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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Deadly fighting as Gadhafi tries to retake rebel-held town


Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan aircraft bombed a section of eastern Libya on Wednesday as leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to retake control of an area seized by rebel forces.

A CNN crew saw the aircraft drop two bombs near al-Brega, a town in the east with key oil and natural gas facilities.

Later, a military aircraft dropped a third bomb. People on the ground shot and threw whatever they could at the aircraft, then fled.

After one of the attacks, people carrying stretchers were seen running to the site of the bombing.

Fighting also raged on the ground, as Gadhafi's forces tried to take control of a university in al-Brega.

A doctor told CNN there were four dead and 23 wounded at his hospital in the area, all victims of gunshot wounds.

Residents of the town said the rebels maintained control of al-Brega, repelling Libyan ground forces.

Earlier Wednesday, military aircraft bombed military camps on the outskirts of the town of Ajdabiya, a tribal leader said.

The tribal leader, who did not want to be identified for safety reasons, said youths in Ajdabiya were massing and heading toward the conflict area to help defend the town, which has been in the control of rebel forces in recent days. Some military bases in eastern Libya have fallen into the hands of rebels as more members of the military have abandoned Gadhafi's regime and joined the opposition.

The bombings could support calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent such attacks. The United States has said all options are on the table. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said imposing a no-fly zone would be "an extraordinarily complex operation."

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that, while Libyans are not asking for foreign troops on the ground, they need "the tools to prevent the slaughter of innocents on Libyan streets, and I believe that the global community cannot be on the sidelines while airplanes are allowed to bomb and strafe. A no-fly zone is not a long-term proposition, assuming the outcome is what all desire, and I believe that we ought to be ready to implement it as necessary."

The Arab League met Wednesday to consider a resolution rejecting foreign military intervention in Libya, where protesters have been demonstrating for weeks, calling for more freedoms and for the longtime ruler to step down.

"We perceive what happened and what is happening is an internal affair that is decided by the people and their governments," the Arab League said in a statement.

As Gadhafi's forces launched their attacks, the 68-year-old leader warned that "thousands and thousands of people will be killed" if the United States or NATO "intervene in our country."

In another of his trademark, rambling speeches carried live on state television, Gadhafi continued to claim that there are no peaceful Libyan protests, only al Qaeda-backed efforts to tear the country apart. He blamed the problems on former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who were released to Libya and then freed by Libyan authorities after they pledged to reform. He said they turned out to be members of al Qaeda sleeper cells -- but insisted that his country is "stopping al Qaeda from flourishing" and preventing Osama bin Laden from moving into North Africa.

Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for more than 41 years, also denied having any assets besides "history, the people, the glory -- not the American dollars or the oil."

The speech lasted about 2-1/2 hours. He also spoke Wednesday with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, according to the Venezuelan Ministry of Popular Power.

Later, several thousand people, including many young men and women, took part in a pro-Gadhafi rally in Tripoli's Green Square.

Some residents of the capital have told CNN they want to protest Gadhafi but fear being killed by his forces. And some have said Gadhafi forces have dragged residents into the streets and forced them to take part in rallies praising the leader.

A spokesman for the Libyan government, Musa Ibrahim, told CNN that assertions of widespread military attacks on peaceful demonstrators are wrong. "This is an armed rebellion, with people going around attacking police stations, army offices, getting a hold of guns and attacking," he said.

He said the government had supported the initial peaceful protests, but said al Qaeda supporters have hijacked that movement "and they are leading the country into chaos."

Asked for evidence, he said, "We have captured dozens of these people, we have figures, we have interviews, we are willing and prepared to take these people and show them on international media."

But numerous witnesses have described indiscriminate killings and attacks.

The International Criminal Court announced it is opening an investigation into Libya. "Following a preliminary examination of available information, the prosecutor has reached the conclusion that an investigation is warranted," the court said in a statement.

The court said it is focusing on what it considers "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community." No possible charges or violations were listed in the statement.

The conflict between Gadhafi's government and opponents, in its third week, followed protests in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia that ousted those countries' leaders.

International efforts to persuade him to follow the message of protesters and step down have also ratcheted up.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Tuesday to suspend Libya from its seat on the 47-member chamber Human Rights Council. It was the first time the assembly had suspended a member of the council.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that he welcomed the decision and urged the international community to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Libya. "The world has spoken with one voice," he said. "We demand an immediate end to the violence toward civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech."

He added that reports from the ground "are sobering," with deaths and ongoing repression.

"Arms depots and arsenals have reportedly been opened to gangs who terrorize communities. There are reports that government forces have fired indiscriminately on peaceful protesters and bombed the military bases in the east of the country," Ban said.

"The death toll from nearly two weeks of violence is unknown, but likely to exceed 1,000," with thousands more wounded, he added, using the same fatality figure he had used Friday.

Libya's ambassador to the United States estimated Monday that the death toll was about 2,000.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the leader's 38-year-old son who has spoken on behalf of the regime during the protests, told CNN Tuesday that his talks with the opposition were in "chaos" because the opposition is divided, with no clear leaders.

U.S. officials made similar comments about the opposition. A U.S. official who wanted to remain anonymous because the official was not authorized to speak on the record said it is "unclear who the leaders in the opposition are and that makes it difficult" for the United States to provide assistance.

The capital city of Tripoli remained under the control of Gadhafi's rule, though opposition forces have taken control of the eastern city of Benghazi and a number of other cities.

