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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Media: Ibu Kecewa Sikap Pengetua

SHAH ALAM, 16 April 2011 – Seorang ibu di sini melahirkan rasa kecewa terhadap sikap pengetua sebuah sekolah menengah kebangsaan yang tidak mahu mengambil tindakan terhadap lapan pelajar yang memukul anaknya.

Ibu itu berkata, dalam kejadian pada 13 April 2011, anaknya mengalami kecederaan teruk selepas dipukul di kawasan sekolah.

“Selepas membawa anak saya ke hospital bagi mendapat rawatan, saya ke balai polis untuk membuat laporan kerana bimbang berikutan anak saya luka di kepala, tangan dan lebam di badan,” kata suri rumah itu dalam aduannya kepada Uthaya Sankar SB dari Perunding Media, Motivasi dan Penerbitan Uthaya (Uthaya’s Media, Motivation and Publication Consultancy), di sini, hari ini.

Menurut keterangan bertulis oleh salah seorang saksi, pelajar Tingkatan Tiga itu dipukul menggunakan kerusi sebelum dipijak, ditendang dan dibaling kasut oleh lapan pelajar Tingkatan Empat.

“Pada pagi 15 April, saya ke sekolah untuk bertemu pengetua tetapi kecewa kerana terpaksa menunggu lebih sejam. Pengetua datang lewat ke sekolah dan kemudian duduk makan di kantin.

“Apabila akhirnya saya bertemu beliau, pengetua itu berkata, beliau tidak mahu masuk campur kes ini walaupun kejadian berlaku di kawasan sekolah,” kata suri rumah itu.

Satu sidang media dijadualkan pada pagi 17 April 2011 di Taman Sri Muda, di sini, di mana suri rumah berkenaan akan mengemukakan salinan laporan polis, salinan keterangan saksi dan salinan foto kecederaan mangsa, selain menjawab pertanyaan wakil media.

Wakil media yang berminat membuat liputan kes ini diminta menghubungi Uthaya melalui talian 016-3288142 atau uthayasb@yahoo.com.my untuk maklumat lanjut.

Perunding Media, Motivasi dan Penerbitan Uthaya menyediakan perkhidmatan rundingan media secara percuma kepada anggota masyarakat yang memerlukan panduan cara-cara bekerjasama dengan wakil media.

Live - Report from Sarawak

Rights group: Gadhafi forces firing cluster munitions

A remnant base section of a MAT-120 cluster munition recovered in Misrata was manufactured by Instalaza SA of Spain.Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have fired cluster munitions into residential areas in the besieged western city of Misrata, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

A spokesman for the Libyan government denied the charge.

The organization said in a statement that it had seen three cluster munitions explode over the el-Shawahda neighborhood of Misrata on Thursday night. Researchers inspected debris from a cluster submunition and interviewed witnesses to two other apparent cluster munitions strikes, the statement said.

HRW inspected the submunition, which it said had been discovered by a New York Times reporter, and determined that it was a Spanish-produced MAT-120 120mm mortar projectile, which opens in the air and releases 21 submunitions across a wide area.

The submunitions explode on contact, disintegrating into molten metal that can strike people and penetrate armored vehicles, it said.

"It's appalling that Libya is using this weapon, especially in a residential area," said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. "They pose a huge risk to civilians, both during attacks because of their indiscriminate nature and afterward because of the still-dangerous unexploded duds scattered about."

Most nations have banned their use through the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became international law in August.

"Libya needs to halt the use of these weapons immediately, and take all steps to ensure that civilians are protected from the deadly remnants they have left behind," Goose said.

Human Rights Watch said cluster munitions were used about a kilometer from the battle line between rebel and government forces and appear to have landed about 300 meters from Misrata Hospital.

But the organization, citing security concerns, said it could not inspect the impact sites and had not determined whether any civilians were hurt.

A spokesman for the Libyan government said the charge was not true. "We would never use such weapons against Libyan people," Musa Ibrahim said. "Also, the world is watching, so we just could not do it."

The charge came as Western leaders described a "medieval siege" Friday on Misrata, which has been pounded for days by Gadhafi's mortar and artillery rounds.

Some 1,200 of the more than 8,000 migrants stranded in the besieged city were rescued Friday by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The group chartered a boat to pluck them from the war-torn port city and deliver them to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the eastern part of the country.

The aid group said the migrants were from various nations and included women and children. All were weak and dehydrated. Medical agencies set up a small hospital on deck.

The IOM identified 8,300 migrants living in the open around the Misrata port without adequate food or medical care as the city came under regular fire. The group hopes to send back the chartered boat to evacuate a second round of people if it receives enough donations.

"This is a terrible situation," said Pasquale Lupoli, the group's Middle East representative. "They are the forgotten victims of the crisis and shouldn't be."

In Benghazi, about 2,000 anti-Gadhafi demonstrators held up signs and shouted slogans that made it clear they are still fighting for Gadhafi's removal. "Gadhafi Go to Hell," read one. "Thanks for USA and NATO and France and UK," read another.

But several participants voiced concern that the NATO efforts were not enough, telling CNN that without more support, they may fail.

"They didn't do anything, the NATO," one man said.

"We want more support from the United States of America, more power, more support for our people," said another.

The military deadlock in Libya between Gadhafi's forces and rebels shows little sign of resolution.

Western powers have said repeatedly that airstrikes were intended to fulfill a United Nations mandate to protect civilians. However, in a joint opinion piece that appeared Friday in three European newspapers, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote about better times once there is a regime change.

"Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that," they wrote. "It is not to remove (Gadhafi) by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with (Gadhafi) in power."

"The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law," they wrote. "It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government."

The leaders likened the fighting in Misrata to a medieval siege and called on Libyan troops to return to their barracks.

"We are convinced that better times lie ahead for the people of Libya," they wrote.

Opposition forces kept up the fight Friday, saying they had pushed west from Ajdabiya to the town of al-Brega, which has changed hands several times and appears to remain under the control of Gadhafi loyalists.

Warplanes were heard Friday over Ajdabiya, but CNN could not independently verify the rebel advance.

The debate over NATO's strategy in Libya buzzed at high-level meetings this week in Europe as well as in Qatar, host of the first gathering of the international Libya Contact Group, charged with mapping out peace for Libya.

With the conflict at a deadly impasse, Britain and France have been pressuring NATO to step up airstrikes.

At a NATO summit in Berlin on Thursday, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that NATO has the necessary assets to continue aerial strikes, but the tactical nature of the fight has changed.

"Now they hide their heavy arms in populated areas, where before many targets were easier to get to," Rasmussen said. "To avoid civilian casualties, we need very sophisticated equipment. So, we need a few more precision fighter ground-attack aircraft for air-to-ground missions."

BN will keep Sarawak by a hair’s breadth, say analysts

KUCHING, April 16 — The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) will retain Sarawak today but will end the race with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) dangerously close at its heels, say analysts.

Their polls projections, which were cautious at first, have now grown significantly optimistic for the opposition force, which is contesting in its first-ever state election under the PR umbrella.

Three analysts told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that BN was likely en route to yet another electoral victory in the hornbill state but the contest for two-thirds majority was too close to call.

Such a prediction would have been laughed off at campaign kick-off last week but consistent reports of massive rally turnouts and talk of rising anger against the state’s powerful Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud have now drawn a question mark over BN’s ability to maintain its near-dominance in the 71-seat state assembly.

When at first even PR leaders admitted their goals would be impossible to achieve, the final day of campaigning yesterday saw Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim declaring that the newborn alliance would far surpass its targets.

“We are very confident we are going to go far beyond that, we are pushing to deny BN its monopoly of the state,” he said during a press conference yesterday afternoon.

According to sources, PR is now betting largely on victory in 34 state seats, with DAP winning in 13 of the 15 seats it is contesting, followed by PKR’s 19 of 49 seats and PAS’s two of five state seats.

PR needs to win in at least 24 state seats to deny BN its customary two-thirds majority, and 36 seats to form a new government in Sarawak.


The pact’s wins are expected to come largely from the urban and semi-urban state seats, particularly in constituencies within the main townships and city and their outskirts.

Analysts were similarly as optimistic over PR’s chances, pointing out that the usually conservative political culture in Sarawak had changed significantly in the past week.

Voters, they said, were now not only more politically aware but were also willing to unreservedly declare their grouses with the ruling administration, an uncharacteristic trait in the past.

Tonight’s outcome, said the analysts, would bank on how successful BN’s use of its entire state and federal government machinery has been in convincing voters to stick to the ruling pact.

When polling opens at 1,749 centres across the state this morning, 979,796 voters will face the crucial decision of whether to “vote for change” or vote for “transformation”, the two messages spread by PR and BN over the 10-day campaign period.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak lecturer Dr Faisal Syam Hazis, who has been criss-crossing Sarawak to observe the heated campaign, said that over the past 10 days voters across all different communities had shared one major grouse — their disenchantment with Taib or “Pek Moh”.

