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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Injuction granted, demolition thwarted

KUALA LUMPUR: Bukit Jalil estate residents scored a minor victory this morning when the court granted an injunction against the demolition of their houses.
When lawyers N Surendran and Fadiah Nadwa Fikri told the residents about the court order, the news was greeted with a resounding applause.
Also present were Human Rights Party (HRP) pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan and scores of other activists.
There were no Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) enforcement officers at the scene.
DBKL is looking to evict some 41 families, some of whom have been living on the estate for generations.
In 1980, the government acquired the land for redevelopment and the land is now owned by Bukit Jalil Sdn Bhd.
The government offered RM23,000 each to residents who have worked on the estate for more than 15 years while the rest were offered RM11,000 each.

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Radiation levels spike at Japanese nuclear plant


Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese authorities trying to stave off meltdowns at an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant reported more grim news Tuesday as radiation levels soared following another explosion at an overheating reactor.

The risk of further releases of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains "very high," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday. In addition to an explosion at the No. 2 reactor, the building housing the No. 4 unit -- which had been shut down before Friday's earthquake -- was burning Tuesday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced.

The plant's owners, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, evacuated all but about 50 of their workers from the plant following Tuesday's explosion at the No. 2 reactor. Radiation levels at the plant have increased to "levels that can impact human health," Edano said -- between 100 and 400 millisieverts, or as much as 160 times higher than the average dose of radiation a typical person receives from natural sources in a year.

Evacuations have already been ordered for anyone living within 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of the plant, and Edano said anyone between 20 and 30 kilometers (between 12.5-18.6 miles) should remain indoors. At least 500 residents were believed to have remained within the 20-kilometer radius Monday evening, Edano said.

Edano spoke more than four hours after an explosion at the No. 2 reactor, the third blast in four days. The cooling system at that unit was damaged by a hydrogen explosion at the No. 3 unit on Monday, and workers had been attempting to keep temperatures at unit 2 in check by pumping seawater into the reactor ever since.

The "explosive impact" took place shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday (5 p.m. Monday ET), TEPCO said. Pressure readings indicated some damage to the No. 2 reactor's suppression pool, a donut-shaped reservoir at the base of the reactor containment vessel.

"We are continuing the water injection into the pressure vessels, but the operators who are not directly engaged in this operation are being evacuated to safer locations," a TEPCO executive told reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Monday's hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3 injured 11 people, Japanese authorities said. A similar hydrogen explosion on Saturday blew the roof off the containment structure around the No. 1 reactor and hurt four people.

Edano said earlier that he could not rule out the possibility of a meltdown at all three troubled reactors at the plant.

The buildup of hydrogen in the reactor vessels is "the first sign that things are going haywire," said Kenneth Bergeron, a physicist who used to work at the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. The release of radioactive material such as cesium, a reactor byproduct that has been detected outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant, is another, he said.

"What is fairly clear, from the release of hydrogen and the fission products, is that all of these reactors have probably had fuel rods exposed for significant periods of time over a portion of their length," Bergeron told CNN.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Tuesday that up to 2.7 meters (8.8 feet) of the No. 2 reactor's control rods -- about half -- have been uncovered.

Authorities began pumping a mix of sea water and boron into the No. 2 reactor after Monday's explosion, as they have been doing with units 1 and 3. But the pump ran low on fuel when workers left it unattended, and the water soon burned off and exposed the reactor's fuel rods, allowing them to emit levels of heat and steam that can melt the reactor's core.

When that problem was resolved, Edano said, a new problem sent the water levels plummeting again. A valve that was supposed to be open to allow the heat and steam to escape was closed, causing pressure to build up inside the reactor building, according to TEPCO. But pumping had resumed by early Tuesday, Edano said.

If the effort to cool the nuclear fuel inside the reactor fails completely -- a scenario that experts who have spoken to CNN say is unlikely -- the resulting release of radiation could cause enormous damage to the plant, and possibly release radiation into the atmosphere or water. That could lead to widespread cancer and other health problems, experts say.

But Bergeron said that while it is likely the reactor cores have been damaged, "it will have to get a lot hotter" for the dense uranium in the reactor's fuel rods to melt down. That would give authorities and the surrounding population time to prepare.

"I believe they would be able to tell from various signals having to do with release of radioactivity and other things that things were a lost cause, you might say, and they might start initiating additional evacuations," Bergeron said.

"There would be warning, but we're talking massive, massive responses required," he added.

About 200,000 people have evacuated the area following a government order over the weekend.

And low levels of radiation were detected at least as far as 100 miles (about 160 kilometers) northeast of the plant, according to the U.S. Navy, which repositioned ships and planes after detecting low-level "airborne radioactivity." Tests also detected low levels of radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy helicopter crew members when they returned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but no further contamination was detected after the crew members washed with soap and water, the Navy said.

The Navy said the maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship personnel when it passed through the area was "less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun."

The United States has sent a team of 10 experts from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including two cooling experts, to assist the Japanese, the NRC announced Monday night. Two were sent Saturday, and the rest left Monday, the agency reported.

NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko said Japan has asked for additional types of equipment that will help provide water and keep the reactors cool. But based on the reactor design and nature of the accident, there is very low probability of any harmful radiation levels reaching the United Sates, including Hawaii and U.S. Pacific territories, Jaczko said.

MACC report filed against state govt, MIC leaders

A group of villagers in Perak who have been waiting for land titles for the past 80 years have now taken their case to the anti-corruption watchdog.
IPOH: Twenty-one families from Kampung Gunung Cheroh who have been denied land titles for the past 80 years have filed a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The report was lodged by village committee chairperson S Mogan, who accused the state government and MIC leaders of abusing their powers.

Those named in the report were the Kinta land office, Perak MIC chief S Veerasingam, state MIC Wanita chief S Thangeswari, developer Fasa Unggul Sdn Bhd and their lawyers.

Thangeswari, a lawyer, had allegedly demanded RM10,000 in legal fees to represent the villagers in the Ipoh High Court case filed by the developer, which is to be heard on March 23.

Mogan had requested for the legal fees to be waived as the villagers are mostly odd-job workers, who cannot afford the high sum.

In his MACC report, Mogan said the developer’s plan allegedly violated a local regulation requiring a 100 metre space between the base of a limestone hill and any form of built structure.

On March 9, a similar police report was made against the above parties at the Ipoh district police headquarters with the assistance of DAP Buntong state assemblyperson A Subramaniam.

The villagers, once strong supporters of MIC, have now turned to Subramaniam and DAP for help.

In 1973, Kampung Gunung Cheroh which is situated at the foot of a limestone was struck by tragedy when a slab of limestone fell and flattened part of the village, killing more than 70 residents.

After this tragedy, many of the villagers who were given compensation moved to other housing areas to settle down.

The remaining 21 families hope to get alternative housing lots with another lot for the relocation of the village’s 70-year-old Hindu temple.

Karpal’s brother dies, trial postponed

The hearing will now continue next Monday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial came to an abrupt halt today after the court was told that lead defence lawyer Karpal Singh’s brother passed away last night.

