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Friday, March 18, 2011

UN authorises no-fly zone over Libya

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has voted on a resolution authorising a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" - code for military action - to protect civilians.

Ten of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, while Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained.

No votes were recorded against the resolution on Thursday, which was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.

Under the no-fly zone, only military aircraft are forbidden to fly in Libyan airspace. It exempts commercial flights.

In Benghazi, the main opposition stronghold, a large crowd watching the vote on an outdoor TV projection burst into celebration and green and red fireworks filled the air.

The resolution came just a few hours after Muammar Gaddafi, the embattled Libyan leader, warned residents of Benghazi that his forces would show "no mercy" in an impending assault on the city.

"The matter has been decided ... we are coming," he said in a radio address on Thursday.

The Libyan leader called pro-democracy fighters in Benghazi "armed gangsters" and urged residents to attack them, saying: "You all go out and cleanse the city of Benghazi.

"We will track them down, and search for them, alley by alley, road by road ... Massive waves of people will be crawling out to rescue the people of Benghazi, who are calling out for help, asking us to rescue them. We should come to their rescue."

'We will be crazy too'

In an interview broadcast just before the Security Council voted on the resolution, Gaddafi dismissed its actions.

"The UN Security Council has no mandate. We don't acknowledge their resolutions," he told the Portuguese public Radiotelevisao Portuguesa.

He pledged to respond harshly to UN-sponsored attacks. "If the world is crazy, we will be crazy too," he said.

Speaking to reporters in Tripoli after the vote, Khalid Kaim, the Libyan deputy foreign minister, took a conciliatory tone, offering to negotiate a ceasefire with the rebels.

"We are ready for this decision (a ceasefire) but we require an interlocutor to discuss how to implement it," Kaim told a news conference.

"We discussed last night with the UN envoy (for Libya, Jordan's Abdul Ilah Khatib) and asked legitimate questions on the application of a ceasefire," he said.

Kaim indicated that Libya would "react positively to the UN resolution, and we will prove this willingness while guaranteeing protection to civilians."

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said there was not much time left for the international community to act.

"France is very much involved in this action and has prepared the draft resolution. We have one goal… we want to stop the attacks by the Gaddafi regime against civilian populations.

"And it's a question of days or hours because the pressure against Benghazi, especially, is now very tough."

Diplomats indicated that air strikes from a coalition led by Britain, France and the United States could be imminent; however, the UN resolution rules out sending foreign ground troops.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said "This resolution demands an immediate ceasefire and a complete end to violence and attacks against civilians,

"The security council has authorised the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Gaddafi, his intelligence and security forces and his mercenaries," Rice said.

Earlier the Libyan defence ministry warned that "any military operation against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean to danger."

"Any civilian or military moving traffic will be the target of a Libyan counter-offensive," the official Jana news agency quoted the defence ministry spokesman as saying.

Battle zones

The latest developments came amid claims and counter-claims about the progress of fighting between forces loyal to Gaddafi and rebels.

The rebels are seeking to end Gaddafi's more than 41-year-old rule.

State television said loyalists were on the outskirts of Benghazi, while the opposition claimed that fighters in Benghazi had shot down two government warplanes.

Opposition fighters in the western city of Zintan, about 120km southwest of the capital Tripoli, said they were

 bracing for an attack by forces loyal to Gaddafi.

"According to the fighters, forces loyal to Gaddafi are trying to encircle Zintan. There are troop movements around the north and southwest. They expect a big attack on the city. I heard no gunfire this morning. They say they blocked the main column [of tanks] during the night," a witness told the AFP news agency.

Fighting is also raging for the control of Ajdabiya, the gateway to Benghazi.

A doctor told the AFP news agency that fighting was still going on in and around the town, which also guards the road to Tobruk and the Egyptian border in the rebel-held east.

In Tobruk, Al Jazeera's James Bays reported that pro-democracy fighters were concerned that Gaddafi's forces were attempting to encircle the opposition-held areas.

Source:Al Jazeera and agencies

Small or not, Interlok errors should be corrected

'Muhyiddin claims that they were minor. Who should know better how to spell words on Indian ceremonial matters - non-Indians or Indians?'

DPM: Interlok walkout due to misunderstanding

Kit P: When authorities say a problem such as the Interlok issue is to be handled by an 'independent panel', there is a reasonable expectation that the panel will be allowed to do its job without undue interference, and its recommendations will be accepted even if Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may not really agree with it.

Otherwise don't call it an independent panel - that amounts to a public relations fraud or a whitewash.

Wira: I remember the 'Malay' entry in Encyclopaedia Britannica drew frenzied protests from the community because they were stereotyped as lazy. I don't understand why a novel published locally which insulted the sensitivity of the Indians be allowed to be used in our schools. Have our educators lost their common sense?

Jimmy Ng: Muhyiddin claims that they were minor issues? Who does he think he is to decide whether they were minor? Why not leave it to the committee to iron out and decide whether they were minor or not?

Who should know better how to spell correctly words on Indian ceremonial matters - non-Indians or Indians? My bet is that he is putting political considerations first and foremost above other things.

Gerard Samuel Vijayan: The solution is very simple - withdraw 'Interlok' and replace it with another text by some other Malay writer. Why can't it be done?

What is wrong with amending minor words and phrases since the entire book is under review? If there are spelling mistakes, grammatical and contextual errors, shouldn't these be corrected? Or is the review only confined to the word 'pariah'?

'Interlok' is not a suitable book to be made compulsory reading in schools. It contains many factual and cultural errors, racial profiling and stereotypes, and derogatory terms to refer to Indians and Chinese and even the Malays. So why keep such a controversial and divisive book as a compulsory text?

Teacher: I agree. It is a good novel but it is not suitable for schools. Will the teacher who has to teach it be able to handle it with all the negative publicity it has received? Students will tease each other and this will not create unity in class. It may be a cause for a fight outside the class.

Please withdraw the book. Don't create more problems for teachers.

Judicial independence: Gov't position indefensible

by Andrew Khoo

I would like to refer to the article published in The Star dated 12 March 2011 under the heading 'Federal Court has declared doctrine does not exist in constitution, says govt' by Shaila Koshy.

This refers to the document 'Statement by Malaysia - Annexe' which was distributed together with another document entitled "Statement by Malaysia" on 7 March 2011.

Both documents were released by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia in Geneva in response to the report on Malaysia presented by the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ("WGAD") on the same day.
The WGAD had visited Malaysia in June 2010 to see and understand for itself the situation with respect to arbitrary detention in Malaysia.

In paragraph 12 of the report, the WGAD had this to say about the independence of the Malaysian judiciary:

"The country does not have a solid, fully independent judiciary based on the principle of separation of powers and composed of independent and impartial judges and magistrates. The amendment to clause 1 of article 121 of the Federal Constitution, which eliminated the term "judicial power", seriously affected the hierarchy between the three powers of the State, as the judiciary is no longer at the same level as the executive or the legislative."

Government's response

In response to the WGAD's report, the government of Malaysia responded as follows:

"4. In the case of PP v KOK WAH KUAN [2007] 6 CLJ 341 the Federal Court held inter alia as follows with regards to the doctrine of separation of power:

"The doctrine of separation of powers is a political doctrine under which the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government are kept distinct, to prevent abuse of power. However, Malaysia has its own model. Whilst our Constitution does have the features of the separation of powers, it also contains features which do not strictly comply with the doctrine. To what extent the doctrine applies, therefore, depends on the provisions of the Constitution."

5. In determining the constitutionality or otherwise of a statute under our Constitution, it is the provision of the Constitution that matters, not a political theory expounded by some thinkers. The doctrine of separation of powers is not a provision of the Malaysian Constitution. Thus, a provision of the Constitution cannot be struck out on the ground that it contravenes the doctrine. Similarly, no provision of the law may be struck out as unconstitutional if it is not inconsistent with the Constitution, even though it may be inconsistent with the doctrine."

In case readers of this article are not immediately familiar, the case of PP v KOK WAH KUAN [2007] 6 CLJ 341 dealt with a child who was convicted of killing his tuition teacher's daughter.

He was ordered to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong pursuant to section 97(2) of the Child Act 2001.

