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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Teacher says 'keling', but students punished

'Minors were brought to the 'balai police' and questioned without the presence of their legal guardians. Is that allowed in Malaysia?'

Cops question students for 10 hours over 'Interlok'

Gandhi: Matters are getting worse. Where is Hulu Selangor parliamentarian P Kamalanathan, Niat (National 'Interlok' Action Team) and all other Indian NGOs supposedly concern but are unable to help in this situation?

What audacity for the police officer to take the students to the police station. All MPs from across the political divide must raise this in Parliament. This atrocity is happening just because of a lousy novel?

The discipline teacher must apologise and the police officer must resign from his PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) chairmanship. Indians must remember this and vote Kamalanathan out.

Norman Fernandez: In a recent poll, it was the Indians who gave the highest approval for PM Najib Razak. See how in the recent by-elections Indians bent backwards to support BN?

Then they complain and blame Pakatan Rakyat for not realising that Indians have been discriminated for 53 years by BN. You cannot expect miracles from Pakatan in two years.

Indians have no choice but to learn the hard way. Maybe these students may become Pakatan supporters in future. Who knows, this incident may have a silver lining to it.

Anonymous: I see some the politicians here are taking advantage in this case by asking the Indians not to vote for this party or that party. Hello, we are talking about our children's education and well-being here, not your stupid politics. Please, for God's sake, for once think like a human being rather for your own benefit.

I find it very wrong for the Education Ministry to do this to our Indian children. I'm in the services line and I have never discriminated against any Malay or Chinese.

What's wrong with these teachers? They seriously need to go for psychiatric evaluation before they are allowed to teach in school. Please withdraw 'Interlok' before it causes further damage to this country.

Thisia: I'm an Indian Malaysian and I can understand why there are Indians who still vote for Umno-BN even after so much atrocities have been committed against this community.

Just look at the previous two by-elections: one Indian family has been eating biawak (iguana) as they can't afford to pay for a decent meal. So when Umno-BN enters such estates and gives away Milo and milk, it's something they can't afford to buy, so they blindly vote for Umno-BN.

By keeping Indians below the poverty line this way, Umno-BN will always get the Indian vote.

Anonymous4076: Cikgu kata 'keling pariah' tapi murid di hukum. Manalah keadilan? Is this the hidden agenda of the Umno-led government behind introducing the 'Interlok' novel in the SPM syllabus? As a citizen of this country, we don't deserve this.

AkuMelayu: The fact is that the majority of Indians didn't find 'Interlok' offensive. Only a minority of Indians were offended by it and it is only after they were instigated by the opposition politicians and NGOs. We must not allow others to dictate our thinking, because God give us brains to decide on what is best for our future.

Temenggong: So many foolish-minded persons are equating voting patterns to the 'Interlok' book. Does it not occur to them that the discipline teacher and school head may be PKR and PAS members?

That Malays and Chinese had also voted for BN in the last three by-elections? That when issues arise, the people naturally turn to no one but Hindraf? That when there are issues confronting the Indian community, DAP, PKR and PAS are nowhere to be seen?

Not a word from the relevant elected MPs and state representatives, and yet they expect the people to vote them? No wonder BN keeps winning.

Sabawak: The head of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Bakhtiar Rashid took the children to the police station? For what? Does that explain the stupidity?

A cop is the head of the PTA and he decides to act on a matter that is purely for the school to attend to? The headmaster has abandoned his duties and should be severely punished, sacked if necessary.

Anonymous: How come the school children are using this book. I thought it would be distributed only after amendments are made? The PTA head was showing his authority to the school children. You can't take them to police station for returning the books and the worst part without the parents' consent.

DPM Muhyiddin Yassin has to answer for this. Stop your arrogance.

Phoenix Star 88: During the era 'Interlok' was set, the term 'pariah' was still in official use in British India. Hence, it would be historically accurate for people during this era to describe a low-caste Tamil Indian as being from the 'kasta pariah'. India only prohibited the use 'pariah' decades later.

The novel has some factual errors but it still does reflect the realities of life during this era. The early Indian and Chinese settlers had a lot of social problems which is expected of any immigrant community trying to settle in. Alcoholism and wife-beating was historically a problem for Indians during this era. The Chinese faced fierce clan wars and opium addiction.

However, the choice of 'Interlok' as a textbook is unwise especially at a time where race relations are fragile and people tend to be so sensitive about race. I doubt that 17-year-olds and their teachers can analyse the book within the right historical context.

Kgen: I had a ex-colleague who was accused by the boss for stealing software and the boss called the police to the office to question him. He was so shaken that he burst into tears.

Now we have school children taken to the police station and questioned for 10 hours without their parents and this idiot Norel said it is "standard procedure". This is truly a country where the minorities are threatened and harassed if they so much as dare to whisper against 'Ketuanan Melayu'.

'Interlok' has become a symbol of their 'ketuanan' and their right to use this racist book. Nobody, not even school children can be allowed to question this. This is the Malaysia which MCA, MIC and Gerakan help Umno to build.

Anonymous_5fb: To me, this is a case of a police, who is a law enforcer, took laws into his own hand for 'arresting' the Indian students to a police station, kept them there by questioning them for 10 hours. The parents concerned could actually sue the police for kidnapping their children.

Rajakera: There should be disciplinary action taken against the police for removing minors from the school without the presence of their guardians/parents. They have no business interfering in affairs of the school. The students broke no law.

Why are the school teachers using the police to instill fear in students? The students should be spoken to and convinced to do the right thing if they are not doing so. This is a disgusting state of affairs that are taking place in our country.

If books are provided for education they should not contain racist material inspite of the BN politicians who are happy to encourage racism so as to win votes so that they can rape the wealth of our country.

The role of teachers is to teach the right thing to all students and to teach them to love and respect all races and religions, otherwise the teachers should be sacked as they do not qualify to teach.

Alice's cat: Minors were brought to the 'balai police' and questioned without the presence of their legal guardians. Is that allowed in Malaysia? Is that legal?

Shanu: Muhyiddin, you gave us the impression that the books were not distributed yet, but here it shows that the schools are actually teaching the book and the effect is - teachers are abusing students using the 'k' word as well as the 'p' word.

This must be what our dear 'sasterawan negara' (national laureate) Abdullah Hussain meant when he said that he stands by his book - he claims to know the history of the Indians better than Indians themselves.

Is it a programme meant to belittle all Indians?

Zz2XX: I think this a brilliant move. We should organise a date and time for all pupils in the whole of Malaysia to return the book to their headmasters.

Fighting rages for control of Libyan cities

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Fierce battles raged Tuesday for control of key Libyan cities in the east and west as Libya entered its fourth week of fighting and continued its descent into civil war.

In the eastern oil city of Ras Lanuf, rebels fired antiaircraft guns after Libya's air force carried out fresh raids.

Video shot by Sky News showed that fighting was continuing in Zawiya, despite government assertions that forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi controlled the oil-refining city. Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators could be seen marching in the street, many of them pumping their fists in the air. As the crackle of gunfire could be heard, the demonstrators ran toward the camera. Four men could be seen carrying a fifth, then putting him into an ambulance.

A doctor who left the city in the morning told CNN that Gadhafi forces had fatally shot two fellow doctors in the main square and were shooting wounded civilians rather than allowing them to be treated. The city's two medical clinics were closed, he said.

Military casualties were being taken from the city by ambulance, he said.

CNN was not able to witness the fighting and could not independently confirm reports of what was happening there on Tuesday.

Opposition officials accused Gadhafi of bombing water reserves in Ras Lanuf, the site of intense fighting in recent days.

Rebels have seized several cities and the army has fought fiercely to reclaim some of them.

In Gadhafi's stronghold, the capital city of Tripoli, about 100 journalists assembled during the evening in the lobby of a hotel after being told that Gadhafi would arrive. Nine hours later, just before midnight, his convoy of SUVs pulled up to the hotel.

Shortly afterward, surrounded by his security detail, he strode into the lobby, waved at the throng of reporters, pumped his right fist several times into the air, retreated to a private room for an interview with a Turkish journalist, then left via a back door without addressing the reporters. Libyan television then announced it would broadcast a taped speech by Gadhafi, but did not say when.

The incident occurred hours after opposition members denied Tuesday that they have been negotiating an exit deal with Gadhafi, rejecting an assertion made earlier in the day by an opposition official.

