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Friday, May 13, 2011

HRP: Stop move to demolish Setapak shrines

Utusan let off with ministry warning

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — The Home Ministry has slapped Utusan Malaysia with a warning letter for publishing an unsubstantiated front-page article alleging a Christian plot to usurp Islam as the religion of the federation, which sparked a furore among the country’s majority Muslims and minority Christians.

The ministry today issued a statement that the editor-in-chief of the Umno-owned newspaper, Datuk Aziz Ishak, was invited to the ministry to explain the daily’s violation of the Printing Presses and Publishing Act 1984 (PPPA).

The Malaysian Insider learnt he went to the ministry in Putrajaya at 4pm with another senior editor.

The ministry said it was normal procedure for it to seek clarification from newspapers for contraventions of the PPPA, and for warning letters to be issued over these incidents.

It also warned media organisations against running reports that may cause public unrest or content inconsistent with PPPA guidelines.

On Saturday, Utusan Malaysia carried a front-page article headlined “Kristian agama rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?), claiming the DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya and abolish Islam as the religion of the federation.

The report, based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, charged DAP with sedition for allegedly trying to change the country’s laws to allow a Christian prime minister.

Yesterday, the Penang government filed a formal complaint with the Home Ministry demanding stern action against Utusan Malaysia over the report.

In the complaint, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng sought for Prime Minister Najib Razak to act sternly against the Malay daily to prove that the newspaper does not enjoy full legal immunity.

Today, Lim took the matter further when he called for Najib to axe the Utusan Malaysia editors and reporters responsible for the “false report”.

Najib was also forced today to meet with the church leaders over the issue, after which the prime minister said he was pleased the church leaders had pledged to respect Islam’s position as the religion of the federation.

According to Najib, the church leaders also said Christians had no desire to challenge the provision within the Federal Constitution.

Najib did not, however, offer an apology for the report by his party’s mouthpiece.

Senior lawyer throws down gauntlet to Ibrahim Ali

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — A heavyweight in Malaysia’s legal fraternity, lawyer Tommy Thomas has challenged Datuk Ibrahim Ali to a verbal bout to contest the latter’s claim that the Bar and its council were “racist”.

The former Bar Council secretary denounced the Perkasa founder and president for making sweeping statements against the 36-year-old peninsular law society, which Thomas said were wholly false.

“For him to say the Bar Council is racist and controlled by a certain race and is anti-Malay and anti-Islam and making decisions that are biased and one-sided are totally untrue,” said the lawyer with 30 years’ experience under his belt.

“I’m very cross about it. I’m very happy to go on record and if he wants to debate with me I’m ready,” he said to The Malaysian Insider.

Ibrahim dubbed the Bar Council racist for accusing Utusan Malaysia of inciting racial hatred, saying today the lawyers’ group should also focus on the Chinese media and others that he alleged “insult Islam, Malay Rulers and the Malay community”.

The Perkasa chief’s rant came after the Bar Council joined other groups in condemning Utusan Malaysia for its front-page article on Saturday in which it claimed the DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya and abolish Islam as the country’s official religion.

“Why did the Bar Council not urge the police to investigate Chinese media, other bloggers, website and portals, tweets that carry news and statements which insult Islam, Malay Rulers and the Malay community?

“The Bar Council is controlled by a certain race and, of course, its actions are anti-Malay and anti-Islam,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider.

Thomas contested Ibrahim’s claim, saying the Bar Council has 36 members and acts as the executive body to 13,000 members that are well-represented by the three main races.

He added the council had always looked at public issues from a purely legal view and taken positions without regard to race, religion and gender.

“We have always been race-free, colour-free and gender-free,” Thomas said.

“We’ve had outstanding Malay and Muslim presidents like Raja Aziz Addruse, Zainur Zakaria, Sulaiman Abdullah, Hendon Mohamad and Datuk Khutubul Zaman Bukhari,” he said.

Thomas stressed that as a statutory body set up under the Legal Profession Act 1976, the Bar has a lawful duty “to act without fear or favour and we have done so on many occasions”.