Fellow counsel Sankara Nair told the court at the start of today’s proceedings that Karpal’s youngest brother passed away at 11pm yesterday.

On hearing this, and based on the defence’s application for postponement, presiding High Court judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah adjourned the hearing to Monday.

The court was to have heard the defence reply to the prosecution’s twin applications – for the judge to review his own ruling in rejecting DNA evidence and for the court to order Anwar to provide his DNA sample for testing.

This is the second time that Anwar, PKR’s de facto leader, has been charged with sodomy, the first time being in 1998. He was eventually acquitted.

In the current case, the accuser was his former personal aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azan. He alleges that Anwar sodomised him at a condominium in Bukit Damansara on June 26, 2008.
If convicted, Anwar can be jailed for up to 20 years jail and whipped.

It’s the next phase that counts

Malaysia Today is not in the business of entertaining you with stories of sex romps and bonking in the corridors of power. We want to see the success of the ‘Rakyat Reform Agenda’ or RARA. And this can only happen if we see reforms and/or a change of government. So that is the focus of our work from hereon till the next general election.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

There are some who comment that Raja Petra Kamarudin or Malaysia Today is no longer the same. In the past, Malaysia Today focused on exposes and revelations. Now there is not much of that. Because of this many no longer read Malaysia Today, say these people.

Yes, I know, many enjoy reading the secrets of others being exposed or revealed. They enjoy it even more when it is stories of the sex lives of VIPs or those who walk in the corridors of power. Spin a good gossip and everyone’s ears will be primed.

But is this what it all boils down to? Is Malaysia Today a ‘rag sheet’ whose job is to entertain our readers with delicious stories of this person bonking that person who in turn bonks another person?

Actually, these types of readers are syiok sendiri (self orgasm). They like to hear about the negative things involving those who walk in the corridors of power and this convinces them that Barisan Nasional is going to be kicked out come the next election and Pakatan Rakyat is going to be the next government.

Sure, Malaysia Today can keep exposing and revealing the wrong-doings, transgressions, crimes, abuse of power, thievery, and so on, of those who are running this country. We have in fact been doing this for 15 years since the Internet first came to Malaysia in the mid-1990s.

I remember, in the mid-1990s -- at that time Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government -- my website (Raja Petra’s Website) exposed and revealed the shenanigans of the government.

And know what? Anwar Ibrahim and his cronies were some of our prime targets. Some of these people are, of course, today, in the opposition. But in the 1990s they were part of the government and Raja Petra’s Website whacked them good and proper and revealed all the shit they were involved in.

Then, in 1998, Anwar was sacked, arrested and beaten up and Raja Petra’s Website rallied to his side and supported him. In a way we ‘forgave’ him for the 17 years he was in government, about seven years of that as Dr Mahathir’s number two, and we never raised all the transgressions he and his gang perpetuated when in the government.

In short, we agreed to allow bygones to be bygones and not ungkaik (resurrect) history. What he did in the past is not as crucial as what he is doing now and can do for the country in future.

In 1999, when I joined Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN) to head the media unit, I retired Raja Petra’s Website and set up two websites called The Malaysian (in English) and Kini (in Bahasa Malaysia). That was before the launch of Malaysiakini.

I also started a mailing list and every day I sent out thousands of e-mails (one in English and one in Bahasa Malaysia) to the e-mail addresses on the list. I also started a chat group (what we would call a Yahoogroup today).

So, for more than 15 years, we have been running a media war on the Internet. But it was not until about seven years ago (or four years before the 2008 general election) that it took the country by storm. And the result, of course, was the March 2008 general election where the opposition performed extremely well.

But look at the last few by-elections. Since March 2008, Malaysia has seen 16 by-elections. Initially, the opposition swept these by-elections, even those that were Umno or Barisan Nasional seats. But towards the end, of late, Barisan Nasional has been sweeping the seats -- and with an even bigger majority than before, on top of that.

So what do you expect of Malaysia Today? You want us to continue with these exposes and revelations? Is that going to work? Is the opposition going to win the next general election and form the next government if Malaysia Today keeps revealing all the shit in Putrajaya?

No, we need to do more than that. Revealing more shit of the same shit is not going to help Pakatan Rakyat win the next general election. We need to do more than that. We need to enter into phase two.

So yes, I admit, Malaysia Today, as some of you say, has lost its oomph. Maybe you are no longer getting to read about who is having sex with whom. You would like to hear all the juicy gossip about who has her knickers down and who is blowing whom. But the question is: if I satisfy your lust for such stories, is Pakatan Rakyat going to get to form the next government?

And phase two is to get Pakatan Rakyat to get its act together. The feedback I am receiving is not that encouraging. The people on the ground -- the hawkers, taxi drivers, working man and woman -- are quite happy with the Penang state government. They tell me that Lim Guan Eng is a superb Chief Minister and they have no problems giving Pakatan Rakyat a second term as the state government.

But they are not saying the same thing about the other states -- although many have indicated that they will vote Pakatan Rakyat in Perak in the next general election.

The bottom line is: Penang is safe, Perak has a good chance, and Kelantan, Selangor and Kedah are touch-and go.

In 1999, the opposition won 52 seats in Parliament. The following election in 2004 it dropped to just 20 seats. In the last election in 2008 it increased to 82 seats (but now down to 76 with the exit of six frogs). But what can we expect in the next general election?

Anwar Ibrahim says Pakatan Rakyat is going to march into Putrajaya come the next general election. That means the opposition needs to win an additional 50 or so seats on top of the 76 it already holds (to be safe and so that the frogs can’t bring the new government down). Can this be achieved?

I worry that Pakatan Rakyat can’t win these additional 50 or so seats. In fact, I worry it can’t even hold on to the 76 seats its already owns. What will happen instead is it may drop to just 50 seats, 70 seats or so short to form the next federal government.

The last few by-elections appear to point to this scenario. In spite of all the exposes and revelations and secret documents that we published to prove that corruption is still rife and rampant, Barisan Nasional not only swept all the seats but also did so with an increased majority. Therefore more is needed if Pakatan Rakyat is going to win the next election and form the next federal government.

We need to impress upon Pakatan Rakyat that it should not take the voters for granted. It must not assume that the voters will support it just because they are unhappy with Barisan Nasional. In 2008 it was about ABU (‘Anything But Umno’ or ‘Asal Bukan Umno’). This time around it has to be more than just ABU.

If just by exposing and revealing the transgressions and crimes of the ruling government this can help Pakatan Rakyat march into Putrajaya then we can continue doing that. But we worry that the last few by-elections have proven that this is not enough.

Pakatan Rakyat can’t get to form the next government on the back of the weaknesses of Barisan Nasional. It can only get to form the next federal government if it can convince the voters that it can be a better and more capable government.

And exposing and revealing the wrongdoings of Barisan Nasional does not mean that Pakatan Rakyat can be a better government. It just means that Barisan Nasional is a worse government. And that is not good enough.

