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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yemen makes bomb-plot arrests

Female suspects held in Sanaa a day after parcels containing explosive material sparked global security alert.

Yemen has arrested two women suspected of mailing the explosive parcels from the country to the US that sparked a global security alert, sources say.

A woman was detained with her mother, her defence lawyer said, adding that she was a "quiet student" with no known links of religious or political groups.

The arrests took place on Saturday in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, after security forces surrounded a house where the suspect believed to have sent the packages was hiding.

A Yemeni security official said the woman had been traced through a telephone number she left with a cargo company.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, confirmed her arrest, saying: "Yemen is determined to fight terror but will not allow anyone to intervene in its affairs."

Security officials have been on high alert since the UK and the United Arab Emirates intercepted two packages containing explosive material that were being shipped by air from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago.

The packages were discovered on Friday at East Midlands Airport, in Nottingham, north of London, and at a courier facility in Dubai.

Earlier on Saturday, Yemeni authorities seized and examined up to 26 suspect parcels. They are also engaged in a heated search for al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen, where Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim religious leader, is named as being linked to the plot.

Heightened alerts

The failed plot has prompted scrutiny of airport security in the UK, where Theresa May, the home secretary, announced a ban on all unaccompanied cargo coming from Yemen into the country.

Security has also increased in the US, where the postal service has temporarily stopped accepting inbound mail originating in Yemen.

Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar, reporting from Washington, DC, said that US authorities now consider Yemen and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to be "more of a threat to the US and its interests now than even Afghanistan and Pakistan".

She also said that US investigators will now look at previously shipped packages from Yemen to determine if they were used as a "dry run" by al-Qaeda.

Police in Dubai said the package they found bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. They also said that the ink cartridge found at the sorting facility was packed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, confirming what Jane Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California who was briefed on the incident, had told the New York Times newspaper earlier.

PETN is the same substance that was packed into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted to ignite a bomb on board an airliner over the US on December 25 last year. The police said the explosive materials were wired to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer.

Intercepted packages

The package found in the UK was on board a UPS cargo aircraft, while the other, in Dubai, was found in a FedEx sorting facility.

Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan, reporting from Dubai, said that authorities were concerned given the volume of air traffic that passes through the emirate.

Bob Ayers, an independent security analyst, told Al Jazeera that cargo is subject to less stringent security screening than passenger luggage.

The screening of cargo has been a point of debate in the US; in 2007, congress directed the Transportation Security Administration to screen all cargo carried on passenger flights beginning this year, according to US media.

"Cargo is in big pallets, it's wrapped, its prepared for shipment," Ayers said. "You can't X-ray the large pallet in many cases. You don't tear it apart because its already been pre-packaged, so cargo has always been less rigorously inspected than baggage going into a passenger aircraft."

Both UPS and FedEx said they had halted all packages being sent from Yemen to the US while the incident is investigated.

In September, a large fire broke out in the cargo hold of a UPS cargo jet shortly after it took off from the Dubai airport. The plane crashed, killing both crew members. Our correspondent said that investigators will probably now check to see if any cargo from Yemen was on board.

Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies

Civil Society Gathers for Selvachandran

India increases scholarship fund for Malaysian students

By G Vinod - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: India has increased the scholarship fund for ethnic Indian students in Malaysia from RM3.5 million to RM5 million

This was an increase of RM1.5 million on the annually disbursed funds.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who made the announcement while on a state visit here recently, also said announced 20 new scholarships for Malaysian students to study traditional system of medicine in India.

The scholarship fund was established in 1946 by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to help Indian students in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, in its blog, Human Rights Party (HRP) took credit for the Indian government's decision to increase its scholarhips to Malaysian students.

HRP claimed that the move to augment the scholarship fund was a result of the party's hard work in highlighting the plight of the Indian students here to the Indian government.

“We submitted our requests in the form of various letters and memoranda to the Indian High Commission here as well as directly to the Indian premier.