FMM mahu sistem pendidikan negara dikaji semula

Sudah tiba masanya sistem pendidikan negara dikaji semula secara holistik memandangkan kajian terakhir, laporan Rahman Talib, dilakukan 51 tahun yang lepas.

KUALA LUMPUR: Persekutuan Pengilang-pengilang Malaysia (FMM) menggesa supaya sistem pendidikan negara dikaji semula sepenuhnya untuk membolehkan Malaysia muncul sebagai sebuah negara maju dan berpendapatan tinggi selain berdaya saing di peringkat global.

Presidennya Tan Sri Mustafa Mansur dalam satu temu bual dengan Bernama berkata sudah tiba masanya sistem pendidikan negara dikaji semula secara holistik memandangkan kajian terakhir, iaitu laporan Rahman Talib, dilakukan 51 tahun yang lepas. Laporan itu menyusuli Laporan Razak pada 1956.

“Juga adalah penting untuk meneliti semula intipati laporan pendidikan terdahulu, sejauh mana ia telah mencapai matlamatnya dan pelaksanaannya. Sejak laporan terakhir ini, objektif serta peranan pendidikan khasnya telah berubah daripada segi penekanan yang diberikan.

“Kita telah menyaksikan perubahan berkala dalam beberapa aspek sistem pendidikan kita tetapi perubahan ini bukan secara menyeluruh,” kata Mustafa, bekas guru yang kini merupakan usahawan yang berjaya.

Beliau berkata jawatankuasa kajian semula yang ditubuhkan nanti perlu diwakili pelbagai pihak, termasuk pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO), ahli ekonomi, ahli sejarah dan sehinggakan anggota masyarakat.

Jawatankuasa itu perlu meneliti semua isu-isu membabitkan sistem pendidikan termasuk meningkatkan penguasaan ilmu dan bahasa Inggeris di sekolah-sekolah.

“Sesuai sekali jika jawatankuasa ini dipengerusikan oleh Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak sendiri memandangkan ayah beliau yang merupakan orang di sebalik Laporan Razak,” kata beliau.

- Bernama

Police on the hunt for acid attackers

Kuala Lumpur has been plagued by attacks on at least 22 people since February

KUALA LUMPUR: Police detectives are hunting two men who have been throwing acid on pedestrians in a string of attacks that have sent shockwaves through the capital, police said on Thursday.

Kuala Lumpur has been plagued by attacks on at least 22 people since February, terrifying residents across the city and its suburbs.

City police chief Zulkifli Abdullah said the pair, who ride a motorcycle, have targeted mostly women and children.

“We are doing more patrols and we hope people are more alert,” Zulkifli told AFP. “We will take very firm action against this irresponsible act.”

In the latest attacks last weekend a woman with a one-year-old baby was splashed while another was reportedly hospitalised with burns to her face.

Most of the victims were hit with the unidentified liquid, while walking to train stations, car parks and bus stops. Many escaped with minor injuries to their hands or faces.

- AFP

WAO finally gets crime stats, but with conditions

The NGO gets access to information on violence against women but is not allowed to go public with it.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has been allowed access to the 2010 Crime Statistics booklet prepared by Bukit Aman’s Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse division.

However, this permission, which was sought three months ago, comes with the condition that the statistics are only used for research and reference, and not for distribution to a third party.

WAO programme officer Valerie Mohan criticised this ruling, calling it “restrictive”.

She said that the statistics were needed to understand the incidences and trends of violence against women.

“The police have not given any substantiated reasons for restricting the use of the booklet and the need to hide such information.

“We maintain the position that freedom of and access to information is central to a democratic process and that all statistics of public interest should be made available without any hindrance,” she said.

WAO uses the statistics to formulate public education messages and policy reform.

The women’s rights NGO had asked for the booklet on March 3, but was told that it could not be released as the statistics were confidential.

Bukit Aman declined to comment except to say that the booklet had been classified as a secret document under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) on the instructions of the Inspector-General of PoliceIsmail Omar.

