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Monday, January 17, 2011

Algerian dies from self-immolation

A man has died after setting himself on fire at a government building in Algeria, state media has reported, echoing the self-immolation that triggered the protests that toppled the leader of neighbouring Tunisia.

The daily El Khabar reported on Sunday that Mohsen Bouterfif had died of his burns after setting himself on fire on Thursday in front of the town hall in Boukhadra, east of Tebessa.

The paper reported that it hapened after a meeting with the mayor who was unable to provide Bouterfif with a job and a house.

About 100 young men protested over Mohsen's death in the town, in Tebessa province, 700 km east of Algiers. The governor of the province sacked the mayor, El Khabar said.

Public suicides

It was the one of four attempted public suicides in Algeria this past week in apparent copycat replays of last month's self-immolation of a 26-year-old graduate in Tunisia which triggered a popular revolt that led to the ouster of that country's autocratic ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On Sunday, police intervened to put out the flames as a 34-year-old man, also jobless, tried to set himself on fire outside the headquarters of the domestic intelligence agency for the department of Mostaganem, some 355km east of Algiers, the APS news agency said.

In yet another case, a 27-year-old man torched himself on Friday in front of a police station in Jijel, outside of Algiers, according to the daily El Watan, although the reasons for his action were unclear.

The victim, Said. H, appeared at the police station with his chest and upper body in flames, but police rapidly put out the fire with an extinguisher, it said.

The man, who suffered second-degree burns, was admitted to a hospital.


Elsewhere, a man in his forties on Wednesday also set himself ablaze in Bordj Menaiel in the Boumerdes region near the Algerian capital, according to the El Watan.

Desperate over not being listed to receive housing benefits, the father of six doused himself with gasoline and set it alight, but a town official intervened to stop the fire, the daily said.

The man was hospitalised but his life is not in danger, it said.

Several Algerian towns, including the capital Algiers, have experienced riots in recent weeks over unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of food staples.

Official sources say two people have been killed and scores were injured during the unrest, which unfolded in parallel to street violence in Tunisia and demonstrations over high food prices in other North African and Middle Eastern countries.

The fall of the Tunisian president on Friday is the first time in generations that an Arab leader has been toppled by public protests.

The demonstrations that brought down Ben Ali erupted after the self-immolation of 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17 because police had confiscated his vegetable cart.

Bouazizi died weeks later of his burns, becoming a martyr to crowds of students and the unemployed protesting against poor living conditions.