“The message is very clear. People are echoing the call for change and I can see this even in the Dayak areas.

“Many are really disappointed with the BN... you can sense that sentiment. Promises were made to them to provide water and roads, to give them employment opportunities, but they were only made during elections,” he said.

Faisal said PR’s performance would bank heavily on the protest vote — constituents who were upset with BN but who did not necessarily subscribe to the opposition’s policies.

But the professor said this would not bear any similarity to the protest vote in the tsunami of 2008 as Sarawak’s voter dynamics and political situation were significantly different from those of states in the peninsula.

“The issues are different here so let me put it like this — I think the opposition will win more seats and could deny two-thirds but it is too close to call,” he said.

Faisal also noted that another major factor was the possibility of vote-rigging and election irregularities, which the opposition has predicted would likely occur today.

The pact has already complained of cash handouts allegedly given by BN agents to voters, ranging between RM100 for each voter and up to RM2,000. Villages in the interior areas, they claimed, were even given RM6,000 allocations.

“And look, PR is not only up against BN’s already massive election machinery, it is also up against the entire federal and state government machinery.

“You can observe how this has been constantly used in rural areas; Kemas, the Education Department, the police, all government departments and the deployment of the entire federal and state Cabinet ministers to help in the polls,” he said.

Faisal described this as the “politics of Panadol”, noting that this would likely cost PR many seats.

“This is when although people are unhappy, these instant-noodle projects and handouts will convince them to vote for BN but after the polls, the suffering continues,” he said.

He claimed that if PR and BN had entered the contest on a level-playing field, it was without a doubt that PR could deny BN its two-thirds majority and even have a fighting chance to win the state.

Universiti Putra Malaysia lecturer Professor Jayum Anak Jawan was less optimistic of PR’s chances but agreed with his fellow academic that the pact would perform significantly better than it had in 2006.

In the 2006 polls, the DAP won in only six seats and PKR in one.

Jayum admitted that the opposition force had put up a fierce fight in the polls and had made inroads in many areas, particularly among the urban and semi-urban communities.

“I see quite a lot of people who are excited about the polls, especially around the major towns like in Kuching, Sibu and Miri.

“But the Bidayuh seats and the Malay/Melanaus, are not so easy… although many areas are said to be volatile as their BN candidates are new faces,” he said.

But Jayum predicted that this would not translate into a resounding victory for PR and tonight’s results would bring no surprises.

He explained that many of the local communities like the Malay/Melanau, the Ibans and Bidayuhs were a sentimental and loyal lot and had an emotional attachment to their representatives in government.

“They may be unhappy and complain that their land had been stolen but at crunch time, they will vote for BN. Don’t ask me why, it is baffling to me too,” he said.

Jayum said more was needed to “shake” the Dayaks out from political complacency as they were not likely to “jump ship”.

“On that basis, I am not confident that they will abandon the ruling coalition completely,” he said.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Associate Professor Shaharudin Badaruddin agreed with his comrades, saying that this was by far the most heated state contest he had ever witnessed.

He explained that in the previous two state polls in 2001 and 2006, voters had generally stayed in the comfort of their homes and went about their daily businesses instead of joining in the campaign festivities by attending political events.

The professor expressed awe at the vast changes, describing it as a “strong undercurrent” sweeping the state.

“It is quite remarkable to see how accepting these people are... I have seen lorries driven by Chinese displaying PAS flags.

“I tried snapping pictures of PKR flags on display once and a Bidayuh woman scolded me, warning me against defacing the flags.

“And this is in the rural areas. There is also a protest even from the Malay community... so easily, they can get more than 19 seats, or perhaps, deny BN two-thirds,” he said.

Polling begins at 8am today and ends at 5pm.

The Election Commission expects the final vote tally to be announced by 11pm.

There are 979,796 registered voters in Sarawak, with the Chinese making up the largest community at 31.5 per cent, the Ibans 29 per cent, Malay/Melanaus at 27.5 per cent, Bidayuhs eight per cent, Orang Ulus 3.7 per cent and others 0.26 per cent.

Sarawak goes to polls

Voting will be closed at 5pm but for areas far in the interior regions with a small number of voters, the centres will be closed earlier.

KUCHING: Sarawakians are standing on the threshold of choice – to re-elect Barisan Nasioanal and endorse Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s impassioned plea to ‘trust’ him and ‘vote for transformation’ or to risk ‘everything’ and throw their support behind Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition’s call for ‘change’.

Some 979,796 voters in 71 constituencies across the state have begun casting their votes this morning in 1,749 polling stations.

In this election it is all about Najib and his BN and less about Taib Mahmud and the Sarawak BN coalition of Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).

The Sarawak BN is contesting in all 71 constituencies while PKR is standing 49, DAP (15) and PAS (5).

Also opposing BN are Sarawak National Party (Snap) which is contesting in 26 seats, Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) is challenging its rival in six areas while some 41 independent candidates have joined the fray.

In all the Sarawak 2011 state election sees a record breaking 213 candidates, many of whom are political novices.

There are simply too many seats to watch in this election but of keen interest would be the constituencies of Sarawak BN’s top leaders.

In Balingian Taib faces his toughest challenger ever in Salleh Jafaruddin, his cousin, who is standing as an independent under the auspicies of the Movement of Change Sarawak (MoCS).

Salleh, whose political history with Taib dates back to the 1980s, has turned the tables on Taib with his insider details of Taib’s excesses, greedy and political manipulations.

Colouring this fight is tales of ‘foreign witchcraft’ and local bomohs and gangsters allegedly hired by Taib’s wealthy sister Raziah and her Australian Lebanese husband Robert Geneid, who was also behind the marriage of Taib to young second wife Ragat.

Seeking divine support

Raziah, who has much of her wealth and millions of ringgit worth of contracts at stake, had in the final 48 hours allegedly brought into Mukah and Balingian gangsters to interrupt opposition ceramahs and intimidate locals into voting for Taib.

As late as Thursday morning, Taib looked set to lose his seats but word from Balingian last night alleged that bags full of cash had filtered into hundreds of homes in the constituency.

Meanwhile in Layar, deputy chief minister Alfred Jabu Numpang is also battling for continuance and is fervently hoping for divine intervention.

Jabu who has held the seat for 36 years is in a four-cornered fight.

In the fray are former police officers Tedewin Ngumbang, who was also the ex-information chief of BN-PRS, PKR’s Stanley Ngumbat and bank-officer Joe Unggang from Snap.

All three have ‘insider’ information about Jabu’s mismanagement of Salcra oil palm plantations and widespread corrupt practices.

Here too, ground reports indicate Jabu, who is PBB deputy president and poised to take over as CM if Taib loses his seat, to be on the losing end.

Over in Piasau, yet another deputy chief minister George Chan is poised to crash. Set to bring him down is young DAP lawyer Ling Sie Kiong.

Until Valentine’s Day recently, the political rookie was busy working in Karpal Singh’s firm. But in the last two months Ling has thrown himself into wooing the Piasau crowd.

Embattled Chan, who is SUPP president, has been unable to recover from the party’s humiliating defeat in the 2006 polls when it lost six seats to opposition DAP.

This time round observers said SUPP will be ‘wiped out much like Gerakan (in the peninsular).’

With the state’s 28% Chinese community, SUPP and its well over 60-year old ruling lords are politically irrelevant and no match to DAP’s young stallions and engaging women leaders.

First result by 8pm

Polling started at 8am with 961,433 people eligible to vote in the 71 constituencies. Postal voting for 18,363 voters had been carried out earlier.

There will be straight fights in 27 constituencies, three-cornered fights in 23 constituencies, 17 (four-cornered), two (five-cornered) while two constituencies will face six-cornered fights.

The voters will cast their ballots at 1,748 the polling centres throughout the state which is the size of peninsular Malaysia and polling would be carried out in stages as there were voters living in the interior areas. Schools, longhouses and community halls were being used as polling centres.

The constituency with the largest number of voters is Pending (29,498 voters) while the least number of voters is in Ba’Kelalan (6,958).

Helicopters are being used in 15 voting centres.

Voting would be closed at 5pm but for areas far in the interior regions with a small number of voters, the centres would be closed earlier. The first result of the election was expected at about 8pm.

Opposition will have reason to celebrate

There may not be a political tsunami in Sarawak at the end of today but an 'earthquake' costly to Barisan Nasional is likely.
KUCHING: Going into the Sarawak election today, one senses an uncertainty as mysterious as the morning mist hanging over the hills fringing Kuching city.

