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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another ex-RMAF sergeant 'harassed' by force

(Malaysiakini) First there is the ongoing case of former Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) sergeant N Tharmendran who has alleged he was tortured by military investigators.

Now, a retired RMAF flight sergeant from Sarawak has come forward with claims that he was harassed by the force and that no justice has yet been served on his police reports, one of which has even been heard by the court.

Faizzal Jinong Abdullah (right), 45, who retired from service two years ago, alleged that prior to his retirement several high-ranking officers had “tortured” him after he discovered a scam at the RMAF multi-storey living quarters in Kuching where he was housed.

The ex-sergeant claims to have suffered immensely both mentally and physically after stumbling upon alleged electricity theft between his unit and another, and that he was thrown into prison and his family was tormented after he approached the authorities about the matter in 2008.

“What has happened to all the reports I had lodged? I have not heard from the police at all... when will my problems be solved?” asked Faizzal.

“2009 has passed and now its 2010. Our problem is yet to be solved... the RMAF continues to make speculations (on my complaint) and accuses me of not being cooperative by not filling in the completion of service documentation programme."

He said that it is the force, and not his lack of cooperation, that has resulted in the delay in the completion of his papers, despite his service having ended two years ago. He attributed their actions to his having raised complaints.

“Since June 10, 2008, we had encountered various difficulties and threats from the RMAF officers, particularly those from the administration division of the air base in Kuching,” he said, naming several officers whom he said were the culprits behind the threats.

Pressured to keep mum

Faizzal's ordeal began when, prior to June, his electricity supply had been disconnected and he and his family lived for three months in darkness.

“I complained to our base commander at Kuching Air Base and even to the Air Force headquarters in Kuala Lumpur as well as the Defence Ministry and Sesco (the Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation), but to no avail,” said his wife Che Murni Dara Mat Zain (left).

“According to an explanation by Sesco, our electricity difficulties arose due to a problem between the RMAF and the building contractors."

When Faizzal approached the RMAF with the information, it soon became apparent to him that his electricity disruption was instead caused by a scam involving RMAF officers, to tap electricity illegally, claimed Che Murni.

“They threatened him (Faizzal) and wanted him to follow their plan to cover up the fraud.

“But because my husband refused to get involved in it, the senior officer concerned threatened not to (allow him to complete the last leg of his service), and refused to process my husband's documents."

'Threats turn physical'

As Faizzal's retirement date in August approached, the situation worsened as his officers interfered with his retirement procedures and prevented him from changing his military identity card to a public identity card.

His attempts to resolve his situation through his superiors at every available opportunity were met with demands for a promise that he would keep mum about the alleged electricity theft.

“As the senior officer refused to process my termination documents, I couldn't complete the last leg, the end of service documentation,” said Faizzal.

The harassment soon turned physical, he alleged.

“One evening in September that year, we were ambushed at our home and my wife, who has asthma, fainted from the shock and was admitted to hospital.

“I lodged a police report immediately, but it was ignored. Once my wife was well enough she lodged another report. The case was brought to the Kuching Magistrate's Court but until now we don't know the outcome.

“On Dec 22, 2008, we were visited again (by RMAF officers) and they tried to persuade me to comply with what they had planned. And if I did, my public identity card issue would be solved and I would have to sign an agreement to move from where we were staying."

'Abducted from own home'

Faizzal said that, despite being pressured, he refused their offer and requested to stay in the quarters until they could find an alternative home, but the entire family was abducted the next day.

“I had asked them to allow us to stay for a few more days to prepare to move, and to settle school matters for our six children as well as my wife's follow-up treatment.

“My wife and our six children, who were then aged between five and 17, were surrounded by armed officers who were accompanied by a police officer. They were abducted and forcefully flown to Kuala Lumpur. I was also sent to Kuala Lumpur a couple of days later."

While in Kuala Lumpur, the family, fearing for their safety, fled to Negri Sembilan and are now living in Seberang Prai in Penang.

“We (had no choice but) to approach the media with the story. Finally, when we got television coverage, I received my public identity card last year, but not my retirement card,” he said.

Without the retirement card, Faizzal and his family are deprived of the benefits allocated to former armed forces personnel.

“Two of our eldest children are in a community college now, but we can't apply for loans or even for any assistance, without the retirement card,” he said.

Faizzal said that he only wants justice for his family, who he claimed have been subjected to torture and treated inhumanely.

“It is not my intention to speak ill of the government, but I want my rights as a Malaysian and I will not give up until our voices are heard,” he said.

Court fines 'cowhead' 12, Hindu leader not pleased

SHAH ALAM: The Sessions Court today fined 12 men and sentenced one of them to a week in jail in connection with the infamous “cowhead” protest last August. However, Malaysian Hindu Sangam adviser A Vaithilingam felt that the punishment could be seen as inadequate.

The incident, which made international news, saw a group of Muslims protesting against the construction of a Hindu temple here and parading with a severed cow's head.

They had marched with the bloodied head from a mosque to the Selangor menteri besar's office. Some of the protesters also stomped and spat on the head and made fiery speeches

The protest drew flak from various quarters, including government leaders, who condemned it as insensitive since the cow is considered sacred to Hindus.

According to an AP report, defence lawyer Afifuddin Hafifi said that all 12 pleaded guilty to a charge of illegal assembly and were fined RM1,000 each.

Two of them, who brought and stepped on the cow's head, also pleaded guilty to sedition. Both were fined an additional RM3,000 and one was sentenced to a week in prison.

Meanwhile, Vaithilingam said the court's decision did not reflect the gravity of the offence.

"The sentences seem to be very light after the huge commotion and insult," he said. The men's actions "stirred up the emotions throughout the country. This could have caused a riot".

The protest was among the most high-profile in a string of interfaith disputes in recent years that threatened decades of harmonious ties in Malaysia.

Early this year, a string of firebomb attacks and vandalism hit mostly non-Muslim places of worship following a court verdict that allowed Christians to use "Allah" in Malay-language publications.

British MPs write to Taib on abuse of Penan

(Malaysiakini) British members of parliament have written to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud expressing their concern over the sexual abuse of Penan women and girls and the marginalisation of the Penan in general.

bn supreme council mt meeting sapp sabah issue 190608 taib mahmudSpeaking for the British parliament's All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Tribal peoples, its chairperson Martin Horwood in a letter to coincide with Taib's visit to the UK this week expressed the group's concern for the new cases that have emerged of rape and sexual abuse of Penan women and girls.

Horwood also asked that Taib (right) “take steps to ensure that Penan women and girls are protected from sexual violence and the perpetrator of such abuse brought to justice.”

Since 2008 when reports first emerged in the mainstream media of Penan women and girls being subjected to rape and abuse at the hands of logging workers, criticisms have been levelled at the Taib government for failing to acknowledge and investigate the crimes.

On the general marginalisation of the Penan community in Sarawak, Horwood said he was “heartened” to hear of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's visit to the Ulu Baram on Thursday and “hope that this will be the start of a genuine dialogue in which the tribe's voice will be heard.”

NONEWithout recognition of their land rights, however, the Penan are struggling to provide for themselves and are left vulnerable to violence and exploitation,” said the APPG chairperson.

“As you will know, logging companies have operated for decades on the Penan's land without their consent and despite their peaceful protests.

“Many are struggling to find enough food, since logging has left the forest with fewer animals and the polluted rivers with fewer fish , and are suffering from poor health as a result.

NONE“The effects of plantations growing oil palm and trees for paper production are even more serious, as the forest is clearly completely,” Horwood said further.

Horwood (left) urged the Chief Minister to "halt logging and other developments on the Penan's land without their free, prior and informed consent, according to international law."
He also said Taib should "ensure that Penan women and girls are protected from sexual violence and the perpetrators of such abuse brought to justice".
Ref: 737567756e61

Two jailed a week, fined RM3000 over cow-head protests

The cowhead paraded by the protesters last year. - Picture by Choo Choy May
SHAH ALAM, July 27 — Two men were jailed for one week and were imposed a fine of RM3000 today for being part of last year’s racially-charged cow-head protests here. Four others were also originally charged under the Sedition Act were given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
They were part of a group of 12 men charged for various offences in connection with the protest against the construction of a Hindu temple in their neighbourhood.
All 12 pleaded guilty at the Sessions Court here today to being part of an illegal assembly.
They were all fined RM1,000 for the illegal assembly offence.
The 12 were part of a group which brought a cow’s head to the gate of the state secretariat building on August 28 last year to protest the construction of a temple in their mainly Muslim-Malay neighbourhood.
They were protesting the relocation of a 150-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu temple from Section 19 to their neighbourhood in Section 23.
The 12 are Ahmad Mahayuddin, 36, Ibrahim Sabri, 43, Eyzva Ezhar Ramly, 31, Mohd Azmir Mohd Zain, 35, Ahmad Suhairy Zakaria, 30, Mohd Hilmi Ni, 40,Jainuddin @ Zainuddin Md Yusuff, 67, Mohd Jurit Ramli, 39, Mohamad Nordin Zakaria, 46, Jamil Mohamad Isa, 40, Rahimuddin Md Harun, 39, and Azhari Shaari, 39.

