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Monday, July 19, 2010

Conman's victims come forward; Works Ministry implicated

By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Two more victims of conman Baladevan - a widow and a lady lawyer - have come forward with their own stories of how their lives were ruined by his scams.

This time, the plot thickened with the Works Ministry and the then minister S Samy Vellu being dragged into into the scandal.

Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam president Jacob George said that one of the victims, a 46-year-old lawyer lost RM500,000 and had been made bankrupt and disbarred because of the scandal.

She contacted George after he had highlighted in the media about Baladevan having allegedly swindled more than 40 local companies of over RM5 million.

George said: "The lawyer lodged a police report in 2006. In it, she claimed that the Baladevan and his brother, the then a private secretary to Samy Vellu were behind a scheme to procure three Malaysian government road works contracts in 2004”.

These were road upgrade and repair works along the Seremban to Senawang road; the Sungai Balang, Batu Pahat road; and the Lubok Cina, Malacca road.

Baladevan and his brother, said George, enticed the lawyer, who was then representing several contractors, saying that they were in a position due to their closeness to Samy Vellu, to provide them letter of awards for those projects.

"She said Baladevan had told her Samy Vellu wanted to help him and his brother and had allocated the said projects for them to give out ," said George.

"There were several meetings between the two brothers in the private secretary's office at the works ministry in Jalan Sultan Salahuddin, and a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Baladevan had asked the lawyer a sum of RM200,000 for one of the awards with an undertaking to give a letter signed by him to return the sum in the event of failure to get the project.

"She gave him the money but did not get the contract. Her calls went unanswered, and as a result legal action was taken by her contractor clients against her. She was made a bankrupt and disbarred," said George.

Seeking clarification from Bukit Aman

In the case of the widow, also in her 40s, George said she lost RM200,000 as her husband was believed to be in discussions with Baladevan to receive a million-ringgit award to provide ballast and sand, as well as acquiring a quarry for the Seremban-Gemas double track project.

"According to the woman, Baladevan had already taken several thousands from her late husband after showing him price sensitive internal IRCON documents. But what's worse was that the man had continued to visit her for more money even after her husband's death.

George said he would be bringing this case to Bukit Aman to question police's inaction despite a well-written and detailed police report the lady lawyer.

"If there had been action, not so many would have fallen prey to Baladevan's cheating and fraud involving the Seremban to Gemas project.

"An arrest warrant should be issued and those who cheated individuals and companies be arrested and charged for this heinous crime," said George, who is also arranging a meeting with Samy Vellu.

To date, the estimated losses suffered by Baladevan's victims amount to about RM7 million, according to George.

Last week, the BN backbenchers club deputy chairman Bung Mokhtar Radin said its members were "very concerned" about the matter and promised to bring it up with Transport Minister Kong Cho Ha.

No protection order, so ex-airman chooses jail

(Malaysiakini) In yet another dramatic twist in the trial of former RMAF sergeant N Tharmendran, the accused retracted his bail after the PJ Sessions Court refused his application for a protection order from the air force.

Judge Hayatul Akmal Abd Aziz ruled that the court has no jurisdiction to grant such an order, and it cannot admit a police report on alleged harassment by the RMAF as evidence, as it is still under investigation.

She added that the Abduction and Criminal Intimidation of Witnesses Act, cited by Tharmendran's defence as grounds to grant the order, is not applicable in Tharmendran's case as he is an accused and not a witness.

Tharmendran will now go back to the Sungai Buloh prison, just two weeks after securing a reduced bail of RM50,000 from the High Court.

Lead defence counsel N Surendran (left) said Tharmendran requested to retract his bail as he feared he would be picked up by RMAF officers who were waiting outside the courtroom.

"This goes to show that anyone who has been tortured before does not want to be tortured again," Surendran said of his client's alleged torture by army intelligence officers.

Surendran decried the court's decision not to grant Tharmendran a protection order, accusing the judicial system of failing the cause of justice.

"Today is one of the darkest days in this country, when a Malaysian citizen is forced to go to prison to protect himself from the authorities themselves," he said after the hearing this afternoon.

Earlier this morning, Tharmendran filed a police report claiming that four armed forces personnel had gone to his parents' home in Seremban to pick him up.

He also claimed that at least 10 officers from the air force's intelligence division, all in plainclothes, were waiting around at the courthouse this morning to take him away.

'Limited' documents turn up

At the afternoon hearing, deputy public prosecutor Ishak Muhamad Yusof was believed to have cited some documents handed over to him by marshalls attached to the military court.

The contents of the documents were unknown and could not be shown to the court as the marshalls claimed that it has limited access.

It was however at this time when Ishak refuted the defence's claim that Tharmendran's contract with the RMAF expired on May 28 this year, saying that after making an "inquiry" into his employment status, Tharmendran is still attached to the RMAF.

Surendran earlier argued that because Tharmendran's contract had ended almost two months ago, he is now a civilian and the RMAF have no business harassing him.

Ishak suggested that the defence apply for an injunction in the High Court, as it is the proper procedure to apply for such an order and would give the air force enough time to respond to the allegations.

"This court has no jurisdiction to give such an order, and if it does so it would be pre-judged as the matter is still under investigation," he said.

Trial date postponed

Earlier, Hayatul had adjourned Tharmendran's trial regarding two jet fighter engines found missing in 2007, pending the outcome of two applications filed by his lawyers.

The first application, filed on July 15 in the Sessions Court, is for further documents from the prosecution in relation to the alleged theft of the engines.

The second application, filed on July 16 in the Shah Alam High Court, seeks to strike out Tharmendran's case on the grounds that it is an abuse of the court process and frivolous.

The High Court has not set a date to hear this application.

Also present today was co-accused K Rajandran Prasad (left), who is represented by Gobind Singh Deo.

Tharmendran and Rajandran are jointly charged in connection with the theft of the jet engines in 2007.

The Sessions Court set Sept 6 for mention, to fix new dates for the trial.

Mystery men

The start of the trial was filled with drama and intrigue when Tharmendran's lawyers applied for a protection order to keep alleged "abductors" at bay.

Tharmendran (right) pointed out two officers in plain clothes hanging around the courthouse after the trial was adjourned.

This prompted his Surendran and Lateefa Koya to confront one of the officers.

"He admitted he was an officer, but denied that he is a witness or (that he is) involved in the case," Surendran said.

"He said he and another officer were just accompanying another officer to the courthouse, but when we asked if the person was still around, he said they did not know."

Tharmendran and his lawyers then went to the Petaling Jaya police station to lodge a report on an alleged attempt by air force personnel to abduct him from his parents' home in Seremban last Friday.

The report will be the basis for his protection order, which will be heard by the Sessions Court at 2pm today.

Tharmendran had previously told Malaysiakini that he had been tortured by military intelligence officers while being interrogated during an internal probe.

BN’s real interest beneath the sand issue

By Rahmah Ghazali - Free Malaysia Today

SHAH ALAM: There apparently is more than meets the eye in Barisan Nasional’s attacks on the Selangor government over the sand-mining issue.

There may be large reserves of tin underneath the sand and BN does not want them discovered while Selangor is under Pakatan Rakyat’s rule, according to a memorandum submitted to the state government by the Sand Mining Operators and Contractors Action Committee, which represents sand-related businesses registered with the state-owned Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd.

The memorandum, signed by the committee’s chairman, Raja Kamaruddin Raja Abdul Wahid, urged the state not to give in to BN’s demands.

Umno leaders last week demanded that the state sack the directors of Kumpulan Semesta, arguing that they had to take responsibility for illegal sand mining, which they said was rampant in the state.

Raja Kamaruddin said his group was not surprised that state opposition leader Dr Mohd Khir Toyo was trying to “act the hero” in the issue.

He said the former menteri besar had failed to act on former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s suggestion that the state explore the potential of tin mining.