There are 71 constituencies spread across Sarawak, the bulk of which lies in the hinterland shrouded by this mist.
Sarawak’s remotest point is in the Ba’ Kelalan constituency, home to the Orang Ulu which comprise the Lun Bawang, Kayan, Kenyan, Kelabit and Penan communities.

The Orang Ulu together with the Bidayuh, Iban and Melanau communities form the Dayaks, Sarawak’s majority population. The rest of the state’s populace is made of Chinese (26%),  Malays (21%) and others.

In this politically defining elections, the Dayaks are being wooed and cajoled into playing a decisive role as a record-breaking 213 candidates, many of whom are political greenhorns, wrestle it out in straight and multi-cornered fights in the 71 constituencies.

In the ring are candidates from Pakatan Rakyat coalition – PKR, DAP and PAS – as well as Sarawak Nasional Party (Snap), Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) and independents.

Important to note here also is that over 150,000 ‘thinking Dayaks’, as described by Snap advisor Daniel Tajem,  are working elsewhere and while many have been returning home in the last few days the exact numbers are not known.

It’s been an historical election campaign, liberally laced with mystique in the form of Taib’s bomoh, Stella, thrills (Barisan Nasional’s covert operations), chases (the FRU’s presence) and drama (exciting ceramahs) akin to a Chinese opera or Bollywod movie minus the songs.

Sharing the lead roles in this homeground blockbuster is Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, Umno president Najib Tun Razak and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

In effect the Sarawak election has been a proxy fight of sorts between personalities Najib and Anwar,  Umno and PKR, with Taib being the catalyst.

Unfortunately Taib has also been Najib’s greatest liability going into the state polls.
For both Najib and Anwar, the stakes are high. The outcome of the Sarawak election will have national implications.

If BN loses its two thirds majority here today, Putrajaya becomes instantly within Pakatan’s reach.

Najib pleads

When Anwar met the Sarawakians on Thursday night in Kuching he called for the people to vote for change.
When Prime Minister Najib met a similar but smaller crowd, he sent out an impassioned plea to give Barisan Nasional a second chance, admiting to weaknesses in the state’s administration and pledging billions of ringgit for Sarawak development.

He called on Sarawakians to ‘trust’ him to make things right for the people in the state but he fell short of indicating a time frame for Taib to step down.

In the run-up to the Sarawak polls, corruption and native customary rights (NCR) land grabs as well Taib’s fabulous wealth have been core issues flogged by the opposition.

Alongside these issues have been Sarawak United Peoples Party’s (SUPP) business monopoly and its failure to safeguard Chinese interest in Sarawak as well as the state’s stand on the AlKitab issue and religious freedom.

But whatever the outcome today, there will be much to celebrate in the opposition camp.
For the first time in history the opposition will have more that the existing eight voices in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

As at 6pm yesterday, the Pakatan coalition was poised to win at least 17 seats.
The more brazen political observers, having seen and experienced the more than 30,000 strong cheering crowd at DAP’s final ceramah in Stutong last night, have dared to review the numbers, upping it to as much as 23.

“It won’t be a tsunami (because BN will still get their two-thirds), but it will be an expensive earthquake,” said a lady supporter attending the ceramah last nite to a question posed by FMT.

The run-up

On Wednesday morning an Umno insider’s SMS to FMT indicated that Umno intelligence had conceded 29 seats to Pakatan which would effectively end BN’s aspiration for a two thirds majority.

Fearful of a fall, the insider said Umno campaigners had been directed to target specific seats and flood the rural areas with ‘essential necessities.’

According to the insider some RM30 million would make its way to rural and semi-rural voters on Thursday and Friday.

Yesterday morning state PKR vice-president Granda Aing told FMT that each household in Tasik Biru constituency, where incumbent Peter Nansian is defending his seat, had received RM1,000 each and the community chief RM6,000.

“It’s already happening…we are receiving ground reports of large amounts being dispensed. In some places the amount is much more,” he said on sidelines of a press conference by Anwar.

At the press conference Anwar had warned voters to be ‘careful and alert.’

“We have told our people in the longhouses and outskirts to be wary of BN’s gifts,” he said adding his concern over last-minute tactics by BN to secure a victory.

High on the list of tactics is the ‘unexplainable’ additional 87,000 odd new voters.

According to Anwar over the last few days, planeloads of army personnel have been arriving in Sarawak.
“They say its for security reasons… if so, why are they plainclothed,” he asked, adding that reports indicated some 20,000 of them had arrived in time for the election.

This aside there is the other issue of postal votes.

In an unprecedented move the Election Commission has allowed postal voting to be extended to tomorrow.
Shocked observers have described the EC’s decision as putting in place a ‘Plan B’ in the event BN loses.
There are 18,363 postal voters in Sarawak.

High cost to Taib

The 2011 state election has opened the doors to a new realisation in Sarawak, one might even call it a new dawn.

A two-thirds or ‘overwhelming’ victory for BN today would have come at an embarrassing cost to Taib, PBB and SUPP.

People would have voted for Najib not Taib. People would have voted for Umno not Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

Najib saved Taib and a drowning Sarawak BN coalition when he decided to park himself and his entourage in Sarawak.

And for that Taib will have to pay the price in more than one way.

Speculations are rife that Taib  would now be compelled to name a successor who is Umno-friendly and review his stand over the Federal Government’s long-held interest in obtaining Bintulu and turning it into a Federal Territory like Labuan.

Heading Taib’s list for a successor is his Minister of Planning and Resource Management II Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.

But sources to close to PBB here say that Umno would ‘prefer’ to have Sarawak Housing Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg, which perhaps also explains why BN’s final ceramah last night, which hosted former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the rest of the Umno delegation, was held in Kampung Ajibal Abol in Abang Johari’s constituency.

In exacting blood, Umno would have achieved its aim to finally push through Taib’s gilded gates into the state.
Already a ‘cawangan’ is in place in Kuching, much to the consternation of some Malays here who have found the whole election campaign and Umno’s intrusion into Sarawak politics embarrasing.

According to a PBB source Umno-BN had ‘played dirty.’

“Umno saw an opportunity here and they stepped in and took control. They showed up PBB and SUPP’s weaknesses. They embarassed us,” said the source.

End of the read for SUPP


Meanwhile political observers here have buried SUPP.

“SUPP is finished just like Gerakan in the peninsular was wiped out in the 2008 GE,” noted an observer.
In the bag for the opposition, political observers here say, are Padungan, Pending, Batu Lintang, Kota Sentosa, Repok, Bukit Assek, Pelawan, Kidurong, Piasau and Pujut.

“Other likely seats are Ba Kelalan, Layar, Krian and Pelagus,” said an observer adding that Bawang Assan, Dudong, and Meradong were also to be watched.

Dr M: No Single Malaysian Race Can Have All They Want

(Bernama) - MUKAH -- In a multiracial country like Malaysia, no single race can get 100 per cent of their rights fulfilled, says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"It is very important for the people to understand and accept the fact that we cannot get all our demands.

"We need to sacrifice some of our rights to accommodate others in order to create a peaceful and stable society for greater development, progress and prosperity," he said when speaking at the "Berambeh Jegem (Get-Together) with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad" event, here, on Friday.

Also present were Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and wife Ragad Kurdi Taib.

Abdul Taib is defending his Balingian seat in the state election today.

A large crowd of about 3,000 people turned up at the Kingwood Resort where Dr Mahathir attended the function.

The former premier also talked at length on the need to have a strong, formidable and responsible government to create jobs and business opportunities to enable the people to earn regular income and enjoy a better living standard.

"This had been and is the policy of the government of Malaysia under past prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, myself, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak," he said.

Dr Mahathir called on all Malaysians, particularly Sarawakians, to be knowledgeable and wise in discharging their democratic rights to safeguard the peace, unity and harmony prevalent among Malaysians

He also reminded Malaysians to refrain from being confrontational but to be tolerant and accommodative as the country moved forward to become a developed nation in the near future.

Dr Mahathir said the poor distribution of wealth in Africa and Middle Eastern countries was the main cause of unhappiness and dissatisfaction among the poor and ordinary people.

He praised Najib's leadership, saying he had full confidence in him.

He said Najib should be supported by all Malaysians, irrespective of race, creed and faith.

The Unending Haunt Of Altantuya

http://dupahang.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/altantuya-2.gifBy Kim Quek

Raja Petra Kamarudin’s interview by TV3 last night is undoubtedly a piece of political propaganda aimed at cleansing Prime Minister Najib Razak’s taint with the Altantuya murder case ahead of the Sarawak elections two days from now.

Raja Petra’s interview was centered on an affidavit he signed on 18the June 2008, in which he claimed he was reliably informed by his informer that Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor was at the scene of the crime, witnessing the blasting of Altantuya’s body. Raja Petra now claims that he no longer believes what he believed then.