Better infrastructure, better rice yields






















By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia would not have to depend on imported rice if the right infrastructure is put in place and farms are able to produce better yields, said Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Chua Tee Yong.
But to attain 100% self-sufficiency in rice production, he said, not only required the funds but also the commitment from all parties, including the farmers.

"Under the 10MP (10th Malaysia Plan), we are spending about RM1 billion this year itself on agriculture, and a lot of that would be going to the construction of irrigation systems including dams to upgrade padi infrastructures here," he told FMT.

He said irrigation in developed areas such as in Selangor is much more effective compared to places like Kedah, and those were the areas where better infrastructure is needed.

Malaysia is now at about 70% self-sufficient. The country is importing about 30% of its needs for rice or 700,000 tonnes from other countries annually.

"At 70%, we are on target but the issue is that our population is also constantly growing, so to maintain that we have to plant more," said Chua, who is the son of MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek.

He said padi fields in Malaysia, on average, produce about 3.5 to four tonnes per hectare and to achieve 100% self-sufficiency, six to seven tonnes per hectare is required.

"Now we have fields that produce good yield with about 12 tonnes per hectare but also those that produce only three tonnes per hectare.

“From that we can see that there is definitely work to be done, that includes more commitment from farmers. Everyone in the cycle has a role to play, the government can't just say we have a motive for self-sufficiency, and provide the money, and it will work," he added.

Population is increasing

Chua said the government is constantly opening more fields and in Kota Belud, Sabah, a large field was recently opened.

"We cannot forget that despite opening more fields, our population is also increasing, so we also need better yield. And irrigation plays a huge role in this," he said, adding that insufficient water would cause diseases.

Chua also said that to achieve better production, the federal and state governments would have to work hand-in-hand and more research is required for potentially better padi grade.

"We are dealing with something quite land intensive, to identify land and to earmark it for padi production is not something easy,” he said.

Chua said land matters, including abandoned plots of farm land, require the cooperation of the state government.

Are investors buying Malaysian reforms?

By David Chance - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's tame effort to trim its subsidy bill will be attacked by the country's opposition parties as they seek to rally support for a planned protest in Kuala Lumpur. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced petrol prices would be hiked by 2.8%, liquefied petroleum gas by 5.7% and sugar prices by 15.2%.

The petrol price hike was around half that recommended by a government think tank advising on subsidy reform, and there was no commitment to price hikes for gas, electricity and rice.

The cuts will save RM750 million this year. Subsidy spending was RM24.5 billion in 2009.

Disruptive mass protests are unlikely as Malaysians are only paying around an extra 94 US cents (RM2.9) to fill up a family saloon.

Recent political protests here have been small and the police act quickly to break them up. Even the sodomy trial of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has failed to garner mass protests unlike at the time of his previous trial.

Those most hard-hit by the price hikes are rural Malays who are more likely to support the government than the opposition.

The opposition will most likely use protests to highlight what it says is continued corruption and waste in government. Anwar himself supports reform of subsidies.

There are few signs investors are making big bets on economic reforms pledged by Najib. While the Indonesian stock market has surged 20% this year to record highs, Malaysia has risen just 5.7%.

Foreign ownership of Malaysian stocks is 20.6% of market capitalisation, according to data from Bursa Malaysia; that figure has been static since Najib took office in April 2009.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows were US$1.38 billion in 2009, less than a fifth of those in 2008, according to UN data. Even though one year's data does not necessarily represent a trend, flows into neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia held up far better during the recent global economic crisis. Malaysia has seen its share of FDI into Southeast Asia slide over the years.

That means market reaction to protests will be muted too.

Why were the subsidy changes so cautious?

Najib doesn't want a repeat of the 2008 polls when the Barisan Nasional government suffered record losses in national and state polls, losing its cast-iron two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Najib cannot afford to alienate rural Malay voters who are being wooed by an opposition Islamist party.

The government won the support of 58% of Malays in the 2008 polls, down from 63% in 2004.

Najib faces state polls in Sarawak, known as the BN's "fixed deposit", before mid-2011. Sarawak provides a fifth of the government's MPs.

If the Sarawak polls go well, they could tempt Najib into an early national election, some political analysts say. An early election would be before 2013, although Najib has emerged as a cautious leader rather than a risk taker.

With oil prices around half their recent peak, Najib faces fewer pressures to take drastic action to cut the budget deficit, which will likely come in smaller than the 5.6% forecast this year thanks to stronger than expected economic growth.

Does Najib face internal challenger?
While Najib's electoral performance in recent by-elections, with one parliamentary seat win and one state seat win, has been little better than his predecessor's, he does not face any serious challenge to his power at the moment.

Some press reports have identified potential rival power bases emerging in Umno, the largest coalition party. These centre on Najib and his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, a conservative.

So far no split has appeared and Muhyiddin, whose call to oust Najib's predecessor propelled Najib into power, has been loyal.

However, Umno does face serious problems.

In Selangor, Malaysia's richest that abuts the capital of Kuala Lumpur, splits are appearing in the party.

Najib's key performance indicator is to win back Selangor which the government lost for the first time in 2008.

Internal Umno battles over power and money are also playing out in some of Malaysia's other 13 states.

- Reuters

'I have a vision that one day Perkasa...'

By Stephanie Sta Maria

FMT EXCLUSIVE KUALA LUMPUR: Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali has a flair for treading hard on many toes each time he speaks up in defence of Malay rights.
Of late, the independent Pasir Mas MP seems to be intent on earning himself a less than palatable reputation by issuing statements that both shock and infuriate politicians and ordinary people alike with their propensity towards racism.

It's no small wonder then that Ibrahim is constantly asked whether he has any non-Bumiputera acquaintances.

But one had better be prepared for his answer for Ibrahim will tell you with a straight face that not only does he have non-Bumiputeras as friends but also as fans of Perkasa.

“Most non-Bumiputeras hate Perkasa and me,” he chuckled in an FMT exclusive interview. “But there are a few rational ones who are interested in being members of Perkasa.

“These are the non-Bumiputeras who understand that Perkasa is not a militant, chauvinist or racial group but one that is simply protecting the Federal Constitution. We've not thought about it as yet but we may introduce an associate membership for non-Bumiputeras in the future.”

Ibrahim also dismissed the notion that the inclusion of non-Bumiputeras would dilute Perkasa's mission. Instead, he envisioned Perkasa acting as a bridge to integrate the Bumiputeras and the non-Bumiputeras.

“It would be a very positive approach and I would personally support it very strongly,” he declared.

Samy Vellu holds key to MIC harmony

Perkasa has always positioned itself as a non-partisan organisation but that hasn't stopped it from playing a role in the political affairs of the country.

Almost every political party has, at one time or another, found itself scorched by Ibrahim's tongue for either overstepping boundaries or playing safe.

But one party that seems to have escaped his attention is the MIC. When asked where he thinks the party is headed after recent events surrounding it, Ibrahim's appraisal was gently critical.

“The Indians' only issue is the fact that (MIC president) S Samy Vellu has been at the helm for too long,” he stated. “Nothing more than that. If he steps down today, their nightmare will be over.”

Ibrahim also shared that he has studied the Indian culture and finds the Indians “very easy to handle”.

“The Indians are like the Malays,” he observed. “They like to make a lot of noise and when they get together, they start unions. Hindraf was just a bunch of lawyers who wanted to be heroes.”

He predicts that once Samy Vellu steps down and his successor is more accommodating to the community's needs, the issues among the Indians would be settled. In the same breath, he warned that the Chinese are the “difficult ones” because they hold their cards too close to their chest.

New media can be critical but factual

Many of Ibrahim's views have found a space on new media of which he doesn't harbour a particular fondness but acknowledged them as “very influential”.

He also emphasised that the danger of new media is not the media itself but those using it.

“The younger generation isn't interested in mainstream media,” he pointed out. “I don't think they read The Star or The New Straits Times, what more Utusan Malaysia. But problems arise when these young people write without proper knowledge of history or government policies.”