Ismail had said later that he had no inkling of the WAO request. “I haven’t seen the application. I have no idea what it’s about,” he said.

WAO later sent a sent a letter of appeal to Bukit Aman asking the police to reconsider their decision not to release the information.

Demo against razing of shrine

City Hall must revoke notice to demolish Hindu structure in Setapak, says a memorandum submitted to the mayor.

KUALA LUMPUR: Protesters today demanded that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) revoke a notice to demolish a Hindu shrine in Kampung Baru Air Panas, Setapak.

The group, consisting of about two dozen residents of the area, burned camphor during the protest and afterwards submitted a memorandum addressed to the mayor. A DBKL official received it on his behalf.

The memorandum seeks an assurance that the Sri Vaal Muniswarar Alayam shrine would not be demolished and contains a demand for an acre of land to serve the needs of Hindus in Setapak.

“We can use the land to build a temple, a wedding hall and funeral service hall,” said Hindraf official S Thiagarajan, who led the protest.

Kampung Baru Air Panas consists of eight blocks of government low-cost flats. About 1,000 Hindu families reside there.

The City Hall notice was dated May 2 and stated that the shrine must be demolished within three days. Enforcement officers appeared in the area on May 2 itself, but residents prevented them from proceeding with the demolition.

S Thiagarajan told reporters the notice was unlawful. He did not elaborate.

He said the Hindu residents of the area built the shrine about five years ago because the government had ignored their spiritual needs.

“This is very embarrassing,” he said. “The government built a mosque in the same area and also granted land for a Chinese temple, but we the Indians were overlooked.”

Today’s demonstration, held outside the DBKL office here, began at 11am and lasted for about an hour. The protesters held up placards saying, “Don’t Destroy Hindu Shrine”, “Don’t Oppress the Indian Community”, “Umno Demolishes Hindu Shrine”, “Umno is Cruel, DBKL is Cruel”. They also chanted “One Malaysia, two systems”, “DBKL arrogant”, “KL mayor coward”.

About 20 policemen kept watch, but arrested no one.

‘Un-edited’ Interlok surfaces in exam

A parent reveals that two questions from the controversial novel were posed, and both HRP and MIC are riled up.

KUALA LUMPUR: A parent from Gombak here complained that questions from the controversial novel Interlok were posed during the mid-term examination held last Monday.

According to Human Rights Party (HRP) leader S Jayathas, who received the complaint, the questions were featured in the Malay Language Paper 2 for Form Five students. The paper was set by the district education department.

This happened despite the assurance from Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that the novel would not be used until amendments were carried out.

Calling Muhyiddin, who is also deputy prime minister, a “liar”, Jayathas said there were two questions regarding the novel in the examination paper.

“The first question asked students to pen two interesting incidents mentioned in the novel and why they thought the issues were interesting. The second question asked students to describe the background of a place mentioned in the novel,” he said.

The Interlok novel became controversial after Indian groups, including MIC, claimed that the author had portrayed the community in a negative light, especially with the use of the term “pariah”.

Following this, the Education Ministry agreed to amend the book, and an eight-member panel was set up to make recommendations.

MIC: Act against ‘little Napoleon’

Meanwhile, Jayathas said the latest incident showed that Muhyiddin was not fit to be education minister.


“What good are his powers as education minister if even the district education officers work against his orders?

“Since Interlok was introduced, there have been many cases of fights and name-calling between students. This proves the novel cannot be a good literature material to instil racial unity,” he added.

Contacted later, MIC publicity and communication chief S Vell Paari took the district education department to task for not respecting the ministry and the Indian community.

He also urged the ministry to take action against the district education department director.

“The punishment must serve as a lesson for the other ‘lilttle Napoleons’. We don’t want to see this person promoted to a higher position under the guise of punishment,” he said.

Vell Paari said if the government did not act, it would incur the wrath of the Indian community, and Umno leaders should not blame MIC for the loss of votes.

“How you are going to go down to the community and ask them to vote for BN if you continuously disrespect them?” he asked.

