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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Altantuya's kin gets aid from Mongolia gov't

(Malaysiakini)The family of the late Altantuya Shaariibuu may finally be able to see the dawn when their civil suit against the government, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, and her two convicted murderers, goes to court.

Altantuya's dad Setev Shaariibuu (right) told Malaysiakini that he has received confirmation from the Mongolian government that they would extend the RM70,000 to settle the security and legal costs needed for the case to be heard.

"I would like to thank the government of Mongolia which has accepted my request and made a humane decision for my family," Shaariibuu said in a statement via his lawyer Munkhsaruul Mijiddorj in Ulaanbaatar.

"Now, I am proud of my daughter, that she has a country called Mongolia," he added in the handwritten letter.

In March, Shah Alam High Court judge Zaleha Yusof slashed the quantum of security cost from RM1.25 million to RM60,000, after hearing an application from the family's Malaysian lawyer Karpal Singh.

She agreed to a security bond of RM30,000 each for the government and Abdul Razak, who is closely linked to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. They had asked for RM1.25 million.

Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar - the two policemen convicted last April of Altantuya's (left) murder, did not request a security bond.

Shaariibuu must also fork out RM10,000 for lawyers' costs, but Karpal had said he will set up a fund and request all members of parliament to chip in with donations.

Thanks for the help

Meanwhile, Shaariibuu took the opportunity to thank the people who came to his assistance when he most needed it.

"These are our lawyer Karpal Singh, journalists, members of human rights organisations and the people of Malaysia," he added.

He was also referring to Malaysiakini readers who had pledged not only donate to a fund but raise the bond money for the family as well.

Shaariibuu, however, is still uncertain whether the money from the Mongolian government is a gift or a loan but said it was not a worry.

Earlier, Shaariibuu had lamented that he had tried to seek aid from the Mongolian Parliament, but failed.

Shaariibuu said his parliamentarians would extend the money to him only as a loan, and as he earns a meagre income of RM625 (or its equivalent US$188.542), he felt it would be difficult to repay it.

But all that had changed when Karpal (left) said he was willing to raise the money for Shaariibuu "at all cost".

The DAP national chairman added that in the event the Mongolian government did not come up with the money for the bond, then he would take the responsibility of raising the necessary funds.

"Mongolia and Malaysia will be existing for thousands and thousands years in the world," he said.

"Therefore, something more valuable than money would be when there is justice in both criminal and civil courts in Malaysia.

"When there is justice, people from two countries will respect each other and rise up for the case."

Aminulrasyid shooting: Corporal's trial on Oct 12

SHAH ALAM: The Sessions Court here today fixed Oct 12 for the trial of a police corporal charged with causing the death of a teenager in a shooting incident.

Judge Latifah Mohd Tahar fixed 12 days from Oct 12 and also Nov 9-11 for the trial after deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar informed the court that he had handed 38 documents, including the post-mortem report, to the defence.

Mohd Dusuki said the prosecution would be calling 15 witnesses.

In the dock was Jenain Subi, 48, charged with causing the death of Aminulrasyid Amzah, 15, in Jalan Tarian 11/2 , Section 11, between 1.10am and 2am on on April 26.

The charge of culpable homide not amounting to murder carries a maximum 30 years jail and liability of a fine on conviction.

Jenain was represented by counsel Salim Bashir while counsel Karpal Singh held a wathcing brief for Aminulrashyid's family.

Present were Aminulrasyid's sister, Nor Azura, and mother, Norsiah Mohamad, and Monalisa Mokhtar, a representative of the Parent-Teacher Association of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seksyen 9.

Meanwhile, Karpal Singh told reporters that he would write to the Attorney-General's Chambers to enquire about the status of Azamuddin Omar, the teenager who was in the car driven by Aminulrasyid at the time of the incident.

"We are worried that there is no development regarding the case of the key witness (Azamuddin) although he had been called to give his statement at Bukit Aman," he said.

On May 20, Azamuddin's brother, Muhamad Hafizzudin, lodged a police report accusing the police of attempted muder for shooting at the car which the two teenagers were travelling in.

- Bernama

Malacca's defeat to Portuguese inevitable? Pua to DPM

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: 'Was Malacca's defeat to the Portuguese inevitable?' This is the type of question which Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would face if he is a student sitting for a history exam set by DAP MP Tony Pua.

According to the Oxford-trained Pua, it is questions like these which promote creativity, critical thinking and innovation.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP said that while the government's proposal to scrap the UPSR and PMR exams is well-intentioned, it however failed to address the core issue.

Instead, Pua believes that only a total revamp of the education would stop schools from churning out robots.

"We are in complete agreement that we should reform our education system. But we must first understand the cause of failure which isn't a result of having examinations per se.

"Without changing our teaching system to encourage creativity, critical thinking and innovation, removing examinations would make little or no difference," he told reporters in Parliament.

The plan to scrap the exams was announced by Muhyiddin "as part of the government's efforts to restructure the learning system that is seen as too exam-oriented and has failed to provide holistic education.”

He was backed by his deputy, Wee Ka Siong, who believes that the move would stop "producing machines" and create more critical and analytical students.

This is part of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's measures to enhance human capital development under the five-year 10th Malaysian Plan.

Government-Pakatan cooperation on education

Meanwhile, Pua said what must be done is the dissection of the examination system.

"For example, a question on history at the PMR level may ask what year did the Portuguese conquer Malacca. In this case, the student has no choice but to memorise the year 1511," he said, adding that the examination method only teaches students to memorise and not think.

"Alternatively, the question could ask why did Malacca lose to the Portuguese. There's a greater element of subjectivity, but the students may still... memorise part of the answers,” he said.

"But if the question is 'was it inevitable that Malacca would lose to the Portuguese?', then the students would have no choice but to evaluate the facts which he has in hand and provide measured answers as to whether defeat was inevitable," he added.

Pua also stressed on the importance of quality teachers, adding that the proposal to scrap examinations "is not the miracle cure”.

In view of this, he proposed a non-political bipartisan government-Pakatan Rakyat cooperation on human capital development.

"We call upon the government to create a high-powered committee of MPs as well as educationists to debate, review and recommend reforms which would take our education system to greater heights,” he said.

In a related development, Konsensus Bebas (Independent Consensus) also disagreed with the proposal to scrap the two exams.

The consensus, which comprises former PKR MPs, said there must be a holistic system which gives equal importance to academic and co-curricular achievements.

“Therefore, the training of teachers and the syllabus must be re-looked,” said the MPs, adding that the education system changes according to the “taste” of those who helm the Education Ministry.

More drastic amendments to Road Transport Act?

By Rahmah Ghazali - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry is expected to table amendments to the Road Transport Act at the next Parliament session, a move seen by some as giving the government a tighter grip on taxpayers' money.

The Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) is of the view that the proposed changes to the act is too drastic and would not be welcome by consumers.

Citing an example, its president, Jacob George, said the redefining of roads, which categorises all types of roads under the ministry, will eventually “affect the people”.

According to him, roads built by the government are usually taken care of by the federal government, and roads in villages and estates come under the jurisdiction of the local government.

“With the new amendments, automatically, the people in the villages who use motorcycles without licence can all be picked up, charged and penalised,” said George.

He added that the amendments would propose a fine of RM3,000 or jail terms of up to 20 years for several traffic offences.

“If it is true, it is draconian; even if the fine is RM300, we have a situation where most Malaysians cannot afford to pay due to the high cost of goods and essentials,” he said.

George also said the people, especially in the villages, would feel the pinch each time there is a funeral or a wedding function at their homes.

“Usually, we will tell our immediate neighbours or local councils (to close the roads). Under the proposed new law, if you put up obstacles on the roads for wedding, you can be taken to court.

“This is not reflecting what laws should be,” he said, adding that it could create possible backlash from the people, come the next general election.

Privacy at risk

George also said the amendments would allow more power to the ministry, its director-general and the Road Transport Department (RTD).

“We cannot give more power to RTD officers, especially when it allows them to enter someone’s premises,” he said.

In particular, added George, people’s privacy would be put at risk when the government is proposing to have smart chips installed in their registration number plates.