“All those numerous letters have been put up on this website over the last several months as well,” reads the blog.

Clear message

HRP said the increase in allocation was also a message to the Umno-led government.

“This is a clear message to the Umno government that the international community is aware of its racists ways,” it said.

Speaking to FMT, HRP information chief S Jayathas thanked Hindraf Makkal Sakthi chairman P Waythamoorthy for his efforts in highlighting the woes faced by Indian students here on the international arena.

“We have been pursuing the matter vigorously with the Indian government this year, with assistance from Waythamoorthy ,”said Jayathas, who is also Hindraf Makkal Sakthi's national information coordinator.

He criticised the government for blacking out the news (on the Indian scholarships), alleging that it deliberately muzzled the mainstream media.

“The increase in allocation was a big blow to the Umno-led government. I hope this will be a lesson... to treat Indian students fairly,” said Jayathas, who urged the government to allow Indian students who score 7As and above in SPM to enter university.

Football lures away many PKR voters

By Rahmah Ghazali and Fazy Sahir - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Football fever has gripped Kelantan, overshadowing the PKR supreme council election as it enters the second day today.

The voter turnout in five divisions in the east coast state was low as the talk was all about the big clash between Kelantan and Negri Sembilan in the Malaysia Cup final at Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur tonight.

Many leaders in Kelantan expressed dismay over the greater interest shown in the football match than in the other “political match”.

Speaking to FMT today, Kubang Kerian deputy division chief Wan Mohd Aziz Wan Abdullah was disappointed that many young people have chosen football over PKR politics.

According to him, out of the 429 registered voters, only 50-odd people – mostly veteran leaders – turned up to do their bit.

“Many in the Youth wing have gone to Kuala Lumpur to watch the game. I am very disappointed. I feel the timing of the election was bad as it clashed with the match,” he said.

A football fan himself, Wan Mohd Aziz said he had to “sacrifice” his loyalty to his favourite team for the party.

“If I could go (and watch football), I would. But I have a responsibility to my party,” he told FMT.

‘Most voters are kaki bola’

The low voter turnout in the Bachok division was glaring as only 100 out of 2,440 voters turned up to cast their ballots.

“Most of the members are kaki bola (football fans). Besides, many of our members who registered here live outside Bachok. So it is hard for them to vote,” said division leader Mohd Yatim Ismail.

Meanwhile, only 200 members came out to vote in the Tanah Merah division despite having 1,200 registered voters.

“Many of them have gone to (Kuala Lumpur) to watch the football tonight,” said Tanah Merah assemblyman and division chief Amran Ghani.

In Ketereh, only about 100 out of 946 registered members came out to vote. According to Ketereh division chief and MP Abdul Aziz Abdul Kadir, football was the main reason for the poor turnout.

“The voters, mainly from the Youth wing, have gone to watch the game,” he said.

In Pasir Puteh, deputy division chief Raimin Rahman said only 108 voters out of 500 showed up.

He said this, too, was probably because of the “finals”.

More problems for Negri

Negri Sembilan, too, was caught up in the football mania but was further compounded by other problems that affected the turnout.

Rasah division chief, Muhammad Kamel Yasin, said that only 100 showed up although 2,000 members were eligible to vote. He blamed this on the “big game.”

“Besides football, heavy rain has also spoiled the day,” he said.

In Kuala Pilah, another problem cropped up. Its Youth division chief Pilah Sazarita Razali said there has been a miscommunication as many still did not understand the “one-member one-vote” concept.

“This is a small party, with a big responsibility. We still lack expertise in many things,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Jempol, 50 out of 700 eligible voters turned up at 5pm today. But this had nothing to do with football, said its Youth division chief Halim Azim.

“The majority of them are just keen in being active in party activities, but are not interested in the election process,” he said.

All in, 32 divisions have taken part in the elections today. Besides Kelantan and Negri Sembilan, the other divisions are from Pahang, Perak, Perlis and Kedah.