‘May Day arrests shame Malaysia’

Memo to Subramaniam condemns police action against activists
VIDEO INSIDE
PUTRAJAYA: Activists have demanded that the government give May Day the respect it deserves instead of embarrassing Malaysia in the eyes of the world by arresting those who participate in rallies to mark the occasion.

The May 1 Committee, representing several NGOs and student associations, submitted a memorandum to Human Resource Minister Dr S Subramaniam this morning that condemned police action against demonstrators last May 1 and denounced the government for its “Cold War mentality”.

Several demonstrators shouted slogans and raised banners outside Subramaniam’s office before the memorandum was given to his press secretary, V Sivam.

“Long live the people” and “Do not obstruct Labour Day,” the group chanted.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan, speaking for the May 1 Committee, told reporters: “May 1 is International Labour Day and has been sanctioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), of which Malaysia is a member. The Human Resource Minister is our representative there, but sadly he does not mirror the aspirations and visions of the ILO.

“May 1 is not for us to go on holiday, but to voice the concerns of workers. All around the world, people gather, but in Malaysia we’re being attacked by the police. That’s embarrassing.”

Arutchelvan and another prominent PSM member, Sungai Siput MP Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, were among more than 20 people arrested last May 1 during a rally in Kuala Lumpur.

About 300 people gathered at Dataran Merdeka to protest against continuing price hikes and to support the call for a minimum-wage law. Police cordoned off the area, ordered the group to disperse and then proceeded to make the arrests.

Arutchelvan reproached Subramaniam for saying, on May 2, that the previous day’s rally was unnecessary because the government was already looking into a proposed Minimum Wage Act.

“His statement is irresponsible, immature and shocking. How long must we wait for the act? What is wrong for the people to gather?”

The May 1 Committee has been organising annual May Day rallies since 1994. Its members say police have become more aggressive in recent years.

Irene Xavier, who heads a group called Friends of Women, said Subramaniam, in supporting the police action, was telling workers that they were not important to him or the government.

She said many women were working in deplorable conditions in Malaysia.

“We have women being hired as informal workers and paid pittance. These contract jobs make them even poorer and deeper in debt.”

Valerie Mohan, a Women’s Aid Organisation official, noted that the government last year tried to push through amendments to the Employment Act that would have reduced workers’ rights even further. The amendments were shelved after strong protests from several groups.

Empowering voters, India style

Election Rule 49-O of world's largest democracy which allows for voters to exercise their right to dissent with the list of candidates is a good system to adopt, say groups.

PETALING JAYA: India, traditionally considered the world’s largest democracy, not only empowers its people to vote for its MP or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) through the ballot but also allows them to reject candidates running in the polls using the same ballot.

Known as Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rule 1961, voters not agreerable to the candidates contesting can tick a specific column in the same ballot paper to allow them to express their decision not to vote for any of the candidates.

This not only sends a message to the political parties on the suitablility (or unsuitability) of their chosen candidates, but also prevents election fraud and misuse of votes.

Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Shaani Abdullah welcomed the idea of such a system in Malaysia, saying it allows the electorate to reject unsuitable candidates.

“If it empowers the people to choose their representative, then it must be good,” said Shaani. “It will compel candidates to work harder to retain their seats and also curb political parties from ‘parachuting’ unknown candidates to be fielded in a constituency.”

“It would also reduce instances of candidates toeing party lines too much, instead of speaking up boldly for their voters in parliament or the state assembly. In a democratic system, the MPs or the state assemblymen must voice the people’s aspiration,” he said.

Shaani acknowledged the system may likely create a mess of the electoral process if hundreds of constituencies reject their
candidates “but as time goes by, political parties will learn to field credible candidates and such problems will eventually be reduced.”

Concurring with Shaani, National Institute of Electoral Integrity (NIEI) director Amin Iskandar said Rule 49-O, if it is adopted, would help increase voter turnout as currently many are not willing to exercise their right to vote because they do not like the candidates.

“Even countries like Thailand and Bangladesh have this system. Voters here need to be educated on the system. Once they know why it is in place, then they will be able to use the system judiciously,” said Amin.

