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Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt braces for massive protest

Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters are expected to march onto the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday, in what could become the largest - and some fear the most violent - protests thus far.
The demonstrators’ hopes for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak were dashed on Thursday as Mubarak, in a 17-minute address on television, said he was determined to stay in power until September, when his current term ends.
Mubarak said he had transferred some of his powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman and that he would oversee an "exit" from the current crisis, and "realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens ... without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society".
Before he finished his anticlimactic speech, protesters camped in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt’s revolution, shouted "donkey, leave!"
Rabab Al Mahdi, a professor at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the level of anger and frustration at the square was "unprecedented".
"This is putting us into a messy situation that can turn bloody at any moment," she said, adding that the fact that Mubarak "for more than 10 minutes, was talking about himself - very narcissistic, again, giving the message that he's still in control, and this, in and by itself, offended people." 
Egyptian state television did not broadcast the scenes of anger after Mubarak's speech.
New front
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that halfway through Mubarak's speech, when the president spoke of his years in public service, people began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt.
"You could also see tears in some of the people's eyes ... a lot of screams of anger, people just breaking down in tears, people just breaking down in pain," our correspondent said.
Click here for more of Al Jazeera's special coverage 
Some people began to immediately mobilise for fresh protests on Friday in response to the speech, she said.
Protesters had previously planned "Friday of martyrs" to memorialise the 300 or more who have been killed during pro-democracy protests, which now have entered a third week.
Thousands of protesters have moved overnight nearer to the  presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis in central Cairo.
"This marks a new front in our struggle against this illegitimate regime," wrote one protesters on the microblogging site Twitter. "Now that Mubarak has refused to quit, gracefully, he'll pay the price."
In addition to occupying Tahrir Square, pro-democracy protests have already blocked access to the parliament building near the square.
Thousands of protesters were also surrounding the radio and television building in Cairo, which they see as a mouthpiece for Mubarak's regime.
Workers on strike
Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.
Outraged by Mubarak’s defiance, many more workers vowed to join the planned protests on Friday. Pro-democracy demonstrators were undeterred by  Vice-President Suleiman's call on Thursday to return to their jobs and homes.
The people's anger was not restricted to Cairo. In Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, crowds began roaring and shouting and headed toward the military base of the northern command.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from that city, said pro-democracy protesters were "more offended than ever" at hearing that Mubarak's intention to remain in power until September.
"They really do not understand how President Mubarak cannot comprehend the strong sentiments which they have been expressing over the past two weeks," he said.
The US and EU said the announcement to transfer some powers to the vice-president was grossly insufficient and falls short of genuine reforms demanded by the people.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, said Egypt "will explode" as a result of Mubarak's defiance and called on the Egyptian army to intervene "to save the country."

MIC slams ‘sinful Christians’ ustazah

The party is alarmed that a religious teacher could make such remarks instead of promoting respect and tolerance for other faiths.

PETALING JAYA: MIC has expressed shock over the remarks of a religious teacher who claimed that it was the Christians who often indulged in vice.

“It’s alarming that a person of such standing holds such prejudice and bias against Christians. It shows her total lack of understanding about Christianity and its followers,” said party information chief S Murugesan.

Yesterday, FMT reported that the 47-year-old ustazah, Siti Nor Bahyah Mahmood, had warned Muslims against celebrating Valentine’s Day.

She had made the remarks during an Islamic educational programme aired on TV9, owned by the Umno-linked media conglomerate, Media Prima.

A video-clip of the programme, posted on YouTube, had sparked off a raging debate.

In the clip, Siti claimed that it was the Christians who normally indulged in vice, such as frequenting discos and dating.

“Selalunya buat maksiat, pergi disko… couple, couple, bersunyi-sunyian, ini adalah tradisi bagi masyarakat yang beragama Kristian bukan agama Islam…,” she had said.

Meanwhile, Murugesan said the problem of educators themselves becoming “blinkered and prejudiced” had become more apparent in recent years.

“It’s imperative that all our educators first understand and respect other religions. It’s laudable to promote the values of your own religion but don’t condemn others,” he added.

The MIC leader said if Malaysians were to move forward as a nation, it was imperative that educators had the right understanding, depth and compassion.

“Set our educators right as they will mold our youths,” he added.

The making of a police state

No matter how hard Dr Mahathir Mohamad tries to whitewash his dark record over Operation Lallang, he will surely fail because there will be many more truth-seeking historians on stand-by to put the record straight. 

At least one fact stands out: Mahathir now seems ashamed of his role in Ops Lalang. And so he should be after more than two decades of trying to justify the dastardly act.

But can he wriggle out of the responsibility even though former inspector-general of police Hanif Omar has so graciously come forward to claim credit for it?

First of all, what do you expect of a former IGP who was prepared to walk through the revolving door of a top police post upon retirement straight into the board of a corporation that makes its money from gambling in Genting Highlands?

There are two issues here: (i) the ethical problem of top government servants retiring into companies which have a bearing on their previous departments; (ii) the hypocrisy of prohibiting Muslim workers from serving in establishments which serve alcohol but allowing Muslim elite to be in the board of gambling outfits.

The former IGP now claims that the police force he led was responsible for Ops Lalang and not the prime minister, who was then also home minister.

Is this the way our democracy operates? What has happened to the principle of ministerial responsibility? True, these are mere principles you might say, but it also makes our ministers and former prime minister look like idiots.

Tunku's take on Ops Lalang
Of course, Mahathir would not want to be remembered as an idiot or a weak prime minister either. The truth is, as the Tunku Abdul Rahman said when Ops Lalang happened: “Overnight Malaysia has become a police state.”

In a police state, there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive. It does not mean that the police have taken over the political reins of power. Such a situation is facilitated by the existence of laws that allow detention without trial.

People in a police state experience restrictions on their freedoms of expression, assembly and association, while a secret police force operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state which can tell the executive who the “enemies of the state” are.

In 1987 when Ops Lalang was unleashed, our elderly 'Bapa Malaysia' could see that the country had become a police state even though the donkeys in the BN could not. He could also see the underlying reasons for Mahathir's actions and put it bluntly:

“Umno was facing a break-up. The prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad's hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory against Tunku Razaleigh (Hamzah).

“The case alleging irregularities brought by Umno members was pending in court. If the judgment went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament.

“A national crisis had to be created to bring Umno together as a united force to fight a common enemy - and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community...

“If there was indeed a real security threat facing the country, why was action not taken much sooner when (the arrested and detained) ... were alleged to have made dangerous racial speeches as far back as 1984?”

The underlying factor, which determined the uncertainty in Malaysian politics ever since 1986, was the power struggle within Umno. This relentless power struggle was inevitable considering the size of the spoils of the New Economic Policy at stake.

The irreconcilable differences between Team A led by Mahathir and Team B led by Razaleigh was the destabilising factor which dominated the ruling BN coalition. This, in turn, set in train other destructive forces within the coalition's member parties.

Orchestrated communalism

And as communalism is the stock-in-trade of the BN communal partners in any precarious situation, race politics becomes the order of the day.

Not surprisingly, the factions in Umno began to beat their breasts about Malay dominance which had been aired by Abdullah Ahmad in 1986 while the MCA played out its own orchestrated role as the champion of the Chinese.

It was in this communalist climate that the usual “sensitive issues” were bandied around; raising such issues as non-qualified senior assistants being sent to Chinese-medium schools. If one studies the daily papers in the period before Oct 27, 1987 - the day of the crackdown - the characteristic racial exchanges between Umno and MCA can be clearly discerned.

