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Friday, January 21, 2011

Second post-mortem on custodial death victim


The body of M Krishnan, who died two weeks ago while in police custody, arrived at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) at 10.19am for a second-mortem.

The post-mortem will be led by Dr K Mathiharen, the hospital's Pathology Unit head.

NONEIt is expected to start shortly, after P Revathi re-identifies her husband's body, followed by a short briefing from Dr Mathiharen.

Also present to witness the post-mortem are the lawyers representing the family, N Surendran and Gurmit Singh Hullon.

Krishnan, 37, a wireman, was arrested on Jan 2 at the Taman Miharja condo, Cheras with four others for alleged drug possession.

However, homemaker Revathi, 37, has disputed that her husband was involved in drugs.

On Jan 7, Krishnan, a father of six children aged between eight and 17, was found dead in the lock-up at Bukit Jalil police station.

NONETwo days ago, both the police and the attorney-general allowed the family's request for a second post-mortem in a settlement recorded before High Court judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah.

The first post-mortem, that was also conducted at HUKM, cited complications related to a stomach ulcer as Krishnan's cause of death.

However, his family claimed that the victim's body was covered with bruises, as well as a wound caused by an open cut on his right abdomen and a contusion on his right eye.

Parents cry foul over unsafe classes


LUKUT: Two estate Tamil schools around Port Dickson have classes which are barely three metres high – and shocked parents are crying foul.

The low ceilings pose a danger: pupils can stand on a chair and easily touch the fans.

With no thought for the children’s safety, the contractors are raking in large profits – and the government appears to have covertly approved the contractors’ actions, according to several angry residents.

The new buildings for the Sengkang and Sungai Salak Tamil schools, which are scheduled to be ready this year for occupation, have classrooms which are barely three metres high.

FMT was informed that according to the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the Sengkang Tamil school classrooms were designed to be at least 3.6m high.

But instead the classrooms in the new building, which is 99% complete, is only 2.67m high, far less than the gazetted 3.6m.

According to a frustrated parent, after installing a fan in the classroom, the height of the ceiling from the floor to the fan is 2.37m.

“This is dangerous. My child can stand on a classroom chair and touch the fan. A teacher just has to raise her hand to spin the fan,” said the parent.

According to the parent, the RM2-million new school building also did not meet the original design specifications and safety standards set out in the 9MP.

Construction, which began in 2010, includes building classrooms, teacher’ rooms, a library, a canteen, a science laboratory and other facilities.

The existing Sengkang Tamil school with over 100 students has been operating from a temporary site after its old building was demolished.

Very hot and unsafe
Meanwhile, the RM3-million Sungai Salak Tamil school is also facing a similar problem. The 11 new classrooms are only 2.4m high even before a ceiling fan is installed.
Shocked parents discovered that the Public Works Department (PWD) had “approved” the design for the classrooms, with heights varying from 3.05m to 3.2m, which breached the 9MP specifications.

Said a Sungai Salak resident: “How can this happen? Why is PWD cheating the Indians and discriminating against Tamil schools?

“How can the pupils study comfortably in such a small classroom? With the ceiling so low, it will be very hot and unsafe. Somebody is making lots of money by reducing the height of the ceiling,” said the resident who preferred to be called Maniam.

According to Maniam, in the construction business, “even a few inches taken off from a design means profit” to the contractor.

“As far I know, PWD spends RM150,000 to build a standard classroom. This means that for every 4ft, it spends RM50,000 and for the entire 12ft (3.6m) as specified under 9MP, it would spend RM150,000.
“But in the Sungai Salak Tamil school, the floor-to-ceiling height is only 8ft (2.4m). That means PWD has spent RM50,000 less for each classroom. Now calculate that against 11 classrooms. Someone is walking away with just over half a million ringgit!

“I am very disappointed that the PWD and the Education Ministry have allowed the contractors to rake in profits, with no regard for the safety of the pupils,” he added.

Why Chindraf won't happen

In less than a fortnight, it will be the Malaysian First New Year - a festive occasion going by the Malaysian First lunar calendar.
mca chinese new year ang powThe Malaysian First custom of giving angpow and hanging red cloth across our front door will be observed. Red is an auspicious colour according to Malaysian First belief.

The merry Xin Nian Dao and Gongxi Gongxi tunes are Malaysian First songs loved by all. We'll be having our family reunion dinners and eating with chopsticks - such a Malaysian First utensil. Or are we festively decorating our homes with ketupat and eating lemang?

Tan Yi Min will be spending the first day of the lunar New Year with her father Tan Cheow Hong. The Penang High Court awarded custody of the seven-year-old girl to the mother, Fatimah Foong Abdullah. However the judge allowed Yi Min to celebrate New Year with her father.

In Yi Min's court appearances, she was seen dressed in Malaysian First baju kurung and wore tudung. Tan - following the time-honoured tradition of celebrating New Year - would probably be buying sets of new clothes for his daughter (now known as Elliyah Foong Abdullah). Since the child was dressed by Fatimah in white tudung (not a festive colour), perhaps get a new red tudung for her?

Teoh Er Jia is Teoh Beng Hock's son. Unlike Yi Min, Er Jia has no chance of meeting his father ever.

MACC's Malaysian First methods

When I'm on my death bed - as if - my biggest regret will be that I've not been Malaysian First enough, DAP-style that is. Drawing my last breath, I'll be beating my chest, tearing my hair whilst wailing: "Oh, how I wish I'd devoted more time and expended more effort at being Malaysian First (whatever that is, and however it differs from 1Malaysia)".

What were Teoh Beng Hock's thoughts in his last 24 hours of life, I wonder. He might have been thinking of his wedding reception scheduled for the very next day, and the red-tablecloth dinner already booked at a Chinese restaurant, and the 'Yamseng!' (Chinese toast) congratulatory rounds that he'd be obliged to do.

Then there is usually the Chinese 'tea ceremony' to solemnise a marriage as well.

But on the eve of his wedding, Teoh was detained at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office in the Malaysian First-est township of Shah Alam (an accolade that Putrajaya is vying for).

On the same night that MACC interrogated Teoh, the government agency also investigated Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Hwa. Recounting his ordeal, the DAP councillor described how the MACC officers called him 'Cina bodoh' and asked him if he was a citizen of China.

NONEI hope that Tan (left) had told the MACC interrogators he is a 'Malaysian First'.
Repeating this over and over and over will somehow protect one from being denigrated as a 'stupid Chinese' and told to 'Balik Cina'.

Probably at the same time, Teoh Beng Hock was writing his last note in Hanzi, i.e. Chinese script. Because the MACC officers on duty use romanised Bahasa Malaysia and are unlikely to read Chinese characters, they couldn't make proper sense of what was penned by Teoh.