Malaysia Today is not in the business of entertaining you with stories of sex romps and bonking in the corridors of power. We want to see the success of the ‘Rakyat Reform Agenda’ or RARA. And this can only happen if we see reforms and/or a change of government. So that is the focus of our work from hereon till the next general election.

Then, depending on the outcome of the next general election, we shall see where we go from there.

Malaysia broke human rights pledges, says watchdog report

The Malaysian Insider
by Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Malaysia failed to live up to the human rights standards it had committed to in 2006 in its pre-election pledge to the United Nations Human Rights Council (Council), a Commonwealth human rights watchdog said yesterday.

A report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) that corresponds to the first two years after the March 2008 election said that Malaysia made little progress to advance human rights domestically, allegedly using “draconian legislation” to stifle dissent instead.

“While Malaysia claimed in its pledge that it had succeeded in achieving a balance between human rights and security requirements, the continued use of draconian colonial-era security legislation suggests otherwise,” said the CHRI.

“Malaysia made specific commitments to advance the rights of vulnerable groups, including refugees and asylum seekers. The findings of the report indicate, however, that little substantive progress was made on this pledge.

“Malaysia further pledged to work towards making the council a strong body. Despite this pledge, the report’s findings show that Malaysia mostly voted to shield countries with human rights situations of serious concern from international scrutiny,” the international NGO said.

In 2006, Malaysia was one of 18 Asian candidates that contested the 13 seats reserved for Asia in the council. Malaysia was elected fifth in the Asian Group, with 158 votes.

Malaysia decided not to seek re-election to the council when its three-year term ended in May 2009.

The report titled “Easier Said Than Done” said that Malaysia allegedly continued to used “draconian legislation” such as sedition and press laws to stifle dissent.

It noted that “the highly controversial Internal Security Act” which allows for detention without trial remained in effect at the end of the reporting period, which was from mid-2008 to mid-2010.

“Journalists in Malaysia were reportedly harassed and opposition members were intimidated. Much needed police reforms did not occur, while police abuse, custodial deaths and extrajudicial killings were frequently reported.

“Additionally, the death penalty and corporal punishment continued to be practised. Malaysia’s National Human Rights Commission remained weak, while discrimination based on religion and ethnicity continued to be a major concern,” it added.

The CHRI also said that despite Malaysia’s pledge to actively support international action to advance the rights of vulnerable groups including children, refugees, asylum seekers and legal and illegal migrants still suffered and child marriages continued to take place.

Malaysia also discouraged the efforts of United Nations Special Rapporteur investigators on torture to consider whether the death penalty constituted a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said the report.

“It also reacted strongly against an attempt by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to comment on the defamation of religions,” the CHRI wrote.

The CHRI also reported that Malaysia discouraged scrutiny of Myanmar and Sri Lanka, looked at Cambodia positively, supported weaker resolutions on Congo and Sudan and abstained from voting North Korea and a resolution on discrimination based on religion or belief.

According to the CHRI website, it is an independent, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation, mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.

Opposition Leaders Must Discusss Rules Before Enforcing Them, Says Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (Bernama) -- Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today urged leaders in states controlled by the opposition pact to hold discussions with one another before enforcing a regulation or law.

Such a precautionary step would help them to avoid creating an uneasy atmosphere, he said, referring to the lottery ban in Kelantan which Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat has agreed to discuss with other leaders in the pact.

"Nik Aziz has agreed to discuss this at a meeting to be held on Thursday at the earliest," he told reporters after chairing a meeting of leaders of the opposition pact at his parliament office here.

He said that the representatives who would attend the meeting included MPs Loke Siew Fook (DAP-Rasah) and Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) and PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali.

DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, who attended today's meeting, said that his party, as a member of the pact, "respects the rights and sensitivities of all communities in the country."

"We -- PKR, PAS and DAP -- respect all races and religions and we have a joint policy that is our main focus," the MP for Ipoh Timur said.

"Although there are policies which differ, we will do our best to avoid making statements that can be misinterpreted by certain quarters," Lim added.

The ban became an issue when the local authorities in Kelantan issued summonses to two book shop owners who sold lottery tickets, leading to the accusation that the state PAS did not respect the rights of non-Muslims.

DAP president Karpal Singh subsequently urged the state government to lift the ban, saying that federal laws which covered Kelantan allowed non-Muslims to gamble.

New Explosion Shakes Stricken Japanese Nuclear Plant

The No.3 nuclear reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is seen burning after a blast following an earthquake and tsunami in this handout satellite image taken March 14, 2011. REUTERS/Digital Globe/HandoutBy Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon

FUKUSHIMA, Japan, March 15 (Reuters) - A fresh explosion rocked a damaged Japanese nuclear power plant on Tuesday where engineers have been pumping sea water into a reactor to prevent a catastrophic meltdown in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said Tuesday's explosion at the plant's No.2 reactor was caused by hydrogen. There was no immediate word on damage, but Jiji news agency quoted the trade ministry as saying radiation levels remained low after the blast, the third at the plant since Saturday.

Japan has asked the United States for more equipment to help cool reactors at the Fukushima nuclear complex, which was hit on Monday by a dangerous drop in cooling water levels that exposed fuel rods in the No. 2 reactor.

The full extent of the destruction wreaked by Friday's massive quake and tsunami that followed it was still becoming clear, as rescuers combed through the region north of Tokyo where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed.

"It's a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish," said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan was facing its worst crisis since World War Two and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world's third biggest economy back into recession.

The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the quake to magnitude 9.0, from 8.9, making it the world's fourth most powerful since 1900.

SPECIAL REPORTS

Japan's unfolding disaster, click http://r.reuters.com/mak58r

CHARTS

Japan graphics suite, click http://r.reuters.com/quh58r

How a meltdown can occur, click http://r.reuters.com/rah58r

Nuclear plants, quakes zones, click http://r.reuters.com/qah58r

World's costliest disasters, click http://r.reuters.com/jah58r

Car makers, shipbuilders and technology companies worldwide scrambled for supplies after the disaster shut factories in Japan and disrupted the global manufacturing chain.

Japanese stocks were expected to fall further on Tuesday, after Nikkei futures traded in Chicago fell 6.15 percent to be 70 points below the Osaka close.

Tokyo's TOPIX index closed down more than 7.5 percent on Monday, wiping $287 billion off market capitalisation in the biggest fall since the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. Insurers' shares fell for a second day in London and New York, as world stocks slid to a six-week low.

"NOT CHERNOBYL"

The fear at the Fukushima complex, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak after the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. The complex has seen explosions at two of its reactors on Saturday and Monday.

The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power.

Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the reactor vessels of nuclear power plants affected by the disaster remained intact.

"The nuclear plants have been shaken, flooded and cut off from electricity," he told a news conference. But "the reactor vessels have held and radioactive release is limited."

Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomatic, added that a Chernobyl-style disaster was "very unlikely".

An explosion at the Soviet Chernobyl plant sent radioactive fallout across northern Europe.

