society must decide that they can and will change the course of our history and determine the future of this country, where all of us can live in peace and harmony — before the articulate and aggressive minority make a mess of this country for all of us.

It is time we realised that there are those who lost their freedom, there are those who gave their lives so that we can be where we are today because of their sacrifices.

In a situation as we are in now, there is no room for neutrality. In matters of right and wrong, you cannot choose to be neutral. We must take a stand. We must be on the side of truth and justice at all times so that we can have the future we want. We must stand up and speak up.

The struggle must continue. Change will come.

This is a slightly abridged version of a speech made by Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan during an Aliran celebratory dinner on Oct 24 2009 at the Moral Uplifting Hall in Penang.

RPK Speaks His Mind - My Wish for Malaysians

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Anwar Ibrahim, Jewish agent?

By Shanon Shah
thenutgraph.com


Illustration by Loh done during his BTN
course (pic courtesy of Loh Jia Liang)

LOH Jia Liang, 23, attended his Biro Tata Negara (BTN) course in April 2008. It was during the end of his second year at a Malaysian public university and after the historic March 2008 general election which reduced the Barisan Nasional's power.


Now in his fourth year, Loh is an avid graphic novel fan. After reading Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical series on growing up during the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Loh says he thought, "This feels like Malaysia!"

The Nut Graph sat down with Loh in Kuala Lumpur on 15 Dec 2009 to ask him what his BTN experience was like. Here is Part Two of our series on the BTN blues.

TNG: Where did you attend your BTN programme?

Loh Jia Liang: Pasir Mas, Kelantan. We were shuttled to the camp by our university's bus.

How long did the programme last?

Four days and three nights.

How many participants were there, in your estimate?

I think there were more than 100 participants. It was a bit strange. Usually in my campus, the first years have to go. But during my batch, only the Malay [Malaysian] first years went. The non-Malay [Malaysians] who went were from second year.

And it's also strange because with the Malay [Malaysians], there were both boys and girls in my programme. But there were only non-Malay [Malaysian] boys in my camp. The [non-Malay Malaysian] girls had to attend a separate camp, where there were also both male and female Malay [Malaysians].


Is BTN compulsory for graduation?
That really is strange. What would you estimate the racial composition at your particular camp to be?

I suppose it was around 80% Malay [Malaysian] and 20% non-Malay [Malaysian], which was mostly Chinese. We all believed we had to go otherwise we wouldn't be able to graduate.

Was this an official directive from your university authorities or from BTN?

No, it was just word of mouth, but word of mouth can be very powerful.

What about the BTN trainers, what was their racial composition?

There were 10 of them, and they were all Malay [Malaysian] men.

Did you know their background or qualifications?

Two of them were 30-something, and I think one of the two was a BTN staff. The rest were retired army personnel, I think.

What was a typical day like during the camp?

The non-Muslims would wake up at around 6.30am. The Muslims had to wake up earlier to go and pray. But we all assembled by 7am, like in a school assembly, to kawat kaki and sing the national anthem. After that, we all went for breakfast, and then we had to go for lectures and activities. The activities were mentally challenging, cooperative games.

Most of us were there against our will, so we decided to make the best of it. On the last day, we went trekking, and we went through a rubber estate and swamps. It was quite fun.

The lectures were boring. They were on topics such as the Rukunegara, ketuanan Melayu, and they brought in some external speakers for these lectures.

Did the lectures have any racist content?

During one of the night lectures, a lecturer showed a video which he said was floating on the internet. It showed a Muslim girl in a tudung hugging a dog. Of course, the Malay [Malaysian] girls among us gasped.


Anwar, agent of the Jews?
The video also went on about how (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim was an agent of the Jews. The lecturer said the purpose of the video was to show how Islam was being eroded.

How did you feel watching this video?

I was like, "Okay." But then it went on and I was just watching in disbelief. (Laughs.) The Chinese [Malaysians] just kept quiet but after the video was over we huddled and said, "What is all this!" (Laughs.)

What about the Malay Malaysian students?

They were all just watching. The atmosphere was such that it was difficult for them to show if they were disgusted anyway.

But there was nothing overtly racist against non-Malay Malaysians?

There was nothing that really criticised non-Malay Malaysians. The trainers did say that Chinese and Indian Malaysians should be grateful for sharing this land. They said we had to be thankful to the Barisan Nasional. I suppose they couldn't go overboard because there were a few non-Malay [Malaysians] there.


Trainers in BTN encourage gratitude
towards BN (pic of Penan man courtesy
of Sofiyah Israa / Flickr)
Did the programme change you? How do you feel now?

I was indifferent after the camp. It felt like a waste of time. They should have done something inclusive, like trying to get first and second years to mix better. Our gap was not just racial — there was a gap between first years and second years, too. Almost all my friends felt the same way.

Was there inter-year or inter-racial mixing at all during the programme?

During meal times, we did talk, but only within our own groups. Not many people mixed outside their own groups. After all, there were already 10 people per group. But then after every azan, the Malay [Malaysians] would go and pray, and the non-Malay [Malaysians] were just left to do whatever [we wanted].

After this camp, at least now I smile at my juniors on campus. But beyond that, we don't talk much, because we are in different years, doing different courses.

Was there anything good about it?

I thought the activities were interesting and engaging. They weren't racist. The lectures were boring — I doodled and drew most of the time. I mean, if I listened then I would only be bored and irritated so it was better to just let my mind wander.