It is mistake to ascribe the simple phrase "Sorry, I'm so tired" to a suicidal frame of mind. I'm tired too after the continued harassment and smear campaign carried out by pro-DAP cybertroopers against me but I'm hardly suicidal.

In any case, Teoh signed off 'zaijian' which conveys a straightforward "See you again" and most certainly nothing sinister should be read into his 'bye'. After all, the young man was about to be happily married the next day and soon to become a father.

Why would someone who had everything to look forward to decide overnight to choke his own neck - an incredible feat of self-strangulation demonstrated by the MACC prosecutor at the inquest?

Given the track record of death-in-custody that occurs at the detention centres, anyone falling into the clutches of government enforcement officers would logically fear homicide rather than contemplate suicide.

MACC accountable for Teoh's death

Reading Teoh's note, one can infer other brutality inflicted by the MACC quite apart from his pre-fall injuries. Teoh wrote how the MACC "seized all the computers" and how he said one thing ("received approval from YB") but the officers in their report put different words into his mouth ("they insist on putting down, 'followed YB's orders'.").

Teoh's note implies that the MACC was going all out to implicate his boss, DAP Selangor exco Ean Yong. Written in Chinese, it said "It's relentless, the spears are pointed at you [Ean Yong]."

If readers watch kungfu movies, you'd have an idea of how a spear can pierce a man's guts. So now, what about many, many spears? Teoh uses the Chinese 'spear' metaphor to convey how determined the MACC seemed in wanting to nail Yong.
Rather than any purported suicide message, the note is instead a damning indictment of the MACC's brutal methods.

NONEZainul Arifin Mohammed Isa, the NSTP group managing editor, in his Berita Harian article of July 19, 2009, took to task Khalid Ibrahim (right) for desiring a pathologist from the private sector to conduct the Teoh post-mortem.
Insisting that Khalid would be better off engaging a pathologist from government hospital, Zainul wrote [my translation]: "Why does the Selangor Menteri Besar, who is Malay, doubt the ability of people his own race to act with honesty and fairness?"

Zainul chided, "Are not many of the officers from government institutions and agencies Malay (just like Khalid himself)? Are the Malay policemen, judges, teachers, investigators, doctors, lecturers all untrustworthy?"

According to Zainul, "these institutions which are mostly headed and staffed by Malays" are most capable, and Khalid cannot be allowed to cast aspersions on their capabilities.

It appears that DAP has been preaching the Malaysian First concept only to the converted, and the party has not successfully outreached to public opinion leaders such as Zainul.

What 'democratic action' party?

Recently on Monday, 'hindrafmakkalsakthi' uploaded a video titled 'We Have No Choice!' on YouTube. Hindraf is the Hindu Rights Action Force that the DAP likes to call 'racist' because the movement name points to a particular concern with the plight of those belonging to the Hindu faith rather than with Malaysians First and all. DAP is wrong.

NONEAs Hindraf has been saying all along, a disproportionate number of prisoners are Indians.
Data reveals that out of the almost 50,000 convicted criminals (all races), a whopping 95 percent of them drew a monthly income of less than RM1,000.
More than 17 percent of the criminals were unemployed when caught while 32.3 percent of them earned less than RM500 a month.

Doing a statistical analysis for the Journal of the Kuala Lumpur Royal Malaysia Police College (No. 4, 2005), ACP Amar Singh Sidhu wrote in his paper 'The Rise of Crime in Malaysia': "Up to date, the number of individuals detained under preventive laws for crime of violence at Simpang Renggam Rehabilitation Centre in Johor is 702 of which 316 are Indians compared to 111 Chinese and 111 Malays. Again comparatively, this only reflects the high incidence of criminality within the small Indian community."

If Malaysians had good jobs and opportunities, who would turn to crime? Indians had almost zero involvement in national and state economic development projects like Felda, Felcra, Perda, Keda, Kesedar, Kejora and Ketengah.

As an example, Hindraf advisor N Ganesan brings up the Malay-centric focus of the Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga (Tekun), a government loans facility.

Ganesan said: "To give you an idea of the participation in the Tekun programme of Indians, see what Samy Vellu has to say in July 2009 and compare that with the statement from the Tekun managing director. Samy said 352 Indian entrepreneurs from Perak, Kedah (205), Penang (20) and other states (1,258) had received Tekun Nasional loans between 2008 and 2009. A total of 93 [Indian] entrepreneurs received loans amounting to RM761,000.

"Compare with the following statement from Abdul Rahman Hassan, the Tekun MD - 'Until 31 December 2007, Tekun Nasional had allocated RM772 million to 139,000 entrepreneurs throughout the country. For this year 2008, Tekun allocated RM182 million to 19,000 entrepreneurs.' - That is close to one billion ringgit. Have you ever heard of any loan disbursements to any Indian businessman friend or relative of yours?"

For that matter, how many Chinese have ever heard of Tekun?

Misplaced accusation of 'racism'
The Human Rights Party (HRP) states they have no choice but to pursue their Indian-oriented empowerment strategy because of the "subtle, systematic and pervasive scheme of exclusion" that confronts the community.

HRP states that elements in the education system denigrate Indians (the 'pariah' word controversy with regard to 'Interlok' comes fresh to mind) and Tamil schools badly neglected by the government do nothing for the self-esteem of Indian students.)

Even as I'm typing this now, I'm informed that Hindraf activists at Batu Caves have been arrested by police after some fracas on the 'Interlok' issue.

M Moorthy, R Subashini, S Shamala, S Banggarma, Regina Mohd Zaini, Indira Gandhi, Rani, Anthony Rayappan, A Kugan, Francis Udayappan, R Gunasegaran, M Krishnan, S Kalaiselvan, S Tharmarajen, M Ragubathy, G Veerasamy - these names are but skimming the surface of the long list of victims. These are the custodial deaths and those oppressed by Islamic religious authorities and the conflicting court jurisdictions.

teoh beng hock funeral 200709 griefTeoh Beng Hock and Tan Yi Min are two names that similarly belong to the same category above. However there is little prospect of Chindraf or Chinese Rights Action Force.

How can there be Chindraf when political leaders claiming to represent all Malaysians are confused about their own ethnic identity?
HELEN ANG used to be a journalist. In future, she would like to be a practising cartoonist. But for the present, she is in the NGO circles and settling down to more serious writing and reading of social issues.

Gobalakrishnan ignores show-cause, risks PKR future

Gobalakrishnan said he was not planning to join Zaid’s new party. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan is risking his political future with PKR as the disciplinary board has summoned him for failing to respond to a show-cause letter over his tirade against the top party leadership.