The question that arose was whether his sentence was unconstitutional, because it gave to the executive branch of government the function of the judicial branch of government, namely the determining of the sentence.

Hence the issue of the existence and applicability of the doctrine of separation of powers within the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

The particular quotation referred to in the Malaysian Government's document was actually culled from various paragraphs of the judgment of Abdul Hamid Mohamad PCA, writing for the majority decision in PP v KOK WAH KUAN on the issue of separation of powers.

Now earlier in the same 'Statement by Malaysia - Annexe', the Government was at pains to explain that the amendment to Article 121(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution which replaced the words "judicial power of the Federation" with the words "shall have such jurisdiction and powers as may be conferred by or under federal law" did not alter the meaning and intent of Article 121(1). The Government had this to say:

"Malaysia wishes to inform that according to the legislative history of Clause (1) of Article 121 of the Federal Constitution, regardless of the terminology used to refer the jurisdiction and powers of the courts, the position and effect of Clause (1) of Article 121 of the Federal Constitution prior and after the amendment to Article 121(1) via Act A704, remains the same as both subject the judicial power of the courts to Federal law. In fact, the post amendment position states the law in clearer terms."

The above is the official position of the Malaysian Government, announced to the whole world. But see here below a different view:

"Prior to the amendment to Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution, there existed a definitive declaration that the judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in the two High Courts. The provision also then provided for the two High Courts to have jurisdiction and powers conferred by or under federal law. After the amendment (vide Act A704), there no longer exists a declaration that the 'judicial power of the Federation' - as the term was understood prior to the amendment - vests in the two High Courts. The jurisdiction and powers of the two High Courts are now prescribed by federal law and not dependent on the interpretation of the term 'judicial power' as prior the amendment. To say that the amendment had no effect did not make sense."

Where, readers may ask, was this second view taken from? Well, none other than from the judgment of Abdul Hamid Mohamad PCA in the very same case of PP v. KOK WAH KUAN.

Law not a buffet spread

The Malaysian government ought not to think of the law as a buffet spread in a hotel restaurant, where we can pick and choose which parts of a judgment of a case that we like and will follow, and which we will not.

After having relied so heavily upon the judgment of Abdul Hamid Mohamad PCA to support its position that there is no such thing as the doctrine of separation of powers in the Malaysian Federal Constitution, it is sheer folly to then go on to say, implicitly, that the same Abdul Hamid Mohamad PCA got it wrong when he concluded that, "To say that the amendment [to Article 121(1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution] had no effect did not make sense."

It is submitted that it is the Malaysian government's position that does not make sense. This is an error that even a first year law student would have been able to spot and avoid.

It is interesting to note that in the case of of PP v. KOK WAH KUAN, four out of the five judges who heard the case agreed that the doctrine of separation of powers did not apply to the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

There was Abdul Hamid Mohamad PCA, who wrote the judgment, and Ahmad Fairuz CJ, Alauddin CJ (Malaya) and Zaki Azmi FCJ, all of whom concurred. In respect of the doctrine of separation of powers, Richard Malanjum CJ (Sabah and Sarawak) dissented.

Perhaps the learned current chief justice should focus more on correcting this decision and restoring separation of powers as a constitutional doctrine rather than rushing justice through our courts. The former is of far more critical importance for the long-term development of a truly independent judiciary.

Indeed, the words of Richard Malanjum CJ (Sabah and Sarawak) are instructive:

"The courts, especially the superior courts, are a separate and independent pillar of the Federal Constitution and not mere agents of the Federal Legislature. In the performance of their function they perform a myriad of roles and interpret and enforce a myriad of laws. Article 121(1) is not, and cannot be, the whole and sole repository of the judicial role in this country for the following reasons:

(i) the amendment to Article 121(1) seeks to limit the jurisdiction and powers of the High Courts and inferior courts to whatever 'may be conferred by or under federal law';

(ii) the courts cannot be confined to 'federal law' as their role is to be servants of the law as a whole;

(iii) it is not legally possible in a country with a supreme Constitution and with provision for judicial review to prevent the courts from examining constitutional questions;

(iv) despite the amendment (to Article 121(1)), the common law powers of the courts are intact (see Ngan Tuck Seng v Ngan Yin Hoi [1995] 5 MLJ 509 referred). Further, the inherent powers of the courts are a separate and distinct source of jurisdiction;

(v) the courts cannot be prevented from interpreting the law creatively;

(vi) past or earlier statutes have to be applied to modern or current circumstances;

(vii) in interpreting constitutional provisions, a judge cannot afford to be too literal. He is to be creative and not passive to enable the constitutional provisions to be the guardian of people's rights and the source of their freedom;

(viii) the role of a judge is not just to deliver what is already there but it is also constitutive and creative and goes far beyond a mechanical interpretation of pre-existing law, extending to direct or indirect law-making in the several ways mentioned in the judgment."

Inadequate understanding

The response of the Malaysian Government to the report of the WGAD has exposed our Government's inadequate understanding of and appreciation for the rule of law.

It comes as no surprise therefore to read that the Government has stoutly maintained that preventive detention legislation should continue to exist in Malaysia.

It has attempted to suggest to the international community that our preventive detention legislation has adequate safeguards by way of habeas corpus applications, knowing full well that legislation has restricted the scope of such applications only to errors of procedure and not to issues of substance.

Judges cannot delve into the actual reasons for detention, but only point out where the Government has failed to dot its "i's and cross its t's". Such a limited and superficial jurisdiction is symptomatic of the respect shown to our courts in matters of justice.

But again, is such a position surprising from a government that does not acknowledge that courts act as a check and balance on the executive and the legislature.

I can but urge the Malaysian Government to stop defending the indefensible.


ANDREW KHOO is chair of the Human Rights Committee of Bar Council Malaysia, but writes here in his personal capacity.

TI-M urges graft probe on Taib

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M) today called for the country’s graft-busters to investigate claims of corruption against Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, saying Malaysia’s global standing was now at stake

The anti-graft watchdog urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) today to take immediate action as complaints of corruption against Taib have surfaced in the foreign media.

“Transparency-International is concerned for (the) credibility of the country and also our image if no investigations are carried out,” TI-M president Datuk Paul Low told reporters today.

“The allegations we’re concerned about is (the) massive amount of wealth that’s been gained by people close to him (Taib), (his) family, relatives, friends.

“So I think it’s only proper that investigations should be carried out to clear the air on how wealth was amassed,” he added.

Lawyer loses bid to practise syarie

The New Straits Times
By Irdiani Mohd Salleh

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Victoria Jeyaseele Martin lost in her application to challenge the requirement that only a Muslim can be a syarie lawyer in Kuala Lumpur.

Victoria, 49, who holds a Diploma in Syariah Law and Practice (DSLP) conferred by the International Islamic University Malaysia, also failed to get an order to compel the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) to accept her application to be a syarie lawyer.

Her counsel, Ranjit Singh, told reporters that his client would appeal against the decision.

High Court judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf earlier dismissed Martin's application for a judicial review.

She ruled that Rule 10 of the Syarie Lawyer Rules 1993, which provides the qualifications of a syarie lawyer, was made within the legislative power of MAIWP.

She said MAIWP had the power to make the rules, as provided under the Administration Of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.

"The admission of syarie lawyers is conditional upon rules to be made by the MAIWP, with the approval of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong," said Rohana. "The rules are to be made on the procedure, qualification and fees for the admission of syarie lawyers."

Rohana added the power to make rules on the qualification were wide enough to include the requirement that the person must be of the Muslim faith.

On Martin's contention that the requirement was in contravention of the Federal Constitution, Rohana said the requirement did not deprive her from being a lawyer.

Martin filed the application on May 19 last year.

In her affidavit, she said she had a law degree from the University of London and a Certificate of Legal Practice that entitled her to enrol as an advocate and solicitor.

She claimed that she had applied to be admitted as a syarie lawyer in Kuala Lumpur in February 2006. After three years, when there was no response, she re-applied.

Martin claimed that she was informed by a letter dated Sept 9, 2009, that her application was rejected and the sole reason given was that she was not a Muslim.

In her judicial review application, she also wanted the court to quash the decision by MAIWP to refuse to process her application.