“The government should introduce regulations or a law to ensure that the new media is responsible. Being critical is good, but they must have facts.”

“So if a new media writer wants to say that Ibrahim Ali is involved in a RM100 million graft case, then print it if it's true. But don't make false accusations. That is my only caution.”

When asked if he has a Twitter account, he laughed and said he doesn't have time to tweet and would have nothing interesting to say anyway.

“But I am on Facebook,” he said. “And I have 4,000 friends so I think that is enough. I don't need Twitter.”

Wildlife trade haven, uninterrupted

By Hilary Chiew

COMMENT Tiger in A’Famosa Resort exploited for commercial gain. Two women from Madagascar arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for smuggling more than 400 pieces of rare species from the island state off mainland Africa.
An apparent criminal syndicate was busted with not only stolen cars but scores of protected birds and other mammals in a warehouse in the capital city.

These are very likely, pardon the cliché, the tip of the iceberg of the extent of wildlife abuse and trafficking in this country that constantly boasts of being one of the 12 mega biodiversity centres in the world.

And they all have one thing in common – they were not exposed by the Department of Wildlife and National Park (Perhilitan).

The exploit of A’Famosa was filmed by a young girl who was disgusted with the state of abuse the majestic cat was subjected to in a profit-driven outlet capitalising on the draw of the animal in the lunar calendar year of the tiger, no less.

The KLIA seizure was carried out by the Customs Department while the “mini zoo” discovery was purely accidental and opportunistic, piggy-backing on a police raid.

Sure, Perhilitan has some successful enforcement cases that it announced now and then through press conferences. And in no way am I belittling the efforts of its Wildlife Crime Unit.

However, seizure is one thing and bringing the matter to justice is another. Unfortunately, the latter is sorely lacking.

Tiger exploitation
Take the case of A’Famosa. Perhilitan said it is awaiting a statement from the videographer or whoever that posted the clip on popular video-sharing site YouTube before handing the investigation paper to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Sound fair enough. Let’s just hope that it won’t be conveniently forgotten once the hype is gone.

Prior to the outcry generated by this YouTube posting that culminated in a protest outside the resort supported by local showbiz celebrities Rina Omar and Bernie Chan in late May, the same resort had also been criticised for capitalising on the species which is the animal in the Chinese zodiac for the 2010 lunar new year.

The YouTube video was evidence of such activities during the Chinese New Year judging from the background music.

At the same time, Saleng Zoo had also jumped on the bandwagon of the “roaring business”. It even ran a “tiger-for-loan” scheme for corporation or just anyone who is willing to pay a few thousands ringgit to temporarily “own” a cub for a few hours to do whatever with it as they pleased.

The zoo near Kulai, Johor, has been involved in a controversial tiger-breeding programme where the mortality rate of tiger cubs was high as well as being implicated in supplying cubs to other aspiring zoos and individual collectors; an activity that is not covered by its Special Permit as far as public knowledge is concerned.

But the zoo is unperturbed – it never fails to publicise the birth of its cubs, with an unabashed business sense. Somehow the births are timed perfectly for some festive celebration around the corner. And unsuspecting newspapers duly provide coverage, throwing in the patriotic act of boosting tourism for the state.

Permit to abuse

The battle against wildlife trafficking in Malaysia is not over; it just got tougher because by the next round of amendment, there is probably no totally protected species to defend.
The issue begged a fundamental question – why are entities like A’Famosa, Saleng Zoo and Danga Bay Petting Zoo which are devoid of any conservation purposes allowed to keep totally protected animals like tigers?

In twisted logic fashion, these entities justified their utilisation of the animals for photography sessions as a financial source for feeding and upkeep of the animals.

Totally protected species like tigers, elephants and orangutans can only be kept with a document called Special Permit issued by Perhilitan. This document generally lasts for a year and could be suspended if conditions had been contravened by its holder. And this document is only approved by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment upon favourable advice by Perhilitan.

This permit generally allowed its holder to import, export, confine and breed the animals. In the case of zoo operators, they are allowed to display but it is deafeningly silent on “extra” activities like being forced to participate in photo-prop or providing rides.

Technically-speaking, the A-G's Chambers may not be able to find any faults with these operators unless the charge is centred on cruelty to wildlife as provided for in the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.

Section 92 (1) c reads: houses, confines or breeds any wild animal or wild bird in such a manner so as to cause it unnecessary pain or suffering including the housing, confining or breeding of any wild animal or wild bird in any cage, enclosure or hut which is not suitable for or conducive to the comfort or health of the wild animal or wild bird.

(The new law – Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which was passed in the recent parliamentary session – is yet to come into force, hence does not apply to these cases.)

Given that complaints of animal cruelty against these three private outfits are not new, it is highly irresponsible of Perhilitan in continuing to renew the permits, not to mention that there were no suspensions.

In fact, the rather telling revelation from Saleng Zoo over the public uproar on tiger for photography session, was that it was ordered by Perhilitan to stop such activities “until further notice”.

According to Perhilitan’s published guidelines on zoo operation, it is desirable that public and private zoos are members of Mazpa (The Malaysian Zoological Park Association), which tried to promote good practices of animal-keeping entities. Saleng Zoo is not – yet it continues to exist in an apparent lawless situation.

A’Famosa has been implicated in orangutan smuggling in 2005. After a long investigation, mainly on DNA verification of species and not on the smuggling racket, a total of seven animals were repatriated to Sumatra.

A salient feature in this episode was the presence of a Special Permit issued by Perhilitan that explicitly enabled A’Famosa to import and hold orangutans.

The penalty – none, safe for the initial RM1,000 compound when the offence was first detected in 2000 by the department itself. However, Perhilitan as the management authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species did not seize and repatriate the animals until the matter was exposed by the media.

Smuggling haven

As for Perhilitan’s capability of solving trans-boundary smuggling like the hundreds of radiated tortoises from Madagascar or the earlier spate of Indian star tortoises, the results are appalling.

Save for some seizures, we hear nothing about the fate of the human couriers. Were they ever charged? What kind of information did the investigation yield?

Why were the two women not “allowed” to complete their mission in a “control delivery” fashion so that they could lead the enforcers to the ultimate smuggler? It’s baffling that after so many cases involving the syndicate adopting similar modus operandi, Perhilitan failed to institute such a simple Standard Operating Procedure. Training had been provided to agencies like Customs that are on the frontline of the war against wildlife trafficking by Perhilitan and the Asean-Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN).

Malaysia has been a partner of the Aseanf-WEN since its launch in December 2005. The main task of the largest network of its kind is to strengthen enforcement through intelligence-sharing and to destroy the syndicate behind this crime against biodiversity and our shared natural heritage.

However, except for possibly some small fries (that also we are unsure) that are compounded or fined a few thousand ringgits at most, the syndicate bosses continue laughing to the bank.

Early this year, Malaysia's notorious image as a wildlife transit hub was splashed across the reputable National Geographic magazine. The shaming didn’t seem to bother the government much and hence possibly explain why neither the police nor the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (where reports had been filed by concerned animal rights groups) bothered to act.

Wildlife conservationists had long lamented that flora and fauna are last on the list of politicians and decision-makers as they don’t have a voice. Perhaps if only those animals have a right to vote every five years will the government sit up and listen.

While the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment claimed that a task force was set up to investigate the matter, it side-stepped the serious allegation of corruption within the highest order of Perhilitan. It is satisfied with the offer by the high-ranking officer, who was implicated with wildlife trader Penang-based Anson Wong in illegal wildlife trade, to institute legal redress in her personal capacity.

That approach is a bit odd and we are still waiting for the officer to follow through with her promise. And along with that, at stake is the integrity of Perhilitan, the ministry and the Malaysian government.

Nevertheless, following numerous expose on the abuse of the Special Permit, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Douglas Uggah had ordered that all applications are to be deliberated at the ministry level.

However, the ability of the ministry is doubted. Often, matters regarding wildlife are referred to Perhilitan by virtue that it is supposed to be the expert, custodian of wildlife management and no less enforcer of the law.

Loopholes remain

Finally, after 13 years, a new legislation governing wildlife was passed by Parliament early this month.

Some quarters celebrated. They were largely pleased that the penalty for several types of offences, particularly the one dealing with poaching and illegal trading, had been increased, and, therefore, it is assumed that these would have the desired deterrent effect.

The public is relieved and hopes to see the new law provide the promised bites.

Yet, if it has taken this long, one would expect a major overhaul to plug all the loopholes. It is disheartening to see that weaknesses in the old law are being repeated in the new law.