"It's like history all over again," says the boy illustrated by Loh in his BTN notebook (pic courtesy of Loh Jia Liang)

Did you need to do anything by the end of the programme, such as a test or a pledge?

No, but we were given a certificate at the end of the camp. This certificate was very important, because if we didn't get it or lost it then we might have to attend the programme again. Then how?

Najib should set up Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether Mahathir had “wasted or burned up” RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corr

By Lim Kit Siang

Why is the government of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, holding up for more than three weeks the release of 800 copies of a new biography of former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by former Asian Wall Street Journal managing editor Barry Wain?

There can be no doubt that Mahathir and Najib would have already read the biography, “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times”.

Is either of them objecting to the release of Wain’s biography of Mahathir and want it banned like Mahathir’s “Malay Dilemma” when it was first published in 1970? This will be the irony of ironies.

Both should know that the year 2009, very soon to become 2010, in this Internet era and age of information and communications technology is very different from four decades ago in 1970 and any ban or censorship of Wain’s new biography will make it even more popular among Malaysians.

What is Mahathir’s stand on whether Wain’s new biography on him should be released to the Malaysian public without any more obstacles from the authorities in Malaysia?

If Mahathir thinks that he has been defamed or maligned by Wain in the new biography, he should avail himself of the legal process to clear his name and reputation and not to support any ban or censorship of the book.

What is of more pressing national interests and importance is the serious allegation by Wain that Mahathir had wasted or burned up as much as RM100 billion in his 22 years as Prime Minister on grandiose projects and corruption – working out to an average of some RM5 billion a year during the Mahathir premiership.

What Najib should do is to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether Mahathir had “wasted or burned up” RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corruption in his 22 years as Prime Minister, as this will also reflect on Najib’s commitment to frontline “combating corruption” as one of the seven agenda-setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and National Key Results Area (NKRA) in his Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

Will there be any Cabinet Minister who dare to step forward to support such a Royal Commission of Inquiry?

Mahathir should declare whether he would co-operate with such a Royal Commission of Inquiry to prove that Wain is wrong in blaming him for the legacy of “wasting or burning up” RM100 billion in his long tenure as the fourth Malaysian Prime Minister.

Missing Aircraft Engine, No Cover Up, Says Najib

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 21 (Bernama) -- The government has no intention to cover up the case of the missing aircraft engine belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said on Monday.

The prime minister said that a police report was lodged when the Defence Ministry realised the incident which happened during his time as minister in charge.

"In fact we went forward to the police. At that time I was the minister in charge. I decided we should report it to the police," he told reporters after chairing the Malaysian Aerospace Council meeting here.

Najib was commenting on the case of the missing RMAF F-5E fighter jet engine in 2007, which was sold to an international company based in South Africa.

On the brigadier-general who was sacked but who retained his pension, Najib said it depended on what he had done wrong and it was up to the Air Force and the Armed Forces to decide on that.

"We wait until the full report comes out because we have cooperated with the police," he said.

Knowing the nation’s charter

The Star
By PRIYA KULASAGARAN

ImageDue to its complexities, the Federal Constitution has not been of concern to most people. However, an ongoing campaign to detail its contents in simple language may spark an interest in the document.

WHILE it is said to represent the will of the people, discourse on the Federal Constitution tends to be limited to lawyers and academics. The most important legal document in the country has been amended over 600 times, yet many citizens lack even a basic understanding of its contents.

With this in mind, the Bar Council has embarked on its MyConstitution campaign, a two-year programme which aims to dissemate information about the workings of the law and rights to the general public.

“The idea is to empower people with knowledge of how their country is governed,” explains Bar Council committee member Edmund Bon Tai Soon.

“The campaign will unfold in nine phases, with each phase reaching the public through informational pamphlets.”

Called the Rakyat Guides, the first in this series of pamphlets deals with the Federal Constitution, drumming home the message that it is the supreme law of the land.

Colourful and handy enough to fit in one’s back pocket, the guide details the mother of all laws in simple and plain language.

“The Constitution is a thick and legalistic document that even lawyers are afraid of,” says Bon.

“So we distilled it right down to the basic facts, which are much easier for the average person to digest.”

Those who are averse to reading may benefit from the campaign’s “Rakyat Service Announcements”, which are one-minute advertisements on the Constitution.

“We also have a team promoting the campaign on the Internet, through channels such as YouTube and Twitter.

“Anything that can help us keep the momentum up for two years, we’ll be on it,” says Bon, proudly adding that the MyConstitution Facebook page has garnered over 3,000 friends thus far.

Timing

Bon jokes that he never expected such overwhelming response, as the Bar Council’s previous efforts have bordered on the controversial.

“Despite that baggage, we’ve had a lot of demand for workshops and interest in general has been high.

“I have yet to hear a word against this campaign, which is quite rare for our events!”

Even so, with the country still dealing with the aftershocks of last year’s general election results, this crash course on our legal framework seems all too timely.

“We don’t deny that the election played a role in the launch of MyConstitution,” says Bon.

“Issues that have previously been on the backburner, such as democracy, language, special privileges, race and religion, are now very much in the forefront.

“Also, with the current political landscape and the strained relationship between the federal and state governments, people want to understand where the demarcation of power lies.”

He is quick to point out that the campaign is non-partisan, and aims to work with relevant ministries, non-governmental bodies and even corporate companies.

“Basically, we want to work with all sectors of society.

“Before we ran the programme, we had series of public consultations where people could just walk in to take part in discussions.