MAIWP was represented by counsel Sulaiman Abdullah.

Rohana also dismissed MAIWP's objection which contended that the civil courts did not have the jurisdiction to decide on the matter.

Interlok: Time to make a stand

Why are all the villains and nasty characters in Interlok Chinese and Indians?

As the drama over the Interlok textbook issue continues to unfold, it is important for Malaysians to understand the context and the stakes involved, and to make a stand.

There are some defenders of the book who have argued that withdrawing or even just editing it will rob Malaysian writers of their artistic freedom and integrity. To these people, I would like to say “hello, where have you been” – Interlok has already been edited twice, in 2005 for Edisi Pelajar and in 2010 for Edisi Murid.

Its literary integrity was already compromised by the shedding of some 85 pages even before this latest controversy.

In fact, copyright for the edition distributed free to schools no longer belongs even to Abdullah Hussain but to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Hence Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that his ministry “will ensure that any amendments made will not affect the storyline of the novel and the noble message that the author wants to convey” is nothing short of whitewash.

According to reports, Muhyiddin is not permitting anything beyond deletion of the word ‘pariah’.

This concession is like slicing off one tentacle from a hundred-headed hydra – a totally pointless exercise.

Make no mistake; Interlok is a work that must not be permitted into the nation’s class rooms as a compulsory literature text. Anything less is a vital failure to grasp the gravity of the threat it poses.

The quarrel is not merely with vocabulary or spelling (for example, of ‘tali’ vs ‘thali’) but the overall suitability of the novel with its overt and covert racial messages as a school text.

Starting ‘em young and younger

Concern by many Malaysians that Interlok has been intentionally selected by the authorities to fulfill the Umno/Biro Tata Negara objective of indoctrinating young minds with a warped worldview and national view is hardly misplaced.

Before these concerns are dismissed as imaginary or overwrought, let us not forget that education has long been and continues to be the most politicized sector of the country.

Far from being neutral institutions, many of our public sector colleges and universities consciously and consistently promote a narrow nationalism.

It is in the educational sector where proponents of the Ketuanan Melayu dogma have sought to impose their will and polarize our communities.

Their missionary zeal focuses on use of race-based criteria at all levels and in all aspects. It is no surprise therefore that the propagation of the ideology of super-ordination and subordination has now been extended to the schools, and to the curriculum and text books.

As has been pointed out by those who have analysed the Interlok content, why are all the villains and nasty characters Chinese and Indians?

One of the key plots turns on the rapacious Chinese merchant swindling the easily duped Malay of his inheritance.

Touted as a ‘historical novel’, Interlok is constructing a version of BTN history and racial stereotypes to influence young minds.

Drawing line in the sand

Its government-mandated and authorities-supported dissemination and circulation appears to further a carefully thought-out agenda to fan racial animosity.

Because Interlok is the first round battle (in tandem with the History curriculum revamp), it is important for conscientious objectors to send a strong signal to the Education Minister and his bureaucratic and academic cronies that Malaysians will not be cowed into acquiescence.

We must exercise our right to openly discuss, criticize and protest on this crucial matter.

To remain mute will only embolden the apologist wolves wrapped in their sheep clothing of educational good intention and defence of literary freedom.

Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives

Conditional bible release ‘simply politics’, says Bian

KUCHING: The decision to release 30,000 copies of the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the bible, is a political exercises to please Sarawakian Christians and a sign that Umno leaders are “not too certain that the release is altogether legal”, said Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian.

“Let’s make no mistake that all these are mere politicking gestures to appease the huge number of Christians in Sarawak as the state election looms,” said Bian, who added that the bibles’ release was no reflection of the rights enshrined under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

Bian was commenting on the release of the 30,000 copies of the said bibles subject to two conditions imposed by the Home Ministry.

The conditions are that each copy of the bible be chopped or stamped with “For Christians Only” and that each of the copies be stamped with serial numbers.

Bian, who is himself a Christian, said that the two conditions proposed by the ministry officers are unwarranted, unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.

“That such conditions imposed are deemed a restriction and harassment of our religious freedom in Malaysia and a blatant misuse and abuse of powers by the relevant authorities.

“No one should be allowed to dictate to the Christians as to how they should use their Holy Scriptures, just as no other holy books of other faiths should be tampered with,” he asserted.

“Lastly, if the government is serious and sincere about resolving this issue once and for all, then they should not only release these bibles but must withdraw their appeal in the Herald case and admit their unlawful act in the SIB’s case, both pending in court,” he said.

The consignee of the 30,000 copies of BM bibles were seized or impounded at the Kuching Port since January this year.

Bian said that in the midst of a seemingly compromising gesture from the BN government in line with what they called the 1Malaysia spirit, it had been announced that the 30,000 copies of BM bibles were now purportedly released.

“From the newspaper, I sensed that some of the BN leaders were not too sure whether the order to release the bibles was according to the law or not.

“In the meantime, some na├»ve Christians applauded and celebrated the announcement without knowing the conditions imposed on the purported release.

“I strongly sense that the BN leaders, in particular Umno leaders, are not too certain that the release is legal.

“They are saying that this is permissible because Sarawak has no official religion and no state enactment that prohibits the use of the word “Allah”, he said.

What keeps the Malays down

Despite the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Malays are not outperforming others nor are they staying ahead. The Malay is not trapped by his success; he is trapped by the feel-good factor and the self-induced mental prison. Successive Umno leaders have managed to relieve Malays of the need to think and to work hard.

So Malays need to come out of their comfort zone(s) and use competitive intelligence to work on their strengths and weaknesses, rather than blame others for their failures.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s administration recently said that the Bumiputera corporate equity stood at 22% and was short of the NEP target of 30%. As everyone knows, the NEP should have ended in 1990, but much of the affirmative action, or pro-Malay, policies are still being pushed through.

For 53 years, Malays are told that they are the rightful “owners” of the land and they are warned not to betray Umno as only Umno will defend their rights and only Umno has their interests at heart.

The Malays are told not to be hoodwinked by Pakatan Rakyat. Umno claim that a Pakatan government will lead to a Malaysia that will be dominated by the Chinese. On the other hand, Umno tells the Chinese that to vote Pakatan, of which PAS is a member, could lead to hudud laws being brought into play.

Umno omitted to tell the rakyat that under Pakatan, the three component parties – DAP, PKR and PAS – have entered into an agreement that any policy decisions require a consensus of the three parties. The Islamic state and the Islamic law of hudud are policy matters. All three parties have to agree on this issue or else it will not be enacted.

These messages, intended to confuse and scare the rakyat, are aimed at the weak and the insecure.

Dominant community

From the sidelines, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also egged on the rakyat. First, he told them that everyone in the country had to accept the culture and language of the dominant community.

He said, “This country belongs to the Malay race. …..We must be sincere and accept that the country is Tanah Melayu.”

Then he said that Malays would feel less threatened if the country adopted the concept of “Bangsa Malaysia” as that would allow better co-operation between the different races and thus guarantee the future of the country.

Finally, after raising the Malays’ hopes, he deflated their egos by calling them economically weak.

“We must not reject every government effort to help us. We must push away the crutches and realise that we are still limping,” was his warning to the Malays, that they would require assistance to improve their lives.

Thus, the Malay is brainwashed into thinking he is weak and that Pakatan rule will make him lose all his opportunities and rights.

Despite Malay being the dominant language and poor Malays having greater access to education, what sort of quality education have these Malays received?

Have they been able to think, rationalise, evaluate and infer, from the education they received? Or was their education just a token gesture with poor teaching methods based upon learning by rote?

Bible debacle

In the recent crisis over the Malay-language bibles, how much support has there been from the Malay community towards their Christian neighbours? Have the Malays protested loudly and clearly to condemn the actions of the government in the bible debacle?

A consignment of 5,100 bibles (plus a further 35,000) was confiscated over two years ago. The bibles have become a political football with no one minister nor ministry wanting to be made accountable and assuming responsibility.

With the Sarawak election looming, it now appears that Najib has “ordered” the bibles to be released. Is this a directive from APCO to make Najib look like the magnanimous politician?

We are told that Najib’s cousin, Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, stipulated two conditions for the release of the bibles. Each copy needed a serial number and would be stamped with “For Christians Only”.