Whilst the Fukuskima plant's No.1 and No.3 reactors both suffered partial fuel rod meltdowns, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO said the No. 2 reactor was now the biggest concern.

A sudden drop in cooling water levels when a pump ran out of fuel had fully exposed the fuel rods for a time, an official said. This could lead to the rods melting down and a possible radioactive leak.

TEPCO said it had resumed pumping sea water into the reactor early on Tuesday.

"This is nothing like a Chernobyl," said Murray Jennex, a nuclear expert at San Diego State University. "At Chernobyl you had no containment structure -- when it blew, it blew everything straight out into the atmosphere."

Nonetheless, the government warned those still in the 20-km (13-mile) evacuation zone to stay indoors. TEPCO said 11 people had been injured in the blast.

U.S. warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation. The U.S. Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary.

South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation.

France's ASN nuclear safety authority said the accident could be classified as a level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, putting it on a par with the 1979 U.S. Three Mile Island meltdown, higher than the Japanese authorities' rating.

Japan's nuclear safety agency has rated the incidents in the No.1 and No.3 reactors as a 4, but has not yet rated the No. 2 reactor.

TOWNS FLATTENED

About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing.

"The situation here is just beyond belief, almost everything has been flattened," said the Red Cross's Fuller in Otsuchi, a town all but obliterated. "The government is saying that 9,500 people, more than half of the population, could have died and I do fear the worst."

Kyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies had been found on Monday in two coastal towns alone.

Whole villages and towns have been wiped off the map by Friday's wall of water, triggering an international humanitarian effort of epic proportions.

"When the tsunami struck, I was trying to evacuate people. I looked back, and then it was like the computer graphics scene I've seen from the movie Armageddon. I thought it was a dream . it was really like the end of the world," said Tsutomu Sato, 46, in Rikuzantakata, a town on the northeast coast.

In Tokyo, commuter trains shut down and trucks were unable to make deliveries as supermarket shelves ran empty.

Estimates of the economic impact are only now starting to emerge.

Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist for Japan at Credit Suisse, said in a note to clients that the economic loss will likely be around 14-15 trillion yen ($171-183 billion) just to the region hit by the quake and tsunami.

Even that would put it above the commonly accepted cost of the 1995 Kobe quake which killed 6,000 people.

The earthquake has forced many firms to suspend production and shares in some of Japan's biggest companies tumbled on Monday, with Toyota Corp <7203.T> dropping almost 8 percent.

Global companies from semiconductor makers to shipbuilders faced disruptions to operations after the quake and tsunami destroyed vital infrastructure, damaged ports and knocked out factories.

"The earthquake could have great implications on the global economic front," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lec Securities in New York. "If you shut down Japan, there could be a global recession."

The Bank of Japan offered a combined 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) to the banking system earlier in the day to soothe market jitters. 

TBH RCI: Virus wipes out investigation notes? WTF


I have reproduced most of the MK article below (FMT article also quite thorough), but let me summarise a bit.
Arman Alies was the MACC officer who interviewed Teoh Beng Hock the day/night he died. A rough chronology:
15 July 2009: Arman interviews Teoh.
Before 18 July 2009: Police interview Arman about Teoh’s death.
18 or 19 July 2009: Arman finally writes down notes from interview in investigation diary (“first version”)
Approx September 2010: Virus “wipes out” Arman’s laptop, necessitating reformat. Soft copy of original report is thus “lost”.
August 2010: Arman writes second version of investigation notes from Teoh’s July 2009 interview from memory.
14 March 2011: At Royal Commission of Inquiry, discrepancies between the first and second versions are highlighted.
My comment is short: this is ridiculous. A virus wipes out a report? (Need Jackie Chan’s / Lee Chong Wei’s Kaspersky? :| ) Investigation notes are reproduced more than a year later FROM MEMORY?
Can one really blame the public for losing faith in the process? Or Teoh’s family and the Selangor state government from refusing to legitimise this farce?
Sigh.
PS – Turns out, MACC is represented by lawyer Shafee Abdullah. Write-ups by Howsy & RPK.
In other news, Watchdog panel to shadow RCI on Teoh

Thank goodness some brave Malaysians are willing to step up for justice.
Here’s the full article on Arman via Malaysiakini:
Continue reading TBH RCI: Virus wipes out investigation notes? WTF

Meltdown threat at Japanese reactor



A second explosion has rocked a stricken nuclear power complex in Japan, raising concerns over the likelihood of a radiation leak and adding to the humanitarian crisis already facing the country following last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.
Hundreds of bodies washed ashore on Monday along Japan's northeastern coastline, the area worst hit by Friday's tsunami, as crematoriums struggled to keep up with the scale of the tragedy.
LIVE BLOG
A Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture.  Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.
"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told the Associated Press news agency.
The official death toll from last week's twin disasters stands at almost 2,000 but many thousands of people are still missing, including some 18,000 in the city of Rikuzen-takata 18.
'No Chernobyl'
The explosion at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant sent a plume of smoke into the air but the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday that the reactor had not been damaged. The World Health Organisation said there was a minimal public heath risk.
However the power company that runs the nuclear plant said later on Monday that fuel rods at one of its reactors had become fully exposed again, meaning the water being pumped in to cool the reactors is evaporating due to the heat.
Japanese nuclear officials worked to quell concerns and announced the distribution of 230,000 units of stable iodine. Iodine can be used to help protect against thyroid cancer in the case of radioactive exposure.
Yukio Edano, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said that a large-scale radiation leak was unlikely. Edano said the reactor's inner containment vessel holding the nuclear fuel rods was intact, allaying some fears of the risk to the environment.
Koichiro Genba, the national strategy minister, said there was "absolutely no possibility of a Chernobyl" - a reference to the 1986 explosion at a Soviet reactor which spread radiation over swathes of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and northern Europe and is estimated by UN agencies to have caused the deaths of thousands of people.
But some people in the affected area said they were worried at the prospects of nuclear radiation. Twenty people have tested positive for radiation exposure and that number looks likely to rise.
'I am scared'
"I am due to give birth soon, I want to know exactly what is going on at the nuclear plant. I am scared," said one woman.
The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co [TEPCO], said in a press release that the blast was believed to be a hydrogen explosion at the plant's No.3 reactor and that 11 workers were injured. The first explosion happened at the same plant on Saturday, at the reactor No. 1.
TEPCO said the impact of radioactive materials to the outside environment is under investigation.
Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi said the cooling system at reactor No. 2 also failed, leading to a build-up of pressure in the containment vessel - the same problem units one and three encountered before they exploded.
Meanwhile, at Fukushima plant, the work to cool the reactors with a mixture of seawater and boric acid continues – an untested method, underscoring the desperate nature of the situation.
Meanwhile, a US aircraft carrier deployed for relief efforts has repositioned after detecting low-level radiation from a malfunctioning nuclear power plants, a US statement has said.
Humanitarian crisis
Foreign aid has begun to arrive and some 70 countries have offered assistance, with help coming not only from allies like the United States but also countries with more strained relations like China.

