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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the trail of human trafficking: forced labor in Nepal


Editors Note: Harvard human trafficking fellow Siddharth Kara is undertaking a research trip around South Asia, looking at issues of forced labor, trafficking and child bondage. He will be getting access to the heart of the problem, and telling readers what he has discovered every week over the next ten weeks.

Nepalgunj, Nepal -- During the last week I explored two forms of caste-based forced labor in Nepal -- the Badi and the Kamaliri.

To reach the Badi villages, I traveled a few hours by jeep into the central foothills of Nepal, followed by an extended hike along a winding riverbed. The villages were among the most destitute I have seen in South Asia.

A candid Badi elder named "Chandrabir" explained their story to me.

"In the beginning, we were entertainers to upper-caste people," Chandrabir explained, "We were like beggars; they treated us like untouchables."

Eventually, due to poverty and displacement, the Badi turned to prostitution in order to earn income. For as long as anyone can remember, when a Badi girl reached puberty, she was sent into sex work. In the old days, this was just in her village for the locals, but as the decades passed, the "Badini" would work in transit towns, border towns, Kathmandu, and even India.

The practice was deeply stigmatized, and the Badi were eager to find alternatives. With the help of NGOs, the Badi tried to shed sex work across the last fifteen years. It has proved difficult for them to find alternatives, especially since they are deemed low-caste.

Some of the former Badi sex workers I met had returned to sex work, and there is increasing pressure to send new young girls into prostitution.

Traffickers understand these pressures well, and they regularly recruit new victims in the Badi villages I visited.

"Some of our girls have gone with agents who promise jobs in India, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar," Chandrabir explained, "But we have not heard from them in years."

To make matters worse, almost half of the Badi I met were suffering from severe health ailments. Borrowing money for medicine had put many into extended debt bondage.

The next group I researched was the Kamaliri. This is a practice of internal trafficking for domestic servitude primarily among the Tharu caste.

Traffickers go to Tharu villages with an offer for Kamaliri work for a young girl, usually age eight or nine. He transports that girl to a city for a family from an upper-caste group. They purchase the girl for the equivalent of fifteen to twenty dollars. The girl may also be sent for work at a hotel or a restaurant.

The Kamaliri girls I met were outright domestic slaves. They described working sixteen or more hours a day, seven days a week, with one week off each year to visit their parents. The hotel workers were particularly exploited.

As Kavita told me, "I woke at 2am to start my work, and I did not finish until 10pm." She was paid approximately $20 per year for three years before being rescued. In other cases, a few dollars per month may be sent to the Kamaliri parents as payment.

I also managed to interview several current Kamaliri workers alongside their "masters."

These were odd encounters to say the least. The masters were by and large decent people, and they described how this life was much better for a Tharu girl than starving in her village, or being trafficked into prostitution (they cited this example repeatedly!).

One Kamaliri girl, Sarita, was even going to school a few hours a day and was receiving beautician training, so that eventually she could have her own life.

One the one hand, it is difficult to argue that Sarita's life as a Kamaliri is not materially better than starving in her village.

However, all societies must find a way to educate their children and allow the poor to place a foot on the ladder of human development, without requiring them to forfeit a period of their lives to forced labor - nine years and counting for Sarita -- simply in order to survive.

Khairy: You'd need a death wish to go after Perkasa

Zaid touts Anwar-Zaid ticket, Azmin’s camp wants status quo

Zaid has apparently the support of a couple of Malay tabloids and a news portal
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s camp is promoting a joint ticket with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the top two posts in PKR — but supporters of possible deputy presidency rival Azmin Ali want to keep the status quo with Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as president.

The race for the PKR deputy presidency has also now turned into a referendum whether the party should remain as “Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim party”, or an organisation free of hero-worshipping and Umno culture, said party insiders.

In announcing his decision to contest the deputy presidency last Monday, Zaid had said that he was offering an Anwar-Zaid team to lead the party.

“This whole election is premised on one member one vote. Don’t you think the party leader should also be voted by members,” said former communications director Jonson Chong who resigned from the political bureau last month.

Leaders aligned to vice-president Azmin Ali however were keen to defend the status quo, with Wan Azizah as the president and Anwar continue serving as de facto leader.

The post of de facto leader was created after party election 2007 as a compromise between two groups who wanted Anwar to contest the presidency and the other who was against it, fearing that the party would get deregistered as the former deputy prime minister was still banned from holding elected political post.

The ban expired in April 2008.

Chong, who admitted to be a Zaid supporter, said he was in favour of Anwar and Zaid leading the party through election.

“In our party constitution, since when there is a post of Ketua Umum? Why should anyone in the party be above the constitution?” said Chong.