“When the police take a photo of someone’s car, they would pick up the entire data of that person because it will be on the system called an automated enforcement system.

“We don’t have privacy laws in this country and this system can be manipulated and misused by third parties,” said George.

And logistically, he said, it would be impossible for all the 25 million vehicles in the country to have the smart chips installed.

“Each registration plate would cost around RM150 and this is not cheap. You can’t force everybody to change their number plates,” he added.

However, he said, it would be acceptable if the chips were a standard in the new vehicles that are going to be rolled out.

George also claimed that only two companies would be awarded with the selling of such registration plates. This would tantamount to monopoly, he said.

“Malaysians are against monopoly. We are against any contracts given without the consensus of the people… they are not bringing the consumers into the loop to discuss,” he said.

BN backbenchers club against amendments

Although the amendments were proposed by the federal government, George however praised the Barisan Nasional backenchers club (BNBBC) for not supporting it.

“Even our friends in the BNBBC were upset and urged the ministry to re-look at the amendments,” he said.

“We have the full support of the BNBBC and they agreed that our concerns are legitimate and expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed amendments,” he added.

According to him, Cassa and BNBBC have had a “quiet meeting” in Parliament about a month ago and agreed that the government should “scrap” the amendments.

“There would be a severe backlash from the people and the government would be forced to eat humble pie.

“The moment you touch people’s pockets and privacy, people would be upset,” George said, adding that the BNBBC had raised the matter with Transport Minister Kong Cho Ha.

Selangor Umno rep to join PKR?

By Muda Mohd Noor - Free Malaysia Today

SHAH ALAM: Puchong Umno division chief Mohamed Satim Diman has left everyone guessing over the rumour that he is on the verge of quitting the party.

The Seri Serdang state assemblyman and Selangor Umno secretary's decision to remain tighlipped on the matter is causing concern and consternation among certain quarters.

One of them being Puchong Umno committee member Abdul Hamid Mohd Yusof, who wants his boss to come clean on the issue.

"He called me last night and when I asked about it (the rumour), he replied, 'Don't say anything about this'. I am not happy with such a response. As an elected representative and division head, he should be frank about the matter.

“Even if (the rumour) is true, there is nothing wrong... he should not leave Umno just like that. It's hard to meet him, he doesn't answer phone calls or reply to text messages,” he told FMT.

The rumour intensified when Mohamed Satim was conspicously absent from the Umno management meeting in Shah Alam last night.

On the rumours that he might join PKR, Abdul Hamid said: "A friend from Klang speculated that (PKR supremo) Anwar Ibrahim's people offered Mohamed Satim millions of ringgit... he was close to Anwar in the past," he added.

Another Puchong Umno committee member Arifin Osman also claimed to be in the dark over the status of his division chief.

“Nobody is saying anything about this. All I know is that he is still carrying out his duties as state assemblyman and division head,” he told FMT.

Deputy state chief unaware

Arifin said when the rumour began to circulate, he had tried to contact Mohamed Satim but the latter did not answer his call.

“He did not pick up... there was no response to my SMS as well. So I don't know if this rumour is true or not,” he added.

Selayang Umno division chief Abdul Syukur Idrus, who has also been unable to contact Mohamed Satim, however denied that the latter is planning to jump ship.

Meanwhile Bernama quoted Selangor Umno deputy chief Noh Omar as saying that he was unaware of the rumour that Mohamed Satim wished to step down from all his political posts.

He said Mohamed Satim had contacted him earlier to say that he would not be able to attend the meeting last night as he had another matter to attend to.

The meeting discussed about managing the Selangor Umno divisional meetings.

HRP member: Ramasamy's aide threatened me

By Athi Shankar
PERAI: A Human Rights Party (HRP) member has accused Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy's aide of threatening and shoving him.
During last Thursday's incident, A Govindasamy, 45, claimed that Ramasamy’s political officer Satees Muniandy had also tore HRP flyers and leaflets.
Govindasamy said he was distributing the flyers in conjunction with the opening ceremony of the HRP service centre in Perai to restaurant patrons in Perai Jaya around 6pm when Satees, accompanied by several youths, confronted him.
In his police report, Govindasamy claimed that he was verbally abused and Satees had put his hands on his chest and pushed him.
“He then snatched the flyers and leaflets and tore them. He also threatened to come to my house with several people,” he added in the report lodged with the Perai police station on the same day.
Govindasamy also alleged that the youths accompanying Satees warned him that they would come to the HRP service centre during the opening ceremony.
HRP secretary-general P Uthayakumar officially opened the service centre on Sunday without any untoward incidents.
Meanwhile, HRP adviser N Ganesan claimed that several strangers had threatened party workers who were carrying out renovation work at the HRP centre last week.
Satees blames HRP member instead
When contacted, Satees confirmed meeting Govindasamy at the restaurant but denied that he threatened or pushed the HRP member.
Instead, he accused Govindasamy of provoking several Ramasamy’s supporters in the restaurant when he criticised the deputy chief minister while distributing the flyers,
“I tried to diffuse the commotion when the angry supporters confronted him,” said Satees, adding that he has explained the matter to the police.
However, HRP's Ganesan alleged that Satees was “twisting and turning” the incident.
"Satees is lying, it is a fabricated story of the incident. He committed criminal intimidation on our party member without provocation," he said.
The HRP service centre is in the Perai state and Batu Kawan parliamentary seats. Ramasamy is the elected representative for both seats.

Maika shareholder: 'How did they come up with 80 sen offer?'

By G Vinod
PETALING JAYA: An irate shareholder has questioned tycoon G Gnanalingam’s offer to buy out financially-troubled Maika Holdings for RM100 million in view of the fact that the company’s accounts had not been audited since 2007.
The deal, according to S Nadarajah, also contravened regulations listed by the Securities Commission.
“There was an annual general meeting in 2007 but the AGM was nullified by the court due to the way it was conducted.
“Since then, no AGM has been called to pass its resolutions.
“So my question is, how did they come up with 80 sen per share offer in the first place?” he asked.
The 2007 Maika AGM was abruptly aborted after angry shareholders raised their voices and fists at the board members over the accounts.
In April, at the height of the Barisan Nasional battle to wrest the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat from Pakatan Rakyat, Gnanalingam's firm, G Team Resources, offered a conditional buyout of Maika shares for RM100 million and pay back the money invested by the 66,000 long-suffering Indian shareholders, 1,500 of whom allegedly live in and around Hulu Selangor.
Each shareholder would stand to get 80 sen per share.
Gnanalingan said the offer reflected the actual RM1 per share value after taking into consideration the 25 million bonus shares offered over the years
Shareholders would be given 21 days to redeem their shares beginning June 1-June 22.
80 sen value is wrong
Speaking to FMT today, Nadarajah also slammed the independent adviser for the acquisition, Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd, for failing to address this matter.
“How can this entity advise shareholders to accept this offer when it is not based on audited accounts, which is against SC’s regulation?” he asked, adding that the SC should have reprimanded Maika for pursuing it due to the irregularities.
Nadarajah, who urged the SC to intervene, has also called for an independent audit to be done on Maika to straighten things out.
“With an independent audit, we can find out the actual per share value of Maika to date before considering any takeover offer,” he said, pointing out that even the existing offer of 80 sen was wrong.
“Gnanalingam made an offer based on the 2008 management account, while Kenanga’s recommendation is based on the 2009 management account, which is contradicting in nature,” he said.