Source: Agencies

A year on, a silent war over ‘Allah’ between church and state

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — As the court drags its feet in addressing the “Allah” controversy after more than a year, the Catholic Church has reprinted a rare 17th-century Malay-Latin dictionary in what seems to be a silent bid to speed up its case.
The “Dictionarium Malaico-Latin and Latino-Malaicum” was first published in 1631 by the Vatican Press in Rome. Church officials say it is historical proof that its missionaries had played a key role in the exchange of knowledge and culture between Europe and Southeast Asia some 400 years ago.
Reverend Lawrence Andrew, who had worked for the past 11 years to reprint the dictionary, told The Malaysian Insider it was crucial to counter the mistaken belief that the spread of Christianity through local languages in Malaysia was a recent 20th-century phenomenon.
“It’s to say it’s been here for a long time... 400 years,” said the editor of the Catholic Church’s local newspaper, The Herald Weekly.
The Herald had challenged the Home Ministry for the right to use the word “Allah” to describe God in the Christian context and had won in a landmark ruling at the High Court on New Year’s Eve in 2009. But the paper is unable to use it as the ministry managed to get a stay pending its appeal.
The Court of Appeal in Putrajaya has yet to fix a hearing date for the case. Veteran lawyers have said there is little the church can do speed up the process as there are no rules on a time limit; adding it was not unusual for a case to be called years after being filed.
Andrew had submitted a copy of the dictionary as historical evidence to back the church’s suit after the ministry tendered several essays by Islamic scholars from the influential Institute of Islamic Understanding here supporting its case.
The priest had got the Holy See’s approval to reprint the dictionary 12 years ago but was only able to do so recently due to a lack of resources.
“There was the cost and also the technology now has made it much easier to clean up the pages to make it fit for print. It was very tedious work as the copy on microfilm was not clear,” the priest explained.
The reprint of the dual-language dictionary is said to be an exact replica.
Andrew said the medieval spelling of the Malay words may prove hard to read and understand for the modern person, but he had decided against updating the spelling and typeset “so people cannot say we modified it”.
He seems overly defensive but has been repeatedly raked over hot coals by some Islamic scholars and government officials who continue to block the Catholic Church from being allowed to use certain words to describe God despite a court ruling.
Of the original edition, only one copy has survived to today and is being kept in the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome, according to the Vatican’s former representative to Malaysia, Archbishop Luigi Bressan.
“For example, the Vatican Library does not have it; neither do the libraries connected with it,” Bressan wrote in the notes to his essay “A 17th-Century Roman Dictionary of the Malay Language” that was also published as a sort of foreword in the 2010 reprint.
Bressan, who was the Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia from July 26, 1993 to March 25, 1999, was crucial in reproducing the historical document.
He observed that the Vatican had as early as 1622 set up a special printing office to spread its Catholic Christian doctrine worldwide, and had marked the importance of Malay in that role.
“The activity was quite intense, but the structures were limited and did not permit the publication of many volumes in the first years.
“In the next six years, 28 books were printed in 10 different languages: eight Greek, four Japanese (with Latin letters), three Latin, two Arabic (a grammar and a catechism), one Armenian (a short catechism), three Georgian, three Illyrian, one Chaldean, one Ethopian, one Syriac ... and the Dictionary Latin-Malay,” the Italian archbishop wrote in his essay.
Bressan marked the Jesuit missionaries had “distinguished themselves” in translating the new Asian languages into Latin and European languages.
St Francis Xavier was instrumental in romanising the Malay language, which was used widely but had no written form in Southeast Asia then.
But Bressan said the job of preparing the Malay-Latin dictionary was given to a medieval Dutch professor, David Haex.
The Herald has reprinted 500 copies of the 1631 dictionary that can be bought for RM10 each from its office at 5 Jalan Robertson, off Jalan Pudu, 50150 Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2026-6466).

Najib ‘saves’ Taib with new goodies

SUNGAI ASAP: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s weekend visit to Sarawak may have saved Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s political hide, which has come under “tremendous pressure” since the Sibu by-election in May 2010.
Literally taking the bull by the horn, Najib led off his government transformation programme by resolving a gnawing pain in Sarawak’s neck – the Bakun Dam resettlement issue.
On Saturday, more than 1,500 families at the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme heaved a huge sigh relief at the federal government’s decision to write off their remaining RM41 million housing loan.
The move will ease the burden of some 10,000 people who were affected by the resettlement programme following the construction of the Bakun Hydro Dam in 1996.
The settlers have long since been battling with the state government over earlier promises made to the settlers with regard to housing, and inadequate land allotment and utilities.
Sarawak, which is heading for its 10th state election, is very much dependent on its rural vote-bank. But an empowered opposition armed with a seemingly endless list of Taib’s corrupt adminstration and personal abuse is threatening to derail rural support for Barisan Nasional.
Last week in a much hyped series of meet-the-MPs, Najib had a session with three Sarawak MPs. What transpired is really anyone guess.
But over the weekend, Najib announced a slew of rural development projects starting with the discontentment of the Sungai Asap community.
Said Najib: “In principle, we agree to cancel the housing loan.
“The details and mechanism of how it will be done will be discussed with Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the developer of Bakun Dam.
“We are doing this because we understand your plight and hardship.
“We are connecting electricity supply to Sungai Asap. We will be spending RM22 million to connect Sungai Asap to the main grid,” he told the delighted group of people at Rumah Belor, Sungai Asap.
Consolidating BN’s vote bank
Najib also addressed the community’s unhappiness over the size of land allocated to each family as part of the resettlement package pledged by the Taib administration.
The state governemnt had allocated only three acres per family which the resettlers said was insufficient to generate an income.
“We will find the best ways to allocate more land to each family to ensure the people have a better income,” he said.
Earlier in Belaga, he announced an allocation of RM62 million for the much-awaited 35km road project from Belaga town to Bakun Dam.
“The army will build it under the ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme to reduce the cost… if the Public Works Department were to build the road, it will cost RM350 million,” he said, adding that the government was aware of how vital the road was for the community.
The Belaga district communities were dependent on the Rajang River but the impoundment of the Bakin Dam had left certain stretches shallow.
“Construction of the road will begin next month. The federal government will allocate RM62 million for the project,” he said, adding that since November last year moves to bring treated water supply to Kapit town and the neighbouring communities were already underway.
The RM35 million water supply project is expected to be ready by October 2012.
Najib also said the Belaga district with its 28,000 population would see more infrastructure development to the tune of RM100 million .
Among them is a prefabricated steel bridge across the Linau River in Lusong Laku and a kindergarden for the local Penan community.
Najib said that the governemnt would also build nine resthouses for Penan pupils at Sungai Urun.
“Our desire is to see that no single race – no matter how small or isolated – will be left behind by the present government,” he said.

