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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning denounces her lawyer

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 and was originally sentenced to death by stoning.

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- The 43-year-old woman sentenced to death by stoning in Iran denounced her lawyer and said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that she knew about the plot to kill her husband but thought it was a joke.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's lawyer said his client made those comments to state-run television "to save her life" and noted that the death sentence for murder charges related to her husband's death was commuted. The mother of two faces a death sentence for adultery.

Ashtiani's attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, told CNN last month that his client confessed to the crime after being subjected to 99 lashes. He said she later recanted the confession and denied any wrongdoing.

In Wednesday's interview, aired on the program "20:30," Ashtiani blamed Mostafaei for publicizing her case and said she had never met him.

"I tell Mostafaei: How dare you use my name, lie in my name, say things about me that are not true," she said in a statement that was voiced over by another woman. Ashtiani's voice carries a thick Azeri accent that some Iranians may have difficulty understanding.

She added she had not wanted her family to know she was in jail.

Ashtiani acknowledged having known about the plot to kill her husband but said she had not taken it seriously at the time.

"The man entered my life and fooled me with his words and said let's kill my husband," she said. "He fooled me and said I'll do this for you, what a bad husband, I'll take care of you. He was my husband's cousin, and he said things about my husband.

"Then I realized, when I went to prison, he had a criminal record and that this was his third criminal record. And when he said we should kill my husband, I couldn't even believe him or that my husband would die. I thought he was joking, that he had lost his mind.

"When my husband's mother was at our house one day and I went to get her medicine, I saw him there with all the tools he had bought, including electrical tools, wires and gloves. Then he killed my husband by connecting him to electricity with the electrical wires. He had told me beforehand to send my kids to their grandmother's house."

The prosecutor of East Azerbaijan Province, Malek Ajdar Sharifi, then says, "The deceased was given an injection to fall asleep by his wife. Then the man arrived and put him into the bath and put two electrical lines on his body and killed the deceased."

The anchor then speculated that the Western news media, including CNN, have focused on the case to help secure the release of three American hikers seized by Iranian forces along the Iraqi border who have been in custody for more than a year.

The three Americans -- Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal -- were detained after they allegedly strayed across an unmarked border while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Ashtiani's lawyer dismissed the program as a tool of the government.

" '20:30' is a program that is controlled by the intelligence services in Iran," Mostafaei told CNN in an interview in Oslo, Norway, where he has been granted asylum after fleeing Iran.

He had gone into hiding July 24, after enduring a lengthy interrogation at Iran's notorious Evin prison, the same day rallies were being held worldwide to draw attention to the Ashtiani case. He then slipped out of the country when his wife and brother-in-law were arrested. They have both since been released.

"Even IRIB [Iranian state television], they don't have any control of this program," Mostafaei said. "And the point of having this program is the character assassination of people. In this program, many reports are not real."

Mostafaei noted that his client is in prison, where she is facing a death sentence.

"It's natural that she will do whatever the authorities tell her to save her own life. They are putting a lot of pressure on her to be on television. Otherwise it wouldn't be so crucial to carry out such an act. The lawyer of a person who is facing the death penalty is the person who knows the most information about the case. He is the defending attorney. The lawyer can comment on the case, not the defendant."

He noted that Ashtiani's death sentence for killing her husband had been commuted because the victim's family forgave her.

"What is important is the sentence to stone this innocent woman to death" for adultery, he said. "She should not be stoned to death. And this is what the international community is demanding as well. This is the main subject that the Iranian state TV broadcast and the judiciary system did not address."

He disputed the assertion that they had never met. "I met her last year in Tabriz Prison," he said. "I am her legal counsel. And my goal as her attorney is to help her survive."

Another of Ashtiani's lawyers, Hootan Kian, concurred. "She was forced to say these things on television, 100 percent forced," he told CNN from Tabriz.

Fed Court dismisses ex-ISA detainee's application

The Federal Court has upheld the Court of Appeal ruling to overturn a High Court decision to award former Internal Security Act detainee Abdul Malek Hussin RM2.5 million in his suit against the government.

Court of Appeal president Alaudin Md Sherif said the court was satisfied that the three questions posed in Abdul Malek's application does not fall under the Court of Judicature Act.

"Hence, we dismiss the application," said Alaudin in reading out the decision of the three-member panel.

The other two judges are Justices Hashim Yusof and Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yusoff.

The court also asked Abdul Malek to pay total costs of RM20,000 to the three respondents.

In a landmark decision in 2007, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus ruled that Abdul Malek's detention under the ISA in 1998 was made in bad faith.

The judge ruled that the arrest was unlawful, purely for political purpose and that Abdul Malek was assaulted while in custody.

This decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on March 25 this year.

Ex-ISA man loses bid for compensation

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 12 — Ex-ISA detainee Abdul Malek Hussin lost his bid to regain his RM2.5 million compensation for unlawful detention by the police at the Federal Court today.

The three-men Bench led by Tan Sri Alauddin Sheriff unanimously dismissed his application for appeal and also ordered him to pay RM20,000 in costs.

Bullet in mail, DAP's Pua cries 'coward'

By Ken Vin Lek - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: DAP leader Tony Pua, who received a death threat, has dismissed it as an act of cowardice which would turn Malaysia into an international laughing stock.

Speaking to FMT, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP said he believes the threat was related to his call for Bumiputera discounts on luxury homes and commercial properties to be removed.

The death threat which was sealed together with a live bullet in an envelope was posted to his office in Damansara Utama. It was opened by his assistant at about 4.30pm yesterday.

The stamp on the envelope showed that it came from Tangkak, Johor.

The letter warned Pua to watch his every step and the writer had alleged that he knew all details about his family, office vehicle and the location of his house.

“You’re very brave. Be careful of where you walk to now, you will have to look around you, I know all your personal details, beware,” read the letter, penned in Malay.

Pua’s assistant lodged a police report with the Damansara Utama police station at about 6:30pm accompanied by Pua as well as lawyer and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng.

Police have confirmed that the bullet was a local made M16 bullet.

Khairy: 'Love' letter a cowardly act

In a tweet, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin had expressed support for Pua, despite his wing filing a litany of police reports against the DAP leader over his “remove discounts” comment.

Also calling it an act of cowardice, he said: “Heard about the ‘love’ letter. I hope you are alright and have made the necessary (police) reports. This is not the politics I signed up for. Take it easy.”

Last week, the Oxford-trained Pua had lambasted Umno Youth and its Oxford-trained chief Khairy over the police reports, saying he would not be cowed by them.

Prior to that Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan had warned the DAP leader “not to play with fire” by questioning the special privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras.

Umno's Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan also condemned the death threat.

“I hope the culprits who sent the bullets will be caught and given the maximum punsihment. Malaysia has no place for this kind of things,” he said in a twitter posting.

In 2008 and 2009, DAP chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh received similar death threats with live bullets for questioning the rights of the Malays and the Malay rulers.
Other tweets in support of Tony Pua
Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Kota Belud MP:
I hope the culprits who sent the bullets to Tony Pua will be caught and given the maximum possible punishment! Malaysia has no place for this kind of thing!

Chua Tee Yong, Labis MP:
Hope the police will be able to trace who did it so that at least Tony Pua will not have to worry about his family's safety. (It's a) very despicable act.

Charles Santiago, Klang MP:
Politics of intimidation apears to be on the rise in1Malaysia. People need to voice their objections.

