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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anti-Indian Interlok campaign will backfire

Plans by two NGOs to campaign against Indian reps in the coming polls will cost Barisan Nasional dear, says Klang MP Charles Santiago.

KUALA LUMPUR: If the Malay Consultative Council (MPM) and National Writers Association (Pena) go ahead with their plan to campaign against Indian candidates in the 13th general election, then it will be Barisan Nasional which will suffer.

According to DAP’s Klang MP Charles Santiago, since MPM and Pena were aligned to BN, the coalition’s Indian-based parties would receive the worst brunt of the campaign.

“It is the Indian BN parliamentarians who would be more affected, especially the MIC. MIC would suffer more.

“It is the first time that organised groups within BN are going against its framework.

“In the recent by-election, the Malays did not vote Pakatan Rakyat Indian leaders because of the Interlok controversy,” he told FMT.

Santiago was commenting on MPM and Pena’s statements vowing not to support any Indian candidates in the upcoming election.

Their assertions were part of two memorandums which were handed over, albiet separately, to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Both MPM and Pena had reportedly felt that Indian leaders had successfully manipulated and convinced the government to bow to the demands of the Indian community over the Interlok book.

Respect decision

Meanwhile, Hulu Selangor parliamentarian P Kamalanathan, who could not be reached, wrote in his blog that he stood by the government’s decision on the Interlok issue although “it did not please everyone”.

“It is imperative that the leadership makes a decision that is firm, fair and addressed the fundamental role of the government to uphold peace and unity in the nation at all times.

“We are all aware that no decision will please everybody but we must respect and believe in the wisdom of our leaders chosen in a democratic process,” said the MIC man.

Kamalanathan also pledged to serve his constituents “without any bias on their religious, political or social standings”.

Selangor state councillor Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, meanwhile, has called for the issue to be looked at from a Malaysian perspective.

He said it was the responsibility of all races to maintain harmony in the country.

Warning groups not to “play the racial game”, the Selangor state exco member said Indians were not challenging the free will of the author Abdullah Hussein.

Instead the community merely wanted the Form Five book replaced with another one that promoted racial harmony.

The Interlok book has been shrouded by controversy over the usage of the term “pariah”, which is considered deragatory to the Indian community.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had on Jan 27, announced that an independent panel would be set up to amend the book.

Gibbs signals U.S. backing for a more deliberate process in Egypt

Gibbs' comments reflected the reality of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's insistence on remaining in power for now.

Washington (CNN) -- Egypt faces a "bumpy" process in its transition from decades of repressive rule to a multiparty democracy, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday in signaling U.S. backing for a more deliberate approach to political negotiations.

In a briefing with reporters, Gibbs repeated the U.S. insistence on meaningful change in Egypt, but he added that the government there should "outline a series of steps and a timeline that the Egyptian people are comfortable with."

His comments reflected the reality of President Hosni Mubarak's insistence that he will remain in power through the end of his term in September instead of ceding to demands for his immediate ouster by protesters who have roiled Cairo and the nation for 14 days.

Last week, Gibbs told reporters that reforms should take place immediately in reference to President Barack Obama's February 1 statement that Egypt's transition "must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now."

The Obama statement and other U.S. comments in following days were considered to be increasing pressure on Mubarak to step aside in order to maintain stability. However, Mubarak has said stability can only come from his continued presence while his government implements reforms demanded by the protesters.

On Monday, Gibbs said, "This is a process that is going to be at times bumpy, because when for 28 years you have had one leader, without ... really a robust opposition, it's going to take some time to work this stuff out."

Gibbs outlined a transition toward multiparty negotiations that provided more leeway for Mubarak's government than previously expressed.

"The process has to be dynamic, and we have to see the government take part in a meaningful way and outline a series of steps and a timeline that the Egyptian people are comfortable with," Gibbs said.

In addition, Gibbs said, "We have to see those that are not involved in government put forward a set and a series of ideas of what they'd like to see so that negotiations can take place and we can move forward."

On Sunday, some Egyptian opposition figures met with Vice President Omar Suleiman to discuss steps toward democratic reforms including the possible end to the military emergency law that has been in place since Mubarak came to power in 1981, steps to ensure free media and communication, and plans to form a series of committees that would oversee changes aimed at bringing about a representative government.

The talks, while preliminary, symbolized concession on both sides. Some opposition figures had rejected any discussions until Mubarak stepped down, while a government statement issued on state TV after Sunday's meeting outlined future steps resulting from the meeting.

In a brief informal exchange with reporters on Monday, Obama said: "Obviously Egypt has to negotiate a path and I think they are making progress."

Later, Gibbs added that ultimately it was up to the Egyptian people to evaluate how much progress was taking place, saying: "Words are not enough. It is actions toward a meaningful change that the Egyptian people are most looking for."

He cited changes that already have occurred since the protests began on January 25, including Mubarak's announcement that he won't seek another term and that his son also won't run, as well as Mubarak's appointment of Suleiman as vice president with the job of bringing about reforms resulting in "a free and fair election."

Gibbs repeated U.S. assertions that it was up to the Egyptian people to decide the details of the transition, following weekend confusion over remarks by Frank Wisner, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt who met with Mubarak January 31.

Wisner told a security conference in Germany on Saturday that Mubarak "must stay in office" in order to bring about changes necessary for a smooth political transition in Egypt.

U.S. officials have since emphasized that Wisner was speaking for himself as an expert on the region, and not for the Obama administration.

Gibbs also repeated the administration stance that participants in the reform process and subsequent elections will be determined by the Egyptians. He downplayed the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation's largest Islamic group that is officially banned but tolerated by the government.

Some analysts and U.S. politicians argue that the Muslim Brotherhood, which they consider anti-American and anti-Israel, could take over in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood participated in Sunday's meeting with Suleiman, but Gibbs said, "It would be horribly inaccurate to simply say that there are two factions in Egypt: One is the Muslim Brotherhood and the other is the government of Egypt."

"That's clearly not the case, and clearly wasn't the case in what we've seen transpire on the streets," Gibbs said, later adding: "For the process to be a legitimate process, it has to include a broad cross-section of those that are ... in Egyptian civil society and not involved in that government."

Members of the liberal parties Wafd and Ahrar also engaged in the talks with Suleiman.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department said the Egyptian talks needed to be more inclusive.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said "major figures in Egyptian society" had not been invited. He didn't mention any groups or individuals by name.

At the same time, Crowley said opposition groups and demonstrators should test the government's motives in the talks.

"There are people who are holding the transition process at arm's length because they don't believe it's going to be credible," he said, "and our advice would be, you know, test the seriousness of the government and those who are participating to see if it can deliver, and from this people have confidence that change is actually going to occur."

CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this story.

BMC residents lose 'brutality' suit against police


NONE
(Malaysiakini) The Bandar Baru Bangi Sessions Court has dismissed a civil suit against the federal government and the police force, over alleged brutality in dispersing a gathering over issues with the Grand Saga Highway in 2007.

Lawyer Lim Lip Eng, representing the three plaintiffs, said the judge Mohammed Mokhzani Mokhtar gave three reasons in dismissing the case.

"He said this was an illegal assembly; that the protestors had failed to disperse when ordered; and that the police had applied reasonable force to disperse and arrest those concerned," said Lim

The finding was delivered in court in a two-minute oral judgment this morning. The judge also awarded costs to the respondents, but the quantum has yet to be decided.

While declining to comment directly on the ruling, Lim pointed out that no one has been charged with the purported 'illegal gathering'.