Let us be very clear on this issue at the very outset. The veracity or otherwise of that affidavit as well as whatever belief or disbelief Raja Petra may have over the Altantuya case does not add or subtract one bit to the dark clouds that have persisted to hound Najib over this murder case.

FAILURE OF INSTITUTIONS

Such negative perceptions of Najib do not arise from so-and-so says this or that. Rather, they have accumulated over Najib’s own failure to conduct himself appropriately as well as the overtly protective shield provided by our law-enforcing institutions to keep Najib out of bound to due legal process – to the point of dereliction of duty, bordering on criminal collusion. It is these flagrant institutional failures as well Najib’s clumsily evasive conduct that has deepened public suspicion of his involvement.

These instances are too many to enumerate, but we will mention a few to refresh public memory.

Starting with the police, there is no reason whatsoever why the police should have left Najib and his aide-de-camp Musa Safri out of its loop of investigation, when all the three accused were closely linked to Najib and it was Musa who instructed the first two accused to tackle Altantuya.

Police failure was even more glaring when it failed to act on private investigator P. Subramaniam’s all three affidavits and video interview by three senior lawyers. The information provided by Bala in these documents not only incriminated Najib (in first affidavit), but also accused Rosmah and Najib’s brother Nazim of forcing Bala and his family to flee the country with bribe and threats (recorded in video interview and submitted via the third affidavit). The third affidavit was in reply to Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) written questions, and submitted in July 2010. There has been no response from MACC, despite written reminders by Bala’s lawyer.

What possible reason is there for the police and MACC to remain silent over these serious accusations, backed by factual details, against the Prime Minister and his family? If Najib and family is innocent, wouldn’t these law enforcing bodies have sprung to action in the first instance to clear the PM and family of such horrible stigma?

BIZARRE IRREGULARITIES

The scenario in the court is even more bizarre. Revealing and critical evidence exposed in court was quickly smothered, instead of being pursued in the cause of truth and justice. The extra-ordinary part is that the attempt to bury these new evidences was not engendered by one or two parties but by all the three parties acting in concert – prosecutor, defence and judge.

These evidences included the erasure of immigration record of Altantuya and her Mongolian companions, and an alleged photograph of Najib, Altantuya and the third accused having a meal in a restaurant. The former evidence would have yielded important lead to some high power involvement in the case, while the latter would have nailed Najib (if proven) who had repeatedly sworn that he had never known nor met Altantuya.

This grotesque phenomenon of confluence of interest of all the judicial players to suppress new evidence can have only one explanation – Najib must be kept out of this case.

That justice might not have been fully served through the sentencing of the first two accused to death should be obvious, when the court never bothered to probe into the motive of executing the girl – and in such cruel fashion. It is not difficult to fathom why motive of murder was never mentioned in court. The simple answer is: there is none.

The two convicted killers, who were bodyguards to Najib, and trained to execute order rigidly without question, had no motive on their own to kill someone they had never met. And since the third accused, who was accused of instigating the killing, was set free due to lack of evidence, then the remaining question must be: who ordered the killing? Is it conceivable that the bodyguards had killed without order and without motive? Isn’t it to logical to duduce that the mastermind and real culprit may still be lurching somewhere beyong the realm of the court?

It is clear that major questions and swirling doubts over the handling of the case are still unresolved. Until these are satisfactorily answered through a just court and an honourable police force, which can only be brought into existence through a complete change of political leadership, it is na├»ve to hope for the return of justice to the Altantuya family and the nation. And until such time, Premier Najib Razak cannot expect to be free from the haunt of Altantuya’s murder.

Kim Quek

Malaysia BN will keep Sarawak by a hair’s breadth, say analysts

The Malaysian Insider


KUCHING, April 16 — The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) will retain Sarawak today but will end the race with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) dangerously close at its heels, say analysts.

Their polls projections, which were cautious at first, have now grown significantly optimistic for the opposition force, which is contesting in its first-ever state election under the PR umbrella.

Three analysts told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that BN was likely en route to yet another electoral victory in the hornbill state but the contest for two-thirds majority was too close to call.

Such a prediction would have been laughed off at campaign kick-off last week but consistent reports of massive rally turnouts and talk of rising anger against the state’s powerful Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud have now drawn a question mark over BN’s ability to maintain its near-dominance in the 71-seat state assembly.

When at first even PR leaders admitted their goals would be impossible to achieve, the final day of campaigning yesterday saw Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim declaring that the newborn alliance would far surpass its targets.

“We are very confident we are going to go far beyond that, we are pushing to deny BN its monopoly of the state,” he said during a press conference yesterday afternoon.

According to sources, PR is now betting largely on victory in 34 state seats, with DAP winning in 13 of the 15 seats it is contesting, followed by PKR’s 19 of 49 seats and PAS’s two of five state seats.

PR needs to win in at least 24 state seats to deny BN its customary two-thirds majority, and 36 seats to form a new government in Sarawak.

The pact’s wins are expected to come largely from the urban and semi-urban state seats, particularly in constituencies within the main townships and city and their outskirts.

Analysts were similarly as optimistic over PR’s chances, pointing out that the usually conservative political culture in Sarawak had changed significantly in the past week.

Voters, they said, were now not only more politically aware but were also willing to unreservedly declare their grouses with the ruling administration, an uncharacteristic trait in the past.

Tonight’s outcome, said the analysts, would bank on how successful BN’s use of its entire state and federal government machinery has been in convincing voters to stick to the ruling pact.

When polling opens at 1,749 centres across the state this morning, 979,796 voters will face the crucial decision of whether to “vote for change” or vote for “transformation”, the two messages spread by PR and BN over the 10-day campaign period.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak lecturer Dr Faisal Syam Hazis, who has been criss-crossing Sarawak to observe the heated campaign, said that over the past 10 days voters across all different communities had shared one major grouse — their disenchantment with Taib or “Pek Moh”.

“The message is very clear. People are echoing the call for change and I can see this even in the Dayak areas.

“Many are really disappointed with the BN… you can sense that sentiment. Promises were made to them to provide water and roads, to give them employment opportunities, but they were only made during elections,” he said.

Faisal said PR’s performance would bank heavily on the protest vote — constituents who were upset with BN but who did not necessarily subscribe to the opposition’s policies.

But the professor said this would not bear any similarity to the protest vote in the tsunami of 2008 as Sarawak’s voter dynamics and political situation were significantly different from those of states in the peninsula.

“The issues are different here so let me put it like this — I think the opposition will win more seats and could deny two-thirds but it is too close to call,” he said.

Faisal also noted that another major factor was the possibility of vote-rigging and election irregularities, which the opposition has predicted would likely occur today.

The pact has already complained of cash handouts allegedly given by BN agents to voters, ranging between RM100 for each voter and up to RM2,000. Villages in the interior areas, they claimed, were even given RM6,000 allocations.

“And look, PR is not only up against BN’s already massive election machinery, it is also up against the entire federal and state government machinery.

“You can observe how this has been constantly used in rural areas; Kemas, the Education Department, the police, all government departments and the deployment of the entire federal and state Cabinet ministers to help in the polls,” he said.

Faisal described this as the “politics of Panadol”, noting that this would likely cost PR many seats.

“This is when although people are unhappy, these instant-noodle projects and handouts will convince them to vote for BN but after the polls, the suffering continues,” he said.

He claimed that if PR and BN had entered the contest on a level-playing field, it was without a doubt that PR could deny BN its two-thirds majority and even have a fighting chance to win the state.

Universiti Putra Malaysia lecturer Professor Jayum Anak Jawan was less optimistic of PR’s chances but agreed with his fellow academic that the pact would perform significantly better than it had in 2006.

In the 2006 polls, the DAP won in only six seats and PKR in one.

Jayum admitted that the opposition force had put up a fierce fight in the polls and had made inroads in many areas, particularly among the urban and semi-urban communities.

“I see quite a lot of people who are excited about the polls, especially around the major towns like in Kuching, Sibu and Miri.

“But the Bidayuh seats and the Malay/Melanaus, are not so easy… although many areas are said to be volatile as their BN candidates are new faces,” he said.

But Jayum predicted that this would not translate into a resounding victory for PR and tonight’s results would bring no surprises.

He explained that many of the local communities like the Malay/Melanau, the Ibans and Bidayuhs were a sentimental and loyal lot and had an emotional attachment to their representatives in government.

“They may be unhappy and complain that their land had been stolen but at crunch time, they will vote for BN. Don’t ask me why, it is baffling to me too,” he said.

Jayum said more was needed to “shake” the Dayaks out from political complacency as they were not likely to “jump ship”.

“On that basis, I am not confident that they will abandon the ruling coalition completely,” he said.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Associate Professor Shaharudin Badaruddin agreed with his comrades, saying that this was by far the most heated state contest he had ever witnessed.