“If we allow the MPP (supreme council) to elect Ketua Umum, we are removing the powers from our party members,” he added.

An Azmin campaigner however pointed out that there is nothing wrong with the current leadership arrangement.

“Why should Anwar takeover? If it’s not broken, why fix it,” said the party worker who spoke anonymously.

“It is a big risk. Anwar is facing another trial, if he goes to prison there will be a leadership vacuum,” he added.

For another Azmin supporter, Zaid has been trying to undermine Anwar’s leadership through his campaign.

“He is trying to position himself as the next leader of Keadilan. He keeps telling members that Anwar is going to prison,” said a political bureau member who declined to be named.

“He will also get one or two divisions to nominate him as president, but he won’t challenge Wan Azizah. He will just use it as a warning to show that he is an influential leader,” he said.

The staunch supporter of Azmin also claimed that Zaid has bought over at least two Malay biweekly tabloids and controls an online news portal to facilitate his campaign.

He alleged that Zaid has been using the media to build up support for his campaign.

“His evaluation is that he is leading the race in Sabah, Sarawak and non-Malay members, so he needed a little bit more support from the Malay ground to ensure is victory,” he said.

Zaid’s status as a new member and his alleged lack of understanding to the party struggle has also been used against him.

“I have no problem with Zaid. But there is nothing wrong if he tries to understand the party first. It is too early. He may be a great leader, but it is too early,” said supreme council member and Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul.

He is one of the 20 PKR MPs who have endorsed Azmin as the deputy president but some MPs have protested the inclusion of their names, similar to some of the 13 state assemblymen from Selangor and Negri Sembilan who allegedly back the party vice-president. Zaid has not received public endorsement from any PKR legislators, but is said to be popular among the non-Malays and PKR members from Sabah and Sarawak.

The former de facto law minister is also seen to be more popular outside the party, which an insider said would put the party in bad light if Azmin wins.

“Zaid was sacked from Umno only recently, but Azmin who has been with Keadilan from day one is accused of bringing Umno culture into the party. Zaid is smarter in rebranding himself,” said a party election strategist.

“Because of Zaid’s campaign, his defeat will badly affect the party. The problem is a lot of voters out there do not know Azmin as much as they know Zaid,” said the grassroots leader who has worked with both Azmin and Zaid.

He pointed out that Zaid has successfully spoken many times against what he alleged as Umno culture encroaching into the party.

“Which direction Azmin or Zaid wants to take the party is still unknown, but people out there have made up their mind about the two leaders,” he added.

Some 400,000 members will vote between September 17 and November 21.

The party amended its constitution last year allowing all members to vote for divisional leaders and the 25 members of the central leadership council — including the president, deputy president and four vice-presidents.

The party’s 218 divisions will hold two separate meetings: One for the annual general meeting and election of divisional leaders, and a second meeting to vote for national leaders.

The divisions will vote for national leaders on weekends, from October 29 to November 21.

Home ministry denies Musa’s ‘interference’ claim

Musa alleged that some parties had bypassed him and issued orders directly to his men. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — The home ministry today denied it had meddled in police matters, as claimed by outgoing Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan yesterday.

Home ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam explained that the ministry’s involvement in weekly meetings with the police to discuss resource allocations and review case files might have given rise to such a perception.

“Sometimes the recommendations... of the Royal Malaysian Police cannot be considered by the home ministry so we are seen as interfering,” Mahmood said after witnessing Musa hand over control of the police force to Tan Sri Ismail Omar at Bukit Aman Police Headquarters here today.

Yesterday, Musa spoke out against what he saw as excessive interference by “third parties” in police business, naming the home ministry among others.

“All kinds of people interfere. People from the ministry itself, outsiders, people with vested interests like those who want to do things that are not right — they will try to interfere,” he had said.

However, he refused to comment on whether Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, with whom he is rumoured to have a strained relationship, was the person responsible for the meddling.

Following this revelation, Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers urged the top cop to lodge reports with an ombudsman, the Public Complaints Bureau and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to eradicate such problems from the police force.

Musa today appeared to have taken the suggestion to heart, maintaining that he will consider pursuing further action regarding the alleged third-party interference.

“I’ll have a look,” he said simply when asked by reporters.

However, he declined to identify individuals who may have interfered in police affairs or comment further on Mahmood’s statement.

Musa’s allegations yesterday appeared to be a repeat of comments he made about an interfering “third force” in a March interview with Mingguan Malaysia.

In it, he claimed that politicians and “certain individuals” had issued orders directly to his subordinates in contravention of Section 4 of the Police Act 1957, which states that all actions and supervision falls under the IGP.

Around the same time, reports surfaced that Musa had tendered his resignation due to differences with Hishammuddin. Musa, however, denied that he had given notice, and instead accused “some quarters” of wanting to remove him from his post.