Party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution confirmed with The Malaysian Insider that the next step in PKR’s disciplinary process was for the board to convene a hearing as Gobalakrishnan had failed to make the January 17 deadline on the show-cause letter issued last December 31.

“He refused to respond to the letter from us although we sent him a second notice earlier this month and granted him an extension on his deadline,” he added.

The party leadership had initially granted Gobalakrishnan a week to reply to its 45-page show-cause letter, which was faxed to the latter’s office on January 4.

Following a complaint from the former party vice-president that he needed more time to sift through the lengthy letter, the party later relented and in a second notice dated January 10, informed him that his deadline had been extended to January 17.

But the MP complained to reporters on Wednesday that Saifuddin had failed to carry out his duties as the secretary-general, alleging the second letter had only reached him on January 17 itself.

“How can they expect me to respond by the 17th if the letter only reached me on the 17th?” he had told the press when met at the launch of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s new “Kita” party here.

Gobalakrishnan then declared that he would not respond to the letter, despite the likelihood that he would be reprimanded for his actions.

On micro-blogging site Twitter later, the outspoken MP continued his outburst against the PKR leadership, particularly against its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and deputy president Azmin Ali.

Saifuddin denied that he had failed to issue the deadline extension letter to Gobalakrishan on time, pointing out that the party had used all communication methods to ensure that the MP received the notice.

“We sent it to him via email and even AR registered (mail).

“He is a very IT savvy man, look at him on Twitter... so I am very sure that he received our letter on time,” he said.

He added that as a senior politician, Gobalakrishnan should be able to accept the next course of action he would likely face for his actions.

“As far as the party is concerned, we are just following procedures.

“Now that he has refused and has failed to respond to us, the next step is for him to face the disciplinary board,” he said.

The board, added Saifuddin, would soon determine a date and time to convene a hearing against Gobalakrishnan.

The outspoken MP kicked off his tirade against the Anwar-Azmin duo during the party’s elections last year, which he complained had been fraught with irregularities.

He later took his fight to Twitter and for much of December last year, dedicated his timeline space to sharp criticisms against the duo.

Among others, Gobalakrishnan has accused both men of failing to protect the interests of the Indian community and for ignoring the needs and requests of many party loyalists.

Gobalakrishnan has also continually taunted Anwar for “failing to walk the talk”, claiming that the veteran leader’s only dream was to stake his claim over Putrajaya and ensure a cushy position for Azmin.

At the Kita launch on Wednesday, Gobalakrishnan sang praises of Zaid, who himself had stalked out of PKR after coming at odds with the leadership during the polls.

However, while he described Kita as a “beautiful party launched by a beautiful man”, Gobalakrishnan claimed he would continue to remain in PKR.

Both Gobalakrishnan and Zaid are among the many top leaders who went public with their complaints against the PKR leadership, particularly against Anwar.

Besides Zaid, several other leaders have also left the party ranks citing loss of confidence in the leadership. These include Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim, Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng, Wangsa Maju MP Wee Choo Keong and Bagan Serai MP Mohsin Samsuri.

Another MP, Kulim-Bandar Baharu’s Zulkifli Noordin, also from Kedah like Gobalakrishnan, was sacked from PKR after he faced the disciplinary board last year for crossing swords with the leadership in the controversial “Allah” row.

Many talk about the third force but very few understand its meaning


To most simple-minded Malaysians, the third force merely means three-corner fights and that the result of three-corner fights would be unfavourable to the opposition and in favour of the ruling party. Their shallow understanding of the issue makes them come to this simple conclusion and they put aside other issues such as the quality of candidates and accountability to the voters and so on.
NO HOLDS BARRED
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).

BN Representatives Hide Their Religious Conversions!

Sarawak report can reveal that a number of BN’s political state representatives have changed their religion and accepted new names.  However, they are hiding the fact from their constituents!  Among them are YB Efendi bin Abdullah, who is still publicly known by his original name of Sylvester Entrie.
An angry Efendi Abdullah was challenged on the matter during a radio interview earlier today.  The independent, Iban broadcaster Radio Free Sarawak had called the politician to ask for news about the welfare of flood victims in the area he represents in Marudi.
“Who is Papa Orang Utan?!”
However, the politician appeared to object to speaking to the radio station and repeatedly queried the DJ’s popular name of Papa Orang Utan.  He also refused to speak in Iban or Malay, the main languages of his constituents.
“I do not have to publicise, if you want to know you go to the ground and then see what is going on”, he barked at the DJ.
However the persistent interviewer said that worried listeners wanted to know what was happening to friends and relatives.
I do not have to inform constituents
  “Never mind, never mind” responded the State Representative “It doesn’t matter, I don’t have to worry whether they want to know or not, because I am doing my job on the ground…. As far as I am concerned when I went there some of them have already called their relatives and it is not for me to publicise it!”   
RFS's 'Papa Orang Utan' allegedly spotted on the ground in Marudi later today, searching for news.....
Crocodile bin Abdullah!
Clearly provoked by accusations of impoliteness over the failure to provide his real name,  the DJ then let the cat out of the bag about the State Member of Parliament’s own name secret. 
 “If you say I am impolite how would you like me to address you in a polite way?” he asked.  ” Would you like me to address you as YB Sylvester Entrie or YB Efendi Abdullah?!”
Entrie/Abdullah has been suspected by insiders for seeking to conceal his conversion to the Muslim faith in order not to alienate constituents, who might suspect it was politically motivated and an attempt to gain promotion.  His response to the challenge was angry and possibly unwise.
“Oh no! you don’t have to mention YB, my name is Entrie! that is OK. Yah!”
“But I thought your name is YB Effendi Abdullah also?” [Pause]. 
“I can be this guy, I can this one, I can be any thing…..[incoherent]“.
“There is no point getting angry, don’t be angry with me”, the DJ can be heard protesting.
“No, no you see you go to my personal thing!  Whether I am Effendi bin Abdullah or Amat bin Abdullah or Crocodile bin  Abdullah that is up to me!  Is that the way you journalists want to go!”  At this point he abruptly ended the call shouting “there is no point to talk to you thank you!”
Hari Raya greetings to Sylvester Entrie @ Effendi bin Abdullah from fellow Muslim colleagues!
Coming out
Crocodile or chameleon!
The interview, which is due to be broadcast at 6pm 0n Friday on 15420 kHz (SW) and then at 8pm on 6205 kHz (SW) and can also be accessed at all times via podcast on www.radiofreesarawak.org, has now effectively ‘outed’ Sylvester Entrie/ Effendi bin Abdullah/ Crocodile bin Abdullah as a shy Muslim convert.   Sarawak Report can confirm that Effendi bin Abdullah has been the official name by which he has been addressed in Sarawak Government circles for some time (see photograph of a recent greeting card addressed to him).
We can confirm there are other closet converts among BN’s State Representatives and we advise them to come out and come clean, since the fresh air of publicity is blowing their way!