Gadhafi's regime, too, denied having entered into negotiations with the rebels. Musa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, called reports of such negotiations "lies."

The Libyan opposition is composed not of a single monolithic group, but of various groups and individuals around the country whose shared goal is to see the 68-year-old ruler ousted.

But their military skills tend to be rudimentary, at best, when compared with the relatively disciplined, well-armed pro-Gadhafi forces. "There is no one here with military experience, but have a strong heart," said medical student Yahya Ali, who was manning an antiaircraft battery in the eastern Libyan town of Al-Brega after four hours of training.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said any departure from Libya of Gadhafi would not exempt him, his family or others from responsibility for their actions. "We are going to hold him accountable," Crowley said.

U.S. President Barack Obama discussed Libya on Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the White House said in a statement.

"They agreed that the common objective in Libya must be an immediate end to brutality and violence; the departure of Gadhafi from power as quickly as possible; and a transition that meets the Libyan peoples' aspirations for freedom, dignity, and a representative government," it said.

Both leaders agreed to go ahead with planning responses, "including surveillance, humanitarian assistance, enforcement of the arms embargo, and a no-fly zone."

Death toll estimates have ranged from more than 1,000 to as many as 2,000.

"Both the Libyan government and opposition forces need to allow unhindered access for aid organizations to assist civilians," Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday. "People living in areas of heavy fighting in western Libya are now in dire need of medical aid and other assistance."

The U.N. World Food Programme said Tuesday a convoy of trucks entered Libya headed for Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in eastern Libya. "A convoy of trucks carrying 70 metric tons of high-energy, fortified date bars crossed the Egyptian border last night on its way to Benghazi. This would be the first delivery of food assistance from a U.N. agency to enter the country," the organization said in a statement.

Plans for more food deliveries are being made, and tons of food have been delivered to the Egyptian border to help feed refugees, the organization said.

This is part of a $39.2 million emergency operation designed to help feed more than 1 million people in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia over three months, the group said.

Late Monday, the Gulf Cooperation Council said Libya had rejected its offer of humanitarian aid. The council is composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

As reports continue to emerge of the government's use of force against civilians, the international community has been left pondering strategies on how to end the violence.

Three members of the U.N. Security Council -- France, Britain and the United States -- were working Monday on a possible resolution that would include language on a no-fly zone over Libya, diplomatic sources at the United Nations said. And the Gulf Cooperation Council said Monday night they supported such an action.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which represents 56 member states, said Tuesday that it wants the United Nations to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

But any kind of military intervention could face sharp criticism from Russia and China, two permanent members of the council that wield veto power.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Karim told CNN on Tuesday that Libya is not misusing its air force and that any no-fly zone would be tantamount to an act of war. He said the Libyan government has asked for international monitors to verify that assertion. He said the military "are taking purely defensive positions; they are not taking offensive ones" except in self-defense.

The U.S. administration remains reluctant to move forward on a no-fly zone alone. "Well, we want to see the international community support it," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Sky News on Tuesday.

And the United States has also been reluctant to consider using force alone. "We'd like to see this resolved peacefully," Clinton said. "We'd like to see him go peacefully. We would like to see a new government come peacefully. But if that's not possible, then we're going to work with the international community."

Asked if the United States was considering lifting the arms embargo, she said, "Well, I think everything is being looked at, but it is difficult in the midst of this civil conflict that is going on now to even know how you would do that, because right now, it's not clear what part of the country is actually under rebel control."

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, has met in Rome and Cairo with Libyan opposition figures to get a sense of what is happening in the country, Crowley of the State Department said. He did not give names. Crowley said there have been meetings and phone conversations with members of the National Transitional Council and others.

The State Department also spoke Friday with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa in a brief conversation in which each side gave its view, Crowley said.

NATO said it has begun round-the-clock surveillance flights near Libya.

With no clear end to the clashes in sight, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a new special envoy to Libya to discuss the crisis with officials in Tripoli.

The fighting has sparked the flight of Libyans and foreigners out of Libya, with nations across the globe scrambling to help people leave.

About 200,000 people have fled Libya with nearly equal numbers going to Tunisia and Egypt, the U.N. refugee agency has said.

But 15,000 to 17,000 people are still at a refugee camp near the Libya-Tunisia border. Most of them are from Bangladesh, the U.N. refugee agency said.

A man who said he was trapped in Misrata, a city east of Tripoli that has seen heavy clashes, said the rebels were running out of weapons -- but will continue to fight.

"Maybe tomorrow I'll still be alive, I don't know. I have nothing to lose," the man said. "Nobody believes he will be alive tomorrow. Nobody knows. We need support."

Salleh Abas says no memory of sacking

In his memoirs, Dr Mahathir claimed Salleh had cost himself the Lord President’s post. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — The man who was at the centre of Malaysia’s biggest law crisis 23 years ago and lost his chief judge post as a result says he no longer remembers how it happened.
Tun Salleh Abas was back in the news after retired prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, revealed in an autobiography launched here yesterday that the former Lord President had brought on his own sacking after embarrassing and angering the Yang di-Pertuan Agong then.

In “A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad” published by MPH Group Publishing, the author said the monarch called for Salleh to be removed for complaining about the noise coming from renovation works at the Agong’s private home.

The Agong at that time was Sultan Mahmud Iskandar Al-Haj ibni Ismail Al-Khalidi of Johor who ruled from 1984 to 1989. The sultan passed away last year.

“I can’t remember. I don’t think so,” Salleh told The Malaysian Insider when contacted for comment on Dr Mahathir’s version of events which led to his sacking.
“It happened so long ago, okay?” the reclusive ex-judge replied when asked to elaborate.

The two Tuns were contemporaries. The Terengganu-born Salleh was Lord President from 1984 to 1988 while Dr Mahathir was in office from 1981 to 2003.

According to Dr Mahathir, the Agong had shown him Salleh’s complaint letter, which had also been sent to the other Malay Rulers.

Dr Mahathir added he does not have a copy of the letter.

He also acknowledged the fact that the Attorney-General did not use it during Salleh’s tribunal hearing, which Dr Mahathir said was only called after the chief judge changed his mind about stepping down.
Salleh, 82 this year, has kept a low profile after dropping out of running for office six years ago due to poor health.

He was Jertih state assemblyman for one term, from 1999 to 2004.
Dr Mahathir, who turns 86 in July, has long been blamed by his detractors for clipping the judiciary’s powers.

His successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, all but apologised for the ruling Barisan Nasional government’s part in the event, dubbed the “judiciary’s darkest hour”.

Shortly after the 2008 general election, the Abdullah administration agreed to pay cash compensation to Salleh and five Supreme Court judges who were also fired for defending their boss.

While Dr Mahathir wrote his version of events that led to Salleh’s sacking 23 years ago, a detailed account of the sacking was given in “May Day For Justice” written by Salleh and writer K. Das that was published by Magnus Book in 1989.

In an attempt to justify the sacking, a New Zealand Queen’s Counsel, Peter Alderidge Williams, wrote a government-approved account, “Judicial Misconduct”, also in 1990.
K. Das then wrote a rebuttal to this account in “Questionable Conduct”.

Dr M compares Malays to Palestinian Arabs, liable to sell out

Dr Mahathir waves during the launch of his memoirs in Kuala Lumpur, March 8, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Malaysia’s biggest race is like the displaced Palestinian Arabs who seem nationalistic but cannot resist selling away their rights to high bidders, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote in memoirs released yesterday.

Dr Mahathir has been an ardent defender and critic of the Malay race, and has both written and commented extensively on the community and its future direction.

“Outwardly, the Malays seem to be nationalistic, at times to the point of being racist. They can become very anti-Chinese and do not hesitate to be rude and unreasonable when criticising them. Their attitude recalls the behaviour of the Arabs in Palestine,” the former prime minister wrote in his autobiography, “A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad”.

“Nationalist or not, they could not resist the prices offered,” Dr Mahathir said in his comparison of the two races half a world apart.

He observed that while the Arabs were strident in condemning the Zionists for carving out an Israel state out of their land, they had also “willingly sold their land to the Jews”.

“I am not suggesting that our Chinese Malaysians are like the Jews, only that the Malays have acted like the Palestinian Arabs,” said Dr Mahathir, a known world leader in championing Palestine’s cause against the Zionist regime in the strife-ridden Middle East conflict.