"I am disappointed that, despite video evidence being tendered showing the police brutally assaulting us, punching and kicking repeatedly, the judge has still ruled in the government's favour," he said.
"We have one month to appeal. I shall discuss this with the plaintiffs and we will inform the press if we shall appeal the decision."

The civil suit, filed in May 2007, named the inspector-general of police, Kajang police Chief Rosli Mohd Nizam, the government, police personnel Azman Atan and others on duty, as respondents.

In the incident on Jan 21, 2007, some 40 residents and activists had gathered to protest against the Grand Saga Highway concessionaire, which had blocked off a slip road into their community, thereby forcing residents to enter and exit the area by way of the new toll highway.
The plaintiffs alleged they had been injured in the melee that ensued when police rushed at them ahead of the time given for them to disperse.
'No regrets'

Mahkota Cheras Free Access Road Action Committee president and a plaintiff Tan Boon Hwa told a press conference at the court complex that the protestors had not been given enough time to disperse.

Another plaintiff HNONEo Chee Loong agreed: “I am disappointed with the decision but I think that citizens should stand up for their rights.”
The third plaintiff was his brother, Chee Hui.
Lim added that his clients are all resolved that they do not regret their action as this had eventually ensured that the slip road has remained open up to today.
The police arrested 21 protestors in two spots along the Grand Saga Highway linking Kuala Lumpur and Kajang during the incident.
The demonstration coincided with the third in a series of protests organised by Protes - a coalition of opposition parties, civil society groups, trade unions and student groups - against higher toll charges at five Klang Valley highways with effect from Jan 1 that year.

Ex-Hindraf leaders declare Bukit Gasing temple 'open'


The Sivan Temple atop Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya is now open to the public. So declared two former leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) who had once been detained under the Internal Security Act.
The duo - DAP's Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson M Manoharan and Human Rights Party secretary-general P Uthayakumar - called on all Hindu devotees and everyone to come back to the temple.
"It is safe... the landslide more than two years was not caused by the temple," Uthayakumar said at the temple compound yesterday.

NONEIn April 2008, the Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya city halls ordered the closure of the Sivan Temple after extension work on the temple was deemed to have caused a landslide on the Petaling Jaya side.

Uthayakumar claimed that it was not a landslide but erosion of the topsoil.

There were more dangerous construction projects and high-rise buildings in much steeper areas of Bukit Gasing that could easily trigger landslides, he said, claiming that the 'unsafe' excuse was used to permanently close down the temple.
'Constitutional right to religion'
"No mosque, surau, church or Chinese or Buddhist temple was ever closed down in Malaysia. Why does this happen only to Hindu temples?" he asked, describing the action on the temple as contravention of freedom of religion as guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

NONEUthayakumar (right) also called on the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government to alienate the land the temple was sited on to the temple trustees within 30 days and to gazette it accordingly, instead of resorting to temporary solutions provided all along by the former BN state government.

Manoharan said the Sivan Temple has been very close to his heart since his student days in University Malaya more than 20 years ago.

A pioneer volunteer at the temple, M Maharathan, said no one should be deprived of their rights in religion.

"I do not care about politicians or about politics. I just do not want to be deprived of my religious practice. No one has the right to shut down temples... I have been coming here for many years," he said.

Some 30 people gathered at the temple about noon yesterday to show their support for its re-opening.

Khusrin: Silent approach repaired ties with Khalid

Khusrin (left) meets with Khalid at the mentri besar’s office yesterday, February 7, 2011. — Picture courtesy of the Selangor MB’s press secretariat

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi claimed today that his approach in not commenting about the controversy surrounding his appointment while carrying out his duties as state secretary had slowly repaired ties with Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

“Let me be silent, I am only carrying out my duties and I hope you understand... I do not want to comment on anything, if you want any response please get the mentri besar,” Khusrin told The Malaysian Insider today.

The Selangor government has implicitly accepted Khusrin’s appointment as the new state secretary, with Khalid having assigned Khusrin specific tasks to carry out yesterday.

Khalid met Khusrin at his office at 5pm yesterday to discuss the latter’s duties, which included management of state land and properties.

As state secretary, Khusrin is required to prepare reports and inform Selangor of the latest developments concerning the state’s properties, and identify those which were abandoned and problematic.

Khusrin said today he was hopeful that his first meeting with the Selangor MB would bring about a positive change in him being able to carry out his duties as state secretary.

“Insya-Allah, I hope to be able to perform my duties better after this,” Khusrin said.

He refused to comment on the oath of secrecy ceremony that he has yet to take.

Khalid himself has not officially stated whether Khusrin has been accepted as Selangor state secretary.

The former Selangor Religious Department (Jais) director assumed the state secretary’s post on January 1 and later swore an oath of loyalty in front of the Sultan of Selangor, but has yet to take his oath of secrecy before the mentri besar, a constitutional requirement before he is able to attend state executive council meetings.

Khusrin’s appointment was announced by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Sidek Hassan on December 27 last year.

The appointment was, however, opposed by the state government as Khalid claimed that his administration was not consulted.

The state government later attempted to amend the state constitution to enable it to appoint its top three civil servants without federal interference.

It, however, failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority in the state assembly to amend the constitution in an emergency sitting on January 24.

Stay away from ‘tainted’ Jeffrey, Snap told

KUCHING: Sarawak National Party (Snap), which is in the midst of reviving its historical signifcance in state politics, has been warned against hooking-up with Jeffrey Kitingan and his United Borneo Front (UBF).

Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s political secretary Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said it would be sad if Snap went with a “tainted” politician like Jeffrey who was a known “frog”.

“Sarawakians do not need a Sabahan frog like Jeffrey and his UBF to teach them politics. He has tainted his political career by jumping from one party to another …

“I don’t see him as a good adviser or teacher to Sarawak… unless they (Snap leaders) wear the same feather as him,” he said.

Urging Snap to be wary of Jeffrey, Karim said it would be detrimental if Snap fell for Jeffrey’s trickery.

“Jeffrey is merely looking for a platform in Sarawak to sustain his political agenda…

“Snap has an illustrious history in Sarawak politics. Surely its present leaders would not want it tainted with flimsy political characters like Jeffrey.

“It would be sad for Sarawakians if Snap fell for Jeffrey’s trick to help boost his own career,” Karim said.

Snap, which is on the road to rebranding itself, recently declared that it subscribed to Jeffrey’s Borneo Agenda and would join UBF as part of its political struggles.

(The Borneo Agenda among others is calling for the acknowledgment of the terms in the Malaysia Agreement which both Sabah and Sarawak had signed with the Federation of Malaya in 1963.)

Jeffrey had during his most recent visit to Sarawak announced the appointment of former PKR advisers Daniel Tajem as Sarawak UBF advisor.

Tajem, who is also Snap advisor, has urged all Dayaks to unite and throw their support behind Snap, which he reportedly said shared the same values as the now defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).

Rosmah gets a roasting over Ops Piramid

For stealing a march on the PM in the evacuation plan of Malaysians in Egypt, the self-styled 'First Lady' comes in for flak from PKR.


PETALING JAYA: PKR attacked the self-styled ‘First Lady’ Rosmah Mansor for taking credit over the evacuation of Malaysians from Egypt.

PKR’s Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin said that Rosmah was using Ops Piramid for her own self-promotion.

“It is most regrettable to see the prime minister’s wife taking advantage of the evacuation of Malaysians from Egypt,” Zuraida said in a press statement.

“Her role, it seems, had overstepped the responsibilities of a minister.”

Zuraida added that Rosmah was desperate for recognition over the calls she put in to officials in Oman, Bahrain and Egypt to help with the evacuation of Malaysians.