“At the minimum level, every person said that they wanted to learn about the constitution.”

The old cliche goes that one learns best by doing.

To that effect, Bon has created two interactive workshop modules to be taken into universities and colleges.

“It may not work if students are simply told to read the guides,” he says.

“That is almost like giving them additional homework as it could be difficult to absorb the information without any sort of context.”

Called “Reconstituting Earth Version 2.0”, the workshops work to dispel any notion of boredom by getting participants to create their own society — a concept not that different from many life-simulation games on the market.

Students will then have to identify the elements necessary for this new society to work well, such as justice, fairness and human rights.

“These concepts will help them draft their own constitutions to govern their new world,” says Bon.

“These alternate constitutions will tend to be similar to our own; the participants will see that link themselves and be more prepared to claim ownership of the Malaysian constitution.”

As the campaign targets those aged between 15 and 35, there are plans to take the workshops to schools as well.

“We plan to work with the Education Ministry on this, but we don’t want to force anyone,” says Bon.

“If schools or Parent-Teacher Associations want us to run classes for them, we would be more than willing to oblige.”

While Malaysians are ever-ready to point out flaws in the way the country is run, a more productive effort may be to analyse why these problems exist in the first place.

“By comprehending the framework on which our nation was built on, people will understand the fabric of society and how we’re supposed to live together,” says Bon.

“It is not enough to demand for your rights, because you also need to know about your duties to society.”

He concedes that all nations have violated their constitutions at one point or another.

“The real question is whether there are independent courts to adjudicate such matters fairly, and if they can give effective redress.

“In Malaysia, one of the most crucial ammendments to the constitution was made in 1988, which basically made the courts subservient to the Parliament.

“In my opinion, this limited power of the courts not only affects public perception of the judiciary, but also destroys the spirit of the constitution.”

At this juncture, Bon pauses his passionate rant to say; “Of course, what I’m talking about may be complete nonsense.”

Elaborating that the constitution is open to various interpretations, he stresses the need for people to formulate their own opinions based on concrete facts.

“This is why we made sure that the Rakyat Guides are presented in a clear-cut manner, so that people can read the law to figure out issues and problems for themselves.

“If more Malaysians understand the basics, we can improve the governance of the country, because then those in power will know that they can’t mess around with the people.”

> To download copies of the Rakyat Guides and for information about the My Constitution campaign, please visit:

www.perlembagaanku.com.

Arrest of 2 distributing flyers on Anwar’s case displays severe insecurity

by Nathaniel Tan

I always get so incredibly irritated when cops arrest people for stupid reasons.

The two PKR Youth leaders detained by police here yesterday for circulating leaflets alleged to be seditious have been placed on remand for three days beginning today.

They were arrested after Friday prayers at a mosque here while circulating leaflets calling on the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court to expedite hearing of the sodomy case involving PKR advisor Anwar Ibrahim.

I mean, what for goodness sake is seditious about flyers asking for a trial to be expedited?? What exactly is the need to hold them for 3 days again??

Such trigger happy tendencies display an over-sensitivity that I can only attribute to ridiculous levels of government insecurity over the way it is running the country, and levelling unbelievable criminal charges against political opponents.

Next thing I know, I’ll be hauled up because my book has a picture of Altantuya on it :P

"Kami mahu pulang..." - Malaysiakini

Indonesian for 'we want to go home', these are the words which visitors would often hear from residents of the Indonesian Embassy's shelter for migrant workers awaiting deportation.

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 teguh hendro cahyonoAs the embassy's labour attache Teguh Hendro Cahyono pointed out, "They have been abused, physically and mentally, put to the grind like slaves, denied their rightful pay and some were raped."

But for the 100 or so Indonesian migrants sheltering at the embassy grounds in Kuala Lumpur, their real ordeal may have just begun.

For many, all they can look forward to are months of being cooped up in the crowded shelter, as Teguh explained, "We have to keep them inside the shelter, or else they will be arrested by Rela because many have no documentation."

This is while they wait for their cases to be processed and heard by the severely overloaded Malaysian judicial system.

Teguh added, "For the minor cases like those being overworked or not paid their salary, it can take several months, but the more serious cases of abuse may go on for years. The longest so far has been two years."

Homesick and without means of employment, the residents will have to suffer for months and depend upon the embassy for sustenance.

"We spend about RM5 a day on food alone. With 100 residents in the shelter on average, it amounts up to RM500 a day, RM15,000 a month and RM180,000 a year. But there are other expenses incurred as well," added the labour attache.

Lives put on hold

According to him, the embassy is currently funding the shelter and others like it, which is stretching their budget thin.

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 09But more than the embassy's coffers, Teguh is worried that the long wait is causing untold opportunity costs to residents whose life will have to be put on hold.

"In the months and years that they have to wait here, their lives are on hold. Outside, they would be working to earn money and even getting married," he added.

Rumilawati, 22 arrived in Malaysia from Medan in February 2008, after being promised a job as a store assistant.

However, she told Malaysiakini that she was fraudulently brought into Malaysia with a domestic helper's permit. Worse still she never even set foot in her employer's shop.

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 rumilawatiInstead she was forced to handle the dual job of domestic maid and assistant mechanic at her employer's workshop.

"In the morning I would do household chores. Later in the afternoon I have to work in my employer's workshop, repairing motorcycles and cars. I was never paid salary, not even one cent."

Rumilawati (left) escaped from her employer's clutches in September last year after eight months of torture.