What is characteristic of Malaysian politics is that when the dominant party Umno has internal problems, these problems are quickly externalised. Controversies then seem to break out over various government directives.

This included one regarding the recitation of a pledge in Malacca schools in May 1987, which the non-Malays regarded as having Islamic connotations and unacceptable to their beliefs.

In July, the 'electives' issue erupted over the Universiti Malaya's decision to scrap elective courses taught in English, Chinese and Tamil in the respective language departments. Meanwhile, within the Islamic quarter, there emerged a hue and cry over the Christianisation of Malays by Christian evangelists.

Then in October, the Education Ministry decided to appoint (linguistically) non-qualified senior officials in Chinese-medium primary schools. This met with outrage by the Chinese community who did not want the character and standards in these schools to be altered irreparably.

Mass meetings were held in various parts of the country calling upon the parties to resolve the issue. It must be noted that these meetings were orderly and there have been no complaints from the police who actually sanctioned the meetings.

In mid-October, Umno Youth staged a rally at an open-air stadium in Kuala Lumpur. At this rally, several leading Umno politicians including a cabinet minister who is now prime minister made racially provocative statements. Banners bearing flagrantly racist and seditious slogans such as “Bathe this (kris) in Chinese blood” and the like were blatantly displayed (See the government's White Paper).

These leading Umno politicians somehow escaped the ISA dragnet. Perhaps the gracious former IGP would care to explain why?

Games the police play

Were the police powerless in that situation? As I told my Special Branch interrogation officers during the Ops Lalang crackdown, the limits to the freedom of expression must surely lie not only where it trespasses upon racial sensitivities but also where the police feel confident of keeping law and order.

In this particular incident, the flaunting of racist and seditious banners and speeches clearly showed that the police had no control unless of course, they condoned it. And if they could not manage a few thousand people, how could they even contemplate allowing the proposed Umno anniversary rally of some 500,000 to take place?

By not disallowing the massive rally plans outright, the racial tension was left to build up and this provided the perfect justification for another ISA swoop on all Mahathir's dissidents.

Mahathir craftily counted on the ignorance of Tom Plate, the author of 'Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad', who did not follow through his probing by asking how the then home minister signed the two-year detention orders for detainees such as me after the 60-day solitary confinement.

He wouldn't have been able to wriggle out of that one nor will the former IGP be able to play the gracious government servant.

KUA KIA SOONG was arrested under Ops Lalang and spent 445 days behind bars. He is director of human rights group Suaram.

PAS Youth firm on ‘saving young from sin’

A man sells heart-shaped balloons on Valentine's Day in Islamabad February 14, 2009. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — PAS Youth insisted that it would continue its mission to “save the young” — especially Muslims — from immoral activities, but stressed that the group would not play the role of moral police.

Its chief, Nasrudin Hasan, also called on the state governments controlled by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to set an example on educating the public and to create what PAS Youth called a harmonious social environment.

“PAS Youth will continue to save young Muslims and everyone from being carried away by sins with love, for the sake of their future and the country’s despite opposition from those who promote immoral activities and pretend not to understand our aim,” said Nasrudin in a statement today.

“I do not have the authority to order any state government and I don’t have the powers of the police to make arrest. I am a preacher, not a judge,” he added.

Nasrudin has been on a damage-control mission since his earlier remarks of a crackdown on Muslims celebrating the February 14 event were reported. He subsequently said he was misunderstood by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reporter who had spoken to him.

Today, Nasrudin said it would be unreasonable for PR states to ignore social problems while they continue to fight against abuse of powers and corruption.

“It is not fair while we continue to fiercely oppose immoral activities in politics and economics like abuse of powers, waste of funds, corruption, deception and oppression, but we are not firm on cleansing the country’s social environment from illicit sex, vandalism, drug abuse and other activities that would jeopardise the country’s stability,” said Nasrudin.

“I believe the Pakatan Rakyat’s state governments would not let the younger generation who would inherit the state and national leadership from being trapped in immoral activities,” he added.

Nasrudin said his movement’s members would distribute educational flyers on Valentine’s Day at several locations it had identified as hotbeds of immoral activities.

He also cited the “No Panties” campaign on Valentine’s Day last year as evidence of sinful activities during the annual February 14 celebration.

The plan by PAS Youth has been opposed by its PR partner, DAP, which has said the move was not part of the coalition’s policy.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) will also launch its own an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign tomorrow in a bid to curb youths from celebrating the occasion next Monday.

PAS’s stand on implementing Islamic rules has resulted in several public disagreements among members of the PR coalition.

Previously, the Islamist party had attempted to stop the sale of alcoholic beverages in Muslim-majority areas in Selangor, resulting in fierce opposition from the DAP and some PKR leaders.

Church group seeks Muslim preacher’s apology over vice link

A screen capture of Siti Nor Bahyah’s video on YouTube.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — The youth wing of the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) urged a Muslim preacher today to apologise for linking Christianity with vices in a sermon about Valentine’s Day.

CCM Youth secretary Elaine Teh said Siti Nor Bahyah Mahamood’s remarks would create disharmony within Malaysia’s multicultural and multi-religious society.

“She based her arguments with unsupported legends and fables and had chosen to use the public sphere to abuse another community’s beliefs with erroneous opinions, which were weakly disguised as facts,” said Teh, calling her remarks “derogatory and irresponsible.”

“Ustazah Siti could have advised the young people to be wise and not be exploited by such [a] blatantly commercialised celebration rather than openly attacking another community’s beliefs without well-researched facts,” she added.

Siti Nor Bahyah, who called herself a religious teacher and motivational speaker, had said in a television programme aired on TV9 more than a year ago, that “vices, going to discos and to be in remote place with a partner as Christian tradition.”

The recording of the show has since been uploaded on video-sharing site YouTube and viewed by close to 100,000 visitors.

In an attempt to discourage Muslims from celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14, Siti Nor Bahyah also presented several versions of the origin of the celebration and declared the day as a Christian festival.

She had said that Valentine’s Day started as a celebration to commemorate the fall of the Islamic administration in Spain, adding that it would be inappropriate to for Muslims to take part in the celebration.

Today, Teh said Siti Nor Bahyah’s “careless remarks have humiliated the beliefs of others and resulted in creating disharmony by inciting hatred of one community to another.”

“Therefore, CCM Youth hopes that Ustazah Siti would apologise to the Christian community in the spirit of unity through diversity,” she added.

Call of the Ganga

A yogi and dancer weaves the soulful story of India through a dance of the Ganges.

KUALA LUMPUR: Last December India’s mystical Ganga (also called the Ganges) beckoned to classical dancer and yogi Parveen Nair and gifted him a bauble of inspiration as he meditated by her banks.

A week later Parveen returned to Malaysia with Ganga in his heart and the storyline of a Bharata Natyam performance in his head. Together with his trusted choreographer friend, 37-year-old Nimal Raj, they created “An Adoration… Ganga, the sole identity of spiritual India”.

“The performance maps Ganga from her birth into the earth to her geographical location flowing past the cities and finally merging with the ocean,” Parveen said. “It’s not just a dance, it’s a thematic presentation. And it is one that has never been staged in Malaysia before.”

“We want the audience to see Ganga as not only a river but also a source of life to which we are all connected. It’s when we don’t see this intertwining of lives that we treat our rivers as rubbish dumps.”

As the choreography and music arrangement began falling into place, Parveen turned his attention to his choice of fellow dancers. The prerequisite was clear – they had to inspire the performance instead of merely perform.