Concerned with the recent political unrest in Egypt, the government came up with an elaborate evacuation plan to rescue about 10,000 Malaysians there.

Codenamed ‘Ops Piramid’, more than 7,000 Malaysians have thus far been ferried to nearby Jeddah in Saudi Arabia before being brought back home.

English daily the Star reported yesterday that both Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Rosmah had pulled strings to get this done.

Without informing her husband first, Rosmah allegedly called the Saudi royal family to coordinate the rescue effort.

PKR throws a dare at Najib

She claimed that Malaysian officials had asked her to use her connections with the Saudis to help move Ops Piramid.

Rosmah’s efforts however, did not impress Zuraida, who accused the former of grandstanding.

The PKR MP then threw a challenge and dared the prime minister to prop Rosmah as a possible candidate for the upcoming Merlimau by-election.

“This challenge is appropriate as it will appease Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s initial wish to field a female candidate in the Tenang by-election,” said Zuraida.

Shahrizat had originally asked BN to consider Labis Umno Wanita leader Haslinda Salleh to stand against PAS’ Normala Shamsudin.

Her plans were, however, ignored as Umno’s Azahar Ibrahim was field and emerged triumphant in Malaysia’s 14th by-election since the March 2008 general election.

“If Najib really wants to prove that he’s man open to change, then he should accept this challenge to field Rosmah,” said Zuraida.

Why appoint him the PKR Sabah head in the first place?



The PKR Sabah head appears to have just come to the conclusion that he has no confidence in Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership after a month as the PKR Sabah head -- and PKR appears to have just come to the conclusion that the PKR Sabah head is not a suitable person to lead PKR Sabah after all; after appointing him as the head merely a month ago. This appears to be a flip-flop of sorts and reflects the utter confusion that the party is suffering from.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin

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The Price of Malaysia's Racism

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib's political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed.

By John R. Malott, The Wall Stret Journal

Malaysia's national tourism agency promotes the country as "a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony." Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak echoed this view when he announced his government's theme, One Malaysia. "What makes Malaysia unique," Mr. Najib said, "is the diversity of our peoples. One Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity, which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future."

If Mr. Najib is serious about achieving that goal, a long look in the mirror might be in order first. Despite the government's new catchphrase, racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr. Najib took office in 2009. Indeed, they are worse than at any time since 1969, when at least 200 people died in racial clashes between the majority Malay and minority Chinese communities. The recent deterioration is due to the troubling fact that the country's leadership is tolerating, and in some cases provoking, ethnic factionalism through words and actions.

For instance, when the Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur invited the prime minister for a Christmas Day open house last December, Hardev Kaur, an aide to Mr. Najib, said Christian crosses would have to be removed. There could be no carols or prayers, so as not to offend the prime minister, who is Muslim. Ms. Kaur later insisted that she "had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction," as if any Malaysian could say no to a request from the prime minister's office.

Similar examples of insensitivity abound. In September 2009, Minister of Home Affairs Hishammuddin Onn met with protesters who had carried the decapitated head of a cow, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion, to an Indian temple. Mr. Hishammuddin then held a press conference defending their actions. Two months later, Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament that one reason Malaysia's armed forces are overwhelmingly Malay is that other ethnic groups have a "low spirit of patriotism." Under public pressure, he later apologized.

The leading Malay language newspaper, Utusan Melayu, prints what opposition leader Lim Kit Siang calls a daily staple of falsehoods that stoke racial hatred. Utusan, which is owned by Mr. Najib's political party, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Chinese Malaysian politicians, and even suggested that one of them, parliamentarian Teresa Kok, should be killed.

This steady erosion of tolerance is more than a political challenge. It's an economic problem as well.

Once one of the developing world's stars, Malaysia's economy has underperformed for the past decade. To meet its much-vaunted goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia needs to grow by 8% per year during this decade. That level of growth will require major private investment from both domestic and foreign sources, upgraded human skills, and significant economic reform. Worsening racial and religious tensions stand in the way.

Almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009, more than doubling the number of Malaysian professionals who live overseas. It appears that most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country and denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, whether in education, business, or government. Many of these emigrants, as well as the many Malaysian students who study overseas and never return (again, most of whom are ethnic Chinese and Indian), have the business, engineering, and scientific skills that Malaysia needs for its future. They also have the cultural and linguistic savvy to enhance Malaysia's economic ties with Asia's two biggest growing markets, China and India.

Of course, one could argue that discrimination isn't new for these Chinese and Indians. Malaysia's affirmative action policies for its Malay majority—which give them preference in everything from stock allocation to housing discounts—have been in place for decades. So what is driving the ethnic minorities away now?

First, these minorities increasingly feel that they have lost a voice in their own government. The Chinese and Indian political parties in the ruling coalition are supposed to protect the interests of their communities, but over the past few years, they have been neutered. They stand largely silent in the face of the growing racial insults hurled by their Malay political partners. Today over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created in 2010 that is supposed to encourage overseas Malaysians to return home, is headed by a Malay, with an all-Malay Board of Trustees.

Second, economic reform and adjustments to the government's affirmative action policies are on hold. Although Mr. Najib held out the hope of change a year ago with his New Economic Model, which promised an "inclusive" affirmative action policy that would be, in Mr. Najib's words, "market friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based," he has failed to follow through. This is because of opposition from right-wing militant Malay groups such as Perkasa, which believe that a move towards meritocracy and transparency threatens what they call "Malay rights."

But stalling reform will mean a further loss in competitiveness and slower growth. It also means that the cronyism and no-bid contracts that favor the well-connected will continue. All this sends a discouraging signal to many young Malaysians that no matter how hard they study or work, they will have a hard time getting ahead.

Mr. Najib may not actually believe much of the rhetoric emanating from his party and his government's officers, but he tolerates it because he needs to shore up his Malay base. It's politically convenient at a time when his party faces its most serious opposition challenge in recent memory—and especially when the opposition is challenging the government on ethnic policy and its economic consequences. One young opposition leader, parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has proposed a national debate on what she called the alternative visions of Malaysia's future—whether it should be a Malay nation or a Malaysian nation. For that, she earned the wrath of Perkasa; the government suggested her remark was "seditious."

Malaysia's government might find it politically expedient to stir the racial and religious pot, but its opportunism comes with an economic price tag. Its citizens will continue to vote with their feet and take their money and talents with them. And foreign investors, concerned about racial instability and the absence of meaningful economic reform, will continue to look elsewhere to do business.

Mr. Malott was the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998.

Lingam video clip: Federal Court grants RCI leave to appeal

(Bernama) -- The Federal Court today granted the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) tasked with hearing the VK Lingam video tape controversy, leave to challenge the Appeal's Court decision in allowing two retired judges and VK Lingam contest the findings of the commission at the courts.

The controversial video recording allegedly touched on the appointment of judges.

Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sheriff leading a three-man panel of the Federal Court unanimously ruled that the question of law posed by the commission for determination of the Federal Court was of a novel one and of public interest.

He said the commission had met the requirements of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act and granted leave to the commission to appeal on one question of law, that is on whether its (commission) findings under Section 3 of the Commission of Enquiry Act 1950 was reviewable by way of judicial review.

The other members of the panel were Federal Court judges Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin and Datuk Abdull Hamid Embong.

On Aug 24 last year, the appellate court, in a 2-1 majority decision allowed the appeal brought by Lingam and former Chief Justices Tun Eusoff Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim to set aside the High Court's refusal to grant leave for their applications for judicial review to quash the commission's findings.