Ban on employment of Muslims uncalled for: Lim

The Sun
by Natalie Heng

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 20, 2011) : Any proposal against allowing outlets selling alcohol to hire Muslims is uncalled for, said Deputy Finance Minister and MCA vice president Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai.

"It is the rights of any individual to work in any place, so on this note we feel that this measure announced by the local council, which is controlled by the state government was uncalled for," said Lim.

''I believe if they are Muslim, and need the job, we should allow that," he said, adding that Selangor MCA is concerned over the issue and monitoring the situation closely.

His statement follows Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim's statement, earlier this week, that a study would be done on whether the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) should implement guidelines on the employment of Muslims, in premises selling alcohol, as a by-law.

He was speaking at the Sports Toto Chinese New Year Ang Pow Donation campaign at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall today.

On suggestions that there is currently a shortage of RM5 and RM10 notes, Lim said the situation is being monitored by Bank Negara.

"I believe there is enough in the market, such shortages usually occur during festive seasons as people go to the banks to change money for 'Ang pow'," he said.

"We will take whatever steps necessary if we find there is a shortage, as these notes are important for traders and small businessmen." - theSun

Rising ethnic nationalism in Sri Lanka targets minorities for abuse – new report

Friday, 21 January 2011 09:25am Image Minority Rights Group International

This post is reproduced from here

19 January 2011

Human rights violations in Sri Lanka continue unabated against ethnic Tamils and Muslims who fear an increasingly nationalist government, a new report by Minority Rights Group International says.

Nearly two years after the end of the war, minorities face daily repression and marginalisation in politics and development policies, particularly in the country's north and east, documents the report.

The report titled ‘No war, no peace: the denial of minority rights and justice in Sri Lanka’ includes groundbreaking first-hand research from the north and east of the country, including areas that international and national media and NGOs have limited access to.

‘Despite the end of the war, many Tamil and Muslim minorities in Sri Lanka continue to live in fear, ’ says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of MRG.

The report quotes minority political leaders and activists who express serious fear of a state based on Sinhala hegemony. It documents cases of land in traditional Tamil and Muslim areas being seized by military and civilian authorities and used for the construction of everything from military encampments and a power plant to hotels and leisure facilities. The report also expresses concerns by minority activists at the sudden proliferation of Buddhist temples and religious symbols in Tamil and Muslim areas, which they argue is politically sponsored.

In 2009 the Sri Lankan government declared that the country’s 30 year conflict was over after it successfully defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels who had been fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils. In the immediate aftermath of the war the country faced a huge humanitarian crisis with more than 250,000 people displaced and interned in camps for months.

The report says that while many of those displaced in the last stages of fighting have been moved out of the camps, the resettlement process has not taken place according to international standards. It also stresses the need for the government to provide for the return and resettlement of over 200,000 ‘old displaced’, who lost their homes in earlier stages of fighting. This includes a substantial number of Muslims who were forcibly displaced by the Tigers from the north in 1990.

‘The situation in the resettlement areas in the north and east is very worrying, particularly as international and national media and NGOs have restricted access. There is a high level of militarisation and state control over freedom of movement and association, with local women vulnerable to sexual abuse and harassment,’ says Lattimer.

The report argues that the government is doing little to resolve some of the original minority grievances that led to the conflict, such as violations of physical integrity including torture and enforced disappearances, lack of political autonomy and denial of language rights.

‘The government has made little mention of greater political autonomy for minorities which has always been a key demand of Tamils and Muslims. In fact, the government is now proposing legislation to change the electoral system in a way that threatens to decrease their political representation,’ Lattimer adds.

The report makes a series of recommendations to the Sri Lankan government including asking for a published policy to address minority rights issues, the resumption of all-party negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on political representation and governance for minorities, and the development of an impartial and credible mechanism for justice and reconciliation in the country.

‘We urge the Sri Lankan government not to lose the opportunity to bring in a lasting peace that can be enjoyed by all communities in Sri Lanka. Justice, reconciliation and human rights protection are essential for peace to become a reality for all,’ Lattimer says.


Notes to the editor

* The full report ‘No war, no peace: the denial of minority rights and justice in Sri Lanka’ will be made available on www.minorityrights.org/?lid=10458 on 19 January 2011.
* Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
* Interview opportunities are available with Mark Lattimer and other MRG Sri Lanka experts.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

MRG Press Office in London
T: +44 207 4224205

M: +44 7870596863

Second autopsy on Krishnan tomorrow

The second post mortem on death in custody victim M Krishnan is confirmed for tomorrow, starting at 9am at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).
NONEOne of the lawyers representing the family, N Surendran (right), said the family is expected to turn up at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) in Cheras at 8am tomorrow to collect Krishnan's body before bringing it to UMMC for the post mortem.
"The family and their lawyers will be there. The post mortem will be done by Dr Prashant (N Samberkar)," Surendran said, referring to the doctor requested for by Krishnan's widow, P Revathi.
Yesterday, both the police and the attorney-general agreed to the family's request for a second post mortem to be carried out on Krishnan's body, in a settlement recorded before High Court judge Justice Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah.
Krishnan's family had earlier filed an application seeking a court order to carry out a second post mortem on his body after police said they would only agree to it if there is a court order.
Krishnan was found dead while in detention at the Bukit Jalil police station on Jan 7, several days after he was detained with several others for alleged drug-related offences.
The first post mortem conducted at HUKM cited complications related to a stomach ulcer as Krishnan's cause of death, but his family claimed that the victim's body was covered with bruises, raising doubts over the post mortem results.
The victim's friend, A Sargunan, later came out to support the family's claim, saying that he had witnessed police officers assault Krishnan and that they had refused him medical attention despite repeated requests over the course of his detention.

At least 32 killed in attack on pilgrims in Iraq

Iraq has been rocked by a series of deadly suicide bomb blasts in recent days.

Baghdad (CNN) -- At least 32 people were killed and 150 others wounded in two explosions targeting Shiite pilgrims Thursday in Karbala, about 60 miles (100 km) south of Baghdad, police officials said.

It was the latest of several terrorist attacks across Iraq this week that have killed at least 118 people and wounded 450 others.