Search intensifies for Japan survivors [Al Jazeera]
Millions of people spent a third night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the devastated northeastern coast.
In many areas there is no running water, no power and four- to five-hour waits for gasoline. People are suppressing hunger with instant noodles or rice balls while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.
“People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming,'' Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, said.
Meanwhile, a tsunami alert, which had sparked alarm and local evacuation orders, has been lifted, according to an official in the Fukushima prefecture.
"There is no more fear of a tsunami at this moment, but we will continue to ask our residents to remain vigilant to future advisories," the official said.
And the Japanese markets, which opened for the first time since the disaster occurred, reacted badly with Tokyo's Nikkei ending the day down more than six per cent.
Moving quickly to try to keep financial markets stable, the Bank of Japan said it will inject approximately $183bn into the money market to try to bring some stability.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

PROHAM are you serious?

We laud the setting up of “Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia” (Proham).(Report in the Star 13th March 2011) As much as we are appreciative of the formation of yet another Human Rights organization in the country, we are equally apprehensive that this may be just another toothless Human Rights organization or worse still yet another organization to legitimize current UMNO regime’s racist practices.

What makes us apprehensive at the outset that this organization may amount to very little more, if at all, is the fact that it totally lacks new credible Human Rights Defenders’ in the list of its officers. All the leading office holders except two are ex-Suhakam Commissioners. One does not need to be reminded of Suhakam’s record of defending Human Rights in the country – it is shameful, to say the least. And most of the office holders in this new organization are part of that same Suhakam team to whom that shameful record may be attributed. Can we be faulted for our apprehensions premised on this very very sad and continuing experience.

For starters Proham wants to begin its career on March 21st 2011 with a roundtable discussion on “ the United Nations Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination”, in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrim-ination.

Noble as that sounds, it appears that it will be just more vague talk as with all the toothless talk they have engaged in, in the past while in Suhakam. If the Proham Officers are serious and mean real Human Rights business and want to make a difference to the nation, and not just to use Proham to further burnish their individuals biodata, then they should conduct a more relevant and specific discussion on the current controversy surrounding the novel “Interlok”. They should invite people from across the spectrum for a panel discussion on 21st of March 2011 instead, to evaluate the truth of the allegations that the book is racially divisive and a tool to perpetuate racism by UMNO.

We would like this to be an open and meaningful discussion. It is our clear opinion that the UMNO government promotes its racist ideology through covert means by making this book a part of the compulsory education curriculum for the young of our country. Containing many serious negative racial stereotypes, this book damagingly perpetuates the Ketuanan Melayu racist ideology subtly into the future. It is this kind of racist tendencies within society that organizations like the Human Rights Party or Proham or Suhakam are supposed to check. Does Proham have it in its DNA to rise to the challenge.

So, Proham, if you are serious – do not begin in vagueness, begin with your end clear in mind.

N.Ganesan

National Advisor

Hindraf Makkal Sakthi and the Human Rights Party

PAS No. 2 joins call to free BM bibles

Nasharudin said Islam recognised Christians as “people of the book”. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa joined his non-Muslim colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat today in condemning the detention of Malay-language Bibles, asserting that the holy book should be respected.
 
When approached in Parliament on the issue this evening, the Bachok MP explained that Islam recognised Christians as “people of the book”, which meant that the Bible should be given due respect by all.

This, he added, was regardless of what language the Bible is written in.

He added that he even knew of the existence of Bibles written in Jawi that were presently available in Malaysia.

“There are many books in the market, many Christian books that are written in Malay.


The home ministry has impounded 35,000 Malay-language bibles. — file pic
“And even if people cannot read it in Malay, they will read it in English so I do not see any reason why these Bibles should be detained,” he said.
 
Nasharudin also rubbished fears that such Malay-language Bibles would encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity, expressing confidence in the faith of Muslims.

“The Muslims have a strong belief in their religion and everyone has a right to practise their own beliefs.

“This is just a matter of a book and we should respect the Bible because in Islam, we consider the Christians to be the people of the book,” he said.

Nasharudin noted that the sensitivity over the issue was in the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, which he described as “rigid”.

“Perhaps it is because of the very rigid interpretation of the word Allah that caused this issue. But then to detain a book just because it is in the Malay language, thinking that it might help to propagate Christianity...” he said without ending his sentence.

The Home Ministry is presently facing immense pressure from Christian groups and political parties to release the 35,000 Malay-language Bibles presently impounded at Port Klang and Kuching Port.

The books, according to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, had been detained due to the pending court appeal on a 2009 High Court ruling that allowed Catholic weekly The Herald to use the word “Allah” in its publications.

He said the ministry is waiting for advice from the Attorney-General on whether to release the detained books, said to be worth some RM78,000.

Questions have, however, arisen over a string of conflicting instructions the ministry has been issuing since a consignment of 5,100 such books were detained at Port Klang in 2009.

Official letters from the ministry to the books’ importer, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), indicated that the Cabinet had agreed to release the consignment in June last year, despite the pending appeal of the High Court’s ruling.

DAP MP Tony Pua also revealed today Hishammuddin’s written response in Parliament on June 7 last year, saying that the ministry had already issued a notice to BSM to retrieve its shipment.

Despite this, BSM has claimed that its attempt to collect the books had been thwarted by the Port Klang authorities.

Hishammuddin’s statement yesterday conceding to the detention of the holy books and announcement that the ministry was now awaiting the A-G’s advice on what to do with the shipment, has further added to confusion over the government’s actual stand on the matter.

Pakatan all set for Sarawak polls

Pakatan is confident with its preparations for the upcoming Sarawak state election.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat has resolved ‘most issues’ regarding state seats in Sarawak and this included those eyed by Sarawak Nasional Party (Snap).

Voicing his confidence going into the soon to be held state election, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the coalition was good to go.

An affronted Snap had recently voiced its disapproval following state Pakatan’s decision to allocate the party with only three seats.

Pakatan is hoping for straight fights in several state constituencies.

Snap has openly declared its aim to contest in 28 Dayak majority seats in the 10th state election.

The seats are also being eyed by Sarawak PKR, which is hesitant about taking on Barisan Nasional ally Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) seats in Malay areas.

Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian had previously declared that the party would contest in 52 seats, an aim many have dismissed as ‘ridiculous.’

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang however was less effusive about the Sarawak situation.

He said the coalition still had ‘issues’ over certain seats, although these were few.

Abdul Hadi also urged the Election Commission to consider extending the campaigning period from eight days to 21 days.

Meanwhile Anwar also announced Pakatan’s intention to invite foreign MPs such as those from the Philippines, Australia and the European Union to act as election observers to the Sarawak state election.

Lottery ban

On another issue, Anwar said that six Pakatan representatives – two from each party – would be meeting with the Kelantan state government soon to discuss the recent lottery ban.

The six reps, he said, included DAP’s Rasah MP Anthony Loke Siew Fook, PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua, PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali and PKR information chief Nur Manuty.

He said the meeting would be held within the next few days.