Following the appellate court's decision, the matter had been remitted back to the Kuala Lumpur High Court to proceed to hear the merits of the trio's judicial review application.

In their report, the five-member panel of the RCI had concluded that the video clip was authentic, and that Lingam was the person in conversation with Ahmad Fairuz over the appointment of judges. The commission had also recommended that appropriate action be taken against six individuals namely Lingam, Eusoff, Fairuz, tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, businessman and former minister in the prime minister's department Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor for misconduct.

It also found that there was prima facie evidence to investigate the six men for offences under the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Legal Profession Act.

Earlier, senior federal counsel Datin Azizah Nawawi representing the commission, submitted in the proceedings at the Federal Court that the question of law posed was one of general principle which had not been decided previously by the apex court.

Lingam, who represented himself, submitted that the decision of the appellate court to grant them leave to intitate a judicial review, was an interlocutory decision and made in its (appellate court) exercise of its discretion.

"The Court of Appeal had merely applied the settled law on the grant of leave as laid down by our Supreme Court and the Federal Court," said Lingam, adding that the merits of the matter should proceed to be heard by the High Court.

Counsel Mahinder Singh Dulku who appeared for Ahmad Fairuz urged the court to dismiss the leave application because he said the question posed was not a jurisdictional question but was a question of facts which had to be determined at the judicial review hearing.

Berduaan di alam siber sama seperti khalwat

(MyMetro) - Wanita dan lelaki bukan mahrim yang berbual berduaan biarpun di alam siber, melakukan perlakuan sama seperti berkhalwat kerana ia mengundang bisikan syaitan yang akhirnya akan menarik mereka melakukan perbuatan mungkar, termasuk curang pada suami atau isteri.

Sehubungan itu, penceramah dan pakar motivasi, Datuk Mohd Zawawi Yusoh, berkata mereka yang menggunakan kemudahan Internet perlu meletakkan sempadan syariat dan sempadan hati supaya teknologi itu tidak disalah guna atau menjadi alat perantaraan untuk membuat maksiat.

Beliau berkata, isteri tidak seharusnya membenarkan lelaki bukan mahrim memasuki rumahnya ketika suami tiada di rumah, begitu juga halnya dengan perbuatan isteri berbual dengan lelaki lain menerusi Internet, seumpama membenarkan individu itu memasuki rumahnya, seterusnya merosakkan rumah tangga.

“Membenarkan perkara sebegini memasuki rumah bermakna membenarkan ia memasuki hati dan apabila manusia sudah keluar daripada sempadan, manusia itu akan menjadi rosak,” katanya ketika dihubungi, semalam.

Beliau berkata, bisikan syaitan menjadikan seseorang itu merasakan sesuatu perkara itu begitu menyeronokkan hingga sanggup melakukan perkara mungkar termasuk meninggalkan suami, isteri atau anak-anak, sedangkan ia bakal menyesali perbuatannya kerana keseronokan berkenaan hanya bersifat sementara disebabkan ia berada dalam alam fantasi.

Katanya, alam khayalan dan realiti tidak sama dengan di alam nyata, kita semua mempunyai tanggungjawab dan amanah yang perlu dipikul, bukan sekadar untuk berseronok.

“Asasnya adalah apabila hubungan dengan Allah rosak, maka semuanya akan meruntuh. Teknologi itu tidak salah, tetapi orang yang menyalah gunakan teknologi untuk tujuan terpesong,” katanya.

Open day to discuss minimum wage

The New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: The Human Resources Ministry is organising a Minimum Wage Open Day this Saturday for an exchange of views with the public.

The event will be held from 10am till 5pm at Menara Perkeso, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

“We would like to invite the public to discuss with us the best ways to implement minimum wage in the country,” said Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam.

The open day will be held in conjunction with the formation of the minimum wage lab which was reported yesterday.

Cuepacs president Datuk Omar Osman said the umbrella body for public sector unions would hold a discussion with the Public Service Department today, Friday and Saturday on the minimum wage policy.

He said Cuepacs would also be holding a meeting with the Public Services Department on Feb 16 and 17 to discuss changes to the method of evaluating civil servants performances which at present is done through the Efficiency Level Assessment system.

Omar said, for example, the grades for Road Transport Department enforcement officers, were not on a par with the grades of those in other agencies, resulting in discrepancies in their remuneration.

Osman said this at the International Youth Centre in Bandar Tun Razak where he gave a talk to members of the Peninsular Road Transport Officers Union (KPPJSM), who are holding a three-day course on integration, starting yesterday.

KPPJSM president Hamzah Masri said the union had recently submitted a memorandum to the PSD to upgrade its Car and Motor Inspector Service Scheme to ensure that the officers were paid salaries that reflected their qualifications.

He said the union wanted the scheme to be on a par with the Airplane Inspector Service Scheme.

“The scheme currently stops at diploma level, while the highest position that can be attained by RTD enforcement officers is senior road transport officer.

“This means there is no opportunity for salary and career advancement for RTD enforcement officers even if they had better qualifications or had been employed by the department for a long time.”

On the issue of minimum wage, Osman said Cuepacs was asking for the basic pay of civil servants, particularly those in Grade 1 to Grade 16, to be increased to at least RM920 a month.

PKR Leadership Pool Drying Up

By Kristy Inus

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- The move by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to form a presidential council to fill the leadership void in Sabah showed that the party's leadership pool is drying up, Puteri Umno chief Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said.

The party was not even able to appoint a leader in the state, she added.

"Puteri Umno believes the move by Sabah PKR chief Pajudin Nordin to quit the party and announce intention to join Umno on Saturday, after only a month at the helm of Sabah PKR, is a reflection of the actual problem plaguing PKR, either in Sabah or in the peninsula," she told Bernama when contacted.

PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail announced Sunday that a presidential council would be set up, with her as the interim chairperson, following Pajudin's departure.

Pajudin's appointment as Sabah PKR chief had come under fire from 18 of 24 PKR divisions in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin said the latest development in PKR showed that PKR was unable to find its leaders in Sabah because all the good ones were already with the Barisan Nasional (BN).

"It's a clear sign that the party is not accepted in Sabah. The writing is on the wall, there is no need for me to say more," he said.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the move by PKR's own leaders to leave the party, raised questions about the party's credibility.

"The events that are unfolding in Sabah are very interesting. It's anybody's guess why they are leaving but one of the reasons is the indication that they have lost confidence in the leadership of their own party.

"These people have decided to leave and prefer to be with and support the BN, and this is the conclusion that obviously must be seen by members of the public," he said.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Datuk Liew Vui Keong echoed Pairin's view, saying the people would now able to judge conclusively about the severity of PKR's internal leadership problem.

Penang: No. 1 street food haven

Apart from the state’s heritage, street food is where Penang’s real comparative advantage lies. Read more

Talks fail to end Egypt protests

Pro-democracy protesters are continuing their sit-in in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, showing no signs of being appeased by talks held a day earlier between the government and opposition groups.

Demonstrators seeking the immediate ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the president, were still camped out in the square on Monday, while life was slowly getting back to normal in other parts of the Egyptian capital following a fortnight of turmoil.

The protesters were to be visited by Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who had played a key role in helping the demonstrations get organised, and who was released on Monday by Egyptian authorities after having disappeared on January 27, according to government reports.

A symbolic funeral procession was also held in the square for a journalist killed by a sniper during the unrest. The procession was led by the journalist's wife and daughter.

The UN says at least 300 people have been killed in the violence since the demonstrations began.