He didn’t have to look very far. His first teacher, Geetha Shankaran-Lam, 42, and new friend, Unnath Jain, 26, soon joined him on his creative odyssey.

“Parveen and I began as Facebook friends,” laughed Unnath, who arrived here last week from his homeland of Karnataka. “We only met last December when we performed together in India and we discovered that we had good chemistry on stage. So here we are again!”

Parveen, Nimal and a fellow dancer have since formed Mystic Creations, a dance production company, in a move to smoothen the sticky process of staging a performance.

“It’s easier to source for funds when you have a registered production company, bank account and personnel,” Nimal explained. “And it makes the paperwork so much easier when it comes to applying for professional visas for foreign artistes. But our first production has been a lot of hard work and we’re learning on our feet all the time.”

Despite the bureaucratic stumbling blocks and weak government support of performing arts, none of them can imagine a life without dance.

“It’s not a hobby or even a passion,” said Parveen, a dancer for 17 years. “Its life itself. I was born with rhythm and everything I see makes me wonder how I can express it through dance.”

“Unfortunately, parents only value dance as a means of keeping their children connected to their Indian roots. But when these children want to pursue it as a career, those same parents throw a fit because they can see that the government doesn’t support dance.”

Unnath, who has 16 years of dance flowing through him, experienced this firsthand.

“I was eight when I felt the pull to dance,” he shared. “One day I entered a temple and instantly felt the vibrations under my skin. From that day I began dreaming of dance moves and would move in my sleep.”

“But my father was a strict businessman and refused to let me study dance. So I fasted for three days until he finally relented thinking that I would get bored after a year. I still feel those vibrations today.”

Parveen leaned forward and said, “You know those children who can just dance without ever learning to dance? Who can watch a performance and then copy the moves perfectly from memory?”

He pointed at Unnath, Nimal and himself, and smiled. “These are the children.”

“An Adoration…Ganga” will be presented at the Shantanand Auditorium, Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur on February 19th and 20th. Show time is 8pm and tickets are priced at RM30, RM50 and RM100.

Part of the proceeds will go to the Spastic Children’s Association of Selangor and Federal Territory. For ticket purchase, please contact 012 352 9503 / 012 257 2509 / 012 3833831
Former Sabah senator Dr Chong Eng Leng is puzzled over the authorities' failure to act on self-proclaimed 'Sulu Sultan' .

KOTA KINABALU: Is the government’s reluctance to immediately act on the proclamation by local businessman Akjan Ali Mohammad that he is the Sultan of Sulu linked to the controversial Project IC and Barisan Nasional’s vote-bank?

Posing the question, a veteran politician here warned that failure to act against Akjan’s self-proclaimation might be miscontrued as accepting his status.

“Why the failure to act? Is it because the government is too weak or because the government needs these Project IC holders for political control for Sabah?” asked Dr Chong Eng Leong, a former Sabah senator.

Chong, who self-published a book, Lest We Forget (Security and Sovereignty of Sabah), said he is puzzled by what is preventing the authorities from acting against the ‘sultan’ and added that ‘no action’ may encourage more foreigners from the neighbouring country to come to Sabah.

“The installation ceremony was done right in front of the authorities’ eyes so where are the police and immigration enforcement units to protect our sovereignty?,” he asked.

Adding to the confusion and embarrassment of the authorities is the fact that Akjan was born in Jambangan, Nipah-Nipah on Nov 23, 1957 but his MyKad states that he was born in Sabah on July 7, 1957.

“Based on the Sulu Sultanate claims, Sabah is part of them now so where is the sovereignty of Sabah within Malaysia?

“If I as a Malaysian say that Sabah is not part of Malaysia certainly I would be arrested on the spot,” Chong said.

Speaking to newsmen here yesterday, Chong reiterated his statement that the number of foreigners (including Project IC holders) in Sabah is now far higher than the state’s original Malaysian population.

Since this is the case, he said it was no longer necessary for the Malaysian government to pay the annual payment of RM5,300 to the Philippine government because the “reverse takeover” has taken place.

“Sabah took part in the formation of Malaysia primarily because of security and sovereignty within Malaysia and we want to stay that way.

“I sincerely appeal to all genuine Malaysians in Sabah to please impress and urge upon the central authorities to act, not just offer lip service, for the sake of our national sovereignty and security,” said the surgeon.

Silent Umno stooges

In another development, the state opposition is baffled by Sabah Umno leaders’ deafening silence over the Sulu Sultan’s coronation issue.

Sabah Progressive Party Youth chief Edward Dagul said it was unusual for “Umno’s stooges” to be quiet when it involved one of their members.

“Despite the anger and anxiety felt from Sabahans on this issue, the deafening silence on Umno’s leaders part boggles the mind.

“It is worthy to note that in the past, even if the Chief Minister or any other Umno leaders refuse or cannot comment on certain issues, one can always count on a few of Umno stooges from the other component parties to do the barking on his behalf.

“Now, it seems that even these self professed champions of the PTI issue are stumped. This is strange,” said Dagul in a statement yesterday.

He added that the coronation ceremony of businessman Akjan Ali as the self-proclaimed 33rd Sulu Sultan in Kota Kinabalu has stunned many in Sabah.

“The audacity to have the ceremony here in Sabah and to consequently make it public is a big slap in the face of the Malaysian authorities.

“This is a question of the country’s sovereignty and there should be no compromise when it comes to sovereignty and national security.

“Whilst many share the view that a commission of inquiry is best, but does this act not warrant at least an investigation from the Federal Home office?” he asked.

Xavier and Derek come under fire on temple issue

Gobalakrishnan questions their motive for endorsing official findings that the Bukit Gasing temple structure is dangerous and unsafe

PETALING JAYA: Selangor state exco Dr Xavier Jayakumar and MBPJ councillor Derek Fernandez were taken to task for issuing statements that the Bukit Gasing Sivan temple is endangering public safety.

“Who are they to issue statements seemingly on behalf of the temple committee?” asked Independent MP N Gobalakrishnan.

“They are not even in the temple committee.”

He was commenting on a press conference by Xavier and Derek on Feb 8 where Derek was quoted as saying that cracks on the floor of the temple has made it structurally dangerous.

Gobalakrishnan alleged that Derek, the MBPJ planning committee and development member, had a ‘vested interest’ for issuing the statement since he is a Bukit Gasing resident.

“I believe that the temple committee members who have remained silent on the issue have been coerced to back Xavier’s and Derek’s views that that the temple area is unstable.

Derek was also quoted as saying that the Malaysian Public Works Institute (Ikram) had carried out inspections and declared the temple area and earth around it unsafe.

Despite Ikram’s findings, Gobalakrishnan was of the opinion that there were not sufficient opinion from other experts on the issue and requested that the temple be not moved.

“I have spoken to several structural engineers on this matter who told me that the main area of the temple need not be tampered with and is sound,” said Gobalakrishnan.

The Bukit Gasing Sivan temple was closed for renovation and extension works in 2008. The MBPJ subsequently issued a stop work order after a minor landslide.

The temple has yet to be reopened fully to worshippers since then. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Party sent a legal notice to the Selangor government seeking clarification on steps taken to reopen the temple.