The U.N. refugee agency reported that nearly 150,000 people had crossed Libya's borders into Egypt and Tunisia, and thousands more were arriving hourly at the borders.

Ban called for immediate action by the international community. "Time is of the essence," he said. "Thousands of lives are at stake."

CNN's Ben Wedeman, Salma Abdelaziz, Arwa Damon, Nic Robertson, Ivan Watson, Eve Bower, Jim Boulden, Frederik Pleitgen, Richard Roth, Jack Maddox, Whitney Hurst and Antonia Mortensen contributed to this report

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EC: More Perak postal votes as soldiers’, cops’ wives sign up

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — The rise in postal voters in Perak is due to increased awareness of the voting right, including sign ups from those married to uniformed personnel, says the Election Commission (EC) as it sought dispel doubt over the figures.
EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar told The Malaysian Insider that more people — including those married to armed forces and police personnel — now knew they qualified to be registered as absent voters, which give them the right to cast their ballots through the post.
“I presume that if there is an increase in the number of postal voters as alleged, the wives of armed forces personnel and police personnel decided to register with their husbands. That is one possibility,” he said yesterday.
Wan Ahmad was responding to claims that the rise in postal votes signalled the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was moving to strengthen its position in marginal seats there for the coming national polls, expected to be called this year ahead of its 2013 deadline.
He said national figures for registered postal voters from the armed forces were about 134,000, and for the police force, about 80,000 at the last count. The nation’s security forces are largely seen as reliable vote banks for the BN.
He added that he was not sure of the exact figures for Perak and needed to speak with the state director before he could comment further on the rise.
The BN had lost the silver state in the 2008 polls but regained it 11 months later after three state lawmakers from the fledgling Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact switched loyalties.
PKR raised the alarm yesterday after noting the number of postal voters had shot up by 5,669 and 1,102 in the state constituencies of Pangkor and Kamunting respectively.
Perak PKR assemblyman Chan Ming Kai noted that although Pangkor — which was won by Perak Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir — had grown by over 5,000 votes, the Lumut parliamentary constituency, in which it sits, was won by the MCA’s Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha by a margin of only 298 votes out of the 55,930 votes cast.
Kamunting, meanwhile, was won by Umno’s Mohamad Zahir Abdul Khalid with a 555-vote margin over his PAS opponent.
The opposition party urged the EC to check that the number of armed forces personnel stationed in the area matched the jump in postal voter registration.
The EC will be holding its monthly meeting today and is expected to release the updated electoral roll based on the registration of the fourth quarter of last year.
Citing election regulations, Wan Ahmad explained that armed forces and police personnel are automatically put on the electoral roll for postal votes; and that their spouses had the right to do so.
He observed there were a many armed forces bases in Perak, and pointed to the large naval base in Lumut as an example.
“They are given a choice. They can choose to register as ordinary voters or be counted as an absent voter and vote through the post, so long as they fulfil the requirements under the law,” he said.
He said it was likely that the spouses of armed forces and police personnel had been persuaded by their husbands or wives to opt for postal voting because of the convenience.
However, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, better known as Bersih 2.0, challenged that view.
“I disagree with Datuk Wan Ahmad’s statement,” its chairman, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (picture), told The Malaysian Insider.
Like PKR, she said the rise in Perak’s postal voters was suspicious and urged the EC to exercise its discretion in registering applications as the whole process was open to abuse.
“The whole system is in a mess. It goes against the whole spirit of postal voting,” she said.
“It does not make sense if a person who could be present at the polling stations on polling day to cast their ballots should be allowed to be a postal voter,” she added.
But Wan Ahmad said the EC was not empowered to reject registering any if the person meets the criteria as laid down in section 2(a) of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 and section 3 of the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003.
Doing so would mean denying a citizen his right to vote as laid down in Article 119 Federal Constitution, he stressed.
“If a person is qualified under the syarat, we do not reject. Our job is to make sure there is no duplication of voters to prevent fraud.
“We do not deny the right of a person to be registered as a postal voter,” he said repeatedly.
Wan Ahmad also said EC has no power to automatically strike off the names of retired or inactive armed forces and police personnel from the postal roll because of the way the regulations are structured.
“Once a person retires from the armed forces or the police and has got his MyKad back, then he can go to any post office or EC counter or anywhere else to register himself as an ordinary voter,” he said.
He explained that it was because the law required voters be registered for voting based on the address recorded in their identity cards.
The EC cannot assume the retired serviceman would choose to settle down at the same address he had voted in previously.
“This is their right,” Wan Ahmad maintained.
He said the EC’s idea to make the postal voting process more transparent by stationing its officers in the armed forces’ bases was still being worked out.
He described it as a lengthy process as the EC needed to calculate the number of camps nationwide, as well as figure out the logistics to get to each camp location and the number of election officers to dispatch.

Umno brings in Ummi Hafilda for Merlimau

Ummi challenged Anwar and Azmin to sue her. — Picture by Jack OoiJASIN, March 3 — Taking no chances to keep the Merlimau seat, Umno brought in Ummi Hafilda Ali to the stumps last night where she resumed her campaign against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and her elder brother Azmin.

She was a key witness in Anwar’s first sodomy trial and has largely dropped out of sight until recently when Azmin won the PKR deputy presidency.

“Many false allegations have been made against me for the past 13 years. This is why I feel that it is necessary for me to come forward to clear my name.

“I am also here to clear the name of our statesman, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former police chief Musa Hassan,” she said to a crowd of about 100 supporters ahead of this weekend's vote.