An Al Jazeera correspondent said traffic in the streets was increasing while businesses were beginning to reopen.

"There's a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible," he said.

"But some of the shopping malls for example are still closed because they're afraid of looting, and the banks yesterday were only open for a few hours."

Another correspondent, also in Cairo, said: "There are divisions. On one side, people do agree with the messages coming out of Tahrir Square, but on the other, Egypt is a country where about 40 per cent of the population lives on daily wages."

Tanks continue to guard government buildings, embassies and other important institutions in the capital.

The curfew in major Egyptian cities, which has largely been ignored by protesters, has now been shortened to run from 8pm to 6am local time, and the Egyptian stock market is set to reopen for trading on Sunday.

The bourse has been closed since January 27, when it plummeted 17 per cent over two days.

The Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority, the national financial regulator, will announce new measures affecting trading, according to a statement.

Cabinet meeting

On Monday, the government announced that it was raising all public sector salaries and pensions by 15 per cent, as Mubarak chaired the first full meeting of his cabinet since unrest began on January 25, the state MENA news agency reported.

Samir Radwan, the country's new finance minister, told MENA that increasing pensions will cost the government 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($940m), while a five billion pound ($840m) fund has also been created to compensate those affected by looting or vandalism during the protests.

While the government is keen on projecting the image of stability returning to the country, however, protesters are unconvinced.

"The word 'stability' is a word the regime uses all the time - but ... what is stability without freedom?" Dr Sally Moore, a representative of the Popular Campaign in Support of Elbaradei (one of six groups that makes the "Youth of the Egyptian Revolution" coalition), told Al Jazeera.

"We are in for the long haul. The regime is trying to play us against the people in Tahrir Square, but we always remind them they are our people, our families.

"We are talking about freedom ... about lost rights for 30 years, ... about torture ... and I think people want radical change, not only minor reform."

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera online producer, reporting from the square, said relations between the protesters and the troops had been turning tense.

On Sunday night, troops stationed near the Egypt Museum briefly opened fire.

Tensions also rose when soldiers attempted to reinforce a barbed wire fence, which the protesters resisted. Agitated protesters staged a sit-in and two of them were detained.

'People's revolution'

Omar Suleiman, the country's newly appointed vice-president, began meetings with six opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in an attempt to end the crisis.

However, Salma El-Tarzi, an activist in Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera that she was indifferent to the talks.

"The political parties can do whatever they please because they don't represent us," she said.

"This is not a revolution made by the parties. The parties have been there for 30 years and they've done nothing. This is the people's revolution."

Some analysts have called the Muslim Brotherhood's participation in the dialogue a major concession.

The group had initially refused to participate in any negotiations unless Mubarak resigned.

Essam El-Erian, a member of the MB, Egypt's largest opposition group, told Al Jazeera that it has to participate "in any dialogue that can meet the demands of the people".

"This process can encourage more people to be added to protesters in Tahrir Square and all over the country.

"We've gone to the dialogue to enforce the revolution ... to add more pressure on Mubarak and his regime to leave."

However, another member of the movement played down the meeting, saying the MB is not prepared to drop its central demand of calling for Mubarak to resign as president.

"We cannot call it talks or negotiations. The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned ... that he [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase," Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh told Al Jazeera.

Reforms pledged

According to a statement from Suleiman's office following the meeting, the government offered to form a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments, pursue allegedly corrupt government officials, "liberalise" media and communications and lift the state of emergency in the country when the security situation was deemed to be appropriate.

But Fotouh said the government had failed to take concrete measures on the ground.

"If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved, also a presidential decree ending the emergency law".

Egypt has been under emergency rule since 1981, the year Mubarak assumed power.

Barack Obama, the US president, made new remarks on the political situation in Egypt after the meeting.

He told the US television network Fox that Egyptians would not permit a repressive government to fill the Mubarak void, adding that the Muslim Brotherhood is only one faction in Egypt.

"But here's the thing that we have to understand, there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that want to come to the fore as well.

"So it's important for us not to say that our own only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a

suppressed people."

In remarks made on the sidelines of a speaking enagement on Monday, Obama said Egypt was "making progress" through the ongoing negotiations.

Our correspondent in Cairo said the pro-democracy protesters were still not pleased with Obama's stance on the crisis.

"Protesters tell me Obama still hasn't come up with any statement that they want to hear," he said.

"They want immediate change and the feeling among many of them is that the way US is handling this crisis is not good for the way America is perceived both here and in general in the wider region."

Source:Al Jazeera and agencies

Pakatan picks PAS for Merlimau vote

Anwar (centre) announced that PR will be going with PAS for the coming Merlimau by-election. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — The Pakatan Rakyat leadership (PR) denied today rumours of PAS’s plans to stay away from the Merlimau by-election, claiming that it had agreed to field a candidate from the Islamist party for the March 6 vote.

PR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced this evening that the pact had unanimously agreed that a PAS candidate should stand for the country’s 15th by-election.

“Not true, not true,” several PR leaders responded simultaneously this evening, when asked in a press conference at DAP’s headquarters here if the rumours of PAS’s plans to stand down were true.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali had also turned around to ask reporters for the name of the source who had made the claim.

“Where did you get that information? Was there any name mentioned? No? So, no, it is not true,” he said.

Anwar added that PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang would seek the help of the entire PR machinery to assist in preparations for the by-election.

When asked if the leadership had decided on the name of the candidate, Hadi, who was also at the press conference, told reporters that the decision would likely be made soon during the PAS leadership meeting on February 13.

“We will shortlist the names later,” he said.

He noted that based on convention, the candidate would likely be a local and added that the party’s national leadership would consult its Malacca leaders before deciding on the name.

The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Merlimau by-election would likely see incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) winning the seat uncontested if PAS decides to stay away from the poll.

It has also been reported that PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin was interested to contest in the polls, indicating a possible tussle between the two PR parties for the seat.

A source from the PAS central committee had claimed that a significant number of senior leaders in the Islamist party have been lobbying the top leadership not to field a candidate in the BN stronghold.

“We have to choose our battles. We can’t just contest when a vacancy arises. It is very costly and this is the time for us to focus on the general election,” said a member of the PAS political bureau who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Out of the 14 by-elections held since 2008, PAS has contested seven and won four.

The last time PAS refused to contest in a by-election was in January 2007, when Pahang’s Batu Talam seat fell vacant. The party then cited electoral irregularities for boycotting the by-election.

“Except for some who have been eager to set up an operations centre in Merlimau, many of us in the national leadership are not in favour of contesting,” said the source.

The PAS central committee member said the only obstacle to the plan is the Malacca state leadership as well as leaders of the party’s Jasin division.

It is understood that PAS vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who has been appointed the Merlimau by-election director, is likely to back the proposal to stand down as he has previously spoken out against by-elections.

The influential ulama had said during the Hulu Selangor campaign last year that by-elections cause government resources to be redistributed, affecting development plans.

Tuan Ibrahim had also accused all political parties of violating election laws by over-spending during campaigning periods.

Meanwhile, another PAS insider said the party would first have to decide not to contest before convincing its PR partners to agree.

“The problem is PKR and the Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin are interested. There will be more damage internally if we let PKR contest,” he said, citing the Election 2008 seat negotiation agreement when Shamsul abandoned the Jasin parliamentary seat after he was given clearance by the Terengganu PAS leadership to contest in Dungun.

The Jasin parliamentary constituency is a stronghold of BN, where it won all the five state seats including Merlimau in Election 2008.

PKR through Shamsul had demanded for the Jasin seat, which had been traditionally contested by PAS prior to Election 2008.