A serial number carries with it an ominous message. Are these bibles to be assigned a keeper who will be made responsible if the holy book goes astray or is not in his keeping when the enforcement officers come checking?

Is Hishammuddin lacking in sensitivity and respect? What if his holy book, the Quran was defaced in a similar fashion?

Malays must learn to think that they cannot have one set of rules for them and another for the non-Malays. They must learn to empathise with their fellow Malaysians.

Corrupt government

Malays must rationalise that Umno is using them to retain its corrupt government in the next general election.

Malays must evaluate the reasons why Umno is trying to stir the bible issue as a Malay-Islam versus the other religions sentiment.

We are a modern democratic nation with a set of laws and a constitution. What will the Malays infer from the bible issue? Or would they prefer Umno to do their thinking for them?

Mahathir and Umno have made the Malays more egocentric and egotistic. They have nurtured the Malays to be intolerant and lose their true values. The Malays of today are nothing like those of 53 years ago.

This week, the issue of race and religion is again being thrust upon us. Malays must join forces with their Christian brethren and condemn the callous and heinous act by their fellow Muslim ministers. Idris Jala, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, will no doubt be receiving grief from his fellow Christians for betraying them.

It is time that Malays-Muslims came out of their comfort zones and see off the internal threat to our nation by these corrupt and objectionable ministers.

Umno tells the Malays they deserve more than their fair share of the nation’s wealth not because of hard work or effort, but only by virtue of being a Malay.

What sort of competitive edge is that?

Ignorance, lack of understanding and being ill-informed are what keeps the Malays down. What Umno-BN fears most is the Malay who has liberated his mind and his spirit.

note: Anyone who wishes to see the Indonesian-Malay versions of the holy bible can download a copy from here and here.
Mariam Mokhtar is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Isn’t religion a sacrosanct right of a community?

By P Ramakrishnan | President of Aliran

It is rather difficult to understand how our Muslim friends can be so easily influenced which may result in their straying away from their sacred religion. Any notion that this may be the case insults the intelligence and the very faith of the Muslims.

Any suggestion alluding to this possibility gives the impression that all the daily vigorous religious programmes over radio and television, the numerous courses conducted to explain and strengthen their faith in Islam, the many religious classes and the daily five-time compulsory prayers, the existence of mosques easily accessible to the faithful and the Friday sermons, are a failure. This is absolutely wrong and ridiculous.

I was a product of a mission school – so were my many Malay friends of that period. The Lord’s prayers were part of the weekly school assembly ritual. Even to this day we – Muslims and non-Muslims – remember the Lord’s prayers. In fact some of my Malay friends even say “Amen” at the end of a speech whenever our classmates meet up. This did not in any way indicate that they are not steadfast in their faith. No one has renounced their religion to embrace Christianity.

How is that, the Malays of that period – who did not have all the present intense propagation of the Muslim faith – remained faithful to Islam? How come their faith was so strong and so secure?

It is with this knowledge that I wonder what harm the Holy Bible in the national language can cause to the Muslims. Why is there so much controversy surrounding this issue?
There are so many contradictory reasons extended for the impounding of the Holy Bible. These holy books are languishing in various godowns, some as long as two years. This denial of the holy book to the Christians is indefensible.

A pertinent question is; ‘Aren’t the Christians entitled to their book of faith’? It is this book that gives meaning to their lives, regulates their conduct and determines their purpose in life. It is so essential to their well-being, it is so personal and integeral to their very existence. How can this be denied?

Many Malaysians are not only aware – but they are convinced too – that a vast majority of Muslims are tolerant, peaceful, respectful of the other, and would have no objection to other Malaysians exercising their religious rights as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. They would have no objection to the releasing of the Holy Bible because they understand the significance of these books and what they mean to the Christians.

It is the ugly politicians, desperate in their attempt to retain their power and position, who have unjustly politicized a simple issue into an unnecessary controversy that threatens our unity as a nation. This minority group is spewing fire and brimstone to agitate and frustrate our unity regardless of the harm they are causing to our multi-ethnic Malaysia.
In succumbing to these despicable political demands of this minority, the Umno leadership has become blind to justice and fairness. It has chosen to give in to this group by refusing to release the Holy Bible with the view to score political points to win over the rural Malays.

But now with the impending Sarawak elections, the Umno leadership realizes the price it has to pay for this foolhardiness. Hard reality has forced it to be somewhat sensible and realistic if it aims to cling on to political power. Without this essential support from Sarawak and Sabah, Umno and its cohorts in the Barisan Nasional will have to bid farewell to Putrajaya.

So Umno has decided to play politics by agreeing to release the Holy Bible without loss of face. That is the reason why it has to impose two ridiculous conditions for the release.
One, the importer of the copies of the holy book will have to stamp, “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of the Christians only. By order of the Home Ministry.” The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

Two, the importer has to stamp a serial number on each copy of the Holy Bible, “as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import”.

The Home Ministry has shown scant respect to these holy books and the Christian community. The ministry’s ruling is perverse and sacrilegious. Its ruling is tantamount to ordering the Christian community to desecrate their holy books. No Christian will agree to observe these absurd conditions.

The inalienable right of a community to practice its religion cannot be compromised – and should not be compromised. This is the birth-right of a community – it cannot be surrendered.

The Prime Minister must recognize this serious problem that threatens to undermine our national unity and must step in as a matter of urgency to avert this issue from exploding into a national catastrophe. He must isolate these trouble-makers and preserve our unity. He owes this to us and the nation. Any failure on his part would imply that unity is not possible without an alternative government.

Let us be reminded by the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we are going to perish together as fools.”

Orang Asli tell Najib: Take stand against Mahathir

Japan struggles to cool reactors, spent fuel at damaged plant

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan turned helicopters, fire trucks and police water cannons on the No. 3 reactor at the quake-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the pool housing its spent fuel Thursday in its latest attempt to stave off a nuclear disaster.

Military helicopters began dumping water on the reactor Thursday morning, with police and fire trucks opening up after 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET). Japan's Defense Ministry said the first effort lasted 40 minutes, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company said the efforts would continue throughout the night in order to keep the reactor and its adjacent spent fuel pool from overheating.

"In order to cool the spent fuel storage pool, we have carried out water drop operations and the spraying of water from the ground," TEPCO officials said at a Thursday night news conference. "This needs to continue in several ways. Therefore, we will continue to ask for cooperation of the involved people so we can carry out continuously. The helicopter water dumping operation is something we have asked (the) government to provide us help with, and also the spraying of water."

Friday's earthquake and tsunami caused damage at four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, located on the northern coast of the Japanese island of Honshu. TEPCO also was attempting to restore power to the facility, but those efforts had not been completed by nightfall Thursday, the company said. Restoring power would help get the plant's pumping systems going again, to try to get water to the pool.

Helicopters made four passes in about a 20-minute span Thursday morning, dropping 7.5 tons of seawater each time on the facility's No. 3 reactor in order to cool its overheated fuel pool. Video of the operation aired on NHK showed that only one of the loads appeared to drop directly on the building. Gusty winds dissipated much of the water carried by the other three helicopters. Experts believe that boiling steam rising from that pool, which contains at least partially exposed fuel rods, may be releasing radiation into the atmosphere.

Rebecca Johnson, founder of the London-based Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, told CNN that Japanese engineers are "flying by the seat of their pants now." "Everything they try goes wrong. They're focusing on reactors, then spent fuel becomes damaged," Johnson said. "They've just got to get water in there, keep the water pumping."

And nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen told CNN's "American Morning" that the effort will likely need to be sustained "for months, if not years."

"What's pushing the firemen back is the radiation that's coming from the spent fuel pool," he said. If the spent fuel rods in that pool are uncovered, "There's an awful lot of gamma rays flooding that site, forcing the workers to say further away."

Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, in conjunction with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said he decided early Thursday to address the crisis from the air and ground despite concerns about exposing workers to radiation.

"We could not delay the mission any further, therefore we decided to execute it," Kitazawa told reporters.

Radiation levels at the plant remained high Thursday evening, but had dropped sharply from the morning. At 4 p.m. (3 a.m. ET), the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported exposures of 1.6 millisieverts per hour, down from the nearly 3.8 millisieverts per hour TEPCO reported at 9:30 a.m. A typical resident of a developed country receives about 3 millisieverts per year.

