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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Indian teenager shot dead forced into world of crime by UMNOs’ social engineering and exclusion from national mainstream development of Malaysia.


Indian teenager shot dead forced into world of crime by UMNOs’ social engineering and exclusion from national mainstream development of Malaysia.
The Malaysian Indians generally are hardworking and prepared to work hard. But under the UMNO / B.N led Malay-sian Malay muslim racial and religious supremacist regime, Indians are denied equality and equal opportunities from womb to tomb.

To start off with even kindergardens are denied in most of the 523 which has some 110,000 mostly poor Indian children kindergardens nationwide. So much so that 42% of standard one pupils in Tamil schools cannot read and write at all because they could not afford to attend kindergardens, not conducive house etc ( MO 10/3/10 at page 3 ). About 90% of the students in Tamil schools did not attend kindergardens whereas 87 % is targeted by 2012 under the National key Results Area ( NKRA ) ( for Malay and Chinese schools The Star 15/3/10 at page N46 ). Almost all Tamil primary schools are denied full government financial help.

Academically weak and poor Indian students have almost all been excluded / denied the 200,000 places in the Institute Kemahiran Mara Skills Training places ( see BH 29/510 at page 6 ) and in the 209 Giat Mara Skills Training Institutions given a RM 550 Million Budget in the 10th Malaysia Plan. ( BH19/7/10 at page 4 ). 5,000 almost all Indian scrap metal dealers have been denied licences ( see The Star 28/11/09 at page N22 ). Similarly thousands of Indian car wash operators have been denied licences and the business opportunities. There are more the 1,400 different areas of trade opportunities in Malaysia but excluded and segregated to an estimated 99.9 % of the Indians. ( The Star 9/12/09 at page N47 )

There are 44,580 registered contractors in Malaysia and 90% ( 40,305 are Malay muslims )

But 99.9% of the few Indian contractors are denied direct jobs from the Malay-sian government, which is the nation’s biggest spender

The academically weak Indians can naturally cook but are denied even the opportunity to set up a burger stall let alone food stalls, fruit and flower stalls, highway rest areas.

Even government department office boys jobs are denied to these Indian youths when a black “muslim” can even become the President of the world’s most powerful country, the USA.

The Indians poor are being socially engineered by UMNO to become unskilled general workers and cleaners, toilet cleaners, security guards, drivers, office boys, maids, road sweepers, alam flora workers etc.

But these Indian poor office boys have been denied the opportunities to be given licences to run courier companies, denied the security guard, cleaning alam flora, toilet cleaning, road sweeping and lorry transport contracts by both the government sector who give almost all to the Malay muslims and the private sector who give almost all to the Chinese.

The poor but hardworking and prepared to work hard Indians are denied, excluded and segregated from these race and religious based business opportunities, loans, licences and upward mobility opportunities both by the Malay muslim UMNO government and the Chinese capitalist controlled private sector economy. Why One Malay-sia?

Had these aforesaid opportunities been non race and religious based, Jeevan Ramasamy (17) would not have been shot dead while allegedly commiting a crime,(TN ,MO and MN front page and NST 17/11/10 at page 9) So would scores of thousands of Indian youths would not be languishing in prisons.

They would have been like the Chinese criminals and gangsters of the 1960s’ to 1980s’ who today have emerged to become at worst RM5,000.00 earning koay teow sellers to VCD, budget hotels, retailers, suppliers, contractors and project undertakers, bankers and millionaires. Very few Indian poor would then want to become a criminal or a gangster.

Equality and equal employment and business opportunities will keep Indian youths like Jeevan and hundreds of thousands of others out and away from crime.

P.Uthayakumar


Higher fares answer to bus accidents?

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — Each time a horrific bus accident happens, people clamour for — and demand — that something be done.

That something could be as simple as raising bus fares.

Dr Yeah Kim Leng, RAM Holdings chief economist, said there is a correlation between the low bus ticket prices and the number of accidents that involve busses.

“The controlled prices are too low and bus companies are not able to make sufficient money to improve working conditions and the upgrading of their entire operations,” he said.

Road Safety Department Director-General Datuk Suret Singh told The Malaysian Insider that bus fares were “partly deregulated and is in the process of further deregulation.”

He added that “some aspects have already been implemented. Some are in the pipeline to be followed through by SPAD (Land Public Transport Commission).”

However, Suret said that the deregulation of bus fares should be viewed “over a period from past to future” rather than at a specific “point of time.”

Yeah added that consumers would not hesitate to pay more for bus tickets, so long as there was commensurate “improvement in quality of service.”

Commuters from the lower-income group, Yeah suggested, could be provided with some form of subsidy or transportation stamp, although he was quick to add that there should not be too much emphasis on subsidy programmes.

“If you raise the price, it is also good. You have other positive effects (such as) reducing travel and pollution.

“Make the prices right. It is inevitable that bus companies try to cut cost because their welfare is not taken into consideration. In a way, it’s a market failure,” he said.

Yeah also emphasised on the need for continuous enforcement, and added that the working condition and welfare of the bus drivers must not be neglected.

“It’s an industry-wide issue, so we have to look at it at a holistic manner,” he said.

The biggest problem now is the lack of management attention and the lack of government oversight, he added.

“To ensure sufficient competition among [bus operators], the regulators also need to look at whether there’s excessive competition. If too many licences are given out to companies, making it unprofitable, that could also be the cause of it,” Yeah said.

According to the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board, 5,332 bus express licences have been issued as of March 31, 2010.

The number of accidents involving express buses went up to 2,348 cases in 2009 from 2,056 the year before, according to the Road Safety Department website.

Asides from the busses themselves, the authorities have also begun to introduce new regulations to address the personnel who operate the vehicles.

In September 2008, the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Code of Practice (COP) was launched by the Ministry of Transport to provide specific guidelines for employers and employees to manage health, safety and environmental issues in the transportation sector.

Like many of the existing rules governing the industry, obtaining its observance has required the authorities to take a stern approach.

“Unscrupulous operators do not take the now compulsory (since January 2010) Safety Environment and Health code (SHE) seriously and [that] is the reason why the government took the stringent step of cancellation of all permits belonging to two operators involved in the latest serious bus crashes,” Suret said.

Earlier this month, Syarikat Kuala Lumpur-Malacca Express Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Taipan Suria (MM2H) Sdn Bhd had their licences revoked by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CLVB) after express buses owned by the two companies were involved in the recent accidents — one in Melaka and another, Genting Sempah — which claimed a total of 20 lives.

In the case of the Genting Sempah accident, the bus driver involved was found to not be in possession of a valid driving licence.

Pan-Malaysia Bus Operators Association president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali told The Malaysian Insider that the authorities should be stricter in upholding existing laws and policies to cut down on road accidents.

“Enforcement should be stricter, there should be more round-the-clock enforcement to put the fear into drivers, not only commercial but all drivers because other road users contribute to accidents as well,” he said.

Ashfar said the public always blamed the drivers in bus accidents without taking into consideration other contributing factors or multiplier effects.

Zulkarnain Hamzah, a representative from The Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (Transit), a public transport proponent and watchdog, expressed dismay over the lack of progress despite the repeated accidents involving public transport industry.

“Currently, no party wants to take the ownership to gauge the operators’ performance and service standards, assess drivers’ conditions, determine transport supply and demand, and assess effectiveness of the travel corridors served by the buses,” he added. Zulkarnain then urged the government to make bus operators equip their buses with safety features such as side curtain airbags and seat belts for passengers.

Saying the cost of such technology should not be an issue, Zulkarnain added that these must be compared to the cost in terms of lost productivity arising from the “premature deaths of our young, aspiring youths whose hope we depend on to bring this country to a greater future.”