“They are scared that we might mine deeper and find tin underneath, for this will only make Selangor richer,” he said.

“What frightens us the most is that they are asking the state to cancel operating permits for state-owned land. This shows that they are trying to stop development in the state.”

Under BN's tenure...

Raja Kamaruddin also alleged that illegal sand mining was prevalent when Khir was menteri besar.

“We are not stupid and blind,” he said.

“Thousands of lorry drivers can bear witness that the illegal activities happened during BN’s tenure.”

Yaakob Sapari, the state executive councillor who holds the Natural Resources and Entrepreneurial Development portfolio, received the 11-point memorandum on behalf of the government.

About 100 people—contractors, Pakatan supporters and state officials turned up to witness the submission of the memorandum.

Yaakob said: “The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has not found any evidence of corruption in the state government despite having investigated my aide.”

He was referring to Hussein Ahmad, whom the commission’s officers interrogated early this year.

Also read:

Protesters blame state govt for rampant sand mining

Reveal how Petronas contributions have been spent, DAP tells BN

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — The DAP is demanding an explanation from the government on how it had spent RM592 billion in Petronas contributions, as it continued to escalate criticisms over Putrajaya’s “careless” spending and the latest subsidy cuts.

DAP assistant national treasurer, Nga Kor Ming, said the government needed to reveal how it manages the country’s wealth before attempting to justify its move to scrap subsidies.

He revealed in Ipoh last night that since Petronas’ formation in 1974, the oil and gas giant had been the single largest contributor to federal coffers, with payments to the government totalling RM592 billion.

“In 2008, Petronas paid the government RM61.6 billion and last year, it contributed as much as RM74 billion.

“This year, even with the decline of RM16.4 billion, Petronas still paid RM58.3 billion, including RM30 billion in dividends,” he said in his statement.

Nga, who is also the Taiping MP, said voters deserved the right to know how Petronas’ contributions had been spent in order to prove there was accountability and transparency in the government’s financial management.

“To avoid corruption and ensure that the country’s total assets are not focussed on merely a few cronies, it is the government’s responsibility to inform the public how Malaysia’s wealth and treasures are managed,” he said.

He questioned the “excuse” for scrapping subsidies, pointing out that the people were aware of the government’s extravagance and wasteful habits through information exposed in the Auditor-General’s annual report.

“The government says the subsidy system needs to be restructured if we want to avoid becoming a bankrupt nation by 2019.

“But the people know better that this excuse is not good enough. The AG’s report has revealed before that Malaysia faces RM28 billion in annual losses resulting from leakages and mismanagement in the funds of government agencies and departments under the Barisan Nasional leadership,” he said.

Nga also cited an issue he had raised during the latest Parliament session on the rise in the Prime Minister’s Department’s operational expenditure, which had reached RM3.8 billion last year.

“The department’s expenditure had risen as much as RM2.5 billion in just eight years since 2003. That is a 150 per cent rise from RM1.5 billion in 2003,” he said.

In a written reply to Nga’s question in Parliament recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had explained that the escalated operational costs were due to the creation of new agencies in the department including Pemandu (Implementation and Coordination Unit), and the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), and an increase of manpower in some existing agencies.

Nga questioned the government’s integrity in forming new posts and agencies under the department, which he claimed were for the sake of enriching the BN’s political cronies.

As an example, he pointed out that the government had employed BN representatives as coordinating officers in Pakatan Rakyat-won constituencies.

“They are each getting paid RM5,000 and RM4,000 is paid to the candidates who lost during the elections. This makes no sense because it is the people who have to bear these costs.

“National coffers have been turned into party coffers,” he said.

Pakatan to zero in on Taib's wealth

By Joseph Tawie

KUCHING: Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s leadership and the exposure of his family’s overseas properties will be one of the main campaign issues to be used in the coming state election.
In the past month or so, Taib’s and that of his family’s properties in Canada, America, Australia and England worth billions of ringgit have been exposed by websites and blogs.

“Taib’s rule of Sarawak and his properties overseas have been discussed in detail in our election courses in Kuching,” said Mustaffa Kamil Ayub, chairman of Keadilan Academy.

“These issues will form the core issues of our campaign strategy in the coming state election,” he added.

“Our branch leaders need to know all the issues so that they can inform the rakyat, especially those in the rural areas,” said Mustaffa.

“The rakyat have been fooled and threatened, so it is our duty to inform them about the truth and, at the same time, to instil courage against BN’s culture of fear.

“The people are smarter now and they can judge for themselves. There are a number of ways how we can disseminate this information; some by leaflets and others by conventional methods,” he said.

Mustaffa returned to Kuala Lumpur today after organising election courses in Kuching, which were attended by grassroots and branch leaders of the party.

The academy is tasked with organising 10 principal programmes to build a firmly-grounded and dynamic future for Keadilan, which has the potential and capacity to shape Malaysian political history by promoting the spirit of reform, a new culture and a new style of politics.

'Voters smarter now'
On PKR’s election preparation, Mustaffa said the party is well-prepared to face the election and is likely to contest more than half of the 71 state seats.

“PKR is expected to be the biggest party in Pakatan Rakyat contesting in the polls,” he said.

Commenting on the BN’s confidence of victory in the coming state election, Mustaffa said the BN leaders had to say it in order to give confidence to the rakyat.

“But the voters are smarter now, clever and more analytical. They can take the money, but they will vote for Pakatan as is evident in the recent by-election in Sibu.

“In every election, they will give 100 grants and in 10 elections they will give 1,000 grants.

“The people have the right to all these grants; in fact, such grants like electricity and water are their rights and these rights have been delayed as they have been waiting for too long,” he said.

“The people can no longer be fooled,” he added.

Sodomy trial put off to Aug 2

By Fazy Sahir

FMT ALERT KUALA LUMPUR: The sodomy trial of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has been postponed to Aug 2 to allow his lead counsel Karpal Singh to recuperate following treatment for pneumonia.
Param Cumaraswamy, a member of the defence team, told High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah that Karpal Singh was on 15 days’ medical leave.

The judge said he was allowing the application for a postponement because Param had given his assurance that the defence would be ready to continue after 15 days even if Karpal Singh was still indisposed.

The prosecution did not object.

Anwar arrived at the court with his wife, PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. They were greeted by about 100 members of a group calling themselves the Selangor Communication Squad.

Karpal Singh was admitted to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre last week and is resting at his home in Penang.

“He’s recovering,” said his son, Ram Karpal.

Rebellion brewing within Sarawak PKR?

By Joseph Tawie - Free Malaysia Today

KUCHING: Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian is unperturbed by rumours of a plot to get rid of him.
“I’ve heard about the rumour and am aware there was a secret meeting at the house of Hafsah Harun (Sarawak PKR adviser).

“Apparently, the meeting was to discuss matters connected with the party’s election to be held in November.

“We have informed Kuala Lumpur about the secret meeting. We have also briefed deputy president Syed Hussein Ali, who is currently visiting Kuching,” he said.

Bian said that as long as the leadership wanted him to be the leader in Sarawak, he would try his best to strengthen the party and unite the various races in PKR.

“There is no need to topple me and we cannot afford to have internal bickering.

“We have a bigger enemy – Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud,” he said, adding that the party’s preparations for the coming state polls were on target.

He said all grassroots and branch leaders from Lundu to Kapit, Sibu, Miri, Bintulu and Lawas were actively working on the ground.

He said all ground leaders had attended the various seminars and courses organised by the Keadilan Academy to prepare them for the election campaign.

Rumours rife
It was reported on the blogs that on July 13, Hafsah had convened a meeting with deputy chairman Wan Zainal Wan Senusi, another adviser Dominique Ng and state leadership committee member Jimmy Donald.

The meeting was allegedly aimed at initiating a move to get rid of Bian because of his “inefficiency, leadership style and his inability to make the PKR presence felt” among the people.