Much study needed

Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) deputy chairman Shaharuddin Othman said while he lauds Rule 49-O, much study was needed before adopting it and also the process must be legislated first before implementation.

He said the election process in India had evolved based on the needs and aspirations of its people and Rule 49-O was a product of the process. “To implement it as the law here, much work needs to be done to change our electoral process,” said Shaharuddin.

Meanwhile, Election Commission deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar dismissed the idea, saying Malaysia already has a working and established electoral system in place.

“Our system of assemblymen representing political parties works well in our country. Rule 49-O will only complicate things,”said Wan Ahmad when contacted.

He added that it would not solve any problem as voters would then have conflicting ideas on the candidates. Wan Ahmad said candidates have to implement whatever their party had promised during campaigns in order to retain their seats.

“If not, they will be punished at the next polls. Besides, individual candidates cannot do much without their party’s support,” he said.

The day Big Dog demanded RM400 million from Ku Li


In that sense Ku Li maintained his principles although after the meeting Big Dog grumbled that Ku Li is so rich but so kedekut (stingy). He could afford RM400 million easily, lamented Big Dog. If he hopes to win the Umno Presidency without paying any money then good luck to him, said Big Dog.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Raja Petra Kamarudin
Pro-Umno blogger Zakhir Mohamad a.k.a. ‘Big Dog’ a.k.a. ‘Christian PM basher’ is actually quite a delightful character. Many a time have we met for dinner and drinks together with Sallahuddin Hashim a.k.a. ‘A Voice’ a.k.a. ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
Wow, everyone is using a.k.a.s nowadays. (For the less English proficient readers of Malaysia Today, a.k.a. means ‘also known as’).

Big Dog is not only a delightful character but highly intelligent as well. And I have this penchant for intelligent people. Whether they are from the opposition or Umno/Barisan Nasional, I enjoy meeting up with them to eat, drink and shoot the breeze. And Big Dog is one such ‘enemy’ I used to love to meet and spend hours with to stuff our faces and talk about politics and other issues.

Anyway, there was this one fasting month (Ramadhan) when John Pang (Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s strategist) phoned me and asked me to arrange a meeting (followed by a buka puasa) with Umno and opposition bloggers and political activists. The number of 30 was agreed on -- the number of people who should be invited.

I then sat down and worked on the invitation list to make up that figure of 30 and passed it to Tengku Razalaigh Hamzah’s (a.k.a Ku Li) office for them to invite these people.

Almost everyone we invited came. And it was great to see bloggers and political activists from both sides of the political divide sitting in the same room to discuss how to make Ku Li the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Nik Azmi Nik Daud a.k.a. Bulat a.k.a. Bul gave his opinion -- which was actually quite a stupid idea and I could see Ku Li cringe with a ‘can you sit down and shut up’ look on his face.

I thought Bul’s idea was most stupid and it sounded as if he had just learned politics yesterday. No wonder Ku Li has never done well in politics. With Bul as one of his strategists I doubt Ku Li could even win the post of Chief Dog Catcher.

Big Dog then asked Ku Li whether he was prepared to spend RM400 million to win the premiership. That, according to Big Dog, was what it was going to cost Ku Li.

Earlier Big Dog had told me that it is going to cost at least RM400 million to ‘buy’ 40 Umno divisions if Ku Li wants to become Prime Minister. I said that that was quite a lot of money and Big Dog replied that Ku Li could afford it. He is worth much more than that, said Big Dog.

Ku Li looked hard at Big Dog -- as if he could not believe his ears -- and said that he is not prepared to ‘buy’ the premiership. If he spends RM10 million to buy each of the 40 Umno Divisions (total RM400 million) just to get 40 nominations so that he can contest the Umno Presidency, then what difference would he be to the other Umno leaders who play ‘money politics’?

He wants to become the Umno President and Prime Minister so that he can clean up the party and the government. If he gets in by using bribery, then how can he later clean up the party and the government when he himself is dirty?