Felda's RM2 billion number puzzle

By Patrick Lee
PETALING JAYA: Land rights activist Mazlan Aliman fired another round of salvos at Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Ahmad Maslan for the latter's explanation over the controversial Felda issue.
Ahmad had said Felda had taken out RM3 billion from its cash reserves, with the bulk of it – RM2 billion – being used for replanting crops, housing loans purposes, and building a new Felda headquarters.
“Where did he get this RM2 billion number from?” Mazlan asked. “It is the replanting fund that should take care of replanting crops, not cash reserves,” said Mazlan, who is also the president of the National Children of Felda Settlers Association (Anak) and a fierce critic of the Barisan Nasional.
He was barred from entering Felda settlements during the Hulu Selangor by-election.
According to Mazlan, about RM40 was deducted from the salary of every settler every month. The money is kept in the replanting fund, managed by Felda.
Although the fund remained in Felda's hands, Mazlan said that it actually belonged to the settlers.
He also questioned Felda's purported RM253 million contribution to the Sabah poverty eradication fund.
“How is this fund relevant to Felda? Felda isn't very big in Sabah. In fact, the largest concentration of Felda estates are located around Lahad Datu.”
“If Felda wanted to eradicate poverty in Sabah, why didn't it use the profits from the Lahad Datu estates instead of dipping its hand into the cash reserves? It just doesn't make sense.”
On Felda's new “five-star office”, Mazlan said the existing Felda headquarters in Jalan Semarak was enough, and there was no need for another building.
He told FMT that the building's original price was RM640.7 million, but was recently increased to RM662 million. He added that the true price of the headquarters was about RM500 million.
“I can confidently say that the bulk of the cost was misused for political gains,” Mazlan said. “Felda, like Petronas, is all about increasing BN's image. Look at it now.”
On irregularities in Felda relating to the RM3 billion cash reserves, Mazlan said that Anak's members would lodge a report with the police district headquarters in Temerloh at 10am on June 23.

Analysts back Zaid's views on PKR

By Stephanie Sta Maria - Free Malaysia Today,

KUALA LUMPUR: Zaid Ibrahim's frank articulation of the vulnerability within PKR's leadership has received approving nods from political analysts.
In an earlier interview with FMT, Zaid pinpointed the lack of credible leaders and Anwar Ibrahim's non-presidential role as the primary stumbling blocks in PKR's roadmap forward.
The PKR central leadership council member acknowledged that these aren't new issues but ones that need to be dealt with swiftly during the December party elections.
“Zaid is absolutely right about PKR's painfully weak leadership,” said James Chin of Monash University. “This flaw long existed but only exploded after 2008 when the 'funny characters' who were fielded actually won and created a huge firestorm within the party.”
“PKR's problem has never been about resources but the people running it. Anwar has to decide on the leadership structure and the core leaders, and then give those leaders the power to elect their own people.”
Meanwhile, both Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives, and independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, shared Zaid's observation that it is time for Anwar to step into the presidency shoes since he is now a full-time politician.
Khoo, however, warned PKR against the temptation of leaning too heavily on Anwar's personality at the risk of seeing its ideology being diluted.
“PKR cannot be a personality-based political party,” he stated. “People are already doubting whether it can still be the glue for Pakatan without Anwar's presence. In fact, PKR has become complacent because of Anwar and is not concerned with securing a second-tier leadership.”
“This is extremely dangerous because if, for some reason, Anwar cannot become the next prime minister, who else can PKR or Pakatan put forth? Voters need the assurance that the strength of the party doesn't hinge solely on an individual no matter how charismatic or inspiring he is.”
Lim added that there is a need not only to formalise Anwar's position as party leader but also to urgently identify other key leaders, especially for the number two position.
“It is a pity that the party election is held not sooner,” he said. “Time is not on the side of PKR, and the perception of a fragmented and divided leadership, even without the damaging defections, is going to cost it dearly in electoral support should the general election come sooner than expected.”
Chin urged PKR to recruit a whole new group of leaders as soon as possible in anticipation of a surprise general election.
“If the next election springs upon us within the next three months, it will be too late for PKR and Pakatan. (Prime Minister) Najib Tun Razak will definitely win back the majority unless there is a big scandal within the Barisan Nasional.”
While Zaid remained optimistic of PKR's ability to turn around, Lim remained cautious in his outlook. He predicted that party members would grapple with the slippery task of engaging in internal cleansing, while simultaneously selecting the most dedicated and able leaders during the upcoming party elections.
“One hopes that the collective wisdom -- and some guidance from respected leaders who have no personal stake in the power game -- can help ensure that the chosen team will comprise the best of PKR's available talent,” he said. “But the fatal link in PKR could be the presence of state-level warlords who may prove difficult to dislodge because of their numbers in terms of support.”
Lessons from the other side
The analysts went one step further than Zaid in suggesting that PKR members look to their party of origin for lessons on building a strong organisation.
“This will be very hard to hear but Umno has mastered the art of erecting a solid structure,” Chin explained. “Its structure is based on delineation of constituency. Two or three divisions fall under the power of one warlord, which is unusual but which works very well during election time. Umno works well simply because these warlords' roles are very distinctive.”
“PKR also has to offer its members more than just hope. DAP and PAS guarantee their members good leadership structure and incentives. Umno, MIC and MCA guarantee their members the power to make real changes. What does PKR offer?”
Khoo recommended that PKR take note of Umno's “definitive and clear professional lines”.
“Everyone knows at all times who will be taking the place of whom,” he said. “These professional lines act as a guide for members and supporters so there are no surprises.”
Democracy: a winning or losing hand?
Where the analysts differed, however, was on the subject of democracy. Both Zaid and Lim favoured the inclusion of democracy in the election process.
“Once the party elections have been held to ensure that democratic norms prevail in the selection of leaders, the elected team needs to get to work immediately to iron out PKR's issues,” said Lim.
Chin, on the other hand, ironically proposed that PKR restrain from practising democracy when approaching the general election.
“PKR suffers from too much democracy,” he pointed out. “Democracy in itself is good and should be the hallmark of the party but not when it is headed towards an election. Then democracy will only cause disruption within the party as we have witnessed time and again.”