Closer to home, he is known as the patron of pro-Malay rights group, Perkasa, which has been lobbying the Najib administration to keep the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The NEP was a 20-year national policy introduced by in 1971 to boost Malay and Bumiputera ownership in the corporate sector to at least 30 per cent, but failed; an outcome which Dr Mahathir himself acknowledged in the book published this month by MPH Group Publishing.

The Malaysian prime minister from 1981 to 2003 said this was due to the Malays’ own weaknesses.

“Malays like to believe or claim that the Chinese have succeeded in business through cheating. Yet when a Malay wants to sign a contract (to build a house, for example), he will not give it to a Malay contractor. He would prefer a Chinese contractor. He obviously trusts the Chinese more than the Malays,” he pointed out.

“Many Malays have become so used to a life of continual economic support, that when the flow stops they simply cannot continue on their own. Rather than learn about business and managing money, they spend their energies on cultivating contracts and gaining access to easy, short-term opportunities,” Dr Mahathir further observed in the book published nearly eight years after he left public office.

The retired medical doctor who turns 86 in July said that as a Malay, he does not want to “denounce the bad work ethic of so many Malays” but hopes that his honesty will help prod them into action for their own sake.
“I fear that those brave words of Malay defiance — Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia (Malays shall never disappear from this world) — will one day come back to haunt us.

“Preventing this from happening has been the biggest challenge of my life and of my generation,” Dr Mahathir wrote in the 809-page tome.

The country’s longest-serving prime minister announced his political retirement in tears in 2002, saying he had failed to change the Malay mindset but was persuaded by Umno to remain as party president and premier until 2003, when he handed power to then deputy Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

While Abdullah went on to win the ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) biggest majority of 91 per cent of parliament seats, Dr Mahathir went on to campaign against his successor for allegedly promoting his (Abdullah’s) family and friends at the expense of others.

In a stunning reversal of fortune, Abdullah then led BN to its worst electoral losses in Election 2008, when it lost 82 parliamentary seats and four states to an opposition pact led by Dr Mahathir’s sacked deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir has come back to public prominence under new prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and even rejoined Umno, which he left in a huff in protest against Abdullah, who resigned from his post in April 2009.

Umno ‘overdoing’ persecution of Anwar

Najib may well be reminded of a Turkish saying - Zulum ilea bad olan berbat olur - the one who persecutes will disappear.

The issue of (PKR de facto leader) Anwar Ibrahim has overtaken a much needed sober appreciation of what’s going in in this country.

This country isn’t about Anwar anymore. The Anwar issue is before the courts.

I think Umno should contain itself and not be seen as crusading the persecution and prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim. The matter will be decided by the courts.

What can be got out of parading the ‘virtuous virgin’ Ummi Hafilda around and the jambu-looking Rahimi to discredit Anwar?

People are saying that Ummi Hafilda has run out of money – that’s why she is making herself available.

As for Rahimi- what can this ‘young ciku’ offer to further enlighten us on covert links with America, CIA or World Jewry?

All this is for show (by Umno) - but Anwar’s fate will be decided in the courts.

A few weeks ago, sitting with the Oracle of Syed Putera I asked him what Tun Daim’s (Zainuddin) take was on Anwar.

He said Tun Daim sees the persecution of Anwar as a cause of concern.

“This is strictly a matter before the courts. If Umno is seen as crusading the prosecution of Anwar, then there will be inference that the judiciary is under Umno’s thumb. That’s the danger.

“This time around, the legal loop is tightening around Anwar’s neck. The law will take its natural cause. Otherwise the stories spun around what has been revealed in the court are sufficient to discredit Anwar forever.

“The man is fast becoming a spent force. Just look at him physically,” he said.

Win not a true test

At the same session I asked the Oracle about Tun Daim’s views on the Kerdau and Merlimau by-elections.

Said the Oracle: “We will no doubt win in Kerdau and Merlimau, but the wins will not be the true test of a resurgent Umno.

“Those two seats are Umno seats anyway. The danger will be if the opposition got more votes than their previous outings.”

I then asked what about Barisan Nasional’s wins with an enlarged majority?

The Oracle said: “That’s not to be unexpected, with all the resources and power brought to bear on by elections by the government.

“So the winis not the true test.”

Are the people ready, I asked?

“For all you know, they are readying to unseat this government,” said the Oracle.

Deserving accolades

I moved on and touched on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s visit to Turkey where he met his counterpart.

In light of what Umno is doing on the political scene, I am of the opinion that Najib may well be reminded of a Turkish saying – Zulum ilea bad olan berbat olur - the one who persecutes will disappear.

I asked the Oracle what was the purpose of the Turkey visit?

“It’s as what Wisma Putra said – to strengthen bilateral relations. Also the PM is accompanying the missus (Rosmah Mansor) who was honoured with some award.

“The PM’s wife is a sharp and intelligent lady. She deserves the accolade. I hear his entourage was a big one including the Defence Minister.

“Some issues about the purchase of military hardware were discussed and ironed out.

“We have Turkish technology in the making of our tanks here in Malaysia.

“If I am not mistaken, the Adnan Tank built by DEFtec in Pekan uses predominantly Turkish technology and expertise.

“The minister in charge of our defence was on hand to probably take on the issue of technical glitches in the tank construction.”

RM8 bil gone awry

In the initial years, it was a common sight to see the Adnan tanks breaking down while on test runs.

Perhaps it was also to discuss the purchase of armoured-wheeled vehicles (AWV).

Syed Mokhtar (Al Bukhary)’s group hasn’t been able to deliver the RM8 billion award to supply the government some 265 armored vehicles.

We didn’t hear of open biddings did we?

But rumours are circulating that sometime ago the Mindef awarded Syed Mokthar’s DEFTEC to supply 265 AWVs worth RM8 bilion.

Deftech had participated in one LIMA show and showcased the PARS AWV from Turkey. But the model failed a series of test.

It is conceivable that the visit to Turkey also included the agenda to get some affirmation from Turkey that it can supply combat worthy AWVs.

More controversy

But back home, this issue if it becomes public will certainly raise some controversy.

Five years ago in 2006, a few defence contractors took part in the LIMA exhibition. Five companies took part to market to the Government of Malaysia (GOM) 8 x 8 armored wheeled vehicles.

Deftec-DRB a company linked to Syed Mokhtar offered the PARS from Turley while Alam Jujur Sdn Bhd offered PIRANHA III of Switzerland, ROOIKAT of South Africa and CENTAURO of Spain.

Another company linked to Naza Group offered the ROSOMAK (PATRIA) of Poland. The model that passed the test by MINDEF was the ROSOMAK from Poland.

PARS which was marketed by Deftec DRB failed miserably. Inexplicably, Deftech DRB which offered the PARS was later offered the contract to supply 265 AWVs worth RM 8 billion.

There weren’t any open bidding for the supply of the AWVs.

So questions remained unanswered as to why DEftec-DRB which offered the least acceptable model was given the award.

But I suppose, included in the schedule of the Turkey visit was a meeting to raise the issue of the supply of PARS AWV.

We have to ask why is Deftech DRB allowed to supply a AWV that failed the mobility tests by Mindef?

Can we trivialize this technical requirement which is critical to our defense capability in exchange for some political assurances and expedience from Turkey?

How free will we be under PR?

While Pakatan Rakyat says it will abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) if it takes over the federal government, one still wonders whether journalists will be free to write whatever they want.

A point often forgotten in the discourse on press freedom is the control that media owners have on what journalists can write or say.

For example, are journalists writing for papers owned by Rupert Murdoch or Vincent Tan free to write anything critical of them or their companies?

Likewise, are journalists writing for party organs such as Harakah, The Rocket or Suara Keadilan free to write anything positive about the Barisan Nasional (BN) or critical of PAS, DAP or PKR or their leaders? Or are journalists writing for online publications free to write anything critical of their sponsors? An example of the latter is the Media Development Loan Fund, which has the objective of nurturing “independent” media.

The general answer to these questions appears to be “No.”

Take the case of controversial Greek journalist Taki Theodoracopulos. Wikipedia writes: “Due to Taki’s characterisation of himself as a ‘soi-disant antisemite’, coupled with strong criticism of the Israeli government and its supporters in the United States, The Spectator no longer permits him to write about Israel or Jewish affairs.”

So, not even in the liberal democracies can journalists stray too far from their employers’ editorial policies.