Ummi pledged that she will not stop until the downfall of Anwar, calling him an anti-Christ.

“This is because Anwar Ibrahim is very dangerous and we should not allow him to sell our country to the Jews,” she said.

She repeated her claims that Anwar was sexually involved with Azmin’s wife, Shamsidar Taharin.

Ummi also showed alleged certificates of over RM20 million worth of shares owned by Shamsidar.

“If I am lying, then I dare Shamsidar, Anwar and Azmin to sue to me,” she said.

Prior to Election 2008, Ummi was active in addressing Umno-organised rallies where she related her experience in exposing Anwar’s alleged sexual misconduct to Dr Mahathir.

“When Tun Dr Mahathir asked me if I was willing to appear as a witness. I remember replying to him that I would for my race, country and religion,” she recounted.

Anwar was later convicted for abuse of power and sodomy and was released in 2004 after the sodomy conviction was overturned by the Federal Court, but is currently on trial for allegedly sodomising his former aide in 2008.

Ummi resurfaced recently when an interview with her appeared on the front page of Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia last year where she urged Azmin to repent.

“I would like to declare tonight that I am willing to lose a brother rather than destroy the 27 million of our people,” she said.

Ummi has said that she plans to file several lawsuits against Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders for allegedly defaming her and for attempting to cover up Anwar’s alleged crime.

She said she has been in discussion with her lawyer to sue Anwar, his lawyer Karpal Singh, PAS central committee member Mohamad Sabu and PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail.

Pesticide firm making people sick

CAP asks authorities to put a stop to daily spraying in Seberang Perai Utara.
TASEK GELUGOR: For about a year now, residents of Kampung Selamat and Taman Selamat in Seberang Perai Utara have been complaining of persistent headaches, coughs and breathing problems.
The culprit, according to the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP), is a company that has been testing its pesticides on a vegetable plot in the area.
“They conduct the spraying daily,” CAP president SM Mohamed Idris said in a press statement today.
He called on the Health Department and the Agriculture Department to put a stop to the testing.
“The problem started about a year ago, after an unidentified company started using a vegetable growing spot in the area as a trial plot to test its pesticides,” he said.
“The area gets polluted as the pesticides go airborne.”
He said the residents, unable to tolerate their suffering anymore, recently decided to complain through CAP.
“Even food stall owners and road users are threatened by this indiscriminate spraying,” he said.
“If the problem persists, the pollution will cause even more serious health complications to the residents and untold problems to the air and the area’s irrigation system.”
The officer in charge of the Penang Health Department was not available for comment.

Rakaman Pidato DSAI Di PRK Merlimau



Burma's Facebook Revolution


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Activists denounce the dictatorship

In an attempt to emulate the democratic revolution in Egypt that was sparked by a Facebook campaign, a group of Burmese activists operating inside the country have set up a Facebook page dubbed "Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship."

The social networking campaign denounces the country's military dictatorship, calls for Burmese military chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his family to leave the country and urges the army to join with the people.

The campaign began on Feb. 13–just two days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned from office under pressure from protesters.

The Facebook page, now known simply as "JD," has prompted the distribution of anti-government material in a number of places across Burma and raised security levels in Rangoon.

"We are not daydreaming," said an activist in Rangoon who said he was a JD supporter. "No dictator can resist a popular movement, we know."

The campaign has now received the support of over 1,000 activists in Burma, according to one of the organizers who declined to be named due to personal safety concerns.

The organizer told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that JD supporters have distributed anti-government pamphlets in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, and in Taunggyi Township in Shan State.

He said that a poster dropped at the main railway station in Mandalay reads: "Get Out! Than Shwe."

On Wednesday, JD supporters distributing pamphlets in Zay Cho market–the largest in Mandalay – had to flee when police arrived.

In addition, a professor from Taunggyi University reportedly informed the authorities about the distribution of anti-government pamphlets in Shan State, but no one was arrested.
Facebook is the second most popular site after Gmail among the estimated 400,000 Internet users inside Burma. Twitter, the micro-blogging website, is banned in the country.

Due to the limited access to the Internet for many people inside Burma, it remains uncertain how much further the Facebook campaign can go. But the Burmese authorities, notorious for brutal repression against any form of dissent, have apparently heightened security in Rangoon.

Rangoon residents said they saw anti-riot police trucks driving around the city center on Wednesday morning, although this is not unusual and there is no confirmed link between the security measures and the Facebook campaign.

The Burmese state-run media made no mention of the protests in North Africa and private journals were restricted in reporting the news.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that the Burmese people were closely following the protests in Libya. In comparing Libya and Burma, Suu Kyi told the Voice of America that past protests in Burma faced brutal crackdowns from the army, whereas some army units in Libya split and joined with protesters.

"In Burma, I don't think there was any noticeable divisions with regards to the policies of the military," Suu Kyi said.

This first appeared in The Irrawaddy, which has a content-sharing agreement with Asia Sentinel

Time to stop being race-obsessed

The Sun
by Pauline Wong

PETALING JAYA (March 2, 2011): Ethnicity is important, but it is not all that matters, and it is time we stopped being a race-obsessed nation, said the 1Malaysia Foundation today.

Its trustees, led by chairman Prof Dr Chandra Muzaffar, have called for the removal of racial status on forms wherever it is unnecessary, or when ethnicity has no bearing on a particular situation.

"Why is it necessary for hire purchase agreements, application for bank loans, or public examination registration forms to have a column identifying racial status?" said Chandra at a press conference today.