Surviving the coming hard times

By Stanley Koh - Free Malaysia Today,

COMMENT It turns out that the government you voted in will not hold your hand to see you through hard times. Instead, it will make sure to add to your suffering because that is the easiest way it can avoid going bankrupt.
Barisan Nasional has apparently decided that the time has come to remove or cut subsidies — the kind of subsidies that poor people depend on, not the kind enjoyed by big corporations and monopolistic suppliers of utilities and infrastructural support.
So what is the use of a government that will eagerly shake your hand during election time but will not hesitate to pull the rug from under your feet when it needs to save itself?
Few believe that the removal of subsidies on essential food items and fuels can save the Malaysian government from possible bankruptcy. If it does go bankrupt, it will be because it has failed to cleanse a corrupt system.
It is better for Malaysians to be rich and to control a bankrupt government than to be poor and controlled by a corrupt government. Many countries have rich citizens with bankrupt governments.
You do not need an economist to tell you that RM100 in Malaysia today does not buy as much as it did last year.
In what we may call the Malaysian Misery Index, we can see that food prices have been spiralling upwards for years. For example, fresh tenggiri, which was RM13.23 a kilo in 1997, now costs RM40 a kilo. A roasted duck cost RM13.47 in 1997, but is now at least RM38. And Malaysians have become used to the doubling in price of some food items during festive seasons.
Most Malaysians do not expect the situation to improve. Food prices will continue to go up and there is little hope that they will come down again.
Two years ago, the BN government announced that it had set up a US$1.25 billion fund to increase food production and that it was targeting 100% self-sufficiency in rice consumption. What has happened to the fund and the target?
Nevertheless, the escalation in food prices is only one of the financial worries of most Malaysians. Other worries include the general cost of living, salary changes and debts.
Double whammy
When the GST (goods and services tax) is fully implemented in 2011, it will be a double whammy for poor and middle-income households, pensioners, the unemployed and single parents.
Some have argued that imposing GST on Malaysian does not make much economic sense when only 6.8% of the population are taxpayers and a large majority earn low incomes. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that most of us are paying hidden taxes in highway tolls and electricity tariffs.
Indeed, the future looks bleak.
Yet, quite a number of us are gullible enough to think that the government will protect consumers. Are we not being stupid? Isn't it better to be wiser and brace for tougher times ahead?
Instead of believing the promises of a government that has a dismal performance record, we should believe the law of inflation, which says, “Whatever goes up will go up some more.”
Ronald Reagan once described inflation as a violent mugger, a threatening armed robber and a deadly hit man. In the Malaysian context, that is an apt description not of inflation, but of the BN government’s behaviour and policies.
Unlike grey hair or extra pounds, inflation, Malaysian-style, does not sneak in gradually. One of the outstanding characteristic of our government is that it can cause inflation to explode overnight, such as when an official makes a snappy and stupid policy decision on pricing.
So how do we fight the inflation of food prices?
Economists generally agree that the average Malaysian household spends about 75% of its income on food. Food price hikes will therefore have an adverse impact upon disposable income and force us to make a lifestyle change.
To fight inflation
Here are some of the things we can do:
  • Stop eating at expensive restaurants.
  • Boycott traders, hypermarkets and hawker stalls that charge unreasonable prices.
  • Shop intelligently for value and do not be too impressed by branding.
  • Work out a budget before buying. Look out for special sales.
  • Prevent wastage by not buying more than you can eat.
  • Tell friends and acquaintances about shops that charge excessively.
  • Avoid buying expensive beverages or foodstuff and find alternatives for nutritional value.
  • Boycott chained markets and fast-food joints. They are monopolised by a few large companies and can therefore raise prices at whim.
When inflation reached a six-year high at the end of 2005, even the price of the humble bean sprout went up by 10 sen a kilo. Reason: A gunnysack of beans went up from RM75 to RM135.
Today, even death is becoming exorbitant. The cost of cremation is expected to rise soon from RM100 to anything between RM200 and RM300.
Perhaps economist Milton Friedman was right when he said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert, in five years there will be a shortage of sand.”
Malaysians do not take the official Consumer Price Index (CPI) seriously. They know it does not accurately reflect price rises in essential foodstuffs.
Many suspect that the government uses it as an instrument to deceive the public into thinking that things are hunky-dory when they are not. The government develops statistics so that the inflation-weary public would direct its hostility towards businesses, and not blame official mismanagement.
The average household consumption expenditure over the last 20 years has increased by 181.8%. In 1973, it was RM412. By 1993-94, it had gone up to RM1,161. In 1999, it touched RM1,631.
According to Prof Lim Teck Ghee, real household income has been growing, but at the snail-pace rate of 0.9% per year. More than half of the population are in the low-income category.
Today, a family of five spends 50% to 60% of household income on food compared with 20% in 1998 and 15% in 1988.
Not long ago, there was official acknowledgement that 95% of families are finding it hard to cope with the rise in food prices.
In fact, the biggest failure of the Ninth Malaysia Plan is that it did not help Malaysians improve their quality of living. Inflation, whether it is imported or locally generated, raises the cost of living and lowers the quality of living.
When five out of 10 Malaysians are prone to mental problems and other disorders due to the pressures involved in trying to support their families, it is time for the government to wake up.
'Why not change the government?'
In 2006, when Najib Tun Razak was Deputy Prime Minister, he asked Malaysians to change their lifestyle in the face of the rising cost of living.
A blogger by the name of Chong wrote in response: “Perhaps, the prime minister should have done some simple calculations himself. People like us basically have no lifestyle, just merely surviving with our earnings. So how are we going to change (our lifestyle)?
“Inflation has gone up 4.5% (and above) and the government is pushing the cost of living higher by increasing electricity tariffs, but our income remains the same.”
Others felt it would be easier to change the government than to change a non-existent lifestyle.
“Instead of listening to Najib asking us to change,” one critic remarked, “why not we change the government at the next general election?”
To me, that makes a lot of sense. Any government that is willing to build air-conditioned toilets around a city at more than RM100,000 each has no business planning a national economy.
When such a government decides to cut subsidies, many of us will wonder whether the so-called “savings” will instead go towards more majestic arches, fanciful lampposts, refurbishments of VIP residences, luxurious government bungalows and fruitless overseas trips by ministers.
Any government that stands accused of having wasted RM320 billion in 20 years — through corruption, wastage and mismanagement — definitely does not deserve to be re-elected.
Stanley Koh was the head of research unit at MCA. He now writes for FreeMalaysiaToday.

Can Deepwater Horizon change US climate policy?

By Hilary Chiew - Free Malaysia Today,

COMMENT There’s a silver lining in the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Two months after the explosion of the BP’s rig off Louisiana coast that unleashed million of tonnes of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, blanketing hundreds square kilometres of the sea, soiling the shoreline of four states and smothering countless wildlife, the United States is reeling from possibly its worst environmental disaster in history.
So, what’s there to cheer about?
Well, it all lies in the latest thought of President Barack Obama. Following his latest tour of ground zero, the president announced in his first Oval Office address of his 18-month presidency that nothing short of a national mission to wean the US off fossil fuel is the answer.
“… The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.
"Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny."
If realised, that vision will not only change the destiny of the Americans but also the rest of the world.
Not too long ago, this is the man who gave hope to the world that the big carbon emitter (occupying the No 1 seat until China took over in 2008) is finally coming on board to combat climate change. Unlike his predecessor who rubbished warnings from the climate science community, Obama is a believer that catastrophic climate change is humanity’s biggest contemporary challenge.
He also promised that the US will respect multilateralism in its international relations.
And the world believed him… until Copenhagen last December.
Heat-trapping carbon
Yes, the US will join a legally-binding deal to rein in its emission but on its own term. It wants other major economies, especially China, to take on similar responsibilities.
That may sound reasonable if one doesn’t care how the atmospheric space is nearly saturated with the heat-trapping carbon which, by the way, didn’t happen overnight.
Concentration of carbon has steadily built up since the Industrial Revolution that gave birth to the industrialised nations like the US and its western allies.
And this historical aspect is recognised in the UN convention that governs the global response to climate change. Article 3.1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) says: “Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities.
Accordingly, the developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.
The partial sentence in bold is the all-important provision that has come to mark the fight between poor and rich nations in the UN climate talks.
At its first Conference of Parties (CoP) in 1995, the Berlin Mandate was adopted and launched a new round of talks on strengthening developed countries’ commitments. An ad hoc working group on the Berlin Mandate was set up to draft an agreement which saw the creation of the Kyoto Protocol at CoP 3 in 1997.
Under this protocol, industrialised countries (collectively known as Annex I parties of the Convention) will reduce their combined greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 5% compared to 1990 levels within the first commitment period of 2008-2012.
The protocol entered into force in 2005 after the Russian Federation signed up and made up the 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 used as the baseline. The US under the Bush administration stayed out of this global treaty, citing fear of losing its economic competitiveness.
Under this treaty, parties must meet their targets primarily through national measures but it also allowed for flexible mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which enable them to outsource their reduction targets to a non-Annex I countries in a cost-effective way.
Infamous accord
So, what actually happened at CoP 15 in Copenhagen?
An ambitious-less and aimless European Union, afflicted with Obama-mania, surrendered its long leadership on climate to the newly-minted Nobel laureate. The latter went on to broker the now infamous Copenhagen Accord in a small group consisting of less than 30 countries out of the 193 signatories of the UNFCCC. For that, he was strangely credited with saving the climate talks.