The Merlimau state seat fell vacant after BN’s Datuk Mohamad Hidhir Abu Hasan, 54, died on January 20.

In the 1999 general election, BN won with a majority of 2,252 votes. This rose in 2004 to 5,087 votes, before dipping in 2008 to 2,154 votes.

Mohamad Hidhir, who was also a state executive councillor, defeated PAS’s Jasme Tompang in the March 2008 general election.

Relocate Tamil school now, says rep

The Selangor state government has allocated the land, so the federal government should not delay the project any further.

PETALING JAYA : The federal government has been urged to relocate the Seaport Tamil school in Kelana Jaya immediately. The relocation plan has been delayed since 2008.

Speaking on behalf of the residents, Seri Setia PKR assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad today called on the Public Works Deparment (PWD) to commence contsruction of the new school building.

He said since the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government had allocated 1.5 acres of land in Desa Mentari for the new building, there was no reason to delay the relocation.

“After negotiations between the PTA (Parents-Teachers Association), local residents, the state government and the state council headed by Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, it was decided to relocate the school to Desa Mentari,” he told reporters.

Also present at the press conference were PTA chairman R Purushothaman, MBPJ councillors and local PKR leaders.

According to Nik Azmi, the state Housing and Development Corporation (PKNS) had allocated RM1.2 million for the new building in 2008.

He said that PWD also revealed that the construction plan for the new building had been aprroved.

“Currently, the Seaport school only has 112 pupils. If we relocate, the number of pupils will increase. The federal government and education deparment cannot delay this,” he said.

However, a local resident, who wished to be known only as Paneer, said he was disappointed that only 1.5 acres of land was allocated when the original allocation in 1995 was 3.5 acres.

Back then, following pressure from local residents, the Barisan Nasional state government agreed to allocate seven acres in Mentari Court for the construction of a cluster of schools, including one with Tamil as the medium of instruction on 3.5 acres.

However, the state government changed its mind and approved plans to build medium-cost apartments at the site instead.

Following an uproar, the state government allocated another site in Desa Mentari for the schools.

Under the new plan, 7.3 acres was allocated for the cluster of schools, but this did not include a Tamil school.

It was proposed that the Tamil school be built at a different site within one acre. However, nothing had materialised and the Indian community’s appeals to MIC fell on deaf ears.

The race card being played to the hilt


It does not matter whether it is Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat. Both play the race card to the hilt. This is what Malaysian politics has been reduced to. And now we are told that Malaysia is ‘Tanah Melayu’ or Malay Soil. 1Malaysia and Ketuanan Rakyat have been reduced to empty slogans because the underlying factor is still race.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin

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Intolerance Turns Deadly

Image(Asia Sentinel) A mob attack by religious hardliners kills three and exposes presidential weakness

Horrific violence Sunday in the province of Banten in Indonesia left three members of a deviationist Muslim sect dead at the hands of an enraged mob and also exposed the inability of the Indonesian government to take a firm stand on growing religious extremism.

The attack on a houseful of members of the Ahmadiyah sect by a mob of some 1,500 local residents has its roots in a 2005 ruling by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). That fatwah, which called Ahmadiyah’s teachings blasphemous, has been compounded, particularly in the last two to three years, by the seeming indifference of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has displayed relatively little ambition to rein in Islamist extremists and outright thugs acting in the name of religion.

Religious intolerance has been growing markedly against all non-Muslim religious groups. But it is the Ahmadiyah who have borne the brunt of the violence. Their belief that the sect’s founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the last Islamic prophet, succeeding Muhammad, has made them a target in many countries for being heretical.

In the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of alleged communists could be summarily butchered in Indonesia, with little word reaching the outside about the extent of the horror. Today, some of those same passions exist, only they are channeled into religious feuds by groups seeking political advantage. The difference is that in a more open society, the government has to answer for such outrages.

"The MUI, Minister of Religious Affairs and hard-liners are responsible for murdering Indonesians," wrote one reader to the Jakarta Globe. "Our Pancasila constitution protects all Indonesians who believe in one god. The MUI fatwa against the Ahmadiyah religion is unconstitutional and should be revoked by the president, as it violates our constitution. I am now concerned that Indonesia will disintegrate, just because of disharmony among religions. Religion should be separate from government involvement, and it should be treated as a private matter, due to its emotional sensitivity. We should disband the MUI, the Religious Affairs Department and the hardliners, and then peace could prevail."

On Sunday at around 10 am, the 1,500 villagers surrounded and attacked 25 Ahmadiyah members who had refused to leave the house of a local group leader, Ismail Suparman. The Ahmadis had been guarding Suparman’s house after he was detained by local police on suspicion of proselytizing, which is forbidden under a 2008 ministerial decree restricting Ahmadiyah’s activities.

On Saturday, a local chieftain said that initially residents had no intention to take violent acts. Villagers "just wanted the followers of the Ahmadiyah to disband themselves," he told the government-owned Antara News Service.

Despite the fact that the villagers had been massing for several hours, the police appeared to be woefully unprepared for what happened. Only about 30 police were on hand to attempt to defend the Ahmadiyah members. According to video shot surreptitiously by an Ahmadi, there were no police barricades erected to prevent the clashes.

"Police get out. Burn these Ahmadiyah people!" one man shouts on the video. The mob immediately attacked the house with rocks, forcing the people inside to flee. The footage shows the mob a bit later, swarming around two lifeless bodies covered in mud. The Ahmadi who took the video said the pair were chased to a nearby rice field where they were beaten and killed with wooden staves and stones. The crowd then dragged the bodies along the road. Others were filmed attacking the corpses and cheering.

While most of the video is too gruesome for public airing on TV news channels, it has already made its way to YouTube, where it is likely to remain a deep embarrassment for Indonesia.

Sunday's incident presumably leaves the president little room to maneuver. The question is whether now he will take decisive action. It has been condemned by the House of Representatives faction of the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Ansor youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in the country; the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace and the Wahid Institute, set up in the name of the late President Abdurrahman Wahid, Gus Dur, to defend human rights. The opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) denounced the attacks and called for an investigation of police inaction.

These attacks "threaten the diversity of our national life," said PDI-P lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari on Monday. The Wahid Institute called on Yudhoyono to take action. "Do not say in speeches that Indonesia protects religious freedom and then, when there are violations of religious freedom, stay silent and pretend like nothing happened," it said.

The PKB, Gus Dur’s former party, also "strongly condemned" the violence in a statement and lashed out at the assailants as "immoral human rights violators who acted contrary to the peaceful principle of Islamic teachings."

Even though there is little love to for the sect among mainstream Muslims, the brutality of a mob slaughtering unarmed people on the basis of their religious beliefs in a country that prides itself on tolerance appears certain to create a backlash against Yudhoyono, who has attempted to straddle such issues, pleasing the hardliners by waffling while claiming to believe in tolerance.

For instance, Yudhoyono appointed Suryadharma Ali as Religious Affairs Minister. Suryadharma has repeatedly voiced his desire to see the sect banned outright. He also appointed Timur Pradopo, who has strong ties to the violent Islamic Defenders Front, as national police chief. Questioned by members of the House, Timur defended the organization, known by its Indonesian initials FPI, whose members have repeatedly raided nightclubs, harassed women for wearing that they consider immodest dress and taken other violent action. In 2008, hundreds of FPI followers dressed in white robes and wielding bamboo sticks, raided a Jakarta rally for religious tolerance, attacking unarmed bystanders. They routinely attack churches, non-believers and Ahmadis. They also have close ties to the National Police. Despite calls to rein in the group, Yudhoyono has issued only weak statements calling for tolerance and the rule of law.