Earlier this month, the Kelantan PAS government courted controversy when it announced that it would ban all forms of gambling in the state.

This move was met with some consternation, especially from PAS’ allies, the DAP.

Government rejects ICC

Anwar also touched on the government’s decision not to join the International Criminal Court.

Describing the decision as ‘strange’, he said only parties which had dictators and ‘cruel’ national leaders were adverse to joining the ICC.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail had previously voiced his opposition against Malaysia’s involvement with the ICC, adding that the government needed to amend certain laws first.

On another matter, Pakatan also offered their condolences to the Japanese government over the recent tsunami and earthquake.

No confusion over Rosmah’s use of ‘First Lady’ term

The use of the 'First Lady' terminology by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's wife, Rosmah Mansor, does not contradict the prominence of the Permaisuri Agong position.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has once again reiterated its stand over the adoption of the “First Lady” terminology by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said there was no designated law for the use of term “First Lady” and was a globally accepted norm.

“It is not in accordance to designated law but rather a convention.

“In the Malaysian context it refers to the wife of the prime minister. This has long been an old international practice,” said Nazri in response to a question in Parliament today.

Asked if the term ‘First Lady’ was to refer to the wife of the Prime Minister or the Permaisuri Agong, Nazri said it was ‘always the Chief Executive’s wife’ who was referred to as the First Lady.

He cited the First Ladies’ activies during the Commenwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The meeting, he said, was attended by the wife of the prime minister and not the Queen. He implied that the term First Lady was not new as such and that it had been ‘historically established’.

“When Dr Mahathir was the prime minister, the First Lady was Dr Siti Hasmah. Even the media called her the best First Lady,” Nazri said.

He added no confusion should arise between the position of the Permaisuri Agung and the First Lady.

“According to the protocol the Permaisuri Agong is given prominence,” he said.

This seems to be a slight deviation from the government’s earlier stand where Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had said the term ‘First Lady” was not used in Malaysia.

The PM had however maintained that the position of the Permaisuri Agong was higher than the ‘First Lady’

Uthaya: What Hindraf 5 reunion?

The most well-known face of the Hindraf five claims to be in the dark about the so-called plans for a reunion.

PETALING JAYA: P Uthayakumar is in the dark about the so-called “Hindraf 5 reunion” being planned by the Malaysian Indian Voice (MI-Voice).

The Human Rights Party (HRP) pro-tem secretary-general also stressed that it was another attempt by the authorities to split the movement.

“I am not aware of any such reunion. I am not aware who the Hindraf 5 are. I am just the legal adviser to Hindraf,” he said.

“This is a multi-million dollar Umno and (police) special branch agenda to create further confusion and cause more rifts under their ‘Ops Padam Hindraf’ operation,” he told FMT.

Uthayakumar was responding to a FMT report on March 7 which quoted former Hindraf leader V Ganabatirao’s brother and MI-Voice chairman Raidu as stating that a reunion is on the cards.

He had said that they were persuading Uthayakumar to attend the reunion, scheduled to be held in Klang in May.

Following their mammoth street protest in 2007, five Hindraf leaders were jailed for nearly two years under the Internal Security Act.

Apart from Uthayakumar and Ganabatirao, the others were M Manoharan, K Vasanthakumar and R Kenghadharan.

However, there was a split in the ranks, leading Uthayakumar and his brother Waythamoorthy to rename Hindraf as Hindraf-Makkal Sakti.

‘Uthayakumar’s three conditions’

Meanwhile, Ganabatirao told FMT that MI-Voice had roped in Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar’s aide, T Balakrishnan to negotiate with Uthayakumar to participate in the reunion dinner.

According to him, Uthayakumar had allegedly listed three conditions to confirm his attendance.

They are:

1. The RM50,000 bail money posted by Raidu for Uthayakumar must be returned to Uthayakumar.
2. A total of 15 parliamentary and 38 state seats that have been identified must be allocated for HRP in the next general election.
3. Only Waythamoorthy, who is currently in London, must be acknowledged as Hindraf’s leader.

Ganabatirao said Mi-Voice had rejected the conditions and explained why.

“The RM50,000 is still deposited in the court because Uthayakumar’s case has not ended,” he said, adding that the movement wanted to use the money for the development of Tamil schools.

He said it was impossible to agree to the second condition because there were already Indian politicians being elected reps in the identified seats.

As for the third condition, Ganabatirao stressed on the importance of equal status as opposed to Waythamoorthy being crowned leader.

However, Uthayakumar denied any knowledge of the conditions, saying that he had not held any negotiations on this matter.

“As for the money, I told some third parties that it should be returned to our accountant, and not to me. We need the money to help the 53 Hindraf detainees who are being prosecuted (for participating in the Feb 27 rally).

“The court had also reduced my bail to RM10,000 and a fresh bailor, HRP member S Thiagarajan, had posted bail,” he said.

“Furthermore, true Hindraf leaders would have attended the Feb 27 rally,” he added.

Besides Uthayakumar, who was among those arrested, Manoharan was also involved in the rally to protest against the Interlok novel and Umno’s “racism”.

MI- Voice said that the reunion dinner would be attended by Pakatan Rakyat heavyweights such as Anwar Ibrahim, Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Lim Guan Eng.

Media leak: Defence fails in contempt bid

Lead prosecutor takes responsibility for leak of affidavit to BN-linked papers.

KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyers today failed to initiate contempt proceedings against the lead prosecutor for leaking to the press details of the affidavit he was submitting today.

High Court judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah said he did not want proceedings in the opposition leader’s sodomy trial to be sidetracked by another trial within a trial.

He made the decision after a 10-minute consultation in chambers with the both the defence and prosecution teams.

The defence saw red over reports appearing today in the BN-linked New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia and also the website Malaysia Today, run by popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.

The lead prosecutor, Solicitor-General II Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden, took full responsibility for the leak, which defence lawyer Karpal Singh described as “scandalous and contemptuous”.

Karpal accused Mohd Yusof of answering to politicians, but the prosecutor denied it, saying, “I fight my battles in court.”

Mohd Yusof also said the leak would have little impact on the trial.

The judge told both parties not to do anything that would affect the proceedings of the trial.

Mohd Yusof continued with his submissions on two applications—for the judge to review his March 8 decision disallowing three items as exhibits and for the court to compel Anwar Ibrahim to give up a DNA sample.

Judge too rigid
He said a DNA sample was imperative for justice to be served.

Referring to the towel, water bottle and toothbrush taken from the cell where Anwar was held on July 16 and 17, 2008, Mohd Yusof said the samples taken from the items were fairly obtained because the opposition leader’s arrest was lawful.

“Anwar was in custody for the offence,” he said. “Non-intimate samples can be taken without consent.”
In asking the court to order Anwar to submit a DNA sample, he said the judge was adhering too rigidly to rules and thereby defeating the end of justice.

“What is relevant here is whether the DNA can be matched to the accused,” he said.
Karpal said the “unprecedented application” was based on the presumption that DNA evidence was conclusive.