Anthony Loke, Rasah MP:
The cowardly act of sending death threats to Tony Pua must be condemned by all peace-loving Malaysians. Politics of threats (is) unacceptable.

Hannah Yeoh, Subang Jaya ADUN:
Karpal Singh received threat earlier, now Tony Pua. Please pray for his safety.

T Mohan, MIC Youth Chief:
Tony Pua, hope you made a police report. It is definitely unacceptable.

Taking the constitution to the rakyat

 By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

FMT INTERVIEW KUALA LUMPUR: Since it was launched in July last year, the first-of-its-kind national campaign to bring the Federal Constituion to the people has "taken on a life of its own".
These were the words of Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan about the MyConstitution campaign and Edmund Bon couldn't agree more.

Bon, the lawyer-activist who heads the constitutional law committee in the Bar Council and the campaign, said he never expected it to become "so big".

"We started with over 100 members; we now have 200 in just two terms. It was a correct decision to open the Committee to non-lawyers," Bon said.

He said the amazing thing about the project was that in spite of differences in ideology and opinion, everyone seems to agree that the people have to be educated on the Federal Constitution.

"Surprisingly, everyone, liberal or conservative, is committed to the same aim of bringing the constitution to the people."

"People may hold different views, but at the end of the day, we can still sit down and say: 'Let's do this together'. It's something that is quite fantastic and invigorating," Bon said.

In a recent interview with FMT, Bon speaks on how the campaign has gone so far and what he hoped to achieve. Below are excepts:

FMT: One year has passed since the campaign, can you tell us what have you achieved?

Edmund Bon: Since July 2009 till now, it's already a year! We have launched five phases...

I think we have created greater public awareness of the constitution. I don't mean the elite, the people in power who are purposely manipulating the constitution. Our campaign has reached out to a lot of ordinary people through workshops. I believe a lot of people now have a basic knowledge of what the constitution says.

What are you doing to bring the constitution to more people?

The response has been very positive with the English- and BM-speaking Malaysians because we have published our booklets in both these languages. We are quite certain that people in the cities are well-versed in the constitution and our campaign merely strengthens their knowledge. But we have to reach the rural areas and that is very important. We are planning to translate our booklets into Mandarin and Tamil. We currently don't have enough funds for that.
Currently who funds this project?

The Bar Council, and at different stages whoever wants to partner with us. So far, the federal government, and the state governments of Kedah, Selangor, Sarawak have supported us.

What is the ideal vision you have about the outcome of this campaign?

We hope that by the time we launch all nine phases, we will be able to see changes in the way things are being discussed and expressed, especially in the media. So that immediately we can see a situation when people in power say something which is clearly against the constitution, the rakyat are able to say: 'Don't lie to me, don't fool me.'

What do you mean by that?

Okay, this is just an anecdotal example and it made its rounds as a joke; not based on research. But in Sibu, we had a very strong team who had been working very work to enlighten the people on the constitution led by a member Adrian Chew.
Sibu is quite an urbanised area and in the May (parliamentary by-election), everyone thought that the Barisan Nasional would win. Our team members had been doing a marvellous job on the MyConstitution campaign... they were not telling the people who to vote for or who to support but informing them of their constitutional rights.
It was jokingly said this was probably the reason people voted against what they did not like. But of course we can't take credit, or else the DAP will get angry with us (laughs).

I guess you can’t take take the Sibu people as fools and in a way they told off those in power by saying 'you are taking us for a ride'.

We are ‘non-political’ but I think our MyConstitution education campaign gave people the courage to vote when we tell them the constitution is the supreme law of the land.

Do you think the BN government is fearful of what you could achieve with the MyConstitution campaign?

Many in the BN government are supportive, like Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Abdul Aziz and Koh Tsu Koon and Deputy Minister in Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong. I believe they know we need such awareness (of our constitutional rights) after 50 years without a formalised education on the constitution.

Of course, there are some other ministers who are fearful I guess. We have approached a number of ministers'. For example, we have written to the Higher Education Minister (Mohamed Khaled Nordin) but he didn't reply. When our president Ragunath (Kesavan) met with Najib (Tun Razak), he said the prime minister expressed support. But we have not got any funding from him (Najib) directly though.

I am not really bothered whether it is supported by the government or opposition. Even if we don't have the money, we will go ahead and bring it to the people. However I think this is something everyone supports regardless of political ideology.

How does this campaign relate to the law and legal industry?

Many lawyers themselves have not even read the constitution, I don't blame them. Because it is a document that is very legalistic and very hard to read. With our campaign, we are hoping to educate lawyers too.

Why is the Bar Council taking this up?

We are doing this because under the Legal Profession Act, lawyers must uphold justice without fear or favour, and also to educate and assist the public, especially the poor. So in a way we are 'legally bound' to do it. This is something the goverment is supposed to do. But never mind, let us do it.

What are the most frequently asked questions by the people on the ground?

It depends on the particular issue at the moment, the week or the day. For instance, when we were in Perak, everyone was asking questions about the powers of the Election Commission, the speaker and rulers (in the wake of the Perak constitutional crisis). So the issue was all about the separation of powers...

The constitutional law committee is the biggest committee in the Bar Council -- with more than 200 members. How did this happen?

The formation of the constitutional law committee represented a great achievement for the Bar Council. In 2009, we set up the committee on the suggestion of a former council member Roger Tan. The unique thing about this committee is that it is not meant for lawyers only as the constitution is meant to be understood by the 28 million rakyat. The Bar Council agreed to allow anyone who is keen to give their views and share their expertise to join the committee. Even journalists and activists can be members. You don't need to be a lawyer or a council member. We have students as young as 16 years old, social activists, academics, law lecturers, and local councillors, among others. So this is really something by the Bar Council.

Saiful-Farah liaison: Whither justice?

By Kim Quek - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah’s rejection of the defence’s request to put complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and DPP Farah Azlina Latif on the witness stand despite the duo’s complete failure to respond to allegation of sexual relations between them is most regrettable. For it is another black mark on the long-running, scandal-ridden Anwar Sodomy Trial II, thus reinforcing the universal perception that the trial is nothing but political persecution for Anwar Ibrahim.

What would a deputy public prosecutor do when he or she is accused of sleeping with the complainant in a criminal trial, if the allegation is false? Shouldn’t the DPP instantly yell and deny and act against the defamer?

What is your take on this DPP if he or she chooses to steadfastly act deaf and dumb despite the fact that the controversy sparked by his or her alleged misconduct has raged relentlessly for almost three weeks?

And what is your take on Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and the prosecuting team who insist they know nothing about the affair and also that the DPP has done nothing wrong despite Gani's incongruous act to quickly bundle her away not only from the prosecuting team but also from the prosecuting division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers?

Mind you, we are not talking about an ordinary criminal trial, but possibly the most important trial in our history involving the fate of the highest-profile political leader of the country, the outcome of which may sway the course of history for many years to come.

Prosecution smacks of dishonesty

Under the circumstances, shouldn’t Gani be duty-bound to the nation to come clean and say outright whether the allegation is true or false? What choice do we have other than to impute dishonest intention and dishonourable conduct on the part of the prosecution over its prolong ambiguity over such an important issue?

Who would believe prosecution team leader Solicitor-General II Yusof Zainal Abiden when he professed no knowledge of the affair though he and DPP Farah had been working together as a team on this case for six months and meeting almost every day, and all he needed to do was to ask Farah whether the allegation was true? Don’t tell me Yusof never asked her, or that she never answered, or that he had no means of finding out the veracity of the allegation. For that would be a blatant lie.