If you want to keep totally protected animals, you can still apply for a Special Permit. If you want to operate a zoo with highly endangered species, just apply too.

If in 1972, totally protected animals are still plentiful, in 2010 and beyond, these species are becoming extinct.

So, what’s the justification for importing, exporting, keeping and breeding these animals bearing in mind that all these activities are incentives for wildlife trafficking? Are we indirectly encouraging poaching?

Some quarters would like to see the passing of the bill as a breakthrough but the provision for Special Permit that is retained is suffice to burst the happy bubbles.

The battle against wildlife trafficking in Malaysia is not over; it just got tougher because by the next round of amendment, there is probably no totally protected species to defend.

Forget the old road, develop the whole state

By Paul Raja
COMMENT Finally, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to come down himself to announce the grant to implement the Beluru-Lapok road project in the Baram district in Sarawak.
The Baram district is easily bigger than any one of the small Malaysian states. But strangely, in terms of budget allocation, the money for it is trickling in once in a while.

It is not surprising that Najib made the announcement. Many years ago during previous elections, former works minister S Samy Vellu had also mouthed the same thing: he promised that the road would tar-sealed but until now nothing has moved.

The state leaders – ministers and YBs alike – have also made similar statements but they are short on action. The people have lost count of the number of announcements that have been made.

So it is not so amusing to hear oft-repeated promises again. Those promises are the same as the name of the road – “Lapok” (old in Malay).

With or without announcement, people no longer care. Why should they? All that they want to see is that the road is tar-sealed. An announcement does not interest them at all and neither does it excite them.

Instead, it works the opposite way. It makes people more angry. You know why? Because all these public statements are more often than not just empty promises.

People now have higher expectations. The Baram folk are not only crying for the Lapok road. They are also yearning for an comprehensive development for Baram in particular and Sarawak as a whole.

They want tar-sealed roads to all the villagers in Baram and the state. They want electricity, healthcare, clean water, telecommunications and Internet services, education and any other public services that can be found in Putrajaya.

Why should a prime minister come all the way to Sarawak to distribue only goodies? Goodies are only for little children.

NCR land issue again
Najib also unveiled a RM20 million allocation to conduct a survey of native customary rights (NCR) land. But we do not harbour much hope.

A few years ago, the federal government had announced a RM100-million budget to develop NCR land. People were really looking forward to it to promote native economic interests.

However, until today we have not heard what had happened to the RM100-million allocation. The NCR landowners who genuinely wanted to develop their NCR land to plant oil palm don’t seem to get much assistance.

So this is another empty promise. What is the meaning of the slogan: "People First, Performance Now”?

When Najib and his grand entourage went to Long Banga, they flew in aboard 10 helicopters.

Media reports said: “Najib leaves indelible mark in Long Banga.”

I couldn't agree more with this. If the prime minister leads by example, he should take a 4WD from Miri to Long Banga, which is accessible by logging treks from Lapok. Why use helicopter?

The Penans don't expect a miracle. They are as human as we are. They all expect what the other Sarawakians are entitled to.
Najib and his men should have taken the trouble to see for themselves how much hardship the people of Sarawak, particularly in the rural areas, have endured ever since Merdeka.

Najib missed this opportunity of seeing the people up close and rectifying the wrongs of past national leaders.

If he had taken the trouble to drive up the timber trek to the Baram River, he would have understood what the Baram folk are experiencing.

But now that is history. Yes, he did leave an indelible mark. But it is a mark that proves yet again that leaders only enjoy their power while the people continue to slog.

People were mesmerised to see a prime minister in the village. But what changes had taken place? Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had been to several villages in Sarawak, and these villagers are still no better off than the ones that were never visited. It makes no difference.

The only indelible mark that Najib has left in Long Banga is the “temporary excitement” that comes along every time a leader comes a calling.

The Penan issue

Now that Najib had visited Long Banga, a village located within the Penan tribe heartland, what will he do for the Penans?

The Penans don't expect a miracle. They are as human as we are. They all expect what the other Sarawakians are entitled to.

As far as the community is concerned, if Najib’s visit to the Penan heartland still cannot resolve their pressing problems – like exploitation and allegations of rape of their womenhood – then they wouldn’t know where else to seek relief.

So Najib better deliver what the Penan community expects – justice.

As the prime minister, he can do so much. But how much will he do, we will see. Our Penan friends deserve some kind of decent attention.


Paul Raja is a human and native rights lawyer. He is also a state level PKR leader.

10th Malaysia Plan: Going forwards or backwards?

I have a trusty little crystal ball and gazing into it, this is what I see: Dominant state participation in the economy and little evidence of private sector-led growth.

The 10th Malaysia Plan has rolled out optimistic macroeconomic growth targets. Of its expenditure allocation, 55% or RM126.5 billion is allocated for the economic sector. The blueprint indicates a Malay-cum-Umno agenda that is largely protectionist with huge direct public investments – including through GLCs – in selected economic sectors.

Although the allocation earmarks a RM20 billion ‘facilitation fund’ to boost private sector investment, no clear strategy has been revealed to promote competition across and within sectors to revive private investment and market dynamism. Nor is there any indication that the Najib administration is keen to adopt internationally accepted standards for his economic reform.

One major question that must be asked is whether the 10th Plan has set realistic targets? It wants to raise per capita income to RM38,845 by year 2015. The figure last year was RM23,841. Is the projected growth rate of eight percent per annum credible to yield an income increase of a whopping RM15,000? And this to be achieved within a span of the next five years?

The Plan also predicts GDP growth rate of 6.0% as against 4.2% between 2006 and 2010; exports to expand by 10.1% as against 3.6% during the 9th Plan period; and private investment to grow at 12.8% versus 2.0% during the previous Plan.
Key Indicator 9th Malaysia Plan 10th Malaysia Plan
GDP 4.2% p.a. To grow at 6% p.a.
GNI per capita Expected increase to RM26,420 (USD8,526) in 2010 Expected to increase to RM38,845 (USD12,139) in 2015
Federal government budget expenditure RM230 bn RM230 bn
Private Investment

Private Consumption
Growth of 2% p.a.

Growth of 6% p.a.
To grow at 12.8% p.a.

Expected to grow 7.7% p.a.
Public Investment
Public Consumption
Growth of 6.2% p.a.
Budget deficit: 5.05% of GDP
To grow at 5% p.a.
Target: 2.8% 2015
Exports Growth of 3.6% p.a. To grow at 10.1% p.a.
Overall deficit of the federal government To reduce to 5.3% of GDP in 2010. To reduce to 2.8% in 2015.
Overall debt RM405.1 billion or 52.9% of GDP. To reduce to 49.9% in 2015

Readers might make their own predictions drawn from observation, analysis and logical inferences. Already in the public eye is the frequent whistle-blowing about exorbitant consultancy fees, commissions and bribes that plague our system of government.

Apart from visible corruption, less open to scrutiny are the suspect transactions involving unsecured loans, multiple directorships and interlocking shareholdings and nominee companies. This cleverly concealed set-up in effect enriches an overlapping elite, multi-racial membership. Their convergent interests are linked to the kinship, business and professional relationships of the powers-that-be.

Benefiting the select has caused much of state money and resources to go to least four identifiable distributional coalitions tied up with trusteeship of the NEP.

‘Distributional coalitions’ are small, powerful and influential groups, organized as cartels, seeking rewards through collusion, transaction costs and other forms of non-competitive bargains. Think Umno, MCA, MIC, PBB, other BN parties and the rest; the bureaucratic circles (PNB, GLICs, SDCs); and also the military top brass who are holders of Tan Sri and Datuk titles if not the religious coterie too. Think also of the professional elites that have jumped on the Crony Express.

An end result of the nice racket they have is a privatization process which prompts asset concentration, and ultimately the privatizing of gains and socializing of losses.

Barriers to growth

We’re told that to generate economic growth of six percent, the private sector has to take the lead in the key areas of private-public partnerships (PPP) and foreign direct investment.

However, what is clear is that the 2009 FDI is less than half of the annual average FDI inflow between 1995 and 2005. In 2008, we accounted for 15.5% of FDI flowing into South East Asia; in 2009 it was down to 3.7%.

Meanwhile, Malaysia recorded an outflow of local funds amounting to RM50 billion between 2007 and 2009. In fact, domestic-owned investment approvals fell to RM10.5 billion or a 37.1% decline from 2008.
 
The outflow of domestic investments appears to be a recent trend. This suggests that the country is unable to develop new industries or sustain existing ones to prevent local funds from leaving our shores. Also, it suggests a precipitous loss of confidence by local businesses in the economy and politics of the country.