Explaining her escape, she said: "I couldn't take it anymore, my employer beat me until my head was bleeding. So, I ran to the police station."

"My employer often hit me with metal tools. I was beaten every time I made a mistake or didn't know how to do something in the workshop.

"I would be beaten until my body is black and blue. My employer never once allowed me any medical attention," she added.

Homesick, Rumilawati expressed her wish to return home but the gutsy maid remains resolute to fight for her denied rights.

"I want to go home. But I must stay until my cases are tried. I must stay to fight for my rights, for my pay and compensation."

'They poured Clorox on me'

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 silustari injuryMeanwhile, for 19-year-old Silustari, the coming new year will mark her fourth year in the country, having entered Malaysia from Jawa Timur when she was just 16 as a domestic helper.

"I arrived just over three years ago, I worked as a maid ever since. My employer never paid my salary.

"My body was also burned by my employer. They even poured Clorox on me," she said displaying the injuries still painfully visible on her hands and body.

Her waking nightmare finally ended when a concerned neighbour tipped off the police, after a particularly savage episode which saw her knocked out cold.

After which, the police delivered her to the care of the Indonesian Embassy where she remains to this day, while awaiting the resolution of her case.

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 silustari hands"I hope that Malaysia can help us with our cases, so that we can go home sooner. It has been a long while. I miss my family."

Malaysiakini was invited to accompany a delegation from the Bar Council last Thursday, during a visit to the shelter in conjunction with International Migrants Day.

Led by the Bar Council human rights committee chairperson Andrew Khoo, the delegation spent some time with the residents of the shelter interacting with them and distributing goodies contributed by corporate sponsors.

During the visit, the Bar Council promised to make available the services of its legal aide bureau to those embroiled in legal proceedings as well as expressed its wishes to become an official observer in the joint committee on migrant affairs.

indon embassy shelter bar council visit 171209 07The joint committee is a cooperative effort by Indonesian Embassy officials and representatives from the Malaysian police, immigration, AG's chambers, Home Ministry and the Ministry of Human Resources to solve the issue of backlogged cases facing those awaiting deportation.

Originally designed for 70, the shelter typically holds 100 or more residents at a time. According to Indonesia's Minister Counselor for Information, Social and Cultural Affairs Widyarka Rynanta, more than 1,000 individuals are admitted and processed through the shelters annually.

And this is just in Kuala Lumpur alone, he said, adding that there are also similar shelters set up in Indonesian consulates in Johor, Penang and elsewhere.

Anwar: Pakatan not against local council polls

Zaid: The era of Pakatan Rakyat

PRM to cooperate with HRP

logo hrp

PRM to cooperate with HRP. This is further to the tele conversation between our P.Uthayakumar and SK Song of PRM recently. We similarly hope to forge closer cooperation between Parti Rakyat Malaysia and the Human Rights Party (refer Sunday Star 20/12/09 at page N5)

S.JAYATHAS

HRP Information Chief

gudda27

gudda-21

Merry Christmas from all of us from HRP & HINDRAF

eeeeeee3

Yes to Malay Villagers. No to Indian villages

Yes to Malay Villagers. No to Indian villages (refer The Star 20/12/09 at page N17). Every day especially in the Tamil dailies a hindu cemetery, temple, tamil school or Indian settlement is demolished, to be demolished relocated or to be relocated. And this only happens to Indian hindu structures and only in 1 Malay-sia. In the Pakatan Rakyat states of PKR, DAP and PAS is the same as the UMNO ruled states. The latest being the demolishment of the Ladang Pekaka, Kuala Ketil hindu cemetery by PAS, the destruction of Kg Buah Pala by the DAP government of Penang, and the Ampang hindu temple by the PKR government of Selangor.

Even in our posting yesterday the last Railway Indian village in Sentul was destroyed by UMNO.

This is happening because both UMNO and also PKR, DAP and PAS are not granting land to all these hindu cemeteries, hindu temples, Tamil schools and Indian settlements and gazetting the same accordingly as has been granted to all masjids and suraus since 1957.

Both UMNO and PKR, DAP and PAS state governments are not interested in a permanent solution to these long outstanding problems. Both UMNO and PKR, DAP and PAS are only interested in piece meals wayang kulit solution through their Indian Exco and other mandores based on the original UMNOs’ mandorism theory.

P.Uthayakumar

gudda25

Indians excluded : 120 SPM top scorers sent to University Teiko Japan by Uniten.

Indians excluded : 120 SPM top scorers sent to University Teiko Japan by Uniten.

This programme is sponsored the University Tenaga Nasional (Uniten) by Sime Darby , Felda and Bank Negara. Why exclude the poor and working class Indians especially the rubber tappers children from this programme.

But again this is the cruel racist , religious extremist and supremacist UMNO regime but which cheats the Indians with it’s 1 Malay-sia “wayang kulit”

P. Uthayakumar

pv_mj7

No-confidence vote against Thanenthiran

SHAH ALAM: Barely two months after its grand launch, the Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party appears to be heading towards its first major crisis.

Its central committee yesterday passed a motion of no confidence against party president R.S. Thanenthiran yesterday.

 makkal sakti
makkal osai


Fifteen of the 27 central committee members were present at the meeting, which took place under a canopy in the car park in front of opposite the party headquarters in Worldwide Business Centre here yesterday morning.

Party secretary-general R. Kannan said the office locks had been changed and they could not enter the premises.

Three motions were tabled, debated and passed in the meeting chaired by deputy president A. Vathemoorthy, which lasted just over an hour.