He pointed out that Malaysia continued to lag behind other governments that have enforced more stringent measures such as safety and quality audit systems, universal wire rope safety barriers, safer bus chassis standards, speed limiters, and passenger restraint systems.

“With tight regulatory enforcement and clever load balancing options, express bus operators can compete in a healthy environment without the need of any price ceiling,” he said.

Perak Pakatan ready for snap polls, says Ngeh

AYER TAWAR, Nov 17 — Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has finally recovered from its bruising fall from government last year, declaring itself ready to take on the Barisan Nasional (BN) should snap polls be called soon.

Unlike in other states, the PR pact in Perak is said to be the most cohesive of the lot, bound together by the year-long constitutional impasse that rocked the state following BN’s infamous power grab in February 2009.

In an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider, newly re-apppointed Perak DAP chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said that since the power grab, all state PR leaders and members have been working themselves to the bone to ensure another victory in the next general election.

“Our PR brothers are very close here in Perak, not just because of the crisis but because we have very good, sound, matured and very capable leaders.

“And yes we are [ready to face elections]. In fact, we have been on election-mode since the power grab. And now that the election can be called anytime, we are ready.

“I believe our general election machinery is still in tact,” he said, when met at his office here yesterday.

Ngeh admitted however that due to the series of events during the constitutional crisis in Perak after the power grab, the PR machinery now desperately needed to raise more funds and quickly.

“When our machinery is enriched, then we can move smoothly. We have spent a fair bit on our expenses, especially when paying costs to BN during the court cases,” he explained.

The Perak PR has been engaged in a mountain of legal suits against the BN since February last year, during its many attempts to declare BN’s rule in the state as unconstitutional.

Despite this however, Ngeh, who was formerly a senior state executive councillor in the Perak PR government, claimed that PR has been making inroads with the more rural population in the state, where it had lost greatly to BN during Elections 2008.

In the March 2008 political tsunami, the traditionally BN-helmed state of Perak fell to the hands of the opposition with a narrow three-seat margin.

DAP had swept up all 18 state seats it had contested, primarily in the urban Kinta Valley area, while PKR had managed to win in seven seats and PAS, in six.

BN had managed to score 28 seats, thanks to Umno’s popularity in the more rural Malay-dominated areas in the silver state. MCA only won in one state seat while MIC failed to secure any.

In the early hours of March 9, 2008, the three opposition parties of DAP, PAS and PKR came together in a hasty meeting and made an agreement within an hour that it would form a tripartite government in Perak.

Due to the defections of three PR assemblymen however, the government fell back to the BN in February 2009 and the state was plunged into turmoil for over a year.

Today, after exhausting all avenues to seek legal redress over the power grab, PR has now set its sights on recapturing Perak from BN in the coming general election, said to be held early next year.

This Saturday, the BN supreme council will meet to chart campaign plans for a possible snap polls widely speculated for the first half of 2011.

In Perak, PR’s greatest hurdle is the Malay vote, particularly in the semi-urban and rural areas contested by Umno in Elections 2008.

But Ngeh remains confident that coupled with the injustice of BN’spower grab and PR’s 10-month performance in Perak, PR’s influence with the Malay voters has now greatly improved.

“We believe and hope that we already now have at least 40 per cent of support from the Malays in the rural areas.

“Ideally, our target is not to win with just a majority of three seats. This time, we aim to win two thirds of the 59 state seats in Perak,” Ngeh declared.

He claimed that the Malay ground was now “ripe and open” to the opposition, judging from the general sentiment of voters in the traditional Umno strongholds.

“It is a great transformation. Before March 2008, the DAP could never even raise our flag there. We could not even enter their territory.

“But now, they welcome me and when I come, I speak to a crowd of two thousand people. I feel very welcomed,” he said.

DAP, he said, was no longer considered a “Chinese chauvinist party or a Communist party”.

Similarly, Ngeh added, voters in the Chinese community, no longer feared non-Chinese centric parties and were now in acceptance of multiracial parties like PKR and even Islamist party PAS.

“This is why what we are doing now is to ensure that there is non-Malay support for PKR and PAS in the areas where DAP is not contesting.

“We are persuading the Chinese not to fear these parties and we have been moving to infiltrate all the deepest recesses of Perak,” he said.

Strategically, Ngeh said the PR alliance already has its presence in all 24 parliamentary constituencies in Perak.

“We have formed PR liaison committees in every parliamentary constituency, represented by nine members – three from each party,” he explained.

For DAP, Ngeh added, there were at least one or more branches in each area.

“That is why, we always have people moving on the ground there, working the ground and helping us to mobilise our functions when we plan any,” he said.

He added that each PR party is also expected to provide service in the areas that they would likely be contesting in the coming elections.

The seat distribution among DAP, PKR and PAS, he added, would likely be the same as the last general election.

“It is not a problem for us. It is true that DAP gave up two seats to PKR to contest but we are not fighting among ourselves for the seats. What is important is that our relationship is sound.

“That is why Perak PR is so close... your area is considered my area and we count ourselves as PR leaders, not just leaders of our own respective parties,” he said.

In Elections 2008, DAP contested in 18 seats, PKR in 20 seats and PAS in 21 seats.

Ngeh added that it was a general consensus among PR leaders that former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, a PAS man, would be retained as the Mentri Besar.

“We look at merit and Nizar was a sterling leader and a great Mentri Besar. In fact, when Nizar said, as an MB, that he would administer the state irrespective of race or background, I knew I would support him all the way, we do not even need to discuss policies,” he said. - The Malaysian Insider

Court told not to shirk conversion cases

(Malaysiakini) The Malaysian Bar has slammed the Federal Court for abdicating its responsibility as the “ultimate arbiter” in disputes involving constitutional matters in their refusal to decide on key issues surrounding the S Shamala case.

NONE Bar Council vice-president Lim Chee Wee (left) said that the Shamala case “presented the Court with a clear opportunity to resolve fundamental questions that affect the public interest.

“By side-stepping these significant issues, the Federal Court failed to be decisive, and abdicated its role as the ultimate arbiter in disputes involving constitutional questions and jurisdictional conflict,” said Lim in a statement today.

He added that the court is guided by an oath to uphold the constitution, and “the Federal Court, in particular, ought to fulfil its responsibility to right an injustice, no matter how difficult or divisive the issues are”.

The judiciary, says Lim, ought to step in whenever politicians failed to use the legislative process to eliminate gaps in the legal system.

“Issues of conflicts of laws will continue to arise. Courts, lacking guidance from the supreme tribunal of the land, may continue to take inconsistent approaches in the many unresolved cases,” he said.

He blamed the resulting “jurisdictional divide” for leaving affected families of disputes without any remedy.

Lim also pointed out that the present situation can be exploited by those who want to gain custody of a child using the loophole presented in the S Shamala case.

“More parents may feel that their only recourse is to flee the country to prevent their children from being unilaterally and perpetually converted, and taken from them,” said Lim.

As a result of the long-standing custody case between Shamala and her estranged husband M Jeyaganesh, who had converted to Islam, five appeals were filed.

In April, the Court of Appeal decided that the Federal Court had to decide on five questions of constitution in order to resolve the case.

The Federal Court on Nov 12 had not addressed the five questions, but instead allowed Jeyaganesh's preliminary objection that Shamala does not have the right to be heard in court because a contempt proceeding had been initiated against her.

'Court ignored Shamala's plight'

Lim criticised the Federal Court's decision for disregarding the realities and dilemma faced by S Shamala and failed to take into account the circumstances that caused her to leave the country, hence resulting in the contempt charges.

“Insistence on an exceptionally strict rule regarding contempt of court is unjust in this instance,” said Lim.

“In exercising its discretion, the court ought to have given due consideration to the relevant factors and the interest of justice.”