If ethnic statistics are vital for nation-building purposes, then the usage is justified, he said, citing examples of increasing non-Malay participation in civil service, the police or armed forces, or when strengthening the role of certain races in the private sector.

Still, there are many areas where race continues to be emphasised unnecessarily.

"Look at the way we refer to each other, always by race first. Surely that is not that important," he said, adding that doing so is an obstacle to achieving unity.

Board of Trustees member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said he believed having to identify race in forms is regressive to the goal of unity.

"It is my hope that following this call from the foundation, all the public and private agencies will review the forms they issue as a positive step to contribute to national unity."

The foundation has engaged in discussions with various banking institutions in the country in this matter, and response has been positive.

"Many have agreed to not make racial status a mandatory field, and soon they will remove it completely," said Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, who is also a trustee of the foundation.

However, the declaration of religion in forms is still needed in situations where differences in religious practice bears significance.

"This should not be misunderstood," said trustee Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, adding that this has nothing to do with politics or religion.

"It is about doing away with our narrow, obsessed-with-race mindset," he said.

Deadly fighting as Gadhafi tries to seize back rebel-held town

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan aircraft bombed a section of eastern Libya on Wednesday as leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to take back control of an area seized by the opposition.

A CNN crew saw the aircraft drop two bombs in the area of al-Brega, a town in the east with key oil and natural gas facilities.

Later, a military aircraft dropped a third bomb. People on the ground shot and threw whatever they could at the aircraft, then fled.

It was not immediately clear whether there were casualties in the bombings.

Fighting also raged on the ground, as Gadhafi's forces tried to take control of a university in al-Brega.

A doctor at one hospital in the area told CNN there were four dead and 23 wounded at his hospital, all having suffered gunshot wounds.

Residents of the town said the rebels managed to maintain control of al-Brega and drive Libyan ground forces out.

Earlier Wednesday, military aircraft bombed military camps on the outskirts of the town of Ajdabiya, a tribal leader said.

The tribal leader, who did not want to be identified for safety reasons, said youth in Ajdabiya were amassing and heading toward the conflict area to help defend the town, which has been in the control of opposition forces in recent days. Some military bases in eastern Libya have fallen into the hands of protesters as more members of the military have abandoned Gadhafi's regime and joined demonstrations.

The aerial bombings could support calls by some in the opposition for the United States and international groups, such as the United Nations, to impose a no-fly zone over the country, preventing Gadhafi from using aerial attacks. The United States has said all options are on the table. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said imposing a no-fly zone would be "an extraordinarily complex operation."

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that while Libyans are not asking for foreign troops on the ground, they need "the tools to prevent the slaughter of innocents on Libyan streets, and I believe that the global community cannot be on the sidelines while airplanes are allowed to bomb and strafe. A no-fly zone is not a long-term proposition, assuming the outcome is what all desire, and I believe that we ought to be ready to implement it as necessary."

The Arab League met Wednesday to consider a resolution rejecting foreign military intervention in Libya, where protesters have been demonstrating for weeks, calling for more freedoms and for the longtime ruler to step down.

"We perceive what happened and what is happening is an internal affair that is decided by the people and their governments," the Arab League said in a statement.

As Gadhafi's forces launched their aerial attacks, the 68-year-old leader warned that "thousands and thousands of people will be killed" if the United States or NATO "intervene in our country."

In another of his trademark lengthy, rambling speeches carried on state television, Gadhafi continued to claim that there are no peaceful Libyan protests, only al Qaeda-backed efforts to tear the country apart. He blamed the problems on former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who were released to Libya and then freed by Libyan authorities after they pledged to reform. He said they turned out to be members of al Qaeda sleeper cells -- but insisted that his country is "stopping al Qaeda from flourishing," and preventing Osama bin Laden from moving into North Africa.

Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for more than 41 years, also denied having any assets besides "history, the people, the glory -- not the American dollars or the oil."

The speech lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

While Gadhafi has denied using violence against peaceful protesters, numerous witnesses have described indiscriminate killings and attacks by Gadhafi's forces.

The International Criminal Court announced it is opening an investigation into Libya. "Following a preliminary examination of available information, the prosecutor has reached the conclusion that an investigation is warranted," the court said in a statement.

The court said it is focusing on what it considers "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community." No possible charges or violations were listed in the statement.

The conflict between Gadhafi's government and protesters is in its third week. It followed protests in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia that successfully ousted their leaders.

International efforts to persuade him to follow the message of protesters and step down have also ratcheted up.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Tuesday to suspend Libya from its seat on the 47-member chamber Human Rights Council. It was the first time the assembly had suspended a member of the council.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that he welcomed the decision and urged the international community to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Libya. "The world has spoken with one voice," he said. "We demand an immediate end to the violence toward civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech."

He added that reports from the ground "are sobering," with deaths and ongoing repression.

"Arms depots and arsenals have reportedly been opened to gangs who terrorize communities. There are reports that government forces have fired indiscriminately on peaceful protesters and bombed the military bases in the east of the country," Ban said.

"The death toll from nearly two weeks of violence is unknown, but likely to exceed 1,000," with thousands more wounded, he added, using the same fatality figure he had used Friday.

Libya's ambassador to the United States estimated Monday that the death toll was about 2,000.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the leader's 38-year-old son who has spoken on behalf of the regime during the protests, told CNN his talks with the opposition were in "chaos" because the opposition is divided, with no clear leaders.