Hishammuddin invariably gave fodder to the rumour mill when he said over a week later that he knew who would replace Musa, despite keeping mum on whether or not Musa’s contract would be extended.

The home minister finally ended speculation when he announced last Wednesday that Deputy IGP Ismail would replace Musa as the country’s new IGP come September 13. Hishammuddin added that Internal Security and Public Order Director Commissioner Datuk Hussin Ismail would be the new deputy IGP.

Mahmood today also denied that the home ministry had not informed Musa that his contract would not be renewed a third time.

He stressed that he had informed Musa verbally that his contact would not be extended a week before Hishammuddin announced the new IGP, and again on the day of the announcement itself.

Mahmood added that a formal letter of termination will be issued to Musa once the prime minister presents his recommendation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Constitution. - The Malaysian Insider

Hospital shooting: Guard charged with murder

KLANG: A hospital guard was charged at the Magistrate''s Court here today with the murders of his two colleagues at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital carpark here last month.
Abdul Aziz Miew Yong, 36, from Sabah, is charged with two counts of murder over the shooting of P Mailvaganam, 47, and S. Gunasilan, 22, on Aug 27 at the hospital''s carpark at 5.45am.

The two charges were framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Abdul Aziz nodded that he understood the charge when it was read to him before Magistrate Liew Horng Bin. No plea was recorded.

The prosecution is conducted by Deputy Public Prosecutor Shahrul Ekhsan Hasim while the accused in unrepresented.

Liew fixed Nov 4 for mention.

- Bernama

'Azmin's letter on Zaid' exposed

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: As the battle for the PKR deputy presidency heats up, a litany of allegations have surfaced. The latest being a letter purportedly penned by Azmin Ali about Zaid Ibrahim.
Both Azmin, the current vice-president, and Zaid, a supreme council member, are the top contenders for the number two slot.
The letter, dated April 5 and addressed to Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, was regarding Zaid's candidacy for the Hulu Selangor by-election. Khalid was the campaign chief for the by-election.

It was published by the news portal Malaysia Today, which received it from an anonymous reader.

In the letter, whose subject matter read: 'Issues that can be raised by BN against Zaid Ibrahim', Azmin had cast aspersions on Zaid's elegibility to be fielded as a candidate.

In total, 32 reasons were cited ranging from moral grounds to being found guilty of money politics when he was still in Umno.

After Zaid was defeated in the Hulu Selangor election, allegations were rife that his campaign was sabotaged, with fingers pointed at Azmin. But this charge was denied.

Azmin, who is a close associate of PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim, is rumoured to be uncomfortable with Zaid's presence and meteoric rise in the party.

On the issue of morality, the letter had branded the former Umno MP and law minister as a "kaki minum" (alcoholic) and "gambler".

He was also accused of not having any religious foundation and the letter noted that he was once sued by PAS over the hudud law issue.

Apart from this, the letter also called him a "liar" and described him as a "vengeful" person. He was also said to be liberal in his views and lacked the Malay spirit.

"He wants an existing system to be replaced with his views even if it comes at the expense of the party. This is what caused him to be expelled from Umno.

"His priority are the rich while the poor are left aside. This can be seen from those around him, they are mostly rich people. Zaid hardly mixes around with normal people," read the letter.

Should he be picked, the letter warned, it would be a personal victory for Zaid and not a victory for the people.

"Due to the above reasons, any attempts to field Zaid as a candidate should be be examined in depth in terms of impact," read the letter, which was sent before nomination day on April 17.

'Why accept him in the first place?'
In the April 25 by-election, Zaid was defeated by Barisan Nasional's P Kamalanathan by a majority of 1,725 votes, in a contest which the PKR candidate claimed was rife with corruption.

Zaid had joined PKR in 2009 after he was sacked from Umno for not toeing the party line and for attending opposition functions.

He quit as law minister in September 2008 after disagreeing with the government's decision to arrest opposition leader Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin and a Chinese daily journalist under the Internal Security Act.

Meanwhile, a PKR insider told FMT that the letter, if penned by Azmin, would confirm the latter's disgruntlement towards Zaid.

"The issues raised in the letter were from the time of Zaid's days in Umno. So why did they accept him into PKR amidst such fanfare and heaped praises on him in the first place?
"Why did Anwar welcome Zaid with open arms if there were such serious misgivings about him? Is this a case of 'use and discard'?" he asked.

Previously, Anwar, a former Umno deputy president himself, had described Zaid's entry into PKR as a positive development which would provide a boost for the party.

"Zaid has a reputation for fighting for human rights and for the independence of the judiciary," he had said.