‘Umno can lose in the next GE’

By Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz - Free Malaysia Today
Malaysia, it appears is finally gripped with ‘a loosening of controls and inhibitions.’ And this is not good for Umno which chooses to remain archaic, clinging on to the old ways.
Umno it seems thrives very well in a culture of subservience, inhibitions  and in a controlled environment.
In an undefined setting, Umno is lost.
The seizure of power in Perak for example is generally viewed as having been made possible by the involvement of the Perak Sultan.
Despite the court’s ruling, the people’s court regards Zambry Abd Kadir as a political usurper. He is an illegitimate and illegal MB.
It follows then, that whatever policies that Zambry formulated from the time he assumed power are illegal.
The monies appropriated and set aside from the consolidated fund and applied for a variety of purposes were also illegal.
Just recently, the appointment of the Selangor state secretary was also seen as being made possible by the intervention and involvement of the Selangor Sultan.
The two events resulted in a loosening of people’s inhibitions.
People are becoming emboldened to question the proper role of the constitutional monarchy.
Let us be clear as to what is happening here.
No vote for Umno, BN
People are pointing to the fact that ours is a constitutional monarchy.
It’s not a call for the overthrow of the institution or a call for rebellion.
It is suggestive of a larger desire by an increasing number of the population, to see that the proper rule of law and the sovereignty of the rule of law need to and should be observed.
The majority of Malays who did not vote for Umno are now centered mostly in cities and towns.
They are more mobile in their thinking and are less inhibitory in speech and actions. The younger generation of Malays in towns and cities hardly read newspapers.
The younger generation surfs the internet and those who are about to enter voting age are openly critical.
These are the people who will never vote for Umno and the Barisan Nasional.
Writing on the Industrial Revolution of the 1860s, Arnold Toynbee in his lectures on the Industrial Revolution observed:
“The success of Britain in pioneering industrial change and ushering in a new world history was not the result of mere mechanical inventiveness. The essential ingredient was a political culture which was receptive to change and improvement. Old working practices had to be abandoned, old rights had to be torn up, and the whole social and economic fabric of a country had to be loosened up if innovations were to take effect.”
Umno doesn’t seem to have what it takes to manage the loosening of the social and cultural milieu. Nor does it seem to have the presence of mind, the verve so to speak, to manage the change.
Since it doesn’t understand and lacked the tools to manage the new social milieu, it can lose in the next GE.
This is an excerpt of an original version which first appeared on the writer’s blog sakmongkolak47

The 12 issues that need debating

Everyone is talking about debating so let us debate these 12 issues, which are more important to the wellbeing of this nation than debates on who is bonking and buggering whom.