The court reconvenes tomorrow at 9am, at which point the defence counsel will reply.
This is the second time that Anwar, PKR’s de facto leader, has been charged with sodomy, the first time being in 1998. He was eventually acquitted.

In the current case, the accuser was his former personal aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azan. He alleges that Anwar sodomised him at a condominium in Bukit Damansara on June 26, 2008.
If convicted, Anwar can be jailed for up to 20 years jail and whipped.

Motion on Bkt Jalil estate shot down

The deputy speaker says since the residents have been compensated, there is no need to debate the planned demolition exercise tomorrow.

KUALA LUMPUR: An emergency motion to debate the planned demolition of houses in the Bukit Jalil estate tomorrow was rejected.

Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee turned down the motion after it was tabled by PSM-Sungai Siput MP Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj under Standing Order 18(1).

Kiandee said that the residents were already compensated by the government, so there is no need to debate the matter.

“I am very disappointed,” Jeyakumar told reporters at the Parliament lobby later.

“The speaker has to give space to discuss this issue because tomorrow the authorities will destroy the houses. This is something we don’t want to see,” he said, calling the demolition a “barbaric act.”

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is looking to evict some 41 families, some of whom have been living on the estate for generations.

In 1980, the government acquired the land for redevelopment. The land is now owned by Bukit Jalil Sdn Bhd.

Despite heavy posturing and some persuasion by the authorities, the residents have refused to budge, with opposition politicians rushing to their aid.

The paltry compensation offered by the Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being Ministry was also decried by Pakatan Rakyat MPs.

The government offered RM23,000 each to residents who have worked on the estate for more than 15 years while the rest were offered RM11,000 each.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II and Batu Kawan MP P Ramasamy also took the government to task over the compensation.

“Can you even buy a low-cost flat with this kind of money?” asked the DAP leader.

Ramasamy also argued that the least the government could have done was to give each family a double-storey terrace house.

He was also worried that DBKL will bring a host of security personnel, including those from the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and even gangsters to chase out the residents tomorrow.

Sharing Ramasamy’s sentiments, Jeyakumar said that a “big crowd” may gather in defence of the estate tomorrow.

In tit for tat, Anwar to revive Altantuya issue

Anwar is threatening to renew allegations of links between Najib and the murdered Altantuya. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Declaring that he is not afraid to provide DNA samples for his sodomy trial, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said he will resurrect the Altantuya Shaaribuu murder controversy and other cases in a nationwide campaign to get government leaders to do the same.
 
The PKR de facto leader earlier rubbished attempts to compel him to give DNA samples, pointing out that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should have been made to release his DNA samples during the thick of the Mongolian model’s murder trial.

“They claim I am afraid but this is just an evil political trick. This is their game and now they are trying to depend a person’s anus to defend their political power,” he told a press conference.

Anwar also expressed concern with methods used by the prosecution in handling the case evidence.

He further said that Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim should also have been told to provide his DNA samples when the latter was accused of having raped his maid.

Anwar was responding to protests staged yesterday by several groups, including Perkasa and Gerakan Anti-Penyelewengan Selangor (GAPS), urging him to surrender his DNA to the prosecution in the ongoing sodomy trial.

Today, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution said the party will kick-off its own “DNA” campaign next week to counter-attack the groups’ demonstration.

“DNA”, he said, was an abbreviation for “Datuk Najib Altantuya”.

“It will be a series of ceramah. We will have leaflets to explain what happened in this DNA case and I am referring to Datuk Najib Altantuya because DNA does not refer to Anwar’s case.

“We have prepared all the relevant documents,” he said.

Anwar’s defence lawyers recently won a ruling in which all evidence retrieved from a police lock-up during his arrest in 2008 — a towel, toothbrush and mineral water bottle as well all DNA samples relating to the items — was expunged.

The prosecution has, however, asked the court to review that ruling, resulting in two submissions by Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden today — one demanding a review of the ruling, and another urging the court to compel Anwar to provide his DNA samples for comparison with those found in complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan’s anal region.

Berita Harian gets knuckle rap for Ultraman cartoon

(Bernama) - KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Berita Harian has been given a stern warning for publishing in its Sunday edition, a caricature that treated the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan as a joke.

He said considering that as the illustration was related to a humanitarian matter, no legal action could be taken against the newspaper under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 or Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act.

“We only issued a stern warning so that the offending action would not be repeated,” he said after witnessing the signing of a concession agreement between Menara Kuala Lumpur Sdn Bhd (MKLSB) and the government, here, today.

Rais also reminded the newspaper not to use calamities like earthquakes or tsunami as a source of humour.

“We have told Berita Harian that there should be no humour in its publication with regard to any disaster as this could hurt people’s feelings. It (disaster) is something that we should all face together.

“So, whether it is Ultraman or any other comic figure, we should not use it as a source of humour. Our views on this have been conveyed to the editors of the newspaper and they have apologised, particularly to the Japanese people,” he said.

Yesterday, Berita Minggu published a caricature by Zoy featuring Ultraman, the popular Japanese superhero, running away helter-skelter from the huge tsunami waves.

Following this, several quarters voiced their objection and regret over the newspaper’s insensitivity to the plight of the Japanese who were hit by the tsunami following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of north-eastern Japan last Friday.

Berita Harian on its front page today apologised for the offending caricature.

On another matter, Rais said all telecommunications companies (telcos) had been asked to play their role through the short message service (SMS) or alerts in disseminating information to their customers if the situation in the country became unstable.

“I have instructed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to ensure that all the telcos do this when there are emergencies such as a tsunami and also other difficult situations being experienced by the people.”

As for the signing of the agreement, earlier at the function, it was for a 10-year concession to operate, manage and maintain KL Tower and its surrounding site including five lots of federal land.

According to the agreement, MKLSB is responsible for managing and operating the tower according to the approved standard for telecommunications towers, and also as a tourism and hospitality centre. — Bernama

The Unfortunate Prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim


Image
Saiful waves goodbye
(Asia Sentinel) The Malaysian government should be the big loser in a trial that is a travesty

Even to a Malaysia grown inured to the scandalous ins and outs of deviant sexual congress, Mohamad Saiful Bukhairy Azlan may have given new meaning to the phrase "go f**k yourself."

Saiful, a 25-year-old former aide to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, is the chief prosecution witness in Anwar's marathon sodomy trial. Dr Seah Lay Hong, a chemist and prosecution witness, was forced by defense lawyers to acknowledge on the stand in late February that DNA found in Saiful's rear end could have come from as many as 10 different people – including himself.

Saiful has done a pretty good job on his government, his country and Anwar. That is because the case is becoming a major embarrassment, calling up memories of Anwar's 1998 sodomy trial, which was universally branded a travesty by international human rights organizations. Mistakes made over supposedly conclusive DNA evidence in the long-running trial call into question whether the evidence could survive in a rational court of law. Other testimony indicates that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansour, among others, may have played a personal role in bringing the case to court.