Meanwhile, PKR divisions in Sabah have postponed their election until Nov 6 to make way for Batu Sapi polls on Nov 4.

'Umno will lose 70 seats without our support'

By FMT Staff

SUNGAI SIPUT: MIC president S Samy Vellu today poured scorn on the storyline that Umno can win the next general election without the support of the Indians and Chinese.

He took particular aim at Titiwangsa Umno division chief Johari Abdul Ghani who recently said that Umno could take the Titiwangsa seat if it could convince 70% of the Malay voters to back the party.

He told a closed-door division meeting that if Umno could rope in mostly Malay support, there was no need for Chinese or Indian votes.

“If we want to win in Titiwangsa, we want Malays (to vote for us). Don't bow down to the Chinese and Indians just because we want to win,” Johari said in his speech which appeared on YouTube.

Samy Vellu countered that Umno will not be able to win some 70 federal seats without the backing of the non-Malays.

“What is he (Johari) talking about? We don’t need this kind of politicians.Without our support – Chinese and Indian – the Barisan Nasional will lose at least 70 seats,” said Samy Vellu, who was the former Sungai Siput MP.

He added that Johari should quit politics for being insensitive to the current political scenario.

“He should not be a politician in the first place,” he added.

Samy Vellu also said that Umno must not misjudge the strength of the Indian voters as many are returning to the BN fold.

MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek had also fired a broadside at Johari, urging him to retire.

Several Umno leaders also agreed that Johari’s comment can affect support from Chinese and Indian voters toward BN in the future.They felt that his statement went against the principles of BN and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's 1Malaysia concept.

'Brutal' arrest: Memo for the IGP

By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly 100 people gathered outside the federal police headquarters at Bukit Aman here this morning to hand over a memorandum protesting the arrest and detention of K Selvach Santhiran, a key witness in the inquest into the custodial death of R Gunasegaran.

The protesters, who starting gathering at about 10am, included Selvach Santhiran's wife and relatives as well as opposition politicians Charles Santiago (Klang MP), R Sivarasa (Subang MP), Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor MP), Gan Pei Nee (Rawang assemblywoman) and lawyers Latheefa Koya and N Surendran.

NGOs Lawyers for Liberty and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) handed over the memorandum to a police representative on behalf of the family. The memorandum demanded that the Inspector-General of Police immediately release Selvach Santhiran and issue a public apology to him and his family.

"The continuing descent of the police force into lawlessness has been graphically demonstrated by the beating and 'abduction' of Selvach Santhiran by men in plainclothes who claimed to be police but did not properly identify themselves," said Surendran, the lawyer for Selvach Santhiran's family.

"We see so many people gathered here because (they are angry at) the brutal manner of his arrest, especially on the same day the inquest was concluded. It seems to be an act of revenge," said Surendran.

He added that since an appeal was pending on the inquest, the police actions could be regarded as contempt of court as well as abuse of power.

Meanwhile, the crowd was shouting slogans and holding up placards while demanding to know the whereabouts of Selvach Santhiran.

Surendran said police later told them that Selvach Santhiran was detained under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 at the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.

"At first, the police tried to shoo us away but we said we will not leave until they told us where Selvach Santhiran was. They finally told us his whereabouts. This is wrong. They should have told the family on the first day," he said.

"When Selvach Santhiran was arrested with Gunasegaran, he tested negative for drugs and he was never arrested until now. Why now?"

Surendran claimed that Selvach Santhiran, who was a witness in the death of Gunasegaran in police custody, should be protected and not punished.

The memorandum also urged the IGP to:

  • take stern disciplinary action, including criminal prosecution, against the policemen who allegedly assaulted and arrested Selvach Santhiran;
  • stop the unjust practice of arresting and re-arresting under the preventive detention laws;
  • respect the rights of the people to unimpeded and free access to lawyers at all times
  • support the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission to function as an independent and external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to make the police accountable for their conduct;
  • require the police especially those in plainclothes to identify themselves and display their authorisation cards when using their powers; and,
  • support human rights education and training programmes, with a view to changing the attitudes and methods of the law enforcement personnel.
On Oct 25, a group of men claiming to be policemen came to Selvach Santhiran's house and allegedly handcuffed him in front of his wife and children before asking her to give him a kiss.