Sarawak’s Hidden Health Scandal – Maternal Deaths

Evidence shows that three times as many mothers die in Sarawak than in the rest of Malaysia and ten times as many as in Australia or the UK.
The Sarawak Government has been covering up a health scandal by deliberately concealing the true level of maternal deaths, according to exclusive information which has been made available to Sarawak Report.
Concerned doctors and health professionals have been investigating the true level of inadequate health care provided in the state, which is the richest in terms of resources in the whole of Malaysia.  They say their findings show that the deaths of women in childbirth are far higher than are being admitted to in the official statistics, yet the spending on healthcare per person in the state is less than one quarter the amount spent on health care in West Malaysia!
“Sarawak is a large state with a small population spread over difficult terrain” commented one of the health professionals who passed on their information to Sarawak Report.  “This means that you would expect far more money to be needed to provide adequate healthcare, not less.  But the BN Government has clearly chosen to abandon the indigenous people of the interior instead.”
No facilities for problem childbirths
No way to travel in an emergency - crammed in the boot on a road like this. No wonder so many women die if things go wrong.
The shocking figures bear out the practical experience of doctors working in the field in Sarawak.  Another senior obstetrician commented that most women from the interior suffer grave risk in childbirth, because the simple precaution of bringing them into hospital a few days before they are due to give birth has been ignored by the authorities. 
“This precaution would be very cheap in comparison with the flying doctor service, which is a big waste of money” he commented.  However, he says that since there is no opportunity for profit-making by people in power, there has been no interest in developing this method of saving hundreds of lives.
The obstetrician also commented that poverty and the appalling state of the roads are a major factor in deaths in childbirth.  “People are getting poorer and costs of food an fuel are getting higher.  This makes the women less strong and they cannot afford to go to hospital. If there is an emergency the roads are so bad it takes too long”.
Key statistics    
Waiting in line – these women have made it to hospital

“We believe the Sarawak Health Department are fudging its figures.  They are quoting the standardised figures for the whole of Malaysia and then just dividing them by the number of pregnancies in Sarawak.  But in fact what available information there is implies that the death-rate is far higher in Sarawak .  A paper published in 2008 based on genuine research in the 1990s shows that at least 92 in 100,000 women were dying in childbirth then, compared to the 30 in 100,000 currently quoted by the Sarawak Health Department.  There has been no improvement in Sarawak’s health facilities since then and we challenge the Sarawak Health Department to produce the evidence for their statistics.”
The contested figures are to be found in the Sarawak State Health Department’s publication ‘Health Facts About Sarawak’, published 2008.  However, the experts say that it is not based on genuine research in Sarawak, only on Malaysia-wide statistics.
Misleading statistics? 30 deaths in 10,000 births is the story according to the Sarawak Health Department.
By contrast the doctors say that a paper published in the book “Women and Health – Village Mothers, City Daughters” 2007, by Adeda Baer, quotes a peer-reviewed report “Sudden Maternal Deaths in Malaysia – A Case Report” by R Jejasothy in the internationally accepted Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Research (Vol 28, No 4, pg 186-93) calculates the death rate to be 92 in 10,000 births.
Low spending for Sarawakians – less than one quarter what is spent on average Malaysians on health!
The doctors also point to shocking figures that indicate the people of Sarawak receive less than a quarter in health spending per person compared to people in mainland Malaysia, even though the remote communities would indicate the need to spend more money not less.
The same Sarawak State Health Department figures say only RM 422 is spent per person in Sarawak on health each year, whereas World Health Organisation figures state that the average spending per person in Malaysia is RM 1,800.
Shocking - Sarawakians receive less than a quarter health care spending compared to the average Malaysian
Helicopters ‘Useless for sick patients, but healthy for Jabu’s bank account!’  

Flying healthy doctors, but not sick patients!
However, even more shocking is the allegation that what small amount of money is spent on Sarawak healthcare is spent on programmes that will more benefit Ministers’ bank accounts than sick patients!
The doctors spoken to by Sarawak Report say they blame the BN Government for the shocking death-rate, because they have been more interested in providing expensive facilities which provide Ministers with opportunities to make money, than far cheaper and more practical services that could save lives.
One obstetrician who has worked as a so-called Flying Doctor said he was sickened by the corruption of this service, which costs the country around RM 90 million a year.  He told us:

“This Flying Doctor Service is a waste of money as far as the patients are concerned.  It cannot fit people who are lying down and there is not enough room for the doctors to bring more than a few pills in terms of equipment.  We go on scheduled trips and arrive in villages at a time convenient to the service and not when people are actually sick.  We hand our a few panadol out and then we fly on to the next place.  We very rarely perform emergency rescue trips. These helicopters are good for flying healthy doctors but not sick patients!”
The obstetrician told Sarawak Report that it would be far cheaper and more effective to have para-medics stationed in all communities to identify sick mothers and patients and to arrange for them to be transported to proper hospitals in good time.  He also said that money should be spent on providing accomodation in District Hospitals for mothers for at least two weeks before their birth date.  He said these two measures would save very many lives, while the Flying Doctor helicopters save virtually none.
However, he gave one good reason why the BN Government has always preferred to maintain the helicopter service. 
 “It is corruption.  Ministers compete for who will get the contract for this service!  It is worth RM 4,000 for every stop the helicopter makes.  We go to four stops in one day and there are 3 helicopters.  There are millions to be made for the company which gets the Flying Doctor contract and they like to take it in turns!”
Sarawak Report has investigated the ownership of the company that received the latest contract for the Flying Doctor Service, which was tendered in 2009.  We can confirm that one of the major shareholders is the son of the Deputy Chief Minister, Alfred Jabu!  We therefore challenge the BN Government to answer the charge of doctors that it has ignored the advice of medical experts and allowed ministers to put illegal profits before the lives of hundreds of vulnerable women in Sarawak!
Conflict of interest - How dare the BN Government hand the multi-million ringgit helicopter service to the son of the Deputy Chief Minister?
Kam Agong a case in point
Unsuitable transport for a pregnant women - often they have to travel for many hours while in labour
Chief Minister Taib himself has referred to the acute shortage of qualified medical staff in Sarawak’s rural areas.  In 2008 he was reported admitting that only 22.2% of medical officers posts were filled in Sarawak’s health clinics!  He also admitted that a third of Sarawak’s population has NO ACCESS to any hospitals or clinics, compared to 95% of the rest of Malaysia who do have access.  Just last month the Prime Minister suffered the embarrassment of opening a clinic in Belaga for rural people, only to discover that it will have no doctors!
Surely addressing this scandal and not providing a useless helicopter service should receive what money is available?  The family of Kam Agong, a mother of 8 who died in childbirth due to medical neglect have waged a determined campaign to publicise the greed and corruption that has drained the money from helping women in the interior into helping Taib’s ministers get richer.  They have condemned the poor roads and transport that mean heavily pregnant women have to travel to clinics by sitting for hours in the back of open jeeps on bumpy tracks.
Every woman's right and Sarawak could afford it if ministers were less greedy!
They have shown how the lack of specialist care in all but 4 clinics in the whole of Sarawak meant that their mother was operated on and killed by an unqualified worker.  Read their website and support their campaign for more trained doctors, more mid-wives and more medical officers.  Sarawak is the richest state in Malaysia, so it can afford them if the money can be kept away from greedy ministers!
The doctors state that the main causes of maternal deaths in Malaysi are caused by haemorrhage, infection, brain seizures, hypertension, anaemia and obstetric fistulae.  These are all conditions that can be managed if women are safely in hospital.  However if they are a long journey away they will nearly always die.  Because there are so few health professionals working in the interior there is virtually no monitoring of women in their pregnancy and dangerous conditions are not picked up until the woman is already in labour.
However, the doctors say that figures being promoted by the Sarawak State Health Department are highly misleading and attempt to give the impression that the death rate in the state is no higher than in Malaysia as a whole:  

Court strikes out former ruler's petition

The New Straits Times
by V. Anbalagan

PUTRAJAYA: A final legal challenge to contest the proclamation of Sultan Muhammad V (Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra) as Kelantan ruler by his father in the civil court has come to an end.