Talk by the authorities about introducing merit-based and market-friendly approaches remains just that. Not only that, Prime Minister Najib Razak appears to have backpeddled on his earlier position on the New Economic Model.

He now says it was all a misunderstanding and he never proposed for the bumiputera equity target to be dropped. “I did not promise for the affirmative action to be abolished. I only said the affirmative action policy would be made market-friendly and based on merit, better than before,” he was quoted as clarifying after chairing a Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting.

Although Najib signaled a major policy shift, he does not see any conflict between the expectations he raised and the damp squib following pressure applied by the Malay ultras. “We must understand the presentation by NEAC was their report. The presentation in Parliament was the government’s position.”

A quick survey of the deficiencies preventing us from moving forward include the over-reliance on a cheap labour market that creates distortion and curtails productivity; the education sector failing to deliver required talent to the economy and such talent as we have insufficient in numbers to drive growth; and pervasive rent-seeking and patronage as well as perception of massive and widespread corruption; not to mention the outward migration of at least close to a million Malaysians as they lose hope in the system ever being reformed. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

It will take a lot to remedy the bloated and ineffective public sector that impedes investment; to alter the mindset of the short-sighted private sector and their silo business outlook, and reinvigorate the low income group (households earning under RM3,000) who are unable to realise their potential contribution.

Meeting key development challenges  

Global investment is focusing on larger scale markets, not small economies. Yet at the same time, for Malaysia to break-out of the middle income trap, the income of the lower class must increase. The country is thus alarmingly falling between two stools.

Both the rulers and the ruled realize that we cannot continue as we are and must act before our position deteriorates further … easier said than done.  
To bite the bullet means restoring market prices for goods and services to eventually improve economic efficiency. But this may initially raise consumer prices and the cost of doing business. Practices that promote fair and equal opportunity will inspire market confidence and create a competitive economy. But doing this will entail political repercussions affecting vested interest groups that have milked the system for many years.

Reducing dependence on foreign labour will encourage firms to move up the value chain or embrace automation. But those that cannot will go out of business. Flexible hiring and firing reduces entry and exit costs for start-ups while wage levels will better reflect skills. But the unions will object to the diminished job security. Greater decentralisation in decision-making will achieve speedier implementation and effectiveness. But this may require some delegation of authority.

The “Yes, but…” catch that bedevils us will stymie the tough decisions that have to be made.

There is intense competition in our new sources of growth, for example, medical tourism, ICT, and Islamic products and services. The strong position we used to have in commodities and manufacturing has been eroded. Mis-governance has allowed undervaluation of resources, the outcome of which is gross misallocations for grand government schemes. There is no political will to prevent misuse and abuse of public development funds.

However, it may be just whistling in the wind to urge fiscal prudence and cutting back on – say, defence spending – wasteful and white elephant projects as well as downsize the civil service. A call to dismantle quotas, preferences, approved permits (APs), closed tenders and other non-competitive procurement systems including margin of preference likewise seems to have largely fallen on deaf ears.

I see the 10th Malaysian Plan as merely a throwback to the other Plans. It is built on unsustainable targets, and outmoded and failed strategies. Subsidies for the rich will chug the gravy train of public-private partnerships, mega projects, and the extension of bumiputera policies to all other sectors.

The Plan will fail to mitigate the impact of rising prices and is unlikely to generate new opportunities for improvement of work and livelihood. Hence, the socio-economic condition of the bottom 40 percent of the population and middle class will likely worsen. This may provide tinder for racial and religious extremism rather than class-based concerns and solutions.

My crystal ball foretells that there will be need for a wholesale revision when the Plan is reviewed. But you do not need a fortune teller to tell you that the government must drop its Malay dominance and Malay unity line. All the races are in the same sinking boat, and must paddle together.



Note: Dr Lim Teck Ghee will be giving a public talk on NEM and the 10th Malaysia Plan tomorrow. For details, click here.

“Remove the politicians from education”

By Deborah Loh | The Nut Graph,


VARIOUS concerns about Malaysia’s education system emerged from the The Nut Graph‘s latest forum, Found in Conversation: Creativity and Innovation in Education. But they all centred on a key and not unfamiliar complaint: that education is too politicised.
Whether concerns were about the curriculum, the lack of critical thinking, obsession with scoring As, lack of sex education, or ill-equipped teachers, the forum panelists agreed that Malaysia’s education system is too highly centralised. Teaching and learning is rigidly top-down, from the Education Ministry to teachers, and from teachers to students. Decisions lie with politicians and not with other stakeholders like parents, they said.
“If there was one thing you could do to improve the way children are educated, what would it be?” was the question that kicked off the forum on 25 July 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. The panelists were 3R executive producer and social commentator Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir; educator and Five Arts Centre co-founder Datin Marion D’Cruz; and homeschool practitioner KV Soon. It was moderated by The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin.
From left: D'Cruz, moderator Surin, Marina and Soon
From left: D'Cruz, Surin, Marina and Soon
Parents, not politicians; passion, not grades
Soon said parents were not involved enough in their children’s education under the public school system. The most the system required parents to do was to collect their children’s report cards. “Parents are locked out of schools. They should be brought in, and the politicians taken out,” said Soon, who runs the homeschoolers’ resource blog Learning Beyond Schooling.
When parents are not involved, and when a child’s learning is left to the system, the process of automation, or “education industrialisation”, as Soon called it, begins. “Schools provide only two events for students – exams and grades. They do not teach resourcefulness, or initiative, or the desire to learn. The saddest thing is to see a person with no desire to learn,” he said.
It’s what drives homeschool practitioners to pull their children out of the public education system so that they can be directly involved in the child’s learning according to the child’s interest and pace, Soon explained. Because such learning is not purely academic, the emphasis becomes less on avoiding mistakes and achieving grades, and more on passion and curiosity. “It doesn’t matter if the child changes interests, it’s more important to teach them passion,” Soon added.
Marina, however, questioned whether it was realistic to remove politicians from the education system. “What we should do is question them more,” she said.
D’Cruz said the government did not show clear understanding on what it would take to improve the quality of students. Merely increasing the number of graduate teachers, as the government planned to do, was insufficient, she said.
Democratising education
If the government would engage more stakeholders, including homeschoolers who are unrecognised by the Education Ministry, there could be transfer of creativity and ideas into the public education system, Soon said.
D'Cruz
D'Cruz
D’Cruz said an education think-tank that was interdisciplinary, intercultural and interclass would be an ideal start to reforming the education system by getting the widest input possible.
She also raised some assumptions which she said would have to be challenged if the system was to be more creative and innovative. For one, teachers had to stop treating students like empty vessels into which they deposited information. “Learning is a two-way street,” she said, adding that she learnt from her students all the time.
Secondly, she noted that the divide between arts and science was artificial and detrimental to learning. “Students need to dance as well as do math,” said D’Cruz. “If they are not taught to question or be creative from young, they won’t be able to think by the time they reach university. I ask my university-level students to think and they look at me like I’m mad.”
Soon said the highly centralised management of schools resulted in social control, where teachers and students are told what and how to think, and what to do.
Soon
Soon
“We need to rethink how schools are managed. It’s students who now sometimes have more information than teachers, [so the top-down approach doesn't work].”
While democratising education might be better for children’s learning, there were questions from the floor as to what degree of centralised control was necessary. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah, who used to be a teacher, asked if there should be control over alternative learning systems that might teach values contrary to the mainstream. An example that was cited was religious fundamentalism.
Another problem noted was the inability of vernacular school students to speak English or Bahasa Malaysia in university.
The panelists conceded that the solution was more complicated than the issue. D’Cruz suggested a combination of approaches and balance between a national and alternative syllabi, adding that subjects like Bahasa Malaysia and English were necessary.
Soon noted that the Education Ministry’s role in building human capital had to be redefined if education was to be decentralised. He added that as a start to addressing the issues arising from decentralising education, all stakeholders had to engage and understand one another’s position first.
Where have the good teachers gone?
Other questions from the floor were on teacher training and where good teachers were today.
D’Cruz said there were still many good teachers in the system who were struggling. “There are many fighting the system, but the system is like a huge cancer which eats teachers up over time,” she said.
Theatre practitioner and former teacher Anne James, who was in the audience, said the problem in teacher quality began with the type of people who get into the teacher training course or Diploma of Education. Not everyone training to be a teacher was passionate about teaching, and many considered it just another job to earn a living, she said. “You don’t get sieved to be a teacher, you get sieved just to get into the course.”
Other problems she said she faced while teaching were politics and conservatism. “Schools reflect the most conservative aspects of our society. We need to take political and religious approaches out of how we fashion education policies,” James said.
Sex education
The forum also broached the topic of sex education, which has yet to be implemented as a separate topic in schools due to political conservatism.
Marina
Marina
Marina said educators and politicians were still debating over the need to teach sex education in schools when students themselves wanted it. She said the topic is being taught piecemeal through different subjects like physical education, moral or religious studies, and biology, but was not addressed realistically.
“Let’s assume kids are going to have sexual relationships. They see it on television all the time. How do we educate them about managing it?” said Marina, who is also former Malaysian Aids Council president.
That teachers were “shy” to talk about the subject was of concern because “they are parents, too, and it makes me wonder what or how they teach their own children,” Marina said. Educators have to learn that “there’s no such thing as a sensitive subject, only how you approach [the topic],” she added.
D’Cruz said many teachers were simply ill-equipped to handle the subject. “I knew of schoolgirls who would sit and grope each other in full view of teachers passing by to attract their attention so they could have someone to talk to about sex. But their teachers just walked past and ignored them.”
She also spoke about other instances where she felt teachers did not know how to handle disciplinary issues, such as when they locked up students who were late to school. “Teachers need to create safe spaces for students to talk about things that are troubling them,” D’Cruz said.