So Ku Li rejected Big Dog’s proposal, not because he could not afford RM400 million, but because it would not have been ethical to buy the party elections on a platform of trying to get in to rid the party of corruption. You can’t get in using corruption and then scream that you are against corruption.

Some of you may remember that I wrote about this some years back. I said then that the task ahead of Ku Li is to get his 40 nominations. If he can get 40 nominations, winning the Presidency is easier. It is getting the 40 nominations which is difficult.

In that sense Ku Li maintained his principles although after the meeting Big Dog grumbled that Ku Li is so rich but so kedekut (stingy). He could afford RM400 million easily, lamented Big Dog. If he hopes to win the Umno Presidency without paying any money then good luck to him, said Big Dog.

Big Dog and I met Ku Li a couple more times, once around midnight in his private residence. But try as we may, we could not get Ku Li to agree to all the different ideas that were bandied about on how he could get his 40 nominations and go on to contest and win the Umno Presidency, which would be the route to becoming the new Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Some ideas were actually quite seditious and treasonous and Ku Li once chided one of the chaps who proposed it and told him that what he was proposing could end up with all of us being charged for treason with a death sentence thrown in. (Yes, some of the ideas were actually quite dangerous and could have ended with us sitting in death row if someone had talked).

Anyway, in the end nothing happened and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a.k.a. Pak Lah resigned and Najib Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister and Ku Li continued sitting in his house waiting for the day when he would become Prime Minister.

Well, at least he is not RM400 million poorer, which would have happened had he listened to Big Dog.

I must admit that Umno politics is far more interesting compared to opposition politics and I must also admit that I enjoyed myself immensely running with that pack of wolves. Learned a lot as well, which of course we can now use against them.

Suspected Malaysian corruption assets: Swiss President alerts money-laundering watchdog

By Bruno Manser Fund, Basel /Switzerland
Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey has alerted Switzerland’s money-laundering watchdog, FINMA (Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority), over suspected assets of Abdul Taib Mahmud ("Taib"), Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, in Swiss bank accounts.
In a letter to the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) that has been released today, Calmy-Rey acknowledges that she has forwarded a BMF report on Taib’s suspected relationship with Swiss banks to FINMA.
"I would like to thank you for your commitment against corruption", Calmy-Rey wrote to the Bruno Manser Fund. "The fight against corruption and the restitution of potentates' embezzled funds to the respective countries is also of great concern to the Swiss government. For years, we have been fighting for a clean financial centre, e.g. with a comprehensive anti-money-laundering legislation which contains far-reaching due diligence and reporting obligations for the financial institutions, particularly concerning funds from politically exposed persons (PEPs)".
The Bruno Manser Fund had sent a report to the Swiss President informing her of the Taib family’s relationship with Switzerland and asking her to freeze all Taib assets held in Swiss bank accounts. For years, there have been rumours about the Taib family’s relationship with Swiss banks, particularly UBS. In 2004, UBS, together with its Bahrain-based subsidiary, Noriba Bank, was the lead manager for a 350 million US$ transaction by the Sarawak state-owned Sarawak Corporate Sukuk in Labuan, Malaysia’s offshore financial centre. One of Taib’s nieces, Elia Geneid Abas, is married to Swiss hotel manager Matthias Sutter.
After two decades of fighting against the destruction of the Borneo rainforest and the marginalization of Sarawak’s indigenous communities, the Bruno Manser Fund has recently turned its attention to corruption as one of the root causes of deforestation.
During his thirty years in power, Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, the main culprit behind the destruction of Sarawak’s tropical rainforests, is believed to have acquired billions of dollars of ill-gotten assets, most of which have been sent overseas. Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has identified 49 companies in eight countries that are closely linked to the Taib family.
– Ends –
For more information, please contact us:
www.bmf.chwww.stop-timber-corruption.org

An UMNO-owned Newspaper Inflames Malaysia


Image
Najib says don't worry about it
(Asia Sentinel) Utusan Malaysia stirs the racial pot

A week ago, the Malay-language broadsheet Utusan Malaysia printed a story that is sending reverberations throughout an increasingly racially tense Malaysia, to the effect that Christian pastors were seeking to install a Christian prime minister who would change the country's official religion.