"The president regrets that there were victims during the incident," Julian Aldrin Pasha, a presidential spokesman, said Sunday. "Steps should be taken against those who violated the law." Pasha said, adding that Yudhoyono had ordered Suryadharma Ali to go to the village and to explain the incident to the public.

Abdul Kadir Karding, chairman of the House of Representatives Commission VIII for religious affairs, said the legislature would summon the national police chief and minister of religious affairs in an attempt to put a permanent end to violence against the sect.

"Possibly also religious figures and the Indonesian Ulema Council [will be summoned]," Karding said. "I must admit that the government seems to be not proactive in detecting the attacks. Violence, in any form, must not happen to our people."

Additional reporting from the Jakarta Globe

In praise of secularism

By AB Sulaiman

In my earlier but one commentary, I stated that the Malay problem is the root cause of the nation’s problems. Soon after it was published on Jan 6, a dear friend and former office colleague sent me a note.
Ali (not his real name) agreed with my observation but disagreed strongly with my suggestion that one of the ways of solving ‘the Malay problem’ would be to secularise the Malay mind. He seemed to be saying, “Yes I agree with all your observations so long as you don’t ask the Malay to secularise his thinking”.
His reaction was all too familiar, for secularism is considered a dirty word, amounting to blasphemy and apostasy, to the Malay community – a major sin in orthodox Malay reckoning.
But Ali, and those who think like and agree with him, can be no more wrong. Here’s why:

What does secularism mean in the first place? A noted British sociologist, Bryan Wilson, defines it as “The process whereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose social significance.”
I’d go back to the time when nation states were developing in Europe to appreciate this definition a bit more.
In the early formation of the state, power was concentrated in the Church, hat is, in the hands of the clergy or priestly class. Religion was so powerful that not only the people but even the King was under its centralised control. (Note: The word ‘Church’ of course is symbolic of ‘religion’, specifically Christianity; and ‘King’ of ‘state’).
But I suppose the individual human spirit is born free, and did not quite accept the perpetual bondage of religion. So, in the course of history, the people were getting increasingly tired of the Church. In the Reformation period (about the 16th century onwards) they rebelled against it.
The rebellion came from two quarters, the intelligentsia on one part and the King on the other. Some of the followers of the Church, like John Calvin and Martin Luther, developed their own interpretation of the Christian scriptures. They ‘rebelled’ against the Catholic orthodoxy and formed their own denominations. They are generally called Reformists.
In the case of the King, I take Henry VIII as an example. He wanted the Church to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, but the Church refused. Henry VIII ‘rebelled’ by creating the Protestant church, divorcing Catherine and marrying Anne Boleyn.
Transfer of power to the people
The effect of this rebellion saw state power transferred from the clergy to the monarchy and people.
But the King, a mere human, soon got involved in excesses he used to practise even before his escape from the priestly clutches.
He was, after all, the absolute monarchist in a feudal setting. This made the people angry all over again. Soon they rebelled against the King. Just look at what happened in France in 1789. They guillotined the royalty and nobility in the streets of Paris while the people cheered!
The effect this time was that the monarchy was sidelined; state power from then on was completely transferred to the people. For the first time in human history, the individual experienced and enjoyed complete freedom from religion and the state.
Secularisation in other words split the people on two quantum occasions: one, from the clutches of the church, and two, from the monarchy. State power then belonged to the people.
President Lincoln of the US recorded and described it as ‘the government of the people, by the people and for the people’. Note that religion and King were not even mentioned in this classic definition.
Individual freedom
The personal freedom brought about by the clergy-monarchy-people split brought with it the sense of the individual to the fore.
It allowed the growth and maturing of the spirit of the individual. He is responsible for his own progress, his freedom and his opportunity to develop his own talent, skills and individual spirit; so long, of course, this is done within the confines of the law.
This spirit enables a person to develop his own sense of pride and dignity, his own mertabat (dignity and honour); and find satisfaction and happiness in his own accomplishments.
What this means in turn is that it places the value, autonomy and benefits of the individual over that of the group (or race), society or nation. It makes the individual the prime unit in a social system. He is his own boss.
The independence of the individual gives rise to the development of human rights. He has the right of speech and expression, of religion and marriage, and to seek his own happiness. Mainly, it gives the person the ability to think independently make decisions based on the best alternatives available to him.
Scientific knowledge
The growth of the personal freedom of the individual, and of individual thinking, coincides with the growth of human knowledge, especially in science or scientific knowledge.
Science in turn is understanding nature. For example, science tells that lightning is electricity, not a sign of an angry God way up in the sky. It says that all living things have shape and size, ‘body’ temperature, and move about no faster than the speed of light.
All living things exist following the laws of physics, and that this law operates independent of a god. Gravity, for example, operates whether god exists or not.
An increasing understanding of nature leads to human control over it. To illustrate, matter when heated expands, and water expands into steam. With this knowledge, the steam engine was invented.
There was the rise in technological advancements. There was the rise in invention of new tools and implements, like the microscope and more powerful telescopes.
Early trains were powered by the steam engine. The combined harvester could plough huge acreages of wheat fields, so much so that large-scale farming was made possible. And today. we have the amazing computer.
The rise in scientific knowledge and the invention of tools have given the human civilisation the ability to look deeper into the minute world and further into the length and breadth of the universe.
Democratic principles
There are several other principles and tenets of democracy worth mentioning here. The first is the development and rise of the rule of law. The rule of law must prevail in society, otherwise there will be chaos.
Second, there is the system of check-and-balance between the legislature, executive and judiciary.
Third, there is the election process of identifying and appointing political leaders in a democratic system of government.
Fourth, there is the full participation of the people in the running of the country. The general population is given the opportunity to participate in the debate for the formulation of public policies. This is done via the conduit of the civic societies, the mass media or by direct communication with the people’s elected representatives.
Engines of growth
It turns out that the combination of the individual spirit (I), the progress and development of scientific knowledge (S) and the development of democracy (D) have pushed human civilisation to faster and greater progress.
In other words the ISD combination is the engine of growth of the human civilisation. I am therefore making the assumption here that there is a high correlation between ISD countries with the progress and development of the human civilisation.
Consider the following:
  1. All of the early European nations experiencing the Industrial Revolution were experiencing the development of the individual spirit and the scientific progress, for example the UK and Germany.
  2. All developed and advanced economies are democratic. Today there are few non-ISD developed countries. China, being socialist, is non-ISD, However, one can testify to the mushrooming number of entrepreneurs and capitalists there.
  3. Their peoples are highly literate, knowledgeable and comfortable with science and technology.
Today, virtually all highly developed nations are ISD. Just look at the US, Western Europe, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
People power
Critics might say that for a country to progress, there must be many factors existing in the economic make-up. There must be sufficient infrastructure, for example roads and bridges, schools and hospitals existing in the country.
There must be sufficient raw materials like coal, oil, iron, and such. There must be people with fairly high purchasing power to start the consumer base of the economy.
But while admitting that the availability of raw materials and infrastructure are essential, they can never equate the ‘I’ (namely the enterprising human spirit) as part of the ISD equation.
Look at Japan. It is a group of hilly islands with poor raw material resources. It had hardly anything but people, people and more people. Before the World War II few would guess it would become an economic behemoth from the 1960s till to-date. It has been able to do so because of the quality of its human resource, its high ‘I’ factor.
South Korea’s is a similar story. Again after the World War II, few could imagine it would become the economic superpower it is today. The country is basically barren and does not have any raw materials in any meaningful quantity. Yet, like Japan, they delivered their country as a member of the highly economically productive ISD nations.
Then, take the case of little city-states that have nothing but people, people and more people, as in the cases of Hong Kong and Singapore. They have developed a dynamic economy out of nothing but the spirit and enterprise of their people.
Malay experience
Malaysia is a most sorry case of economic non-performance in the world community of nations. In the early Sixties, we were at an even level with modern power-houses like Singapore, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
We had all of the prerequisites of development some of them did not have. We have the land, the people, the system of administration, the raw materials and perhaps even the capital to compete and shine in the world arena.
Today, these countries are in the ISD league, but we are trying to join them, not now, but in 2020. Judging by the look of things, we are not about getting there. Why?
Because we have been led by the Ketuanan Melayu (KM) polity which, unfortunately, has the following European pre-Reformation features:
  1. The general Malay person has little sense of the individual. His focus is towards communal (call it racist) interest and solidarity. He lacks confidence and considers himself weak, thereby dependent on government largesse.
  2. KM created an education system focussing not on science and technology, but on principles like morality, cultural values and religion.
  3. Malay political leaders consider it to their advantage to retain the feudal monarchical system of government. Democracy in this country is nothing more beyond a general election every four or five years.
The KM polity operates on the platform of untuk agama, bangsa dan negara (for religion, race and nation). These are ‘un-ISD’ principles.
Catch-22
Malaysia has not yet experienced the ISD reformation, because:
  1. The Malay individual is still expecting special treatment to cure his lack of confidence. It looks like the New Economic Policy and its successors are here to stay. He is protecting his mertabat at other people’s expense.
  2. Religion is not for the individual to choose, but the government ‘chooses’ it for him or her.
  3. The people are fragmented into ‘Malays’ and ‘non-Malays’. This is no way of creating a one-race, one-nation, 1Malaysia political entity.
  4. Good, young and talented people are running away to other countries. One, Singapore, is very happy with this.
  5. Foreign investment is low, while domestic capital is running away. The recent Global Financial Integrity revelation that between 2002 and 2008 as much as US$291 billion have been illegally siphoned out of the country would just make this issue dire.
  6. Public institutions are breaking down. The education system is such that the universities are producing graduates who can’t think or able to have meaningful communication or other social interaction. The legal system is an international joke.
  7. Don’t talk about the essence of democracy in this country: the rule of law has become the rule of men. Equality and fairness is for the connected. Belief in religion (Islam) is mandatory.
  8. Corruption is epidemic. as hinted by (iv) above.
How can Malaysia get out of this rut? It’s a complex question with no definite answers. But I propose one possible solution – by it becoming an ISD nation!
So, to my friend Ali and others with similar thinking, there is, after all, something to be said for the Malays to begin accepting secularism as a cure for this ‘Malay problem’.
——
AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya.