Raja Petra Kamarudin


DO NOT DOWNLOAD THE FILE. To play the recording, go to the link above and click the play button (RIGHT ARROW BUTTON) on the player icon (see sample below).

Attorney-General should go on leave until cleared

I refer to the recent controversy over the Attorney-General’s ‘representations’ to the commissioners and advisory panel members of MACC. For the AG to take the unprecedented step of formally explaining unproven allegations to the MACC indicates that the allegations are serious and the AG is concerned.
This however does not  absolve the MACC and the relevant law enforcement authorities from ensuring that thorough investigations are made as the allegations concern the top law officer of the land. It is most absurd for any party to conclude on the basis of the AG’s representations that the AG had been cleared and the MACC is satisfied with the AG’s explanations. Indeed the panel members are not empowered to do so. Furthermore, confidential representations should not be publicly divulged especially when the matter is yet to be investigated.
Were this the case, why do the law enforcement agencies need weeks and months, indeed, sometimes years to investigate allegations of malpractice and corruption? Did Teoh Beng Hock or others implicated in corrupt practices or abuse of power have such opportunities to make representations to the MACC or Police and thereby declared innocent? Justice must apply equally irregardless of one’s station in life and justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done!
If at all the AG wishes to explain himself, he should explain openly to the Malaysian public.
To uphold the integrity and independence of MACC, it is imperative that the MACC dissociates itself from such statements exonerating the AG. Indeed, the panel member who made the statement should consider resigning his appointment as his statement had since been disowned by a majority of the advisory panel chaired by him – a clear vote of no-confidence!
To enable the MACC to make a thorough and unbiased investigation, the AG should be directed to go on leave henceforth until the investigation is completed and he is exonerated, not by one advisory panel chairman but by the full Commission. Until and unless this is done, the public’s confidence in the independence and professionalism of the MACC may be jeopardised.
Richard Y W Yeoh
Councillor, Petaling Jaya City Council & Member of Audit & Governance Committee

Tolak cubaan heret Sultan dalam isu berbangkit

(Harakah Daily) - Sultan Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah bertitah meminta rakyat di negeri ini agar berwaspada dan menolak sebarang percubaan pihak tertentu mengheret institusi raja-raja dalam isu-isu yang berbangkit.
Baginda mengingatkan rakyat supaya sentiasa memelihara keamanan serta menumpukan usaha untuk meningkatkan taraf hidup dan tidak perlu gusar tentang ancaman atau gangguan keselamatan ke atas mereka.
"Peristiwa yang berlaku di beberapa tempat lain akan menyebabkan timbulnya perpecahan di kalangan rakyat kerana kadangkala permainan politik tidak mengambil kira ketenteraman awam dan kecetusan huru-hara.
"Beta yakin ikatan perpaduan yang erat di kalangan penduduk berbilang kaum dapat menjadi benteng untuk memelihara keamanan dan usaha kerajaan beta untuk terus mengeratkan perpaduan hendaklah disokong sepenuhnya,” titah baginda.
Langkah kerajaan negeri yang berusaha meningkatkan keyakinan dan kemasukan pelabur asing dan tempatan bagi memajukan sektor pembuatan di negeri itu turut menarik perhatian baginda dalam titah tersebut.
"Kerajaan beta telah memberi perhatian khas bagi mempercepat dan membantu para pelabur menjayakan projek masing-masing dan beta berharap inisiatif seperti ini dapat mempercepatkan kelulusan dan melancarkan segala urusan berkaitan pelaksanaan projek pembangunan," titah baginda.
Baginda bertitah demikian ketika Istiadat Menyembah Tahniah dan Penganugerahan Darjah-darjah serta Bintang-bintang Kebesaran sempena ulang tahun ke-83 keputeraan baginda di Istana Anak Bukit, pagi tadi.
Sementara itu, Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak dalam ucapannya pada majlis yang sama berkata, kerajaan negeri akan terus mendukung konsep federalisme dan prinsip demokrasi dan pembahagian kuasa seperti yang terkandung dalam perlembagaan negara.
Beliau juga berharap agar kerajaan pusat dapat menuruti dan menghayati prinsip yang sama demi kepentingan rakyat secara keseluruhannya.
"Segala harapan rakyat telah diterjemahkan kepada pelbagai projek yang dirancangkan dan perancangan kerajaan tidak akan menjadi kenyataan tanpa mendapat kerjasama semua pihak," katanya.
Anggota Exco Kerajaan Negeri Kedah, Dr Hamdan Mohamed Khalib dan Ahli Parlimen Baling, Ustaz Taib Azamudden Md Taib telah dianugerahkan Datuk Setia DiRaja Kedah (DSDK) yang membawa gelaran Datuk.