The attack in Karbala came as tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims are making their way to the city for Arbaeen, a religious observation. It follows 40 days of mourning for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who was felled in a 7th century battle in the Iraqi city.

Another attack Thursday also targeted Shiite pilgrims: one pilgrim was killed and nine other people were wounded by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad as they made their way to Karbala. On Tuesday, five Shiite pilgrims were wounded in an attack in Taji, just north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, in a separate attack Thursday, a suicide car bomb targeting a police checkpoint in Baquba killed at least four people and wounded 33 others, police officials said. Two of the dead and nine of the wounded were police officers, according to authorities, who said the attack bears the hallmarks of al Qaeda in Iraq.

A suicide bomber rammed a minibus loaded with explosives into the main gate at Diyala police headquarters in central Baquba. The headquarters was preparing an exhibition of weapons and ammunition confiscated by Iraqi security forces from insurgents in 2010.

On Wednesday, suicide bombers hit a pair of locations in Diyala province, killing at least 16 people and wounding nearly 100 others, authorities said. A suicide bombing that targeted a recruitment center in Tikrit on Tuesday killed 65 and wounded 160.

Diyala was an al Qaeda stronghold until 2008, when Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. troops, conducted major military operations in the province to push the militants out.

Awakening Councils also played a major role in hunting down al Qaeda fighters in the province. Awakening Councils, whose members are predominantly Sunni, have been recruited by the U.S. military to work against al Qaeda in Iraq and other militias.

Key security ministry positions remain vacant in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government amid political wrangling. Al-Maliki serves as acting defense, interior and national security minister.

Nine arrested at 'Interlok' demo at Batu Caves

Nine arrested at 'Interlok' demo at Batu Caves

(Malaysiakini) A protest by the Human Rights Party (HRP) urging the government to ban the controversial Malay literature textbook Interlok, turned rowdy after nine were arrested, including the party's information chief S Jayathas.

NONESome 20 HRP members demonstrated outside the Batu Caves Temple complex just as an announcement on the arrival of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for the Thaipusam festivities was made.

About two dozen uniformed police, a riot squad and several plainclothes police personnel immediately moved in to stop the protesters as Jayathas was handing out a press statement to the crowd.

He had moments before informed the police that the protestors would disperse once he read out his press statement.

NONEThe scuffle broke out when a man believed to be a plainclothes police officer started yelling and pushing the protestors.

The man (right), dressed in a dark blue shirt with the word 'narkotik' printed on the back and what looked like the police emblem on the front, also tried to stop bystanders from taking photos of him. He was later seen standing with uniformed officers.

This provoked the demonstrators who were about to disperse, and they began trying to push through the riot squad human barricade set up at the Batu Caves temple's main gate.

NONETwo of the protestors were dragged away by their shirts and they were later pinned to the ground by eight officers, mostly in plainclothes.

Some of the police officers also stepped on the two protestors to prevent them from getting up.
The HRP duo, later identified as D Rajothman and M Arjunan, taken to the Selayang General Hospital at 6.45pm for head injuries sustained during the arrest.
According to Jayathas, who was speaking from the Selayang district police station, Arjunan has a heart ailment and has difficulties breathing.

Bystanders and journalists were prevented from recording the incident.

Other individuals who were arrested includes Selangor HRP chief T Selvam, T Samy and CF Mani. According to Hindraf officials eight HRP members and one unidentified Malay man were taken in.
NONEThere were also attempts to handcuff several others who tried to enter the Batu Caves temple compounds.
It is unclear, however, if those whom the police tried to handcuff were part of the protest.

They appeared to have just had their heads shaved but were not wearing orange shirts like the other protestors, and they repeatedly told the officers that they wanted to go into the temple to pray.

'Don't bully Indians'

NONEPrior to the scuffle, demonstrators had distributed flyers to devotees and held up placards with slogans such as "Tamil youngsters, do not support BN" and "Interlok was written by a disrespectful man".

The group also chanted "We want justice", "Revoke Interlok" and "Don't bully Indians".

In his press statement, Jayathas said that HRP wants Interlok withdrawn from the SPM curriculum as it "casts sweeping aspersions on the ways of the Indian community".

NONE"The problems emanating from oppressive poverty - first caused by the British, then perpetuated by the Malaysian elites - are portrayed as mere ethnic Indian characteristics (and is a) subtle and mischievous attempt to negatively stereotype the Indian community and keep them oppressed and subservient," he said.

HRP is also seeking an inquiry into the manner the book was chosen, and for the government to explain how this can be prevented in future.

"There are many lies in the book, so it does not even fit into the category of serious literature... This cannot go on - 1Malaysia or not," said Jayathas.
NONEGombak district police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah confirmed the arrests, saying the nine were detained for "obstructing the police in discharging their duty". He said they will be remanded until tomorrow for questioning.
However, all those arrested were released on police bail of RM5,000 at 11.30pm.
Interlok, written by national laureate Abdullah Hussain, was set in pre-independence Malaya and features the character Maniam, who was described to be from the pariah caste and had found relief from the caste system when he moved from his homeland in India.

NONEHRP's protest comes at the back of rising pressure by other Indian political parties and NGOs for the government to remove 'Interlok' from the SPM syllabus.

Asked about this when he was in Tenang to announce BN's by-election candidate yesterday, Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that he will make an announcement on the matter soon.
The arrests come as the huge crowd of worshippers and tourists flocked to the Batu Caves temple, a spectacular limestone cavern and the centrepiece of the three-day Thaipusam festival of thanksgiving and penance.
NONEDevotees do penance by carrying heavy, ornate structures called kavadis as they walk barefoot up 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple, while others have their tongues, cheeks and backs pierced with hooks and skewers.
Thaipusam commemorates the day when the Hindu Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Muruga an invincible lance with which he destroyed evil demons.

Merlimau state rep dies, triggering 15th by-election

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — Merlimau state assemblyman Datuk Mohamad Hidhir Abu Hasan died tonight, triggering the country’s 15th by-election since the March 2008 general election. He was 54.

The Umno assemblyman had been admitted to Hospital Putra Melaka on January 14 after suffering a heart attack.

“Yes he has passed away. He passed away at 8.10 this evening,” Jasin MP Datuk Wira Ahmad Hamzah told The Malaysian Insider.

Mohamad Hidhir was a member of the Malacca state executive council in charge of rural and agricultural development.

Merlimau is one of five state seats under the Jasin parliamentary constituency, the others being Sungai Rambai, Serkam, Bemban and Rim.

Mohamad Hidhir was placed on a life-support system today after suffering a second heart attack at 6.45am.

With his passing, the Election Commission will now have to call a by-election within the next 60 days.