Although the story was ridiculous on the face of it, it has been given wide circulation and drawn considerable comment as well as a series of police reports filed in local stations. Malaysia's official religion, enshrined in the country's constitution, is Islam although other religions are guaranteed freedom of existence. Any attempt to change that would probably result in a racial conflagration that no sane individual in Malaysia would want.

According to the CIA World Factbook, ethnic Malays make up 50.4 percent of the population, more than double the population of Chinese with 23.7 percent, Indians at 7.1 percent, others 7.8 percent and indigenous races, primarily in East Malaysia, at 11 percent. Muslims account for 60.4 percent of the population, Buddhists 19.2 percent, Christians 9.1 percent and Hindus 6.2 percent.

Leaders of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, which represents several different religions met with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Thursday to say the report was specious and to ask that Utusan's editors be disciplined for irresponsible reporting. Najib told local reporters he welcomed the church leaders' assurance that they were not seeking to make the country a Christian nation.

News reports gave no indication that Najib apologized to the church leaders for the newspaper's irresponsible reporting. Utusan Malaysia is owned by the party that Najib heads – the United Malays National Organization, the ethnic Malay party that leads the national governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional. Over recent months, the newspaper has become more strident in its racial reporting, earning it criticism from a wide variety of sources, particularly the opposition parties which it regularly excoriates.

The paper recently fired Hata Wahari, a longtime reporter at Utusan and the recently elected president of the Malaysian National Union of Journalists after filing eight charges against him for a variety of shortcomings. However, the charges were widely regarded as having been triggered by Hata's statements about the lack of freedom in the country's mainstream press and in particular Utusan Malaysia's pro-government, anti-opposition bias. Hata was the second national journalist's union head fired by the paper.

As with Utusan, 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.

Supposedly the demand to Christianize the country, reported by two pro-government bloggers according to Utusan Malaysia, was made at a meeting in which opposition lawmaker Jeff Ooi was present. However, according to critics, Utusan didn't bother to check the information. The blogs themselves didn't state how they learned of the report.
Press freedom organizations including the Center for Independent Journalism, Charter2000-Aliran, the Writers' Alliance for Media Independence and 1 Muted Malaysia all condemned the reports as irresponsible.

"Utusan Malaysia also did not offer an explanation for not naming these sources," the organizations said in an open letter. "The use of anonymous sources - usually, in consideration of the sources' safety - must be publicly justified. Notwithstanding this, Utusan Malaysia chose to run this as a front-page report, no less, and in so doing, gave the unverified story the credibility it did not deserve."

Further, the group said, "the front-page story only quoted Ooi denying the allegation that he had sponsored the meeting. The subjects of the allegation itself - the pastors who allegedly made this call - were not interviewed. The Christian meeting's organizers, which included the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF), had already denied the allegations of such a call being made in a statement published in the online media. Utusan Malaysia did not refer to this statement at all, nor was there any indication that any attempts were made to seek clarification from the pastors, NECF or any other Christian organizations."

Free Malaysia Today
, a Kuala Lumpur-based blog, argued today that "The mainstream media, for as long as they pander to the government, enjoy immunity from public prosecution. But Utusan Malaysia has earned a special place within this untouchable clique simply by the virtue of being owned by UMNO. This privilege has spawned relentless attacks on the opposition and increasingly frequent inflammatory reports on race and religion. But while most urbanites can see right through Utusan Malaysia's thinly-veiled propaganda, its rural readership remains staunch believers.

The blog quoted Hata Wahiri as saying that the country should worry about the "slander" his former employer is producing, "because it is taking root in the rural areas. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are multi-cultural and able to discuss Utusan's reports among themselves to seek clarification. But the rural community is predominantly Malay-Muslim. Who are they going to cross-check their facts with? Neither is there another Malay-language paper to counter Utusan's reports. The only media they are exposed to is government-owned media."