The first was a no-confidence vote against party president R.S. Thanenthiran. It was passed after 14 members supported it. Only one voted against it.
Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party central committee members, on finding the office locks changed (top), hold their meeting under a canopy in front of the party headquarters in Shah Alam yesterday.
Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party central committee members, on finding the office locks changed (top), hold their meeting under a canopy in front of the party headquarters in Shah Alam yesterday.

The second motion called on Thanenthiran to resign immediately as president and a new person, other than Vathemoorthy, be elected president.

If Thanenthiran fails to resign, do so, it called for an extraordinary general meeting of party members where a motion would be tabled for a vote will be out to remove the president and elect a new one.

The third motion was is to appoint Thanenthiran as party adviser in its think-tank as he had worked hard to form the party.

Vathemoorthy said he expected Thanenthiran to challenge the legality of today’s yesterday’s meeting but remained firm that they had it followed the party’s constitution.

Despite the current issues, he said the party was sympathetic to Barisan Nasional.

Kannan said the party, which had about 11,000 members, now, had been in talks with many people, including Hindraf leaders, in its search for a new leader.

“We have spoken to Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy, K. Vasantha Kumar and also V. Ganabatirau. But they have decided to adopted a wait-and-see approach.”

He said businessmen O.M.S. Thiagarajan and Datuk Kenneth Eswaran were also possible candidates.

Among the allegations levelled against Thanenthiran is that he had caused the party to split into two factions, and that he had not been transparent and accountable in his financial dealings.


Other allegations are that he had engaged in cronyism and nepotism, and was inefficient and directionless in the management of the party.

Vathemoorthy said he was also seeking an appointment with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to brief him on the latest developments. in the party.

Thanenthiran, who could not be contacted and did not reply to messages, had previously said he was calling off the meeting and that the office building would be locked.

He had said that the last meeting was held on Nov 1 and there was no urgency in having another meeting.

Thanenthiran reiterated that there was a conspiracy to topple him but declined to name the instigator.

Vathemoorthy said: “There are no hidden hands here. We just want to move ahead here and work for the community.”

*********

Despite locked doors, ultimatum issued for Makkal Sakti chief to quit

No entry... Secretary-general Kannan Ramasamy and CC member lawyer Takurdas Naraindas with deputy president A Vathemurthy (in the background) of Makkal Sakti, in a fix as they found out today their keys don't open the front door of the party's office in Shah Alam - Picture by Baradan Kuppusamy

By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — The central committee of the three-month-old Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party today gave notice to its president R.S. Thanenthiran to resign gracefully or face expulsion.

Fifteen of the 27-members of the committee were locked out of the party’s head office in Shah Alam but met under a makeshift tent outside and resolved to remove Thanenthiran because of his incompetence and failure to provide leadership, among other reasons.

Led by deputy president A Vathemurthy they also passed a vote of no confidence against the president.

The meeting also proved that the majority of CC members i.e. 56 per cent were behind Vathemurthy although Thanenthiran had claimed he had a majority.

If Thanenthiran refuses to resign in good time, the committee resolved, to convene an EGM within 90 days to remove Thanenthiran and install another person as president.

Vathemurthy also announced that he was not keen to be president but will support any other person other than Thanenthiran as president.

“The party needs to move ahead and take the next major step forward…I am not the man to lead the party to the next level,” he told the CC members.

The meeting was conducted in an orderly and democratic manner by CC lawyer Thakurdas Naraindas, who is also a CC member. Reporters and other observers were allowed to observe the meeting.

“We have nothing to hide,” said secretary general Kannan Ramasamy.

Earlier he and other leaders tried to enter the office but failed.

“They have changed the lock,” Kannan said.

“We will not break into our own office,” he said.

Thanenthiran could not be contacted but a CC member supporting him said their side will not accept the meeting today as valid.

“We reject their meeting and the decisions they made,” the supporter said. “We will carry on as usual without them. We might even expel all of them for tarnishing the party’s image.”

With Thanenthiran unwilling to comply, it appears the party is headed for a long drawn court battle defeating the purpose for which it was set up in the first place.

Police watched the proceedings from a distance and none of Thanenthiran’s supporters appeared to stop the meeting from proceeding.

The party was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Oct 10 in the hope that it could win over working class Tamils who had voted for the Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general election.

Kannan, as secretary general, had already “taken possession” of the party’s files, membership application forms and keys to the office but sometime late last night someone had changed the locks preventing them from entering the office.

The upcoming battle between the two factions is for the right to use the phrase Makkal Sakthi which was PR’s rallying cry in 2008.

The breakup of the party is a major embarrassment for Najib.

The MIC, which was worried a major contender had arrived for Tamil working class support, is delighted with the imminent break-up.

The CC meeting today was called by Kannan over the objections of Thanenthiran who had ordered Kannan to “postponement” it to January.
********

Leadership dispute in Makkal Sakti

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — The new Indian-based Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party was meant to be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s answer to MIC, whose unpopular chief Datuk Seri Samy Vellu is staying put.

But the splinter group which arose from the banned Indian rights movement Hindraf is now in trouble itself.

A rival faction is keen to oust Makkal Sakti chief R.S. Thanenthiran just two months after it was launched.

A central committee meeting is being planned today to move a motion of no confidence against him.

His critics say he rules with an iron fist and likened him to Samy Vellu, who is seen as a liability to the MIC after he lost his long-held seat in last year’s general election.