He explained that in the previous two state polls in 2001 and 2006, voters had generally stayed in the comfort of their homes and went about their daily businesses instead of joining in the campaign festivities by attending political events.

The professor expressed awe at the vast changes, describing it as a “strong undercurrent” sweeping the state.

“It is quite remarkable to see how accepting these people are… I have seen lorries driven by Chinese displaying PAS flags.

“I tried snapping pictures of PKR flags on display once and a Bidayuh woman scolded me, warning me against defacing the flags.

“And this is in the rural areas. There is also a protest even from the Malay community… so easily, they can get more than 19 seats, or perhaps, deny BN two-thirds,” he said.

Polling begins at 8am today and ends at 5pm.

The Election Commission expects the final vote tally to be announced by 11pm.

There are 979,796 registered voters in Sarawak, with the Chinese making up the largest community at 31.5 per cent, the Ibans 29 per cent, Malay/Melanaus at 27.5 per cent, Bidayuhs eight per cent, Orang Ulus 3.7 per cent and others 0.26 per cent.

Voting Runs Smoothly In Sarawak

KUCHING, April 16 (Bernama) -- The people of Sarawak went to the 1,749 polling centres which were set up at the schools, community halls and longhouses in the interior areas as early as 8am for the 10th state election Saturday.

A check around the city found that the voters had started to queue up at the polling centres since early morning despite the drizzle.

The Meteorological Department predicted rain in the afternoon in several areas.

In Sibu and Miri, the weather in the morning was bright and voters had come out gradually with the situation reported to be calm.

The polling centres were closed in stages as early as 9am in the interior areas before the polling process concluded at 5pm.

Sarawak Housing and Urban Development Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, and Special Advisor in the Chief Minister's Office Tan Sri Adenan Satem voted at the Dewan Merpati Jepang, Satok here.

Abang Johari was defending his Satok state seat while Adenan defended his Tanjung Datu seat.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who was defending his Balingian seat, was also scheduled to cast his ballot at the same centre.

The Election Commission expected a higher turnout of between 65 and 75 per cent, compared with 63.2 per cent in 2006.

Thousands demonstrate in Syrian cities

Syrian security forces have dispersed thousands of protesters marching towards central Damascus from the suburb of Douma, witnesses say.

Haitham al-Maleh, an activist and lawyer, told Al Jazeera on Friday that protesters were close to Abasyeen Square when the intelligence services brought several buses carrying men with "pistols and sticks" who attacked protesters. He said those injured were taken away by medics.

Other sources said security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

"I counted 15 mukhabarat [secret police] busloads. They went into the alleyways just north of the square chasing protesters and yelling 'you pimps, you infiltrators, you want freedom? we will give it to you'," a witness told Reuters news agency.

Elsewhere in the capital, violence reportedly erupted when dozens of armed men in plain clothes surrounded about 250 protesters rallying in front of the Salam mosque in Barzeh district.

Thousands were also demonstrating in the southern city of Daraa.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reported earlier in the day that security forces were not visible in the city, and that the protesters were being allowed to hold their demonstration.

"It's a completely different scene from last Friday when more than 26 people were killed during protests and clashes with the security forces and protesters here. Today, no security forces are visible at all. People went out after Friday prayers ... in thousands. They were marching carrying olive branches saying 'peaceful, freedom'. Some were demanding the toppling of the regime, others were saying they just want reforms," she reported.

"It comes one day after a delegation from Daraa met with President Assad in an attempt by the government to calm the situation. Now here in Daraa, these measures seem to have calmed the situation a little bit. People say the president promised them very specific reforms that will be announced very soon, maybe as early as next week."

Peaceful protests

Protests were also held in Baniyas, Latakia, Baida and Homs, but no clashes were reported there.

In the coastal city of Baniyas about 1,500 people chanted "freedom" after Friday prayers, despite the deployment of the army to contain protests, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rallies were also reported in the city of Deir ez-Zor, on the Euphrates river, and in Qamishli in the mainly Kurdish northeast.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, urged Syria to halt its deadly crackdown on protesters and respond to the democratic hopes of its people.

"We call on the Syrian authorities once again to refrain from any further violence against their own people," she told reporters in Berlin after a NATO meeting.

"The Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate demands of the Syrian people. It is time for the Syrian government to stop repressing their citizens and start responding to their aspirations."

Rights groups say at least 120 people have been killed since protests began last month.

On Thursday, the Syrian government announced an amnesty for scores of prisoners detained since protests began. President Assad has also unveiled a new cabinet, in a move to placate those calling for political changes.

Last Friday, Syrian security forces shot dead more than 26 people in Daraa after thousands of people staged pro-democracy rallies after midday prayers.

The protesters were killed when security forces opened fire with rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

One of the key demands of the protesters has been the lifting of emergency law in the country, which has been in place since 1963.

Al Jazeera's Amin reported that the delegation from Daraa which met with the president was satisfied with his promises that the law would lifted in the coming weeks.

"According to the delegation that met with the president, he told them that [the emergency law] will be lifted. They said it is going to be lifted by April 25, the deadline that the government had announced, and they are happy with that.

"They feel this is one of the major issues and the source of many of the problems. They are tired and have had enough of the security forces having a free hand in arresting people, putting them in prison without trial for years," she reported.

US-based rights group Human Rights Watch said Syrian security forces have been torturing political prisoners since March. The group is calling on the government to begin an independent investigation into the arrest and alleged abuse of hundreds of protesters.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

101 East: India - Microfinance, banking on debt

Microfinance has long been seen as a way to lift the destitute out of poverty. But recently it has been hit by headlines about scores of Indian borrowers driven to suicide.

Critics say the industry has grown too fast, with loose regulation creating multiple loans to overextended borrowers and allowing some unscrupulous players to thrive.

A crackdown has now frozen microlending in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, India's most important microfinance market, with the central bank stepping in to try and stop microfinance institutions from going bankrupt.

Yet supporters for microfinance argue that extending credit to the poor, mostly women, has fostered small businesses, helped promote gender equality, lifted incomes, and improved access to food and education for some of the world's most desperate citizens.

This week on 101 East we ask, what is the future of microcredit in India? Can it improve people's lives, or is it driving the poor into new cycles of unending debt?

‘New varsity forms a mockery of 1M’sia’

Hundreds of sub-races have been included in the application form for entry into local univerisities, and this has got a former state Bar Council chief all riled up.

IPOH: The new application forms for entry into local universities issued by Unit Pusat Universiti (UPU) for this year makes a mockery of Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept to unite all races.

Former Perak Bar Council chief M Mathialagan said: “Previously, there were only four columns to indicate the race of a university applicant – Malay, Chinese, Indian or other races.

“But now these four columns have been further sub-divided to include hundreds of sub-races that is mind-boggling and makes a mockery of the 1Malaysia concept,” said the outspoken lawyer.

He said the Malays have been subdivided into six categories: Bugis, Boyan, Banjar, Jawa, Jawi Pekan and Minangkabau.

The Indians are sub-divided into eight categories: Malayali, Punjabi, Sikh, Tamil, Telegu, Malabari, Indian Muslim and Orissa.

The Chinese race is sub-divided into 12 categories: Cantonese, Foochow, Hainansee, Henghua, Hokchia, Hokchiu, Hokkien, Khek (Hakka), Kwongsai, Teochew, Kongfoo and Hylam.

The Orang Asli (Peninsula) are sub-divided into eight categories: Jakun, Negrito, Sakai, Semai, Semalai, Temiar, Senoi and Penan.

The Sarawak population has the largest number of sub-divided races (57) while Sabah’s population is sub-divided into 36 categories.

Said Mathialagan: “Our future generations should not be classified into sub-races but should be treated as one Malaysian race .”

“The requirement by the UPU application forms is counterproductive and is a mockery of Najib’s 1Malaysia concept. Why the need for this now?” he asked.

“This will only generate class consciousness among Malaysians and divide the people further,” he said.
According to him, a university applicant has to pay RM50 to BSN to get a pin number to access his application form from the Internet.

The closing date for this year’s intake into local universities was April 4.

Video: P.Ramesh, Sg. Siput MP & 12 others arrested.

‘Raja Petra interview taken out of context’

TV3 is accused of selectively cutting out portions of the interview to put BN in a good light, while painting a negative image of Pakatan Rakyat.

KUALA LUMPUR: A TV3 interview of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was completely taken out of context, claimed the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM).

MCLM president Haris Ibrahim also accused TV3 of selectively cutting out portions of the interview to put Barisan Nasional in a good light, while painting a negative image of Pakatan Rakyat.

“The fact is that the quotes by Raja Petra (who is the MCLM chairman) in the heavily edited video recording have been taken out of context and caused the message to be grossly distorted,” he said.

Haris also claimed that newspapers such as The Star and the Malay Mail had put words in Raja Petra’s mouth.