Federal Court judge Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sherif, who led a three-man bench, struck out Tuanku Ismail Petra Sultan Yahya Petra's petition.

Tuanku Ismail, meanwhile, was unrepresented.

Lawyer Sunil Abraham, who represented Sultan Muhammad, said they had, on Jan 28, informed the petitioner about yesterday's proceedings.

"We sent a copy of the respondent's (Sultan Muhammad) submission on the striking-out application," Abraham said.

Veteran lawyer Raja Aziz Addruse and legal firm Messrs Rashid Zulkifli, had discharged themselves from representing Tuanku Ismail last month.

Abraham said yesterday that the petition filed by Tuanku Ismail Petra last September was no longer sustainable as the conduct of Sultan Muhammad was not a matter for the Federal Court to decide.

"The petitioner has no locus standi to institute action under the Kelantan Constitution," Abraham said.

He said the proper forum was the Special Court, provided the petitioner had obtained consent from the attorney-general (A-G).

"The petitioner has not obtained the consent of the A-G to institute the present proceedings against the ruler," he said.

Sultan Muhammad was proclaimed ruler on Sept 13 last year following his tenure as regent after his father (Tuanku Ismail) was incapacitated from May 2009.

Tuanku Ismail had earlier filed two petitions challenging Sultan Muhammad in his capacity as regent on grounds that he had appointed new members to the state council of succession and had acted beyond his powers as stated in the state constitution.

However, on Nov 26 last year, the Federal Court dismissed the petitions and gave its opinion that a regent, once appointed, enjoyed and assumed the powers of a sultan.

Raja Aziz Addruse and legal firm Messrs Rashid Zulkifli had discharged themselves as the Federal Court had refused to fix the hearing date in mid-March as sought by them.

Lawyer Abdul Rashid Ismail, who filed an affidavit in support of the application, said Tuanku Ismail appointed Raja Aziz and the firm to represent him.

Rashid said Raja Aziz fell ill during the course of the petition and was required to undergo treatment in a hospital in Singapore.

The treatment would be completed in early March.

‘Tiga artikel Raja Petra memfitnah peguam’

Berita Harian
Oleh Ahmad Johari Mohd Ali

KUALA LUMPUR: Mahkamah Tinggi semalam, memutuskan penulis blog Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin bertanggungjawab terhadap tiga artikel disiarkan dalam laman web Malaysia Today kerana ia mengandungi pernyataan yang memfitnah peguam Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Hakim Mahkamah Tinggi, Datuk John Louis O'Hara membuat keputusan itu selepas membenarkan permohonan Muhammad Shafee untuk mendapatkan penghakiman berhubung saman fitnah dikemukakannya terhadap penulis blog berkenaan.

Katanya, perkataan yang digunakan dalam tiga artikel itu dan ulasan orang ramai terhadap artikel berkenaan adalah bersifat memfitnah.

Beliau berkata, jumlah bayaran ganti rugi akan dinilai Timbalan Pendaftar kelak dan membenarkan kos guaman RM5,000 kepada peguam S Ravindran, yang mewakili Muhammad Shafee.

O’Hara berkata, sama ada Ravindran akan berjaya mendapatkan jumlah berkenaan bukanlah urusannya kerana Raja Petra diisytiharkan muflis.

Terdahulu, peguam Raja Petra, J Chandra membantah cadangan Ravindran supaya kos ditetapkan pada RM10,000, berasaskan kepada kedudukan anak guamnya kini seorang yang muflis dan tidak berada dalam negara.

Sehubungan itu, katanya, pihak terbabit perlu menanggung kos mereka sendiri seperti diperintahkan Mahkamah Rayuan berhubung hal-hal berkaitan saman itu. Permohonan peguam itu dibuat mengikut Aturan 14A Kaedah-Kaedah Mahkamah Tinggi 1980 bagi memutuskan isu berhubung fakta bahawa perkataan dan komen dalam tiga artikel didakwanya disiarkan Raja Petra di laman web Malaysia Today mengandungi unsur memfitnah.

Muhammad Shafee menyaman Raja Petra pada Ogos 2008 kerana mendakwa menyiarkan tiga artikel yang memfitnahnya pada 6, 7 dan 11 Ogos 2008 bertajuk ‘Shafee Abdullah: Extraordinaire Sodomologis’, ‘Wang, Kuasa Dan Seks: Apa Yang Memberi Kuasa Kepada Lelaki’ dan ‘Dalang Sebenar Di Sebalik Tuduhan Liwat Anwar,’ yang didakwa memfitnahnya.

Pada 13 Ogos 2008, Muhammad Shafee memperoleh injunksi sebelah pihak daripada Mahkamah Tinggi yang memerintahkan Raja Petra mengeluarkan artikel itu serta komen mengenainya daripada laman web berkenaan. 

Two Quakes Hit Indonesia's Celebes Sea

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 (Bernama) -- Two earthquakes, of magnitude 6.3 and 6.7 on the Richter Scale, occurred in the Celebes Sea of Indonesia at 10.39 pm and 10.42 pm, respectively, yesterday, the Meteorological Department reported.

It said in a statement the epicentre of the quakes was 351 km northeast of Manado in Indonesia and 532 km southeast of Kunak in Sabah.

"Tremors were felt in southeastern Sabah," it said, adding that there was no possibility of a tsunami.

Hosni Mubarak 'may step down'

Thousands thronged to Tahrir Square after the army's statement, in anticipation of Mubarak possibly resigning [EPA]

The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces has met to discuss the ongoing protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president.

In a statement entitled 'Communique Number One', televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.

Thurday's meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.

"Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation... and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people," the statement.

The army's statement was met with a roar of approval from protesters in Tahrir Square, as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters poured in. Thousands also gathered in Alexandria, Egypt's second city, our correspondent reported.

Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square that "everything you want will be realised".

Protesters have demanded that Mubarak immediately stand down as president.

Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), told the BBC and Channel 4 News on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.

"I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy ... protesters," Badrawi told BBC television in a live interview.

Ahmed Shafiq, the country's prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be "clarified soon". He told the Reuters news agency, however, that Mubarak remained in control, and that "everything is still in the hands of the president".

However, Anas el-Fekky, Egypt's information minister, denied all reports of Mubarak resigning.

"The president is still in power and he is not stepping down," el-Fekky told Reuters. "The president is not stepping down and everything you heard in the media is a rumour."

State television has announced that Mubarak is due to deliver an address to the nation on Thursday night from the presidential palace in Cairo.

It also reported that Mubarak was meeting with Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, at the presidential palace.

'Witnessing history unfold'

Mahmoud Zaher, a retired general in the Egyptian army, said that Mubarak's absence from the army meeting was a "clear and strong indication that [Mubarak] is no longer present", implying that the Egyptian president was not playing a role in governance any longer.

In short comments ahead of a scheduled speech at Northern Michigan University, Barack Obama, the US president, said the US was watching the situation in Egypt "very closely".

"What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold," he said, adding that this was a "moment of transformation" for Egypt.

"Going forward, we want ... all Egyptians to know that America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy."

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has played a key role in helping protesters get organised, said on the microblogging site Twitter on Thursday evening: "Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians."

He added shortly after, however, that protesters should "wait and see" before reaching any conclusions.