Bian, who was appointed in December last year, was said to be regularly away and always entrusting PKR day-to-day affairs to his trusted lieutenant.

Asked to confirm the report, Hafsah admitted that there was a meeting, but denied the move was to topple Bian.

“Si ada bah (no such thing). It was only a briefing since I was away. I need to know what the party is doing now in its election preparation,” she said.

Wan Zainal also denied the move to oust Bian but admitted that the meeting was initiated by Hafsah and that she had asked for Ng and Donald to be present.

Meanwhile, sources disclosed that the secret meeting had also agreed to forward a report on Bian’s “inefficiency” to party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and called for his dismissal if PKR is to do well in the coming state election.

As this juncture, it remains unclear as to who would replace Bian in the event that the attempt to oust him is successful.

Hafsah, Wan Zainal and Ng have all held the post before.

Donald, the former Sri Aman MP, is a likely contender. He joined PKR in 2008 following his expulsion from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).

Donald was Larry Sng’s right-hand man in the PRS leadership struggle. Both were expelled from PRS.

Larry Sng, an assistant minister in Taib’s Cabinet, is currently in political wilderness as no local parties have accepted his requests to join them.

There are also rumours that Donald is working in cahoots with Sng Chee Hua (Larry Sng’s father) to prepare for Larry to join PKR in the event that he is not accepted back in the BN.

Bian, when contacted, said he was aware of rumours that Sng was trying to push his son Larry into joining PKR.

Tricked by employers and discarded by police

By B Nantha Kumar
KUALA LUMPUR: Seven months ago 43-year-old Rasiabanu from Tamil Nadu lodged a police report against her employers for failing to pay her wages for 16 months.
Rasiabanu had worked with them as a maid for two years and saw only her first month’s salary.

“Every time I asked them (employers) they said they will give it to me when I return to India.

“I believed them and continued working. After two years I asked to return home, but they refused to let me go. They refused to give me my money,” said Rasiabanu who now has a very low opinion about Malaysian employers. .

Rasiabanu came to Malaysia in 2008 with the ‘great hope’ of improving her family’s financial situation in India.

In India her husband worked as a sales assistant in a shopping complex in Trichy and earned 60 rupees a day.

But it was not enough to take care of the family, including their three children’s daily expenses.

“It was about that time when an agent met me and told me that I could work in Malaysia for two years and earn a lot of money.

"I wanted to help increase my family income. The agent said I had to pay 25,000 rupees to work in Malaysia.

“I managed to borrow the 25,000 rupees and paid the agent,” she told FMT.

On arrival at the Malaysian airport Rasiabanu was taken straight to her employer’s house.

“The employer agreed to pay me RM400 a month. They paid my first month salary and promised to pay up fully when the time came for me to return home.

“I agreed because they seemed like good people.”

But the backdated salaries amounting to RM6,400 did not come. Instead her former employers threatened her.

'Malaysians are mean'
Angry and upset at having been wronged, she sought justice at the Brickfields police station.

According to her the police have only met with her former employers once, but so far nothing has happened and she has not received her money.

“I'm staying in Tenaganita now for more than seven months. I still cannot go home. I miss my family so much...

"When I was in my village in India, I thought Malaysians were very nice people but when I came here I discovered how mean Malaysians actually are.

“They (Malaysians) have a lot of money but they are uncaring and cruel to people.

“Everyday I hope the police will make my former employers pay-up so that I can go back to my husband and children,” said Rasiabanu when met recently.

Tamil, Malayalee, Ceylonese, Punjabi, Gujurati - so what?

siva

If PKR were to be swayed by such goups, it will lose its moral right to lay claim to champion all Malaysians. Such groups should sit down with Ibrahim Ali and form various chapters of the same circus.

By Ice Cream Seller

Sivarasa may be constrained to tell the so-called Tamil speaking 'leaders' of PKR to go to hell.

Siva, on your behalf and without your indulgence, I will say so.

First and foremost, we are MALAYSIANS. Full stop.

Speaking Tamil or the inability to do so is a red herring. The late Dato Pathmanathan was fluent in Tamil but that didn't help him in MIC - because he was Malayalee (for the uninitiated, people from Kerala in India are known as Malayalees - just like Dr Mahathir's paternal origins, we are sometimes told).Though Dato Pathma was Harvard educated, it was not enough for these Tamil champs (or chumps).

Sivarasa is a Tamil - whose roots are from Sri Lanka (Ceylon, as it was known). In Sri Lanka, the races are broadly divided into Sinhala (the majority - who are mostly Buddhist, Tamils, Burghers (Eurasians like our brothers in Malacca), Muslims (all Muslims are lumped into one group regardless of whether one is of Indian or Arab origin) and others (including Malays).

Pre-independence, 2 groups of Tamils found their way to Malaya - the ones from Tamil Nadu in India and those from Ceylon (Sri Lanka - hence the term Ceylonese - to denote their Ceylon nationality).

The Tamils from Tamil Nadu were (as I was taught and indeed observed) largely brought to work the estates and the railroads. The Tamils from Sri Lanka were brought to help administer the civil service and being largely English educated were also delployed in the railways, telecoms, schools, hospitals etc.

The Tamil spoken by the South Indian folks differ somewhat to that spoken by the Sri Lankan Tamils though the written script is the same (but who cares).

Ananda Krishnan, Gnanalingam, the late Tan Sri Selvarajah, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam are of Sri Lankan Tamil descent (but who cares - they are Malaysians). Sivarasa is not fluent in Tamil as spoken by the main Tamil population in Malaysia but am quite sure he can rattle off a few profanities in Tamil as we did even if we didn't quite know the full meanings of them.

What is it with these folks? If Tamil is so important to them, then they should go to India (even if they are Malaysian born) and apply for the status of PIO - Person of Indian Origin. Better still, go to Tamil Nadu specifically and they can literally talk to their MPs till the cows come home (hey, the cows there understand Tamil too).

To a large extent, MIC, by persevering with Tamil schools, ensured their own survival with a ready pool of Tamil educated Malaysians - ready to serve MIC, as opposed to providing them a good education to get out of their vicious cycle of abject poverty. I must stress that there are many professional Malaysians who have indeed come through the Tamil medium schools.

If Tamil was the lingua franca of commerce in Malaysia or for that matter in South East Asia, by all means pursue its learning. But really, outside of South India, it is difficult for a Tamil scholar to reach his full potential. Tamil culture and language has a long and treasured history - no issue with that but we are not in India.

For the record, my late father spoke impeccable Tamil but he was an English graduate and he believed that in multi racial Malaysia, education (at that time in English) was the way forward for his Malay, Chinese and Indian students. We were united by English but today these groups want to use Tamil to divide (actually to achieve their own ends).

Instead of trying to replace Sivarasa, they should spend their energy in trying to get the senior police officers to be Tamil speaking so that they can attend to the disproportionately large Tamil speaking people regularly rounded up by the cops as suspects and I do not mean this in a disparaging way to the Tamil brothers and sisters.

If PKR were to be swayed by such goups, it will lose its moral right to lay claim to champion all Malaysians. Such groups should sit down with Ibrahim Ali and form various chapters of the same circus - chimps, chumps, apes, beruks and an orangutan as the chief entertainer.

Podah!!!

INTERNET GUARANTEE


1. When we appointed an International Advisory Panel of prominent IT personalities from around the world, we gave a guarantee that Malaysia would not censor the Internet.

2. We thought at that time that even if we wanted to, we couldn't. The technology was not available for us to do this. And so Malaysiakini and other sites flourished.

3. Now that I have retired I feel glad that we made the decision not to censor. I have benefited much from the blogs as have very many bloggers. There may be a few who have abused this blogging privilege but by and large it has served the public well. The mainstream media in Malaysia need no censoring as they censor themselves. So the blogs can report what really happens. It can be the alternative source of news. And there is a need for this other source for the mainstream media will always be guarding their behind.