Lim called upon the government to “resolve the current impasse swiftly through parliamentary intervention”.

He pointed out that the cabinet's directive in April that conversion of children should receive the consent of both parents, it has “remained a mere policy statement, without real effect”.

The relevant legislation should be “amended immediately” so that the directive could be implemented quickly, urged Lim.

Conversion: The ball is back in government's court

(Malaysiakini) The government is the only party that can act to resolve outstanding matters of conversion and religion, said the Bar Council yesterday.

NONEIn addition, Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan (right) told Malaysiakini that only a strong display of political will could bring about any progress to the stalemated issue.

He said this as the long-drawn six-year case between S Shamala and Dr M Jeyagandesh over the unilateral conversion to Islam by one parent, again took centre stage last week.

“It's the government's duty to approach the Conference of Rulers. Although a Federal Court judgment would have set a better precedent, since the courts have abdicated their role, it's all back to the government,” said Ragunath.

A question in Parliament over the unresolved conversion issues had prompted Minister in Prime Minister Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz to suggest last week that non-Muslim groups should seek the Conference of Rulers to discuss the long-standing matter of conversion law reforms, which the government had withdrawn at the eleventh hour before it was tabled for a first reading as the rulers have yet indicate their approval.

Ragunath however said that passing the responsibility to non-Muslim groups was not viable as it was the government who had drawn up the proposed amendments and the former have not been briefed on the matter.

conversion issues posters of mohd ridzuan 270409“We don't know what is in the contents of the draft that was given (to the rulers on the law reforms).
"Secondly, we don't know which content the rulers are unhappy with,” said Ragunath.

Last year, the government attempted to table amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984.

Among the key changes proposed were those concerning the dissolution of marriage, right to custody of children, maintenance of children and wife and division of matrimonial assets, so that laws under the Syariah system will be in tandem with those provided under civil laws.

Prior to the proposed amendments the cabinet issued a directive last April to stop parents from secretly converting their children, in an attempt to calm strained race relations in the country.

Every PM's empty promise

Similarly, a veteran community leader also voiced that being unaware of the what is provided in amendments hampers their efforts to resolve impending issues related to conversion laws.

hindu sangam pc on work permits 020908 vaithilingam 01“We have spoken to every relevant authority, the inter-religious council, the sultans in the states and the government.

“Our views are already with them. Over the last 10 years we have approached everyone,” said A Vaithilingam (left), the former president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

He said that every prime minister of the country from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Abdul Razak had repeatedly assured that the matter was close to resolution.

“But we are still waiting,” said Vaithilingam.

I survived with my skills..

Death sentence for migrant worker

Saudi Arabia is due to behead a Sri Lankan woman in a case that has focused attention on the plight of migrant workers.

When a relative approached Mohamed Nafeek in 2005 to explore the possibility of sending his eldest daughter, Rizana, to the Middle East as a domestic worker, the family thought its luck had finally turned for the better.

Poor, living in a ramshackle shack in Muttur, a coastal village in Trincomalee district 250km from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, the family of six barely managed to survive on the meagre earnings Nafeek made as a wood collector.

Rizana, according to the family, agreed to the job. The relative took her to a recruitment agency. She then underwent 10 days of training before leaving for Saudi Arabia in May 2005.

But instead of changing the family's luck, Rizana's life turned inside out in a foreign land. Barely a month into her job, she was sitting in a jail charged with killing the four-month-old infant of her employers.

She was later found guilty and sentenced to die by beheading. She appealed her sentence and has spent the last five years in a Saudi jail. In October, news reached Sri Lanka that her sentence had been confirmed and would thus be carried out.

That news has generated renewed focus on the case of Rizana Fathima Nafeek, and the issue of Asian migrant workers getting a fair hearing in a foreign justice system, both here and internationally.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, has written to Saudi Arabia's King Abdul Aziz seeking a pardon. Similar appeals have been made by Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and other Sri Lankan and international advocacy groups.

Unfair proceedings

The AHRC says Rizana's trial was skewed against her, citing factors like language issues and competent legal support that often make it hard for migrant workers to ensure that they get fair proceedings. For example, the translator provided during Rizana's confession, which the AHRC maintains was taken under duress, was not a professional one, AHRC director of policy and development Basil Fernando points out.

"He was just someone from Karnataka [state] in India, who did not have any idea of the Tamil dialect that Nafeek spoke," Fernando said. The translator has since left Saudi Arabia.

Evidence indicated that the infant choked while Rizana was feeding him, in what was an accident and not intentional murder, Fernando adds.

No legal aid was extended to Rizana during the trial. The Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh had contacted a lawyer only after her conviction. When it could not hire the lawyer due to government stipulations that prevent it from paying for legal services in a criminal case, the Hong Kong based AHRC moved in.

It has so far spent $30,000 in legal fees for the appeal of Rizana's verdict.

The case is complicated by the fact that Rizana was underage when she left for the Middle East. Some reports have suggested that she was 15, but her family told IPS she was 17 at the time of her departure. Either way, she was a minor below the age of employment when she left.

Rizana's forged passport became pivotal to her conviction when the courts went by details contained in that, and did not consider her birth certificate.

"The passport she used to enter Saudi Arabia gives her date of birth as February 1982 but according to her birth certificate she was born six years later, in February 1988," Amnesty International said in an October appeal.

"This would make her 17 years old at the time of the murder for which she has been convicted. According to Amnesty International's information, she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the court, which relied instead on her passport and so considered her to be 23 years old at the time of the crime," it added.

Victim of recruitment agencies

Advocates say that Rizana was a victim of recruitment agencies that send poor, untrained Sri Lankan women as unskilled domestic workers to the Middle East, including to countries like Saudi Arabia, which hosts some 500,000 migrant labourers from the South Asian island nation.

"We never heard from the agency [that sent Rizana to Saudi Arabia]. We only got a letter from the [Sri Lankan] embassy [in Riyadh] about the sentence," her mother Razina said.

Rizana's case came into the limelight after media reports highlighted her death sentence. AHRC officials told IPS that when Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld the verdict, they heard the news not through the Sri Lankan embassy but through a well-wisher who had visited Rizana in jail. They now fear that if Saudi Arabia's king ratifies the sentence, there would no chance of pardon.

"There is every probability that the execution of Rizana might be carried out without warning in the very near future. Saudi Arabia has an infamous record of having one of the highest executions rates in the world with at least 69 executions carried out in 2009, 102 in 2008 and 158 in 2007, an average of almost two persons a week," AHRC said in a statement.

Fernando adds that a two-track approach is needed to try to save Rizana from the executioner's sword. One is to lobby the Saudi monarch through national and international campaigns. The second is for the family to use diplomatic means to seek a pardon under Saudi law.

Fernando said: "The king is the last option, before that someone should speak to the family."

This article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.

Source:IPS

Trio In Murder Probe Flee To Malaysia

By P. Vijian

CHENNAI, Nov 16 (Bernama) -- Three Indian nationals, who were part of 20 people quizzed in connection with the murder of a Malaysian woman and her two children last week, are believed to have slipped into Malaysia.

Tamil Nadu police believe the trio, in their 30s, and from here, had left for Kuala Lumpur on Nov 12, via a Jet Airways flight.

One of them is believed to be in possession of a Malaysian identity card and had stayed in Malaysia previously.

The fugitives are wanted in connection with the murder of housewife M. Adhila Banu, 24, and her children, Ajira Banu, five, and Mohd Aslam, seven.

The victims were strangled and their bodies dumped in a swollen canal in Vadipatti, Madurai, about 160km from their house, on Nov 8.

"We suspect these (killings) are the work of hired killers and have seized a Scorpio (four-wheel drive vehicle) which we suspect was used in the events leading to the murders," Vadipatti police inspector P. R. Lakshmanan told Bernama on Tuesday.