If Pakatan were to come to power and remove all government restraints on the media, would journalists working with the MCA and Umno media be free to write what they want?

With the repeal of the PPPA, anyone will be free to start a publication; so a journalist can join whichever media organisation suits his inclinations. Still, he will most likely not be able to go against the political alignment or interest of his employer.

And let us not forget the role of advertisers in constraining the media.

As any journalist who writes for one of those speciality magazines will tell you, you usually cannot write negatively about products or services sold by companies advertising in those magazines.

Also, advertisers rarely want to be associated with politically controversial publications; so the more ads a publication carries, the more it tends to tone down its political stridency.

For example, blogger Kenny Sia, who earns five figures a month from ads, once said that he avoided writing on partisan politics because it would deter advertisers from wanting to be associated with him. So his postings are mostly lighthearted articles.

New challenges

On another note, while Pakatan says it will abolish the ISA, what would it do if the BN parties march and demonstrate in the streets, instigate strikes by civil service workers and those in key utilities, occupy and shut down airports and create all kinds of civil and economic disruption?

Would it let them continue to do so in the name of freedom or would it forcefully act to stop them in the name of national security or national interest?

The abolition of the ISA and the PPPA should be welcomed, but new challenges will arise.

An approach often ignored by “independent” media in Malaysia is the membership-supported media cooperative.

A fine example is Vancouver Co-op Radio, a listener-supported, community radio station that serves as a voice for under-represented and marginalised segments of society and is operated mostly by volunteers.

It broadcasts programmes that encourage listeners to examine the social and political concerns of geographic and cultural communities in the province of British Columbia. It also has programmes on public affairs, music and the arts.

Individual subscribers to Co-op Radio pay C$60 a year each and institutional members pay more. Altogether the station earns C$1.8 million or more a year, and this allows it to eschew advertising and be a truly independent medium.

Are there enough Malaysians willing to support such cooperative initiatives here?

Home Ministry to probe Radio Free Sarawak

KUCHING: The controversial Radio Free Sarawak is being investigated for its content, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today.

“This is not about politics. This is about spreading malicious lies, the issue of unity and harmony among the races,” he told reporters after visiting the Home Ministry operations room here.

Hishammuddin said that no legal action could be taken at the moment because the investigation was on-going.

Responding to a question, he said the Internal Security Act could only be used if the individuals involved posed a serious security threat.

Last week, the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Youth wing lodged a police report claiming that the radio had been operating illegally and spreading lies, especially about Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, and Peter John Jaban, an Iban activist, told an English tabloid last month that they were responsible for the blog Sarawak Report and the radio station.


Dr M shall have the last word

Someone will challenge his account and recount of many episodes but at a glance, it is a rambling digest of little nuggets of a moment in time, a sharp narrative on certain phases, a swooping look at several acts and a perspective on some of the most arresting intervals of his decades-long narrative.

New Straits Times

IF there is a quintessential quirk of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the definitive politician of our times, it is the former prime minister's hardened exterior, that inherent defensive posture that gleefully soaks in blow after verbal blow.

He scraps like a prize fighter -- only absorbing jabs, hooks and undercuts as soon as he lets go a powerful combination of verbal punches himself that sets the tone and direction of any policy/political decision and counterattack.

The more he gets thumped, the stronger he becomes, perhaps not physically, but mentally and intellectually, as he soaks in the more radioactive of criticisms and distills them to become a counterweight of arguments.

Now juxtapose that stance to the gift he bestowed unto Malaysians: national pride, a can-do spirit, ultra-confidence and big cojones to take on the world.

The one misstep that his political foes over-confidently took while haranguing him during the 22 years of his premiership (or even today) was to underestimate the man, thinking Dr Mahathir was easy meat.

Ask worthy adversaries Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tun Musa Hitam and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Ask Lee Kuan Yew.

Dr Mahathir's ability to make a robust comeback every time you'd think he was beaten and sunk is legendary.

As soon as he responds, it is similar to the recoil of a cannon that blasts shells of cutting wit, worldly wisdom, stark revelation and concise illumination.

Now garnish all these inherent Dr Mahathir characteristics and the outcome is his terrific memoirs, an 809-page colossus covering just about everything Malaysiana in a read easy to comprehend, given Dr Mahathir's natural gift for unencumbered and well-defined English.

It's natural to dive into the juiciest parts first (Anwar and his preferential foibles, given the relevancy of his current battles), but take a quick glimpse at the glossary and the index first, filled with the social, political, religious, economic and cultural buzzwords of the Mahathir era.

Dr Mahathir makes mention of sandiwara (old word for comedy, play or concert but now expanded to mean political theatrics of complex plots and hidden hands), towkay (once the phrase used to address an employer or a Chinese above the working class but now applied generally to any Chinese trader or captain of the great Malaysian football team of the 1970s), and "approved permits" (defined in the book as a system by which imports into Malaysia are controlled but in actuality, a connotation of explosive meaning).

He even allows a passage to orang puteh, the Caucasians he refers to as Europeans frequently dubbed as Mat Salleh of which he is fond of unravelling as either an imperial flake or a global irritant despite making friends with them and convincing them to pump good money into Malaysia.

The index is also a revelation: the direct reference to "Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim" alone took a big chunk of 56 pages and that doesn't include the indirect references to Tan Sri Rahim Noor (then inspector-general of police who recklessly punched Anwar's black eye and provided what Dr Mahathir mused as a "long-term political capital").

If the index is an indicator of the leanings of his memoirs, he allowed copious references to former colleagues-turned-foes-turned allies Tengku Razaleigh (the fractious fight for the Umno presidency in 1987) and as opposition rival (1990 general election), Tun Musa Hitam as heir apparent but eventual sulk, and former right-hand man Tun Daim Zainuddin, whom Dr Mahathir placed as a pivotal character in many business and economic dealings but had a falling out with in later years.

There are astute references to Pas (he blasted away against its spiritual leader for his senseless hypocrisy) and paid reverent homage to former prime ministers for constructing foundations of which he built the new Malaysia.

Slicing and dicing Europe (and America) his forte: he once characterised them as the biggest cause of the planet's sordid financial state, unending wars and stage-managed flashpoints.

At 62 extremely wide-ranging chapters of what it means to be a Malaysian, cherry pick the intriguing "Anwar Challenge", or how he was finally convinced of the police intelligence on Anwar's predilections -- a watershed still at play in real time in the High Court where Anwar is facing Sodomy II while at the same time, Dr Mahathir was pitching his memoirs at the launch yesterday.

Could this memoir be sub-judice to Anwar's trial? Or submitted as evidence by prosecution and defence? That would be tantalisingly, with Dr Mahathir a willing witness -- for both sides.

Dr Mahathir is aware of the risks of publishing his memoirs when the political environment is dicey and inflammatory, particularly when the characters and situations in his book are still functioning, probably with their lawyers on speed dial in case their treatment is legally challenging.

But not getting any younger at 85, Dr Mahathir is determined to have, perhaps, the last word on the turbulent era he accelerated with bullishness.

Someone will challenge his account and recount of many episodes but at a glance, it is a rambling digest of little nuggets of a moment in time, a sharp narrative on certain phases, a swooping look at several acts and a perspective on some of the most arresting intervals of his decades-long narrative.

His parting words in the Anwar chapter is classic Dr Mahathir: "Anwar should have been prime minister of Malaysia today. But if he is not, it is because of his own actions.

"He left me no choice but to remove him and I did what I thought was best for the country.

"I may have made many mistakes, but removing Anwar was not one of them."

Ibrahim Ali wants commission on revocation of citizenship

(Bernama) - An MP today suggested the setting up of a commission on the revocation of the citizenship of those Malaysians who tarnish the good name of the country.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali (IND-Pasir Mas) said such a commission was necessary in view of the tendency of certain people to raise sensitive issues and ridicule the government to garner political support and spark tension in the country.

“I propose the setting up of the commission to penalise those who smear the country’s name locally and abroad through the mass media, regardless of whether they are Malays, Chinese or Indians or whoever it is.

“What is the use of being a (Malaysian) citizen without showing loyalty and doing things contrary to the (country’s) laws,” he said when speaking during the debate on the motion of thanks for the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat.

Ibrahim also suggested that the Sedition Act be amended or a new law be enacted to prevent non-Muslims from questioning Islam and engaging in acts sensitive to the religion.