U.S. officials made similar comments about the opposition. A U.S. official who wanted to remain anonymous because the official was not authorized to speak on the record said it is "unclear who the leaders in the opposition are and that makes it difficult" for the United States to provide assistance.

The capital city of Tripoli remained under the control of Gadhafi's rule, though opposition forces have taken control of the eastern city of Benghazi and other cities amid deadly unrest.

The U.N. refugee agency reported that nearly 150,000 people had crossed Libya's borders into Egypt and Tunisia, and thousands more were arriving hourly at the borders.

Ban called for immediate action by the international community. "Time is of the essence," he said. "Thousands of lives are at stake."

CNN's Ben Wedeman, Salma Abdelaziz, Arwa Damon, Nic Robertson, Ivan Watson, Eve Bower, Jim Boulden, Frederik Pleitgen, Richard Roth, Jack Maddox, Whitney Hurst and Antonia Mortensen contributed to this report.

Estate guards shut out Pakatan campaigners

Hindraf : Six more HRP members charged in Ipoh


(see Malaysiakini.com)
Six more Human Rights Party (HRP) members were charged in the Ipoh magistrate’s court today with participating in an illegal organisation.
The six are Perak HRP chief P Ramesh, vice-president S Nagroon, Taiping coordinator K Sivakumar, and three other members, R Mohan, S Jayakumar and V Lingam.
They are alleged to have committed the offence under Section 43 of the Societies Act 1996 while partipating in an HRP-organised convoy at Jelapang, Ipoh on Feb 13.
The six accused were represented by lawyer Augustine Anthony.
Yesterday, five HRP leaders and members were also charged with the same offence at the Selayang magistrate’s court, but they refused to post bail set at RM2,500.
The five are HRP vice-president K Tamil Selvam, information chief S Jayathas, K Navakrishna, T Periasamy and S Loshna Rau.
When contacted by Malaysiakini, HRP secretary-general P Uthayakumar said that all the six charged in Ipoh were released on RM2,000 bail each.
NONEUthayakumar (left) further said that he was disappointed with the arrests and charges against HRP members.
He claimed that at 6.30am this morning, several police officers were waiting outside Lingam’s house in Ipoh. “This is a form of intimidation and harassment by them (the police),” he claimed.
Uthayakumar also mentioned that lawyers’ fees and bail charges are being paid from the HRP’s funds.
“We received contributions of close to RM100,000 from members of the public who supported the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), back in 2007. So we will be using those funds to clear up these bills,” he added.
On Feb 13, 59 HRP members and supporters in Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur were arrested as police came down hard on their nationwide convoys to protest against the novel ‘Interlok‘, which is used in secondary schools.
A controversy arose following the ministry’s decision to use the novel, written by national laureate Abdullah Hussein, as a literature textbook, with several parties claiming that it contains words deemed sensitive to the Indian community.
Indian NGOs decry the book’s description of Indians in Malaysia as being from the lower caste, among other racial stereotypes.

Key political risks to watch in Malaysia

MALAYSIA-RISKS
By Razak Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Malaysia is likely to head to the polls in 2011 with Prime Minister Najib Razak hoping for fresh impetus to pursue promised reforms after falling short of investor expectations.
The National Front coalition that has ruled this Southeast Asian country for 53 years was hit by record losses in national elections two years ago. Strong wins in recent local elections and a recovering economy have opened a window for Najib to call early elections, though he does not have to hold one until 2013.
Najib has delivered measures such as granting new bank licenses and cutting the fiscal deficit. But he has shied away from big subsidy cuts and tax reforms and softened an earlier promise to reform controversial preferential equity ownership rules for the majority ethnic Malays.
Disappointed investors are increasingly opting for faster reforming neighbours such as Indonesia. Analysts expect Najib may be willing to push through reforms after the next general election, but only if he manages to win a strong mandate.
POLITICAL CONFLICT
Political tensions spiked after the last general election in 2008. The National Front lost in five of Malaysia's 13 states and ceded its two-thirds majority in parliament to an opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
The People's Alliance opposition is however beginning to show signs that it is losing momentum, defeated in two recent by-elections amid a rift in Anwar's own party.
Doubts are growing about whether the opposition is able to mount a serious threat to the status quo but even if they just hold their ground Najib would still be in trouble.
Najib needs to regain the ruling coalition's two-thirds control of parliament and win at least two of the five states it lost to stamp his mark on power.
Any less and he would come under pressure from Malay activist groups opposed to some of his economic reforms, and from within his own United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party that anchors the National Front.
The political uncertainties since 2008 have weighed on foreign investment but hot money has flowed into the Malaysian bond market this year, reversing investment outflows and pushing the ringgit currency to 13 year highs against the dollar.
What to watch:
-- A Jan 22 by-election in UMNO's stronghold state of Johor bordering Singapore. The ruling coalition is widely expected to win but a narrow victory could cast doubts on the strength of its support level ahead of the next general election.
-- State-wide elections in the Borneo state of Sarawak, expected by April. Unhappiness among minority ethnic Chinese in the ruling coalition's bastion state could lead to a loss of its two-thirds majority in the state legislature. This would embolden the opposition, weaken Najib's position and lead to a likely delay in the timing of the national polls.
-- Concurrent versus separate polls. The possibility that country's four opposition-run states would run their own state polls separately from national elections could prolong political tensions.
-- Minorities. Many of Malaysia's mainly ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities abandoned the government in the 2008 elections due to increasing concerns of marginalisation, hollowing out the ruling coalition's smaller parties. Many remain weak and unable to regain momentum.
-- Election signals. Najib will begin a nationwide tour in January to ready his party and coalition for polls. The timing of the polls will also depend on the results of the Sarawak elections.
-- Younger voters. Both the opposition and government are actively wooing a large and growing number of first time voters whose political allegiances are not fixed and who could end up deciding the outcome.
-- Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial. Charged in 2008 for sodomising a former male aide, Anwar claims the case is a political conspiracy by the government. A verdict is likely sometime in 2011. A guilty verdict would anger Anwar's supporters and could escalate political tensions sharply in the country, leading to a pullout of foreign money from stocks, bonds and the ringgit. But with limited foreign portfolio investment in Malaysia, the impact will be muted.