Ban violates human rights, says Yen Yen

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The Subang Jaya Municipal Council’s move to ban Muslims from working in entertainment outlets serving liquor should be rescinded as it goes against the principle of human rights, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

Ng, who is also MCA vice-president, said the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat state government should have known better despite being a new government.

“We are very concerned with the ban especially since it affects the right of a person to work. Why was the order even appro­ved in the first place?

“It is an important issue as it touches on human rights and a person’s livelihood.

“How far is this policy going to go? Is this going to extend to shops and hotels next?” she said after attending Selangor Wanita MCA’s Chinese New Year carnival at South City Plaza here yesterday.

Dr Ng said Serdang MCA had also protested the move, as Serdang was under the municipality.

“We must listen to the voice of the people. As a government, there is no place to use ‘newness’ as an excuse for the mistake. The people will suffer,” she added.

Also present was Deputy Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister and Wani­ta MCA vice-chairman Heng Seai Kie.

On tourism, Dr Ng said the ministry targeted 36 million tourists arrivals this year with an expected revenue of RM168bil.

Distressed bosses want laws to protect their interests

The Star

PETALING JAYA: Distressed employers are seeking protection against fraudulent agencies and runaway maids.

Having lost large amounts of money to agencies that draw up lopsided contracts, the employers are hoping new regulations will be put in place to safeguard their interests.

An employer who only wanted to be known as Alan, 39, said he paid an agency RM11,500 for an Indonesian maid.

“We got a complete lunatic who carried a knife around with her,” he said, adding that the maid stole money, jewellery and his children’s clothes to send to her own family.

“She threatened us with the knife when we confronted her,” he said, adding that the agency refused to give him a refund when he sent her back.

College lecturer S. Kumaran, 40, from Klang, lost RM6,000 in downpayment to a maid agency after their Sri Lankan maid left after just three months.

“She worked for exactly three months before suddenly claiming that her daughter was sick and that she had to go back to her country immediately,” he said.

Junaidah Ramadan, 52, said an agency collected RM7,000 from her before sending her a maid with a health problem.

“She could hardly walk, let alone do much work as she would experience severe pains in her joints,” Junaidah said, She added that the maid would often sit around and cry.

“The agency insisted that we pay half the original amount for a new maid, knowing that if we went to another agency, we would have to come up with another RM7,000,” she said.

An employer called Aileen lost her RM9,000 downpayment when her maid ran away after four months.

“The agencies make up their own rules that work to their benefit,” she said.

Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan urged employers to lodge a complaint with the Human Resource Ministry or the Consumer Claims Tribunal if they suspected foul play by maid agencies.

Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Alwi Bavutty said maid agencies would be blacklisted if they would not provide a replacement if a maid ran away within the first three months. 

Ringgit Likely To Test 2.80 Level This Year

By Wan Nor Azura Mior Abd Aziz

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 (Bernama) -- The ringgit is likely to test the 2.80 level against the US dollar by year-end amid the uptick in the Asian bond yield and rising economic optimism.