He said that of late some non-Muslims had questioned the “azan” (call for prayer), quoted verses from the Quran during political campaigns and given speeches in mosques.

Ibrahim also suggested that the basics of nationhood be included in the History subject in schools to familiarise students with the basis of the formation of the country.

He said there were citizens who did not know how to speak Bahasa Malaysia, the national language.

The house will sit again tomorrow.

World justice on trial

The Star

Malaysia must take note of the strengths and failings of the International Criminal Court and inquire if it is a candle in the dark or a tool of colonialism and imperialism.

OFFICIALS of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are in Kuala Lumpur to convince Malaysia to ratify the Rome Statute to make Malaysia the 115th country to join this historic institution that heralds a new era of international justice.

The ICC was set up in 1998 and began operating in 2002. It provides a permanent international forum to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

It seeks to end impunity and to send a strong message to perpetrators of mass atrocities.

Since its inception, it has succeeded in extending the international ban on certain weapons like poisonous gases and internal armed conflicts. Its crowning achievement is the creation of domestic laws in many countries to prosecute grave breaches of humanitarian laws.

It has opened five investigations, issued charges against 12 people and secured custody of four accused. It has indicted the serving President of Sudan.

In considering whether to join the ICC, Malaysia must take note of the strengths as well as the failings of this international tribunal.

First, all prosecutions by the ICC up to now are against African leaders in Uganda, Congo, Kenya and Sudan. There may be one soon against Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. This “African centredness” is surprising because we know that similarly grave or even worse offences have been committed elsewhere.

Second, despite the ICC’s existence, superpowers like the United States, Britain, France and their allies are not at all deterred. They are still attacking the weak.

Pre-emptive and unilateral wars of aggression are being waged. Genocides are raging. New holocausts are being perpetrated. Nuclear threats are being issued against nations like Iran that refuse to bow to the hegemony of the West.

The ICC is selective in its prosecutions. For instance, war criminals in Britain and Australia belong to a ratifying state and as such are subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

The ICC has been approached by 240 complainants from Iraq. Its chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has amazingly ruled that the complaints do not have “sufficient gravity” to merit the initiation of a prosecution.

No indictments have been served on former US president George Bush and Secretaries of Defence Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, former British prime minister Tony Blair, Israeli prime minister Benja­min Netanyahu and his predecessor Ehud Olhmert, former Australian prime minister John Howard, leaders of Sri Lanka, Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Congo rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, and Rwandan president Paul Kagame despite their complicity in the murder of millions.

Cluster bombs, phosphorus, depleted uranium and chemical agents have been used by these leaders in some of these conflicts.

American professor Francis Boyle points out that despite the fact that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC two years ago, the ICC prosecutor has refused to investigate the crimes against humanity inflicted upon Palestinians by Israel.

Third, countries like the United States, Israel, Russia, China and India remain outside the ICC. Under Bush, the United States derecognised the Rome Statute. As such, Washington is not obliged to surrender any US perpetrators for trial before the ICC.

In fact, it has gone so far as to adopt measures that would allow it to use force to retrieve its nationals detained by the ICC. This reality renders the ICC as a body that can only pursue cases against weak states.

Fourth, for a crime to be prosecuted before the ICC, it must be committed on the territories of a member state of the ICC.

Iraq and Afghanistan are not parties to the ICC Statute and the bestialities committed there by the American allies are therefore exempt from the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Fifth, Article 98 of the Rome Statute provides that a country need not hand over a foreign national to the ICC if it is prohibited from doing so by an agreement with the national’s country.

The American government has forced nearly 100 countries to sign such “Article 98” agreements, thereby making its war criminals immune from international prosecution.

Sixth, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has the power to refer crimes committed by a non-signatory to the ICC (as it did for Darfur). But due to its geopolitical, racial and religious bias, the UNSC is unlikely to refer wrongdoers in the United States, Israel, Russia and China to the ICC.

Seventh, the ICC can investigate a case only if national courts fail or are unable to investigate a case. Major offending states like the United States, Israel and Britain put up the charade of prosecuting low-ranking soldiers but ignore compelling evidence that the massacre of civilians, tortures and other crimes against humanitarian law were authorised by top politicians.

Eighth, before mounting the Iraq invasion the US president had threatened the use of nuclear weapons. During the war, the United States and Britain used many weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that are banned in international law.

Use of these WMDs is not a crime under the ICC Statute. India had asked for inclusion of nuclear weapons and WMDs as a crime against humanity but the United States disagreed.

Ninth, the ICC is to some extent a tool of national leaders who report rebels and oppositionists to the ICC. It is noteworthy that three of the four active cases in Africa involve opposition figures referred to the court by their own governments.

One should therefore ask whether the ICC is a candle in the dark or a tool of colonialism and imperialism. It is undeniable that because of its link with the UNSC, the ICC is indeed a Western tool that reflects the racist and colonial nature of the UNSC.

Its silence in the face of heinous crimes in occupied Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine (especially Gaza) is deafening.

Malaysia should stare the ICC officials in their faces and ask them why is there such unequal harassment under the law, and why is there such callous indifference to the barbarism, slaughtering and stealing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza.

Nevertheless, our fidelity to human rights demands that we subscribe to a system of international justice against mass murderers.

It must also be remembered that many of the failings of the ICC are the failings of the UNSC.

Despite many reservations, it would be a folly not to join hands with this historic institution of international criminal justice. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

> Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM and Visiting Professor at USM. 

* * Malaysian Bar Web Ads * Malaysian Bar Web Ads * Malaysian Bar Web Ads RCI-TBH (Day 15): MACC Witnesses Called to the Inquiry

The Bar Council’s team of solicitors at the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating Teoh Beng Hock’s death (“RCI-TBH”) will provide regular updates on the proceedings.

The first report follows below.  For ease of reference, all reports will bear the heading “RCI-TBH”.

Contributed by Richard Wee & Yip Xiaoheng

RCI-TBH (day 15): MACC Witnesses Called to the Inquiry

8 Mar 2011 – Mohd Ashraf Bin Yunus was today called as a witness at the RCI-TBH.

He was tasked to assist one Arman to question Teoh Beng Hock.  Arman is apparently from MACC Putrajaya, while Ashraf, on the other hand, is an officer from MACC Selangor.  Ashraf used to work in a factory as a production operator with a SPM qualification.  He joined MACC about 5 years ago.

Doing examination by counsel, Ashraf admitted that statements are usually recorded by the officer interviewing the relevant person.  However in this case, while Arman did in fact take notes of the interview with Teoh Beng Hock, another MACC officer by the name of Nadzri was the officer who recorded Teoh Beng Hock’s statement.

Ashraf was briefed by Hairul Ilham, the “Pemangku Penolong Pesuruhjaya” of MACC.  Ashraf testified that he had requested Teoh Beng Hock to confirm certain documents and on many occasions had left Teoh Beng Hock on his own to tag the documents by himself.

Examination of Ashraf will continue on 9 Mar 2011.

Counsel representing Bar Council at today’s proceedings were Christopher Leong, Nahendran Navaratnam, S Sivaneindiren and Edmund Bon.

Still a long way to go for women’s rights

The Star

WOMEN everywhere marked the centenary of International Women’s Day on March 8. We hesitate to say “celebrate” the day because, while there have been many gains, there are still many barriers to overcome, and gender equality still seems infuriatingly far off.

After all, the battle for gender equality should be a fact of life, not just a day on the calendar.

Women’s groups here, like their “sistas” elsewhere, have fought on many fronts, such as equal pay, separate taxation laws, domestic violence and rape.

For that we applaud them.

It’s also thanks to them that there is increasing realisation that feminism is not a dirty word and that it’s not about angry women burning their bras.

Unfortunately, legal reforms alone do not transform the social clime. Attitudes, prejudices and the cultural atmosphere continue to exist long after legislature is enforced, and often spottily.

So although on paper, a woman’s status is enhanced, in actuality the state of her affairs remains unchanged.

In the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report on Malaysia, which ranks 98 out of 134 countries, the only areas in which women exceed men is in tertiary education enrolment and in life expectancy. In all other areas, women still lag behind men.

Women make up roughly half the potential work force of the country, yet represent only 36% of the actual labour force.

There is, moreover, a disproportionately large number of women in the informal sector, namely, women who run small food stalls or who are casual and subcontract workers, and who do not receive any worker benefits or health insurance.