Jacky Rowland, our correspondent in Tahrir Square, described the atmosphere as "electric", with "standing room only" in the central Cairo area. She said that thousands gathered there were "celebrating a victory which has been anticipated, rather than actually achieved".

In Alexandria, Jamal ElShayyal, our correspondent, described the atmosphere as "festive and joyous".

Some opposition groups, however, have said that they are concerned about how Mubarak would hand power over to, were he to resign.

"It looks like a military coup," said Essam al-Erian of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but tolerated group which is the biggest organised opposition party in Egypt. "I feel worry and anxiety. The
problem is not with the president it is with the regime."

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Amin Eskander, the leader of the Karama opposition movement said that he believed that Mubarak would stand down. He also said that he was not concerned if power was handed over to the military for an interim period, as he said the army was working in the interests of the people.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, responded to reports that Mubarak may resign by saying that he hoped whoever replaced him would uphold Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, according to an Israeli radio report.

Labour union strikes

The developments come as the 17th day of pro-democracy protests continued across the country on Thursday, with labour unions joining pro-democracy protesters.

Egyptian labour unions held nationwide strikes for a second day, adding momentum to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

Al Jazeera correspondents in Cairo reported that thousands of doctors, medical students and lawyers, the doctors dressed in white coats and the lawyers in black robes, marched in central Cairo and were hailed by pro-democracy protesters as they entered Tahrir [Liberation] Square.

The artists syndicate and public transport workers, including bus drivers, also joined the strikes, our correspondents reported.

"It's certainly increasing the pressure on the government here," Al Jazeera's Steffanie Dekker, reporting from Cairo, said.

"I think it's worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square.

"Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions."

Pro-democracy supporters across the country have meanwhile called for a ten-million strong demonstration to take place after this week's Friday prayers.

Hoda Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo, said that the mood in Liberation Square was "one of defiance, and if we judge by what is happening today, then I think ... many more people will heed that call and turn up".

She reported that some protesters had drawn up a list of demands beyond simply the exit of Mubarak. They included the formation of a transition government, which would include a council of presidents, representation from the army and well-respected judges, for the period of one year.

They demanded that parliament be dissolved and that a temporary constitution be put in place while a new one was drawn up by legal experts.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin in Cairo reported that at least five government buildings, including the governor's office and the office for public housing, were set alight in two straight days of riots in the northeastern town of Port Said. The situation in the city had calmed by Thursday evening, he said.

Protest investigation

Meanwhile, an immediate investigation has been launched and possible criminal charges could be brought against the senior officer who ordered the firing on protesters during protests on January 28 protests, Moyheldin said.

The ministry of interior also announced the sacking of the head of security in the New Valley governorate, Moyheldin said.

Also on Thursday, Mahmoud Wagdy, the interior minister, announced that the police were back at work on the streets of the capital.

Meanwhile, Suleiman, the country's vice-president, said on Thursday that his comments to American television station ABC had been taken out of context.

In his interview, Suleiman suggested that Egyptians were "not ready" for democracy. He had also earlier said that if protesters did not enter into dialogue with the Mubarak government, the army may be forced into carrying out a coup.

According to a statement released to a government news agency, Suleiman "emphasised that some sentences in his remarks ... were understood in the wrong way, especially his remarks regarding democratic transition in Egypt".

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said the death toll from violent clashes during protests has reached 302 since January 28.

Egypt's health ministry has denied the figures, saying official statistics would be released shortly.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Hindraf’s support for Anwar Ibrahim, PKR & PR only when Hindraf 18 point demands fulfilled in Kedah, Penang and Selangor. Indian mandore role rejected. HRP to go solo with Project 15/38 irrespective – P.Uthayakumar.

(Media Statement 10/2/2011)

Online newsreports and the Tamil media have in the last three days reported on whether Anwar Ibrahim will engage Hindraf in the next general elections.

For 50 long years an Indian mandore political party for personal gains sold out the Indian community to UMNO and gave on a silver platter for “free” some 90% of the Indian votes to UMNO/ B.N of which Anwar Ibrahim had once upon a time served as the No 2.

In the aftermath of the 25th November 2007 100,000 people Hindraf Rally, believing that PKR, DAP and PAS would “save” the Indian poor, Hindraf gave unconditional political directions and some 90% of the Malaysian Indians broke the 50 year pro B.N loyalist mindset, “turned turtle” and voted for PKR, DAP and PAS when P.R unprecedentedly won in five West Coast states (including Wilayah Persekutuan of Kuala Lumpur where P.R. won ten out of the 11 Parliamentary seats) and broke UMNO/BNs’ 50 year monopoly on their two thirds majority in Parliament.

But alas P.R was very little different from UMNO in particular in the three P.R. states of Kedah, Penang and Selangor and in their role vis a vis the Opposition benches at the Federal level.

Having come to power, P.R. refused to even address the land for all Hindu temples and cemeteries, all 58, 28 and 98 Tamil schools in Kedah, Penang and Selangor and Indian villages/settlements deemed squatters problem all in one go which they have 100% powers to deliver. This would in effect have solved half the Indian poor problems in at least Kedah, Penang and Selangor.

In a blatant act of betrayal, within months of coming to power the DAP Penang state government “ethnically cleansed” the defenseless Kg Buah Pala Indian poor, the last Indian traditional village in Penang.

What we regretfully saw in the post March 8th 2008 General Elections was in effect a continuation of the UMNO agenda of especially using the P.R. Indian mandores to circumvent addressing even the most pressing Indian poor problems. Thus HRP’s Project 15/38 as per P.Uthayakumar’s book “Indian Political Empowerment strategy – the way forward” which was launched on 19/7/2009.

For the records Hindraf and HRP had from the word go never asked from P.R. and neither were we offered any appointed positions like Senators, Directors of state G.LCs’, Councillors, Village Heads etc. Because our struggle ab initio was in the public interest Hindrafs’ 18 point demands and never the aforesaid showcase and showpiece Indian mandore positions or anything for personal gain.

And when P.R refuses to fulfill at least even one of Hindrafs’ 18 point demands in at least the three P.R ruled states are they going to do so when they get to Putrajaya? ….. is plain and obvious!

It is our unwavering political agenda to end UMNOs’ racist and supremacist 54 year old continuous grip of power. In the present circumstances we would very much like to support P.R. taking over the seat of power at Putrajaya and for Anwar Ibrahim to be the next Prime Minister. But we are not prepared to trust Anwar Ibrahim, PKR, DAP, PAS or PR with a “blank cheque” or a “rain cheque” for that matter to Putrajaya.

Neither will we take up the Indian mandores role in P.R a la MIC vis a vis UMNO/B.N. We want to be an empowered part of the decision making process at Putrajaya with the view to spearhead policy changes at the highest political level and to do so without fear or favour to at the very least undo the injustices having been inflicted on especially the Indian poor in over the last 54 years.

If Anwar Ibrahim rejects this our political agenda, we will be left with no alternative but to go solo with HRP’s Project 15/38. The least we ask is for P.R. not to be spoilers in these 15/38 seats but to make way for HRP in our common political agenda to oust UMNO out of the seat of power at Putrajaya.

Rights not Mercy.



Secretary General (Pro tem)

Now, Jakim to launch anti-Valentine’s Day campaign

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 10 — The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) will launch an anti-Valentine’s Day campaign tomorrow in a bid to curb youths from celebrating the occasion next Monday.

The campaign will begin with a talk called “Caution! Valentine’s Day trap” at Jakim’s headquarters in Putrajaya tomorrow night.