Guan Eng-SDO spat a test of civil service impartiality

Malaysian Insider

GEORGE TOWN, July 26 – Lim Guan Eng and state development officer (SDO) Nik Ali Nik Yunus’s running feud highlights widespread misunderstanding over the different roles of the civil service and political parties, political analysts said today.

Universiti Malaya Law Faculty associate professor Azmi Sharom and political analyst Wong Chin Huat backed the Penang chief minister’s criticism against Nik Ali, despite the stout defence of the federal employee put up by Chief Secretary Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

They were of the opinion that the civil service needed to understand the distinction between political parties and government.

Azmi and Wong were commenting on the ongoing clash between Lim (pic) and Nik Ali which had escalated following a recent outburst by the federal civil servant, who said Lim had lowered his own status of a chief minister by criticising a SDO.

The chief secretary and Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians had taken Nik Ali’s side and took Lim to task for castigating the SDO.

The DAP, had in return, called Nik Ali an “Umno tool” employed by the federal government to oust the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government.

UM’s Azmi pointed out that the duty of the civil service was to serve the government.

“The civil service should not have any loyalty to the party,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

However, he observed that the civil service lacked the culture of distinguishing party and government.

“We now have four new state governments, and perhaps the civil service does not understand the choice of the people,” he said.

“Barisan [Nasional] ministers talk as if [the] civil service must be loyal to them; the executive does not seem to understand the system and politicise the issue for their own political mileage” he said.

Political analyst Wong said “the civil service must serve the government of the day”.

“It’s called administration neutrality,” he said, adding that ultimately the public were the bosses of the civil service.

Wong also agreed with Lim’s open criticism against Nik Ali. He said that it was Lim’s duty to let people know the truth and that he has done his part.

“Look at Nik Ali’s response. He would have been sacked a long time back if he had been in the private sector,” he added.
Wong said that if Nik Ali was going to stay on as SDO, BN “can forget about winning Penang in the coming general election”.

“If I am [Prime Minister Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak], I would do damage control immediately,” he said.

“You can talk about bureaucratic reforms but when someone (from the civil service) shouts at an elected government, the reform is gone,” he added.

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a political analyst with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said the clash between Lim and Nik Ali was just “tension between federal and state government”.

“Delays in getting federal funding are common. Guan Eng has run out tricks to get to the federal government,” he said.

“He cannot accuse politicians. But accusing a civil servant is seen as nothing,” he added.

Inspector Among 24 Negeri Sembilan Policemen Who Faced Disciplinary Action

SEREMBAN, July 27 (Bernama) -- An Inspector was among 24 policemen who faced disciplinary action for various offences over the past six months in Negeri Sembilan.

Negeri Sembilan police chief Datuk Osman Salleh said for the same period last year, disciplinary action was taken against three officers and 13 lower ranked police personnel.

"Disciplinary action was taken against them for various offences, including not reporting for duty, drug addiction, visiting prohibited entertainment outlets and discipline," he told reporters after a monthly gathering at the Negeri Sembilan police headquarters here Tuesday.

He added that the activities of policemen was always being monitored while advise and reminders were also given to them on the need to maintain their discipline and work ethics when on duty.

Osman who presented appreciation certificates to 51 policeman and members of the public, said crime rate in Negeri Sembilan had dropped from 4,091 to 3,305 in the first six months.

Abolish ISA, don't amend it

KUALA LUMPUR (July 26, 2010): It will be 50 years since the Internal Security Act (ISA) was introduced on Aug 1, and to mark the anniversary, two organisations – the Movement to Abolish the ISA (GMI) and the Malaysian Bar Council – are once again calling for the Act to be scrapped.

GMI also has plans to hold candlelight vigils around the country on that date as a way of raising awareness about the law and getting public support to get it repealed instead of amending it as proposed by the Home Ministry, said the movement's chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh at a press conference today.

GMI would be seeking to work with the Selangor government and will approach Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to seek permission to put up billboards and banners on the ISA, he said.

The movement also plans to launch a leaflet campaign on Aug 1, with over 100,000 leaflets set to be distributed nationwide, with 30,000 to be distributed in the Klang Valley to educate Malaysians on the "controversial and cruel" Act.

"In the past, we had been told that the ISA was to be used on communists, but it has been used on those who criticise government policy. The grounds of arrest have been tremendously expanded," said Syed Ibrahim. He said there are enough existing laws to cover crimes without the ISA.

GMI is also calling for all preventive detention Acts, including the Emergency Ordinance 1969, Restricted Residence Act 1933 and Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures Act) 1985, to be repealed immediately.

Meanwhile, at another press conference, Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said they had sent a memorandum to the Home Ministry on July 19, also to call for the ISA and other preventive detention Acts to be abolished.

"The memorandum draws attention to the archaic nature of these laws. It highlights how laws that allow for detention without trial offend the fundamental principles of human rights provided for within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and subsequent international conventions," said Ragunath.

The Bar Council also raised similar points to GMI in their memorandum concerning existing laws which provided law enforcement agencies with "sufficient powers" to curb crimes without having to resort to the ISA.

Bar Council human rights committee chairperson Andrew Khoo, who was also at the press conference, said Malaysia was recently visited by the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention from June 7-18 who recommended that our preventive laws be repealed or amended to conform with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Access to the courts has been removed except for very minor procedural matters, it (the ISA) has been made harder to challenge," he added. -- theSun

Khmer Rouger survivors angry over Duch jail sentence



Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) -- A man who ran a notorious Cambodian torture prison where more than 14,000 people died during the Khmer Rouge regime was found guilty of war crimes Monday and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Despite the sentence, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, will serve no more than 19 years. The judge took off five years for the time Duch was illegally detained before the United Nations-backed tribunal was established, and another 11 years for the time he has already served behind bars.

The verdict -- which also convicted Duch of crimes against humanity, murder and torture -- sparked strong reactions as word spread outside the courtroom. Some said it made them lose faith in the war crimes tribunal.

"It's becoming a sham," said Cambodian-American Theary Seng, chairwoman of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

Seng, who said the Khmer Rouge killed both of her parents, described Monday's verdict as "scandalous."

"It's an insult to the survivors. Effectively, he should have been receiving many life sentences. It makes light of the crime and suffering," she said.

Duch, 67, was the head of the S-21 prison. Few people brought to the prison made it out alive; only about a dozen were found by the Vietnamese, who invaded Cambodia in 1979.

One of the survivors, Bou Meng, said that the verdict made him so angry that he was sweating in the air-conditioned courtroom as he listened to the judge's words.

"I underwent brutal torture. Although Duch did not hit me himself, he ordered his men to hit me in front of him. This hurt me. The verdict seems to slap me in the face and kick me in the head," he said.

Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year sentence. On Monday they said they were studying the ruling to decide whether to appeal. Duch's attorney, Kar Savuth, could not be reached for comment.

The judge, in announcing Duch's sentence, said he took into consideration that the defendant had expressed remorse, admitted responsibility and cooperated with the court. The judge also took into account the "coercive environment" of the Khmer Rouge, he said

Duch pleaded guilty, but said he was only following orders and asked for forgiveness. Last November, he asked to be freed after spending some 11 years in detention.

In the last week of the trial, he argued that international law did not apply to him because he was following orders.