Nurul sees red over court's 'un-green' ruling

By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar is upset with the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision on Monday to allow developer Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd to proceed with the construction of 70 bungalows on the hill slopes of Bukit Gasing.
She said the court had "ruled against the people of Bukit Gasing" and that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) mayor had broken his "promise" that Bukit Gasing would be gazetted as a forest reserve.

"The world is moving towards a new era of being green by developing sustainable neighbourhoods, yet DBKL has taken a step back by allowing an unscrupulous developer to ransack a pristine green lung that belongs to the people of KL," said the MP.

"The (previous) mayor (Ab Hakim Borhan) had promised the people that Bukit Gasing would be gazetted as a forest reserve.

“The current mayor (Ahmad Fuad Ismail) said that he would take hillside developments seriously and that he would not agree to the developments of four hills, namely Bukit Gasing, Bukit Nenas, Bukit Tabur and Sungai Besi. Where is the mayor then and where is the mayor now?" she asked.

A tale of two KLs

Nurul Izzah said with the construction of the bungalows, city folks, hikers and joggers, will be forever deprived of a breathing space. And on top of that, the area could face more landslides.

"The consequence of this inaction by DBKL is enormous. Three months ago, a landslide hit the Sri Maha Kaliaman Temple (in Bukit Gasing) where 20 devotees were in the midst of prayers.

“This was in addition to the countless landslides that have occurred there in the past 30 years," she said, adding that each bungalow would cost between RM2.6 and RM6.3 million.

"Where is sustainable living that DBKL promised the people living in this city? Where are our ministers? Isn’t it time for them to act accordingly? The time to act is now and not later.

“This is a tale of two KLs where the state’s unelected local authority transgresses the rights and interest of those they are supposed to serve. Whose rights and interests are they protecting?" she asked.

Only rich can afford nature's gift

Nurul Izzah said Bukit Gasing has been likened by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to a green lung in the middle of an urban jungle.

"The hill has more than 10 hiking tracks. One can still see monkeys and various types of birds. This is an ideal place for people to relax and exercise while enjoying nature’s scenery.

"Families and friends congregate on this hill frequently especially during the weekends. Sadly this panoramic view of KL and PJ will soon be inaccessible to our children,” she said.

“The colorful plants, flowers, and fruits will be diminished among the eyes of the general public and only those who can afford it would be able to access nature’s gift," she added.

Nurul Izzah said she hoped the residents of Bukit Gasing would appeal against this ruling for the benefit of all those who live in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

"I hope the mayor of KL would remember his pledge to the people. I hope that the developer would develop a conscience and leave this pristine hill untouched. Finally, I hope that the people would continue to voice their support to protect Bukit Gasing.

"We would not benefit most from this fight but rather our children, and the future generations to come that would grow up and appreciate this green space that is left for them,” she said.

On Monday, High Court judge Aziah Ali dismissed a judicial review application by 108 Bukit Gasing residents to quash the development order to build 70 bungalows at Bukit Gasing.

The development order was issued by the then Kuala Lumpur mayor Ruslin Hassan.

The project, Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City, is to be built on a 15.4 ha site in Bukit Gasing.

'I joined before Anwar, can I be top man?'

By B Nantha Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR: A PKR grassroots leader has dismissed the argument that seniority is an important factor in choosing candidates during the upcoming party polls.
The leader from Jasin, Malacca, was responding to Teluk Kemang MP Kamarul Bahrin Abas who said that Azmin Ali was the right choice for deputy president due to his years of service.

"My question is, we all know Anwar Ibrahim only joined the party officially in 2005. This means that I am more senior because I joined in 1999. Does this mean I am more qualified to become adviser?" he asked.

The leader, who declined to be named, said while he did not back Azmin's rival, Zaid Ibrahim, he however felt that the vice-president was not suited for the number two slot.

Azmin, he added, was difficult to meet or contact.

"I believe that the majority of party members will agree with me on this. We do not want an anonymous deputy president," he told FMT.

He said PKR was on track to capture Putrajaya in the next polls and the party required a “thinking politician” like Zaid instead of a “pure politician” like Azmin.

The grassroots leader said he would issue an official statement on this matter once the division elections were over.

Anwar must clear the air

Meanwhile, another grassroots leader expressed disappointment with yesterday's press conference where Kamarul Bahrin had expressed the support of 18 MPs and two senators for Azmin.

“Why are these MPs so desperate to show their support now when the party polls is only in November? This is clearly a case of Umno minds working in PKR,” he said.

The leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said hewas being flooded with phone calls from party members asking if Anwar was backing Azmin.

"As a hardcore PKR party member, I am asking Anwar to clear the air over his stand. Is he supporting Azmin or not?" he asked.