4. I had always assumed that the Western press is free. Certainly they have never been in any way constrained when writing about the third world including Malaysia.

5. Now, I know better. Robert Fisk, one of the great Western journalists has revealed that when writing about their own countries and about the West in general they adhere to official sources and use clichés which masked the truth. They too indulge in self-censoring. I recommend that everyone interested in the so-called freedom of the press should read his book - The Age of The Warrior.

6. Press freedom is supposed to be an essential part of the practice of Western Democracy. The assumption is that with press freedom truth will prevail. But the freedom is also about telling lies, about promoting evil agendas, demonizing individuals, twisting facts, hounding people to death and all other kinds of evil.

7. The Internet has now given not just journalists but given just about anyone the same capacities to tell the truth, to lie and twist facts and do all the good and evil things. There is no censoring the Internet.

8. But I am concerned about the dissemination of pornographic material. I am concerned because there can be no doubt that sex related crimes are more common today due to the easily excitable young having access to filthy pornographic material. Sexual immorality among youths is more common today than ever before.

9. Something has to be done to the Internet's promotion of immorality. The world community should agree that the promotion of pornography via the Internet should be stopped. Failing this Malaysia should censor all pornographic material on the Internet, guarantees notwithstanding.

10. It is possible to do this now and it should be done. It will not be 100% successful but it will prevent easy access at least. Moral decay should not be allowed to be promoted. Certainly moral decay should not be speeded up via the Internet.

Should the subordinate courts have more power?

by Ding Jo-Ann | The Nut Graph
WHY has there been such a furore over the government’s amendment of the Subordinate Courts Act? And why should the public care that the Act has been amended?
As a result of Parliament passing the amendment, the Sessions Court can now hear civil cases worth up to RM1 million while the Magistrates Court cases worth up to RM100,000. This represents a four-fold increase from their previous jurisdictions.
Lim Chee Wee
Lim Chee Wee (source: malaysianbar.org.my)
Bar Council vice-president Lim Chee Wee called for the amendments to be delayed pending a proper study on its impact. Lim also pointed out that the increase in amounts meant that lower court judges would be hearing more complex cases, previously reserved for High Court judges. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, however, said the amendments merely took into account inflation and did not change very much.
Both sides have valid points. A sudden jump in jurisdiction would surely shunt many cases from the High Court to the Sessions Court and from the Sessions Court to the Magistrates Court. The lower courts may well have trouble coping with the increased workload. Having said that, increases in jurisdiction, in 1987 and again in 1994, did not have any serious ill-effects.
But there are other underlying issues with the lower courts that the recent amendments do not address. If these issues are not looked into, whatever doubts that existed about the lower courts before the amendments would only be compounded by the increase in their power. Hence, the question that needs to be answered is, should the sessions and magistrates courts have been granted additional powers to hear cases of higher amounts?
Quality of judgments
Unlike High Court judges who must have at least 10 years experience before being appointed, there is no such minimum requirement under the Federal Constitution or Subordinate Courts Act for lower court judges. Sessions court judges and magistrates are appointed from the Judicial and Legal Service (JLS), which is effectively part of the executive. Fresh law graduates can technically be appointed magistrates, although internal guidelines require Sessions Court judges to have served for about eight years before being appointed. JLS officers are not required to complete their pupillage or have any practical experience in a law firm before joining.
Cartoon image of a gavel wearing a judge's wig
It is not uncommon to find judges confused about court procedures and legal arguments (© Cory Thoman | Dreamstime)
This system differs from the practice of other countries where the majority of judges are appointed from amongst lawyers. In the UK, for example, district judges, who perform a similar function to Malaysian session court judges, must have practised in court for at least seven years. Having practised as a lawyer helps ensure judges are familiar with court procedure and legal arguments.
It is of course possible for a hardworking and bright JLS officer to “learn on the job” and become experienced with time. Having said that, many lower court judges, even senior ones, unfortunately display their lack of practical experience on the bench.
Decisions are often delivered simply by them saying “case dismissed” or “claim allowed”, without any analysis of how the decision was arrived at. It is also not uncommon to see judges confused about the rules of evidence, correct procedure, and legal concepts. At times, time-consuming written submissions have to be filed to clarify a simple matter for the judge.
It is therefore all well and good for Nazri to say that the amendments were merely on account of inflation. But what will be done to improve the quality of these judges who now have additional powers? Especially since Sessions Court judges can now decide on injunctions and make declarations which can have wide-ranging effects on businesses and individuals?
Independence
Gani
Abdul Gani (© agc.gov.my)
Another major area of concern is the independence of JLS officers. JLS officers answer to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. The commission consists of, amongst others, the Public Services Commission chairperson and the Attorney-General (AG), who advises the government on legal matters and represents it in legal disputes. JLS officers often get transferred between departments in the AG’s Chambers and could also serve, for instance, as public prosecutors or in the drafting division.
Although the AG’s Chambers is supposed to be independent of the government, its’ officers salary scale, ranking and promotion are identical to that of civil servants. It would therefore not be surprising if lower court judges develop a civil servant mentality. This opens them up to the possibility of bias when hearing evidence from “fellow” civil servants or cases involving the government.
Edmund Bon
It is also a cause of concern that the AG is effectively the boss of Sessions Court judges and magistrates. This issue is compounded when the AG himself appears in the lower courts. This occurred for example, when lawyer and then Bar Council human rights committee chairperson Edmund Bon was arrested in December 2007. Bon had allegedly tried to prevent a police officer from removing a banner hung in conjunction with the 9 December Human Rights Day celebrations.
AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail himself appeared before Sessions Court judge Komathy Suppiah to argue that Bon should be denied bail. Judge Komathy disagreed with her superior’s arguments in that instance and freed Bon on bail. Nevertheless, the possibility of influence from the AG was real, and still remains.
Fixed costs
There are other issues that need to be dealt with in the lower courts, such as the fixed scale for costs, which has not been similarly adjusted for inflation. A successful plaintiff in a RM100,000 claim for example, would only receive about RM7,000 in costs under the scale, plus disbursements.
A defendant with deep pockets could well afford to drag out a case for years to wear down the plaintiff. Even if the defendant loses, the costs awarded to the plaintiff would hardly be prohibitive. Similarly, a plaintiff with a frivolous suit can still afford to sue as even if the suit was unsuccessful, costs would still be relatively low.
This is unlike in the High Court where costs are not awarded by a fixed scale and tend to be much higher. The low-costs award is likely to result in cases which should have been settled or never been brought at all languishing in court, contributing to the backlog.
Govt’s intention
Improving the court system will not happen overnight. Indeed, measures need to be taken step by step. The government, however, could have chosen to deal with other aspects of the lower courts that really need improvement. For example, the quality and independence of judges.
However, these aspects, although crucial, require harder work and political will on our government’s part to restore complete independence to the judiciary. The fact that the government has focused instead on a monetary increase of jurisdiction, without adequate consultation and study, draws a question mark on whether our leaders are serious about reforming the courts.

What Anwar’s Trial Means For Malaysia

From Wall Street Journal
By JOHN R. MALOTT

A guilty verdict would be a serious step backwards for this aspiring Muslim democracy.

The trial of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s opposition leader and his nation’s best-known and most respected international figure, is scheduled to resume this week in Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian press dubs the affair “Sodomy II,” for it appears to be a repeat of the Muslim democrat’s 1998-99 trials, when he was convicted on corruption and sexual charges. Sentenced to 15 years in prison, Mr. Anwar later had his conviction overturned, and he was released after six years in solitary confinement.

I was the U.S. ambassador to Malaysia when Mr. Anwar first was arrested and put on trial, and everything I knew then and know now leads me to conclude that this trial also is an attempt to sideline him politically.