‘What link to Anwar’s aides?’

He attacked the mainstream media for saying that Raja Petra linked Anwar’s aides to murdered Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Haris said although The Malay Mail printed “Anwar’s aides”, Raja Petra said that there was only one person who approached him over Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s apparent link to Altantuya.

According to Raja Petra’s article “Now that the Shit has hit the fan” on his blog Malaysia Today, this person was allegedly Nik Azmi Nik Daud, one of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s aides.

Haris added that the only instance where a confidante of Anwar might have been used was Din Merican.

In the same article, Raja Petra said that he was assured by Din that Nik Azmi was a very reliable source.

In its report yesterday based on the TV3 interview, The Star quoted Raja Petra as saying: “I no longer accept the story. I think it’s quite impossible.”

According to Haris, Raja Petra had said: “I did not accept the veracity of the claim at the time, because it was quite incredible.”

Never questioned Anwar’s credibility

Haris also pointed out that Raja Petra never undermined Anwar’s credibility as the opposition leader.

“If you go through the entire video clip, you will not find once where Raja Petra says Anwar has lost complete credibility,” he said.

He added that TV3′s voiceovers had obscured the blogger’s words, making it seem as though he was singling out Anwar.

Additionally, Haris said that both he and Raja Petra had criticised the opposition on numerous occasions for its poor performance in recent times, and this was “nothing new”.

“We have said this time and time again. We do this almost as how a father chastises a child whom he loves. We criticise the opposition because we hope to see improvements,” he added.

Haris stressed that MCLM was still strongly “aligned” with Pakatan over Najib’s alleged connection to Altantuya’s death.

“Najib, if you think what Raja Petra said lets you off the hook, sorry, we the thinking members of the civil society will continue until justice has been brought to bear,” he said.

Not aware of RPK’s interview

Haris also said that he did not know that Raja Petra had conducted the interview with TV3 until it was aired.

“If I was aware, I would have advised him not to take up the interview,” he said, adding that Raja Petra might have been too enthusiastic in his attempts to “reveal the truth”.

The MCLM president also challenged the television station to air the full unedited copy of the interview.

“We have only seen a little over 10 minutes. We challenge TV3 to put the unedited full video on YouTube,” he said.

Haris also said that it was “impossible” for Raja Petra to have been bought over or pressured by the government to give his interview.

“I don’t believe anyone can coerce this man. …In 2008, he was subjected to round-the-clock interrogation by seven Special Branch officers and they couldn’t break him,” he said.

‘BN running scared’

Haris also claimed that the release of the TV3 interview was to derail Pakatan’s chances in the Sarawak state election.

He told Sarawakians not to be distracted by “this media spin” and to focus on the polls instead.

Some loyalists, some untouchables

The Sarawak Indians are divided on their stand in this crucial election.
KUCHING: Lucy Lingam, 58, owns and runs the only banana leaf restaurant in Kuching. The constant stream of customers has kept her business thriving for years and she cannot imagine enjoying the same success elsewhere in Malaysia. But other Indians can.

“There used to be 7,000 Indians in Sarawak,” she said. “But only about 5,000 are still here because the rest have sought a better life in KL or abroad. It’s a shame because Sarawak is a very good place for the Indian community.”

Lucy is a fourth generation Indian. The original community, who settled in Kuching in the 1860s, was a group who arrived to work at the Mount Matang tea plantation there. While the community grew over the centuries, they still only comprise a very thin slice of Sarawak’s diverse racial pie.

A majority of Indians in Sarawak believe that they lead more prosperous and trouble-free lives than their Peninsular bretheren. But there are also many who believe they are deprived of the opportunities enjoyed by Indians across the South China Sea.

Lucy belongs to the first group. As the deputy president of the Sarawak Indian Society and Sarawak’s first Indian “kapitan”, she has seen and heard it all from her community.

“The lives of Indians here are nowhere as difficult as the lives of those in KL,” she stated. “We’re not discriminated against, we’re not embroiled in social ills and we don’t have hardcore poor.”
Lucy’s husband, Sanmugalingam Murugesu, 61, is an Indian from the Peninsula and he heartily agreed. He explained the difference between the communities in the East and West is that the former never had to adapt to a foreign lifestyle.

“A majority of KL Indians were herded out of estates and forced to survive in the city,” he said. “They were lost and they were desperate, hence the gangsterism and illegal squatters.”

“Kuching, however, was like Matang back then so the Indians didn’t need to adjust when they left the plantation. And they have come a long way.”

“We’re not oppressed here so we’re not a hardened lot. Also our minority status means that we’re constantly surrounded by other races so we integrate well into society.”

‘ We don’t bootlick’
The couple live in the Batu Lintang constituency which houses the highest number of Indian voters in Sarawak. According to Election Commission statistics, 1,754 Indians are registered voters with 367 of them residing in Batu Lintang.

Lucy, who is also the SUPP chairman for Batu Lintang, said that many Indians didn’t see a need to change a government that was treating them well.

But she was quick to add that it didn’t mean they weren’t pushing for more benefits. Topping their list is a public holiday for Deepavali and a quota for Indians in the civil service.

“(Hindu Rights Action Force) Hindraf certainly brought about more opportunities for us in the civil service,” she confided cheekily. “But then Hindraf strayed off its course and became irrelevant to the Indians here.”
“We need a quota system because we’re not just competing with the majority races here but also the Peninsular Indians. And most of the time they get the jobs. And a holiday on Deepavali is very important to instill a sense of belonging within the Indians.”

Lawyer Sankar Ram Asnani, 41, is among the contented Indians in the state. He described the Indians as loyalists and was certain that they would not turn their back on the BN government.

“We don’t bootlick,” he said. “It’s not our habit. But we cannot deny that the government has given us land for temples and fair business and employment opportunities.”

“I know many Indians who complain of being deprived of job opportunites, but usually it’s because they use inappropriate channels. They have then come to me for help and I have always managed to help them get jobs.”

‘Really what’s the rush?’
Piara Singh, 73, who arrived in Malaysia in 1953, didn’t hesistate when asked whether he had to think long and hard about his vote in this election.
“I’m voting for the government,” he said openly. “Punjabis have a long history of defending Sarawak and the government has been good to us. It has retained and maintained our monuments, and never tried to exclude us from history.”

But an Indian businessman, who insisted on anonymity, begged to differ. He claimed that his children had remained unemployed for a year despite their high qualifications.

“The Indians here are treated like untouchables,” he said. “We are not given any support by government despite being obedient citizens.”

“The BN will lose many Indian votes this time. Much of my business is with the government but I’m voting DAP and so are my friends because the Indians in Penang have it good.”

To further illustrate what he viewed as mistreatement of the Indians, he said that Kuching didn’t even have a shop that sold religious artifacts, flowers or coconuts.

According to him, devotees picked flowers from the roadside and climbed coconut trees themselves. Lucy sighed upon hearing this story.

“First, some Indians prefer complaining and begging for handouts instead of working,” she began. “Second, many turn down jobs in the private sector because they have been raised to believe that only government jobs are good.”

“Third, they don’t recognise opportunities. Why doesn’t anyone pluck the coconuts and flowers and sell them? The eight scrap metal shops in Kuching belong to Peninsular Indians. There was a need for these shops and Sarawak Indians didn’t see it.”

Sanmugalingam chuckled at his wife’s exasperation. To him there was no need to get all worked up over issues that could be resolved with plain rationale. Like the fact that there is no Indian candidate fielded for the election.

“It doesn’t make sense when there is no predominantly Indian area on which they can concentrate,” he said. “We are too small a community to warrant an Indian party even. And we don’t really need an Indian representative to take care of us. What is so pressing that we need to storm the State Legislative Assembly to be heard?”
“Left the way we are, the Sarawak Indians will take time to catch up with those in the Peninsula. But really what’s the rush?”

Sacked trio’s return to MIC causing discord

Former anti-Samy Vellu movement coordinators' formal acceptance into the party is against the constitution, says disgruntled members.

PETALING JAYA: Even as MIC president G Palanivel prepares to woo Indian votes through a Tamil New Year programme tonight, voices of discontent are growing within the party.

The reason: he is expected to bring in former MIC deputy Youth leader V Mugilan, and former central working committee (CWC) members KP Samy and G Kumar Amaan.

The trio’s return to the fold is to be approved at the CWC meeting on April 23.

A party source said that the move to reinstate the trio, who were sacked by former president S Samy Vellu, was against the party constitution.

The trio were key players in the Anti-Samy Vellu Movement (GAS) last year that pressured Samy Vellu to step down from leading the party.

The movement fizzled out when Palanivel subsequently took over the helm. The source quoted Article 61.5 of the party constitution which states:

“After the expiry of two years from the date of expulsion, such expelled member(s) may re-apply for membership to the central working committee through a branch congress.”