When the verdict was read, spectators in the packed courtroom turned to each other and discussed in hushed tones the significance of the sentence.

"Thirty-five years. You can't return the lives of the people that were lost. But it's a start," said Collin Sam, 22, a Cambodian-American from Long Beach, California, who lost all her family members on her father's side during the regime.

Outside the courtroom, hundreds of Cambodians gathered for the verdict and millions more watched as it was televised live.

"Today is a historic, important day for the people of Cambodia," said Reach Sambath, the spokesman for the court.

The tribunal began its work in 2007 after a decade of on-and-off negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia over the structure and functioning of the court. Monday's verdict was the court's first.

Ing Chheng, 71, who had five brothers killed by the Khmer Rouge, said he wanted to throw a stone at Duch when he saw him in court.

"I have been suffering for years," he said, noting that Monday's verdict "releases some suffering, but all will be released when the second case [against senior Khmer Rouge leaders] begins."

At least 1.7 million people -- nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population -- died under the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

Another four of the ultra-Maoist regime's former leaders are waiting to see if they will stand trial before the U.N.-backed tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Youk Chhang, director of the documentation center, said the verdict may not suit everyone, but said it was clear that Duch "will never be a free man again."

He said he thought Cambodians would be able to turn over a new leaf.

"This is what we have, and then we must move [on]. We have our own identity now, our own family, our own society now. We have to build it, make it strong, to prevent [the past] from happening" again, he said.

Endless misery of Bkt Jalil Estate

While Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim offers better plans for the Malay muslim Kg.Baru
settlers, what plans does he have for the poor Indian former plantation workers of Ladang Bkt.Jalil which is in his Parliamentary
constituency Bandar Tun Razak?
S.JAYATHAS
"I was born here and worked all my life in this estate, now they want ask us to leave with RM6000 and a low cost flat, they want to demolish our temple, they want to relocate our Tamil school to a religious school but at the same time they promise to negotiate and look at our miseries and plights" That are the words from the workers and former workers of Ladang Bukit Jalil, they are willing to co-operate with the government if at a fair compensation is offered. The MP for Bandar Tun Razak is non other than the Chief Minister of Selangor, Khalid Ibrahim. CJ Arvind Raj had the opportunity to witness several digital photographs of documents which stated that the Lot No.45584 as "TDK" and not "STATE LAND"
Video by Citizen Journalist, Arvind Raj

Unsavoury language, sex romps rule as Tamil papers go to war

KUALA LUMPUR: When the former Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating visited businessman-politician Vell Paari’s multi-utility vehicles manufacturing plant in Perth, the latter was momentarily stunned.

Vell Paari, the son of MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, had expected a tough-talking Keating whom he had seen over television, spewing fiery speeches during debates in Parliament.


Instead, there stood in front of him a soothing, soft Keating. Baffled, he asked the soft Keating whether the hard Keating had gone AWOL.

Keating responded: “Politics is like going into a dog’s den. If you are not ready to behave like a mad dog, get ready to be mauled.”

That sums up Vell Paari’s reasoning for his Tamil Nesan newspaper going to "war" with its rival daily Makkal Osai in what has over the past few weeks seen both parties piling scorn and accusations on one another.

Makkal Osai’s defence, according to its editor M. Rajenthiram: “They started it. They defamed and threatened us and even when we used decent ways such as seeking legal redress to end this, they never relented.”

It’s yet another chapter in the long-running battle between Samy Vellu, whose family owns Tamil Nesan, and his arch rival Datuk S. Subramaniam, who is linked to Makkal Osai.

This time, however, everything imaginable from alleged sex romps, lurid details of personal lives, unsavoury language and ruthless name-calling are seeing print. It appears that there are no laws on defamation.

What used to be covert has suddenly become overt. What used to be unimaginable to Malaysian culture and media is taking centrestage in both newspapers.

Readers, academicians and social activists call the war of words between the two politically-aligned dailies “repulsive, repugnant and intolerable in any form”.

Tamil language expert Dr M. Balachandran summed up the spat in a nutshell: “What is appearing on their pages is insulting to the readers and ludicrous. The papers are firmly in gutter territory and we are sick of these yarns.”

Balachandran noted that during the recent MIC annual general assembly, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had taken a swipe at the Tamil dailies which he said were being used to further the political mileage of certain leaders. Najib had said that by doing so, the dailies failed to realise they were destroying their own community by dividing it.

The newspapers, Najib said, should help change the mindset of the Indian community and unite them “but this is not happening”.

Indeed, it isn’t because the editors of Tamil Nesan and Makkal Osai are on the warpath.

Spearheading the Tamil Nesan onslaught is A. Veerasamy, better known as Tamil Mani, while in the other corner is Makkal Osai editor, Rajenthiram. Ironically, Tamil Mani, once a trenchant critic of Samy Vellu, is known as the journalist to have written more articles for various newspapers and magazines degrading, insulting and slandering Samy Vellu and his family on every aspect of their lives.

On April 1, he joined Tamil Nesan and became their hitman. No surprise then, that he has been more venomous in his articles than Rajenthiram in the current spat. It was he who started the row by taking potshots at Subramaniam. He went on a spree, writing 19 articles over three weeks, and dissected every aspect of the lives of Subramaniam and his friends with the wild excitement of a schoolboy given a scalpel and let loose on a dead mouse in Year Six science.

He further pilloried the editors, general manager, reporters and a subeditor of Makkal Osai. He went to the extent of naming the sub-editor and threatened to make public sexually explicit photographs of him.

These were all accompanied by language unseen in the 96-year-old Tamil Nesan, the oldest Tamil paper in the country.

Makkal Osai retorted by re-producing four anti-Samy Vellu articles written by Tamil Mani before he joined Tamil Nesan. These contained language that never saw print in the paper.

Rajenthiram explained the reason for re-producing the articles: “He was an incorrigible critic of Samy Vellu and his family then and we wanted to inform our readers that this is the same man who once championed the lead to get rid of Samy Vellu.

“And now, he is threatening us (Makkal Osai) not to write anything about the MIC or its president or face his wrath.”

He said the four articles related to Samy Vellu’s leadership, shortcomings in the MIC Youth and alleged wrongdoings in AIMST University and the party’s education arm, MIED.

Rajenthiram said his last say on the running battle with Tamil Mani was yesterday when he wrote that his paper would not be cowed by any threats from Tamil Nesan and would continue to expose wrongdoings that affected the Indian community.

Tamil Mani had a day earlier warned Makkal Osai that if they breached any of the eight conditions that he issued in his column, he would unleash his rage and let rip against his targets in a personal manner.

He had in the Friday edition gone to the extent of including a disclaimer at the end of his article, saying Tamil Nesan would not be responsible if anyone hanged themselves in shame over the issues exposed.

While Makkal Osai says it would resort to legal action to end the war, Tamil Mani, when contacted yesterday, said he would respond when he returns from out of town.

On the language used, both Vell Paari, the managing director of Tamil Nesan, and Rajenthiram said they regretted it. However, Vell Paari added: “Everbody is complaining now. Where were these people when they (Makkal Osai) used such language and made nasty remarks about the MIC and my family all these years.

“We have been keeping quiet all this while, but we decided that if this is the route they are taking, we will do the same.

“Who let the dogs out?. . .They did.”

Free Malaysians today, says Bar Council

By Ken Vin Lek - Free Malaysia Today
KUALA LUMPUR: Fifty years of the Internal Security Act is “more than enough”, the Bar Council has told the government in a memorandum that follows up on its consultation with the Home Ministry.
The memorandum, submitted a week ago, calls for the repeal of the ISA and other draconian laws. It nearly coincides with the 50th anniversary of the controversial law, which came into force in August 1960.
It points out, among other abuses, the use of the ISA to silence dissenters and persecute political opponents. As a result, it adds, Malaysians no longer trust the government to apply it responsibly.
"Fifty years of living under ISA is more than enough. The time to free Malaysians from such unjust and unfair laws is now," the council’s president, Ragunath Kesevan, said in a statement.
The memorandum also calls for the abolition of the Restricted Residence Act, the Prevention of Crime Act and the Banishment Act, all of which, like the ISA, allow for detention without trial.
"The Bar Council's memorandum draws attention to the archaic nature of these laws,” Ragunath said.
"Such laws offend the fundamental principles of human rights provided for within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and subsequent international conventions."
The memorandum compares the Malaysian laws unfavourably with recently enacted and controversial anti-terrorism legislation in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. (See Table).
It says those countries have ensured that their laws give “comprehensive protection of the security of their nations without foregoing safeguards to individual liberties and protection of basic human rights, unlike the laws in Malaysia”.
It says Malaysia's recent appointment to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) makes it “even more essential” for the government to observe basic human rights standards.
"This can only be achieved by removing all laws contravening basic human rights principles such as the ISA and other legislation that provide for detention without trial and restrictions in the free movement of peoples within our borders."