Affin Investment Bank head of retail research, Dr Nazri Khan, said the ringgit's advances were due to the inflow of 'hot money' following the improvement in the US economy and the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing strategy.

"The ringgit may likely target the 3.00 level in near term with expectations of more foreigners investing in fixed income and government bonds.

"On the technical front, the ringgit appears to be breaking out from a bullish technical pattern with rising stochastic oscillators suggesting the start of a new bullish trend towards 3.0300 in the near term, 3.0000 in the medium term and 2.8000 by year-end," he said.

He said last Thursday, the local unit rose to almost 14-year high against the US dollar to 3.0520/0560 as concerns over Europe's debt crisis eased.

"This helped to boost investor appetite for riskier emerging-market assets.

"The last time the ringgit hit the 3.0750 level was in Oct 9, 1997," he said.

Going forward, Nazri said, the ringgit was likely to stay firm, mainly due to stronger commodity prices, improving local corporate earnings, positive economic fundamentals driven by the Economic Transformation Programme and the inflow of 'hot money'.

"The weak dollar policy and positive interest rate differential are also likely to work in the ringgit's favour," he said.

Bank Negara Malaysia will meet on Jan 27, 2010 to set its policy rate after raising borrowing costs three times last year.

Interest-rate increases were helping Asian currencies and these would continue for the next three months, he said.

"We noted that carry trade play is likely to be stronger with European markets making one of the best rebounds last week.

"The local economic recovery is also likely to outpace that of US, Europe, Japan and even the UK, which would see the ringgit strengthening against those currencies," he said.

Nazri said rising inflation and talks of capital controls in Asia may be negative factors for the ringgit.

"We, however, see them as negligible and remote factor to influence traders' sentiment," he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Rating Corp Bhd expected an increase in the bond issuance in 2011 to finance the government's fiscal deficit and to refinance maturing debts.

It expected the gross issuance to be between RM85.5 billion and RM87.5 billion.

"The government is likely to tap the retail market, replicating the success of its past savings bond issuance and in light of its announcement that the bond market will be opened to retail investors," it said.

Tunisia situation remains volatile

Tunisian politicians are trying to form a unity government and restore order amid the violence following the toppling of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed president.
Soldiers were guarding public buildings after drive-by shootings and prison riots on Saturday in which scores of inmates were killed in the chaos.