Having failed the honesty test over his dubious stand on the Saiful-Farah liaison, Yusof had very little credibility left when he claimed that this unethical and illicit relationship had absolutely not caused any injustice to Anwar.

In the first place, why didn’t he get Farah and Saiful to file an affidavit in defence against Anwar’s affidavit seeking the dismissal of the case? There is absolutely no reason to use only third parties to rebut Anwar, when the principals are alive and well and fully capable of speaking for themselves. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation to this anomaly, how much weight can we attach to these third-party affidavits?

Then, failing to get the affidavits from the principals, why did Yusof get his subordinate DPP Hanafiah Zakaria and investigating officer Supt Jude Pereira to file their affidavits, instead of doing it himself, since as team leader he should be more knowledgeable and his words more authoritative? Isn’t this another indication of the lead prosecutor’s evasiveness?

Unbelievable claim

The prosecution claimed that Farah’s function as a prosecutor in the team is strictly confined to taking down notes during court proceedings and categorically declared that she had never had access to any investigating document or any meeting throughout her six months of participation as a team member. As such, the prosecution claimed that she knew virtually nothing that could be of help to Saiful, neither could she have exerted any influence over the course of trial.

Keeping in mind that Farah is a qualified lawyer and a prosecutor officially appointed for this trial, is it credible that she could take this humiliation of only being allowed to work as a menial clerk and denied any opportunity to function as a legal officer? Does it make sense for the Attorney- General’s Chambers to engage a qualified lawyer, make her a prosecutor but force her to work only as a clerk? Isn’t this a waste of talent and public funds and an unjust treatment of a fellow legal officer? Why should the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General II have done a horrible thing like this? Will these two gentlemen please answer these questions before they expect the people to believe even a word of what they claim?

Is it conceivable that during the six months on the case as a DPP, she has never had the opportunity to see any document of relevance or heard or participated in conversation or discussion relating to the case? Was there any strict order that she be barred to all these? If not, how can anyone be certain that she knows nothing of consequence to the prosecution case?

Naïve to ignore sexual passion

The prosecution assured the court that they were absolutely sure that Farah had not communicated any information to Saiful that the latter was not entitled to know. Have they been keeping a 24-hour watch on this couple including what happened within the bedroom? If not, how can they be so sure?

Are we so naïve that we are unaware of the power of sensual love between two individuals? Have we forgotten the lessons of history when many an empire and kingdom rose and fell because of the passion ignited between a man and a woman? If Saiful and Farah are lovers, which no one has denied, no court of law should accept any assurance that the prosecutor has not infringed the ethics of her profession.

It is puzzling how Judge Zaibidin had arrived at the conclusion that justice is better served by not allowing the principal actor and actress to come forward to say their piece and expose themselves to scrutiny.

With many swirling questions remaining unanswered and the credibility of the prosecution plunging to an all-time low, what can we interpret from the prosecution’s vehement objection to call the duo as witnesses, and the judge’s endorsement of such an objection?

Have these officers of the court forgotten their sworn duty to seek truth and defend justice at all times?

Isn’t it true that the prevailing public perception now is that the court is fearful of the truth being exposed?

Now that the court has shut the door to learning the truth from the horses’ mouth, what alternative is left to salvage the honour of the court and our judicial system other than to dismiss the case and spare the nation the agony of watching infamy in the making?

Signature, handwriting on 'note' not Beng Hock's, says his family

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

In a dramatic turn of events, the family of Teoh Beng Hock has disputed the handwriting on the note that Attorney-General Gani Patail claims was a "suicide" note, saying it was obvious the signature and the writing was not Beng Hock’s.

"The family pointed out to me multiple discrepancies in the handwriting in the note, which mainly includes Chinese characters and some words in English, which are in stark contrast to the handwriting of Teoh Beng Hock, both in Chinese and English, in documents written by him before his untimely and tragic death,” their lawyer Karpal Singh said in a statement.

"Even his purported signature is far from his signature on documents he executed before his death.”

Karpal had shown a copy of the note to the family on Tuesday to get their approval for appointing a handwriting expert to give evidence at the inquest.

"The fact that the Attorney-General himself had doubts about the note initially brings into sharp focus the necessity of ensuring the note is authentic," Karpal said.

Grave national suspicion

Indeed, Gani had created a furore on Monday when he suddenly tried to introduce the note as evidence in the inquest.

A press statement relating how his chambers came across the note and why they withheld it despite having allegedly discovered it in Beng Hock’s sling bag last October created even more public confusion and anger.

“I cannot understand why a suicide note was found in TBH’s bag, purportedly apologizing to his boss for disclosing important information,” Gerakan leader Hsu Dar Ren wrote in his blog.

“I thought all belongings of his were kept by the department the moment he was called in. His hand-phone was with the department and was not returned to him, so did the department keep his bag too? In that case, how could he write something and put it inside the bag if the bag was already in the custody of the department?”

Victim of an Umno plot

Senator Ezam Mohd Noor and Khir Toyo
The 30-year Beng Hock was a political officer to Selangor state executive councilor Ean Yong Hian Wah. Ean was among a group of top Selangor Pakatan Rakyat leaders being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for alleged corruption and Beng Hock had been called in for questioning as a witness on July 15, 2009.

Yet, the interrogation was intensive, extending into the wee hours of the next morning. Another witness who was there at the same time as Beng Hock has complained he was tortured during interrogation.

It is widely believed that Beng Hock also suffered the same sort of dubious interrogation techniques. His body was found outside the MACC building around 2pm on July 16, which was also the very day he was due to register his marriage with his fiancé. They were expecting their first child.

“This is a life of somebody, somebody's life - a young man, smart, due to get married very soon, hauled up by MACC and decided, 'no I'm going to kill myself' - there must be a reason," said Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Covering up the Umno-MACC conspiracy

The MACC has been accused of conspiring with top Selangor Umno leaders including former mentri besar Khir Toyo in a bid to regain control of the state government. It has denied torturing Beng Hock and claims he committed suicide - right from day one even before the note was discovered.

Government pathologists say Beng Hock died as a result of injuries from a fall from a great height – believed to be from the 14th floor office of the MACC building. However, renowned Thai forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand has said there was 80 percent chance of homicide. She is due to testify at the inquest on August 18.

Speculation is also rife that Prime Minister Najib Razak may have bowed to the hawks within his Umno party to cover up for the MACC due to the manner in which news of the existence of the ‘note’ was first leaked through Umno blogs, Senator Ezam Mohd Noor in Parliament and how the government-controlled press has repeatedly front-paged reports of Beng Hock’s “suicide”.

Hence, the sudden introduction of the dubious "suicide" note especially given that Pornthip’s testimony is likely to further dent the MACC’s case. They are pleading to be absolved from blame while the Teoh family is seeking a 'homicide' verdict from the coroner’s court.

“We have gone through the inquest for a year and they want to raise this now, one week before Dr Pornthip takes the stand,” said Gobind Singh Deo, another lawyer for the Teoh family.