Among the complaints levelled against Thanenthiran: he makes decisions without consulting other leaders, and spends lavishly. There are also claims of cronyism and nepotism.

“He wants to be another Samy Vellu. People still believe in Makkal Sakti, but if we don’t do anything, we will end up like MIC,” party secretary-general Kannan Ramasamy told The Straits Times.

Kannan said that among the potential candidates to replace Thanenthiran are party deputy A. Vathemurthy and businessman O.M.S. Thiagarajan.

In a statement, Thanenthiran said the planned motion was unconstitutional as it did not comply with the party constitution.

But Kannan said the meeting would be held according to proper procedures.

Najib is banking on Makkal Sakti to win over the Indian working class, political sources say.

It is seen as an alternative within the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to cater to Indians who do not favour the MIC or the opposition.

The trouble in Makkal Sakti underscores a bigger problem faced by Indian voters.

They are split many ways, with at least seven major parties representing a community that makes up only 8 per cent of Malaysia’s population of 28 million.

A month prior to Makkal Sakti’s formation, some activists formed the Malaysian Indian Democratic Action Front.

There is also a Malaysian Indian United Party set up by businessman S. Nallakaruppan, a one-time ally of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

And then there are the pro-Barisan Nasional parties — People’s Progressive Party and Indian Progressive Front.

In July, Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar, who led a huge anti-government rally in November 2007, set up the Human Rights Party to focus on Indian grouses.

The MIC was previously the main party for Indian voters, and has been led by Samy Vellu for 30 years. But it has been much weakened after failing to woo back Indian voters.

Analysts note that the large number of Indian-based parties could affect their power to negotiate, which would be a setback for a community which has long felt marginalised in areas such as the economy and education.

Makkal Sakti’s split could also potentially have an impact on Najib’s leadership, said P. Sivamurugan, an analyst from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“The dilemma is whether this party will remain loyal to BN and to what extent it will be able to win back Indian voters who are still divided,” he told The Straits Times.

He said it would be better for Najib to reconcile support from Makkal Sakti until the MIC can regain the confidence of Indians.

“Time is still with Najib because Pakatan Rakyat has yet to show any improvement in uplifting the Indians.

“He should focus on those who are below the poverty line,” said Sivamurugan. — The Straits Times

India is 'thailand' to Asia, say scientists

Asia Times Online,
By Raja Murthy

MUMBAI - Since "thai" means "mother" in classical Tamil, the language of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and said to be the oldest living language in the world, "thailand" means motherland. However, India could be an ancient "motherland" of Thailand and Asia in a more literal sense, according to a new investigative study, "'Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia"


The findings, from an unprecedented collaboration of over 80 researchers and 40 scientific institutions across Asia [1], reveal a twist in the history of human migration. It points to India, then Thailand and Southeast Asia, being the ancestral home to most Asians.

The paper, titled "Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia", published in the Science journal issue of December 10, is the first of its kind on Asian populations. Undertaken by the Singapore-based Human Genome Organization (HUGO), the study follows earlier multiple genetic studies on European populations.

The HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium, as the project is called, overturns accepted knowledge that multiple migrations of populations directly went to East Asian countries from Africa, nearly a hundred thousand years ago.

According to the new study, Dravidians - the race of people who inhabit south India, including Tamils - could be a common ancestral link to most modern-day Asians.

The news would be an early mega Christmas gift to chauvinistic Dravidian political parties, such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhalgam (DMK, or the Dravidian Progressive Party) and its 85-year-old chief, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, currently ruling Tamil Nadu.

Historically, Dravidians are considered India's original settlers. A more disputed theory says Dravidians were the original inhabitants of the Indus Valley civilization. Aryan invaders from Europe pushed them south of the Vindhaya Mountains into the Deccan Plateau in southern India, over 3,500 years ago.

But while the new HUGO study could support anthropological knowledge of Aryans invading India, the findings also say modern India shares a closer genetic ancestry with Europe than with Asia. "Most of the Indian populations showed evidence of shared ancestry with European populations," observed page four of the six-page report in Science.

"The current Indians received more genetic input from Aryan invasions which brought more Caucasian genes," says Dr Edison Liu, executive director at the Genome Institute of Singapore and president of HUGO. "So in fact, excluding modern-day Indians, there is clear indication that we are all genetically related in Asia."
Modern-day Indians, Liu says, would mean those in post-Aryan India. In effect, the new HUGO study could point to India having a large Eurasian population, like Russia.

"We have redefined the genetic history of Asian migration," declared Liu. "Previously, it was thought - because of archaeological, anthropological, and limited genetic data - that Asia was populated by two waves of migration. One wave was from Southeast Asia, called the Southern route, and the second from Central Asia, called the Northern route."

Liu informed Asia Times Online that the HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium findings now point to a single wave of migration from Southeast Asia. "This places disparate ethnic groups like the Negritos [in the Philippines], Dayaks [in Borneo, Indonesia] etc. within the Asian fold," says Liu. "The reconstruction is out of Africa to India."

Caucasians and Asians were then divided, with the Caucasians moving to the Levant, or the Asian side of the Mediterranean Sea. The people wave continued to India, and then to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. From Southeast Asia, settlers migrated to other parts of Asia, including China.

If the study is accurate, the Han Chinese - the single-largest ethnic group in Asia and in the world - have ancestral linkages to southern China, northern Thailand and earlier in India.