Hata warned that the newspaper is stoking racial flames and that "one day it will explode. I'm very afraid of that. If anything were to happen, it will begin in the rural areas." If it continues, he said, "another May 13" – the day in 1969 when the country exploded into race riots that took hundreds of lives – is likely.

"The fact that Utusan Malaysia is continuing to spin more stories from a completely unverified report implies mischief on their part," the press freedom organizations warned in their letter, "since there is a danger of various communities reacting further and inflaming an essentially emotive issue. Already, there are at least seven police reports lodged in response to what was mere rumor. Accuracy and verification are an integral part of journalism. Sources must be named as a measure of accountability on the part of both sources and journalists, and to allow readers to judge for themselves whether the information provided is true."

200 NGOs lodge report against Utusan

The Sun
by Charles Ramendran, Himanshu Bhatt and Bernand Cheah

KUALA LUMPUR (May 11, 2011): A coalition of more than 200 NGOs has criticised the editors of Utusan Malaysia for publishing an article taken from two weblogs alleging a group of Christian pastors were conspiring to make Christianity the official religion of the country.

A. Rajaretinam, who heads the coalition called angkatan Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (Aman), said the actions of the editors of Utusan were unethical and could trigger grave consequences among the races in the country.

Accompanied by a dozen members including Aman adviser Datuk Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim and legal adviser A.Sivanesan who is also Sungkai assemblyman, Rajaretinam lodged a police report against the Bahasa Malaysia national daily at 2pm today urging the police and Home Ministry to take stern action.

"What they have done is irresponsible and goes against journalistic ethics. It is malicious and threatens national security. We urge the police to investigate this and the Home Minister to act by suspending the publication of Utusan immediatly pending an investigation.

"We have seen his ministry take action against other newspapers in the past for such mistakes and he should be fair by doing likewise in this case. Utusan has been doing this over and over again and gets away with it. We do not know what is their agenda but they must be punished." he said.

In George Town, Penang PAS added its objections to a growing list of police reports lodged against Utusan by various quarters since Sunday – a day after the article was published.

The report was made by Penang PAS member Abdul Rahman Kassim at the George Town District Police Headquarters. He was accompanied by about 30 state Pakatan Rakyat members.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, meanwhile, sent a letter to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein calling for stern action to be taken against Utusan.

He urged Hishammuddin to order the newspaper to retract and  issue an apology for “false and malicious reporting”.

In his letter Lim said two Penang Umno assemblymen had confessed that they too did not believe the purported conspiracy reported by Utusan.

Both former deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya, the assemblyman for Teluk Bahang, and Farid Saad of Pulau Betong told the state assembly at its recent meeting that they did not believe the report of a plan by the pastors and DAP to establish a Christian state and to have a Christian prime minister.

“Seeing as there are two Umno assemblymen who do not believe the Umno-owned newspaper’s Christian conspiracy, it is clear Utusan Malaysia’s reporting is nothing but lies and borders on sedition,” Lim said in the letter.

Judiciary Transformation Showing Results - Zaki

SHAH ALAM, May 12 (Bernama) -- Chief Justice Tun Zaki Tun Azmi said Thursday that the transformation of the judiciary which started in 2009 was showing results and had helped reduce backlogged cases.

He said prior to 2009, the judiciary was faced a with a serious backlog of cases with some civil and criminal cases taking up to 10 to 12 years to settle.

"Based on statistics, at the end of December 2009 there were 93,523 civil cases backlogged in the High Courts but the latest statistics in March 2011 showed only 7,235 of these cases had yet to be cleared.

"For criminal cases (backlogged at the High Courts), they numbered 4,544 cases at the end of 2009 and only 381 of them have yet to be disposed," he said at the opening of the RM93.1 million Annex Building of the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Court Complex, here.

The annexe was opened by Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

Zaki said the judiciary's next key agenda was to clear all backlogged cases as soon as possible as "justice delayed was justice denied".

He said various steps were being taken to improve the judiciary's delivery system among them the implementation of the Court Recording and Transcription system), Case Management System) and Queue Management System).

Also present were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria, Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

The annexe houses 13 lower courts.