They then allegedly took Selvach Santhiran outside before beating him up.

When questioned by his wife, the men hurled verbal abuses at her before briefly flashing a card claiming they were policemen.

Selvach Santhiran was one of the witnesses in the inquest who had testified against the police, claiming that the lawmen had injured Gunasegaran while in custody.

Coroner Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin had delivered an "open verdict" in the inquest to determine the cause of Gunasegaran's death. The latter died in police custody two years ago.

Gunasegaran, 31, a toddy shop assistant, collapsed while his thumbprint was being taken between 6.45pm and 7pm on July 16, 2008, at the Sentul police headquarters and was pronounced dead at 7.40pm at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital the same day.

Siti Shakirah ruled that there were two possible causes of Gunasegaran's death. One was based on the autopsy, which stated that Gunasegaran had died of a drug overdose.

The second version was by another suspect who alleged that he saw a policeman kick and beat Gunasegaran to death.

Presentation of Memo at Bkt Aman to Protest Selvach Detention

Malay Rulers Express Concern Over Current Political Trend

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 (Bernama) -- The Malay Rulers Sunday urged the people to understand and appreciate the history of the formation of the country and the Federal Constitution founded on the social contract, that is the spirit of consensus and understanding among the races and the concurrence of the Malay Rulers.

"The Malay Rulers uphold that the social contract agreed upon represents an instrument which is the basis of social justice in the country that encompasses the aspirations to achieve the objective of fair economic distribution.

"The attitude of compromise among the races reflects the maturity of the people of various races in this country," said a statement issued today by the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Engku Tan Sri Ibrahim Engku Ngah, following the 222nd meeting of the Conference of Rulers on Oct 13 and 14.

The statement said that the meeting viewed with great concern the current political trend, which was seen to be stoking racial sentiments and challenging the sovereignty of the Federal Constitution.

It said the meeting took note of current developments as well as the anxiety expressed by individuals and non-governmental organisations over matters touching on Islam, the position of the Malay Rulers, the Malays and the Malay language.

The Conference of Rulers, according to the statement, also viewed with concern the prevalence of such crimes which could be categorised as serious crimes that could threaten the country's security, peace and image.

The statement said the Malay Rulers and the Yang Dipertuas Negeri understood and appreciated the efforts of the federal government to unite the people based on the spirit enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The Malay Rulers, it said, urged all the people, regardless of race and religion, to continue to be united and remain loyal to the country in the maintenance of national sovereignty and prosperity.

"Everyone has a role in national development. The Malay Rulers hope that all the people will continue to respect and abide by the Federal Constitution and prevailing laws and avoid actions which can lead to racial quarrels, misunderstanding and suspicion which could undermine national prosperity and harmony.

"For the sake of the sovereignty and harmony of the country which we love, the Malay Rulers hope that the people will not allow outside involvement and interference in the country's affairs," the statement said.

It said the Malay Rulers also urged the Malays to be united and not to quarrel among themselves, based on the spirit of Islamic brotherhood, so that they were neither marginalised nor their position eroded in the course of national development.

"Leaders of Malay organisations should seek out similarities, engage in discussions with prudence and wisdom, and protect and champion the plight of the Malays," the statement said.

The Malay Rulers emphasised that the integrity of the Malay race and the plight of the Malays would not be safeguarded if the leaders of Malay organisations were inclined to quarrel and chose to be at loggerheads.

"The Malay Rulers pray that beloved Malaysia always remains peaceful and its multiracial people continue to be united, prosperous and peaceful.

"Hopefully, Malaysia continues to receive the protection and blessings of Allah (God)," the statement said.