Sections of the Indian media highlighted the Chinese angle in the HUGO report. The Times of India, with a readership of 13.3 million, headlined its report as "Ancestors of Chinese came from India: Study". The Mumbai-based Daily News and Analysis went further, calling its report "The Chinese evolved from Indians: Study".

So do Chinese have Indian ancestors? "It is probably more correct to say that Dravidians [in southern India] and Chinese had common ancestors, than to say that Chinese ancestors originated in India," said Liu, who was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States in 1957.

"What we are seeing is the transit of our ancestors in their travels out of Africa through India and into Southeast Asia and North Asia," Liu explained. "Along the way, they deposited progeny that later expanded, or contracted."

Benefits from the findings include unified health solutions across Asia. A common ancestral link enables clinical trials for medicines that would be applicable across a wider region. Liu has worked on leukemia and breast cancer research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"This research is also significant for furthering the research in medicine," Samir Brahmachari, director general of the New Delhi-based Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, told Indian media.

"The findings have great potential for collaboration with these countries in finding treatment to many diseases like flu, HIV and other pandemics," said Brahmachari, who is also a member of the 18-person HUGO governing council, and a professor of molecular biophysics and genetic engineering.

"The paper not only presents a fantastic genotype database but also provides vital clues to scientists of diverse fields - from linguistics to archeology to human genetics," says Vikrant Kumar, a post doctoral fellow of the Genome Institute, Singapore, and an investigator in the study.

Kumar, who earned his doctorate from the University of Calcutta, calls this the only effort of its kind where 73 populations scattered across 10 Asian countries are studied together. About 2,000 samples covering almost the "entire spectrum of linguistic and ethnic diversity" were genotyped for about 50,000 single nucleotide polymorphic markers, [2] he said.

Apart from redefining the migratory origins of Asian people, the HUGO project marked a new high in pan-Asian scientific collaboration. "This study was very unusual," Liu says. "Perhaps the proudest achievement was that 10 Asian countries mounted this study on our own steam, funded and completed it internally, with each member working as equal partners."

Liu, whose academic career includes stints at Washington University, Stanford University, University of California and University of North Carolina, calls this study a "milestone not only in the science that emerged, but the consortium that was formed. We overcame shortage of funds and diverse operational constraints through partnerships, good will, and cultural sensitivity."

One of the hurdles was the disparity in technological access among the project team in various countries, with their varying access to expensive technologies. The problem was resolved by developing a host-guest structure, in which the technologically better off countries hosted working scientists with lesser technology access.

"We transferred technologies, expanded capabilities, forged friendships and now have an Asian scientific network of considerable worth," says Liu, a nice enough initial outcome of a project that found a common ancestral link to Asians.

Notes
1. Apart from over 80 individual researchers and scientists, the project involved 40 leading scientific organizations in Asia. It included Malaysia's Human Genome Center in Kelantan; India's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in New Delhi; Thailand's National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Pathumtani; the Korean BioInformation Center in Deajeon; the University of Philippines in Manila; Taiwan's Institute of Biomedical Sciences; the Genome Institute of Singapore; Japan's National Institute of Genetics and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science.
2. A genetic marker, a gene or a known DNA sequence in a chromosome (a chromosome is a DNA unit found in cells), can be detected in the blood and are generally used to see if an individual or a group are vulnerable to a particular disease. A genetic marker may be a short DNA sequence (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP), or a long DNA sequence.

The shorter SNP (pronounced snip) - used in this study - refers to a variation of genetic traits within an individual or a group. The study used 54,974 SNPs from 1928 persons representing 73 Asian populations. SNPs are the most frequent type of DNA variation. The HUGO study used the 'Affymetrix GeneChip Human Mapping 50K Xba Array' technology to analyze SNPs. The Affymetrix technology is available to scan SNPs of various densities, from 10,204 SNPs to a million.

Hadi: Time not right to register Pakatan

Hadi (right) now says there’s no rush to register Pakatan. — Picture by Jack Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang suggested today that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) was in no hurry to be formally registered, in remarks that appear to indicate ideological differences with its political partners remained an obstacle.

“We do not want to act in a hurry to register Pakatan.

“Pakatan does not necessarily have to become a single party. What is important is for us to bring out what we have in common, and to put off things which we do not agree on,” he said after a special meeting with political bloggers here today.

Hadi’s remarks come just a day after the PR coalition held its first ever convention. A common policy framework was also tabled at the convention.

His comments today suggest PAS may still have doubts about joining a formal coalition.

The PAS leader pointed out that the three PR parties — PAS, PKR and DAP — still have ideological differences, and the time was not right for the alliance to be formally registered.

In pushing for a delay in formalising the coalition, PAS has put into doubt the step made by PR coordinator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to register PR.

Zaid is understood to have already submitted a formal application to the Registrar of Societies to register PR as a legal entity.

At yesterday’s PR convention, the leaders of the three parties had also taken great pains to put on a united front amid rousing speeches outlining their intention of ousting Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general elections.

But Hadi’s statement today is likely to cause some uncertainties again among fellow PR leaders about PAS’ commitment.

“It is not time yet for the three parties to be registered, and PAS has not made a decision yet on registration,” he said.

He said, however, that while it was not the right time for PR to cement their relationship because of differences in ideology, the three parties still had common ground in issues like justice and poverty eradication.

Hadi pointed out that it was important for the three parties to first work on common ground, and “talk of other things later.”

On the question of the next general elections, Hadi said that “when the time comes we will discuss the matter.”

The PR alliance was formed soon after the results of Elections 2008 when DAP, PKR and PAS combined to deprive BN of its traditional two-thirds majority and won control of five state governments.