Already convicted by the government-controlled media, Mr. Anwar and his defense team have been denied access to the evidence that the government possesses, including police and medical reports, surveillance tapes, and even the witness list. Malaysia does not have a jury system. The verdict will be rendered by one judge, appointed by the same government that wants to remove Mr. Anwar from the political scene.

While a handful of human rights groups and some Australian parliamentarians have condemned the trial, there has been little interest at the broader international level. The Obama administration has been silent.

When I visited Malaysia last month, it was clear that Mr. Anwar and most observers expect a guilty verdict in August. At that point, the question is whether he remains free on bail during his appeal or is jailed immediately.

A charismatic campaigner, Mr. Anwar led his coalition to near victory in Malaysia’s last parliamentary elections in 2008, when the opposition took 47% of the popular vote and gained 62 seats. The government’s new political game plan seems to be to put Mr. Anwar in jail and the opposition in disarray, call snap elections, and ride to victory.

Today Malaysia gets little attention in the world press. The lingering image is of an Asian economic success story, a moderate Islamic country and aspiring democracy, and a multiracial society in which harmony prevails. Unfortunately, that is not the case today. Malaysia is a nation adrift.

Once one of the world’s dynamos, Malaysia’s economy has underperformed over the past decade, with an average annual growth rate of 4.5%. Much of that growth was the result of government spending, which has pushed Malaysia’s debt level to 54% of GDP. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has remained relatively flat over the past 15 years, while flows into Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have soared. To make matters worse, Malaysia experienced a net outflow of $6 billion in FDI capital in 2008.

Malaysia desperately needs to upgrade its skills base and innovation capabilities, but almost 500,000 Malaysians—nearly 2% of the population—left their country for good between 2007 and 2009. Malaysian experts believe most of these émigrés were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, concerned by economic decline and growing racial and religious tensions.

Worried about losing political support, the ruling party has responded by appealing to the baser instincts of the country’s Malay Muslim majority. For example, it told Malaysia’s Christians that they may no longer use the word “Allah” for God, even though the word existed in Arabic long before Islam arose. A new militant group called Perkasa, which claims that Malay rights are under threat from the Chinese and Indian minorities, has won backing from former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and other members of the ruling party.

For Malaysia and the world, there is more at stake in Mr. Anwar’s trial than whether one person is convicted. Malaysia is at a crossroads. The road that it chooses matters not only for some 30 million Malaysians, but for the entire world. The country could be a model for the 600 million people of Southeast Asia and for the entire Muslim world, if it returns to the promising course it was on 15 years ago. But a guilty verdict for Mr. Anwar means that the corruption and cronyism that now pervade Malaysia, its lack of political freedom and its economic decline, will continue. The country’s non-Malay citizens will continue to seek a better haven overseas.

In 1998, Mr. Anwar said, “If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.” That is no less true today. If Mr. Anwar is denied his freedom, then Malaysians will continue to be denied their freedom and the country its promise.

Permatang Tinggi PKR Branch Quit Party To Join Umno

BUKIT MERTAJAM, July 18 (Bernama) -- The Permatang Tinggi Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) branch was dissolved when its 56 members quit the party today to join Umno.

Its deputy chief Ismail Md Ali said they decided to join Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) as they had lost trust in the opposition party which they felt was not committed to the party's struggle.

"We are also fed up with PKR's sweet promises because until today, two years after winning the Machang Bubuk state seat, none of the promises made have been fulfilled," he told reporters after handing over their membership forms to join Umno to Bukit Mertajam division chief, Senator Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir, here.

According to Ismail, PKR members in Permatang Tinggi were also disappointed with the leadership of Machang Bubok assemblyman Tan Hock Leong who allegedly had not been going to the ground to meet the residents.

"Each time we invited Tan to meet the residents here, he would have an excuse and since winning the seat, he has not met the residents to listen to their problems," he claimed.

Ismail said they chose Umno as the platform to continue their struggle as they had confidence in the party led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Meanwhile, Musa said the decision by Ismail and his fellow former PKR members to quit the party and join Umno was a wise move for the good of the Malay community in the state.

"Umno welcomes their entry. To date, members from three more PKR branches in the Bukit Mertajam area have discussed with me and informed their intention to dissolve their branches.

"They have chosen to join Umno as they are fed up with the PKR leadership of placing self-interest above the grassroots'," he said.

Musa, however, declined to reveal which PKR branches would be joining Umno but said that about 300 PKR members from the area would quit the party soon.

Catholics continue to wait for Allah

The Malaysian Insider 
by Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 – The Catholic Church won the constitutional right to print the word “Allah” in its newspaper seven months ago but a government application to stay the ruling could delay its use for a while longer.

The Court of Appeal has yet to indicate when it is taking any step to move the case along but retired jurists say it can’t take very long while a lawyer said it could take up to two years to get a hearing.

Appellate and trial division chief from the Attorney-General’s Chambers Datuk Kamaludin Md Said has confirmed that the Court of Appeal has yet to set a hearing date for the appeal.

“Nothing yet, nothing yet, nothing yet,” the government lawyer sounded exasperated when asked about the court status.

Kamaludin is the senior federal counsel representing the home ministry in the “Allah” dispute where the High Court here ruled last December 31 that the Catholic Church has a constitutional right to publish the word “Allah” to refer to God outside the Islamic context.

The Home Ministry — which had imposed the word ban on The Herald two years ago — has got a stay against the judgment pending its appeal while the Church — noting the spate of attacks on houses of worship nationwide earlier this year — agreed not to challenge the stay application.

“We’ve already filed the record of appeal so it’s up to the court to fix the date,” he stressed repeatedly.

Lack of any action at the Palace of Justice is doing little to dispel the public suspicion at the prolonged stay order.

The Church refused to comment on whether it was taking any action to speed their case along.

Former High Court judge, Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah, told The Malaysian Insider he has not heard of an indefinite stay being granted during his time on the bench.

“I’ve not heard of an indefinite stay... In my experience, the courts are venues to give finality to disputes,” said the man who quit the judiciary 14 years ago, after his 33-page letter alleging several senior judges of being on the take leaked out to the public.

“But the laws may have changed since I left the court,” he added.

A former law practitioner suggested that an indefinite stay would amount to an injunction, which is against the practices of the court.

“Meaning the Church would be prohibited from using it,” said the retiree, requesting anonymity.

He explained that under normal circumstances, the party that is appealing a judgment could get a stay order, but the appellate court should also set a time frame for the next step to ensure fair play is given to both sides.

A stay is granted to provide time for the party to file further action, and the court has the right to decide on a reasonable amount of time it would take to prepare the necessary papers.

For the “Allah” appeal to have gone on for six months without any court proceeding taking place was “very unreasonable”.

“There must be a proceeding in court,” he stressed, even if the government were to tell the judges there were other similar cases pending in the High Court and it would be better to wait for them to be finalised there and then heard one-shot.

Bar Council vice-president Lim Chee Wee, agreed that an indefinite stay meant a permanent stay, but said such a thing existed.

“Yes, there is such a thing. Usually, it’s granted pending the winding up of a company facing insolvency. “It’s very rare outside of that,” he said.

But Lim noted that in the “Allah” dispute, the home ministry’s stay was the type “pending the outcome of an appeal” and admitted “there’s no fixed time for hearing”.

“It would depend on the court diary,” he added.

Other law experts confided that the Catholic Church’s only recourse would be administrative, based on the present circumstances.

One advised the counsel for the Church to write in to the Court of Appeal to remind the registry of the pending case.

Lim appeared optimistic that the appellate court would deal with the “Allah” dispute in due time.

“Our courts are quite efficient these days. It should be heard within two years,” he said.

43 killed in Baghdad attack

Baghdad, Iraq -- A suicide bomber killed at least 43 people and wounded 40 others in an attack outside Baghdad on Sunday morning, police said.

The attacker targeted members of the Awakening Council -- former Sunni militants now in the pay of the Iraqi government -- as they waited to receive paychecks, police said.