A Sarawak without Taib

By Maclean Patrick - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT The political scene in Sarawak is geared for great drama as the state readies itself for the state elections which are to be held no later than July 2011.
Already the political battering is being played out before the public via the local mainstream media. Local leaders are coming forward to post their support to whoever they deemed worthy of leading and guiding them.

Yet the question on everyone's mind is who will take over from Taib Mahmud. Though reports seem to point to Adenan Satem; this can never be taken as fact until this old man of politics actually announces it.

The more important question is what will become of Sarawak after Taib Mahmud.

Most observers are casting their eyes west, to the peninsula; will Umno now make its move to step into Sarawak politics, much like it did in Sabah?

We all know the discord Umno caused Sabah, and the most likely answer would be a resounding No. Yet we cannot foretell the future, because Umno can work in mysterious ways to gain what they have long coveted and have yet to attain.

Indeed, the thought of a Sarawak without Taib Mahmud is a double edged sword.

Pakatan Rakyat and DAP primarily would love to see Taib Mahmud out of the picture. Taib's grasp on business deals would be broken and this spells well for the business men of Sarawak who are primarily Chinese.

The spirited attack on Taib's business dealings would be justified, and Pakatan Rakyat would be considered champions of the rakyat for removing the state of a grave tyrant.

Yet, without Taib Mahmud, who will Pakatan Rakyat put forward as a credible Chief Minister candidate?

A game of trust

The Barisan Nasional camp, as expected issued its full support to Taib Mahmud leading them into the elections, but this is merely a delaying tactic. They too are worried. Will the new man in charge be able to keep the coalition together? And most importantly, will the new man be able to keep Umno out of Sarawak.

For both Pakatan and BN the fight is to win the hearts of normal day Sarawakians. There is deep mistrust of anything Semenanjung.

And though Pakatan is painted as a Semenanjung entity trying to propagate its alien agenda, the urban folks buy into Pakatan's stand on good governance. This is clearly seen, with the number urban seats for Pakatan candidates.

The rural support will still be for BN, with the exception that the state BN remains essentially a Sarawak BN and not one involving Umno.

Here is where the oxymoronic scheme of things becomes really blurry. The BN folks have to play tic-tac-toe with their Semenanjung counterparts without seemingly seen as being too deviant or rebellious to the powers in charge and the Pakatan have to play tic-tac-toe with their local base support without seemingly being seen as being an alien entity.

It is a game of trust that will determine Sarawak's future after Taib Mahmud.

Who will the people trust more, in keeping the Semenanjung forces at bay from undulating Sarawak and essentially running away with her riches, like what they have done in Sabah?

Can the people trust a Pakatan government with the riches of Sarawak or will we see the same problems abet just different people involve in them?

Can we trust a new BN leader to hold back the advances of Umno into Sarawak?

What Sarawakians want
This is the state of anarchy Sarawakians are worried about when Taib is no longer in the picture.

Because the government may change, but the form of government will still be the same and with Taib out of the picture, things may be getting from bad to worse.

Unfortunately, the political characters in the state of Sarawak have done a poor job at assuring the general populace. There is a disconnect between politics and the everyday Sarawakian.

It seems almost all political figures in Sarawak are more interested in arguing among themselves then they are in serving the people. All this political squabbling amounts to no more than a playground spat that is costing the rakyat, and I shudder to think my tax ringgits are being use to pay squabbling grown-ups.

The seemingly rampart use of scare tactics on the rural populace to secure votes in exchange for land titles and development has been going on for too long and should not be used to garner votes as it insults the intelligence of the general populace.

Sarawakians are wise enough to decide for themselves who they want in government. All we ask for, is that the vote gets translated into service for the people and not squabbling in the assembly.

Sarawakians want assurance from the corridors of power that whoever leads them, they will be able to live peacefully, fruitfully and happily.

Maclean Patrick, a webmaster in Kuching, is a contributor to FreeMalaysiaToday.

Tajudin's RM500mil suit against MAS a sign of a brokered deal?

Tajudin Ramli
Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Pakatan Rakyat leaders expressed concern the RM500 million defamation suit brought by fallen tycoon Tajudin Ramli against national carrier MAS was a sign that a deal had been brokered with top Umno leaders to stop further dirt from hitting the fan over the RM8 billion in losses Tajudin allegedly racked up when he was chairman of the airline.

“If Tajudin is really concerned about his reputation, he should support the call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Then everything will really come out and if he is innocent, he will be cleared,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub told Malaysia Chronicle.

Tajudin, a former poster boy for the Umno-led government’s New Economic Policy, hit the headlines recently after the political opposition demanded that Prime Minister Najib Razak take action against him to recover the huge losses suffered by MAS in 1990s.