“Discipline is lacking because the president himself is ignoring or choosing to override party constitution,” the party insider said.

Grassroots losing confidence in Palanivel

Ironically, it was KS Nijhar, in his capacity as disciplinary committee head, who recommended the sacking of the trio, the source said.

The source also told FMT that there are speculations on the ground that Palanivel and Nijhar were key players behind the disbanded GAS movement.

He also said that grassroots members were losing confidence in Palanivel’s leadership.

“Now ‘Singh is King’ in MIC and the kingmaker is Nijhar,” the source said. “Singh is King” is a title of the Hindi film starring Bollywood heartthrobs, Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif.

The allegations against Punjabi leaders is due to their well-placed positions in the party. Nijhar is an organising committee and disciplinary committee chairman in the CWC.

Randhir Singh leads the party’s social arm, Yayasan Strategik Sosial, and Jasbir Singh is the party treasurer.

There have also been many grouses about the scheduling of the CWC meeting on April 23.

“People are tired of attending meetings at nights and late evenings. During Samy Vellu’s time, CWC meetings were held in the mornings or at 2pm,” added the source.

Islamic NGOs protest handling of Al-Kitab issue

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of Islamic NGOs will not let the issue of the Malay bibles go quietly. They gathered outside the National Mosque to protest at how the Christian community and the government handled the probem.

The organisers, the Muslim Organisations in Defence of Islam (Pembela), a coalition of 20 Muslim bodies, claimed that the Christian community had gone overboard in defending the Malay bibles.

“In efforts to resolve this issue, we find that the statements being made and the actions taken have gone so far as to challenge the sovereignty of Islam itself,” Pembela spokesman Yusri Mohamad said.

“We believe that there is a hidden agenda to open the Islamic society in Malaysia to apostacy or at the very least inject pluralistic, secular and extreme liberal religious views that would erode the integrity and identity of Muslims in Malaysia,” he told a small crowd after Friday prayers.

Yusri said that if the Christian community continued their “provocative” and defiant ways, then some 100 Muslims groups that supports Pembela would quit from the Special Committee to Promote Inter-Religious Understanding and Harmony that was formed by the Cabinet.

Pembela also condemned the 10-point solution that the government has come up with, calling it the “Idris Jala formula”.

Yusri claimed that discussions were only made with Christian groups but neglected the opinions of Muslim groups. The law lecturer said that the release of the Al-Kitab for distribution went against the Federal Constitution.

“The Idris Jala formula is clearly a decision to stoop to the manipulative, confrontative strategies of the Christian groups; the Federal Constitution states that the special position of Islam should be respected,” he said, adding that Pembela is considering challenging the solution in court.

Yusri also condemned the way the government has “given in” due to the timing of the issue coinciding with the election in Sarawak.

He urged all politicians not to sell out Islam in favour of pleasing voters.

Yusri said all issues should follow due processes and this included the issue over the banning of the usage of the word “Allah” for Christians.

When asked about PAS leaders saying they had no problems with Malay bibles, Yusri said that was probably not the opinion of all PAS members.

Meanwhile, Muslim NGO Perkid president Masridzi Sat said Muslims would not compromise on this issue.
Also present was ex-Perkasa Youth chief Armand Azha Abu Hanifah and Jamaah Islah Malaysia organisation president Zaid Kamaruddin who stressed that the “status quo” should be maintained.

The Home Ministry caused a furore in the Christian community when it seized 35,000 copies of the Al-Kitab in Port Klang (in 2009) and Kuching Port (Jan 12, this year). The books were deemed a threat to national security.

After much public pressure, the government agreed to release the bibles but not before stamping the Home Ministry’s official seal on them, along with a “For Christians Only” label.

This angered the importers who refused to collect the bibles, with numerous Christian groups accusing the government of desecrating the holy books.

Earlier this month, the government issued a 10-point solution to solve the issue, and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak himself promised that the bibles will never again be impounded.

However, the solution has not pleased all parties as several Christian groups have rejected it. The Al-Kitab matter is not the first Christian issue to have been brought up in recent times. Last year, a massive row erupted over the use of the word “Allah” in the Malay version of the Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald.
Subsequent events led to a number of churches being damaged. In December, one of Najib’s aides allegedly instructed Catholic church officials to remove crucifixes and to avoid singing hymns during Najib’s Christmas visit to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

MAF probe on senior military officer allegedly associated with RPK

(Bernama) - The Defence Ministry has identified one of its senior officers who was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to malign a government leader in connection with the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The officer has been relieved of official duties pending investigations.

Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) chief Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin said the military was conducting a probe into the alleged involvement of the officer, a colonel.

"Information supplied by the officer to blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was false and it had never existed in our files," he said in a statement Friday.

Azizan said a military probe showed that the officer had made a personal choice in associating himself with an opposition leader, and it had nothing to do with the MAF.

He said an investigation into Raja Petra's claims would be conducted as soon as possible. To this end, a board of inquiry would be set up, he added.

"Further action will be based on the findings of the probe," said Azizan.

Sanctions for Malaysian Press Union Boss


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Hata Wahari
(Asia Sentinel) Utusan Malaysia inquiry finds leading journalist guilty

Malaysian National Union of Journalists President Hata Wahari has been found guilty of eight charges filed against him by his employer, Utusan Melayu Bhd, at the conclusion of a domestic inquiry.

The charges are widely regarded to have been triggered by Hata's statements about the lack of freedom in the country's mainstream press. A 16-year veteran reporter with the Malay-language paper, Hata was elected to head the journalists' union last September. The paper is owned by the United Malays National Organization, the country's biggest ethnic political party. He was ordered to appear before the domestic inquiry in January. He could face a severe reprimand, a salary cut or dismissal. The final decision was delayed for two weeks.

Most observers expect Hata to be dismissed. If he is sacked, he would be the third Utusan Malaysia (translated as Malaysia Courier) employee to lose his job because of union activity. Former NUJ president Yazid Othman and NUJ-Utusan Malaysia chairperson Amran Ahmad were also dismissed earlier. As with Yazid, Wahiri would be forced to give up the chairmanship of the union.

The country's political parties own most of Malaysia's major dailies and television stations, in Malay, English, Chinese or Tamil languages. Utusan is just one of several newspapers controlled by UMNO. Although opposition parties own their own publications, they are under strict licensing rules that require renewal each year. While the mainstream press face the same restrictions, their ownership serves as an even bigger impediment to impartial journalism. The Internet largely supplies the country's only independent journalism, a fact that appears to account for fast-growing online readership.

"I just issued a press statement asking the editors to please go back to our real function, to submit unbiased information to the public," Hata told Asia Sentinel in January when he was suspended and placed under house arrest. "At the moment, Utusan is doing propaganda for the government. They have raised up racial issues, so that is why they are losing the trust of most of the community in Malaysia. Everybody, even the common public, feels the same way.

"We have to go back to our original mission, not act as a propaganda tool for the government," he said. "That is why I issued that statement. I feel I have the support of all of my friends, from the political parties and from other NGOs."

Utusan Melayu charged the journalist with, among others, "revealing company secrets." However, Hata told local media that the eight charges he faced had nothing to do with company secrets but rather stemmed from reports published on the Web sites Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and in The Sun newspaper and the Merdeka Review.

The NUJ head has repeatedly criticized Utusan for its increasingly strident views on Malaysia's perennially tense race relations, saying the paper makes things worse with its rhetoric. He told Asia Sentinel that such policies have led to dwindling circulation for the paper, which was once the leading Malay-language publication in the country.

NUJ general-secretary V Anbalagan told local media the decision against Hata was "highly expected of Utusan Malaysia. I have to stress that Hata is only airing his views as a union person in highlighting the interests of the workers and mainly bread-and-butter issues." Hata's comments, he said, are protected by the NUJ constitution.

"Utusan Malaysia has no authority to take action or punish a union official,' Anbalagan added. The journalists' union, he said, would back Hata whatever the repercussions.

Malaysia's Center for Independent Journalism issued a statement saying it regretted the guilty verdict and urged a write-in campaign to Utusan's management because it is "within the right of an NUJ president to speak for the dignity and integrity of the profession, and reject political interference in the newsrooms. Fair comment is allowed as part of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

"Yet," the statement said, "the fact that punitive action can be taken against a journalist union leader for criticizing the lack of the very freedom that is foundational to the work of journalists speaks volumes of the state of press freedom in Malaysia."

Deny BN 2/3 majority in Sarawak polls to send powerful message to all Sarawakians and Malaysians – “Tomorrow can be better!”

Sarawak general elections eve of Polling Day message

Tomorrow is the polling day for the 10th Sarawak state general elections – the most important Sarawak general elections in 48 years since 1963.