ECONOMIC REFORM
Najib has pledged to reform a decades-old affirmative action policy favouring Malays with economic privileges such as business and replace it with a "New Economic Model" to promote greater economic competition.
Investors complain that abuse of the policy spawned a patronage-ridden economy, making Malaysia less attractive to investors than neighbouring states.


Najib has rolled back elements of the policy, axing a rule that firms must offer stakes to Malays, but his plans face growing opposition from conservative Malay rights groups supported by many within UMNO.
Najib cut Malaysia's fiscal deficit from a 20-year high of 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 5.6 percent in 2010 and has promised to lower it to 5.4 percent in 2011.
What to watch:
-- The phased rollout of the New Economic Model, and how far Najib will accommodate conservative Malay pressure groups.
-- The introduction of a Goods and Services Tax, which has been postponed twice. The government says it remains committed to introducing the tax with an initial rate of four percent.
-- Continuing roll-out of details of the "Economic Transformation Programme" (ETP), an ambitious plan aiming to attract $444 billion worth of investment in the next 10 years in order to double the country's national income.
-- A rise in crude oil prices above $100 a barrel will add pressure to the government to cut fuel subsidies further, risking a political backlash that could hurt the ruling coalition's aims of securing a strong election win.

RACE AND RELIGION
Race and religion have always been explosive issues in Malaysian politics. Najib took power pledging a more inclusive approach to ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, but some in his UMNO party are casting this approach aside in a bid to woo conservative Malays.
The caning of three women under strict Islamic laws in February for having illicit sex is viewed as the government's increasing adoption of a stronger Islamic agenda, and this has worried some investors.
A heated row over the use of the word "Allah" by Catholics, which sparked attacks on religious establishments, is also threatening to prolong minority unhappiness with the government.
What to watch:
-- Efforts to resolve religious disputes. The government set up an interfaith committee to promote religious harmony and is trying to reach an out of court settlement with the Borneo Evangelical Church over the "Allah" dispute.
-- If the government tries to woo Muslim voters with conservative policies, investors may be spooked.
-- A severe worsening of tensions could raise the spectre of sectarian unrest, but this is not regarded as likely for now.

CORRUPTION
Malaysia used to be regarded as one of the region's more reliable countries, but perceptions of worsening corruption and a lack of judicial independence have damaged investment. Malaysia was ranked a record-low 56th position in anti-corruption body Transparency International's global ranking in 2009 and remained in the same spot in 2010.
What to watch:
-- Government efforts to deal with a scandal over a port trade zone close to Kuala Lumpur that exposed links between politics and business. False government guarantees given when the bonds were sold have triggered concerns among holders of $1 billion of bonds that they might not be repaid.
Last year, Najib promised to prosecute any wrongdoing with regards to the port project and this move could be an at

In MIC, Palanivel moves out of Samy Vellu’s shadow

Palanivel
KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — In the time honoured tradition of pork barrel politics, MIC leaders and businessmen who previously worshipped former MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy for over 30 years have turned their attention to his successor Datuk G. Palanivel.

At Palanivel’s 62nd birthday party celebrations yesterday, they extolled his virtues and showered him with praise, gifts, bouquets and flower garlands.

The birthday party was held in the Netaji Hall at the MIC headquarters and for several hours individuals lined up to garland the new man leading the MIC.

Leading the way was MIC deputy president and Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, Palanivel’s rival and leader of an anti-Palanivel cabal in the MIC.

But under pressure from Barisan Nasional chairman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the two rivals have buried their differences and are working together to deliver Najib’s promises to the Indian community.

An example is the Mydaftar programme to give stateless Indians birth certificates and identity cards, with the closing period extended until Sunday because of overwhelming response.

Noticeably missing, however, from last night’s celebration was Samy Vellu himself and another former rival, former deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam — however his business ally K. P. Samy was present at the function with a white colour garland ready.

“I went as a party man to show respect to the president,” Samy said. “Over 600 garlands were given to Palanivel.”

Leading Tamil singer Raja Cholan sang “praise songs” for the birthday boy who beat many rivals in the MIC to rise to the top as party president ever since becoming a speech writer for Samy Vellu in the early 1980s while working as a reporter in Bernama.

Later he became press secretary, MP and rose up the party ladder, always helped by Samy Vellu, until as deputy president and president, both lost their seats in the 2008 general election.

Everybody who was somebody in the MIC attended the birthday bash in which Palanivel’s wife Datin Kanagam, also made an appearance cutting the birthday cake with Palanivel.

Over 1,000 mostly MIC members attended the birthday celebration in which Samy Vellu’s son Vel Paari, who is struggling to make a independent political career of his own, was a leading light, garlanding Palanivel with a huge red-coloured garland.