"The radiation levels of individual workers are being properly managed by limiting their time in or close to the reactors," Hidehiko Nishiyama, NISA's deputy director-general, told reporters. Out of 18 workers tested Thursday morning, 17 tested normal, and the one who received a higher dose of radiation required no medical treatment, Nishiyama said.

The increased focus on the No. 3 reactor came after a stark U.S. warning about the fuel pool in the No. 4 reactor. Gregory Jaczko, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a congressional committee that there was "no water" in the No. 4 pool, resulting in the emission of "extremely high" levels of radiation.

But Japanese authorities disputed Jaczko's assertion, citing information gathered from a helicopter flight over the plant. A TEPCO official said Thursday that there was some water in the No. 3 spent fuel pool, "But we do not know how much water."

Nishiyama acknowledged that some data from the Daiichi plant may not be reliable as the quake knocked down power on site, rendering measurement equipment unstable. He was quick to defend how the government has handled information on the nuclear plant.

And the Japanese government came under fire Thursday with the release of a WikiLeaks cable attributed to the U.S. State Department. The document noted that a Japanese legislator, Taro Kono, had accused Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of "covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry."

A Japanese government spokesman, Noriyuki Shikata, warded off fears of an imminent meltdown, telling CNN Thursday, "We have not seen a major breach of containment" at any of the plant's troubled nuclear reactors.

A meltdown occurs when nuclear fuel rods cannot be cooled and the nuclear core melts. In the worst-case scenario, the fuel can spill out of the damaged containment unit and spread radioactivity through the air and water.

That, public health officials say, can cause both immediate and long-term health problems, including radiation poisoning and cancer.

Tests in Fukushima city, 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, found radiation measuring 12.5 microsieverts per hour -- well above the average reading of 0.04, but still well below that considered harmful to humans.

Small, and for now, harmless amounts of iodine -- a potential byproduct of a nuclear meltdown -- were found in the city's water.

Citing Fukushima Prefecture officials, Kyodo News reported Thursday that about 10,000 people were screened for radiation exposure the previous day at evacuation centers and medical offices.

About 200,000 people living within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the plant have been evacuated; those living 20 to 30 kilometers from the site have been told to remain inside. Authorities also have banned flights over the area.

Koichi Shiga described the town of Minamisoma,25 kilometers from the plant and site of the Hotel Iseya that he owns, as ghostly quiet with most all shops closed and empty streets. Electricity and water were still flowing, though evacuation efforts have been hampered by a paucity of gasoline.

"People have not evacuated, they are staying at home," Shiga told CNN. "There was a ration of 10 liters of gas, and I saw a long line of people."

Several countries, including the United States, have called for a broader range, urging their citizens in Japan to evacuate or at least stay indoors if they live within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

One positive development is that winds have been blowing from the northwest, helping push emitted radiation off to sea. Still, at least 20 people have fallen ill due to possible radiation contamination, in addition to 19 injured and two missing at the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported.

DPM: Interlok walkout due to misunderstanding

(Malaysiakini) Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today insisted that the ethnic Indian members of the evaluation committee on the Interlok novel are still in the committee, saying that yesterday's turn of events was a "misunderstanding".

NONE"There was a misunderstanding yesterday... I was informed by (MIC president) G Palanivel that he is now speaking (to the three members)... Palanivel has given his assurance that he will make sure that they will stay in the committee," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.

Denying that he had rejected the 100 amendments to the novel suggested by the committee, Muhyiddin claimed that he had in fact called for a review of the amendments as he believed that they were "minute" issues which ran away from the "isu pokok (main concern)".

"The issues brought up were not pertinent and not sensitive. (The committee members) are just bringing it up because they had the opportunity. For example the word 'Tuhan' should be spelled with a capital T and several other non-important things.

"So I advised them to look at the proposals again. We don't want to reject them but...(these) are very minute things," he said.
Muhyiddin: It's a good novel

He added that the ministry has no intention to remove the book from the Form Five syllabus, as it is a "good novel".
"For us, there is no problem. The novel is already in use. It's a good novel, many people read it without any problems, but there seem to be issues brought up by the Indian community.

“It's not the entire book, so we address these specific issues," he said.

Yesterday the three ethnic Indian committee members quit the panel citing disillusionment after a large portion of their 100 proposed amendments by the panel were rejected.

This include misspelled words, wrongly translated Tamil-language idioms and mistakenly-described Indian customs.

Muhyiddin said that he advised the committee not to be sidetracked by "minute" issues so that "we can put a full-stop" to the long-drawn out matter.

"It is better if we can take a bit more time and be more specific to make sure that everyone is satisfied. Things will crop up in the discussion process but I hope it can be solved soon," he said.

He said that the "main issue (the use of the word 'pariah') appears to have been solved but that would take some time (to iron out)."

However, he said, he matter cannot be resolved if "certain parties" continue to "stir up the issue" with no intentions to offer a solution.

"Those who say that the Indian community have lost faith in (the evaluative committee) is doing so with ill-intentions," he said. 

Christians say will not collect Malay Bibles

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The Christian community said today it is appalled by what it says is the Najib administration’s desecration of 5,100 holy books shipped in from Indonesia and has flat out refused to collect the Port Klang shipment.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), which represents over 90 per cent of churches in the country, insisted that Putrajaya immediately drop the conditions imposed for the release of two shipments of Malay Bibles totalling 35,000 copies seized from Port Klang and Kuching port.

Last night, the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) was told its shipment of 5,100 Alkitab — as the Malay Bibles are called — have been stamped with the Home Ministry’s official seal, as per the conditions imposed for the release issued two days ago, without its prior permission.

The first requires the importers to directly stamp on the cover of each of the 35,000 copies the following words: “Peringatan: ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ ini untuk kegunaan penganut agama Kristian sahaja. Dengan perintah Menteri Dalam Negeri.” [In English: “Reminder: This ‘Al Kitab Berita Baik’ is for the use of Christians only. By order of the Home Minister.”]

The cover of the Alkitab would be stamped with the department’s official seal and dated as well.

The second condition requires the importers to stamp a serial number on each copy as if to demarcate copies from the released shipment and to enable the book to be traced back to the port of import.

“This means that the Bahasa Malaysia Bible is now treated as a restricted item, and the Word of God has been made subject to the control of man. This is wholly offensive to Christians,” CFM said in a strongly-worded statement today signed by its chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing.

The umbrella body refuted government claims it had reached a compromise, saying it had never agreed that its holy books should be endorsed to say “it is only for Christians”.

“Any person who respects the Holy Scriptures of any religion would be appalled by this action. We will never accede to any desecration of the Bible since the Word of God to us is sacred,” it said.

Pointing to a 1982 order issued under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the CFM said nowhere in law was it stated that any form of words had to be endorsed on any copy of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia.

“Given that copies may already have been endorsed, we will NOT take delivery of those endorsed copies,” it added.

The CFM said it also wholly rejects the federal government’s argument that the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia is “prejudicial to the national interest and security of Malaysia”.

It condemned the government’s treatment of its holy books as “subversive publication”.

The CFM said Christian Malaysians have always acted in good faith and with great patience to reach a peaceful end to religious dispute that would not compromise their beliefs.

“But that good faith has not been reciprocated by the government,” it said.

It further accused Putrajaya of having moved the “goal posts” over the years “through a systematic imposition of unreasonable conditions and restrictions”.

“As Christians we wonder how our Holy Scriptures can become a national security threat where countless number of us find it helpful in bringing hope and healing to broken lives and homes which we can testify to,” it said.

The CFM called on all Malaysians to rally together and reject all attempts to control the freedom of religion in the country.

It also advised all Christians to remain calm and pray for a dignified and respectful resolution to the ongoing Alkitab row and noted that Sunday will mark the second year the holy books have been detained at Port Klang.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein defended today his ministry’s stamping of the 5,100 Malay-language bibles in Port Klang with its official seal, saying it was standard protocol and not done to “deface” the Alkitab.

The minister also said his men had no choice but to adhere to these procedures as the BSM had wanted the Bibles to be released quickly.