Mohamad Hidhir won the Merlimau state seat twice, beating PAS candidate Jasme Tompang with a majority of 2,154 votes in the last general election.

In 2004, Mohamad Hidhir won the seat with a majority of 5,087 votes.

S’pore Malays upset with ‘senile old man’ Mahathir

SINGAPORE: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is in the centre of a storm which he stirred up in the Malay community here with his comments on their position in the republic.

Many readers of the Singapore Berita Harian resented the former Malaysian prime minister saying that the Malays on the island were marginalised and lagged behind the other communities.

The paper has been publishing the response of readers to the comments that it published, and some of the letters expressed real anger.

One reader, Haji Sallim Haji Ahmad, said that it had become Mahathir’s theme that “the Singapore Malays are being marginalised until the end of world.”

But the Malays here are progressing without subsidies and the position of Islam is protected although it is not the official religion, Sallim said.

Another reader, Hajah Kamariah Lim Li Hwa, hoped that Mahathir would “investigate first our condition” before making any statement on Singapore Malays.

“We the Malays of Singapore feel at ease and are grateful that the Singapore rulers execute our trust with transparency,” she said.

A letter from Eusope Musawa asserted that Singapore Malays lived in comfort and as equals with the other communities.

“Tun Dr Mahathir should advise Malaysian Malays to learn from Singapore Malays how to progress,” Eusope said.

Other readers were far less polite, using insulting phrases to refer to Mahathir.
But one reader who called himself Walid Jumblatt Abdullah differed from them.

Respected leader
Walid said he was very happy to see Singapore Malays react with such alacrity to refute Mahathir.
“How wonderful it would be if the Malay community (in Singapore) were to react with similar speed to handle such problems as dysfunctional families, moral decay and academic performance that is unsatisfactory and below that of the other races,” he said.

He said that Mahathir had his weaknesses but the former Malaysian premier whom some readers called “a senile old man” had turned Malaysia into one of the Asian economic tigers.

He is the only Malay leader known throughout the world and is highly respected in the Islamic world, not least for his championing of such causes as Palestine, Bosnia and Somalia, Walid said.

Walid said that four non-governmental organisations, two of them Christian groups, nominated Mahathir for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“As far as I know, he is the first Malay leader to be nominated for the prize,” Walid said.
-Bernama

Thousands converge at Batu Caves for Thaipusam

KUALA LUMPUR: More than one million Hindu devotees flocked to the Batu Caves temple today to mark a colourful Hindu festival during which they pierce themselves with hooks and skewers.

The worshippers converged on the temple, a spectacular limestone cavern on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and the centrepiece of the annual three-day Thaipusam festival of thanksgiving and penance.

Thaipusam commemorates the day when the Hindu Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Muruga an invincible lance with which he destroyed evil demons.
Devotees do penance by carrying heavy ornate structures called kavadis as they walk barefoot up 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple, while others have their tongues, cheeks and backs pierced with hooks and skewers.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak hailed the festival, which also draws many tourists every year, as a celebration of Malaysia’s multiculturalism.

“Hindu devotees from overseas as well as tourists come here to appreciate the wonderful diversity of our culture and the openness in which many different faiths are expressed and practiced,” Najib wrote on his blog.
He also visited Batu Caves this morning.

The festival is also celebrated in several other parts of Malaysia.
-AFP

Interlok protest: 9 arrested in Batu Caves


BATU CAVES: Nine members of the Human Rights Party were arrested during the Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves today for protesting against the controversial Interlok novel.

At least six of them were also injured in the chaos which ensued when the police tried to disperse some 50 party members from protesting.

Among those arrested were HRP’s information chief S Jayathas and Selangor chief K Selvam. Also taken in was vocal PKR member MS Arjunan.

They were all taken to the Selayang police district headquarters for questioning.
Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahman Abdullah confirmed that nine people were arrested but HRP sources said only eight were taken in by the police.

Jayathas, in a text message to FMT, also confirmed that only eight of them were held at the Selayang station. He also said those arrested will be on a hunger strike until they were released.

They have also lodged police reports claiming that they were beaten by the police while being arrested. Two of them – Arjunan and D Raja – were taken for treatment to the Selayang Hospital.

Selangor police chief Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah meanwhile said the men, aged 18 to 46, all wearing orange T-shirts with ‘Hindraf’ inscribed on them, were trying to put up three posters calling for the ban of the novel Interlok.

“When police intervened to stop them the group rammed into them and were arrested,” he was quoted as saying in Bernama.

In the protest, held at the entrance of the Batu Caves temple, the Human Rights Party members and supporters of the Hindraf Makkal Sakti movement called on the government to ban the book which is being used as a school text for Form 5 students.

The protest was organised to coincide Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s visit to the temple this morning.
However a scuffle broke out when a group of uniformed police personnel and an anti-riot squad tried to stop the protesting group from entering the temple through the main entrance.

Jayathas was also stopped from reading his press statement on why the novel should be banned while other protesters were stopped from carrying banners and placards which stated ‘Ban Interlok’, ‘We do not want BN’ and ‘Say No to Interlok’.

Attracting attention

Talking to FMT later, HRP’s pro-tem secretary general P Uthayakumar said they choose the Thaipusam festival at Batu Caves to protest against the novel as it was important to tell the Indian community about the novel and Umno’s racism.

About 1.3 million visitors, most of whom are Hindu devotees, are expected to visit Batu Caves for the Thaipusam festival.

“With the PM being here, and with the presence of many Indians, we need to send a strong message to Umno and the Indian community about the the book.

“Interlok is just a bit of racism in Malaysia,” he said.

He added that they were aware of the prime minister’s visit to the temple this morning.

“So, in front of him, we wanted to show that the Indian community is not happy with his administration,” he added.

He also said that a protest at the festival would attract both the local and international media, enabling the HRP to highlight the issues affecting the Indian community.

The controversy surrounding Interlok arose as certain portions of the book were deemed to be insulting of the Indian community, including the insensitive labelling of Indians as ‘pariah’.

In a related development, Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy told FMT that the movement’s supporters and HRP members will stage a peaceful candlelight vigil at Batu Caves tonight if those arrested are not released.
“We want the police to release these heroes. What’s wrong in calling for the ban of the novel? Will they (the police) arrest all of us who want the novel banned?” he asked. - Free Malaysia Today

Mahathir has lost touch with realities

In Malaysia, the social environment is such that the sense of racial exclusiveness is evident in daily life. There are many racial enclaves within cities. The rural areas are predominantly Malay. The 1Malaysia slogan is aimed at breaking this social separateness. By contrast, 'One Singapore' is not a slogan - it is a reality.