“No one method for interfaith engagement”

(Source: Wiki commons)
(Source: Wiki commons)
PETALING JAYA, 12 Aug 2010: There is no one method for successful interfaith engagement, an expert in global interfaith initiatives said.
World Faiths Development Dialogue executive director Katherine Marshall said engagement takes place on many different levels in many different ways. This ranges from the very specific, such as people of different faiths building a house together, to the very general, like dealing with global poverty or female feticide.
Marshall was speaking at a 9 Aug 2010 public lecture organised by the International Institute for Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS).
Theological and practical
She said interfaith engagement has also happened through theological discussions focusing on common values between faiths, or through more practical initiatives that address common issues.
Marshall cited A Common Word and Building Bridges, efforts by Muslim and Christian leaders to discuss the common ground between the two religions, as examples of important theological engagements.
As for practical engagement over common issues, Marshall cited Ghana, where religious leaders came together to deal with the country’s poor sanitation. Muslim, Christian, Bahai’ and traditional religious leaders started an interfaith initiative against garbage, calling it their “crusade against filth”.
“Religious leaders worked together on clean-up campaigns. [As a result], when there was some tension during the elections, they already knew each other and could work together to head off potential conflict,” said Marshall, who worked with the World Bank for over 30 years on international development.
Marshall also spoke of interfaith collaboration to end malaria in Nigeria, one of the top countries for malaria deaths. Thousands of Nigerian imam, pastors and priests were trained to deliver sermons to their respective religious groups, in support of the campaign.
Marshall also gave the example of Habitat for Humanity, which brings people of all backgrounds, races and religions together to build houses for the homeless around the world.
Creative engagement
Marshall, who is senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, acknowledged the difficulties in interfaith engagement, especially when one party is unwilling to dialogue.
“It is important to make engagement meaningful,” she said. “We need to bring evidence, to be clever about engagement, and to have skill in framing the questions.”
Marshall gave an example of a dialogue organised at the request of US evangelical Christians who were concerned about climate change. “The US evangelicals wanted to engage with Moroccan Muslims on climate change. It was a rich and interesting discussion on a problem faced by everyone.”
Marshall said the interfaith discussion took place despite ongoing tensions in Morocco over proselytisation to Muslims.
“But how can interfaith dialogue happen when bombs are flying and people have been killed?” asked an audience member.
Marshall said there were two schools of thought on this. “In any dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims, the issue of Palestine and the Middle East usually comes up within five minutes. There are those who want to concentrate all efforts to solve that problem first before we work on anything else. And then there are those who want to work at many levels.”
Marshall said she subscribed to the idea of working on many different levels, and quoted US President Franklin Roosevelt who said during the Great Depression: “When in a crisis, pull any lever.”
“But how does one initiate dialogue in a crisis, especially when there is violence taking place? Is it just a luxury for stable countries?” Marshall was asked.
While acknowledging that certain interfaith activities would be difficult to carry out amidst violence, Marshall said there were still ways interfaith engagement could take place.
“The basic questions involved are things we need to reflect on all the time – why we are here, how we are different, how we are the same, what kind of world we want to leave our children,” answered Marshall.
Knowledge the key
Marshall said knowledge was key in reshaping people’s views about people of other faiths.
Hans Kung (Wiki commons)
Hans Küng (Wiki commons)
“Ignorance and fear is the tinder for conflict,” she said. “A lack of knowledge shapes attitudes. Studies have shown that even a simple understanding can reshape views.”
But no matter how interfaith engagement is carried out, what is certain is that human security and development cannot happen without it, she noted.
Marshall shared a quote from Hans Küng, a theologian and Global Ethic Foundation president, who said: “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”

Escaping the middle-income trap

by Michael Schuman | Time

I returned a few days ago from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, where the talk of the town – well, at least among economists — is the “middle-income trap.” What’s that, you ask? A developing nation gets “trapped” when it reaches a certain, relatively comfortable level of income but can’t seem to take that next big jump into the true big leagues of the world economy, with per capita wealth to match. Every go-go economy in Asia has confronted this “trap,” or is dealing with it now. Breaking out of it, however, is extremely difficult. The reason is that escaping the “trap” requires an entire overhaul of the economic growth model most often used by emerging economies.

Malaysia’s caught in the “trap” right now, and getting out if is going to be tough. Simply put, Malaysia needs to change what it has been doing economically for the past 40 years. How Malaysia got itself into the “trap,” and how it could escape from it, can provide us with some valuable lessons on development and, more specifically, how developing nations can graduate into becoming fully advanced economies.

The concept behind the “middle-income trap” is quite simple: It’s easier to rise from a low-income to a middle-income economy than it is to jump from a middle-income to a high-income economy. That’s because when you’re really poor, you can use your poverty to your advantage. Cheap wages makes a low-income economy competitive in labor-intensive manufacturing (apparel, shoes and toys, for example). Factories sprout up, creating jobs and increasing incomes. Every rapid-growth economy in Asia jumpstarted its famed gains in human welfare in this way, including Malaysia.

However, that growth model eventually runs out of steam. As incomes increase, so do costs, undermining the competitiveness of the old, low-tech manufacturing industries. Countries (like Malaysia) then move “up the value chain,” into exports of more technologically advanced products, like electronics. But even that’s not enough to avoid the “trap.” To get to that next level – that high-income level – an economy needs to do more than just make stuff by throwing people and money into factories. The economy has to innovate and use labor and capital more productively. That requires an entirely different way of doing business. Instead of just assembling products designed by others, with imported technology, companies must invest more heavily in R&D on their own and employ highly educated and skilled workers to turn those investments into new products and profits. It is a very, very hard shift to achieve. Thus the “trap.”

South Korea is probably the best current example of a developing economy making the leap into the realm of the most advanced. Companies like Samsung and LG are becoming true leaders in their fields. Taiwan isn’t far behind. China’s policymakers are fully aware that, with labor costs rising, it needs to follow suit. (More on See a stimulus report card at the one year mark)

Malaysia, though, is quite far from where it wants to be. That’s a bit surprising based on its remarkable recent history. Malaysia has been among the best performing economies in the world since World War II, one of only 13 to record an average growth rate of 7% over at least a 25-year period. The country has an amazing record of improving human welfare. In 1970, some 50% of Malaysians lived in absolute poverty; now less than 4% do. Yet Malaysians also feel that they’ve become somewhat stuck where they are. GDP growth has slowed up, from an annual average of 9.1% between 1990 and 1997 to 5.5% from 2000 and 2008. Meanwhile, other Asian economies have zipped by Malaysia. According to the World Bank, the per capita gross national income (GNI) of South Korea in 1970 was below that of Malaysia ($260 versus $380), but by 2009, South Korea’s was three times larger than Malaysia’s ($21,530 versus $6,760). Malaysia is getting “trapped” as a relatively prosperous but still middle-income nation.

Can Malaysia escape? The initial indications are not encouraging. The economy’s growth engine remains unchanged – export-oriented manufacturing backed by foreign investment. Its companies are just not innovating or adding much value to what they produce. You can find all of the ugly details in a very thorough study by the World Bank, released in April. Private investment has sunk precipitously, from more than a third of GDP in the mid-1990s to only some 10% today. Labor productivity is growing more slowly than in the 1990s. The “value-added” in manufacturing in Malaysia trails many of its neighbors – an indication that Malaysian factories are mainly assembling goods designed elsewhere. R&D spending remains frighteningly low, at about 0.6% of GDP (compared to 3.5% in South Korea). If Malaysia is going to break the “trap,” it has to reverse all of these trends.

How can Malaysia achieve that? The World Bank report has pages of recommendations. The basics include slicing apart the bureaucratic red tape that stifles competition and suppresses investment, bolstering the education system so it can churn out more top-notch graduates, and funneling more financial resources to start-ups and other potentially innovative firms. To its credit, the government of Malaysia is fully aware of what it needs to do. In March, Prime Minister Najib Razak introduced a reform program called the New Economic Model. You can read the initial report here. The NEM shows that Najib realizes that excessive government interference in the economy is dampening investor sentiment and holding back Malaysian industry. All eyes now are waiting for the more detailed policy recommendations for the NEM (though it is not clear when those might appear).