During Samy Vellu’s long career as MIC president, he rebuffed many attempts by Paari to ride on him and carve out a career for himself but after his father retired on Dec 6 last year, Paari has resumed his ambition and is banking on Palanivel to give him a lift.

Although Palanivel is politically weak and needs to strengthen his position to survive the challenge from Dr Subramaniam that is expected after the upcoming general election, he has several things going for him.

One is incumbency and the other is pork barrel politics. As party president he can dispense largesse such as directorships in GLCs, nominations to be candidates for the general election, senatorship and awards that he can distribute in return for political support.

Besides he is not from any of the dominant castes that control the MIC and thus is able to relate with all without angering any.

The birthday celebration comes as his relationship with his benefactor Samy Vellu appears strained as a result of the latter’s intention to maintain the old status-quo in the MIC and Palanivel’s desire to re-arrange the pecking order to fit his needs.

Palanivel has so far been very careful not to redesign the MIC preferring to tinker here and there to give some space for his supporters to gain a footing.

“He is careful not to anger Samy Vellu because the former president can get very jealous and Palanivel does not want his benefactor in a bad mood,” said a MIC insider.

The two are currently at loggerheads over the future of the MIED, the MIC education wing that owns AIMST University, estimated to be worth RM1 billion.

Palanivel wants MIED to be part of MIC always and controlled by MIC but MIED is now controlled by individuals — MIC leaders and outsiders — who are beholden to Samy Vellu and how they decide, when voting, would decide the future shape of the MIED and its links to the MIC.

An attempt by Samy Vellu to increase the MIED controlling membership has sparked a firestorm with allegations, denied by Samy Vellu, that he plans to hijack the MIED and AMIST University with it.

A MIED meeting, where Palanivel is also involved, and fixed for March 7 over the inclusion of new members who are all Samy Vellu diehards, could see a showdown between benefactor and successor.

Bully victim: Cops ignoring report

A polytechnic student claims that five classmates nearly circumcised him by force.
KUALA LUMPUR: Five bullies held down one of their classmates and threatened to circumcise him, but police have refused to act on a report of the incident, according to the alleged victim.
R Rajiv Singham, a 20-year-old student at Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah (PSAS) in Behrang, Perak, said Special Branch officers interviewed him and his mother and one of them advised the latter to forgive the five, saying he did not want the issue to turn racial.
Rajiv’s mother, R Sharimala, said she had since found out that the father of one of the assailants is a police officer in Bukit Aman.
The mother and son, who live in Pantai Dalam, spoke about the issue today in an interview with FMT.
Here is their story:
On the night of Feb 24, Rajiv went to a room occupied by a classmate named Hairil for help to complete his assignment. Another classmate, Fizrin, was already there. Shortly afterwards, three others—classmates Nazrul Faiz and Asyraf and “another guy”—entered the room.
Asyraf started a conversation about circumcision and soon started shouting “Sunat, sunat.” (“Sunat” is Malay for “circumcise”.)
One of the boys pressed down Rajiv’s thighs and another held his arms. Another boy produced a pair of scissors and tried to remove his track bottoms. Nazrul made a video recording of the entire episode.
They released him after about five minutes of struggle. Nazrul then played the video recording and threatened to post it on Facebook.
(It was not clear what they wanted from Rajiv, but Sharimala told FMT: “I believe that they were going to sodomise my son.”)
The following day, Rajiv’s class monitor, Iman, told him that he had seen the video. Rajiv then decided to lodge a report with principal Izatul Marini.
Izatul told Rajiv the polytechnic would take action after a discussion with the director of the polytechnic. She also said she wanted to discuss the matter with Rajiv’s family and advised him against lodging a police report.
The principal then held a meeting with Rajiv and three of the bullies. Asyraf, Hairil and Nazrul gave their statements to the principal. The video recording was found in Hairil’s computer. The principal made a copy to keep as evidence.
No action by school
Sharimala lodged a police report at the Brickfields police station on the night of Feb 25, and Asyraf, Hairil and Nazrul were arrested the following day.
One Inspector Teynmoli from the Slim River police station subsequently called her and said the police report against the five should be withdrawn.
Mother and son then went to Slim River, where he told police officers that he was also bullied in the first and second weeks of February.
In Slim River, Special Branch officers interviewed the two separately. Officer Manimaran interviewed Rajiv and Officer Ishak interviewed his mother.
“Ishak told me to forgive the five so I asked whether it was because they were Malays,” Sharimala told FMT.
She said the police officer told her he did not want the issue to become a racial problem. She declined to withdraw the report.
Sharimala also said she subsequently met the PSAS principal and several teachers but was told that the polytechnic could not take any action because a police report had been lodged.
[Image used is a file photo]