There were reports on Sunday of shots being fired near the headquarters of Tunisia's opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) opposition in the centre of the capital, Tunis.
In a statement, the party said that police and military stopped a car carrying of armed men, who it described as foreigners, after which shots were fired.
Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Tunis, said there were few details of the shooting but that there had been other such incidents in the city.
Bays said that even though there are army road blocks set up throughout the city, people are saying that they need to arm themselves against the police, who they do not trust.
"In between the road blocks, we were coming across large groups of people who had their own home-made weapons, axes and steel bars, and some of them were not particularly friendly to us when we wanted to film in the area," he said.
Looting and burning
A tense calm appeared to have descended on Tunis, a day after looters emptied shops and torched the main train station and soldiers traded fire with unidentified armed men in front of the interior ministry.
Some rioters appeared on Saturday to be targeting businesses owned by members of Ben Ali's family. In Tunis, a branch of the Zeitouna bank founded by Ben Ali's son-in-law was torched, as were vehicles made by Kia, Fiat and Porsche - brands distributed in Tunisia by members of the ruling family.
Ben Ali, who had been in power since 1987, fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday following mass protests against his government.
Follow Al Jazeera's complete coverage 
Public television station TV7 broadcast phone calls from residents on Tunis's outskirts, describing attacks by knife-wielding assailants.
Amid the turmoil, Tunisians have organised themselves to protect their neighbourhoods, Amine Ghali, a democracy advocate in Tunisia, told Al Jazeera.
"There is a serious security issue, but people are getting organised. They are standing in front of their neighbourhoods, forming neighbourhood committees ... they are trying to be as calm as possible and trying to help the military," he said.
Residents of some Tunis neighbourhoods set up barricades and organised overnight patrols to deter rioters.
"If the interim government doesn't quickly implement measures to reduce the level of unemployment and increase standards of living, we are going to see more of these protests," Ayesha Sabavala, deputy editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, told Al Jazeera.
'Pretty volatile'
Al Jazeera's Bays said the situation in Tunis on Sunday was "pretty volatile" even for ordinary people.
"We were filming the hardships of the ordinary people of the city - a bread queue ...  and then members of the crowd turned on us and said 'it was shameful for you to film us in this situation, begging for bread'," he said, adding that the TV crew just managed to escape the large, angry crowd.
He said the army was rounding up those loyal to Ben Ali, including members of the presidential police.
In the most prominent arrest, Tunisia's former interior minister, the man many held responsible for a police crackdown on anti-government protesters, was held in his home town in the north of the country.
Rafik Belhaj, who was the most senior official in charge of the police force, was arrested in Beja on Sunday afternoon.
Belhaj had been dismissed from his position on Wednesday in one of Ben Ali's final efforts to placate public anger with his leadership.
Separately, Tunisian state television announced that General Ali Seryati, the former head of Ben Ali's security service, would appear in court to face charges of threatening national security and provoking armed violence.
Family targeted
In another development, the AFP news agency reported that a member of the president's extended family had died of a knife wound two days earlier.
Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of Ben Ali's wife, died in a military hospital in Tunis, a staff member told the AFP.
He was the first person in the president's extended family reported to have died as a result of the uprising.
Trabelsi was an influential businessman and became more widely known after he was mentioned in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks that said he was reported to have stolen a yacht belonging to the chairman of the powerful French financial firm, Lazard.
Salim Shayboub, Ben Ali's son-in-law, also reportedly has been arrested.
Dissident to return
Against this backdrop of instability, the exiled head of one of its leading opposition parties announced his intent to return to the country.
Rashid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Nahdha (Renaissance) party, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that he and other leading figures would "return shortly" to Tunisia.
The Nahdha, formed in 1988, never gained legal status under Ben Ali because of a law prohibiting political parties based on religion.
According to human rights groups, its members have long suffered persecution and torture.
Ghannouchi said Nahdha should be recognised and said that it is ready to take part in a coalition government.
Fouad Mebezaa, the speaker of parliament, was sworn in as the country's interim president on Saturday and promised to create a unity government that could include the long-ignored opposition.
It was the second change of power in Tunisia in less than 24 hours.
Earlier, Mohamed Ghannouchi, the prime minister, went on state television to announce that he had taken power in accordance with the constitution, after Ben Ali fled.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Sad Ponggal at Ladang Bukit Jalil

Full govt legal aid is way forward. Not Plea Bargaining, which is an AG, CJ and UMNO summary injustice racist plot to throw thousands more Indians poor youths into jail without trial but not into business opportunities.

photoGP Even as it stands today every day hundreds of Indian poor are arrested, beaten up and forced to plead guilty. Not being able to afford even the bail money let alone legal fees to pay lawyers, they succumb to the police forcing them to plead guilty.
The most practical way out is for these poor Indians to plead guilty irrespective of whether they are guilty or not.
UMNO has been using the Attorney General, Chief Justice and the Polis Raja Di Malay-sia to grossly abuse their powers and send scores of thousands of Indians to jail every month. After all some UMNO company would make their millions supplying food supplies, prison uniforms and other prison supplies. Prison Warden jobs for unemployable UMNO graduates. What more the scores of millions building new Prisons nationwide and maintaining the 22 prisons nationwide.
But UMNO has refused to grant loans, permits, licenses, business opportunities etc to keep these Indian youths out of crime. This is the tip of the iceberg of the UMNO Malay muslim supremacy which has been reigning supreme in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s One Malay-sia for 53 long years now. (See Mingguan Malaysia 16/1/11 page 10)
“Rights not Mercy”
plead guilty