A second suicide bomber hit an Awakening Council office in the town of al-Qaem, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, killing three and injuring six, an Iraqi official said. The attack also took place Sunday morning.

And another person was killed and three were hurt when a bomb attached to a car went off in northeastern Baghdad later on Sunday, police officials said.

Awakening Council members, also known as Sons of Iraq, are credited with helping bring down violence in Iraq in the past two years. They are a frequent target of anti-government militants.

Iraq continues to see almost daily violence, but it has been some time since so many people were killed in a single incident.

At least 66 people were killed in more than half-a-dozen attacks on Shiite pilgrims on July 7-8.

Govt to conduct survey on Indian community in estates

KUALA LUMPUR: The Special Affairs Department (Jasa) will carry out a survey on the Indian community living in estates, starting with Selangor.

Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim said the survey, will would begin shortly, was aimed at understanding the community better.

"We have often heard that the Indian community in dire needs of help but we cannot see it through the present window of the society and do something about it.

"We want to see this survey open several windows of new understanding on how we can interact and improve their way of life in the estates," he told reporters after launching the Rapat 1Malaysia campaign at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam Square in Batu Caves here today.

Rais said Jasa would submit the survey findings and recommendations of what needed to be done to improve the standard of living of the community to the government.

To Merdeka Centre's findings on rise in confidence from the Indian community to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's leadership, Rais said the government machinery should not get too complacent with the results of the survey.

"What should we do after this is to get the people's touch, that is we see how the relationship between the community with government policies strikes an understanding or becoming really friendly.

"1Malaysia should be translated not only through rhetoric or narrative but also through our treatment of the people," he said.

On the carnival, he said the event, which was held with the participation of 45 non-governmental organisations, was a success as it drew a large turnout.

"This evening we see the Indian community is actually a community which always cooperate with government departments in working towards the transition and transformation of their lives," he said.

- Bernama

'Forgotten' tribes left behind by development

 

 By M Jegathesan - Free Malaysia Today,

KAMPUNG BERTANG LAMA: Just a few hours from the glittering Malaysian capital is a pitiful scene of hungry children and desperate parents, in an indigenous village home to the "forgotten Malaysians".
Naked youngsters with the tell-tale signs of malnourishment - bulging stomachs and brown tinged hair - sit listlessly in a hut, while others cling to their mothers as they suckle milk.

Welcome to Bertang Lama village, home of some of Malaysia's Semai people, an indigenous tribe mired in poverty and struggling to adapt as the multicultural nation races towards modernity.

The village, which houses about 300 people, is located close to Cheroh, a small town in central Pahang that sits along the Titiwangsa mountains which form the backbone of Peninsula Malaysia.

The Semai, once nomadic but now largely settled, are seeking recognition of their traditional land rights as well as basic needs - piped water, electricity, medicine, education and tarred roads.
Known for their tracking skills
There is little food in the village where families live a subsistence life, hunting and gathering to trade in jungle products like rattan and agarwood.

Neither is there much money, as the forest they depend on is fast being depleted of its resources thanks to deforestation caused by logging, and the rapid expansion of rubber and palm oil plantations.

There are an estimated 45,000 Semai in Peninsular Malaysia, among some 150,000 indigenous people divided among 19 linguistic groups who live on the country's mainland.

Colin Nicholas, coordinator of the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, said the people of Bertang Lama and others like them have become "the forgotten and invisible Malaysians".

Nicholas said the Semai played a valuable role in the British offensive against communist insurgents in the 1950s due to their stealth and tracking skills, but are now seen as irrelevant.

"Come elections, ruling party politicians make promises in exchange for votes but after that they renege on their words. Because of their small population, they are easily ignored by the government," he told AFP.

"The indigenous people have been pushed to the brink. Their situation will only get worse. After nearly 53 years of independence, the government is in a state of denial."

Invisible people
Not all Semai or Orang Asli people are impoverished, and some communities, particularly those located closer to urban infrastructure, have done much better in terms of education, employment and health.

But the plight of Bertang Lama village was highlighted when Lim Ka Ea, an executive officer with the Malaysian Bar Council visited recently and recounted her shock at the scene there in a newspaper article.

"The Orang Asli have been regarded as invisible by many people," she told AFP.

"What we do see in them is their 'primitive' form of lifestyle and the entrenched stereotype that they serve no purpose to the advancement of our nation except to make our tourism advertisements look exotic and attractive."

In the village, 11-year-old Jolisa returns home from the forest, armed with a machete and a bamboo basket on her back as she skips along with three other barefoot friends.

"We went looking for wild vegetables," she says.

"Yes I would like to go to school if there was one in our village," she replies with a smile to a visitor's question.

'Life is difficult'
Nearby, inside a dilapidated hut, a naked two-year-old child with mucus dripping from his nose and an expressionless face holds a bowl containing only mashed tapioca, a flavorless starch, for his breakfast.

The chidren are mostly illiterate, and mostly hungry as their families can only provide them with vegetables and tapioca sourced from the jungle.

The village is located just 11 kilometers from a main road but it is a tedious drive along an unsealed logging track.

"We sell rattan, bamboo and agarwood sourced from the forest. But it is hard to find them now," says Yoke Ham, a 47-year-old father of 12 children who says his ancestors settled here hundreds of years ago.

"The average income per month is less than RM300," he adds, as crying babies drown out the chirp of insects.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is striving for Malaysia to achieve developed-nation status by 2020, earlier this month assured all Malaysians that no one will be left behind.

"I promise you, as prime minister I will be fair to everybody. We will help all communities to move forward. We will make Malaysia a high-income country," he said.

But the lofty goals mean little to Robina, who looks in her thirties but does not know her age. She holds her sick three-year-old daughter, Sinar, on her lap and appeals for help as tears roll down her face.

"My child has a fever. I have no money to buy food and rice for her," she says. "We have not had our breakfast yet. Life is difficult."

- AFP

Wives of elected reps told to ensure husbands do their jobs

By Charlie Rudai - Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: The wives of Barisan Nasional (BN) elected representatives have been given a special task by Prime Minister Najib Tin Razak - checking whether their husbands are doing their jobs.

He told this a group of women in Sabah on Saturday that they should ensure their husbands discharge their responsibilities to their respective constituencies and voters.

“We can say that the core business of wives of elected representatives is to become the partner (of their spouse) not only in managing domestic affairs properly but also to meet the need of the husbands.

“If all this has been managed well the husbands can do their job better as elected representatives or a members of the government,” Najib told a closed three-day meeting of the wives of BN elected representatives hosted by the Sabah government at a hotel here Saturday,

Najib, who is also the BN chairman, said for elected representatives their most important responsibility is to work wholeheartedly that they are loved by their constituents.

“If we can relate this core business (of elected representatives) with the core business of wives (of elected representatives) only then we will be able to carry out our duties better,” he said.

The Prime Minister also urged welfare bodies set up by the wives of elected representatives to assist the government identify social issues like poverty eradication, pollution and social ills.

Najib thanked the state government for hosting the Bakisa (Sabah Assemblymen Wives Welfare Body), event in a grand manner.

Rosmah slipped
Earlier, the Prime Minister's wife Rosmah Mansor caused a slight commotion when she slipped and fell on while descending from the stage after delivering her speech as the President of Bakti (Welfare Body for Wives of Federal Ministers and Deputy Ministers and Barisan Nasional MP).

She had just delivered a speech that lasted more than 40 minutes at the closing ceremony of the wives of BN elected representatives annual programme when she fell that drew a loud scream and gasps from those gathered.

Rosmah did not hide her anger to her bodyguard who failed to catch her hand as she was slipping. In front of the packed ballroom in a major resort and spa here, once she picked herself up, pulled away from her bodyguard and refused to be guided by the back to her seat.

She also waved her finger crossly at her female bodyguard as though rebuking and blaming her for letting her fall.