By Wan Hussin Zoohri, The Straits Times

IT IS nauseating and irksome to read Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's occasional diatribes against Singapore Malays. The latest was reported in Berita Harian on Jan 8. He said that if the Malays in Malaysia were not united, their destiny would be like the Malays in Singapore. He further commented that if Malay unity in Malaysia is not maintained, they would be left behind and suppressed, as the Malays in Singapore have been.

Such unfounded statements reveal two things. First, Dr Mahathir has lost touch with the realities in Singapore. Second, he is still looking at Singapore Malays through an outdated prism, seeing them as they were at the time of Separation.

The progress Malay Singaporeans have made since then was attested to by the late Samad Ismail, a highly respected Malaysian journalist and intellectual. He said Singapore Malays have made remarkable progress. He personally had witnessed this on his visits to Singapore to see his relatives. They had climbed the social ladder and secured respectable social positions for themselves. Indeed, there is a growing number of Malays in Singapore who have made the grade through their own efforts and not through any public assistance.

Malays on both sides of the Causeway belong to the same race. However, they have had different historical experiences. Let us briefly examine the differences:

First, different political philosophies: Singapore has been governed by a multiracial party since independence. The party seeks the best available talents from all races - and they serve all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion. In Malaysia, the ruling coalition is dominated by a Malay-based party. The coalition government balances the interests of its different component parties, most of which are tied to particular races.

Second, different educational systems: Singapore has a single national education system, with English as a medium of instruction. The mother tongue languages are compulsory for students of different ethnic origins. This bilingual system of education has proven successful.

In Malaysia, the education system has gone through many dramatic changes. The experiments of teaching mathematics in Malay and then in English and now back to Malay has caused much disruption. There are racially based quotas in the admission of students to tertiary institutions. This has resulted in many non-Malay students furthering their education abroad - and remaining there.

Third, different social environments: The overwhelming majority of Singaporeans live in housing estates with people of other races besides their own. This encourages social integration. The daily interaction of the different races in housing estates and at places of work has reduced feelings of racial exclusiveness among them.

In Malaysia, the social environment is such that the sense of racial exclusiveness is evident in daily life. There are many racial enclaves within cities. The rural areas are predominantly Malay. The 1Malaysia slogan is aimed at breaking this social separateness. By contrast, 'One Singapore' is not a slogan - it is a reality.

Malay Singaporeans are different from Malay Malaysians because each is the product of different policies. For Dr Mahathir to assert that Singapore Malays have been left behind, marginalised and suppressed reflects his ignorance of the social transformations happening in Singapore. One can detect a false sense of superiority in him every time he indulges in his bashing of Malay Singaporeans. He needs to be reminded that the rise of the Malay Malaysians is due more to 'Malayocracy' rather than meritocracy.

For Dr Mahathir to indulge in making sniping remarks about Malay Singaporeans is unethical. Self-introspection - an examination of the real position of Malay Malaysians - would have been more therapeutic.

The writer, a former Member of Parliament, is president of PMBM Scholarship Fund Board

Malaysia's New Opposition Party

Image(Asia Sentinel) Zaid Ibrahim's venture: mosquito party or the real thing?

Introduced not only by the country's national anthem, but also to the strains of the Rolling Stones' "I can't get no satisfaction," Malaysia's newest political party was officially launched at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday.

Kita, the People's Welfare Party, announced its president, Zaid Ibrahim, aims "to bring back the politics of goodwill and compromise that started this nation 54 years ago... so that politics and public service can be made honorable once again."

Neither of the current alternatives would do, he said. The governing Barisan Nasional coalition "will always be autocratic and authoritarian," while the opposition led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim "says and does whatever it takes for the sake of winning elections."

There was grand, idealistic talk of defending the secular nature of the 1957 constitution, ending discrimination, fighting ideas of "superiority and hegemony" (a reference to the Malay supremacists who would consign the country's Chinese and Indian citizens to permanent second-class status) and ensuring that there were "equal opportunities for all, regardless of caste, colour or creed."

Big words indeed for a new party, however laudable – especially given that the Barisan and its predecessor, the Alliance, centered around three parties representing the country's main races, the Malays, Chinese and Indians, have won every national election since independence. Many would ask, too, why Zaid needs to start another party. Doesn't the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, stand for more or less the same program as Kita? Moreover, Pakatan's success at the 2008 general election, when it won control of five of Malaysia's 13 states and denied the Barisan the two thirds supermajority in parliament that had allowed it to amend the constitution, is in the past.

Now that the political tsunami has receded, there is much debris left behind for Pakatan to deal with. In February 2009 it lost one state, Perak, back to the Barisan. There have been constant disagreements and bickering over the demands of one of its constituent parties, the Islamist PAS, for hudud (Islamic) laws and an Islamic state to be implemented if they came to power – anathema to its left-leaning coalition partner, the mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party.

Meanwhile Anwar, the leader of Pakatan's other member, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and of the opposition overall, remains bogged down in another sodomy trial. (The first was after he was fired as deputy prime minister to Dr Mahathir in 1998, and resulted in a conviction, subsequently overturned. The latest charges surfaced in 2008 and led to the current trial which has been going on since last February and shows no sign of ending; it is due to resume next month).

Shouldn't Zaid be doing all he can to help Pakatan Rakyat rather than setting up a new party that will appeal to the same constituency, thereby risking splitting precious opposition votes?

It would be fair to say that Zaid divides opinion. The founder of the country's biggest law firm and renowned for his outspoken defense of human rights, Zaid was hailed as proof that the Barisan was serious about reform when he was appointed by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Law Minister in March 2008. He resigned after six months over the continued use of Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act, and was welcomed into the ranks of Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat the following June.

Last month, however, he quit PKR as well in a row over internal party elections. While standing for the deputy presidency in November, Zaid alleged serious irregularities with the voting process and turned angrily on Anwar. The election was being rigged and PKR had become a vehicle for its leader and his cronies, he said, adding that the current accusations of sodomy against him were undermining the opposition's cause. As if that wasn't enough, Zaid told me in an interview after his resignation that he thought Anwar was "guilty as hell" in any case.

Some have accused Zaid of arrogance and poor judgment. PKR didn't end up looking like furthering his own ambitions, goes the argument, so he has set up a party (technically, relaunched and renamed a tiny previous grouping) that will. On the other hand, PKR's whiter-than-white reformasi mantle is now beginning to appear striped with dynastic purple now that the party is led by Anwar, its president is his wife, and has as one of its new vice presidents his daughter.