On Nov 8, Adhila Banu, accompanied by the children, had gone to a nearby sundry shop in her village, Barathi Nagar, to purchase cooking gas when they were believed to have been kidnapped.

Three days later, the police discovered their decomposed bodies.

According to police investigations, a gang had earlier demanded 250,000 Indian rupees (about RM17,000) from the victim's family which refused to pay the money.

Now, the police are piecing sketchy clues which had given a new twist to the murders.

According to investigators, Adhila was ostracised by the village 'panchayat' (committee) for several years after she had married a man of a different religion.

Thus, the money (250,000 Indian rupees) was ostensibly to settle the dispute so that she could return to her native village with her children.

Adhila had been staying in Malaysia with her husband, an Indian national with Malaysian permanent resident status, and returned to her native village about a month ago to visit her mother.

Her husband, Muthusamy alias Mohammad, was last heard working in Malaysia as a driver.

BN leaders meet on Saturday with polls on their mind

Najib was previously told not to equate his personal popularity with that of Umno’s. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) supreme council will meet this Saturday to chart campaign plans as the ruling coalition prepares itself for a possible snap election next year.

Sources within BN told The Malaysian Insider that the coming months are deemed important as party leaders seek to take advantage of problems plaguing Pakatan Rakyat (PR), especially in PKR with the exit of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will call for a general election by the first half of next year and that the current parliamentary sitting may possibly be the last for the current administration.

“Everything is geared for the next general election,” a source told The Malaysian Insider when asked about the significance of the supreme council meeting.

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is expected to exit the party in January while both MCA and Umno will embark on a nationwide tour to meet grassroots leaders and members across the country.

Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia also announced that it will identify its candidates for the next general election after the Chinese New Year in February.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently hinted at the possibility of snap polls being called in “a few months” during his winding-up speech at the Umno general assembly.

“I don’t know when the prime minister will call for the next general election, but we all know that there are only a few months left,” he said.

Najib, who is Umno president, also promised to look into appointments for state party chiefs and other posts to ensure members are motivated to keep the party in power.

BN are hoping to take advantage of the turmoil in PKR.
However, BN is still looking to solve three pressing issues — the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) case, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy trial, and Teoh Beng Hock’s mysterious death — before considering a call for snap elections.

The Malaysian Insider understands that BN leaders have privately agreed that these issues, together with the soft economy, need to be addressed before the ruling federal coalition is confident of dissolving Parliament for the country’s 13th general election, which is not due until March 2013.

The Malaysian Insider had also reported that Umno warlords and key aides have been telling Najib to delay any idea of snap polls to secure his personal mandate.

Opponents to an early election said Najib should not assume his personal popularity meant that Umno was now more acceptable to the people.

The prime minister’s approval ratings rose to 72 per cent in May, according to the last Merdeka Center survey, which said it was bolstered by a sense that the nation was headed in the right direction.

The country’s economy grew 9.5 per cent in the first half of the year and the Najib administration believes that Malaysia can exceed its six per cent growth target for 2010.

The ruling coalition was also given a major boost after it won the two by-elections in Galas and Batu Sapi earlier this month.

Political observers believe that the two by-election results showed that PR had lost its Election 2008 momentum, while Umno and BN seem to be steadily regaining their winning touch.

BN has up to May 2013 to call for the 13th general election, five years after the March 8, 2008 general election that cost the ruling federal coalition four more states and 82 federal seats.

- The Malaysian Insider

Pakatan says BN damaged Selangor ‘beyond repair’

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders have accused Barisan Nasional (BN) of damaging Selangor “beyond repair” during its previous Administration under Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo.

They have claimed that Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s current administration of the country’s wealthiest state is “far better” than the previous BN government that saw the construction of Dr Khir’s palatial home and his extravagant overseas trips that were allegedly made using public funds.

“(Dr Khir) Toyo has been the Menteri besar of Selangor for more than eight years. The damages that were done during his tenure were beyond repair and beyond imagination,” PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told The Malaysian Insider today.

“Toyo has no moral authority to comment about the performance of the state government of Selangor now,” he added.

Today, Dr Khir and Selangor Umno deputy chairman Datuk Noh Omar accused the PR Administration in Selangor of being “worse than BN” in practising cronyism and had clearly mismanaged public funds in the state development corporation (PKNS) and Yayasan Selangor.

Saifuddin, however, pointed out that Dr Khir had yet to explain how he managed to finance his multi-million ringgit mansion in Shah Alam.

“He did not explain how he got his mansion,” said the Machang MP.

“If you compare the RM300,000 expenditure by Yayasan Selangor, that is only the airfare for Khir Toyo, his wife, children and servants for his Disneyland trip,” he added.

Dr Khir had reportedly denied using state funds to pay for his children and maid’s trips to Disneyland Florida and Disneyland Paris in 2007 and 2004 that allegedly cost state subsidiary Permodalan Negeri Selangor Sdn Bhd (PNSB) RM1.7 million.

He had claimed that PNSB had only paid for him and his wife, and that the trips were technical trips as Selangor wanted to build a theme park in Bagan Lalang.

The former Menteri Besar has also reportedly claimed that he had bought his mansion for only RM3.5 million.

Saifuddin also highlighted the current government’s practices of establishing the Selangor Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) and appointing a BN representative to head the state Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“The Selangor government now has established Selcat. Selangor is the only state in Malaysia now that has the opposition as the chairman of the PAC,” said Saifuddin.

Today, Dr Khir had also accused Khalid of practising cronyism by appointing personal contacts to head state subsidiaries like PKNS, Yayasan Selangor, state-owned sand mining subsidiary Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) and the Selangor Agriculture Development Corporation (PKPS).

“The onus is now on Khir Toyo to furnish facts and evidence to the state government,” said Saifuddin, referring to Dr Khir’s allegations.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua echoed Saifuddin’s views and said that PR’s administration of Selangor was “far better” than the previous BN government.

“We are far, far, far better than the previous BN Administration,” he said.

“We do not fear scandals about our mentri besar holding gigantic palaces...we do not tear down temples in a reckless fashion. Dr Khir himself has a palatial home in Shah Alam,” he added.

Pua also described the recent allegations of mismanagement of funds and cronyism against PKNS and Yayasan Selangor as a remnant of the previous BN administration.

“A lot of practices that were from the previous administration are still in existence today. If there is a critique that I have about the Selangor government, it is that we have not managed to get rid of all of it,” he said.

Today, Noh said that complaints of public wastage and cronyism had cropped up in Khalid’s administration in just two years.

Khalid was forced this week to deny his Administration was involved in spending an exorbitant amount for a Yayasan Selangor luncheon to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

The luncheon was scheduled for yesterday but was cancelled after the Selangor Sultan snubbed it over its exorbitant cost.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has started investigations into Yayasan Selangor’s extravagant celebration.

Other allegations against Yayasan Selangor reportedly include the purchase of luxury cars, a RM170,000 buka puasa function; RM200,000 for clothes, RM320,000 on a Hari Raya event, and the closure of the Yayasan Selangor Skills Institute in Bagan Terap, Sabak Bernam due to insufficient funds.

Last week, Hulu Kelang assemblyman Saari Sungib also claimed that the PKNS management had appointed personal contacts to lead PKNS subsidiaries, and that the corporation had funded a RM520,000 wedding dinner for Malaysian astronaut Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor last month.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP pointed out, however, that the current state government was quick to address such complaints.

“At the state assembly, you find that when these things come about, a due inquiry is ordered straight away,” said Pua.

“There is no attempt to deny. There is no attempt to cover up,” he added.

He also said that the current Selangor government has “progressed tremendously” from the previous government, pointing out that land deals were now done through an open tender system.

“I think the Selangor state government has progressed tremendously from the times of the BN Administration. Land deals are done based on market prices and through open tenders,” said Pua.