Yet I’m wondering if getting policy right is really enough. Of course, it would help, by setting in place better incentives for private businessmen to invest in innovative projects, and creating the tools they need to make those projects work. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. I’ve been musing on the differences between South Korea and Malaysia. Why has Korea jumped so far ahead? I think the reason is embedded in the different methods the two countries used to spur rapid growth.

Both countries relied exports to create rapid gains in income, but they did so differently. South Korea, from its earliest days of export-led development in the mid-1960s, had been determined to create homegrown, internationally competitive industries. Though Korean firms supplied big multinationals with components or even entire products, that was never enough – Korea wanted to manufacture its own products under its own brands. The effort was often a painful one – remember Hyundai’s first disastrous foray into the U.S. car market in the late 1980s and early 1990s – but Korea is where it is today because its private companies have been working on getting there for a very long time, backed in full by the financial sector and the government.

Malaysia, on the other hand, relied much, much more on foreign investment to drive industrialization. That’s not a bad thing – multinational companies provide an instant shot of capital, jobs, expertise and technology into a poor country. MNCs, however, aren’t going to develop Malaysian products; that has to take place in the labs and offices of Malaysia’s private businesses. But those businessmen have been content to squeeze profits from serving MNCs and maintaining their original, assembly-based business models.

In other words, what is needed for Malaysia to break from the “middle-income trap” is a greater national commitment to innovate on its own. Entrepreneurs and bankers have to be willing to take more risks to support inventive ventures and new technologies. Talented workers have to be willing to take jobs at home instead of Silicon Valley. The Malaysian private sector has to be more devoted to the country’s future. This is fuzzy stuff, outside of the realm of usual economics. But I fear the kind of commitment needed to escape the “trap” unfortunately can’t be created by government initiatives alone.

Friend tells court he was with two accused on night of arson

Malay Mail 
by Reena Raj

KUALA LUMPUR: A friend to two brothers charged with torching a church in Desa Melawati told the sessions court today that they were at a barbecue party at his house on the night of the arson.

Mohd Hamzan Zainal Abidin,24, said he saw Raja Mohamad Faizal Raja Ibrahim's body caught fire while Raja Mohamad Izham was trying to put it out.

He earlier spoke to the two siblings and then went inside the house to fetch chicken and squid.

"Then I heard a scream coming from outside while the chicken I was carrying fell to the ground. I saw Apai's (Faizal) shirt on fire. Dek Am (Izham) who was trying to help was also injured in the hand.

"Apai screamed get away, fire. I did not see the fire but I saw their hands fanning away," he said during cross-examination by deputy public prosecutor Azlina Rasdi.

Hamzan said he then asked a friend named Jo to send them to Izham clinic and that he later put out the fire.

The teacher admitted that the brothers were close to him although he did not find time to visit Faizal at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

Asked whether he made up story about the barbecue party to save his friends

Hamzan said: "I disagree.

Faizal, 24, and Izham, 22, are charged with several others still at large, with causing mischief by torching the Metro Tabernacle Church at Jalan 4/4c, Desa Melawati at 11.50pm on Jan 7 this year.

The charge - "mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house" - under Section 436 of the Penal Code, carries a maximum 20 years' jail and a fine.

Hamzan told the court that he only met the two accused in March or April and that a police officer came to record his statement in July.

He said the barbecue party had to be held at midnight as the brothers told him that they had things to do.

Asked by counsel Nurul Aimi Aziz why he did not tell police of the barbecue party, Hamzan said: They did not ask and moreover, I was in a hurry.

Earlier, investigating officer Insp Mohd Hanis Abd Wahab said Hamzan told him that he knew the accused that they suffered the burns from burning rubbish.

The defence closed the case today after calling four witnesses including the two accused. Judge S.M Komathy Suppiah fixed Friday for closing arguments.


R: You want to lose your that one?! FASTER SMILE BIGGER!
N: OUCH!! erk…. okokok
N: *mouths silently* … whatever you do, don’t stare straight into her eyesssssss!….

Sri Lanka begins civil war hearings

The UN says 7,000 civilians were killed and many more displaced in the final stages of the conflict [EPA]
Sri Lanka has begun its official investigation into the bloody civil war that raged in parts of the country for two decades, amid international concern over the credibility of the government-appointed panel looking into the conflict.
The United Nations says thousands of civilians died in the final months of the war in 2009, when the Sri Lankan military finally defeated ethnic Tamil rebels who had been fighting for an independent state.
Sri Lanka has resisted calls for an independent international inquiry into allegations of war crimes by its forces fighting in the north and east of the island.

Instead it launched an eight-member commission to find out why a 2002 truce between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) collapsed into further violence.
The commission, which was appointed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's president, will make recommendations on how to ensure that the country does not return to conflict, its chairman said at the launch event on Wednesday.
C.R. de Silva said in his opening remarks that the commission would "consolidate the military victory by addressing the root causes of the conflict and establish national integriy and reconciliation".
'Lacking credibility'
But human rights groups have said the commission is simply aimed at deflecting calls for an international investigation.
"It's pretty likely that this commission will be a whitewash"
Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka expert, Amnesty International
"There had been previous commissions and they have not borne fruit," Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch's South Asia director, said.

"We are not convinced of the commitment of the government of Sri Lanka to ensure accountability."
Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International's Sri Lanka expert, told Al Jazeera that the country suffered from a "climate of impunity" which had compromised previous domestic probes in to human rights abuses.
"Sri Lanka has been plagued by human rights violations from a number of actors. There is no space in the justice sector to address this," she said.
"It's pretty likely that this commission will be a whitewash, which is why we are calling for an independent international inquiry."
Meanwhile, an open letter to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, from 57 US politicians, said that the Sri Lankan panel "lacked the needed credibility" to investigate such serious allegations.
"There is mounting evidence that suggests both parties in the conflict committed severe human rights violations during the conflict," the letter said.
"We urge you to call for a robust and independent international investigation that would finally clarify the events that occurred during the conflict and provide the foundation for a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka."

Civilians killed
Government forces are accused of firing shells into civilian areas, attacking hospitals, and bombing food distribution points in the Tamil-majority areas where the fighting was heaviest.
The Sri Lankan government has dismissed the allegations, insisting that no civilians were killed in the final offensive, despite a mounting body of evidence to the contrary.
The UN, which released a report estimating that 7,000 Tamil civilians died in the offensive, set up a three-member panel in June to advise Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, on how to ensure that the alleged war-crimes did not go unpunished.
The move sparked outrage in Colombo, where the government refused to co-operate with the investigation and said it was an infringement on Sri Lanka's sovereignty.
The next formal hearing of the commission is scheduled for August 17, but not all the proceedings will be made public.