“We stamped the Bible based on amalan (practice) before... during Abdullah Badawi and even Tun Dr Mahathir’s time,” Hishammuddin told reporters today, referring to the two immediate past prime ministers.

Hishammuddin appeared to suggest that the Christian community’s uproar over what they considered a violation of their holy book to be manufactured.

“They wanted it to be released quickly... if they want to find fault they can find fault... you can even say the Bibles are smelly after being kept for so long, if you want to find fault (with everything),” the minister claimed.

He said his officials had no intention to deface the Bibles, stressing that the Christian community should engage his ministry directly if it had issues or complaints over the measures taken.

However, he also voiced frustration over the inability to bridge the now-widening chasm with the community over the issue.

Hisham: Stamps on bible standard practice

KUALA LUMPUR: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today said that the decision to stamp the Malay-language bible, Al-Kitab, was not done to deface it and was a standard practice.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby, he said that the stamp on the bibles was not a new condition imposed for their release.

The stamp denotes “For Christians Only”. The other condition is that the book must be marked with serial numbers.

“Even during Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time, these bibles were released with a chop on them.”

Asked why it was stamped without the importer’s permission, Hishammuddin said that the bibles were stamped as “they (importers) wanted it to be immediately released”.

He said that the matter could not resolved because certain parties were finding flaws in the government.

“They find fault with everything we do… (you can also) raise the issue of smell (bau)… that the bibles have been kept for a long while and that they smell.

“Come forward and let’s talk about it. (The serial number) is not a big issue to me,” he said.

‘Matter will never end’

Hishammuddin said that the matter would never end and raised doubts if some quarters indeed wanted the issue to be resolved.

“Once if it is resolved, then it won’t be an issue. There won’t be issues to divide us, to make people angry with us (the government), no issue to sell paper, magazines or (on) Internet.”

He also said that the ministry has been engaging people regarding the issue, but could not find a common ground as it “could not engage parties who do not wish to be engaged”.

“It’s like hitting your head against a wall… the wall does not budge, but my head is swollen.”

The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) raised a red flag yesterday when the ministry had stamped serial numbers and the words “this Al-Kitab Berita Baik is only for Christians only” on the 5,100 bibles held in Port Klang.

According to an earlier agreement in 2005, the ministry had agreed to allow the import of the bibles provided that Christians themselves include a sign of the cross and the words “Penerbitan Kristian” (Christian publication) on the covers.

BSM claims that the stamps had defaced the holy book.

Meanwhile, Home Ministry secretary-general, Mahmood Adam, said it was standard practice to stamp serial numbers even on the Quran so the issue of the serial number is a “small matter”.

Christian Federation rejects seized bibles

The joy over the release turned to grief and mourning when it emerged they had been stamped with serial numbers and government seals.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Christians today rejected the return of some of the 35,000 bibles seized in a dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, saying they had been “desecrated.”

The government had said the using “Allah” as a translation for “God” in the Malay-language Bibles could cause confusion and encourage conversion, which is illegal for the country’s majority Muslim Malays.

On Tuesday it announced it would release the holy books, which were seized by custom officials at two major ports over the last two years.

But Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing said the joy over the release turned to “grief and mourning” when it emerged they had been stamped with serial numbers and government seals.

“Each copy has to be stamped with a serial number, the official seal of the relevant department…and the words ‘by order of the Minister of Home Affairs,’” he said in a statement.

Ng said that some of the bibles, all of which use the word “Allah”, had already been stamped without the agreement of the community, which was tantamount to “desecration of the bible.”

“This means that the (Malay-language) bible is now treated as a restricted item, and the Word of God has been made subject to the control of man,” Ng added.

“This is wholly offensive to Christians. Any person who respects the Holy Scriptures of any religion would be appalled by this action.”

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein defended the policy, saying that bibles had been stamped under previous administrations.

“There was no intention to deface the bible… we will not entertain this kind of talk,” he told reporters in Parliament today.

The “Allah” row is one of a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between majority Malays and minorities who fear the country is being “Islamised”.

Malaysia’s Christians, who make up nine percent of the population and many from indigenous groups in Borneo who speak the national language Malay, say they have used the word without incident for centuries.


Interlok panellists missing wood for trees

Muhyiddin says while the big issue is close to being resolved, the Indian reps on the Interlok panel are fixated with the smaller ones.
KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has downplayed the walkout staged by three Indian members on the independent panel, tasked with amending the controversial Interlok novel.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Muhyiddin, who is also the education minister, said MIC president G Palanivel was taking care of the matter.

“I was informed by Palanivel… and he has informed them that they must remain (on the panel). He will handle the three,” said the deputy prime minister.

It was reported that the three panellists were upset that Muhyiddin had rejected all the 100 amendments suggested.

However, Muhyiddin explained that the suggested amendments were “minute” and did not concern the main issue, which was the offensive terms.

“For example, they want the letter ‘T’ referring to ‘Tuhan’ to be changed to upper case. If (the amendments) have nothing to do with the main issue, then why bring it up?” he said.

No reason to revoke the ‘good’ novel
Muhyddin said that the main issue, which revolved around the word “pariah”, was close to being resolved but there were still certain details which needed to be ironed out.

“The main issue appears to have been solved, the pariah issue… but that will take some time,” he said, adding that there was no need to revoke the book.

“That question (revoking the book) does not arise; we need to just correct the contentious issues. To us there is no problem, the novel is a good novel,” he said.

Asked how long the panel would take to deliberate on the changes, Muhyddin said that it could take some time due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We want to put a full stop to this (controversy),” he stressed.

Muhyddin also dismissed the opposition’s claim that the Interlok issue had caused the Indian community to lose faith in him.

Referring to DAP MP Charles Santiago, the deputy prime minister said: “He is not resolving the matter, he is merely stirring it up.”

When contacted, one of the three Indian panellist Uthaya Sankar SB said he heard media reports that Muhyiddin wanted to meet all three Indian panellists.

“However we haven’t received any invitations yet,” he said.

Remove Interlok, remove Muhyiddin

In a collective stand, Pakatan MPs call for the revocation of the controversial book and for Najib to replace his deputy in the deliberation process.
KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat MPs today made a collective stand, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Interlok novel.

They also wanted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to be removed from the deliberation process based on the three Indian representatives quitting the independent panel, tasked with amending the book.

“Muhyiddin should be taken out and (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) should replace him,” DAP MP Charles Santiago told reporters in Parliament.

PKR MP Johari Abdul urged the government to take heed of the people’s voice. “If the people say it is sensitive, accept it lah.”

Johari also took a swipe at the government’s decision to edit the book after a firestorm of protest, especially from the Indian community.

The book, penned by national laureate Abdullah Hussain, courted controversy when it was introduced as a component for the Malay literature subject for Form Five students this year.

“This is the work of a national laureate, how are you going to edit the gist of the work (without violating the author’s right)?” asked the PKR MP.

DAP’s Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran said the matter must be resolved quickly as the students would sit for their SPM examination in November.

He urged the government to apologise and immediately retract the book from the syllabus.

The press conference was also attended by MP Dzulkefly Ahmad (PAS-Kuala Selangor), M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) and R Sivarasa (PKR-Subang).

The three panellists had walked out complaining that 100 suggested amendments were shot down, but Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said this was because it concerned “minute” details.

Government will ignore lawyers’ protest, says Nazri

The Malaysian Insider
by Shannon Teoh

Nazri: They are free to protest and we are free to ignore them. — file pic KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz responded to the Malaysian Bar Council’s court boycott threat by saying the government will simply ignore it.

The lawyers are mulling the boycott to protest against Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi’s key performance indicators (KPIs).  “They are free to do what they want to do but they will be held responsible for their own actions,” the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said of a proposed boycott of court proceedings by the Bar Council.

“Their resolution has no significance outside their meetings. They are free to protest and we are free to ignore them,” the de facto law minister added.

The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Bar Council has been given the mandate by lawyers to consider a boycott of the courts or to organise a march to protest against the KPIs that it says has resulted in judges insisting on their appearance in different courts because of pressure to clear cases from the KPIs.

In its annual general meeting last weekend, the Bar passed a no-confidence resolution against Zaki and gave council members the power to decide on “appropriate steps to protest.”