'Information War' erupting in Selangor


An ‘information war’ is soon going to erupt in Selangor, a state run by Pakatan Rakyat. But while Pakatan Rakyat is going to ensure that the people are ‘better informed’, Umno is using the Selangor Sultan to brainwash the members of the Royal Family and the Malays into believing that the Malays have lost political power and that the Chinese have now taken over the country.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

WHAT PAKATAN RAKYAT IS PLANNING

RM15mil for 'information war' in Selangor

The Selangor government has allocated RM15 million to enhance the delivery of information in the state, to counter 'BN propaganda and biased news coverage' by the print and electronic media.

"If we consider the population of 5.2 million in Selangor, this amount is equal to RM3 from every person," revealed Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim this morning when opening the 2010 stage budget dialogue.

He said the move is intended to provide people in Selangor with information that will enable them to make wise decisions.

The fund will be used to spread information through the state-owned media including TVSelangor, the Selangor Kini portal and Selangor Kini newspaper.

"We will explore the potential of creating Radio Selangor to expand the spread of information," he said.

Khalid said he had consulted the state treasury which had agreed that the allocation is acceptable based on its importance.

Some 300 state government officers and representatives of GLCs and NGOs are attending the dialogue alongside parliamentarians and state assemblypersons.

Khalid claimed that news reports on the state government have not been balanced.

"What we (read about) is always action to smear the state government. It is understood that this is a politically-motivated and partisan attempt to give the impression that Pakatan Rakyat doesn't have the ability to govern," he said.

He cited several examples to back his assertion that many in the state are not aware of assistance provided by the state government.

"Some have said the 20 cubic metres of free water (a month) is from the federal government."

Even worse, during Hulu Selangor by-election, there were people there who didn't know that the state government had changed (in March 2008). Some said (Muhammad) Muhammad Taib (right) is still the menteri besar."

WHAT UMNO IS PLANNING

Sarawak’s Chief Minister faces UK protesters over Penan


By Survival International,

Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud faced protests by supporters of the Penan in the UK today, while British MPs have written to him expressing concern over the newly documented cases of sexual abuse of Penan women.

Protestors from Survival International and other organizations greeted the Chief Minister in Oxford this morning, where he had travelled with cabinet colleagues to give the keynote speech at the Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum. The protestors held placards reading ‘Penan tribe say NO to logging’ and ‘Malaysia: Stop destroying the Penan tribe’. The protest forced the Chief Minister to enter the building through a side entrance.

The chairman of the British parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal peoples, MP Martin Horwood, has written to Taib Mahmud on the occasion of the Chief Minister’s visit to the UK. ‘The Penan have frequently been subject to violence and intimidation at the hands of loggers operating on their land… Without recognition of their land rights, the Penan are struggling to provide for themselves, and are left vulnerable to violence and exploitation’.

Mr Horwood urged the Chief Minister to ‘halt logging and other developments on the Penan’s land without their free, prior and informed consent, according to international law’ and to ‘ensure that Penan women and girls are protected from sexual violence and the perpetrators of such abuse brought to justice’.

Download photos of the Oxford demonstration

Download a copy of the All Party Parliamentary Group’s letter to the Chief Minister

Is Selangor’s FOI bill good enough?

By Ding Jo-Ann | The Nut Graph

IF Selangor’s Freedom of Information (FOI) bill is made law, how useful will it be in helping the public gain access to information held by the government? The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government tabled the bill for its first and second reading on 14 July 2010, and a select committee will now be collating feedback and working out its implementation.
Many have heralded the bill’s introduction as an important first step for FOI. After all, the Malaysian government has an ingrained culture of secrecy. A government circular, in fact, forbids civil servants from divulging any facts about the government’s functioning.
Additionally, government officials have become accustomed to classifying anything they do as “secret” under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). All sorts of documents – from landslide reports, to toll and water concession agreements, to results of corruption investigations – have been stamped secret. Calling government departments sometimes feels like a game of “pass the parcel”, where you are an unwanted package that is handed from one official to another before being placed in a corner and completely forgotten.
While Selangor’s initiative is significant, many have pointed out that the bill does not go far enough in promoting transparency in the current opaque environment. Indeed, any law that will now make it compulsory for civil servants to disclose instead of conceal information must be crystal clear in its intention and implementation. There must be no convenient loopholes or backdoor ways to avoid disclosing information that the public has a right to know.
Even where national security or confidentiality is involved, these interests should be weighed against the harm to public interest due to non-disclosure. Hence, any refusal to disclose information must be accompanied by a proper explanation which can be appealed right up to the courts.
So what should the select committee be looking out for as it goes around collating information on how this bill will be applied? A few problematic sections in the draft bill are listed below:
Deemed rejected
(Pic by sundesigns / sxc.hu)
(Pic by sundesigns / sxc.hu)
The bill currently states that any request for information must be answered within 30 days, or seven if it’s a matter of life and death. However, it says that if no answer is forthcoming within the stipulated time, then the application is deemed rejected. This conflicts with another clause which states that applicants must be informed of the reasons any application is refused. Given that government departments can be relatively slow in responding, any such provision would not serve the public interest.
Reason for request
The FOI draft bill requires applicants to state the reason why they are applying for the information. If the information is used for purposes  other than those stated in the application, the applicant can be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed up to five years.
This requirement is unnecessarily onerous. A right to know is a right to know. If the government is serious about the public gaining access to information it holds, it should not require applicants to justify why they are making any request.
In the UK, for example, no such requirement is stipulated in their Freedom of Information Act. In fact, applicants under the UK law need not even use a prescribed government form to make any request under the FOI Act. The public can just send a fax or even an e-mail citing the information required.
No court appeal
The government’s refusal to disclose information can be appealed to the Appeal Board, according to the bill. The appointments process of Appeal Board members has already been criticised because it will be done by the state authority, instead of an independent appointments panel. Moreover, the draft enactment states that the Appeal Board’s decisions will be final. Dissatisfied applicants cannot bring the matter before the courts for further review.
Any first-year law student would know that the three arms of government – the executive, legislature and the judiciary – are meant to act as checks and balances on each other. If the judiciary is ousted from scrutinising the Selangor government’s decisions in implementing the FOI law, what does this say about the PR’s commitment to public accountability?
Such a clause would make the PR no different from the Barisan Nasional (BN). The BN government has enacted similar clauses barring the courts from scrutinising minister’s decisions under the Internal Security Act, OSA and Printing Presses and Publications Act.
(Pic by spekulator / sxc.hu)
('Top secret' by spekulator / sxc.hu)
Leaving a legacy
Having said all that, it is still commendable of the PR government to introduce the FOI bill and open it up for public consultation and debate. It is hoped that these, and other concerns about the loopholes available for the government to subvert the bill’s intention, will be conclusively addressed.
After all, in the event that the PR loses Selangor in the next state election, they must ensure that the FOI law they enact is strong enough to compel the next government to operate an open government. It will also be heartening if the PR governments in Penang, Kelantan and Kedah introduced similar bills.
So, what are your thoughts about the FOI bill? When and if the FOI bill becomes law, what would you like to know from the Selangor government? Tell us in six words. Here are some of our thoughts:
Deborah Loh:
Parts of bill don’t make sense.
Lazy officers just wait 30 days.
Still a good effort, but anti-climatic.
Disclose 20-year development plans for Selangor!
Can FOI stop condo building frenzy?
Ding Jo-Ann:
Ouster clause no different from BN.
What about Penang, Kedah and Kelantan?
Federal government – time to play catch-up.
Will ask about traffic management plan.
BN opposition: unclear about FOI concept.
Gan Pei Ling:
See! Water leaking through bill’s loopholes.
Jacqueline Ann Surin:
Disappointing, PR, really disappointing. Do better!
What’s this? PR exercise for FOI?
Why weren’t best FOI practices incorporated?
I want public water concession agreements.
PR diberi peluang. Tetapi bazirkan peluang.
BN whitewashes ISA amendments. PR FOI.
Koh Lay Chin:
PR ke BN, bacalah fine print.
Thank you, but we would’ve waited.
Please don’t push a half-hearted bill.
Lainie Yeoh:
PR let downs are familiar now.
Some freedoms missing in FOI bill.
Certain parts look more like BN’s.