The Pakatan had planned to submit a memorandum to the King to establish a royal inquiry after the government failed to act despite MAS lodging police reports in 2002 and 2005. The carrier also lodged a 7-page detailed complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in May 2009, but the MACC has tossed the hot potato back to the police.

Daim Zainuddin
“It is obvious those involved are afraid that more of their secret wheeling-and-dealing will be exposed. At RM8 billion, the MAS debacle is even greater than the Port Klang Free Zone and here the link to the top Umno leaders is clearer,” Salahuddin said.

At least two prime ministers and a finance minister

Indeed, two former prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi are involved as well as former finance minister Daim Zainuddin. Tajudin was MAS chairman from 1994 to 2001.

The tycoon given special opportunity to buy a controlling stake in MAS from Bank Negara at RM8 ringgit per share as part of Mahathir’s grand plan to create a new breed of Malay entrepreneurs to challenge the Chinese in the corporate sector.

Mahathir Mohamad
But several large deals that Tajudin swung for his family and cronies led to huge losses and the already debt-ridden airline found itself at the brink of bankruptcy, requiring a government bailout in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Mahathir was heavily criticized for buying back Tajudin’s stake at RM8 per share in 2000 on Daim’s advice, even though by then the stock price had already halved to RM3.68.

Badawi was also accused of having benefited from MAS during Tajudin's time. His brother Fahim Ibrahim obtained an option to buy 51-percent of MAS Catering, which Fahim later on-sold to Lufthansa's LSG Skychef at an exorbitant profit.

Abdullah Badawi
Taking it to the people

There is increasing pressure on Najib to act because of the huge corruption alleged in the MACC report. Pakatan leaders have said they will not let the issue go and plan to take the case to the people.

Large-scale endemic corruption has been blamed for the ruling coalition's poor performance in the 2008 general election. High-level government graft is still sharply on the rise despite oft-repeated promises by Najib to reform the system.

“Like anyone else, Tajudin has the right to raise a claim but what we are most concerned about is the taxpayers’ money. Can we recover for the people? We have to try and at the very least raise public awareness that their money is being abused and bring the culprits to book,” Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham, who is a also a lawyer, told Malaysia Chronicle.

Musa Hassan's final shocker, MACC adviser to take him to task

Musa - parting bombshells
Malaysia Chronicle

Outgoing Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan threw another cat among the pigeons when at a handing-over ceremony on Wednesday, he told his successor Ismail Omar and the force not to be “Yes-men”.

He had already stirred another hornet’s nest earlier this week when he accused various quarters including his immediate boss, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, of interfering in his work.

In response, not only has the Home Ministry issued a three-page denial, Pakatan Rakyat leaders have slammed Musa for not reporting undue influence and pressure to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Robert Phang
And now, it looks like the turn of the MACC to have a go at the 59-year old Musa, who himself has been accused of links with the Chinese underworld and of bungling in several key cases that have embarrassed Prime Minister Najib Razak.

At 2.30pm this afternoon, a member of the MACC advisory panel Robert Phang will be holding a press conference at the Hotel Maya in Kuala Lumpur entitled Musa an 'ungrateful' outgoing IGP. Gauging from the topic, a lively session is in store and Malaysians as well as Musa can expect to get another earful from the eloquent Phang, who is also known for his pro-establishment stance.

Final shocker: Don't be Yes-men

Musa began the ‘verbal’ punch-up on Monday when he finally lashed out at Hisham, with whom he has an uneasy relationship. He told journalists Hisham did not have the courtesy to inform him his contract would not be renewed until at the press conference where it was announced that Deputy IGP Ismail Omar would be succeeding him.

Musa tells Ismail don't be a Yes-man
And in his outgoing speech this morning, Musa told his officers to resist "pressure from above and outside". “You must not act as 'Yes-men'. Don't be servants. If the police are made up of Yes-men, the entire force would rot and collapse," Malaysiakini reported him as saying.

The Home Ministry has insisted it has never asked for improper favors from Musa or the police force. Hisham was also conspicuously absent from the event.

"Sometimes, the suggestions by the police were not considered fully by the ministry and this may have seem like 'interference' in the daily work of the police. But at the same time, the main duty and service of PDRM is their own responsibility and the issue of interference by the ministry does not exist," ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam told a press conference after the handing-over ceremony.

Improper favours and bungling

According to top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Musa had bungled on the 'evidence’ 'gathered' against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in an ongoing sodomy trial as well as the inquest on the death of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock.