Selangor DAP chief Ean Yong Hian Wah also claimed that Khalid’s Administration was more transparent than the previous BN government because of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and Selcat.

“The current Pakatan government is much more transparent than the previous government. We have the FOI Act and we have Selcat. This is the proof that shows we have the mechanism to make sure the government is transparent,” said Ean Yong.

- The Malaysian Insider

On a mission to expose abuses in West Papua


By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today

FMT INTERVIEW PETALING JAYA: Hunted by the military, human rights activist and documentary filmmaker Wensi Fatubun left his home in West Papua, Indonesia, and continued his fight abroad.

"I received an SMS threatening me to back off from my investigations or I'll face death. I then found out that the Indonesian military was tracking me. I had to throw away my phone. Just five days after I left and reached Bangkok, my friend, a journalist, was dead," said Wensi, 29, who spoke to FMT in an interview here recently.

The naked body of Wensi's journalist friend, Ardiansyah Matra'is, was found in a river. Police there had claimed the death was suicide.

Wensi, who had worked closely with Ardiansyah investigating illegal logging and corruption, said he was sure his former colleague did not kill himself.

"I believe his death had something to do with the investigative work he has been doing, especially on the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). Before he died, a few journalists, including me received the same threatening SMS," Wensi said, adding that such violence was not uncommon in Papua.

Wensi is on a roadtrip in Malaysia to spread awareness about the critical situation in Papua, and he would be travelling to the Philippines next to seek further support.

For almost 50 years since it was absorbed into Indonesia in 1963, West Papua, also called Irian Jaya (on the west side of the New Guinea island), has struggled for independence.

It has suffered various human rights violations mostly carried out by Indonesian security forces – intimidation, torture and brutal killing of villagers, activists and journalists; with human rights groups estimating tens of thousands of natives killed.

Worst poverty

The military is also alleged to be involved in illegal operations such as logging, prostitution and trading in endangered species to make a profit. Human Rights Watch claim Papua has the worst poverty in Indonesia, and the biggest HIV problem in the country.

Foreign media and NGOs are banned from going to West Papua.

Wensi said Ardiansyah's death was tragic but it also strengthened his resolve to continue his simple yet difficult mission: to spread word about the abuses in Papua to other countries, and get help and support.

"I am not afraid. If I stayed in Papua, I could have been killed so I must continue this fight," said Wensi, who worked as an investigator with a church-based organisation as well as assisted Human Rights Watch's investigations into the human rights situation. He also trained young people to make documentaries.

Recently in October, the video of two Papuans tortured by soldiers shocked the world. The video depicted farmers Anggen Pugu Kiwo and Telengga Gire being violently interrogated by the military, who also burnt one of the men's genitals. However, five men who were involved in a separate incident were charged.

Wensi said that such military oppression and torture happened to Papuans "every single day".
"Before I became an activist, three of my friends were also tortured and interrogated by army personnel who wanted to know if there were part of a he separatist movement. One of them died this year," said Wensi, who also trains young people to make documentaries.

He said that in West Papua, to be a journalist, activist or someone who fights for human rights means that you were a "separatist".

"I am often called a separatist, an enemy," said Wensi.

"Just last week, secret documents exposed by US freelance journalist Allan Nairn showed that US-backed Kopassus engaged in 'murder and abduction' and defined civilian dissidents as the 'enemies' in the province of Papua,” said Wensi.

Kopassus or Special Force Command is an Indonesian army special group that conducts missions for the government such as counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.

Last July, the US government lifted a decade-long ban on US training and military assistance to Kopassus, which is considered a US ally in the fight against terrorism.

Asked how can Malaysians help Papua, Wensi said: "In any way you can. But mostly show solidarity with us whenever you read of news of military torture in my province. If in the past, Malaysia had joined Indonesia, it would now be suffereing the same fate as Papua.”

Below are exceprts of the interview:
Why did you choose to be an activist and not migrate to Papua New Guinea?

I chose to be an activist and filmmaker because I felt the need to be with the people and fight from the perspective of the people. I wanted to make documentaries as seen through the eyes of oppressed. I grew up in a village in Yodom and I saw with my own eyes a company, PT Korindo Group, take away the people's land. As a result, the people have no place to hunt and farm. And after awhile the company leaves, but the people suffer because the richness of the land is all but gone.

Was there a specific incident that spurred your activism?

Well I saw my neighbours, my friends and my friends' families arrested by militants. They were called Free Papua Movement (OPM). They were called separatists when in fact they were the intellectuals, the progressives. In 2005, three of my former school mates were tortured by army personnel, who claimed they were OPM members. They wanted to know "where my friends kept their weapons". They poked a cigarrette butt into the eyes of one of them, who became blind. Another ran away and never came back. The third suffered a broken jaw and injuries to his backbone. For five years he could not walk or sit like a normal person. He died in July this year.

Why do you keep continuing this (fight) despite the dangers?

I feel that there are not many like us. Some of the activists and journalists in Wes Papua are siding with the government and the people there do not have a good idea of what is going on. The Human Rights Commission has written about these cases but there are no solutions. For example, in one incident, the people of one village had clashed with another but it was labelled as a 'tribal war' and gave a wrong impression that the natives are still primitive. A lot of people out there are not aware of the situation.

Were there incidents you could not forget?

The worst was when I interviewed a girl who was only 17 when she was raped by a soldier and she later carried his child. It was hard for me because she was so young. She dropped out of school later. Now she is waiting for justice but no one is doing anything. I could only tell her to wait and be patient. I know that the Indonesian police and military do not care, they are not doing anything. But she is still waiting. She was given two million rupiah for her pain and loss. That's all. She kept crying when she was talking to me and all the while holding her 'daughter'. I was very angry and sad and I felt like punching an Indonesian soldier.

What are some of the problems in Papua you would like to highlight?


A persistent problem which involves the military and the government is land grab. The big companies will come in and take away the land of the Orang Asli. One such mega project is the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). This is a 1.6-million-hectare integrated food-production zone where companies are supposed to grow, process and package their products. It has 32 foreign investors coming in to develop 32 districts in Merauke, southeast of Papua.

What they are doing do not benefit the Papuans at all. The people there don't like this because this would mean the demolition of their buildings and their holy sites. The people have written many times to the president and held demonstrations but to no avail. The Indonesian government does not care. The leader of one group formed to oppose this project was arrested. Anybody who disagrees will be targeted. The authorities also intimidated me because of my opposition against the MIFEE project.

How were you intimidated?

I was told that the regent of Merauke Jhon Gluba Gebze had instructed his men to target me. I also received an SMS saying that I would be killed if I continued to oppose the MIFEE project. This was one of the reasons I left West Papua for Thailand. I was told by reliable sources that they had formed a five-men team to hunt me down.

What are the other issues in Papua?

So many. There are so many problems there. First and foremost, the military there is working together with large companies to exploit the land of the Orang Asli, the Papuans. If you come to West Papua,the moment you step off the plane, you would see the military. In every village, there would be 17 to 20 army personnel... this is not good.

Recently, there was a Youtube video depicting the torture of Papuans by military men. Does this happened often?

These things – beating and kicking villagers – happened every single day.

You mentioned that you interviewed victims raped by army men. How bad is that?

It's not that good. Our interviews were conducted in the Budul village from 2006 to 2010. We managed to find that there were some 54 cases there and interviewed the women from 19 years of age.

You mentioned that prostitution and HIV are a big problem too?