Last Tuesday, High Court Judge Zabidin Mohamid Diah handed Anwar a major victory by throwing out purported DNA evidence supposedly proving he had sex with the 25-year-old Saiful. He ruled the evidence was inadmissible because it had been taken without Anwar's permission from items in his jail cell when he was first arrested on Saiful's complaint in July 2008.

Despite the plethora of mistakes, however, the government faces a dilemma. If it folds the prosecution, it hands Anwar a huge victory and gives considerable ammunition to opposition charges that the government and particularly Najib cooked the evidence to attempt to drive Anwar from politics. Accordingly, rather than giving up now that the last physical link between Anwar and Saiful seemingly has been discredited, the prosecution is refusing to fold.

On Friday, prosecutors moved in court to attempt to force Anwar to provide an additional DNA sample to replace the one that Zabidin threw out. Government prosecutor Yusof Zainal Abiden asked Zabidin to review his decision and to compel Anwar to hand over a sample.

That also raises a danger for Anwar if the prosecution appeals to Malaysia's Federal Court, Malaysia's supreme court. The court has shown a notorious malleability to the political system, ruling against the opposition in important cases, including one which in effect handed the control of the state of Perak to the ruling coalition after the opposition had won it in the 2008 national election.

Saiful, who was an aide to Anwar prior to filing the charges, has acknowledged in court that he met with Najib and his wife, Rosmah, on June 24, 2008, at Najib's home two days before the alleged sodomy. He also acknowledged that he had met with Rosmah's close confidant, the former track star Mumtaz Jaafar, as well.

He also acknowledged meeting secretly with Rodwan Mohd Yusof, a senior assistant police commissioner, twice before the alleged offence took place. Rodwan became famous in Anwar's 1998 trial when he illegally removed Anwar's DNA samples from forensic custody and planted them on a mattress allegedly used by Anwar for a homosexual dalliance. To protect the integrity of the prosecution's case, the presiding judge, Augustine Paul, expunged the entire DNA evidence at the time.

Under Malaysian law, police were previously barred from taking DNA samples from defendants without their permission. When Anwar refused to give a DNA sample, complaining that previous samples used in a 1998 case against him had been tampered with, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition pushed a bill through the parliament allowing police to collect samples in criminal cases without the consent of the suspect.

However, since the alleged offense took place prior to the passage of the bill, presumably Anwar would still be exempted from giving DNA evidence.

In any case, the prosecution's conduct in handling evidence collected from Saiful's body and clothes has been woefully inept. Even if they were to take another sample from Anwar, it would be difficult to compare it to the evidence taken from Saiful.

According to testimony in court, no evidence was taken from Saiful's body until 56 hours after the alleged sodomy. When DNA traces of semen were allegedly found in his mouth, he said he had neither washed, brushed his teeth nor gone to the bathroom between the time of the offense and the period when he was tested. While DNA samples can still be taken effectively within 72 hours, in this case the handling of the evidence seems to have been casual at best.

Although Seah found evidence of DNA from other unknown males in Saiful's rectum, she said she had not tested to find out anybody else's identity. Asked by a defense attorney whether the DNA evidence could result in 10 different combinations or individuals, Seah agreed.

Last Friday, the investigating officer, Jude Pereira said that after collecting evidence from Saiful, he had put the swabs in a metal filing cabinet in the Brickfields police headquarters for 43 hours, ignoring an order by Siew Sheue Feng, a forensic pathologist, to put them in a freezer. United States Federal Bureau of Investigation guidelines state that "environmental factors, such as heat and humidity, can also accelerate the degradation of DNA."

Pereira acknowledged that degradation of the samples could have occurred because he ignored the pathologist's advice as well as standing orders of the Malaysian Inspector General.

Before being derailed by the current charges, Anwar led the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition to a historic sweep of five Malaysian states, winning 82 parliamentary seats in 2008 national elections and breaking the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's two-thirds majority hold on parliament.

However, the opposition – a coalition of the largely Chinese Democratic Action Party, the Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia and Anwar's own Parti Keadilan Rakyat has stumbled as Anwar, preoccupied by his court cast, has been unable to focus completely on politics. Anwar has also been hampered by a six-month suspension from parliament over allegations that he had misled the body.

The case has now droned on for 13 months. Along with the suspension and a range of other actions, the opposition is increasingly neutralized. The next big test is expected to be a state election in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, which must be held before the end of 2011.

Priority For Human Capital Development, Says Muhyiddin

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (Bernama) -- Human capital development will be given priority through transformation in education, enhancement in skills training and acculturation of lifelong learning, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Describing human capital development as an important determinant to the country's economy, he said:

"Certainly, supply and quality of human resources capacity and capability would be a pre-requisite in driving the economy successfully on a prolonged and sustainable basis."

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said this in his speech at the George Kent (Malaysia) Berhad 75th anniversary celebrations here Monday.

He said, to further ensure that diverse skills and expertise required by industries were met, implementing agencies had been tasked to craft and roll out human capacity programmes based on the skills needed by the respective industries.

Muhyiddin said, to further complement those efforts and meet the talent needs of Malaysia's economic transformation, Talent Corporation (TalentCorp) was created and mandated to spearhead efforts to deliver quality and sufficient human resource talents.

He said they were particularly highly-skilled experts, in support of the economic transformation agenda for the success of the country.

He also stressed that it was equally important for public sector agencies and departments to be fully aware of problems faced by the private sector, so that necessary remedial action could be taken expeditiously.

This, the deputy prime minister said, could contribute towards improving the business climate and the performance of the public sector delivery system.

On the recent Kerdau and Merlimau by-elections which were won by the Barisan Nasional, Muhyiddin noted they were further testimonies of the people and businesses' growing confidence in the government's sincere commitment and earnest efforts towards transforming the country into a more vibrant and sustainable economy.

"The bigger majority enjoyed by both constituencies were contributed by the positive belief that the current BN-led government is able to deliver successful outcome-based programmes that touch on the priority and needs of the rakyat and businesses," he said.

At the event, Muhyiddin presented a RM500,000 mock cheque donation by George Kent (M) Berhad to the MCA 1Malaysia Medical Foundation to party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

George Kent is an engineering group principally involved in the manufacturing of water meters and components, brass and industrial products.

Interim Injunction Against Samy Vellu Extended

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (Bernama) -- The High Court here today allowed the interim injunction to stop chairman of the Maju Institute of Education Development Datuk S. Samy Vellu from admitting 10 new members to MIED to be extended to Wednesday.

The injunction against Samy Vellu and several members of the board of trustees had been filed by former MIC deputy president Datuk S.Subramaniam and two others.

Judge Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said the court would on Wednesday also hear objections to the appointment of the law firm Kumar Partnership on the grounds that it had represented MIED in another case.

Subramaniam, former MIC Youth chief S. Vigneswaran and deputy chairman of Kedah MIC Datuk S. Ganesan named MIED, Samy Vellu and members of the Board of Trustees as defendants in the application filed on March 1.

The three had submitted a requisition to the MIED secretary for a meeting to be held within two months of March 1 to oust Samy Vellu as a trustee of the institute.