MIC reviews acquittal of suspect in Kugan's case

The Sun
by Natalie Heng

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 6, 2011): The MIC is studying the recent acquittal of police constable V. Navindran in the case of A. Kugan who died while in police custody two years ago, and would write to the Inspector-General of Police, its president Datuk G. Palanivel said yesterday.

He declined further comment on the matter which has attracted attention after Navindran, who was charged with voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extract a confession from the 23-year-old A. Kugan, was acquitted last week without his defence being called.

Palanivel was speaking at the launch of the MIC headquarters service centre at Jalan Rahmat today.

MIC Youth chief Mohan Thangarasu, who was also present, described the episode as upsetting and said MIC would meet Pakatan Rakyat leaders, including Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam, to prepare a paper calling for a royal commission or a separate body to look into it.

"Even though Navindran might be innocent, then who was the one who beat and killed him?" he asked.

"This issue is indicative of police brutality and custodial deaths are still very high.

"On this issue we are willing to work with them (PKR leaders)," he said.

Concerning the novel "Interlok", Mohan said he had no issue with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's announcement that the novel will remain the Malay literature textbook for Form Five.

"It's very clear, the deputy prime minister said they will withdraw whatever sensitive word was there, so what else is there to do?

"We should focus on other things, there are a lot of other important issues," he said.

Palanivel also said MIC state and division level service centres nationwide would be revamped by April in order to better serve the community.

He said centres would have standard opening times from 9am to 2pm on Sundays, so that services will more accessible to the public.

At the service centre at Jalan Rahmat yesterday, about 30 volunteers from Wanita MIC, Yayasan Strategik Social and MIC Youth Social and Welfare Bureau provide help to more than 100 people.

The service centres are intended to be one-stop centres where people can seek help with welfare, health or job-related issues and seek advice on government agencies best suited to address their problems. -- theSun

Ringgit Expected To Hit 3.00 Against US Dollar By Q1

By Nor Baizura Basri

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- The ringgit, which touched a new 13-year high of 3.0345 in intra-day trade Monday, is expected to hit 3.00 against the dollar by the first quarter, supported by speculation that Asian central banks may raise interest rate to curb inflationary pressure and the continued commercial demand for the local currency.

"We expect the ringgit will eventually reach 3.00 against the dollar in the next few weeks, probably by the first quarter of this year. The next level that we expect it to hit will be RM3.025," said a currency trader to Bernama here Monday.

Indonesia on Monday raised interest rate by 25 basis points as part of its effort to tackle inflationary pressure.

According to UOB Economic Treasury Research, the Philippines' and South Korea's central banks will likely announce their rate decisions on Thursday and Friday respectively.

The Philippines is expected to keep rates steady at four per cent while South Korea could raise rates by 25 basis points to three per cent, it said in its research note here Monday.

Since the start of this year, the ringgit has appreciated by 1.3 per cent and reported as the third best performer in Asia after the Taiwan dollar and the South Korean won.

Another dealer, meanwhile said the prolonged crisis in Egypt will continue to give impact to the dollar as the country is seen as an ally to the US.

At close on Monday, the ringgit ended trade at 3.0360/0390 against the dollar.

Najib bullies ala Mubarak; Protection against revolution = principles, not force

=
Star:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made it clear that the Government will not allow copycat attempts to usurp power in Malaysia.
“Currently, there are demonstrations and activities to bring down the government by force in certain countries.
“Don’t think that what is happening in these countries must also happen in Malaysia or Sarawak.
“These things need not happen here. We (the Government) will not allow them to happen here,” he said last night at Miri City Fan Square where he attended the national-level Chinese New Year open house.
“From very early on, the Govern­ment has always adhered to the belief that the rakyat is supreme.
“The rakyat has been given the freedom to choose the government of its choice. There is no need to usurp power.
“We will stop any attempt to bring such trouble into Malaysia or Sarawak,” Najib stressed.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what an ass.
I dunno about you, but I hate bullies who try to threaten.
I think however, that we should all take this as encouraging sign – that Najib is admitting to similarities between his regime and Mubarak’s in Egypt.
No mass movement is capable or even interested in overthrowing a government if said government is just. (Trust me, we got better things to do)
So, Najib is clearly feeling the heat of a guilty conscience, as well he should. We should keep up the pressure.
So instead of trying to strong arm and bully the rakyat Datuk Seri, perhaps you should look inwards and try to stop detaining people without trial, remove the dark stain of corruption and racism from our nation, and prevent people from dying brutal deaths in detention.
That’s the ethical government’s protection against revolution, not the show of force.
*
In other news, how on earth is one to feel about the Star’s choice of picture caption for the above article to be:

Uthaya and Manoharan: We declare Bukit Gasing Sivan temple open to public from today