Yes, I believe that in the whole of Indonesia, Papua is number one in prostitution. What is worst is that the police and the military are the pimps; they are the ones who facilitate prostitution. Prostitutes from Jawa, Surabaya, Sulawesi, and Manadao come to Papua and many are also infected with HIV.
In one case, I visited one of the villages in Assue. A prostitute told me that she knew she had HIV but everyday she had sex with 10 Papua men. And in the same area, there was a nurse who admitted to me that she had used a single needle for the whole village... and the result was disastrous. In less than a week, from three people who are HIV positive, our tests found 35 more had been infected.
The problem is that the people of Papua don't know anything about HIV/AIDS. This is because they lack education. It's a sad truth: we have health facilities in almost all Orang Asli villages but zero doctors. Papuans are just waiting for help. So in the meantime they used their own primitive methods to cure themselves.

What other cases or examples can you tell us of the human rights abuses in Papua?

There are so many. Okay, in one fishing village, three people were shot dead, and some villages were burnt because the local fishermen were against companies coming in with their large boats to fish in their area. Nine policemen were charged in court but were released because the excuse given was that they were shooting at separatists. There was also a border incident. The military erected some buildings at the border between West Papua and Papua New Guinea. But the people who opposed it were beaten and the women raped. The military also forced youngsters, aged between 16 and 20, to sell items to the people in Papua New Guinea. If the things are not sold, they would be tortured. I know of six teenagers who hid in Papua New Guinea because they were afraid to return. I interviewed one of them.

You said the military there is so cruel. Why?

I think the army is behaving like this because it is taking orders from its political masters. Besides, it does not like the Orang Asli. I once sneaked into a military meeting and saw the army slideshows. Based on these, I know that the military thinks that Papuans have no nationalistic feelings and must be beaten so that they love Indonesia.

Why are foreign journalists and NGOs not allowed in West Papua?

Foreign journalists and NGOs are not allowed inside because I believe the government does not want the world to know the true situation there. It does not want people to know how bad the situation was after the annexation of West Papua into Indonesia.

What is your hope?

My hope is that Southeast Asia will know about the situation in Papua. Help us. Show solidarity. If there is military torture, we can protest together. I must continue writing and producing more films so that more people can understand the situation in Papua.

The majority must learn to be sensitive

By A Vaithilingam

COMMENT Some recent actions and utterances by our politicians and public servants who are of the majority community have been most insensitive, hurting the feelings of the minority. Can it be thoughtlessness or the feeling of superiority by these people who feel almighty?‬

We already know of cases when some members of the teaching profession lost their cool and slandered with belittling racial remarks that have caused distress and fear among some young schoolchildren.

Yet these shameful acts by teachers who are supposed to be the beacons of good human values have gone largely unpunished, although in legal terms they seem to have infringed the Sedition Act.

I feel that by allowing these “criminal” acts to go unpunished, it has resulted in others from the same profession to also continue to taunt the minority.

Civil servants who continue to slander other Malaysians, especially from minority ethnic groups, only face the sanction of being “investigated” with some minor internal transfers.

The negligence by the government leadership to take decisive action to show clear signals that such insensitive actions are unacceptable, has created a perception that this is condoned, thus giving freedom to other civil servants to go ahead with remarks against the defenceless.‬

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been quite popular with the substantial number of Indian voters in Hutan Melintang and Bagan Dato areas. Until his recent statement questioning the patriotism of non-Malay Malaysians. Was he just careless or was this deliberate? Now, he has no choice but to withdraw the statement and apologise to the Chinese and Indian communities to regain their confidence.‬

Religion has similar majority control treatment. Although the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat governments have generally stopped demolishing temples, the “Little Pharohs”, that is, civil servants of local councils, have had their ways demolishing places of worship, with no regard for sensitivities of the worshippers in these communities.‬

Deepavali advertisement

Conversion is so very sensitive in this country, yet on Deepavali, which is an auspicious religious festival for Hindus, the message from our national film production development board, Finas, is an advertisement featuring a Hindu who has converted to Islam. This advertisement was repeatedly highlighted and telecast in Astro and RTM.

The storyline of this advertisement is most insulting to Hindus in general, even to the extent of showing the Muslim wife of a Hindu convert not wanting to eat food at the table of her non-Muslim in-laws. What exactly is the meaning of this advertisement here, if not to belittle the Hindus?‬

The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has imposed a substantial fine on TV3 over what was described to be an insensitive Hari Raya Aidil Fitri advertisement, but so far no action against Finas and the TV stations which broadcast the highly insensitive Deepavali advertisement.

1Malaysia as envisaged by our prime minister pledges to look out for the best interests, and serve all different ethnic and religious groups as people of one Malaysia.‬

In a democracy it is the duty of the majority to protect and look after the interest of the minority. I have my doubts.

I sincerely hope that leaders of the majority community will be more‬ considerate in their actions. There is still hope.

A Vaithilingam‬ is the former president of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam and former chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism & Taoism (MCCBCHST).

Estate workers’ kin allowed to stay in Bukit Jalil


By G Vinod - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: City Hall will withdraw the eviction notices it issued to descendants of former estate workers in Ladang Bukit Jalil.

This was one of the decisions reached today at a meeting between Kuala Lumpur Mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail and the Ladang Bukit Jalil Estate Action Committee, said Parti Sosialis Malaysia Secretary-General S Arutchelvan, one of the committee’s representatives.

He told reporters after the meeting that City Hall had also agreed to allow a Tamil school and a Hindu temple and cemetery to remain undisturbed at their current sites in Bukit Jalil.

“The mayor said he was willing to put his promise in black and white but no deadline was given,” added Arutchelvan, who was flanked by action committee secretary S Thiakarajan, Suaram coordinator E Nalini and Hindraf Makkal Sakthi national coordinator K Balakrishnan.

Last Oct 20, City Hall issued eviction notices to seven Bukit Jalil families, saying they were squatting on government land.

On Oct 29, the residents submitted a memorandum to City Hall claiming that they were kin to former estate workers and therefore had the right to occupy the land. They also demanded a meeting with the mayor.

“The mayor was told in the meeting that the families were actually kin of deceased estate workers and that the Human Resource Ministry had agreed earlier to recognise their children and grandchildren as former estate workers as well,” Arutchelvan said.

“Therefore, the mayor agreed to retract the eviction notices as long as we can provide evidence of their kinship with former estate workers there.”

He said his committee would provide documents next week to prove the claim of kinship.

Today’s meeting was also attended by officials of the Human Resources Ministry.

Arutchelven expressed his appreciation to the mayor for agreeing to meet the committee and for promising to conduct another meeting soon with officials from the Human Resource Ministry to resolve housing and compensation issues affecting other residents of Ladang Bukit Jalil.

“In the previous meetings, none of the action committee members were invited,” he said.

Why PKR faces the same problems as Umno


I have said this before and I will say it again. PKR has to break out of the Umno mould. It must not be structured the way Umno is and function the way Umno does. Think out of the box. Try doing things differently.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

“Anwar Ibrahim: A Superb Campaigner but…” said Terence Netto, which was published in Din Merican’s Blog. You can read the full article here: http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/anwar-ibrahim-a-superb-campaigner-but/

No, I am not going to whack Anwar. This article is not about personalities. I am going to talk about systems and structures. And today’s article is going to be a very short piece, not my normal cheong hei type of article.

As what I have already said before, which means I am repeating myself, PKR is structured along the lines of Umno. The party positions and functions duplicate Umno. PKR is almost a carbon copy of Umno.

I have said this before and I will say it again. PKR has to break out of the Umno mould. It must not be structured the way Umno is and function the way Umno does. Think out of the box. Try doing things differently.

One issue that needs addressing is the top leadership of the party. Why have a president, deputy president, 3-7 vice presidents, youth leader, women’s wing leader and whatnot?

PKR should consider amending its constitution and change its party structure. Abolish the Umno-type structure. For example, dump all those many top positions. No need for a deputy president, 3-7 vice presidents, youth leader, women’s wing leader and whatnot. Just have two positions. One, party leader, and another, party president.