Those who work as casual labourers among men encounter various forms of gender harassment – from receiving lower salaries than their male counterparts to being physically abused.

Professional women have it better, but are still discriminated against when it comes to promotions, especially to positions of responsibility, and in terms of equal pay. They are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between pursuing their careers or devoting more time to their families.

In politics, of a total of 71 in the present Malaysian Cabinet, there are only 10 women ministers and deputy ministers.

This represents a mere 14% of top political decision makers in the country, far short of the 30% target set by the United Nations (UN).

Violence against women continues unabated with almost daily reports of rapes, beatings and murders.

Muslim women, in particular, have not enjoyed the same rights accorded to their non-Muslim sisters. In the 1990s, several amendments were made to various Islamic laws that eroded the rights and protection granted to Muslim women.

For example, they still have to put up with polygamy, and as far as divorce is concerned, it is so hard for women to obtain it that some opt to lose their financial assets just to get their husbands to agree to a divorce.

Women work, take up roles in politics and the economy, and in some households are even the sole breadwinners, but the man-made laws have not moved in tandem to recognise these new realities.

As Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the UN, said, “When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life’’.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil takes it even further: “It’s been proven that when you empower women, you empower her entire community. “Although women in Malaysia have achieved a great deal over the years, we cannot deny that there remains much to be done.

“Women still put their families first and neglect their own health; they often give up their careers because the environment in the work place does not cater for their complex needs. Companies can do a lot to improve women’s standing.”

And, indeed, companies with a conscience do pay attention to creating greater equality at work.

The Star, for example, is gender neutral. Women hold management positions.

In fact, Datuk Ng Poh Tip, The Star’s former group chief editor, was the first woman in Malaysia to hold the position in the industry.

Women reporters are also assigned hard political and economic stories and cover war zones and natural disaster areas. Right now, two of our women reporters are reporting on the turmoil in Libya and Tunisia.

So it is not all doom and gloom. Our daughters, brought up with the gains of the women’s movement, are growing up in a world where the equality of women in everything from education to the work force is accepted. They will continue to expect and demand a fairer, and an equitable, society – and they will get it.

The further good news is that there are at least one or two generations of men who have been raised by enlightened mothers (and possibly fathers) who have no hang-ups about treating women fairly, and seeing that as the norm.

But there are still people who scratch their heads and ask: What do women really want?

The answer: Women want what men have. The freedom to choose whatever life they want – not to be confined by ideas of what they should or should not be, what they can or cannot achieve. The right to be anything, to set their sights as high, as wide and as far as ideas and action can take them.

It’s as simple as that.

UMNO bounces back in Malaysia

By Anil Netto

PENANG - The political tide that earlier rolled against Malaysia's ruling United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO)-led coalition appears to have turned again in its favor, raising the prospects for possible early polls.

The latest indication of the shift: two by-election wins by comfortable majorities over the weekend in two state assembly constituencies. The wins leveled the by-election tally at eight each for the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition and opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) since the Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition made significant gains in the March 2008 general elections.

However, the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has recently been on a roll, winning seven of the last eight by-elections held since

October 2009. The next big test will come at the Sarawak state elections, which must be called by July but are widely tipped to be held in April. Together with neighboring Sabah, the two states account for a quarter of the seats in the federal parliament.

If the BN wins comfortably in Sarawak, some political analysts reckon a snap general election could be on the cards in the months ahead. General elections are not due until 2013 but UMNO has historically called for snap polls when its popularity or the economy have run on high.

Most of the BN's recent poll victories, including weekend wins in Pahang state's Kerdau and Malacca's Merlimau, have come in rural or semi-rural seats. The one opposition victory in the last six by-elections was picked up by the opposition Democratic Action Party in the town of Sibu in Sarawak.

Apart from the usual opposition complaints of abuse of state agencies during by-election campaigns and relentless pro-government propaganda over state-influenced electronic and print media, there are several political and economic factors working in the BN's favor.

For one, global crude palm oil prices are soaring, representing a boon to the country's many small-scale palm growers under the government's Federal Land Development (Felda) schemes. The benchmark May contract price was above 3,500 ringgit (US$1,155), a huge increase over last year's 2,701 ringgit and 2008's average of 2,236 ringgit. With those high prices, analysts believe Felda settlers will vote solidly for the BN.

"Some of these settlers now live comfortable lives with the prevailing high commodity prices,'' said a Pahang-based local activist who observed the Kerdau by-election won by the BN. ''Concepts like human rights mean little to them.''

Natural rubber prices have also shot up, benefiting some 300,000 smallholders in rural areas. According to a recent Edge weekly report, rubber growers' incomes have recently surged, in some instances tripling since the 2008-9 economic downturn. SMR 20 natural rubber is now trading at over US$5 per kilogram, compared to around $1.50 at the height of the crisis.

With commodity prices booming, analysts say it's no wonder that the BN's popularity has bounced back in many rural and semi-rural areas after suffering electoral setbacks in 2008. But there's another factor analysts say might explain the BN's about-turn since October 2009: prime minister Najib Razak's use of the ''1Malaysia'' slogan.

A poll conducted recently by the research group Ilham Center ahead of the by-election in Merlimau showed that 56.5% of respondents said that apart from issues related to local infrastructure and facilities the 1Malaysia campaign would influence how they vote at the next polls.

The political slogan was first rolled out in September 2010 and called on leaders, government agencies, and civil servants to more strongly emphasize national unity, ethnic harmony, and effective and efficient governance. "1Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance ... unity in diversity which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future," says Najib at his 1Malaysia website.

Opposition politicians have been highly critical of the campaign, often pointing to the hypocrisy between the message of unity and UMNO's traditional championing of race-based policies that favor ethnic Malays over ethnic minority groups. The introduction of 1Malaysia came at a time when ethnic minority parties in the coalition - namely, the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress - were at a low ebb after being hammered at the 2008 general election.

Despite the ethnic harmony and national unity sloganeering, many right-wing ethno-nationalist Malay groups have simultaneously emerged in promotion of a more exclusivist vision of the country's future. They have often railed against more liberal-democratic individuals and civil society groups who are seeking to build a more inclusive society.

Clive Kessler, emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at Australia's University of South Wales, contends that while the 1Malaysia slogan conveys and resonates with both notions of national belonging - 'civic nationalism' and 'ethno-nationalism' - most Malaysians hear only one of the messages.

''On the one hand there are many who yearn for this nation to be, to become in gradual and progressive stages, a truly inclusive, modern national community, a multiethnic and culturally inclusive nation of a generally liberal-democratic kind,'' Kessler wrote in a recent commentary.

"There is another notion. It holds that there is One Malaysia, only one Malaysia, not many. There is only one Malaysia, and it is ours. Since it is ours, we set the terms here. If you wish to be part of it you may. There is a place for you here, and we will tell you what it is."

An opposition PAS Penang state committee member who participated in recent by-election campaigning in Merlimau views similarly the ruling coalition's use of the controversial slogan.

"The BN in its campaigning uses the 1Malaysia slogan to mean different things to different groups of people,'' he said. ''When campaigning in the Malay areas, BN speakers say this 1Malaysia is for development and to promote ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy or dominance), apart from talking about and attending to local problems. When talking to minority communities, they talk about importance of unity, and how we have to be together, as we are all Malaysians."

It's therefore no wonder that the recent Ilham poll found that the 1Malaysia slogan appealed to a majority of respondents in Merlimau. But while the BN appears to have turned the tide in many rural areas, it will find a similar shift more difficult in urban areas, where voters have more access to alternative news and information and are feeling the pinch of rising fuel, food, and housing prices.

That's a still significant divide in perceptions, one that may yet stall the temptation for UMNO to call early elections and run on a ticket of harmony and unity.

Anil Netto is a Penang-based writer. 

Rebels set demands for Gaddafi exit

Rebels will not pursue Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi over crimes they say he has committed if he steps down from his post in the next 72 hours, the head of the rebel National Libyan Council has told Al Jazeera.

"If he leaves Libya immediately, during 72 hours, and stops the bombardment, we as Libyans will step back from pursuing him for crimes," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the opposition National Council, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

He said the deadline would not be extended beyond 72 hours.

"Based on our love for our country we have proposed to the [Gaddafi's] indirect negotiators that a solution can be reached," Jalil told Al Jazeera.

"Conditions are that firstly he stops all combat in the fields, secondly that his departure is within 72 hours; thirdly we may waive our right of domestic prosecution ... for the crimes of oppression, persecution, starvation and massacres.