Musa, who was about to deliver his speech after Rosmah, stopped for about five minutes as Najib, Musa and other dignitaries at the VVIP tables checked on Rosmah. Other wives of the elected representatives sitting near the main table also went to see her.

After indicating that she was fine with a smile, Musa made his way to the rostrum but stopped at the place where Rosmah had fallen and scratched the surface of the staircase with his shoe.

“True it is very slippery,” he said before proceeding with his speech.

However, her husband Najib did not touch on the matter when he went to deliver his speech to close the annual programme.

Najib took just over 15 minutes to deliver his closing speech as he said “my wife has said all that I wanted to say”.

Old world of cinema halls and bubbling excitement


By Sim Kwang Yang - Free Malaysia Today

FEATURE The most exciting event of the week in those long gone, bad old days was going to the movies. Nowadays, there is nothing extraordinary about going to the movies any more. Every household has a DVD player and television set, and watching a movie is such a routine activity in our daily lives that we think nothing of it, and take it for granted.
Growing up in 1960s in Kuching, before all these electronic gadgets made their appearance, going to the movies at the weekend was the high point of our social and entertainment life for the entire week.

That was because going to the movies was the only entertainment at the mass level available to the people. It was the cheapest and most easily available distraction and escape from living the tedium of a stultifying life.

Film shows were cheap enough then, costing as little as 30 sen per ticket for the matinee morning film. The regular show cost a mere ringgit, if my memory serves me right.

But even such cheap entertainment was beyond our means and we poor young children used to devise all kinds of ingenious methods to attend the show free of charge.

One common practice was to wait patiently at the entrance, so that we children could ask any prospective customer to sponsor our passage at the door - the kind ‘jaga pintu’ would wave us through if we went in the movie house with a paying adult.

When we entered the cinema, we would just sit anywhere in the movie house. I attended many free movies that way.

Alternatively, there were many other ways by which we children could raise money to feed our movie habit.

During that time, castaway empty soft drink bottles and tin drums held good value for collection and sale to a ‘Botoot man’, who went around households calling out “Botoot! Botoot!” for homeowners to sell them used tins and bottles.

Coloured bottles could fetch us one sen each and an empty drum could bring in the princely sum of 10 sen.

The man bought the tin drums to cut into small tin-strips for latex to flow down and collect when hung next to a rubber tree trunk.

This ‘Botoot man’ was the most welcome visitor to our household and years later, I recall there was a touching movie on the life of such a ‘Botoot man’ with the title, ‘Jiu Kang Tang Bui Bo’.

Modern moviegoers will have little idea of what it was like to watch a film in the movie theatre in those days.

Important talking point
Those movie houses were gigantic cavernous structures capable of housing quite a few hundred moviegoers. Sitting in the dark in front of the giant screen was a most captivating experience in itself, as if you could be sucked bodily into the story of the talking picture. It was not like going to our modern cineplexes with their small screens.

One unique thing about going to the cinema in Kuching was the strength of audience participation. Members of the audience were so absorbed in the unfolding drama that they made all kinds of involuntary noises in response to what was going on, on the big screen up.

Let’s say, the villain was sneaking up behind the heroin trying to stab her in the back, while she was completely unaware of the impending danger. Inevitably, a member of the audience would shout out from the darkness of the hall, “Jaga Belakang!”

When a sad movie got really teary, all the kind-hearted ladies in the hall would be shedding tears, shaking their heads, going “tsk…tsk…” to express their sympathy for the heroine.

The greatest drawback to the enjoyment of a good movie was for somebody who had seen the movie once before to tell his friend loudly what the next scene would be like. This would draw an explosion of protests from the audience, trying to hush down the unsavoury individual.

I enjoyed many of my childhood movies that way and my favourite films were the Westerns.

I have seen the movie ‘Gunfight At OK Corral’ many times. Living in multi-racial Malaysia, I counted myself lucky to have enjoyed films in many languages, including the Malay films of P Ramlee such as ‘Bujang Lapok’, and the Chinese movies produced in large numbers from Hong Kong.

That was about the time when Japanese Samurai movies were the craze with moviegoers.

Until today I consider the great Japanese film-maker, Akira Kurosawa, a sheer genius in storytelling and I watched all of his Samurai movies, starring Toshiro Mifune, with great appreciation and satisfaction. At the same time, the Japanese put out a long series of Samurai films starring this blind swordsman.

Movies were important in our lives because they constituted an important talking point throughout the week.

We children would discuss the plot for days on end, sometimes play-acting parts of the movie with sticks in place of guns, in playing out the gunfight scenes.

Whenever we young friends met outside the movie house, we would ask one another, “Have you seen the latest John Wayne movie yet?”

Looking back, I would say the appearance of the television set signalled the end of the era of the movie houses.

Soon after coloured television came to Sarawak, the traditional movie houses died a natural death. Meanwhile, with the change of lifestyle in Kuching city, watching movies is no longer such a major preoccupation as before, as the computer has taken the central position in most Malaysian households.

For entertainment value alone, even the television is no match for the computer game.

The big wide world has changed and the movies can never recapture our imagination as in our olden, simpler days.

They now live only in the memories of us older generations of Malaysians, the many happy, exciting moments of our cinema-going days.

[This article first appeared in mysarawak.org]

Najib: Umno open to unity talks with PAS

(Bernama) - Umno is open to having discussions with PAS on Malay unity but such talks must be held without any preconditions, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.

“We (Umno) are always open but they (PAS leaders) must not impose preconditions and insult Umno in their speeches. If we want to talk, we must not condemn each other,” the Umno president told reporters after attending a luncheon with Sabah Chinese community leaders in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Najib was asked to comment on a statement by Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria yesterday that some Umno and PAS leaders have approached him recently to seek his opinion on how best to unite the Muslims.

Harussani had gone on to explain that he was not a politician and could not make a decision in the matter.

Najib said Umno have maintained its stand on the proposed talks but it appeared that PAS had other considerations and wanted to include the issue of oil royalty claimed by Kelantan in the discussions.
“It is up to PAS to determine its stand. We do not want to keep repeating the matter,” he said.

Splitting hairs


In that sense the Malays are simpler. As long as you speak the Malay language, profess Islam, and practice Malay culture, you are Malay. Malays would not look beyond that. The Chinese and Indians will not stop there. You must also be Hakka or Tamil or whatever.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

PKR group says Sivarasa’s inability to speak Tamil a liability

There are rumblings on the ground about PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa’s inability to speak Tamil – and this may be a liability for the leader in the party elections at the end of the year.

Some grassroots leaders have openly expressed their wish for Sivarasa to be voted out because they are unhappy he cannot communicate effectively with Indians who did not have a good grasp of English.

They want either Kapar MP S. Manickavasagam or Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishan to contest for the post.

Bukit Beruntung/Bukit Sentosa Indian Community Association vice-president N. Nadaraja said the post should be held by a leader who could speak fluently in Tamil.

“We want an Indian leader who can communicate with us effectively to highlight our grouses to the top leaders.

“Sivarasa could not even communicate with the old folk in the estates because he can only say simple words like nandri (thank you) and vanakam (greetings),” he said.

Sivarasa, also the Subang MP, is of Ceylonese descent.

Nadaraja, also a PKR member, said they would nominate Manickavasagam to contest the position.

Nadaraja added that they were also dissatisfied with Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar for a similar reason.

Meanwhile an on-line news portal reported that 40 Indian leaders had met party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to express their dissatisfaction over Sivarasa’s inability to speak Tamil.

The group lobbied for Gobalakrishan to take up the post.

Sivarasa, when contacted, said a language handicap should not be regarded as a communication barrier in a multi-racial society.

“Furthermore PKR is a multi-racial party, and its leaders are obligated to serve all the people regardless of their racial background.

“Not being able to speak a certain language is not an issue,” he said.