The party leader will handle all the politics of the party. If the party gets to form the federal government then the party leader becomes the prime minister of the country. And the party president runs all party matters, which will include all the administrative matters.

The party leader and party president are positions that are contested. But only these two positions will be contested. Then the party leader and party president appoint their team. And each will serve for just two years before new elections are called. And the elections for party leader and party president are alternated, not both in the same year.

There are no other party contests. This way the members choose their party leader and party president and leave it to them to appoint their team. So, there will be no mad scramble for the so many positions, like now.

Because PKR is structured just like Umno, it also shares the same illness that Umno faces. And the internal party elections become more important than the general elections. And this also means that their own party members/leaders are considered worse enemies than those from the opposing party -- in this case Umno and Barisan Nasional.

That is all I want to say today. And if PKR was not structured just like Umno, today, it would not be facing the same problems that Umno is facing.

I repeat. Just have one leader, not so many like in Umno. And just have a president to run the party -- while the leader handles the politics plus the strategies and campaigns involved.

Social Justice and Political Change: The Malaysian Experience

Lecture by Anwar Ibrahim at the Australian National University, Canberra, Monday, 15th November 2010

I would like to take a moment to express our joy on the release of Aung San Su Kyi. As we all know, her right to political office was denied through the most repressive of means. But driven by her conviction for freedom and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi soldiered on from strength to strength against all odds. This long overdue freedom will nevertheless give renewed hope for the people of Burma and she will continue to inspire freedom fighters and champions of democracy and justice throughout the world.

Speaking of democracy and justice, I see a clear nexus with the topic at hand. Here in Canberra, no doubt a shining symbol of democracy in Asia, it is apt that I begin my talk on social justice with a clear statement of what democracy entails. Apart from the fundamental requirements of freedom and the rule of law, democracy is also presumed to be defined by the conditions of a free market. And this is where the founding fathers of the French Revolution with their clarion call for liberty, equality and fraternity missed their mark.

This is because a free market is based on competition, and competition, being a zero-sum game has no truck with equality. On the contrary, free market engenders inequality so much so that even the bastions of capitalism such as America and Britain no longer ask whether states ought to intervene in order to reduce these inequities.

The question is to what extent? The invisible hand has remained invisible so often that governments in the free world have not only intervened but have in some cases staked out their territory in areas which were once considered totally off-limits.

Various explanations have been given. The most defensible at least in theory is social justice. According to one view, state intervention is advocated by a “soft-hearted majority” while a “hard-boiled minority” would willingly accept or even rejoice in the inequality.1 This seems to suggest that at least for a certain segment of society, inequality is not seen to be unjust. Defenders of the French Revolution claim that equality has less to do with wealth than with equal treatment before the law. But we all know that deprived of the basic necessities of living, the law is a luxury that the poor man cannot afford. Hence, the need for social justice.

But this begs the question: is there an objective standard of social justice? Philosophers have locked horns on this and I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel here. Nevertheless, to put the issue in proper perspective, from John Locke we are told that “every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own.” We may therefore reasonably deduce that social justice is not in the equation here. John Rawls talks about ‘justice as fairness’ and advocates the notion of distributive justice. Libertarians such as Robert Nozick contend that justice can only be attained through a minimalist state. In other words, there is no room for distributive justice let alone social justice.

In Christianity, particularly under Catholic social teaching, life and dignity of the human person is predicated on the belief that the state must play a moral role to ensure social justice. This is not far from the essence of Mencius’s teachings in advocating that actions are to be judged by their moral correctness, not mere economic benefit. And Islam enjoins that while society may pursue commerce to its fullest, justice and fairness in dealings must remain the chief criterion. Social justice is enjoined in order to establish a humane economy. The point is that advocates of social justice today are in good company and need not feel that they have to be unshaven Bohemian leftists or disgruntled anti-globalization activists to show that they are genuine.

However, you can’t be calling for social justice without expecting political change. Inequalities of wealth, power and status are certainly not the privilege of nations practicing free markets though it is true that in theory socialist states have more egalitarian policies. That’s only the theory because reality bites hard and we know the enormous price that people under socialist regimes have had to pay for the so-called egalitarian lifestyle. To be equally poor is of no consolation. As Martin Luther Jr. once said: “The curse of poverty has no justification.”

Political change is therefore a condition precedent to attaining social justice if it is shown that a society is heading down the road to greater social perdition under its present government. There must be political will to change its socio-economic policies. In this regard, the Economic Transformation Program that was recently unveiled by the Najib administration bears analysis. The numbers are impressive, if not altogether mindboggling. All told, we are looking at more than RM1 trillion in so-called expansionary development and projects calculated at transforming a middle-income economy to a high-income economy.

On closer analysis, however, we are unable to connect the dots to see that critical mass in poverty reduction programs that would be needed to narrow the current gap between the rich and the poor. To seriously address the growing GINI coefficient, general and vague expressions of targeting for higher per capita income simply won’t do. We don’t see concrete plans to address the housing problems of the poor and a blue print for universal free education. We don’t see any comprehensive health care for those who can’t afford private medication and hospitals.

What we see is a frenzied conviction to outdo the megalomaniacal visions of the Mahathir era. We see grandiose designs, humongous structures, buildings taller than the KLCC Twin Towers and other mega projects that are destined to make crony companies outperform others in the share market and the rich and powerful, richer and more powerful. On balance, we see monumental wastage at the expense of the people and the environment. We see the future of our children and the generations to come being sacrificed on the altar of greed and the illegitimate amassing of wealth.

The rent-seeking culture will continue with the manner in which multi-million ringgit contracts are doled out. The issues of governance, transparency and accountability are not addressed even as the indices on transparency and corruption continue to drive investors away. Transforming an economy cannot be done through mere theory –the litmus test is implementation. The condition precedent to passing this test is to put an end to the culture of corruption, rent-seeking, and power abuse.

Now, at this juncture one may well accuse me of being a socialist advocating a welfare state. The answer to that is simple: I make no apology for calling for a more equitable distribution of wealth in as much as I make no apology for maintaining that the safeguarding of fundamental liberties is also one of the main ends of political and social justice. These liberties are of paramount importance but as Amartya Sen has argued, other considerations including that of economic needs are just as vital.

To my mind, he has posed a stunningly simple but compelling question: “Why should the status of intense economic needs, which can be matters of life and death, be lower than that of personal liberties?”2

In my humble view, some basic formulations for the attainment of social justice may be advanced. Governments must be committed to the principle that a more equitable distribution of income is a fundamental precept for the realization of social justice. It is on this platform that I urge my government to undertake integrated plans for poverty reduction in the long run while ensuring a comprehensive support system for the poor and economically marginalized. Economic power must be checked by the principles of governance and accountability. Are we supposed to sit idly by as politicians in public office continue to renege on their promises of social justice while scandalizing the institutions of power with abuse and corrupt practices?

Finally, the discourse on social justice and political change in the context of Malaysia must also be seen in the light of our multi-cultural make up where communal tensions run the risk of being exploited by “sectarian demagoguery”.3 We must therefore reject ideological rigidity and the politics of hate and exclusiveness in all its forms. Politics of this kind engenders divisive barriers whether they are founded on ethnicity, language or religion.

When communal violence erupts and innocent lives are lost, a nation is jolted into the realization that peace and harmony among the people is always a transient phenomenon. One day, it’s there and the next day, it may just come tumbling down under the weight of sectarian strife, or religious conflict or class wars arising from social inequities and economic deprivation.

It is often only after the fact, when events of a cataclysmic nature unfold, that the policy makers and social pundits get jolted to the reality that freedom could be meaningless without food on the table or that the rule of law may still discriminate on grounds of caste, wealth and status.