"We will have to wait and see what the regime's response is."

Libyan state television on Tuesday denied reports that the Libyan leader tried to strike a deal with opposition forces seeking his removal. An official from the Libyan foreign ministry described the reports as "absolute nonsense".

However, a spokesman for the opposition National Council in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi confirmed that a representative had sought to negotiate Gaddafi's exit.

Gaddafi was reported to have sent a representative to Benghazi on Sunday night to discuss a conditional plan to step down, Al Jazeera learned. The offer was provided on the condition that Gaddafi would be able to keep his assets and avoid prosecution.

Conflicting reports

The Libyan leader is said to be willing to step down in return for dropping war crimes charges against him and guaranteeing a safe exit for him and his family. He also reportedly wants guarantees from the UN that he will be allowed to keep his money.

However, Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Benghazi, said she was hearing conflicting accounts of what happened.

"The head of the opposition National Council says there were indirect talks with people from Tripoli, who were given the green light from the regime," she said.

"But the spokesman for the National Council denies any of that. He says no one can bargain for the blood spilt during the 42 years of Gaddafi's leadership or the money that is owed to the Libyan people.

"There is a very chaotic picture coming out here and it could backfire in the face of the Council."

She also said there was no optimism there following news of the ultimatum from the rebels.

"There is no more euphoria of a revolution," she said.

"People are worried it will move towards civil war which will continue for months on end. There is a realisation that there is no institution in this country - that you have to avoid chaos.

"It's a matter of waiting and seeing. Military commanders are continuing on their mission to get military structure to the group of volunteers [fighters] who are very disorganised."

Intense fighting

Security forces loyal to Gaddafi have strengthened their military position in the last few days, squeezing rebel-held towns in the west and checking the advance of rebel militias westwards towards the capital, Tripoli.

On Tuesday Gaddafi forces used tanks and aircraft to attack the town of Az Zawiyah, 50 km west of Tripoli, but rebels
say they still control the town centre.

Al Jazeera heard reports that Gaddafi snipers were on rooftops shooting randomly from the main square and that they are storming houses in some neighbourhoods and killing residents.

Fighting is also intensifying in Ras Lanuf - a key Libyan oil terminal in the centre of the country - amid reports of several air strikes on Tuesday.

Families residing there began heading eastward in an apparent attempt to flee the fighting in that strategic port town, our correspondent there said. Several people were reported to have been killed in battles a day earlier, including a family trying to flee the fighting.

Gaddafi supporters are moving eastward in an effort to push the rebels back and recapture fallen towns, with reports emerging on Monday that they took control of the central Libyan town of Bin Jawad.

There was also fierce fighting in the eastern city of Misurata, located between Tripoli and Gaddafi's hometown Sirte, with reports of at least 18 people killed on Monday.

No-fly zone

The rebel forces say they will be outgunned if the government continues to unleash its air attacks on them and are pleading for the international community to impose a no-fly zone to prevent this.

"We don't want a foreign military intervention, but we do want a no-fly zone," rebel fighter Ali Suleiman told AP news agency.

"We are all waiting for one,'' he said. The rebels can take on "the rockets and the tanks, but not Gaddafi's air force''.

William Hague, the UK foreign minister, said on Tuesday that a no-fly zone over Libya was a practical possibility but it would need a clear legal basis.

"It is a realistic possibility and it is a practical possibility," Hague said. "It has to have a clear legal base, it has to have the necessary international support, broad support in the region itself."

On the same day, the UN Security Council raised the possibility of imposing the no-fly zone.

"There were lots of issues that were discussed this morning, the no-fly zone was one of the issues," UN under secretary general Lynn Pascoe said after briefing the 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday.

On Monday the six US-allied Gulf Arab nations said they backed a UN-enforced no-fly zone, they also condemned the killings by pro-government forces in Libya as "massacres".

Arab foreign ministers are to hold crisis talks on Friday to discuss imposing it, Arab League
officials said.

The US president said on Monday that the US and its NATO allies were still considering a military response to the violence.

Barack Obama said the US will stand with the Libyan people as they face "unacceptable'' violence. He also sent a strong message to Gaddafi, saying he and his supporters will be held responsible for the violence there.

Humanitarian concerns

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya's uprising began on February 14 in an effort to end Gaddafi's more than 41-year rule, although tight restrictions on media make it near impossible to get an accurate number.

The number of people who have fled the violence in Libya since last month has passed 215,000 according to the International Organisation for Migration, most of them are foreign workers.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday a senior Red Crescent official said forces loyal to Gaddafi were blocking migrant workers from crossing into Tunisia, and forcing many to return to work in Tripoli.

Ibrahim Osman said about 30,000 migrant workers were rounded up and held in Libyan immigration buildings near the Tunisian border last week.

He said Gaddafi soldiers "pulled back'' 30,000 Bangladeshis, Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans from the Ras Ajdir border crossing and they appear to have been forcibly returned to service jobs in the capital.

The UN refugee agency also warned on Tuesday that there was a critical shortage of long haul flights to evacuate foreign migrants who have fled Libya to their home countries in Asia and Africa.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Cops question students for 10 hours over 'Interlok'

Three Form Five students were yesterday taken to the Kuala Kubu Baru district police headquarters and traumatised by being questioned for 10 hours - all for wanting to return the novel 'Interlok' to their principal last Friday.

Initially, seven SMK Kuala Kubu Baru students, who wanted to return the book because they were not happy with its contents, were stopped by a discipline teacher who allegedly abused them verbally.

NONE“All seven of us were walking calmly towards the headmaster's room when our discipline teacher stopped us and started making comments which hurt our feelings,” said one of the students, who was with four others at the Human Rights Party headquarters today.

According to the student, the discipline teacher said the students were purposely creating problems because of their race.

The teacher reportedly said, “Kenapa orang India garang? India memang suka rosakkan nama sekolah. Keling memang dasar pariah sejak sejarah lagi” (Why are the Indians so fierce? Indians really like to tarnish the school's name. The keling have been pariahs since historical times).

The 17-year-old students were not able to return the novel as the teacher told them to disperse immediately.
Yesterday, while the students were in school, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) head Baktiar Md Rashid, who is a police officer, took three of the teens to the police station for questioning, without the consent of their parents.

NONEA parent, P Gomathi, 42 (left), said she was angry that her son had been taken to the station without her presence or permission.

“My son did not commit any crime. He just wanted to return a book that he didn't enjoy reading.
"Instead he was humiliated and taken to the balai like some kind of hardcore criminal, in a patrol car,” she said, adding that the school authorities did not inform her about this.

Gomathi was informed of her son's whereabouts at 10.30am by a classmate. When she reached the station, she said, she was told that her elder son A Sanjeevkumar, 19, had also been called in for questioning as the discipline teacher had made a police report against him.

“She (the discipline teacher) said in her police report that my elder son had brought 100 Indians from Kuala Lumpur, from the Gang 36, to threaten her and her family,” Gomathi added.

NONEShe sees this as a desperate move by the teacher because Sanjeevkumar was away in Kuala Lumpur the whole week when this issue started.

Sanjeevkumar said: “I was a student in this school two years ago, and I have never been involved in any problem. No problem with the teachers or other students.

“Therefore, it is not fair for the teacher to pin it on me on the ground that I was a former student who 'turned' into a gangster to influence my younger brother.”

Gomathi yesterday lodged police reports against Baktiar and the teacher.

“I am not happy with what has happened. It was a school drama that should have ended there. Baktiar was misusing his authority.
"He should have had his PTA hat on, as the matter concerned school children in the school compound... not putting on his 'DSP police hat' and arresting the children and taking them to the balai for questioning. After all it's just (about) a book."
'A night in jail' threat

Asked what took place at the police station, the teary-eyed student said the police threatened that he and older brother Sanjeevkumar would be spending a night in jail.

“I asked for permission to call my parents but they (the police) wouldn't let me, saying I was in only there for questioning, and that they were not going to arrest me. The other two of my friends were also not able to call their parents.”

Asked what he wants from the authorities, he said: “I want to go back to school macam biasa (as usual). Jumpa semua kawan (see all my friends).

Sebab hari Jumaat, banyak cikgu lain yang dengar cerita ini, semuanya cakap sorry dekat kita. (Last Friday, most of the other teachers who heard of this issue, came and said sorry to us).