Kamera tersembunyi dijumpai di pejabat MB S'gor

Chua: Kain rentang cuba cetus kemurkaan sultan

“Ethnic cleansing” of Dinding Indian Association land

For 80 years, the Dindings Indian Association in Sitiawan, Perak, has been the steward of a two-hectare plot of land originally purchased with the contributions of rubber tappers.
Last week, the federal government issued notice that it will acquire the land to build a school – the formal hearing of acquisition is to be held on Aug 25 at the Manjung Land Office.
The Perak DAP has now pitched in with an accusation that there is an ulterior motive behind the move.
State deputy chiNONEef M Kulasegaran said the site, located in the heart of town, is worth at least RM20 million now, and that it is the pride of the Indian Malaysian community which makes up 15 percent of the local population.
“Is it true as speculated that part of the prime land will be given to cronies of the people in power for commercial development?” he asked.
He said the plot was bought “with the blood, sweat and tears of the first generation of Indian settlers” who had cleared the jungle for rubber planting.
“Indian rubber-tappers from the 35 estates in Sitiawan had contributed two Straits Settlement dollars each per month for 18 months to purchase this piece of land,” he said.
“The idea of purchasing the land at the time was to build a school for the children of rubber tappers to study English in the afternoon, after attending Tamil school in the morning.”
Part of the site is now occupied the SK Simpang Empat (formerly the Simpang Empat English School), the school field and the VR Menon science laboratory built in 1964.
“There is no logical reason or justification for the government to acquire this piece of land. We are adamant that it should at all times remain in the hands of the Indian community,” Kulasegaran said.
He said that a large number of people will gather at the Manjung Land Office on Aug 25 to object to the proposal.
Questions that arise

Kulasegaran, who is also Ipoh Barat MP, called on the Perak and federal governments to organise a roundtable conference to discuss the proposed acquisition and arrive at a win-win solution.
It is understood that both governments had carried out a feasability study a year ago, in preparation to acquire the site.
KulasS Veerasingamegaran said the Perak government’s Indian Affairs adviser S Veerasingam (left) had reportedly said that “a settlement will be reached” after discussion with Mentri Besar Zamry Abd Kadir, who is currently abroad.
He demanded answers from Veerasingam on these questions:
1. Was he aware of the feasibility study? Was the Perak government consulted before the decision on acquisition was made?
2. Why was there no prior consultation with the local Indian community?
3. Why did he say a settlement would be reached after the notice of acquisition was issued?
4. What are the details of the settlement formula?
Kulasegaran, who was born in Sitiawan, said the Indian community is angered because the move is “most insensitive, unfair and unjustifiable”.
The community also cannot understand the need for this plot when there is vacant land in many other areas where a new school can be built, he added.

Children denied father’s name on birth certificates. UMNO’s religious extremism against Banggarama’s family.

(See newsreport in dated 25/11/10. See below Birth Certificate of banggarama born to Hindu parents.)

In the birth certificates of her son Kanaraj and daughter Hisyanthini the racist and religious extremist and supremacist UMNO civil servants even have refused to record the name of the children’s natural father Sockalingam a/l Suppiah as the father in the father’s column see father’s and his children’s Birth Certificates below. But in the children’s Birth Certificates practicing Hindu Banggaramma’s name has now been changed to a muslim name which she never knew about.

This is the simplest case of the big bully UMNO bullying this and thousands of other such poor and politically powerless Indian Hindus.

By this UMNO bullying, the Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion is meaningless and non-existent. UMNO is causing day to day mysery to thousands of these poor Indian Hindus’ lives.

Many families are even contemplating suicide because of the inequitable and blatantly dissertating the Federal Constitution by this 53 year old UMNO regime.

UMNO will not change. We have to change UMNO in the 2012/2013 general elections.

P. Uthayakumar

banggarama 1banggarama 2banggarama 3banggarama 4banggrama 5

Tribal girl stripped over 'affair', molested by hundreds in Bengal

The Times of India, Aug 11 2010

SURI: A 17-year-old tribalgirl was stripped, beaten and forced to walk nude for 8km across three villages with hundreds of men molesting her all the way and taking videos on their mobiles. It was a shocking reminder of the Guwahati incident in November 2007 when a teenager was stripped and molested by a mob during an ethnic clash. An MMS clipping of the Birbhum girls ordeal is now doing the rounds under the name 'Adibasi girl'. And it is this footage that is finally getting the victim some justice.
According to sources, the girls fault was that she loved a boy from another community. Police were shocked to learn that the panchayats and other local bodies knew of the incident but hadn't bothered to inform the administration. The incident happened four months ago but the girl was too traumatized to go to the authorities. It is only when the administration came to know of the MMS that police swung into action on their own and arrested five of the culprits on Sunday.

Some frames in the video are, too, horrific to watch. The girl has a dazed, dead look on her face as she staggers along dusty dirt tracks. A jeering crowd of tribals follows her, beating drums and thrashing her with sticks whenever she stops. Little boys throw stones at her. She takes the blows, defenceless, as she uses her arms in a futile attempt to protect her honour. Men pounce on her, pull her arms apart and molest her amid laughter as the drums beat up a frenzy.

This torture went on for hours in broad daylight, in the scorching heat of April. The footage shows just 11 minutes of it. On Saturday, some journalists showed the clipping to SP Humayun Kabir and DM Saumitra Mohan demanding why they were not taking any action.

Hisham! Where's the Chinese school you promised?

By FMT Staff
SHAH ALAM: The community at Putra Heights here want the federal government to fulfil its pledge to build a Chinese school for their school-going children.
According to the SRJK(C) Tun Tan Siew Sin working committee, former education minister Hishammuddin Hussein had promised in 2006 to construct a school in the area.

But four years have passed and there has been no indication of a school coming up.

According to committee chairman Chong Thim Siew, the 500 students living in Putra Heights have to travel six to 16km to their respective schools.

The nearest schools are SRK Wawasan and USJ23 secondary school, which are 10km and 6km away respectively.

The Subang Jaya Chinese School is 16km away from Putra Heights.

'Ninth Malaysia Plan almost over'

“We urge the government to immediately build a school here so that it can be used for the 2012 session.

"It is a situation of utmost urgency as we have been informed that the neighbouring schools are all almost packed for the 2011 session,” Chong told reporters here.

He said on July 8, 2006, Hishammuddin had announced that the government will build the school under the Ninth Malaysia Plan but until now nothing has been done.

“The promises have remained just that... pledges. It’s been four years and the Ninth Malaysia Plan is almost over... and there is no indication of a school coming up,” Chong said, adding that the community had lived in Putra Heights for over 10 years.

Throngs of parents, who attended the press conference, also signed a petition urging the government to keep its promise. The petition is to be forwarded to the relevant ministry.

Chua sabotaged by his own party people?