Hisham - may have got more than he bargained for
“With his tail between his legs he went to see the Prime Minister to confess to these two major screw-ups. This first screw-up was the matter of the so-called sperm in Saiful Bukhari Azlan’s anus. What the IPG had originally told the PM was that, according to the DNA test, the sperm in Saiful’s anus is Anwar’s. However, now, after further tests, it appears like it is Saiful’s own sperm,” wrote Raja Petra in an article entitled The IGP finally bites the dust

“How the hell did Saiful get his own sperm up his anus? That was what the PM screamed at the IGP. The IGP just shrugged his shoulders and was at a loss for words.”

“And just when Najib thought that that was the worst news yet, the IGP dropped another bombshell. And this last bombshell is that the so-called suicide note that Teoh Beng Hock wrote was actually written by the investigating officer (I.O.).

Should MCA Leave BN to Regain Relevance and Dignity?

by Kee Thuan Chye   
It has become an issue of public debate: Should the MCA remain in Barisan Nasional (BN)?

The question struck a poignant chord last month when MCA president Chua Soi Lek spoke up for the Chinese business community and was immediately ticked off by the Umno top brass.

Right after the MCA-organised Malaysian Chinese Economic Congress, Chua called on the Government to, among other things, gradually remove the NEP’s 30 percent Bumiputera equity in all sectors of the economy. Immediately, Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin retorted and warned him against making statements that could anger other races and told the MCA not to undermine BN when fighting for the Chinese community. He even invoked the spectre of May 13.

Umno vice-president Hisahmmuddin Hussein reminded Chua to “stick to the struggles of BN”. He did not specify what that meant, but those who know would form their own conclusions.

Prime Minister Najib Razak was on leave at the time but when he came back, he did the normal thing – remind BN leaders they had to be careful when issuing statements. He did nothing to reassure Chua publicly, even though Najib was himself a main speaker at the Malaysian Chinese Economic Congress, and he used the occasion to urge the Chinese CEOs present to spearhead his New Economic Model.

What this shows is that Chua and his party have no one they can fall back on when it comes to standing up for issues they are expected to champion. A few days after Muhyiddin’s chiding, Chua became defensive, saying in an interview with Berita Minggu that he was not questioning the NEP but merely making a suggestion to improve the country’s competitiveness in order to help Malaysia become a high-income nation.

In the eyes of the public, that episode showed even more clearly the dilemma the MCA is in.

Then just the other day, like a faithful party man, Chua praised the Government for giving academic awards worth RM2.25 million to United Examination Certificate (UEC) students. He said it showed that “the Government is giving more weight to the UEC and the role of the Chinese independent schools”.

Set against what Muhyiddin, as Education Minister, had said in June that the Government does not recognise the UEC because it does not follow the national education syllabus, Chua’s over-enthusiasm may be justified. As the saying goes, one has to be thankful for small mercies.

“Small mercies” would seem to be the most accurate description for what the MCA can manage to get these days. Even though it is a senior partner in the ruling BN, it is being seen as an increasingly impotent partner. When it comes to speaking up for the big things, it can be told by its big brother to shut up and that would be the end of the matter.

The Chinese community that the MCA is meant to represent perceived that the party would become increasingly compromised. So they pulled out their support for the party at the 2008 general election. Now, with more evidence surfacing to reinforce this perception, they have become even more convinced that whatever the MCA says in the interest of the Chinese will count for nothing.

If the situation carries on this way, the MCA will probably lose more seats at the next general election.

Chua is keenly aware of this. When he rebutted Muhyiddin and Hishammuddin for their admonitions, he eloquently expressed his party’s predicament: “The MCA is aware of its role within BN, but we have a role to play as a Chinese-based party so that we can continue to be relevant.”

However, because of the Catch-22 the MCA is in, that relevance will continue to diminish. You can see it in the fact that the MCA these days is reduced to watching the Opposition parties like a hawk and crying out whenever the latter do something it deems contradicts their credo. One obvious example is over the gag order issued by the DAP to stop its members from quarrelling over the Ronnie Liu issue. The MCA yelled that it went against the DAP’s avowed principle of transparency.

Unfortunately, when the MCA stoops to serving such a function, it comes off sounding like the pupil in class who in wanting to gain brownie points from the form teacher repeatedly cries out, “Teacher! Teacher! Annuar is talking!” or “Teacher! Teacher! Siew Siang is disturbing Veloo!”

That’s not the kind of politics that will be useful to anyone. Attacking your opponents merely to smear their reputation is a tactic that indicates political immaturity. Pakatan Rakyat does that a lot too, and it’s as deserving of censure. Besides, it doesn’t really work. More often than not, it serves only to make supporters of the group that’s being smeared more upset, more hardened, and more anti the group that did the smearing. Besides, it’s exhausting for the electorate, if not the politicians.