NONE“So, all I want is the discipline teacher to apologise to us. That's it.”

HRP president W Sambulingam (left), who was present at the press conference, said it was unfair to put the students through such an ordeal at a tender age.

“This is what I say, harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi. The police are supposed to educate and keep the people from harm. Instead, they lock up students. And for what? For trying to return the novel.

“As we have been saying since the beginning, 'Interlok' must be removed immediately. Look at it today, see for yourself what it has done to this particular school.
“Malaysia is a beautiful country, with beautiful people, so please do not make it ugly with hidden racial agendas. Don't ever victimise the nation.”
'Interlok', written by national laureate Abdullah Hussein, made headlines recently as critics have argued that it portrays the Indian and Chinese communities in a negative light.

There have been protests since the Education Ministry's decision to use it as a literature textbook in secondary schools. This is the first case of students being taken to a police station and questioned over the book.
Statements taken
When contacted by Malaysiakini, Hulu Selangor district police chief Norel-Azmi Yahya Affendi confirmed the incident.

"Since last night, we have been taking statements from all parties, including our police officer, Baktiar," Norel said.
Norel also noted that the three students were taken from school to the police station solely for questioning and they were not being charged.

"This is all just a big misunderstanding and a miscommunication between the teacher and students. My understanding is, the teacher was just explaining the meaning and history of that word (pariah). There was no name calling whatsoever," Norel added.

He gave assurance that the police are taking this case seriously, as the students' parents are not happy with the teacher and Baktiar, adding that the 10-hour questioning the minors underwent was standard procedure.
"The students were at the police station for about 10 hours because we spent about three hours on each student questioning and getting clarification from them on what had happen.

"Apart from the parents, the teacher also lodged a report against one of the students elder brother for threatening her," he said adding that if found guilty, Sanjeevkumar would be charged under Section 506 of the Penal Code, which includes a maximum jail sentence of seven years or pay a fine or both.

Norel said those involved in this matter had tackled this issue wrongly.

Any form of questioning regarding 'Interlok' should be done by school authorities, in the school compound and not elsewhere, he said.

Norel also hoped that no third parties who make this issue into a racial matter.

The police turned my brother into a criminal

I read with great interest the article in your portal entitled 'Cops, not protesters, are real threat to nation' and must say that I am in complete agreement.

I say this because of the ordeal my family and I went through recently which I dare say was mostly due to some unscrupulous police officers.

Our ordeal started on Feb 9 after I was involved in a quarrel with a neighbour who happens to be friends with two plainclothes detectives from the South Klang police headquarters.

Although my quarrel was with the women in that family, one of the women's husband entered my house and assaulted me. A youth from that family also came charging with a parang which he swung towards me.

Luckily, the parang missed me but hit the pillar of my gate and subsequently left a deep mark.

I went and made a police report, and so did the neighbouring family in addition to consulting their detective friends.

That night my younger brother, who is an assistant manager with a fast food outlet, came home at about midnight and learnt what had happened. Because of this, he then stood in our compound and shouted that hitting a woman was sheer cowardice and challenged them to take him on if they had the guts.

At about 5.00am that morning one of the neighbour's detective friends came to our house with two other policemen, and said my brother was under arrest for smashing our neighbour's cars' windscreens.

They would not listen to him when he said that he had nothing to do with the alleged crime. He also asked to be allowed to go to work and open-up the restaurant before reporting to the police. They refused, and obtained a remand order the same morning for my 24-year-old brother who has never been hauled-up for anything in his entire life.

He was kept there for four days and severely beaten-up by an inspector before he was released.

My brother was punched, slapped, kicked, hit with a rubber hose and a pair handcuffs and told that he would be killed if he complained about being beaten-up. He was also called names are subjected to racial insults by the inspector.

We are also furious that one of the neighbour's detective friends had seated my brother in a room with an alleged extortionist and asked the latter to convince my brother to 'admit his guilt'.

How dare this policeman ask this person, whom apparently had a mile-long police record, to attempt to force my brother into admitting to something he did not do.

My brother was released on Feb 13 and charged on Feb 16 for something the he did not do. We posted bail of RM3, 320 and my brother is required to go to the police station once a week to sign in.

Ironically no action has been taken against the man who assaulted me as well as the youth who swung a parang at me simply because they are friends with the detectives.

When we queried the police, they say there is no evidence. When we tell them that neighbours who had seen him coming with the parang were willing to give evidence, the police officer in charge of the case said he had no time to talk to them.

My brother lodged a report at the Selangor police headquarters on Feb 14 against the police inspector who had assaulted him. However, we have yet to hear from the police. Someone please tell the police that justice delayed is justice denied.

Our family is also hoping that the police top brass will take note of this letter and put right what has gone so wrong in the Klang South police station.

We also welcome offers of legal representation to look into this case as we are not able to afford a lawyer.

Last village standing evokes Singapore’s rural past

Its days are numbered but until development forces residents to move, the village gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the 1950s.
SINGAPORE: Quietly tucked away in a corner surrounded by high-rise apartments and rows of bungalows is a rustic village where the old Singapore still survives.
Dogs and cats run freely and chickens cluck noisily as children play around colourful, zinc-roofed houses made of wood and cement, undisturbed by the din of cars zipping by on an expressway just a few metres away.
Welcome to Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last surviving village on the Singapore mainland.
Its days are numbered but until development forces residents to move, the village gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the 1950s before Singapore became one of Asia’s most modern and wealthiest cities.
Occupying a land area the size of three football fields in the northeastern suburbs, the kampong (“village” in the Malay language) has 28 houses scattered haphazardly with a total of about 50 residents.
With unpaved streets, large backyard gardens, grassy patches and occasional banana plants, the cluster is an anachronism in a city-state crammed with office towers, high-rise apartment blocks and shopping malls.
For residents, the village provides relief at the end of each working day, a quiet oasis where neighbours still know each other intimately, quite unlike the anonymity of city living.
“I have a deep attachment to my neighbours,” said Sng Mui Hong, a 57-year-old spinster who rents out houses in the village for S$6.50 to S$30 a month.
Colonial rule
Most of Singapore’s five million residents live in government-built apartment buildings and private condominiums.
“After all they grew up with me, and some of the grandmothers and grandfathers here have watched me grow up,” said Sng, who currently lives with a nephew and niece, three dogs and several pet birds.
Her family moved into the plot of land in 1956, when Singapore was still under British colonial rule. Electricity and running water came into the village in 1962, a period when the country was in political transition.
Singapore, a largely ethnic Chinese island, became part of the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but was expelled two years later as Kuala Lumpur pursued policies favourable to the Malay majority.
In modern-day Kampong Lorong Buangkok, racial harmony comes naturally for the Chinese and Malay families whose houses are about five metres apart.
“They are like my own parents because we are from the same village. So I don’t care if they are Malay or Chinese,” Sng said of her older neighbours.
And while the village is by Singapore standards far from supermarkets, schools and bus and train stops, residents rarely mind as there are perks to village life that cannot be found elsewhere.
Some even own cars, a luxury in Singapore.
Future generations
Makeup artist Jamil Kamsah, who has lived in Kampong Lorong Buangkok since 1967, enjoys the amicable nature of the village folk.
“People here are very friendly, motherly and polite, and it is easy for me to make friends with them,” the 55-year-old said. “I don’t scold animals and I talk to plants.”
In his free time, Jamil tends to his garden and touches up the exterior of his house, welcoming visitors with a ready smile.
In land-scarce Singapore, where many older buildings and residential areas have been converted to more modern housing or commercial use, Kampong Lorong Buangkok faces an uncertain future.
Sng hopes the village can be preserved to educate future generations about the past and show them how their forefathers lived.
“Not everybody started off wealthy, many grandfathers built their lives from scratch,” she said
Some city schools take their young students on excursion trips to Kampong Lorong Buangkok to learn about village life.
“Some children mistook the chickens for birds,” Kamsah recalled.
The village’s days are numbered, and the residents know it.
Singapore’s land-use planning agency, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), said there are plans to redevelop Kampong Lorong Buangkok, but gave no time frame.
“The kampong at Lorong Buangkok and its surrounding land is planned to be comprehensively developed to provide future housing and other neighbourhood facilities supported by a road network,” said a URA spokesperson.
Sng, however, does not feel sad even if her village has to go one day.
“Nothing lasts forever,” she shrugged.