By FMT Staff
KUALA LUMPUR: Johor PKR chief Chua Jui Meng, who has come under attack from the Sultan of Johor for allegedly dragging the royal household into politics, could have been fixed up by his party members on the instructions of a certain national level party leader, sources claimed today.
They claimed that the banners which used the sultan's name and mentioned Chua as the next Johor menteri besar could have been put up by “certain elements within PKR with the intention of sabotaging Chua”.
“The putting up of these banners could not be the work of Umno as believed by Chua. They could have been put up by his own party people so that his chances of doing well as the state chief will be affected.
“It could also be the result of one particular national leader not wanting Chua to perform well in the party polls in November,” said several sources close to the party.
They said that Chua's appointment as the Johor chief last month faced severe objections from that particular national leader.
“This leader is afraid that Chua will prove to be a capable leader and would be a rival for leadership positions in the party,” they said.
The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim, issued a stern reminder earlier this week to politicians not to use his name in any political campaign.
The ruler had pointed out that a politician in Batu Pahat had tried to cause problems among the people by using his face in a banner.
Yesterday, Chua admitted that the said banners had his face along with the sultan's and had portrayed him as the next state MB. However, he accused Umno of being the culprit for putting up the banners.
“I have nothing to do with the banner as I believe it was placed to incite the Malays against me,” he told FMT yesterday.
“It is done to incite the Malays and the palace against us. Only Umno is capable of doing such a thing,” he added.
However, Johor Menteri Besar and state Umno chief Abdul Ghani Othman denied that Umno had put up the banners.
“We have never practised such politics. What we know is that Pakatan (Rakyat) held a meeting at that time and the banner was put up," he said.
'Look closer to home'
The sources told FMT today that Chua was mistaken in believing that Umno could have put up the banners.
“He should look closer to home. The event was a PKR event and all related banners were put up by the PKR people.
“Someone could have just taken this opportunity against Chua by putting up these offending banners to check his rising popularity in Johor and in the party.
“Chua need not look far to identify the culprit. It is the handiwork of an ambitious national level leader who is close to Anwar Ibrahim,” they said.
They also pointed out that the same leader was alleged to be involved in sabotaging other leaders in the party.
“It is a known fact that this leader would try to discredit whoever he thinks will jeopardise his chance of reaching the top,” they said.
Chua's inner circle, including two prominent businessmen who help fund the party, rejected the idea of an internal sabotage and firmly believed, just as Chua does, that the banners were the handiwork of Umno.
The national level party leader could not be contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, police have taken statements from 39 individuals, including politicians, to assist in the investigation on the use of the sultan's photograph. They are investigating the matter under the Sedition Act.

How APCO earns its money the Malaysian taxpayers paid it

On 10th August 2010, The Wall Street Journal published a letter, 'Anwar Ibrahim Will Get a Fair Trial in Malaysia'(, which was actually written by APCO but in the name of Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Anwar Ibrahim Will Get a Fair Trial in Malaysia

While we appreciate Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz's interest in Malaysia ("Malaysia's Opposition on Trial," op-ed, Aug. 5), and their positive assessment of our country as a leading moderate Muslim-majority democracy, we strongly disagree with their call for the Malaysian and United States governments to intervene in the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Such actions would directly contravene the rule of law.

Messrs. Gore and Wolfowitz are wrong to assert that it is "the Malaysian government who will decide this matter," and they are misguided in their attempt to turn this trial into a political issue. As in the U.S., Malaysia's independent judiciary is a pillar of our democracy. The outcome of this trial will be determined by facts and evidence, not the political prominence of those involved or those who write op-eds.

The government did not initiate this trial. Mr. Anwar is on trial solely because a private citizen—his own employee—filed a criminal complaint for sexual misconduct against him. Our legal system has an obligation to uphold the rule of law and follow due process.

As we have clearly stated in the past, we see this trial as an unwelcome distraction from our efforts to deliver economic growth, social progress and stability for the Malaysian people.

Unfortunately, though this case has sparked renewed interest in Malaysia in Western media, the real story about Malaysia has gotten lost. As Messrs. Gore and Wolfowitz rightly point out, since gaining independence Malaysia has achieved "economic growth while sustaining a degree of harmony among its religiously and ethnically diverse population." We are very proud of these achievements and of the role that Malaysia continues to play as "an example of a Muslim-majority country making its way in the world."

In this regard, we have put harmony and moderation at the heart of our politics under Prime Minister Najib Razak's 1Malaysia concept, which calls for acceptance and a meritocracy in policy making and governance. And, though Messrs. Gore and Wolfowitz neglect to mention it, Malaysia's economic success continues. We achieved 10.1% GDP growth in the first quarter of this year, and all indicators point to sustainable and inclusive growth well into the future.

Tengku Sariffuddin

Director, Media Division

Prime Minister's Office

Putrajaya, Malaysia

Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad is one of the signatories to the APCO contract

Amaran Kepada Ezam Untuk Hentikan Fitnah Jahat

Pada pagi 10 Ogos 2010, di perkarangan mahkamah, pemberita Berita Harian menyatakan beliau di arahkan menanyakan soalan mengenai tuduhan Ezam Mohd Nor mendakwa kononnya saya telah menelefon beliau mengarahkan supaya menghalang lelaki mendekati Saudara Anwar. Saya dengan tegas menafikan tohmahan jahat beliau. Ezam sengaja mereka cerita setelah beliau bersama UMNO dan tidak sebelumnya.

Saya tidak pernah menelefon beliau mengaitkan Saudara Anwar seperti tohmahan tersebut. Saya kesal kerana nafsu politik beliau tidak ada batas; sehingga sanggup memfitnah saya selaku isteri dan ibu. Ternyata untuk kekal relevan sebagai alat pimpinan UMNO, kerja beliau hanya mencerca kami.

Saya telah enggan melayan sebarang kenyataan beliau yang di buat hasil menerima upah pimpinan UMNO, walaubagaimanapun kerana tuduhan tersebut berulang dan mengaitkan nama saya secara peribadi, saya mengingatkan beliau supaya hentikan kerja fitnah yang jelas fasiq.

Sekira beliau mengulangi fitnah tersebut, saya akan mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap beliau dan merujuk beliau ke Mahkamah dan Mahkamah Syariah.

Sekian, terima kasih.

Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Presiden Parti Keadilan Rakyat

India's Tata Seeks to Avoid Fratricide

ImageBy appointing a team to find a successor to the patriarch, Tata hope s to buck a national trend: family warfare

In a country where bitterness has often ruled succession among some of India's most prominent companies, the 141-year-old, US$71-billion Tata conglomerate appears to be a remarkable exception.

Instead of getting set for a squabble as Tata's 72-year-old chairman, Ratan Tata, prepares to retire in 2012, the conglomerate has created a five-member panel to scout a successor. That is considerably different from the Reliance, Bajaj, Birla and Ranbaxy groups, whose siblings and scions have staged internecine wars for succession.

At that, there is still a whiff of nepotism. Tata's CEO-hunting team includes three members of the board of Tata Sons including Cyrus Mistry, the brother-in-law of the frontrunner, Noel Tata, Ratan's half-brother. Other names are current PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi, former Vodafone head Arun Sarin and Renault Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.

The Tata succession has global relevance, given that about two-thirds of group revenue is generated from abroad due to its welter of overseas acquisitions over the years. The group has a presence in over 80 countries and is the largest private sector employer in India with over 350,000 employees. The salt-to-steel conglomerate encompasses 98 operating companies – including India's foremost vehicle maker, software services firm, private sector power producer and the world's eighth-largest steel maker by output.

The group was founded in 1868 by Ratan Tata's great grandfather – Jamsedji Tata. Ratan Tata took over as chairman in 1991 and has since striven to give the group a more cohesive identity with Tata Sons as the flagship company. The tycoon is also credited with big-ticket acquisitions such as Anglo-American steel giant Corus and luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover.

An alumnus of Cornell University and Harvard University, Tata is a bachelor and fiercely guards his privacy. He drives his own car, flies his own jet plane and has lived for years in a bachelor pad surrounded by books and dogs in Mumbai's Colaba district.

The Tata succession issue coincides with recent research by US-based management consultancy Bain & Company which states that "more than 75 per cent of company boards in India do not discuss chief executive succession planning at all.

In a country where corporate leaders and politicians enjoy extraordinary professional longevity, the report says, "lack of succession planning is a key failure of boards at many family-owned businesses in India, leaving them highly vulnerable after the retirement or death of their leaders."