And Zaid's ruthlessly honest analysis of Malaysia's problems, particularly the need for a re-evaluation of the position of the Malays, his calls to an end to rent-seeking and for the building of a new meritocracy that does not unduly stress race or religion, is almost unmatched. Perhaps the only other Malay politician to advance something similar convincingly is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the veteran finance minister who is, unusually for an UMNO MP, fondly regarded and admired across the spectrum. Significantly, he wrote the preface to Zaid's latest book, "I, too, am Malay".

What are its chances? Kita has already been dismissed as a "mosquito" party – a minor irritant, but whose bite has no significant impact. Asked what effect it would be likely to have, one leading UMNO MP said it would have none, apart from appealing "to a few people in Bangsar" – a dismissive reference to the Kuala Lumpur enclave with a long and occasionally notorious reputation for liberalism and permissiveness.

If that is brave UMNO talk, the opposition coalition may have more worries. Even if Kita does not field many candidates in the next general election – its ambition in that field is so small that Zaid admitted to me that they may not win "any seats at all" – in Peninsular Malaysia, it could still cost Pakatan dear.

The key industrial state of Selangor, for instance, is already on a knife edge. The Pakatan state government has dealt poorly with a number of issues recently, appearing divided and handing the Barisan propaganda victories over signs bearing the logo of Prime Minister Najib's 1Malaysia policy, the question of whether Muslims should be allowed to work in establishments that serve alcohol, and the appointment of a new state secretary that has led them, disastrously, to be portrayed as being disrespectful to Selangor's sultan. It is not implausible that a few votes siphoned off to Kita could lose Pakatan its proudest gain of the 2008 election.

Zaid's goal, however, is more both more modest and yet more ambitious than insults suggest. His "moderate, democratic and liberal" party, he conceded, was not about to try to win the next general election. "We are in this for the long haul," he said. "Kita is not just a political party; it's a movement, it's an ethos to be handed down to future generations. This is about real change in the way we do business. Because what we have now just isn't working."

And he does have a plan. "The answer is the middle class here," he told me during our interview. Well, that's Bangsar at least.

For a more imminent change, he said, look east. "The answer is Sarawak and Sabah." He elaborated yesterday. The people of Malaysia's Borneo states, who have provided a "fixed deposit" for the Barisan government in terms of MPs for decades, should stop voting "for a regime that has denied them for the best part of our independent years."

Far more non-Malay and non-Muslim than the Peninsula, but with considerable numbers of the indigenous peoples who are legally privileged along with the Malays as bumiputras – sons of the soil, they can be "the lynchpin of change," said Zaid. "They can determine if Malaysia is to remain a cosmopolitan multi-ethnic democracy or be ruled by the politics of hegemony. They can determine if Malaysia is to remain a free, secular democracy or a tyranny of the majority."

Zaid has not only a plan, but an ally in the person of Jeffrey Kitingan, a former PKR vice president who announced the formation of the United Borneo Front to campaign for a better deal for Sarawak and Sabah on the same day Zaid unveiled news of Kita last month.

As Kitingan pointed out recently: "West Malaysians take up 166 seats in parliament which are fragmented almost 50/50 after the 2008 elections. If all 56 Sabah and Sarawak MPs amalgamated and had the Borneo Agenda at the forefront of their hearts and their minds, they will be able to have a greater say in parliament."

All pie-in-the-sky? Maybe. But look at the proposals so far, and what you find is a new, loose alliance that speaks to a genuinely multiracial audience, that promises to safeguard but also give a fairer deal to all bumiputra, whether Malay or not, while ending discriminatory practices against Chinese and Indians and acknowledging their contribution to Malaysia. Oh, and guaranteeing the superiority of civil law over shariah courts and protecting freedom of religion.

Zaid talked a lot yesterday about the country's founding prime minister, the genial, tolerant Tunku Abdul Rahman. Actually, he is going further than the Tunku would ever have dared in terms of urging a unity that does not over-privilege one section of society, or its faith, over another. It sounded, in fact, rather a lot like a new Malaysia. Were it not already the title of someone else's policy, he could even have called it a One Malaysia. Now there's a thought....

Sholto Byrnes is a contributing editor of the New Statesman (UK) and divides his time between London and Kuala Lumpur.

Port Klang Assemblyman To Challenge Decision To Declare Seat Vacant

SHAH ALAM, Jan 20 (Bernama) -- Port Klang assemblyman Badrul Hisham Abdullah Thursday said would challenge Selangor State Assembly speaker Datuk Teng Chang Khim's decision to declare his seat vacant.

Badrul Hisham said he would file an application to the court for a declaration that he was still the Port Klang assemblyman.

Asked when he will file the application, he said, "As soon as possible."

He was speaking to reporters after attending a Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen's gathering chaired by state BN deputy chairman Datuk Seri Noh Omar here Thursday.

Badrul Hisham said he would attend the state assembly's sitting on Monday as he had received an invitation from the House.

The state assembly speaker Wednesday declared the Port Klang state seat vacant, saying Badrul Hisham had failed to attend sittings for six months without a valid reason.

Teng said the seat fell vacant effective Jan 16.

Badrul Hisham said he had not been notified by the state assembly that his seat was declared vacant.

Teng asserted that there was no provision for Badrul Hisham to appeal against the decision (declaring the seat vacant) made under Articles 69 and 70 (1) of the Selangor Constitution.

Badrul Hisham won the Port Klang state seat on a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) ticket, defeating independent candidate Nazir Mansor and BN's Roselinda Abd Jamil with a 4,407 majority.

However, he quit the party on 29 Oct, 2009 and became a BN-friendly assemblyman before eventually joining Umno in May last year.

In KUALA LUMPUR, MP for Kulim-Bandar Baharu Zulkifli Noordin said in his blog that the decision to declare the seat vacant was part of the state government's ploy to reduce the number of BN representatives during the special seating of the state assembly on Monday.

"When come to the crunch, the acts and drama to hold the special session will be exposed as the people will know that they will fail without the two-thirds majority, so they devise plans to get the two-thirds majority," he in said in his blog, zul4kulim.blogspot.com.

He said with 35 assemblymen compared to 20 BN assemblymen and one independent assemblyman, the PKR-DAP-PAS alliance was two seats shied of the two-thirds majority in the 56-seat state assembly.

Zulkifli anticipated that the state government's backbenchers would create an uproar which might culminate in Sungai Panjang assemblyman Dr Mohamad Khir, who was being charged with one count of graft, to be suspended from the sitting and given the marching order.

"I will not be surprised if other BN assemblymen will be dismissed, suspended or ordered to leave the House. That way, their number will be much bigger that the BN, thus they will get the two-thirds majority," he added.