If those who are responsible for the perilous state of the climatic system are allowed to have their way, the world will miss any fighting chance of averting catastrophic climate change.
However, as the UNFCCC is supposed to be a parties-led process, the back-room deal was rejected outright by others that were excluded and were only given an hour to debate the three-page document in the open plenary.
The accord was merely “taken note” of (in UN jargon it means a document with no formal status) at the closing session of the tumultuous conference that promised so much but was marred by chaos from the start and ended in disarray.
Almost every delegation, especially those from the developing world, went home confused, frustrated and disappointed. International climate change negotiation descended into a state of gloom, much like the wintry environment outside the meeting venue.
But the fact that the accord has no legitimacy didn’t stop the US and its allies from soliciting for support, aided by the UNFCCC secretariat. To date, over 120 countries, including China and India, had associated with the accord. Malaysia, to its credit, has so far been steadfast in rejecting the accord.
The Obama regime’s climate team continues to promote the accord and has no qualms to link climate-related funding to support for the accord. Countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, which are among the strongest critics of what they regard as an illegitimate document, have been unceremoniously told that until and unless they associate themselves with the accord, they will not get a cent from the US$30 billion fast-start package slated for 2010-2012.
Besides the fast-start fund, the accord also promised US$100 billion to developing countries in their efforts to adapt, mitigate and switch to a low-carbon economy pathway from 2020.
While US and its allies are boasting that the accord has the support of countries accounting for 80% of global emission, giving the impression that the accord is the best solution in halting climate change, the details beg to differ.
Convenient excuse
An analysis of the pledges by scientists writing in the April 22 issue of the authoritative scientific journal Nature which warned that not only that the accord will not meet its declared aim of keeping temperature rise below 2° Celcius relative to pre-industrial temperature, it will ensure a more than 50% chance of exceeding 3° Celcius by 2100. That’s because developed countries will actually increase their emission by 6% and a corresponding 20% increase on a global scale by 2020.
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the accord does not impose an aggregate or collective emission reduction target of developed nations and there is no legally-binding commitment from each of this rich country.
Recovering from the shock of Copenhagen, developing countries reinstated the authority of the CoP as the only legitimate forum for any global agreement that is to emerge when parties returned to the negotiating table in April.
However, Annex I countries remain adamant in disregarding the convention. The US has made it clear that it will not sign up to Kyoto Protocol and this has become a convenient excuse for other developed countries to abandon the Kyoto Protocol “ship” for the rust-bucket Copenhagen Accord “vessel”.
In doing so, these countries risk making a mockery of the Bali Action Plan that has already addressed the unique situation of the US and provided an avenue for the superpower to join the rest of the world in the war against climate change.
The Bali Action Plan, by the way, is a legitimate document adopted by all parties of the UNFCCC at CoP13 in 2007, which lay out a two-year process for countries to put together a post-2012 plan in the run-up to the annual summit in Copenhagen.
Hence, since Bali, parties had been engaging in what is known as a two-track negotiation process aimed at securing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (discussed in the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex I Parties or simply known as AWG-Kyoto Protocol) with more ambitious targets by developed nations according to what climate science demands as well as a long-term action plan involving developing countries (deliberated in the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action or AWG-LCA).
Under the AWG-LCA, the US will be allowed to play catch-up on emission reduction with an emission cut that is less ambitious than the EU at least for the second commitment period while it sorts out its domestic legislation on climate change.
Worsening rift
Developing countries, like Malaysia, are required to develop nationally appropriate mitigation actions to reduce its emission while taking into account their paramount rights to development. Of course, they are supposed to move to a low carbon development model but this paradigm shift must be supported financially and technically by rich nations as part of the latter climate debt to developing countries.
However, judging from the latest round of negotiation concluded in Bonn recently, where developed countries continue with their delaying tactics in the AWG-KP negotiation track and imposing more stringent monitoring scheme on poor countries emission reduction plan in the AWG-LCA track, the rift between rich and poor nations will likely worsen beyond reconciliation.
If those who are responsible for the perilous state of the climatic system are allowed to have their way, the world will miss any fighting chance of averting catastrophic climate change.
Hence, the US president's declaration might just turn him into the true saviour of the precarious UN climate talks.
Obama -- show us that you can. And will.

Hypocrisy galore

No, I am not anti-Israel. And I am certainly not anti-Jew. But I am anti-hypocrisy, especially when perpetuated by the Malaysian government. When Anwar Ibrahim raised the issue of APCO they made a move to suspend him from Parliament. Maybe Anwar can now look into Ness and raise it in Parliament and see what the government has to say about the matter.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Ness TSG (Technologies and Systems Group)
The main business of Ness is in intelligence, telecommunications, defence and homeland security

The Global HQ is in Tel-Aviv

Ness in the United States

Ness in Malaysia

Kedah, the Islamic state?

By Shanon Shah | The Nut Graph

IF a picture paints a thousand words, then one wonders what description of Kedah its billboards are now painting. A drive down Lebuhraya Sultanah Bahiyah in Alor Setar reveals a succession of billboards for a variety of companies and products with slogans in Jawi script. In fact, one of the billboards promoting Media Prima-owned radio station Hot FM even has its iconic deejay, Fara Fauzana, decked in a black tudung. The image would not be so jarring if not for the fact that in reality, Fara does not cover her hair.
Hot FM billboard on Lebuhraya Sultanah Bahiyah, featuring Fara in tudung
Hot FM billboard on Lebuhraya Sultanah Bahiyah, featuring Fara in tudung
There is nothing wrong with having Muslim women wearing tudung on billboards. There is also nothing wrong with having Malaysian billboards in Jawi. In fact, having Jawi and Muslim women represented in this way promotes the diversity that forms the backbone of Malaysian society. But we must also understand that the tudung and the Jawi script, though religiously and culturally legitimate, are not politically neutral. In fact, in Malaysia’s current social and political context, these could be manipulated as convenient symbols of Malay and Islamic supremacy.
These billboards have proliferated in Kedah due to a change of policy post-March 2008 by the PAS-led government. This is identical to PAS’s policy in Kelantan, too. It is also no secret that Hot FM, and Fara, acquiesced without much ado. In fact, Fara’s publicist said she looked “prettier in a tudung”. The question, though, is whether this policy is endorsed by PAS’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners?
The policy has been in place in Kedah since July 2008, so it is likely that the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) aren’t too fussed about it. But this then begs the question of consistency within the  PR. Say the PR took over federal government one day. Should we expect drastically different PR governments depending on which party – DAP, PAS or PKR – wins the largest number of seats? Can we rely on these billboards to predict what a PR-led Malaysia might look like?
Suria FM billboard at Jalan Tun Razak roundabout. Note Linda Onn in white tudung on right. Another billboard further along the North-South Highway, in Penang, shows Linda with hair exposed
Suria FM billboard at Jalan Tun Razak roundabout. Note presenter Linda Onn in white tudung on right. Another billboard further along the North-South Highway, in Penang, shows Linda with her hair exposed.
Not religion per se
The issue has nothing to do with religious doctrine. Sure, it is a widely accepted view that Muslim women are supposed to cover their hair. Nevertheless, ulama and Muslim leaders remain divided on whether it is the state’s duty to enforce dress codes upon women.
If this is the case, what message are the PAS-led governments sending? What does this say about the PAS slogan, “PAS for all”? Being an Islamist party, would PAS respect the rights of not only non-Muslims, but Muslims who differ with PAS?
For example, many would respect that 100% of PAS’s muslimat observe the tudung stringently. But if they ever came to federal power, what policy would PAS have on Muslim women who do not wear the tudung so strictly, or at all? Some might argue that this is much ado about nothing, since Fara herself continues about her daily business with her hair uncovered. However, the reason why Fara is able to do this is because she is based in the Klang Valley, not Kedah or Kelantan.
On the other hand, if the companies involved have acquiesced to PAS’s demands without much noise, we must ask ourselves if this has anything to do with religion at all. Why appease PAS and not the Umno-led states, for example? Are these companies conceding that Umno is less “Islamic” than PAS? Is it truly an attempt to appease Muslim “sensitivities”, or is it merely an attempt to pocket the Muslim ringgit? Could the issue be a case of manufacturing and then cornering the “Islamic” market on everything from instant coffee to broadband services to radio airwaves?
Nescafe billboard with Jawi script
Jawi script dominates billboards in Kedah, from Nescafe ads...
The issue of using the Jawi script is less problematic. After all, Jawi is but the Malay language in Arabic script. If Malaysian society evolved such that all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, learnt Malay in Jawi, then there would be no problem at all.
The problem now is that, for Malaysians who don’t read Jawi, the signboards would be quite alienating. Sure, many of these billboards reproduce the slogans in the Latin alphabet. But, for example, the Hot FM billboard has its slogan – Bukan sekadar kecohkan pagi, tapi teman hangat sepanjang hari – only in Jawi. What would a non-Jawi literate Malaysian think if he or she encountered this billboard for the first time in Kedah? Besides, Jawi itself has its share of racial and religious loadings. For example, the ritual circumcision of Muslim boys in Kedah is referred to as “masuk jawi”.
Why the fuss?
Why, some might ask, make such a fuss about billboards? Do these actually translate into everyday practices in Kedah? Arguably not – folks in Alor Setar saunter along as usual, the non-tudung-ed women unperturbed by the billboards, and the non-Jawi readers still able to choose their own coffee, internet connection or radio station.
... to the internet
... to ads for the internet
Nevertheless, if images represent who we are as a nation, then we have to ask ourselves what these images from Kedah mean. Are they a political signal from PAS, not just to Kedah and Kelantan, but to the rest of the country? And what does this say about the PR’s internal consistency? Exactly what would a Malaysia under the PR look like?
PAS MPs have gone out of their way to convince Malaysians that they are no longer obsessed with setting up an Islamic state. But actions often speak louder than words.
Additionally, is the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) for or against this? Perchance this, too, plays into the hands of a more syariah-compliant Umno?
Ultimately, the issue goes beyond the PR and the BN. It actually comes back to the rakyat – when we vote for a better Malaysia, what does that Malaysia look like to each of us, really?