Criminal lawyers and police investigating officers approached by The Malaysian Insider have also confirmed that KPIs are wreaking havoc on the criminal justice system.

This is because police investigating officers are required to appear as prosecution witnesses, but their involvement in different cases at the same time is compounded by the insistence of various judges for them to turn up in different courts at the same time.

Lawyers were “crying out” as they were not being given enough time to interview witnesses, prepare written submissions or draft appeals due to the current “compacted” nature of court proceedings, he said.

However, Nazri said today that the Bar was wrong to generalise and should instead file official complaints on specific judges with the chief justice.

At last weekend’s Bar AGM, newly-elected Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee told reporters that despite talks with Zaki, judges and judicial officers still “misbehaved” in order to meet the KPI requirements, which in turn affected the administration of justice.

Lim had said the courts sometimes brought forward hearing dates without counsel’s consent, rushed to close cases and failed to give enough time for lawyers to prepare a defence in criminal trials involving serious offences.

Datuk GP Now Firmly In MIC Driver's Seat

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 (Bernama) -- Datuk G. Palanivel, who marks his first 100 days as MIC president on Thursday, has been on overdrive mode to make his leadership more people-centric, with emphasis on retraining and empowering the Indian community.

He is also in a race to put the community as quickly as possible to become the "masters of their own destiny".

By getting them to be more aware of what they need to do, it is hoped that by then the party will run like a well-oiled maintenance-free engine, all systems tweaked to work in harmonious tandem and with minimum supervision.

But while that destination is still a long, long way away, party stalwarts are confident that Palanivel will continue to be firmly in the driver's seat, an imagery that sits well with his new nickname, "Datuk GP".

Already, Datuk GP has created a record of sorts on the route he has already completed in the short space of time since he entered in what observers say is his race against time.

Why the need to race against time?

He recently told a meeting of Indian NGOs that "the dependency group among some quarters of the Indian community is growing and is a worrying trend".

"We must now quickly create opportunities for them so that they can become resilient and independent. They must be helped to stand on their own feet. They should not be a liability for themselves and to the society".

"But we will get there", said a party member, citing the success of the newly-opened MIC Service Centre at the MIC Headquarters.

Replicated after the service centre at his former Deputy Minister's post in the former Cabinet which successfully handled thousands of cases, the MIC Service Centre has few parallels in terms of organisational structure, scope of operation, transparency and unity of purpose.

Situated on the ground floor, the centre is laid out in neat rows where party volunteers with laptops meet ordinary people with problems. These problems range from matters related to Socso, EPF, Dewan Bandaraya services, housing needs, birth and citizenship certificates, education counseling, micro financing, and the full range of social services.

In each case, individual data is captured, problems identified and followed through until final closure.

But that's not all. In one section of the hall are officers from Dewan Bandaraya, and other government departments who provide immediate advice, and solutions. And they are there every Sunday, which is their normal rest day for them.

Similar centres are in operation in Seremban, Ipoh and Penang.

Because he has put the systems in place, it runs well, save the occasional and usual start-up hiccups. Party leaders, including those from Wanita MIC and Youth, who come to volunteer, are the backbone of the service centres, giving up their weekend with their families.

Datuk GP has also taken over Yayasan Strategic Sosial and is in the process of revamping it and will organise an outreach programme to service the clients.

He has put in place other measures, systems and people so that the party can somewhat run on auto pilot in several other areas as well. He encourages this auto pilot perception because this is a tried and tested way to create and nurture self-reliance.

One can only fault him for being still somewhat media-shy, despite his media background some years back, thus explaining his reticence to being over exposed on the electronic and print media.

Party insiders, who are aware of Datuk GP's working style, say the president believes in sharing and delegating responsibilities to senior party leaders as well as to grassroots workers so that they are able to exercise leadership qualities.

He believes that party power and responsibilities must be vested in the leadership team, not in the party president alone.

While he shuns publicity for himself ("my record speaks for myself", he has been known to say many times), his grip and influence on the party is strong. He holds monthly meetings with state party chairmen, holds regular brainstorming sessions with party members and non-members, sets KPIs, meets young professionals and NGO leaders, and continues to engage with members and leaders of Malaysian Indians of different language and religious denominations.

Valuable data and views gathered from these meetings are collated, categorised and analysed for the purpose of working out a long-term blueprint for the party.

To assist him in this task, he has surrounded himself with young academics and technocrats as well as consistent, persistent, well-trained and well-prepared party cadres ready to do the president's bidding at a moment's notice.

It was a coup-de-grace of sorts when he brought back to the fold people like S. Murugesan as party secretary-general and reinstating Barat Maniam, a party veteran from the Petaling Jaya Selatan division.

Among the visible markers of his 100 days in the MIC hot seat are the solid MIC votes he managed to deliver during the recent by-elections. While the inclusive policies of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak were key, the quiet confidence with which Datuk GP operated and managed to get his message across were crucial in the way he had convinced and influenced Indian voters to back Barisan Nasional.

His Community Builders Programme, which has focused on pre-school or early childhood education for many years now, has got a new shot in the arm with help from the Implementation and Co-ordination Unit (ICU) in the Prime Minister's Department. The programme is committed to providing facilities for children who would otherwise have been deprived of early education opportunities.

The Teach Malaysia programme, an initiative to upgrade performance of school going children in primary and secondary schools, and which is now in its final gestation period, will see more details to be announced soon.

At a recent session with some journalists from the Tamil language media, Datuk GP said he would like to see the party eventually become an organ to undertake studies and formulate policies, rather than rely heavily on being just a delivery channel. He also wants the party to be weaned away from its culture of aid-seeking to aid-giving.

He said: "There are some segments of the Indian community who have made it on their own, without help from the government. We want them to share their success stories with others to motivate them. We are now looking for these kinds of people who have risen from rags to riches and who are now willing to transfer their knowledge and share their experience to leave behind a legacy of self-reliance."

However fast he wants to fulfill his plans for the party and Indian community, he still faces a gargantuan task.

On the positive side, he possesses the energy and temperament to stay the course to help establish an inclusive, united, self-reliant Indian community within a united Malaysia.

What are his plans for the MIC? He says: "MIC's long-term plans are to redefine all its objectives to stay relevant to its members, to Barisan Nasional and the nation".

With Datuk GP now at the helm, MIC appears to be on the right track. Whether it can regain its past glory remains to be seen. This will depend on how he stays firmly in his driver's seat to drive the party forward.