It is also the first time that a state general elections will have a powerful, immediate and direct impact on national politics and policies – thanks to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who “closed down” Putrajaya for six days and directed the entire Cabinet to campaign in Sarawak!

As a result, Najib has added a new dimension to the April 16 polls – giving Sarawakians the unprecedented opportunity to pass verdict not only on the performance and record of the Chief Minister and Sarawak Barisan Nasional but also on the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional Malaysia-wide.l

Sarawak voters tomorrow have a double-barrelled challenge – at minimum to deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds majority in the Sarawak State Assembly majority to send two clear and unmistakable messages, viz:

• firstly to Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud that he should step down as Chief Minister not “in a few years time” but by tomorrow itself; and

• secondly to Najib that his signature policies of 1Malaysia, Government Transformation Programme and New Economic Model have failed to pass the test as they are just empty slogans bereft of real substance of reforms.

Najib’s 1Malaysia has been reduced into a “1 T-Shirt, 1 Tupperware, 1 burger” circus, after Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had declared that he is Malay first, Malaysian second!

Today, Taib gave Najib’s 1Malaysia one final cynical blow, abusing his powers of state immigration autonomy by denying one Indian, one Malay and one Chinese (Ambiga Sreenivasan, Haris Ibrahim and Wong Chin Huat) their fundamental right to enter Sarawak to “pursue legitimate political activity” to monitor the Sarawak elections tomorrow to ensure it is clean, free and fair!

Yesterday, the Prime Minister made a “passionate appeal to Sarawakians not to ‘ditch’ Barisan Nasional just because they are angry with weaknesses in the state and federal governments’ machinery or with Barisan parties or leaders”. (Star 15.4.11)

Clearly, the Prime Minister has admitted that the Barisan Nasional government and leaders, whether at state or federal levels, have gravely and greatly failed Sarawakians with their arrogance, unaccountability, misrule, abuses of power and corrupt practices.

All the more that the voters of Sarawak should at minimum tomorrow deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds majority in the Sarawak state assembly to send out the powerful message to all Sarawakians and Malaysians – “Tomorrow Can Be Better!”

Bersih lands in Sarawak!

Wong Chin Huat of the Bersih civil society coalition pushing for electoral reforms may have been denied entry into Sarawak, but today, another Bersih leader entered the state.

Enter Bersih: Kin Woon upon stepping out of Kuching Airport just after noon today

Bersih steering committee member Toh Kin Woon arrived in Kuching this morning. I bumped into him before and after the flight to Kuching. “I am very happy with what I am doing now,” he shared. “I feel like I am really serving the people now. Not that I wasn’t before, but this (civil society work) is more meaningful.”
He told me there are a couple of other groups already in the state monitoring the elections, notably Updates from the Ground undertaken by social communications NGO Komas and observer reports by the Malaysian Election Observers Network.

RPK: I’m no sellout

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — Controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin insisted today he is still behind the opposition cause and denied that he has sold out after giving an interview to TV3.

He caused a stir two days ago when he said on the national television station that he never accused Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife of being behind the gruesome 2006 murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shariibuu.

The editor of the Malaysia Today news portal explained his actions in an email interview with The Malaysian Insider. The full text is reproduced below.

TMI: You were recently in Australia, meaning you have a passport to travel. Where are you now and where are you based? Will you be coming back to Malaysia soon?

RPK: I am currently in Bali. And no, I will not be going back to Malaysia, at least not until the government changes. If Barisan Nasional remains the government then I shall have to be buried in Brookwood beside my mother when I die.

Why do you ask whether I am coming back to Malaysia? Because of my TV3 interview? If I do a TV3 interview and then return to Malaysia (which would mean I can’t if I did not do that interview) would that not be too obvious that the interview was a sell-out?

Stupid move don’t you think?

TMI: Why did you give the interview to TV3? You have attacked the press, especially mainstream, in Malaysia before. Why trust them? Are there no other avenues?

RPK: Do I need to trust them to give an interview?

I don’t trust you or Malaysian Insider either. I think you are tools for Khairy Jamaluddin and Kalimullah Hassan. Yet you send me this interview and yet I respond.

You came to me. I did not go to you. TV3 also came to me. I did not go to them.

(Note: The Malaysian Insider is not owned by or connected in any way to either Khairy Jamaluddin or Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan.)

TMI: Now PKR are calling you a turncoat for what they say is an attempt to discredit Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Is this true, or are they overreacting?

RPK: Anyone who whacks Najib, (Datin Seri) Rosmah (Mansor), (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad), (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin), Khairy (Jamaluddin), (Datuk) Mukhriz (Mahathir) and so on is a patriot, Godsend, loyal Malaysian, and reincarnation of Gandhi and Mother Teresa both in one, as far as the opposition is concerned.

Anyone who even mildly criticises the opposition or its leaders is a traitor, a turncoat, has been bought, has sold out, is doing it for money, and much more.

This is typical opposition mentality.

They accuse the government of not allowing freedom of speech. They mean, of course, freedom to criticise the government. But when you criticise the opposition that is not freedom of speech. You are a Judas.

Show me one thing I said in my TV3 interview that I have not said before. Is there anything new I have said in the TV3 interview or am I merely repeating myself?

People say: I merely write in Malaysia Today. How many people actually read Malaysia Today? How many Malaysians access the internet? Very few! Television, however, reaches 97 per cent of the population, they say.

But when I finally get on television they get upset. Why? Do you think TV3 is going to air my interview if I whack Najib and condemn the government? They give me airtime because I criticise Anwar.

You mean I have never criticised Anwar before? Anwar even criticised me in his talk in Sydney, Australia. You can see the video on Youtube. So we have been criticising each other for a long time.

In 2004, I resigned from Suara Keadilan in a huff during the PKR Ipoh convention due to a conflict and concentrated full time on Malaysia Today. So the “feud”, if you want to call it that, is seven years old, not something new.

The only difference between then and now is that, then, my criticism was confined to the Internet. Now it is on national television. That is the only difference. And that is the real issue here.

If I had said what I said on Australian radio and television (which I have) then people would not get upset. But when I say the same on TV3 they get upset. This is because TV3 is owned by Umno. But if TV3 happened to be owned by Anwar Ibrahim they would not mind. It is because it is owned by Umno that they are upset.

The trouble is they associate the opposition with Anwar. I am Rome and Rome is me! We need to change that. Anwar is Anwar and the opposition is the opposition. Anwar is not indispensable. We can’t put the entire future of the opposition just on Anwar.

What happens if Anwar is sent to jail? And there are reasons to believe he will. Does the opposition close down? We must be able to look beyond Anwar. This is not about Anwar. It is about the cause, the fight for change. Sometimes we may need to criticise Anwar to save the opposition.

And have I not said this many times before? So what am I saying now that I have never said before? I am just repeating myself here. Only this time it has gotten onto national television.

Incidentally, what I am saying is what many are also saying. The only difference is: they whisper behind Anwar’s back and praise him to his face. I tell it to his face. That is the only difference.

When Anwar was in jail from 1998 to 2004, how many of these Anwar “diehards” came to Anwar’s house every Thursday night. I used to go to his house on Thursday nights and the “crowd” was only about 100 or so.

Today, many people are Anwar diehards. Let’s see when the government again sends Anwar to jail whether these same people will be in Anwar’s house every Thursday night or whether the “crowd” will dwindle, yet again, to a mere 100.

Nurul Izzah (Anwar) and I went before the Australian Foreign Affairs Committee last month to brief the Parliamentarians about what the government is doing to Anwar and to ask for the help from the Australian government. One month before that I did this TV3 interview (although it just came out).

So, on the one hand I ask foreign governments to help Anwar. On the other hand I also criticise Anwar. Anwar and the cause are two separate issues. I may support one but I may criticise the other because they are two different issues.

TMI: Some have interpreted this as you saying DS Najib and his wife are not involved in the murder of Altantuya. Is this what you’re saying? Or are you still convinced they are involved?

RPK: Have you read my statutory declaration, which is the focus of my first interview? Did I allege they are involved in the murder or did I say that Lt-Kol Azmi Zainal Abidin made that allegation and, therefore, this has to be investigated? What I signed in that June 2008 SD is what I am still saying today.

TMI: People are speculating, as Malaysians do, that you gave this interview for reasons such as money or a deal to allow you to return to Malaysia without being charged or arrested. Your response?

RPK: Malaysians always and only think about money. So they try to read into everything you say or do as being about money. If I praise Anwar and the opposition, it is not about money. It is about the struggle, the cause, ideals, and so on.

Why don’t they also say that you were paid by Anwar to support the opposition? Only when you criticise the opposition and/or Anwar is it about money.

When a person is a thief, he imagines everyone else also as thieves. So when people only think about money, they always think that what you are doing must be about money. It can’t be for other reasons.