Murugiah Withdraws Application Agaisnt ROS' Order

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 (Bernama) -- Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk T. Murugiah on Tuesday withdrew his application for leave for a judicial review to quash the Registrar of Societies' declaration that Datuk M. Kayveas is the rightful president of the People's Progressive Party (PPP).

Justice Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh allowed the withdrawal in chambers and ordered Murugiah to pay RM3,000 costs.

Murugiah was represented by counsel Mohana Krishnan while senior federal counsel Nadia Tajuddin appeared for the ROS and counsel Simon Sabapathy held a watching brief for PPP.

Murugiah filed the application on April 26 seeking an order of certiorari to quash the ROS' decision which was made on Aug 26 last year and a declaration that it is ultra vires and unlawful.

Murugiah also wanted the court to declare that the ROS had no jurisdiction under the Societies Act to make any decision on the validity or otherwise of the party's extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held on May 24 last year.

The ROS had not only confirmed Kayveas as PPP president but also ruled that Murugiah's appointment as party president at the EGM was invalid.

The ROS also held that Murugiah's expulsion from the party was done in accordance with provisions of the party constitution and as such, was valid.

Guidelines on treating child malnutrition not followed

The Sun 
by Alyaa Alhadjri

KUALA LUMPUR (June 21, 2010): Cases of childhood malnutrition among orang asli communities should be treated based on a national standard set by the Health Ministry and practised by all healthcare institutions under its administration.

A source told theSun on Sunday that the orang asli hospital in Gombak, which is under the aegis of Rural and Regional Development Ministry, has "no standard operating procedure" in dealing with childhood malnutrition cases -- leaving staff to take action using their own discretion.

According to the source, among critical areas that need to be addressed include compiling a database of childbirth and mortality rates, establishing a food basket for malnourished children and ensuring that there are enough supplies of items or equipment requested by medical staff.

She complained that currently, aid distribution to the orang asli communities consists only of "welfare aid for hardcore poor" which is very different from "malnutrition aid."

"The Health Ministry has established a clear guideline on aid distribution for malnourished children," she said, adding that so far, all aid delivered to orang asli through the Gombak hospital is categorised as welfare aid and channelled through its welfare department.

The source said a typical malnutrition aid basket should consist of rice, wheat flour, anchovies, milk powder, eggs and grains. The main objective of providing the food basket is to supplement a child's food intake.

"Currently, since there is no malnutrition aid programme in place, the hospital staff try to distribute the rations based on their own discretion (which may not meet the standards)," she said.

She said that hospital staff who visit orang asli villages in the interior are responsible to assess and monitor their healthcare status; including the development of all children below seven years of age.

Based on the Health Ministry's standards, all identified cases of malnutrition need to be recorded in a log book, something which she claimed was not followed due to lack of resources in terms of manpower and equipment.

"There is also a need for co-ordination between the team from Gombak hospital and staff from JHEOA (the Orang Asli Affairs Department) because they are the ones who should have specific data on the population of each orang asli village," she said.

She however noted that there has been several changes undertaken by the hospital's management since early this year, following increased media attention on the issue, but concrete results are yet to be seen.

The high childhood malnutrition rate among orang asli communities is one of the many issues raised by Dr Selvaa Vathany Pillai, former medical-officer at the orang asli hospital in Gombak here, in her report last year.

Selvaa went public with her allegations against the hospital management at a press conference on Feb 11, and was transferred by the Health Ministry to a hospital in Kedah in March.

She was also investigated by the Ministry and subsequently, received a show-cause letter from JHEOA on April 19.

Attempts to get the hospital director to comment on the matter were unsuccessful.

More details needed on Sg Juru land sale deal

More details are required on the Penang state government’s sale of 8.1ha of land near one of the most polluted rivers in the country, the 8km-long Sungai Juru.
The land was sold to Juru Auto-City, which will now have to rehabilitate the river.
Under the arrangement with the state government (reported in the Sunday Star on 13 June), Juru Auto-City would revive the river and its banks for activities such as fishing, boating and the breeding of prawns and crabs.
Are they going to throw some mud balls in and hope for the best? See here and here too.
More images here
What I would like to know are the terms of the deal with Juru Auto-City.
  • How much did they pay the state government for the land? Was it sold at market value?
  • What exactly is expected of Juru Auto-City in return?
  • Will the public be allowed free access to the river and its banks after it has been cleaned up?
  • Why isn’t the DID/JPS handling the clean up of the river? Isn’t that its role?
  • How exactly is Juru Auto-City going to clean up the river?
  • How is Juru Auto-City going to tackle the sources of pollution of the river?
The whole agreement should be made public as it involves the sale of public land.

Auto Draft

A busy morning alas, forgive me as merely reprint a statement released while I was travelling, speaking to the mistreatment once again of migrant workers.
We, the undersigned 66 organizations, groups and networks, concerned about migrant and worker rights, are appalled at the treatment of workers at Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd (229862-H), at its factory at Lot 6070, Jalan Haji Abdul Manan, 6th Miles off Jalan Meru, Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.
We are appalled at the dismissal of Thu Maung, a Burmese migrant worker, who courageously lodged a complaint at the Labour Department to claim his rights as a worker. Claiming worker rights by lodging complaints against errant employers at the Labour Department is the proper and legally recognized procedure in Malaysia. It is very wrong for employers to discriminate against and/or terminate workers who are exercising their legal rights. It is also wrong for employers to discourage and/or threaten workers from seeking justice, when worker rights are being violated.

Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of Supermax Corporation Berhad. Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a gloves manufacturer that makes Latex Powdered Examination gloves, Clorinated & Polymer Coated Latex Powder Free gloves, Nitrile Gloves and Sterile surgical gloves which is also exported overseas. Supermax Corporation Berhad is an established company, that according to their 2009 Annual Report made an after-tax profit of about RM126 million.
On 23rd March 2010, Thu Maung and another Burmese migrant worker from Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Department. Their complaints, amongst others, was that the employer:-
a. had wrongfully deducted levy, that employers have to pay when they employ migrant workers, from the worker’s wages,
b. had unlawfully deducted the medical check-up fees of RM1000 from the worker’s wages,
c. had wrongfully withheld 2 months wages,
d. had failed to provide the migrant worker with accommodation,
e. had not been giving the workers one rest day per week,
f. had made the workers work overtime(sometimes up to 13 hours per day), and also on public holidays and rest days, and had thereafter failed to pay overtime wages and wages for working on rest days and/or public holidays at the statutorily stipulated rates.
On 23rd March, Thu Maung and another had also lodged a complaint at the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM).
On 12 April 2010, Thu Maung went again to the Labour Department in Rawang and gave a detailed complaint, whereby the Rawang Labour Department did record the complaint and forward the same to the Labour Department office in Port Klang, because they said that the Port Klang Labour Office, has the requisite jurisdiction since the employer, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, is in Klang.
According to Thu Maung, after about 1 month since the lodging of the complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour office, company’s representatives started intimidating workers individually by asking them who had complained to the Labour Department, and whether they were also going to complain to the Labour Department. This form of intimidation of workers is deplorable. This kind of actions by employers has the tendency of instilling fear and preventing workers from claiming their legally recognized labour rights.
On 28 April 2010, Thu Maung’s supervisor at the company, for no reason, suddenly asked him to return the worker’s pass and not to come back to work. Thu Maung was wrongfully terminated, and he verily believes that this was done just because he had complained to the Labour Department, and was perceived as the leader of the workers who wanted to claim their rights.
It is even worse when the worker is a migrant worker, for a termination will usually mean a cancellation of the work visa, and deportation back to their home country. This also would mean that they would not be able to even pursue their claims at the Labour Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts as the physical presence of the complainant and/or litigant is necessary for the continuation of process of claiming rights.
The practice of terminating, cancellation of work visa and immediate deportation is a blatant disregard of the laws in Malaysia that exist to protect worker rights.
Work passes in Malaysia allow workers to work only for a specific employer – and hence a termination would leave the worker with no ability to work and earn a living legally in Malaysia, while he awaits the determination of the process that may give the worker justice. Cancellation of the work pass also makes his stay in Malaysia illegal, and he risk being arrested, detained and deported.
It is sad that the current laws and practices of Malaysia, which used to employ more than 2 million migrant workers have not been amended yet to ensure that workers who claim their rights are not wrongfully terminated and sent back.
Whilst there is a clear provision in the Industrial Relations Act 1967, that is section 5, which explicitly prohibits employers (or persons acting on behalf of employers) from discriminating, threatening, dismissing or acting negatively against workers who are interested in forming, joining, and/or encouraging other workers to join trade unions, there is no similar clear provision in law protecting workers who want to claim their worker rights through the Labour Departments and other available avenues. As an example, section 5(1)(c) and (d) of the Industrial Relations Act 1967is as follows:-
(1) No employer or trade union of employers, and no person action on behalf of an employer or such trade union shall -
…. (c) discriminate against any person in regard to employment, promotion, any condition of employment or working conditions on the ground that he is or is not a member or officer of a trade union;
(d) dismiss or threaten to dismiss a workman, injure or threaten to injure him in his employment or alter or threaten to alter his position to his prejudice by reason that the workman -
(i) is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become, a member or officer of a trade union; or
(ii) participates in the promotion, formation or activities of a trade union; or…
There should be a similar clear provision in law that will prevent employers from harassing, threatening, discriminating and/or dismissing workers that claim their worker rights using existing avenues of complaints and remedies. The act of employers impeding, dismissing (or threathening to dismiss) workers who claim their worker rights should also be made an offence with a hefty fine. Workers should also receive a significant sum in exemplary damages, over and above their claim. Deterrence is needed to stop this unhealthy practice of employers violating worker rights, and preventing them access to justice.
In the case of Thu Maung, we call for the immediate reinstatement of Thu Maung without any loss of benefits.
We call on Dato’ Seri Stanley Thai, Executive Chairman cum Group Managing Director of Supermax Corporation Berhad, to ensure that the wrong done by their subsidiary, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, to Thu Maung and other workers in the said company is ended, and that all workers are paid forthwith what has been wrongly deducted from their wages, monies that have wrongly been withheld returned, outstanding overtime payments, and that all legitimate claims are settled.
We call on the government of Malaysia to do the needful, including enacting laws that will deter employers in Malaysia from exploiting workers, and also protect workers that claim their worker rights from the negative acts of repercussion and/or ‘revenge’ by some bad employers.
We also call on the government of Malaysia to ensure that all migrant workers can continue to stay and work legally in Malaysia until their cases in the Labour Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts, and appeals thereafter are completed.
Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong
For and on behalf of the following 66 organizations
ALIRAN, Malaysia
Alliance of Health Workers Philippines
Arakan League for Democracy (ALD-LA-MALAYSIA)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC)
Asian Migrants Coordinating Body-Hong Kong (AMCB)
Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in HK (ATKI-HK)
BOMSA, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burma Partnership
Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (Vancouver, BC Canada)
Center for Japanese-Filipino Families
Clean Clothes Campaign -International Secretariat
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Communication Union of Australia (Vic Branch)
Empower, Chiang Mai
Filipino Migrant Center
Frank-Hubner-Scholl Resistance Movement of the White Rose
Free Burma Campaign Singapore (FBCSG)
Friends of Burma, Malaysia
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Institute for National and Democratic Studies of Indonesia (INDIES)
Interfaith Cooperation Forum
KAFIN-Migrante (Saitama)
Kafin Migrant Center, Japan
Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom
MADPET – Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights, USA
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrante B.C. (Canada)
Migrante Denmark
Migrante Europe
Migrante International
Migrante-Middle East
Migrante Nagoya
Migrante Taiwan
Migrante UK.
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), U.S.
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
PAN Asia and the Pacific
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Masyarakat Malaysia & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
Philippines Australia Union
Philippine Society in Japan
PINAY (Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec)
Pusat Komas
Rights Jessore, India
Shan Refugee Organization, Malaysia
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
The Best Friend Library – Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Hong Kong Coalition for Free Burma Campaign
Think Centre Singapore
United Indonesians against Overcharging (PILAR)
United Filipinos in Hong Kong
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
YASANTI, Indonesia
ZOMI National Congress- Malaysia

Villa gets Spain back on track

David Villa (R) of Spain celebrates with team mate Fernando Torres

Spain got their FIFA World Cup™ campaign back on track with a win against Honduras that was far more comprehensive than the 2-0 scoreline indicated. The Central Americans were the unlucky victims as the European champions returned to the kind of form which placed them among the pre-tournament favourites, David Villa claiming the Budweiser Man of the Match award for his two-goal haul.

Spain's victory lifted them alongside Switzerland with a win apiece, though still three points off Group H pacesetters Chile, their final opponents on Friday. Honduras, meanwhile, now need to win their last match against Switzerland, and hope Chile do them a favour against Spain, to have any hope of progressing.

Injury to Andres Iniesta saw Spain coach Vicente del Bosque reshuffle his pack with Fernando Torres brought into the line-up to join Villa in attack. Sevilla's right-sided flanker Jesus Navas was also given a place in the starting XI with David Silva omitted. It was no surprise to see Spain, undoubtedly stung by their opening loss to Switzerland, start in an attacking mode. Villa rattled the crossbar after just six minutes with an effort from 25 metres, while Sergio Ramos was unable to get downward force on a free header at the back post just minutes later.

Spain caused constant problems on both flanks with Villa operating on the left and Navas on the right. Villa appeared to be in supremely confident mood and it was no surprise to see Barcelona's recent signing open the scoring with what is set to be one of the individual goals of the tournament. Cutting in from the left, Villa dissected a path through two defenders when there appeared to be none, before rounding a third attempt at a tackle and unleashing a shot into the roof of the net.

On the half-hour mark, Torres had two good openings within the space of 60 seconds as Spain upped the ante further still. The Liverpool man, perhaps still showing signs of rustiness after his return from injury last month, guided a header into the ground and over the crossbar, before then skying his shot after a dribble into the penalty area. Honduras rarely threatened in the opening period, winning their first corner only in the final minute of the half. Honduran speed-merchant David Suazo received scant service up front as La Roja dominated midfield possession.

The second half started disastrously for the Hondurans with Villa doubling the advantage just six minutes after the restart, his shot from 20 metres taking a wicked deflection off the knee of Osman Chavez and looping over the outstretched hand of stranded goalkeeper Noel Valladares. Just past the hour, Emilio Izaguirre's foul on Navas in the penalty area gave Villa a golden opportunity to record a hat-trick but he pushed his spot-kick wide and in the process became the first Spain player to miss a penalty at the FIFA World Cup.

Nevertheless, Spain appeared certain to kill off the game with a third goal, only to be guilty at times of overplaying the passing movement when presented with a shooting opportunity. Substitute Cesc Fabregas appeared certain to score with his first involvement but, after springing the offside trap and rounding Valladares, the Arsenal skipper saw his shot impressively cleared off the line by a retreating Chavez. Honduras found some joy in attack in the final stages with Suazo firing wide and half-time substitute Georgie Welcome guiding a header the wrong side of the post. Yet Spain were still the team pushing hard until the final whistle with only some determined defending and their own profligacy ensuring the scoreline remained unchanged.

Gonzalez downs brave Swiss

Mark Gonzalez of Chile (L) celebrates

Despite having a man advantage for an hour of the Group H contest in Nelson Mandela Bay, Chile struggled to break down a record-setting Switzerland defence but ultimately won 1-0 through a winner from Mark Gonzalez.