It has taken PR leaders nearly two years to put together its first ever common policy framework, with an eye towards formal registration.

Mustapa says Kelantan oil from JDA, no royalty

Nik Aziz may sue the government to get oil royalty payments for Kelantan. — file pic

KOTA BAHARU, Dec 20 — The federal government cannot determine the amount and method of giving compassionate payment (wang ehsan) to Kelantan until oil output in the state has been determined by Petronas.

International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, said what was certain was that the amount would not be the same as that given to Terengganu, Sabah dan Sarawak.

This, he said, was because half the country’s petroleum output was from the three states.

“Till now the government has not been able determine the allocation of compassionate money for Kelantan,” Mustapa told reporters after speaking at a gathering with federal service staff at Pusat Teknologi Pendidikan, Pengkalan Chepa, here today.

The Kelantan Umno liaison committee chairman said although there were various assumptions made about compassionate money and oil and gas royalty in Kelantan the amount and method of payment will only be determined after Petronas’ study.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak on Nov 4 said Kelantan will receive compassionate payment from the federal government in place of oil royalty beginning next year.

However, Kelantan Mentri Besar, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, wants the federal government to fulfil the royalty demand and may take the matter to court if the federal government does not comply.

Commenting on the issue, Mustapa said: “For sure the amount will not be big, not like Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak, as Kelantan does not qualify for the royalty as the oil exploration area was located in the Malaysia Thailand Joint Development Authority (MTJDA) area between Malaysia and Thailand where production is shared 50-50.”

On the willingness of former Finance Minister, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, to cooperate with the Kelantan state government on the royalty demand, he said he was of the opinion that everyone had a right to give their view.

“The federal government’s stand will be based on Petronas’ study. According to Malaysian law one qualifies for royalty if the petroleum was produced within three nautical miles of the coastal line. This is the government’s stand subject to Malaysian laws and we have ways to handle the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, deputy chairman of the Kelantan Umno liaison committee, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin, said the action by Opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to table a private member’s bill on the royalty issue showed that the opposition was not confident the royalty demand would be in their favour according to the Petronas Act 1974.

“So we must accept the fact that actually Kelantan according to law does not qualify for the royalty so that is why he wants to table the amendment bill for the act,” he said. — Bernama

Third vote vow dominates Selangor DAP meet

By Adib Zalkapli - The Malaysian Insider

Lim (second right) would prefer for Putrajaya to first clear the hurdles to local council votes. — Picture by Jack Ooi

SHAH ALAM, Dec 20 — The Selangor DAP annual convention ended with delegates wondering if the party is still committed to restoring local government elections — a promise it made during Election 2008 campaign.

Some delegates wanted Pakatan Rakyat-led governments, especially in Selangor, to hold the third vote immediately without waiting for the green light from the federal government.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who opened the convention, made it clear that the party wanted the federal government to clear the hurdles first by amending the Local Government Act.

“If we do it on our own, not only [do] we have to bear the legal cost, if it is challenged, we also won’t get participation from Barisan Nasional, and we will end up having only Pakatan leaders contesting and their supporters voting,” said Selangor DAP committee member Ronnie Liu, who is also the state executive councillor in charge of local authorities.

Local council elections were suspended in the 1960s and since then, all councillors are appointed by the state government.

“We want to continue putting pressure on the federal government and to remind them it is their obligation to lift the suspension of local elections,” Liu told The Malaysian Insider.

But state DAP vice-chairman Charles Santiago believed that the state government should try to work out a mechanism to introduce local votes to prove its commitment.

“For most people in Klang, for example, their government is not in Putrajaya or even Shah Alam, but the local council,” said Santiago who personally set a target that the Selangor government holds the local council elections by the end of 2010.

“Of course, the state must continue to get [the] federal government to restore the elections, but it must also work out a mechanism to show that we are serious. Even if it works against us, so be it,” said the Klang MP.

The commitment to restore local government elections became a contentious issue after the Pakatan Rakyat common policy framework launched yesterday backtracked from the promise, following opposition from PAS leaders.

The policy framework only made the promise “to strengthen local government democracy” in an attempt to appease leaders who are opposed to the third vote.

Probe on into missing RM50mil jet engine

BAGAN DATOH: A probe is continuing into how a RM50million fighter jet engine belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force went missing from the Sungei Besi base in 2007when the current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was Defence Minister.

The engine was sold to an international company based in South Africa. Also found missing were maintenance and other service records of the jet.

It was reported that the General Electric J85-21A afterburner turbojet engine, which served as a power plant for the single-seater F-5E Tiger 11 and RF-5E Tigereye, went missing late last year during a routine maintenance service check.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi blamed the well-planned theft and sale of the engine on a group of low-ranking officers working in cahoots with civilians.

Saying that Najib was being kept updated on the progress of the probe as he was in charge of defence at that time, Zahid said the thieves had sold the engine to the South Africa firm, which was believed to have hired an agent to bring it out of the country.

He said the international company was interested in buying the engine because it was cheap as it was categorised as a faulty spare part and was to be repaired.

“The ministry will take legal action at the international level to go after the company involved and action will be taken against the RMAF personnel involved in betraying the country,” he said after launching an environmental programme.

Zahid said that all the documents pertaining to the sale of the engine were in the hands of the police.

He said his ministry was waiting for the police to complete investigations before taking further action. He also urged the RMAF to have a better inventory system. - Free Malaysia Today