According to the report, scant effort is made at the board level to groom top leadership. "Some family business members delay the process of succession planning as their decisions could create conflicts and criticism among the family. Some leaders find it difficult to let go of the reins and want to retain their powers as a leader. Also, issues like death could be uncomfortable to discuss," the report further said.

The publicly fought succession between the Ambani brothers – Mukesh and Anil, inheritors of the Reliance group after the 2006 death of their father and founder of the group, is part of corporate folklore. The matter had to be resolved through intervention by the country's Supreme Court. However, despite the distribution of the group's assets, the siblings, who feature regularly in the Forbes' rich list, continue to be at loggerheads.

Similarly the protracted feud between Bajaj Auto Ltd Chairman Rahul Bajaj and his younger brother Shishir, who controlled Bajaj Hindustan Ltd, dominated headlines in 2003 before family friends stepped in to attempt to make the duo see reason.

"Most of the succession squabbles within Indian industrial houses are linked to culture," says Apoorva Sinha of the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi. "The patriarchal system which endows the familial head with unlimited powers, unquestioning children who often have to bottle up their frustrations over injustices and a large number of claimants due to close family ties, are prime reasons for inheritance battles in Indian industrial houses."

Ratan Tata himself had to battle for his supremacy within the group as his mentor, JRD Tata, failed to give him the unstinted support he needed to bypass other strong contenders, notably Russi Mody at Tata Steel, Ajit Kerkar at Indian Hotels, and Darbari Seth at Tata Chemicals. But despite this, the tycoon emerged as the winner.

Tata has reinforced that merit alone will determine his choice of a future CEO. A candidate who fits into the global nature and complexity of the group's diversified businesses would be ideal. He is open to considering people from both within the group and professionals within and outside India.

However, an expatriate is highly unlikely given the complexity of orchestrating a diverse group headquartered out of India.

"It would certainly be easier if that candidate were an Indian national," Tata told journalists recently. "But now that 65 percent of our revenues come from overseas, it could also be an expatriate sitting in that position with justification."

He or she will also need to deal with the debt resulting from the twin acquisitions of Jaguar-Land Rover and Corus Steel, the tycoon said, which was brought on by economic freefall after top-of-the-market acquisitions.

Tata said the group was still digesting those acquisitions, which had been made harder due to the global financial crisis and economic downturn. The downturn pushed Tata to ask his group companies to undertake a major cost-cutting drive. "Tata Motors was able to extinguish its borrowing of US$3 billion through this difficult period, and most people don't realize the magnitude of that task," he said.

Adding complexity to the succession is that the Tatas belong to the rapidly dwindling minority Parsi community in India which numbered about 70,000 according to the 2001 census. The Parsi community is putting subtle pressure on the Tatas to choose an heir from one of their own. A prime reason for this could be that apart from being a well-respected business house, the group is very active in philanthropy. Jointly, the Tata trusts are the largest foundation in India and in 2008-09 disbursed Rs 2.6 billion towards educational and medical grants.

The community's wish may be granted given the fact that Noel Tata is tipped to be a particular favorite to fill the top slot. He was first appointed as the chairman of Tata Investment Corporation in June and later named managing director of Tata International after giving up his position as managing director of retail firm Trent Ltd.

What obviously works in Noel Tata's favor is the Tata name. Also, Noel Tata is the son-in-law of Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, the single largest individual shareholder in Tata Sons, with a holding of around 18 percent. Pallonji Mistry's son Cyrus is also on the board of Tata Sons.

What are the challenges that lie ahead for Tata's successor? First is to steer the conglomerate through the choppy waters of the economic downturn and subsequently to infuse growth in a slow-growth era. The successor will also be faced with molding the Tata Group into a truly global entity.

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist. She can be reached at neetalal@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Was Teoh Beng Hock “forced to commit suicide” when he plunged to his death from 14th floor of MACC headquarters in Shah Alam on July 16 last year?

The Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail should be censured for the travesty of justice in exposing details of “new evidence” not yet tendered in the Teoh Beng Hock inquest.

This is in addition to the gross irregularity and impropriety of the Attorney-General in suppressing the “new evidence”, which should have been introduced at the beginning of the inquest as it would affect the whole course and direction of the inquest through cross-examination of witnesses.

Because of deliberate “leaks” in the media, the country is awash with talk that there is a “suicide note” left by Teoh Beng Hock, which has been countered and challenged by Teoh’s family counsel Gobind Singh Deo.

Even if the veracity of the “suicide note” is eventually not established, great damage has been done, not only in getting to the truth as to how a young, healthy idealistic political worker looking forward to his marriage preparations the next day, could be forced to end up plunging to his death from the 14th floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam, but in further undermining national and international confidence in the independence, professionalism and integrity of key national institutions with far-reaching economic and nation-building implications.

Putting aside the questions of the veracity of the note and whether it is a “suicide note”, does the “new evidence” show that Teoh Beng Hock had been placed under great stress and pressures, whether mental and/or physical, by the MACC interrogators and if so, was this aspect fully pursued by the Attorney-General through the Public Prosecutor in the inquest?

I was asked by a member of the public about the possibility that Teoh Beng Hock was “forced to commit suicide” when he plunged to his death from the 14th floor of the MACC headquarters on July 16 last year and whether it wouldn’t be a crime to force a person to commit sucide.

This is a question that must be fully and thoroughly investigated by the inquest.

Malaysia Concerned About Sufferings Of Other Muslim Nations - Najib

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 11 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is always concerned about the sufferings and hardships of the other Muslim nations and has never forgotten other Muslims who are in need of aid.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this was proven with the launching of another programme, "Wakaf Al-Quran", Wednesday which would assist Muslim minorities throughout the world to obtain a copy of the Al-Quran and its interpretation in their respective languages.

He said that under the programme organised by the Defence Ministry in collaboration with with Yayasan Restu, the people in this country had the opportunity to contribute funds through the short messaging service (SMS) and the money collected would be used for this purpose.

"I believe that after the launching of the Yayasan Restu, every strata of the Malaysian society will be able to translate their commitment by contributing together to the fund to promote religious activities during the month of Ramadan," he said when launching the programme at Masjid Putra, here.

The text of his speech was read by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Najib said among the countries identified to receive the Al-Quran were Cambodia, Russia and China.

However, he said the Al-Quran would also be distributed within the country as there were still Muslims in this country who had yet to own the holy book.

"I hope the Defence Ministry can distribute them to the surau, mosques, mahad tahfiz, public religious schools and individuals who don't have the Al-Quran," he said.

An early general election?

What can we expect from the next general election, which a few believe may coincide with the Sarawak state election?
The last general election was widely described as a watershed general election, but real change is still some way off, although we are now closer to a viable two-coalition system.
Much has been said about the next election being make-or-break for Pakatan, especially if the Election Commission manages to push through a constituency redelineation exercise (which many believe would favour the BN, if experience is anything to go by).
Full article on Aliran website here.

A spy camera that beeps?

I see a ‘spy camera’ has been found in Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim’s office.
Oh my, there’s never a dull moment in Malaysia.
This is a spy camera – actually a hidden video camera – that beeps when the battery level is low. (That’s how the camera was found.)
I don’t know much about spy cameras, but I dare say such cameras are usually unobtrusive and quiet. This camera was neither: it was large and noisy.
A spy camera that beeps sounds like an oxymoron! Seems to me like a low-budget operation by amateurs.
Anyway, I hope they get to the bottom of this and find out who the culprit is. Must be some desperate characters out there.
I guess this is all par for the course in Bolehland.