This is the caveat, the mental construct we should bear in mind when we talk about social justice and political change in Malaysia. It is a stark reminder that peace in our time must be more important than just material progress. In a multi-cultural society like Malaysia’s it is therefore incumbent on leaders to shoulder the responsibility as protectors of this fragility.

In this regard we must condemn in the strongest terms the racist chanting of modern day demagogues. Playing to the gallery is well and good if all we’re looking for is just a good round of applause. But when you have at your disposal the organs of state power and the entire state controlled electronic and print media, the propagation of supremacist doctrines backed by the threat of violence is not only immoral and utterly irresponsible but blatantly criminal.

At the very least, we would expect such leaders to urge for inclusiveness and greater understanding and respect among the communities and not to stoke the fire of racial discord.

To paraphrase Macbeth, they should against the murderer shut the door, not bear the knife themselves.

Thank you.

Singapore Jails British Author Alan Shadrake for Six Weeks

Image
The author, Alan Shadrake
(Asia Sentinel) The author of "Once a Jolly Hangman" incarcerated for six weeks for "scandalizing the judiciary


Alan Shadrake, the British author found guilty earlier this month of the charge of "scandalizing the judiciary" by alleging in a book that racial and class disparities exists in the application of Singapore's death penalty, was sentenced Tuesday to six weeks in jail.

The sentencing was met by criticism by an organization calling itself Singaporeans For Democracy, which asked the United Nations to take note of the case and to hold the government accountable during the Universal Periodic Review process later in 2011. In addition, his defense lawyer, M Ravi, said the Member of Parliament from Shadrake's home constituency in the UK will request that the House of Commons condemn the sentence. Shadrake has a week to appeal, but Ravi said Singaporean law doesn't favor Shadrake's chances in the Court of Appeal.

The Singapore High Court fined the author S$20,000 (US$15,375), with the stipulation that Shadrake's confinement was to be extended by two weeks if he did not pay. The presiding judge, Justice Quentin Loh Sze On, also ordered Shadrake to pay the prosecution's expenses of S$55,000(US$42,300).

Upon serving his sentence, Shadrake's troubles may not be over. The Singaporean government is still holding his passport and has not clarified whether it will pursue threatened charges of criminal defamation as well.

Justice Loh possessed wide discretion in determining the sentence. A contempt of court conviction is governed by Rule of Court Order 52, which is silent on the issues of sentence length and fine amount. Into that vacuum, the Singaporean courts have read a broad sentencing power.

"An offence of contempt is punishable with either a fine or imprisonment, and unlike a criminal offence, it is not subject to any limits on the duration of imprisonment or the amount of fine," the High Court ruled in 2006 while imposing a short prison sentence on anti-government activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Only a vague limit of reasonableness curtails the trial judge's sentencing options. "Although it is accepted that imprisonment and fine are two of the permissible sanctions, no limit has been set for either one," the High Court explained in a 2008 contempt ruling against the Asian Wall Street Journal. "Nonetheless, it is clear that the power to punish for contempt of court should be exercised reasonably."

Various media reports which stated that Shadrake faced a maximum possible sentence of two years are incorrect. Two years is the maximum for a person convicted of criminal defamation, the crime with which Shadrake has been threatened but not actually charged.

In determining Shadrake's sentence, Justice Loh had three principal options.

The judge could have imposed a sentence so light that journalistic interest in the case would have evaporated. A sentence of time served and a nominal fine would have resulted in Shadrake's immediate release while maintaining the Attorney-General's Chambers' curiously consistent winning streak in high-profile political cases.

The most severe possible punishment is based on the charge's special status as a contempt of court. In such cases, a judge has the discretion to imprison a defendant until he has purged himself of contempt -- in other words, recanted. So it would have been within the power of Justice Loh to order Shadrake's imprisonment until Shadrake apologized and repudiated the thesis of his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock.

(Shadrake did apologize, saying it had not been his intention to undermine Singapore's judicial system, after weeks of defiance. Prosecutors immediately said Shadrake's apology was insincere. It didn't appear to help his case.)

While a harsher sentence would have been tin-eared and perhaps counterproductive vis-à-vis the international community, it would have served the purposes of the notoriously thin-skinned and vindictive Singaporean government in squelching internal dissent.

As it happened, the judge chose a middle path, imposing an intermediate sentence which is harsh enough to intimidate locals and Singapore-based foreign correspondents from publicly questioning the independence of the nation's judiciary but is lenient enough that the British government and free press NGOs would not make the case a priority.

With a general election rumored to be in the near future, Shadrake's sentence appears to be perfectly calibrated to vindicate the interests of Singapore's one-party regime.

Paul Karl Lukacs, a practicing media and business attorney, is legal affairs correspondent for Asia Sentinel. He blogs at Nomad Law.

Suspected Drug Pusher Shot While Trying To Mow Down Police

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 16 (Bernama) -- A man believed to be a drug trafficker was seriously injured after he was shot by police for trying to mow them down while attempting to escape in an incident in Jalan Chiak, Kepong Baru, here, Tuesday.

Sentul district police deputy chief Supt Zainuddin Ahmad said in the 6.30pm incident, police received information about drug trafficking activity at a field in the area.

"An officer and five policemen were then asked to check it out where they saw a blue Honda car and a Nissan Fairlady approaching the place.

"They saw something being handed over which was suspected to be drugs and after our men identified themselves, the two drivers tried to flee, with the one in the Honda car trying to mow them down," he said via SMS when contacted by Bernama.

Zainuddin said the police then fired some shots which hit the driver on his shoulder, chest and rib cage, with his car skidding and crashing into the parameter wall of a house nearby.

The injured man was taken to Selayang Hospital but the driver of the other managed to escape during the incident.

From the police investigation, it was found that the 32-year-old injured suspect had a previous criminal record for causing hurt with a weapon.

On inspecting his car, police found 45 Ecstasy pills and did not dismiss the possibility of the suspect being involved in drug trafficking.

Police will be applying for a remand order on the suspect once his condition is stable to assist in the investigation.

Experiencing brain drain in Melbourne

by Anil Netto,

While our public hospitals groan under the weight of so many patients, many Malaysian medical personnel, including specialists, prefer to work in public hospitals abroad.
Blog reader SH files in this report from Down Under:
Hey, 100% true story below. Happened in Melbourne, Australia.
10 Nov 2010
1. Arrived early at hospital, so decided to walk down the street to check out an expensive shop by famous Melbourne-based designer. Was pleasantly (but sadly) surprised to learn the ‘local designer’ was a Malaysian whose entire family migrated from Malaysia!
2. Went back to hospital. Was registered by a loud receptionist who was Malaysian whose family migrated from Malaysia!
3. 20-30 minutes wait later, was seen by a specialist (endocrinologist) who studied at Melbourne Uni and then migrated to Melbourne… from Kuala Lumpur! (Oh btw, since this was public hospital, this Malaysian endocrinologist was also teaching/supervising an Australian medical student while she was consulting me).
4. Referred for thyroid biopsy. They booked me in for Monday (only five days later).
15 Nov 2010
Thyroid biopsy wasn’t nice, but the surgeon was very friendly and made me feel assured. I recognised the accent again, so as I did for others above, I asked… The surgeon was from Johor Bahru!!! From my observation of conversations, this ex-Malaysian was obviously senior and well-respected, and was using my procedure to teach an Aussie medical student!
Public hospitals will never be of 5-star luxury, but my 100%-free-of-charge experience thus far has been more than acceptable. But I am very disturbed (!!!) by the series of expert EX-MALAYSIANS treating me in Melbourne! Receptionist, Doctor Surgeon, all Malaysians! What the…!
I’ve heard and ranted about brain drain, but to experience it so real and personally was disturbing…