Campaign director Saimah Mokhtar told The Malaysian Insider that the campaign aims to remind youths of the danger in celebrating Valentine’s Day, a commercial festival that has its origins in the martyrdom of St Valentine, the Christian patron saint associated with lovers.

“We want the youths to not go, even remember or bother to take part in Valentine’s Day. It is not in the Malay or Muslim culture. It is against the teachings of Islam,” she said.

The Jakim family, social and community division director added that the campaign will remind them of the fatwa issued by the National Fatwa Council banning the celebration of Valentine’s Day for Muslims.

The ruling in 2005 said that the celebration has Christianity elements and the “practice is mixed with immoral acts contradictory and forbidden by Islam.”

“Muslims in this country no longer have any respect for the National Fatwa Council and we must remind them of the fatwa,” Saimah said.

She added that Jakim will distribute leaflets in universities on the dangers of Valentine’s Day, and mosques around the country will hold programmes for youths on that day.

Minister for Islamic Affairs Senator Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom also told reporters today that television channels should air programmes that will encourage Muslims to appreciate and respect the teachings of Islam on Valentine’s Day.

However, Jamil did not condemn plans attributed to PAS Youth to have a crackdown on Muslims during the celebration.

“We need to know how they are going to control. We don’t want a situation where there will be crowd problems which will cause the police to intervene,” he said.

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hasan has come under fire from the leadership in his own party after he announced that state governments in Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor had directed the local authorities to work closely with the police and Rela to check on immoral activities that day.

He was quoted by the Agence France-Press news agency as saying that in Penang, PAS Youth would work with the state Religious Department to monitor the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Nasrudin was quoted as saying that the programme was part of an attempt to promote a sin-free lifestyle among the public.

But Nasrudin told party paper Harakah today that the news agency had misunderstood his remarks and the respective state governments have their own authority to conduct their own plans against the celebration.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said Nasrudin had not been authorised to speak on behalf of the state governments, and pointed out that enforcement of Islamic laws were carried out independently by religious departments.

Khalid, who is also a member of the PAS national political bureau, also confirmed that Nasrudin’s remarks were personal views and had not been brought up during the party’s recent political bureau meeting.

DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) chief Loke Siew Fook also rejected the crackdown, saying that PAS Youth’s stand on Valentine’s Day celebration was not shared by other members of Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Ustazah: Don’t emulate ‘sinful’ Christians

A religious teacher has asked Muslims not to celebrate Valentine's Day, advising them not to emulate such Christian vices.
PETALING JAYA: An ustazah has asked Muslims to refrain from celebrating Valentine’s Day, urging them not to emulate the vices of Christians.
The ustazah, Siti Nor Bahyah Mahmood, 47, had made the remark during an Islamic educational programme aired on TV9, which is owned by the Umno-linked media conglomerate Media Prima.
A video-clip of the programme, posted on YouTube, had sparked off a raging debate. [watch video below]
Although the programme was posted about a year ago, it is only now the video clip is being widely circulated and posted in numerous blogs.
In the clip, Siti claimed that it was the Christians who normally indulged in vice, such as frequenting discos and dating.
Selalunya buat maksiat, pergi disko… couple, couple, bersunyi-sunyian, ini adalah tradisi bagi masyarakat yang beragama Kristian bukan agama Islam…,” she had said.
The video, which had been viewed more than 80,000 times, also had the ustazah warning Muslims that celebrating Valentine’s Day would mean “supporting Christianity and the English”.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) president Thomas Philips said no religion should be belittled due to a lack of understanding.
“We should not belittle any religion just because we don’t understand it. Her comments were not in context as she wrongly understood that Valentine’s Day was a Christian festival,” he said.
“I believe we as a society are all matured and we know what’s wrong and what’s right. Christians know what’s right and wrong too.
“Valentine’s Day is a day where people express their love, I don’t see what’s wrong with letting people have that freedom. It’s all individual choices and we should be above all this,” he said.
‘This amounts to sedition’
Meanwhile, Human Rights Party pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar said that Siti’s comments were uncalled for and insensitive.
“It borders on religious extremism and is borne out of a narrow minded view,” he said.
Uthayakumar also claimed that since it was aired on national TV, it meant that Siti’s comments were state sanctioned.
“We should not have a government that interferes with the rights of Malaysians to practice their own religion, we should not restrict Muslims from their private affairs.
“In Indonesia, where 90% of the 230 million population are Muslims, a girl can convert from Islam to marry a non-Muslim; but why are we different,” he asked.
Uthayakumar said that Article 5 and Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantee liberty of person and freedom of religion should be respected.
He added that if the Malaysian standard was applied on Siti, her comments amount to sedition.
“This does not augur well for the 1Malaysia policy that our prime minister is promulgating,” he added.

Mahathir is a liar, says Mohamad Sabu

A PAS leader says any detention beyond 60 days requires the endorsement of the home minister, who was none other Mahathir himself.

PETALING JAYA: Several opposition MPs trained their guns on former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for attempting to absolve himself from any wrong-doings over the infamous “Ops Lalang” arrests in 1987.

Calling Mahathir a liar, PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu said the former prime minister could have released the detainees if he had wanted to.

“He was also the home minister then. I think he is trying to hide something,” said Mohamad Sabu.

In a book penned by Tom Plate titled “Doctor M: Operation Malaysia – Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad”, Mahathir blamed the police for the crackdown in 1987.

He reportedly said, “Well, I would have handled it differently, except that the police wanted to do these things because they say it is necessary…

“I actually met all of the opposition members (beforehand) and assured them that they would not be arrested. And you know what the police did? They arrested them. My credibility is gone.”

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, however, took a swipe at Mahathir yesterday for trying to pin the blame on the police alone, accusing the long-serving premier of spinning untruths.

Lim was one of those detained in the crackdown.

In Mahathir’s defence, the-then inspector-general of police (IGP), Haniff Omar, told an online portal today that the crackdown was entirely a police decision and the former premier had actually opposed the arrests.

Dastardly act

Mohamad Sabu said though the law allowed the police to detain anyone under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for a maximum of 60 days for questioning, any extension after that requires the endorsement of the home minister.

“That is why I do not believe Mahathir’s recent statement at all,” said Mohamad Sabu, who was detained for more than a year.

Suaram director, Kua Kia Soong, sarcastically said it was good that finally Mahathir now seemed to be ashamed to be affiliated with the arrests.

“And he should feel so after more than two decades of trying to justify the dastardly act,” he added.

Kua, who was also a former detainee, took potshots at Haniff for absolving Mahathir from the act.

“What do you expect of a former IGP who, upon retirement, was prepared to walk straight into a corporation that makes its money from gambling?”asked Kua, referring to Haniff, a Muslim, working as a director in a casino in Genting Highlands.

He added that Mahathir had craftily pounced on the ignorance of his interviewee (Plate) that a two-year detention needed his endorsement as the home minister.

“If the interviewee had asked him that, neither Mahathir nor Haniff would be able to wriggle out of that,” said Kua.

In a text message to FMT, fellow detainee, Kepong MP Tan Seng Giaw admitted that he had met Mahathir a few days before the crackdown but it was to discuss other matters.

“He is ultimately responsible for the arrests as he was in charge then,” said Tan, who was detained for eight months.

Downright lie

Another detainee, DAP’s Karpal Singh meanwhile labelled Mahathir’s remark as “a downright and unadultrated lie”.

He stressed that the police had acted as directed by Mahathir.

“He should not forget that he personally signed the detention orders … blaming the police now does not speak well of his maturity and credibility as a former premier,” he said in a statement.