Japan activists had warned of risks

Activists in Japan had warned about the risks posed by the country’s nuclear power plants – and they are now calling for more information on the ground and a larger evacuation zone.
Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action Japan - Photo credit:
This interview from Democracy Now a couple of days ago:
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We go right now to Aileen Mioko Smith. She’s the director of Kyoto-based Green Action. She’s on the board of Greenpeace International. She’s joining us from San Francisco right now, one of Japan’s leading voices challenging nuclear power.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Thank you very much.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Can you tell us what you understand is happening right now in Japan in terms of the evacuation?
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Yes. By the way, I’m not a board member of Greenpeace International. I’m working with Green Action in Kyoto, Japan.
Right now, the evacuation is underway, and we’re very concerned about the people around the plants. I think that what we’re suffering very much right now in Japan is that the government only said a evacuation area within 10 kilometers, or six miles, was necessary. So, there’s nothing on the books about any evacuation to be undertaken beyond that limit. And I think that we are right now suffering from the fact that nothing was on the books to evacuate people beyond that area. I agree with Arnie Gundersen, what he just said, that evacuations should be a larger area right now. Thirty kilometers is not enough. That’s 18 miles. It’s not sufficient. It should be going on beyond that right now, so that people can be prepared for wider areas of radiation contamination.
We’re very concerned with the complete lack of environmental monitoring around the region where people are evacuated and where people need to be evacuating even further. And that was a concern of Japanese citizens way back. This plant, from the very start, even before it was built, citizens said that the land was not proper for building a nuclear power plant. There was opposition. There were lawsuits. And of all—in all the areas, 54 nuclear power plants in Japan, every area, citizens have fought siting, because of seismic concerns. So this is very much a man-made problem. People may think it’s a combination of man-made and human—natural disaster, but no plant should have been here in the first place.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Japan’s policy right now is to build eight more nuclear plants. What do you understand is happening with that right now?
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Well, right now, just the day before this accident happened, people were—citizens who had been opposing a plant site for 30 years down in Yamaguchi Prefecture, southwest of Osaka, were actually virtually in hand-to-hand combat with people who—with the utility who was coming in and trying to start a landfill in order to build a plant. Of the eight sites, they’re still supposed to be under construction and be built, but obviously that situation would change as of this week.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And the information coming right now from the Japanese government, very little information, what do you understand they’re saying or they’re not saying?
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Well, I think that there are three things. One is that they themselves don’t really know what’s going on. But the other is, I think that they are trying to protect the public. I think it’s very important not to panic people, so the tone, which is very calm, is good and should remain that way. But they should be informing the public exactly all the things that they know and exactly all the things—admit to all the things that they don’t know. And I don’t think that they’re informing the public. I feel like—we really feel that the government is patronizing of the citizens. You can’t protect the people from reality. The reality is that the situation is very serious, and emissions could become much greater.
And I think that the public really needs to be warned that, carefully, and that evacuations should be leading the situation, not like the situation is really bad and then you delay and delay but then you evacuate a little bit. Actually, what you should be doing is initially start the evacuation and be quite proactive about it, and evacuate ahead of the problem versus evacuating as a result of things that have happened. And that’s not happening right now. So I think that they have to be very quick right now in initiating calm evacuation of a larger area.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: I want to turn back to Arnie Gundersen for a moment now, joining us from Burlington, Vermont. What is the significance of the removal of 750 workers from the nuclear plant? How will this affect the effort to prevent a meltdown?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: It’s got to make the efforts worse. You know, these 750 people that are being evacuated were doing critical work. They weren’t sweeping floors and washing windows; they were doing critical work. So, when the staff, basically, is cut—90 percent of the staff is told, “You have to leave the site”—that’s an indication that a lot of critical work isn’t getting done. I really think it’s also—it’s an indication that management at the site has thrown in the towel and is going to let this thing run its course without any more human intervention. What that means is that—I’m particularly concerned about another aftershock, especially if an aftershock—on the weak Unit 2 containment, which already apparently has failed, and an aftershock would make it worse. The other thing that especially concerns me is that a large group of personnel were fighting the fire in the fuel pool on Unit 4, and again, you can’t have 60 people on a six-unit site and expect that anything gets done.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: There was the disaster at Three Mile Island, the Chernobyl disaster. This is a disasters of a different sort. There’s been three explosions. Are we in unchartered territory right now?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: This is certainly right now bumping up against the magnitude of Chernobyl. It’s clearly passed what happened at Three Mile Island. And it’s not clear that this situation may not get worse, not better. You know, Chernobyl was one reactor. There are three in either partial meltdown or meltdown. And then the other one has a fuel pool fire. And I understand this morning that the temperatures in the other two fuel pools are also increasing. So, you know, I’ve said before that this could easily become Chernobyl on steroids. It’s not there yet, but given that the essential personnel have been evacuated, it could easily get there within 24 hours.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And the issue of plutonium, Arnie Gundersen?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah, you know, plutonium is named after Pluto, the god of Hell. And that’s an indication that it’s a pretty nasty element. It’s in all these reactors. Unit Three was using what’s called mixed oxide fuel. So Unit Three had more plutonium than the other units. But all of these reactor fuel pools and the nuclear reactors themselves have plutonium in them.
When plutonium volatilizes, when it gets hot and turns to a vapor, it can be breathed in. And, of course, it’s very—it can cause cancer in lungs very, very easily. And the containments, which are designed to contain this plutonium, are—have failed, at least in Unit Two. I believe in Unit One and Three, they are leaking, but they probably haven’t failed. So, it is likely that volatile plutonium is being released right now.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Finally, Arnie Gundersen, what is most important for people to understand as they follow the news in these coming days?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: I guess if I were in Japan, I would at least get the children away from the reactor, because their bodies are growing faster and their cells are more susceptible to radiation damage. I would go out to 50 kilometers and at least get the children away from those reactors.
You know, Japan is a long way from the U.S. There’s 5,000 miles of ocean for that plume to disperse over. So, it’s a little bit too early to determine what the health effects are on the United States. But it’s clear to me we will detect it. Within about five to seven days, the plume will hit the West Coast, and we’ll begin to detect the radiation. Exactly what the magnitude of the radiation is, as your previous caller said, there’s not any good environmental monitoring. There’s no monitoring in the plant, because, one, there’s no people, and, two, the instruments have blown up. So, we just simply don’t know how much radiation is getting out. I think the numbers we’re seeing now are on the low side, and they don’t really represent the true magnitude of what’s already happening.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: I’d like to end with Aileen Mioko Smith. You’ve been in touch with many people in Japan. Talk about the recovery efforts right now—in the north, there’s bodies washing ashore, there’s millions without food or power—as this nuclear crisis is unfolding.
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: Yes, that’s correct. All the people that we know in Fukushima and Miyagi, we haven’t heard from them. In, finally, the last day and a half, we received, like, a phone call, where it’s just an instant. You can hear a voice for a split second, and you know that the person is alive.
These are all people who were fighting and concerned about the seismic safety of the Fukushima plants. Actually, the last two years, there was a review of all the seismic situation at the nuclear power plants, whether the land was safe and the facility, the nuclear power plant, was strong enough to withstand quakes. And just the last few months, the last few weeks, citizens had pointed out that TEPCO’s analysis was insufficient, and the government should not approve TEPCO’s analysis, but the government approved it. And these are the citizens that are now—I don’t know, some of them, if they’re alive or not.
The areas, the towns—we know people in all those towns. And you look at the photograph of the town, and it’s just completely devastated. I just completely believe that we would hear from all of them, and it was just a matter of time of hearing from them, but when you look at their towns, you know, you’re not sure, if you haven’t heard from them yet, whether they’re alive. So, they can’t—they can’t fight this situation now at the plant. All the people who were the spokespeople, who knew about the problems with the plant and the land there and the problems, they are all evacuated, or I don’t know if they’ve survived. And here we are—we’re the other spokespeople that lived further away, knew them, and are trying to speak on their behalf. And that’s where it is.
I was at the Fukushima plant last August with Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, based in Washington, D.C. We were there to warn about the dangers of spent nuclear fuel. I remember standing there with one of the people in Fukushima and looking down on the Daiichi plant on one side and the Daini plant on the other, and we took a photograph there, the three of us. And we met with the mayor of Futaba town, and also we were with—Kumano town, and also we went to Futaba town. These are two villages that are now completely evacuated.
We had independent scientists go in there three days ago, and they went in there to monitor. These are independent journalists that went with monitors to the actual towns that were evacuated. And all their radiation monitors went off. You could—they walked into the hospital of the town, and you could see that the evacuation was really rushed. They said that beds were turned over. Equipment, tubes for injections and everything was scattered all over the place. It was obvious people had left in a big hurry from the hospital. And when they went to the town hall, it was completely evacuated, and the levels just went off. So, they’re right now monitoring.
This person—as I was coming here to the studio, he was monitoring 50 kilometers, 30 kilometers from the plant and getting readings and putting it on the blog. I mean, this is the kind of information the government should be telling the people, but they don’t have the monitoring, because beyond 10 kilometers, radiation wasn’t supposed to leave. Every site in Japan, citizens have said, “Look, why do you say radiation stops immediately at 10 kilometers?” You know, it doesn’t, and you have to have a plan for if the radiation goes beyond 10. And the government, the national government, refuses to do this, and therefore, the prefectures didn’t get a plan. We’ve been to our prefecture over and over again about this.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, we’ll continue to—
AILEEN MIOKO SMITH: One of the problems that we have is that—yeah, we have plans for earthquake—
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We’re going to continue to follow this story over the coming days. Aileen Mioko Smith, we have to leave it there.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We’re going to continue to cover this story very closely in the coming days. Aileen Mioko Smith is the director of the Kyoto-based Green Action, on of Japan’s leading voices challenging the production, commerce and transport of nuclear material. And thank you very much to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer who’s coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country.