The South Africa-born player headed in Esteban Paredes's cross in the 75th minute to break the Swiss back-line for the first time in over 550 minutes of FIFA World Cup™ football, a record they had claimed just minutes before. Chile now sit atop the table with six points from two wins, while Switzerland remain on three points after failing to build on their upset of Spain in their opener.

The attack-minded Chileans were always going to be more adventurous, and they had the large majority of the chances after Valon Behrami became the first Swiss player to be sent off in a FIFA World Cup match in the 31st minute. The South Americans had showed their attacking intent from the off, testing the Swiss goalkeeper twice in the tenth minute with swerving long-range efforts. Arturo Vidal cut in from the left and Diego Benaglio could only punch the ball as far as Carlos Carmona at the edge of the area who also tried his luck. Shortly after, the opposite No1, Claudio Bravo, had to be smart coming off his line to clear in front of Blaise Nkufo after a light back-pass.

The match then turned decisively as West Ham United player Behrami swung his arm into the face of Vidal while trying to hold off the Chilean along the sideline. Stunned by the straight red card, the Swiss retreated into their own third and, as against Spain, showed themselves well capable at bending without breaking. However, the quick South Americans showed themselves equally good at exploiting spaces. However, they were let down by their final ball or, in the case of Alexis Sanchez in the 40th minute, mediocre finishing after he had done well to chest the ball down in the box.

Chile made two changes at half-time to make their man advantage count, and they seemed to have opened the scoring within minutes of the restart, but Sanchez's long shot deflected off an offside player before beating the goalkeeper and was disallowed. Sanchez had another chance in the 55th minute after closing down defender Stephane Grichting well and running on to the deflected ball. But Benaglio again came out on top, getting down well to block the point-blank shot.

As the Swiss eclipsed Italy's record of scoreless minutes in the finals, it began to look more and more like Chile would come up frustrated on the night. But Paredes finally created the chance they needed with a diagonal run behind a for-once flat Swiss defence. His cross to the back post was met by the head of Gonzalez, who nodded down to beat defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on the line with Benaglio drawn out of his goal.

As Switzerland began to push forward for the first time in the match, Paredes should have put the contest out of reach twice in the final minutes, first blazing over and then wide with left-footed efforts. He was almost made to rue his wastefulness when Eren Derdiyok missed an exposed Chilean goal after a clever back-heel from Albert Bunjaku left him in space eight yards out.

Chile will try to confirm their place in the next round against Spain on Friday in Pretoria, while Switzerland face Honduras at the same time in Bloemfontein.

Portugal notch magnificent seven

Hugo Almeida of Portugal (third right) celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mates

Portugal turned on the style to thrash Korea DPR 7-0 at Green Point Stadium and take a huge step towards a place in the Round of 16.

Only a Raul Meireles goal divided the teams after a closely contested first half but it was a different story after the restart when Portugal devastated the North Korean defence with three goals inside eight minutes before the hour from Simao, Hugo Almeida and Tiago. With the clock ticking down, Liedson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiago again compounded their opponents' woes to produce Portugal's biggest FIFA World Cup™ victory and the widest winning margin so far in South Africa.

There were few parallels to draw with the teams' previous meeting on the world stage, their 1966 quarter-final in England when Eusebio – watching from the stands in Cape Town – so famously struck four goals as Portugal retrieved a three-goal deficit. There will be no repeat run from the North Koreans this time, their second defeat in Group G confirming their elimination. Portugal, by contrast, sit second in the section, with a three-point advantage over Côte d’Ivoire – and overwhelming gulf in goal difference – ahead of their final game against Brazil.

Carlos Queiroz's men made a positive start with defender Ricardo Carvalho nodding Simao's corner against the far post after seven minutes. As against Brazil in their opening 2-1 defeat, Korea DPR looked in no way overawed, however. With the rain teeming down, the Koreans pieced together a slick move on the fast surface that almost let in Jong Tae-Se only for the No9 to fail to control the through-ball. Otherwise, when they had the chance to shoot, they took it. Cha Jong-Hyok speared an effort just wide from distance, then Hong Yong-Jo arrowed in a shot from the right that Eduardo parried, Pak Nam-Chol failing to keep his header down on the follow-up.

Indeed Portugal coach Queiroz might have been forgiven a short sigh of relief when midfielder Meireles gave his side the lead in the 29th minute, timing his run into the North Korean box perfectly to meet Tiago's pass and drive the ball low past Ri Myong-Guk. A goal to the good, Portugal ended the half on top. Meireles sliced a shot wide before Fabio Coentrao teed up Hugo Almeida with a low centre but the big striker's attempted flick failed to come off.

Portugal did not have to wait long to double their advantage after the restart. Korea DPR custodian Ri Myong-Guk had already tipped over Tiago’s shot when Simao made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute. There was some impressive build-up play as Almeida backheeled to Meireles who played in Simao to slide the ball past Ri Myong-Guk. Within three minutes it was 3-0, Tiago sending Coentrao down the left and the full-back crossing for Almeida to nod past the goalkeeper. Portugal were now tearing them apart and by the hour they had their fourth goal, Tiago finding the net from Ronaldo's lay-off.

Meireles and Coentrao missed chances to underline their dominance, before Ronaldo rattled the crossbar with a spectacular strike. Yet in a late flurry, Portugal forced open the floodgates once more. Ri Kwang-Chon's mistake let in substitute Liedson to smash a shot high into the net. Ronaldo then opened his account after Liedson took advantage of some sloppy play in the Korean defence to play in the Real Madrid star – trying to pass the goalkeeper on the edge of the box, the ball bounced up off Ri Myong-Guk and on to Ronaldo's back before dropping from his head to his foot for an easy finish. Tiago's header one minute from time completed a magnificent seven.

Mayor backs Jerusalem eviction plan

Israeli officials claim that all 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan are built illegally [AFP]
The mayor of Jerusalem is pressing ahead with a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighbourhood to make room for a tourist centre.
Mayor Nir Barkat asked the city's municipal planning committee on Monday to give initial approval to the controversial plan that Palestinians describe as "forced displacement".
Barkat, however, insists the plan would revitalise tourism in the neighbourhood.
Barkat first proposed the demolition months ago, but he shelved the plan in March under pressure from Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu asked Barkat to consult with the Palestinian families who would lose their homes.
A spokesman for Barkat said on Monday that the municipality had finished those consultations.
"Now, after fine-tuning the plan and seeking more co-operation with the residents... the municipality is ready to submit the plans for the first stage of approval," Stephan Miller, Barkat's spokesman, said.
'Fast-track Judaisation'
Activists in Silwan denounced the latest move as another step in the "fast-track Judaisation" of East Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland last year interviewed Silwan families with homes slated for demolition
It pre-empts "the possibility of Jerusalem ever being a shared city, or indeed capital of a Palestinian state," they said in a statement. "This in itself precludes peace."
Several members of Meretz, a left-wing Israeli political party, threatened to resign their seats on Jerusalem's city council over the announcement.
Netanyahu's office issued a statement that expressed his hope "that the dialogue can continue".
Barkat's plan has also been criticised in the past by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and the UN. Muhammad Ishtayeh, a PA cabinet minister, said after the plan was announced in March that there was "no way" Palestinians could accept it.
The PA, US and UN have yet to respond to Barkat's latest announcement.
The 'King’s Garden'
The Palestinian homes targeted for demolition are in Silwan’s al-Bustan quarter, which Israel calls Gan Hamelech - the "King's Garden" - because the biblical King David supposedly wrote his psalms in the neighbourhood.
The homes would be razed and replaced with a collection of shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large community centre.
Israeli officials say the displaced families would be allowed to build new homes elsewhere in the neighbourhood - but haven’t said whether they will compensate those families for their losses.
Israeli officials say that all of the 88 Palestinian homes in Silwan are built illegally. It is extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain construction permits in East Jerusalem, so many families build their homes without the required paperwork.
Barkat's proposal would allow residents of the other 66 Silwan homes - the ones not slated for demolition - to retroactively apply for construction permits, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.