Karpal added that Mahathir’s lie was futher nailed by the fact that he (Karpal) was rearrested under the ISA after Mahathir himself had signed the second detention order.

“I would advise Mahathir not to, in his twilight years, to make a spectacle of himself by lying through his teeth. I would have thought Mahathir would have retired peacefully,” he added.

In October 1987, the government invoked the ISA to arrest over 100 people, including politicians and activists, to curb mounting political tension due to racial provocations.

Two dailies, The Star and Sin Chew Jit Poh, also had their publishing licence suspended at the time.

1Malaysia in name but not in deed

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.

By John Malott (Wall Street Journal Asia)

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 Razak echoed this view when he announced his government's theme, 1Malaysia.

'What makes Malaysia unique,' Datuk Seri Najib said, 'is the diversity of our peoples. 1Malaysia'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, Ms 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 a 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 Hussein 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, Defence 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 apologised.

The leading Malay-language newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, 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 Umno, has claimed that the opposition would make Malaysia a colony of China and abolish the Malay monarchy. It regularly attacks Malaysian Chinese 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 is 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 cent 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 is not 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 In-dian 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, more than 90 per cent of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay. Even TalentCorp, the government agency created last year 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 his 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 favour the well-connected will continue. All these send 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 is 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, and 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.

The writer was the US ambassador to Malaysia from 1995 to 1998.

Who’s lying, now?

Mahathir is blaming the police for the arrests of 106 under the ISA during Ops Lalang in 1987.
And today, ex-IGP Hanif Omar has come out to corroborate Mahathir’s claims, reports Malaysiakini.
“You can’t blame him. He is right. As a matter of fact, it was entirely the police’s decision. It was not his (Mahathir’s) decision. Mahathir was actually opposed to it… He was against Ops Lalang”,  Hanif is reported as saying.
In October, 2004, after he had been released from Sungai Buloh the previous month, after his appeal to the Federal Court in respect of his Sodomy I conviction was allowed, Anwar spoke at the Bar Council auditorium.
After he had spoken for about an hour, during Q&A, I reminded Anwar that in 1986, Musa Hitam had resigned as deputy prime minister, citing differences as opinion with his boss, Mahathir, on several issues. I then reminded Anwar of several incidences that had occurred from the time he had joined Mahathir’s administration in 1982 up to his sacking, including the matter of Ops Lalang, and asked what Anwar had done to avert all of these incidences and if he had done nothing, why had he not, like Musa resigned?
On the matter of Ops Lalang, Anwar said that on the eve of the day that the arrests were carried out, he went to see Mahathir to implore him not to carry the same through. Anwar said that Mahathir responded by saying that he (Anwar) had little understanding of matters of national security.
The explanation proffered by Anwar is simply at odds with Mahathir’s claim and Hanif’s corroboration.
Who’s fibbing?
My gut feel is that Mamak Kutty is, but the question then arises, why is Hanif jeopardising his own reputation for this past-the-shelf-life politician?

Sibu Hospital : A sad story of Sarawak

Letter by Mimi

This is a sad story of Sarawak and the Sarawakians.

What went wrong in Sarawak?

From the photos taken at the Medical Ward at the Sibu in Hospital, no one would believe Sarawak is one of the largest contributors to the Federal fund.

End of Dec 2010, I spent some time caring for a relative who was admitted at the Sibu Hospital. From the outside, this hospital looks like a 3 star resort. However, inside the hospital, the story is totally different.

This is 2011. How come there is no air conditioning in the Medical ward (I didn’t have the time to check out the other wards)? During the day, the ceiling fans are merely swirling warm, muggy air in the ward. It’s so hot & balmy that the patients leave their tops unbuttoned (yes, even the female patients).

Some patients brought their own table fans but were still too hot and did not wear their hospital blouse. In the afternoons when the heat is most unrelenting, the patients sweat and wet their pillow cases and bedsheets, especially those who are unconscious or unable to turn on their own.

Judging from the time I spent at this hospital, at least 80 per cent of the patients are natives from the interiors of Sarawak. Many of these patients are illiterate. They don’t know the definition of “standard of living”. Whatever the condition of the hospital, they quietly accept it. Do they have a choice?

At night, practically all the native carers sleep on the floor. If they had come from the interior via public transport, they wouldn’t have brought with them their own cumbersome lounge chair (if they could afford it in the first place). The ward has plenty of unusable lounge chairs dumped in the store room. We were lucky we could afford to buy a decent lounge chair.

The restroom inside this Medical ward is wet and stinks of urine 24 hrs a day. There’s no toilet paper or soap. The soap dispensers are devoid of liquid soap. It’s ironic that there are posters above the soap dispensers reminding people to wash their hands but there’s no soap provided.

The restroom outside (opposite the lifts) has no toilet paper either and it also stinks of urine. By the way, there are only 2 toilet cubicles in both the Men’s and Ladies’ Restroom. The ladies toilet near the lifts are dimly lit. The only light is above the mirror. The blown light bulb remains unchanged (it is now Feb, maybe the bulb has been changed).

The corridor outside the Medical ward is very wide but not a single chair was in sight. It was a sorrowful sight to see such the relatives of the patients huddle together on the floor. They probably came from too far interior to go home and they were taking turns to care for the patient. There is restricted number of visitors allowed to care for each patient by their bedside.

Is Sarawak so short of funds that it is not possible to make the Sibu Hospital (and other district hospitals in the state) more hospitable?

I suspect the state of the hospital has been left status quo for many years because majority of the patients who come here are really poor and not knowledgeable or even illiterate, hence, they don’t complain.

Yet, when it comes to garnering for votes, our PM Najib Razak so blatently dangled RM5 million in front of the noses of the people of Sibu.

I had sent these pictures to the Star and the New Straits Times however, neither of them were interested in the story.

Perhaps Mr. Wong can look into this. We must really improve the Sibu Hospital and other government hospitals in the state. We contribute so much in petroleum revenue. Why should our hospitals be in such a sorry state?

Thank you.

Apa Pun Boleh

Pictures :
1. Admirable Vision & Mission
Admirable Vision & Mission
2. Carers sleeping on the floor
Carers sleeping on the floor
2a. Carers of patients resting on the floor
Carers of patients resting on the floor
2b. Carers sleeping on the floor
Carers sleeping on the floor
2c. Carers sleeping on the floor
Carers sleeping on the floor
2d. Carers sleeping on the floor
Carers sleeping on the floor
3. The ONLY usable lounge chair on night of Jan 1, 2011
The ONLY usable lounge chair on night of Jan 1, 2011
3a. The rest of the lounge chairs - spoilt.
The rest of the lounge chairs – spoilt
3b. This lounge chair is spoilt too
This lounge chair is spoilt too
4. Posters all over re washing hands
Posters all over regarding washing hands
4a. Soap dispenser that has no soap
Soap dispenser that has no soap
4b. Wash hands with soap poster but dispenser is soapless.
Wash hands with soap poster but dispenser is soapless
5. Ladies toilet in the dark
Ladies toilet in the dark
5b. The light above the toilet cubicle has blown.
The light above the toilet cubicle has blown
5c. The only light is at the sink
The only light is at the sink
img src=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”6. Wide corridor outside the medical ward but nothing for visitors to sit” />
Wide corridor outside the medical ward but nothing for visitors to sit
6a. Just outside the Medical Ward_ no chairs
Just outside the Medical Ward, no chairs
7. No air-con, it is unbearably hot & balmy during the day.
No air-con, it is unbearably hot & balmy during the day