Sivarasa said even though he could not speak Tamil, fellow party comrades Gobalakrishnan, Manickavasagam, Dr Xavier, M. Ravi, S. Kesavan and S. Manikumar had good links with the Indian grassroots.

“We practise collective leadership in the party. We take care of all communities,’’ he said. -- The Star

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

I once had a discussion with a Hindraf leader about his movement needing to broaden its struggle to make it more Malaysian and less Indian. My argument was based on the fact that there are as many poor Malays, Chinese, Orang Asli, and natives of East Malaysia as there are Indians.

After all, I added, we must look at the bigger picture. Granted there are many extremely poor Indians. But the richest man in Malaysia, Anandakrishnan, is also an Indian. So it is not like all Indians are poor. And I personally know many Indians who are very wealthy. Bangsar alone is ‘infested’ with many wealthy Indians. And why are these wealthy Indians not contributing to the Indian community or supporting the Hindraf cause?

I mean; you whack the Malays for not supporting Hindraf. But the wealthy Indians themselves are not supporting Hindraf. Should not charity start at home? And when the Malays see that the Indians of means are not concerned about the poor Indians or supportive of Hindraf then you can’t fault the Malays for being ‘slow’ in rallying to the side of the Indians.

I was then asked a question. Do you regard Anandakrishnan as an Indian? I was taken aback for a while. Of course I regard him as an Indian. That is the trouble, came the reply. He is not an Indian. And then I was enlightened as to what ‘race’ he is (I can’t remember what it was….Ceylonese or Keralan or Gujerati or whatever).

I can see that this is not just a Hindraf view. It is also the view of the Indians in PKR. Sivarasa is not an Indian. He is Ceylonese and does not speak Tamil. So he is not Indian enough and should not be regarded as an Indian leader. An Indian leader must be a Tamil speaking person and one who celebrates Deepavali and not Christmas or Hari Raya.

This brings me back to Kuala Terengganu of the 1970s. Terengganu has eight Parliament seats and 32 state seats. 31 of the state seats are Umno while only one, Bandar, is a MCA seat. There are no MIC seats. And all eight Parliament seats are Umno as well.

But MIC had two branches in Kuala Terengganu, even though it has no state seat, while MCA, which has the solitary non-Malay seat, has only one branch. And, back in the 1970s, MIC had only 80 members as opposed to MCA, which had thousands. (I am not sure of the statistics today).

The reason why the mere 80 MIC members had two branches is because one was led by K. Raj, a Tamil-speaking Hindu, and the other was led by Victor Isaacs, an English-speaking Christian.

The 80 MIC members were basically divided into two camps. One was the Tamil-speaking Hindu camp and the other the English-speaking Christian camp. Being Indian is not enough to unite them. They had to speak the same language and worship the same God as well.

In the recent General Election, Jeff Ooi was supposed to contest in Selangor. The problem though is that the seat he was offered had a majority Hakka population. So the people there did not want him.

If DAP fielded Jeff Ooi then the voters were going to vote MCA. Jeff Ooi is a ‘banana’ they said -- yellow on the outside but white on the inside. But the voters would accept Ronnie Lui though, a fellow Hakka.

But Ronnie Liu had ‘invested’ many years in Pandamaran and the voters in Pandamaran wanted him to contest there. If they fielded anyone else other than Ronnie Liu then the voters were going to vote MCA.

Finally, Jeff Ooi was shifted to Penang while Ronnie Liu was retained in Pandamaran. I am not sure, though, whether the candidate fielded in the seat originally offered to Jeff Ooi is a fellow Hakka but I assume it must have been or else that seat would have fallen to MCA.

So this is not only an Indian problem. It is also a Chinese problem. Imagine the problem if the Malays also demanded that the candidate/leader must not only be a Malay but must be Bugis, Minangkabau, Boyan, Achinese, Manilamen, Javanese, Siamese, Arab, Pakistani, Bajau, Melanau, Mamak, etc., as well. The situation would be even more chaotic.

In that sense the Malays are simpler. As long as you speak the Malay language, profess Islam, and practice Malay culture, you are Malay. Malays would not look beyond that. The Chinese and Indians will not stop there. You must also be Hakka or Tamil or whatever.

The Indians and Chinese resent the Ketuanan Melayu and the first-class/second-class citizen status. They want all Malaysians to be treated equal. They want to be regarded as satu bangsa or one race and no such thing as Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera. But amongst themselves the Indians and Chinese still split hairs as to whether you are ‘proper’ Indian or Chinese or whether you are ‘my type’ of Indian or Chinese.

Before the Indians and Chinese can demand equal status they must first sort out their ‘internal issues’. When Indians and Chinese are not ready to regard themselves as ‘one race’ how can they expect the Malays to treat them as such? The Indians and Chinese still have the class or caste system within their own community. And they want the Malays to treat them as equal when they do not treat each other as equal?

Golf: Sivachandran Clinches Negeri Sembilan Masters Title


S. Sivachandran, the Negeri Sembilan Master Invitational Champion. Pic: Hamzah MD Som
KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (Bernama) -- Rain on the final day of the Negeri Sembilan Masters Invitational 2010 did not damper S. Sivachandran's impressive performance.

According to the organiser, Sivachandran, 31, led from day one and was consistent throughout the week and with an eight-stroke advantage at the start of the final round, was hardly challenged.

In today's final round held at the Seremban International Golf Club (SIGC), he chalked up a three-under-par 69 for a total of 18-under 270 to win the title comfortably by 12 shots, becoming the first Malaysian player to win the event since its inception in 2005.

Sivachandran's four-day score was also a new championship record.

"Obviously I'm delighted to win especially since I'm the first local to win. My score of 18-under-par 270 is my personal best since I turned professional in 2006," said Sivachandran adding that the win today was a belated wedding present for him.

For his feat, Sivachandran pocketed RM78,500 and is the first Malaysian to win the championship. He received an additional RM10,000 bonus from Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

The win put him in the championship's winners circle that includes Toshiyuki Wasa from Japan (2005), M. Murugiah of Singapore (2006), the Philippines' Juvic Pagunsan (2007), Benjie Magada (2008) and Singapore's Lam Chih Bing in 2009.

Two other local players, Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari and Iain Steel ended their round sharing second placing with defending champion, Lam on six-under-par par 282, each earning RM36,250.

FINAL ROUND RESULTS: (Malaysians unless stated)

270 - S.Sivachandhran 66-66-69-69;

282 - Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 72-71-70-69,

Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari 68-70-73-71, Iain Steel 70-71-70-71;

283 - R. Nachimuthu 73-72-70-68, Airil Rizman Zahari 70-70-74-69, T.J. Kim (KOR) 70-73-67-73;

284 - Takafumi Kawane (JPN) 69-74-72-69, Nakul Vichitryuthasastr (THA)73-71-69-71, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (THA) 71-69-73-71.

Federal Government Will Try Secure Release Of Two Abducted Malaysians

KOTA KINABALU, July 18 (Bernama) -- The federal government will try and secure the release of two Malaysian seaweed farm workers who were abducted near Pulau Sebangkat in Sabah's east coast Semporna district, about six months ago.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the duo were in the custody of an outlawed group.

"There is nothing much the Philippine Government can do...we have to try and extricate them out by other means. There are somewhat constraints by the fact that this group is very much taking up arms," he told told reporters after attending a luncheon with the Sabah Chinese community leaders here Sunday.

Najib was asked to comment on steps taken by the federal government in collaboration with the Philippines, to free company manager Tsen Vui Chung, 41, and supervisor Lai Wing Chau, 33.

The duo worked for seaweed farming company Syarikat Dynasty Marine Farm.

On Feb 8, five people armed with rifles, pistol and machete, arrived in two boats and abducted Tsen and Lai.

The abductions occurred days after the United States Embassy in Malaysia issued a warden's alert to travellers and its citizens of heightened dangers to their safety on the east coast of Sabah.