The MCA is no longer a political force. After the farce it went through to oust its former president, Ong Tee Keat; after the charging of another of its former presidents, Ling Liong Sik, for cheating the Government in regard to the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal; after this latest put-down by Muhyiddin, it is clear that the party needs to do something radical to regain its dignity.

That may be something as drastic as pulling out of BN.

If it does that, it might be able to prove its worth. It might be able to convince the Chinese that it still cares for them, to the extent that it was willing to make the sacrifice. It might even win back some votes.

It will, however, take guts to pull out of BN, mainly because the MCA has been used to being in a position of power – or, rather, the shadow of power – for more than 50 years. It knows no other role. It has never been in the Opposition at federal level. If it pulls out, some of its leaders and members who are still satisfied with the scraps they enjoy by being in the coalition may be upset that even these will be taken away.

Another consideration is provided by history. In 1969, after the Alliance’s poor showing at the polls, the MCA, which had also suffered significant losses, decided to pull out of the Government but remain in the coalition. That’s when May 13 broke out.

Can it at least be argued that the Chinese community could lose respectability and even protection if the MCA was no longer part of the government by pulling out of BN? Would it exacerbate racial antagonism? Would Umno become more rightist if it no longer had the MCA as a partner?

Pulling out may thus not be as easy as it seems. But then staying is not easy either. The MCA is losing face, and there’s no telling how much more it will lose in the near future. As it stands, Umno can prevail over the MCA anytime, which makes the latter’s position untenable. Najib seems to get on well with Chua, and Chua is often seen boosting Najib, but even Najib’s hands are tied.

The MCA now has 15 Parliamentary seats and 32 State seats, less than half of what it had prior to 2008. Come the next general election, how many will it be left with?

This has to be a cause for great concern. How the MCA leaders address it and what action they take in consequence will be a true test of their mettle.

Threat to MyConsti: Rise, 100 Lawyers Rise!

The LoyarBurok Defence Team is calling on lawyers and pupils to join “Team100″ to defend the Bar Council and MyConstitution Campaigners in Court.

Image Loyar Burok
By Amer Hamzah Arshad

This post is reproduced from here.

Last Sunday (5 September ) evening when I heard the shocking news that an unknown 1Malaysia Youth Graduands Club had lodged a police report against the much-loved MyConsti Campaign claiming that its Rakyat Guides were seditious, the oft-quoted words of wisdom from Voltaire came to mind.

Voltaire said that “common sense is not so common” and the lodging of the report proved Voltaire to be right yet again.

In the present context, common sense (which is obviously lacking in some minds) tells us that the report was nothing more that an attempt by the Club to attract cheap publicity and gain some sort of recognition. C’mon, everyone knows that if you made a report against but-the-only-most-popular-movement-at-the-moment, its legion of fans would hate you, and you would be (in)famous instantly. The Club may now file a report against LoyarBurok!

It was another feeble attempt by ultra-right wing conservatives via their stooges to spread fear and unsubstantiated rumours among the masses in the desperate attempt to maintain their hegemony.

For the record, I also find the notion of any 1Malaysia “fan club” such as 1Malaysia Youth Graduands Club which supports the supremacy or superiority of one race over others to be a joke. It is an oxymoron. It is akin to saying that we are a group of non-discriminatory racists.

So, as part of my crusade against anything that is stupid and inane, I have, on behalf of the LoyarBurok Defence Team, offered our services on a pro bono basis to the Bar Council and the MyConsti members.

If the authorities are smart, or possess common sense, you would file the report and go away.

But if you are not, we challenge you to take this all the way.

You have my word that we will call on and mobilise 100 lawyers and pupils to comprise the Defence Team (a.k.a. “Team100″), and sit in Court to fill every Court bench. And to fight you on all fronts including in the trenches of every Court room.

And if you are still not going to get the message, I’m not sure what will.

Perhaps this tweet @edmundbon who chairs the Constitutional Law Committee will:

    I’m really really sad. I’m sad because Club 1Msia has just turned millions of MyConsti Msians v Govt in name of 1Msia. Sob.

Note: We have a number of lawyers already on board. Let us continue recruiting. If you want to be part of Team100, please sign up by inserting your name and optionally, a short note addressed to the MyConsti people, in the Comments section below.

LB: The writer was supposed to be a reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Hang Jebat, Bruce Lee and Nocturno Beasto (a black metal dude from Bergen, Norway) rolled into one. Due to the highly complicated “1Reincarnation process” (which was impossible anyway in the “1st” place because of discriminatory scientific-politico policies) and Lord Bobo’s intervention, he ended up as Amer Hamzah Arshad in the present life. And for the sins of others he has been condemned to practise law in Malaysia where nothing makes sense. The writer believes that Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” is still one of the best metal albums ever made.