Pakatan decries ‘dirty, destructive’ campaign

Umno accused of practising gangster politics in Merlimau
MERLIMAU: Umno’s campaign tactics are becoming cheaper, dirtier and more destructive as polling day approaches, according to Pakatan Rakyat officials.
At a press conference here yesterday, PAS information chief Idris Ahmad and Ayer Keroh state assemblyman Khoo Poay Tiong of DAP spoke of slander, vandalism, and noisy disruptions of Pakatan ceramahs.
“Last night, at a ceramah in Chin Chin, a group of youngsters in green shirts bearing the PAS logo created a ruckus as I was speaking,” Idris said.
“They were seated in the crowd and they shouted God is Great, Long live Islam and Long live Umno.”
(The first two slogans have long been associated with PAS.)
“We know these were not our boys,” Idris said.
He also spoke of campaign literature meant to confuse Pakatan supporters.
In front of Polytechnic Merlimau, there are two banners that appear to have been placed there as part of this tactic to confuse voters. One bears an image of PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat and the words “A vote for PAS is a vote for heaven.”
The other has PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s image and the words “Malacca PAS supports Anwar Ibrahim’s pluralist teaching.”
The same two banners are found at Merlimau Pasir.
Idris said none of the Pakatan parties had anything to do with the banners.
Khoo spoke of the wrecking of a car in front of the DAP operation centre here and said it was only the latest in a series of vandal attacks meant to scare voters and opposition supporters.
The incident happened sometime in the wee hours of Tuesday. The car’s rear windscreen was smashed.
“The car belongs to a local resident who lives at one of the shop lots there,” Khoo said.
“We believe this is an attempt to frighten the locals into voting against Pakatan Rakyat. They targeted a car parked exactly in front of the DAP operation centre.”
Malacca PAS Deputy Commissioner Adly Zahari said the incident was a demonstration of Umno’s “gangster politics”.
“What benefit does this kind of provocation bring to the people?” he said.
He said he was surprised that such incidents would occur despite heavy police presence in Merlimau.

‘We can’t act against ‘racist’ HM’

Unless and until a federal directive is issued, headmaster who called parents of schoolchildren 'pariahs' during assembly remains scot-free.
JAWI: The district education office here can only probe into accusations of racism against a headmaster if and unless there was a federal directive.
District education officer Mohd Ghazali Abu Bakar said his department could not simply investigate the allegations on its own without such directive.
“It’s an administrative procedure,” he told FMT.
Ghazali was responding to police reports lodged against SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman headmaster Ng Tong Koang, 56, for allegedly using the word ‘pariah’ during assembly.
Ng has allegedly used the word on Monday to tick off parents of the schoolchildren for regularly making a prohibited U-Turns outside the school.
“I have been telling your parents not to make the illegal U-Turns. Why are your parents not listening? “Are your parents pariahs?” Ng allegedly asked the stunned children.
Separate reports were lodged at the Nibong Tebal police station in the past two days by state MIC Youth chief J Dhinagaran and Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s Nibong Tebal deputy chief P Murugan.
Ghazali explained that the federal education department, acting on press reports, would issue directives, if need be, to district departments to probe any such incidents.
“The district office then would act on the directive and investigate. We will recommend appropriate action based on our findings,” he said.
Shocked by allegations
His department has yet to receive such a directive but Ghazali assured a thorough investigation once a directive had been issued, which he expects to be soon.
Ghazali nevertheless said he was shocked by the allegations against Ng especially when a federal circular recently cautioned principals and teachers against racial controversies.
Ng, in the meantime, had already offered a public apology before teachers and pupils over the incident at a special assembly on Tuesday morning.
On Monday evening, Ng had also apologised to MIC state youth chief Dhinagaran and four other party colleagues for uttering the disparaging word.
Ng told the MIC team, when they met him at his school office, that he did not mean to insult Indians or any other community for that matter.
However, Ng’s apology, was not accepted by Hindraf Makkal Sakti’s Murugan, who said the headmaster could have used any other word to chide the parents.
He demanded the education authorities take stern action the principal.
“Ng’s use of the pariah word is a direct consequence of Interlok,” said Murugan

BN baiting Indian votes with two ‘carrots’

To ensure the Indian votes are safely in its bank, the BN is promising the community a new Tamil school and a temple.
MERLIMAU: The Barisan Nasional (BN), which seems to have a head-start in the Merlimau by-election, is baiting Indian voters with a promise of a new Tamil school building to replace an old one and the construction of a “magnificent” temple in the constituency.
And these two promises seem to be working in favour of the ruling coalition, making it difficult for Pakatan Rakyat to break into the Indian vote bank, Alor Gajah PKR division leader G Rajandran claimed today.
Speaking to FMT, Rajandran said since the first day of the campaign, he and other leaders have met more than 500 Indian voters, “most of whom are afraid that if they vote for PAS, they would be missing out on a new school building”.
He also alleged that MIC had threatened Indian voters here that if they opted for PAS, they would not have the new building for the Tamil school.
“The MIC has also promised the Indian community here that BN is planning to build a magnificent temple in Merlimau if its candidate Roslan Ahmad won the election.
“However, todate there have been no details of this plan. As it is, Merlimau has five temples to cater for the Indians,” he added.
However, the opposition is not about to throw in the towel in the race to win the hearts and minds of the Indian community.
“We expected MIC to play up the school and temple issue… we are prepared and have strategies for it,” he said.
He said Indians in Merlimau should send a strong message to MIC and the BN that the community would no no longer be fooled by empty promises.
Small enrolment
Meanwhile,V Loganathan, from Jasin Lalang, said BN should start constructing the Tamil school within a month of the ground-breaking ceremony, which took place on Feb 14, this year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin performed the ground-breaking ceremony on the five-acre lot.
“As a businessman who frequents Kuala Lumpur, I am sceptical whether the BN is generous enough to allocate five acres to the Tamil school.”
“Honestly, if the Tamil school is built as promised, then it would become one of the largest Tamil schools in the country but the enrolment is small,” he added.
The Merlimau Tamil school has been “squatting” in a secondary school for the last 20 years. The school has also been allocated RM4 million for the construction of the new building.
The by-election, slatted for Sunday, is a straight fight between BN and PAS.